T Nation

Fat, Dumb and Happy

For the past year or so, I had been trying to get ripped. I think I got there. I was a lean 153 at a height of 5’8" with a 6-pack. But you know what? I was not gaining any more muscle nor was I getting any stronger. Also, I had a niggling knee injury that was not getting any better.

A month ago, I said, “Fuck it. I’m going to gain me some serious mass and I don’t care if I get a little fat in the process.” I took Chris Shugart’s Diet Manifesto to heart (actually I started before the article came out) and started to eat more protein and more calories in general. I started drinking a shake between each of the three meals and a shake before bedtime.

I have been doing Ian King’s Great Guns, so I did not expect to gain much lean mass, since I was merely maintaining on the other body parts.

Now I am 10 pounds heavier and my abs are only slight more blurred. I have not lost any strength in the big lifts (bench, squat) and my knee feels a lot better. I am sleeping a lot better too. I simply feel great!

I think this is all due to my higher bodyfat. I’m trying to change my paradigm. Whereas before I thought leaner was better, I’m going to view a little bit of fat as a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating being a fat slob, but my new goal is to carry as much muscle as possible, while maintaining 12-14% fat. I don’t think I was cut out to be ultra-lean.

Has anyone else experienced feeling better at a higher bodyfat?

Hyok, I have guys come to me all the time saying, “Get me to 5% bodyfat!” So I help them get there. You know what the first thing they say to me is after reaching 5%? “I feel like shit at 5% body fat!” Ironic, huh?

I’m the opposite…I feel great at around 6% bodyfat…anything more then 9 or 10% and i start to feel like shit…get joint pains, loss of appetite, etc…but i guess everyone is different…i am naturally extremely lean so it makes sense i would feel better staying that way.

Makes sense, Kelly. Good point!

I guess the point is, the vast majority of us are not naturally 6% bodyfat. Most probably are around 14%. With a little effort and care in your diet, I think almost everyone can comfortably stay around 10-12%. It is just that when we start to view the washboard abs on the cover of magazines and Harlequin novels as ideal, I think most us are done a disservice. I think most of us are will struggle mightily to reach and maintain that ideal. Not only that, I doubt that it is really healthy to be that lean. I am trying to modify my ideal self into one that has a little more fat, because the extra fat makes me feel so good. I have more strength, energy…more libido. I have a feeling that a lot of guys out there probably would feel the same way. They just have to get over that mental block in their mind about a little abdominal fat. Hey, I’m still trying. I haven’t completly gotten over the hump. I want to concentrate more on gaining muscle. Here, there is no ideal for me. Kinda like Marion Jones said in the Nike commercial the more muscles, the better. Can you dig it?

Yeah, same thing here. During the summer I did the Anabolic Diet and got that ripped look, but all the time I was nervous and felt weak. Now that I’ve gained 20 pounds since october, I feel much better and of course, bigger.

I have only dieted down to 4-6% BF one time. I was going to do a show. Sure I looked ripped, but I tore my hamstring, couldn’t walk for days. I also had strained my quad and back, as well as some other nagging injuries that still bother me even five years later. I now try to keep my BF between 9-12% (estimate) and I feel better, still look pretty good and keep the strength high. If I let myself get above 15% or so, I also feel like crap so I guess I have found my happy-medium.

I think how you feel at a lower bodyfat level depends a lot on the methods you use to get there. The first time I got ripped I was doing a certain “12-week program” that shall remain nameless, and I was to the point where I was doing cardio for an hour a day and waiting THREE hours after cardio before I ate anything (recommended by a very popular doctor who writes for IM-what a joke), plus I was up to 2x/day weight training sessions 4-5 days a week. Calories were only 1600-1700, mostly coming from MRP’s, and I was also up to 50 mg.a day of ephedrine, stacking it w. yohimbe. What an idiot, huh? Sure I got ripped (about 5 %) but I lost a signicant amount of LBM and I felt like crap. Later I followed Bodyopus, which didn’t work optimally the way I was doing it; number one, the carb level recommended by Duchaine (god rest his soul) was ridiculously high, at least for me anyway, and I switched to 12 days straight no-carbs before each carb up. I felt like crap. Now knowing what I know, I have been ripped (currently 4 % and about to start bulking), I can maintain low levels w/o too much agony and I feel great (sounds like a slim fast commercial, doesn’t it). Moderate calorie restriction, taking enough time to accomplish my goals, no cardio (thank you Coach P for German Body Comp!!!) and adequate diet/supplementation. Looking at my family members I could easily say I wasn’t meant to be lean either, but I function quite well at the low-end levels, though I realize this is a very individual thing like anything.

