Ugh. The “P” word. That hurts. I see how it’s going to be.
Actually, I personally do well at an off-season (i.e. weight and strength focussed or just relaxed phase) body fat percentage of 12-15% (I used to hold it at 8-10%).
After non-competitive dieting, I like to be about 6% for at least two months, then SLOWLY regain. Extreme leanness and rapid rebound can activate pre-adipocytes, leaving a poor slob with more actual adult fat cells after each diet / re-feed! Victor Katch presented on this at the ASEP conference this past Spring. An unaware BB could actually suffer the fate of a typical “yo-yo dieter” over a few years of weight cycling: more total fat and an increasingly tougher return to condition!
For an actual competition, I’ve actually come in at negative body fat numbers via hydrostatic weighing but of course, that is impossible. I estimate that I’m about 3% in these circumstances. I don’t much worry over specifics at that point because body fat estimation equations don’t apply well to such freaky situations. I laugh at boasting from some bodybuilders (BB) that they are “2.25% fat” or some HOGWASH. The regression equations and other body comp methods are approximately +/- 3-4%. It’s not unheard of at all to think you’re 3% fat when you’re actually 6% (or vice versa); guys who don’t want to hear this should CRY HOME TO MAMA.
But back to approximate leanness… I, personally, can only hold competitive condition for 1-2 weeks, even if the lingering leanness feels pretty darn good for about 6-8 more weeks.
People need to realize that the ripped VISUAL state seen on successful competitive BB is also 5-10 lb. (or more) of dehydration and electrolyte tweaks. That comes rushing back within a DAY or two. Even at my small size (for a competitor), I regain 10 pounds by the Wednesday after a show. I know we’ve both heard horror stories of 30+ pound rehydration gains in a day or two ? not good for cardiac function, among other systems!