Dropping Stubborn Fat For an Athlete

Hi everyone,

Okay, this is not usually my neck of the woods, but I realize this is the sort of thing you’re good at here, so it seems appropriate. I generally make my home over at the CrossFit forums and similar haunts. Please don’t hurt me.

So, my story is this: for about the last year and a half I’ve been doing the CrossFit program with some tweaks. Prior to that I had no significant athletic background (some occasional sports, some unremarkable resistance training, poor diet). Since then I’ve seen phenomenal athletic improvements across the board, which I’ve been very pleased with and continue to work towards.

However, there is this niggling little problem which has not gone away, and it’s bodyfat. I am, by most reasonable interpretations, both fairly lean and a hard-gainer – I can eat a horse and a half without gaining weight, and dropping fat has never been difficult with any kind of vaguely reasonable diet. Yet, even at times when I wasn’t eating enough and got TOO thin, I’ve never dropped the last bits of abdominal fat (some on the posterior as well). I ain’t never seen no ab ever and when you’re working this hard you can probably guess how annoying that gets.

I don’t want to become a bodybuilder but I do want to hear any ideas, because no matter how much noise we make about training for performance, the next time I’m performing but still pretty much look like I just got off a vacation I’m going to start setting imaginary fires. So: any ideas?

Info is as follows:
21 years old, male, 176lb, 6’, ballpark of 12% bodyfat (measured by weight and abdomen - wrist diameter).

Some images (a few months old): http://degreesofclarity.com/misc/crossfit/physique_front.jpg http://degreesofclarity.com/misc/crossfit/physique_side.jpg http://degreesofclarity.com/misc/crossfit/physique_back.jpg
(I actually have some full-body ones as well, but I’m not wearing anything and I’m pretty sure you’d rather skip it.)

Lifts and training stats are all here: http://degreesofclarity.com/misc/crossfit/
I generally train 3 days on, 1 day off with the normal CrossFit workouts, though I’ve been doing some screwing around with that more recently (some rowing, took three months to grow on Starting Strength, did a brief Olympic lifting cycle, etc.). If you’re not familiar with the CF stuff, it’s basically high-intensity circuit training with compound movements.

Dietwise, I use the general theme from the Zone diet (if you’re not familiar, basically weighed-and-measured and insulin-controlled), with significantly increased fat to fuel my workouts and keep my tapeworm from eating me alive. Timing is four meals a day and one snack, generally no more than four hours apart. Fat, carbs, and protein with each meal, no processed starch, sugar, or grains. I did the milk thing when I was trying to gain but not currently. I cheat a couple times a week – sometimes more, sometimes less, and lately I’ve been drinking quite a bit as well (I’m in Europe right now on an exchange program), but my situation was not different in the past when I’ve been very strict, so I don’t think the beer’s to blame. Here’s a sample day of my diet right now: vector40 - free online diet and fitness journal

I generally sleep 9.5 hours a night.

Anyway, that seems about the bulk of it. Let me know if anyone needs other info. But basically I’m already doing most of the things I can think of to try. If I just eat less I lose a bit of fat maybe, some muscle too, and the stubborn shit goes nowhere. Not sure where to go from here.

Thanks in advance…

You need to add some muscle mass… pure and simple. REALLY QUICK!

You are almost skinny-fat, but not quite. You are lean in that you are probably about 10% fat which on you actually looks fat, but if you added… oh i dunno, (60lbs of muscle…lol! sorry!) maybe 25-20lbs of muscle then you would look AHELLUVA lot better. I PROMISE!

Plus if you began doing some weighted crunch movements along with the heavy workout program you need to undertake, then your abs would grow enough to poke through that small amount of fat you have…

BTW, ecto-morphs are known to carry weight easily around the stomach/low abs.

Saying ALL that, you could be skinnier, you do have some fat there - maybe even 15% at a push. i think 10% is too generous even with your low level of muscle. The extra muscle will make you slimmer in the fat department too by raising your metabolism.

Bottom line: Add muscle. Beging heavy weight training 3x a week.


Agree, first add some muscle, it will absolutely change shape of your body and you will look leaner (the more muscle you have the more you look leaner since muscles form body - that’s because fat and obese people have no body form)

Agreed. If you’ve been training with minimal weights for a year and a half, it’s time to go heavy for a while (Even if your goal is not “to be a bodybuilder,” it will still be necessary to go heavy once in a while to build a muscular base). You should at least teach your body the movements.

I’d recommend Bill Starr’s 5x5 or Rippetoe. Do a search and you’ll find tons of info on this site. And here is a link to an outside source that has great info on rippetoe: forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=998224

And remember, when you are told to lift heavy, it does not mean go in the first time and try to get up as much weight as you can. You MUST learn the movements properly, so keep that in mind. Research proper forms on the big lifts and do them.

I think it will amaze you how much your body will change switching to a phase like this.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys. I’ll give it some thought.

I already stalled out previously on a linear progression (Rippetoe’s SS), so I’m going to have to start screwing around with a more advanced program if I want to keep advancing. I like Rip’s stuff so I may pick up Practical Programming.

Honest guys, I’m not an advanced strength athlete, but I’m in the realm of an intermediate; I’m not pulling 400lb without some idea of what I’m doing. If I break something in half I won’t sue you…

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say some crazy shit that I can’t back up and is probably way off but provides an opposing viewpoint to the previous posters.

Your body looks like you do circuits and play a healthy bit of basketball while having had a largely sedentary childhood. Your body does not bear the marks of intense activity.

Therefore, what I recommend is:

  1. Quit fucking around in the gym. Lift heavy. And by heavy, I mean heavier than starting strength. Often, crossfit guys are used to circuit training, so they rush through the rest periods. Don’t. That shit should be two or three minutes for you. Rest in between sets. And then lift heavy. You also might need more than 3 sets/lift. Try 5. Hell, try 8.

actually, 8 is probably too much. 5 should work, and when weight stalls, add another rep, rest-pause, do something to boost the instensity.

  1. Sprint. You’ve probably done HIIT before. Do it again. 3x/week.

  2. Remove carbs from your diet. A small (100g) carb-up once a week should be plenty.

As a corollary to point 3, add in some more fat to keep your kcals roughly the same.

Is it a lot? Probably. Is it overkill? Probably. Do you need some more muscle? Probably. Will it work?

Hell, if it doesn’t kill you, absolutely.

Or you could spend a good bit of time gaining muscle and THEN cut. Nothing wrong with that.

Whatever you do, make sure you commit to it for a reasonable time frame. 12-16 weeks, if not more.

Good luck :slight_smile:

That looks a hell of a lot like CT’s Destroying Fat workout Otep. Works really well, and won’t actually kill you.

Great post, Otep.

I examined my goals, and based on input here and elsewhere I think what I’m going to do is move into a heavy lifting cycle, with an emphasis on hypertrophy, plus some sprint work.

I’ve been needing to work on my running anyway, but it should also help keep me conditioned, help build mass, and maybe even cut some fat. I’m having a track friend put together a program for me. Not certain on the lifting, I’ll have to figure it out. I’d guess maybe three days a week lifting, three days sprinting, though I’ll see if I can handle the volume.

Not sure about diet. I never gain without seriously jacking up calories so I may start kissing the milk again. A vague goal at this point would be the ballpark of 200lb.

Thanks again for the help. I can let you guys know how it goes if you’d like.

It looks a lot like every fat loss program on T-Nation.

Guess why .