Most of us could probably stay at 10% just by carefully choosing what we eat; I do. At that level I have some veins (biceps, shoulders, forearms, and lower abs) and can surely see the abs, but like you said sleep is alot better. Other pluses are I’m stronger and I’m not constantly thinking of food. The day I die, no-one’s gonna care how lean I was, so what’s the diff?

I generally find that I am much happier and easier to please at a higher bodyfat. I believe that James Watson (Nobel prize- Genetics) has actually proven that extra fat has the effect of raising endorphin levels which, in turn, leads to feelings of happiness and more enjoyable sex. Then again, I’m not exactly dissapointed to be sporting well defined muscles, especially abs. My family physician actually once told me that men could not survive with a bfp less than 7% and 13% for women. Needless to say, I don’t go to him anymore. Next thing you know he’ll be putting leeches on people to get rid of the “evil spirits” in thier blood.

I can usually get down to about 7-8% without losing too much muscle in 2 - 2 1/2 months. Any dieting effort beyond that, and the muscle flies off faster than fat and I require about 12 hours of sleep a day just to function because I am so fatigued. At the other extreme, my bodyfat doesn’t go above 17-18% no matter what I eat, and I mean doughnuts for breakfast, chocolate for lunch, and ice cream for dinner at any quantity. I think that genetically we have our limits. I was pretty thin growing up so it’s not surprising I can’t balloon to Goodyear Blimp size, but at the same time, gaining muscle is excruciatingly difficult (and I’ve tried everything short of steroids including 6-7,000 calories a day). After 6 years of relatively consistent lifting, I’ve only managed to gain about 30 pounds of muscle to reach my current 5"6 170 lb
12% bodyfat status. I guess you have to work within your own individual limits.

I recognize your paradigm shift. When I first started working out, I’d freak when I hit over 8% bodyfat. Yet while at low bf levels, I felt horrible. Now I use 14% as “too fat” on my contiuum. When I ‘diet down,’ I hit 8% before stopping. My buddy, on the other hand, maintains 4-6% bodyfat with ease - and feels great. The big difference is while I’ve gained eight pounds of muscle this year: he’s gained zero.

Ok, I’ve tried not to say anything, but you guys suck!!(just joking)

I went from 24% down to about 17% by working my ass off, but I kinda hit a wall.(are you all done laughing now?) The only way I could keep taking weight off was by doing like 1-1/2 hours of cardio 4-6 days a week, which basically just burned off muscle. I’m sure genetics hurt me in the fat category, but does anyone know any type of advice for me? I tried the Tdawg with minimal success, I’ve starved myself at times, stop cardio completely at times, MD6, ripped fuel, thermbuterol…etc. I’m about to try the fat-fast and see if I can do anything…

any help would be great guys, thanks!

I think if you were to tweak the T-Dawg a little bit (which makes it more like the fat fast) you would get good results. The most successful approach for me on a diet such as this is to be very strict about the carb-up. For 24 hrs, I eat every two hours, avoiding fructose and sucrose like the plague, and my grand total for carb intake amounts to approx. 700 g. divided over 12 meals (at a LBM weight of 147). 100 g. or so the first two meals, 40-50 g. the rest. Occasionally I slip into binge-mania so if this happens I only carb for 12 hrs. and eat everything in sight. Also, I watch my fat to protein ratios and do not consume pre-workout carbs, but I eat virtually all the salads and green veggies I desire during the no-carb days. Again, this makes it a sort of hybrid between T-Dawg and Fat Fast.

BA, you may have hit a wall at 17%, but I doubt it. There are still a lot of options you have. First off, I think you should take a few weeks off from dieting altogether to get your metabolism back to baseline. Just eat six small meals a day. Then slowly lower your calories by 200 a day for a week. Keep lowering by 200 calories until you’re losing exactly 1 pound per week. If you’re training correctly, I guarantee that pound will be pure fat. You didn’t include your weight, but after a few months you should hit that 12% mark. (By the way, the only way you’ll know how many calories your dropping per day is to count your calories!)

I'm also wondering what method you used to test your bodyfat? I don't even worry about the exact percentage. I use callipers and just assess my progress from baseline. At one point, one of the calliper methods had me listed at 2% bodyfat, while an electrical impedance device tested me to 8% that same day. So your measurements can vary pretty wildly depending on the test you use.

Sorry, I’m 5’ 8" and after Christmas got up to 188, but usually sit around 182 or so. Yeah, yeah, a fat bastard, I know, but I had 5 or 6 years of college to make up for. I had my bodyfat tested(at my gym with calipers) before I lost weight and was at 24% at 208, then got it tested again and was 17% at around 173. But I had gotten that way by starving and doing a shitload of cardio, so I know I lost a lot of muscle. I’ve been lifting pretty hard, so I know a fair amount of what I gained back is muscle mass. I know I don’t have any room at all because I do great about 75% of the time, then training and nutrition tend to slack towards the weekend. Regardless, I really respect the opinions I get on here and I appreciate any help. Thanks guys!

Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel like big fat slob at 10% bodyfat. My abs are barely visible, covered by about 3/8ths of an inch of fat (which balloons to 3/4th of an inch when you squeeze it between your fingers), I have definite love handles, a slab of fat hangs on my glutes, and my triceps aren’t rock hard. IT’S DISGUSTING!!! I feel much better (perhaps just psychologically) at 7% bodyfat, but of course you can’t gain muscle without gaining fat, so I never stay that low for long. I have promised myself, however, to always stay below 11% body fat; much higer than that, and I would feel obese.

Makes me long for the day when I’ve hit my genetic potential and no longer have to add muscle…

Mike, I’m glad to see someone with the same view as me. I easily maintain 7-8% as long as I watch my carbs. Basically, I follow a T-dawg type diet, eating about 50 grams in a post workout shake. Other than that, its fat and protein. I am never really hungry, and I eat pretty much what I want on the weekends, within reason. No carb binging, but ‘normal’ meals. I do have a hard time gaining muscle, but I have a harder time with ‘feeling’ fatter. I know it’s 99% mental, but I also know what makes me feel the best. And I have no problems sticking with the low carbs, in fact my energy levels are more sustained without them. When I want to put on some muscle, for instance on my Androsol weeks, I increase the carbs to about 250 grams per day, then go back to low carbs ABCD style. I’ve gained almost ten pounds of lean mass in the past five months, and I’ve never been more than a week away from visible abs. But again, I think everyone has to do what makes them ‘feel’ best, both physically, and mentally.

Yeah, I’m with you two. There was a time when for me 10% was ripped, now it’s sloppy. Now that I know how to diet and train properly, I feel great with lower bodyfat (4% right now measured w. my Lange calipers) not only mentally but physically as well. I also notice I don’t require as much sleep either. I usually notice I start to wake up earlier when I get below 6%. Make no mistake, I’m no genetic superhero, I have to bust my arse in every aspect to achieve this condition and if I were to resume my old habits I could easily balloon up to 12-14 % in no time. I have no intention of maintaining this low level much longer as I am a runt, but a lean runt nonetheless. I’m about to embark on a 12 week bulk phase utilizing Dinosaur Training. I gain muscle pretty easy, but the hard part is keeping bulk phase cals to a respectable level. I always find a way to convince myself that I really need those extra couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (natural PB of course) and the extra plate of pasta. It is nothing for me to consume 5000+ cals/day so as funny as it may sound, it takes more discipline for me to bulk up than it does for me to cut.

Cool, two fellow T-dues who share my obsession with being lean! Mark, I have a system very similar to yours: I increase calories (protein/carbs/fats) for 2-4 weeks, taking Androsol and a sublingual cyclodextrin powder, and then get lean again in the following 2-4 weeks. My body fat varies from 7-11%. Do you increase protein too during your bulking cycles?

Teddy, I’m the exact opposite of you: eating ENOUGH food is always a problem; I stuff myself and never eat as much as I want to during my bulking cycles. When cutting, I’m usually satisfied with the amount of food I get and feel great. BTW, congrats on getting down to 4% from (what sounds like) a very high body fat level. Clarence Bass maintains that body fat percentage year round, although he’s not as big as most bodybuilders.