T Nation

Single Digit Body Fat %


I'm interested in the motivations of those of you with goals to be be in the mid single digits (say 5-6%) in the long-term and continuously . What are your reasons? Why do you prefer this as opposed to 10-11%? Or thereabouts. What sacrifices are you prepared to make? What about giving up certain things or a particular rigid discipline is more satisfying than a little more moderation? And, as this what are your plans to get there? Short-term and long-term plans. Nutrtion and training.

(Not sure what would correspond bodyfat-wise for women. But feel free to answer if your goal is to have a tight, lithe, hard, body. Not competition-lean but close and leaner than is necessary to still have a damn good body [in my view])


Why do you want your body fat % so low?
I would understand if your your goal was a body building competition. But don't think body fat % above 10% is bad. I think approx. 15% body fat % is healthy.


Single-digit body fat, or arguably more specifically: ab-seeing % fat is an internationally accepted representation of health and fitness. Disease and illnesses aside, you just don't see many "unhealthy" people with a 6-pack: you usually see energetic, vibrant, attractve, sexy, dynamic people. Pick up a copy of "Mens Health". The guy on the front, if he's nekkid, has a six-pack. And I've not seen this months issue.

You can translate this into raw marketing language: "if you want to be fit and healthy, and get-laid then get a six-pack. If you're a slug, or if you can only shag the double-bagger, you don't have a six-pack. This terrible interpretation sells magazines, ab-gadgets and fat-burners by the mega-ton.

Bottom line: we all want to be the sexy, energetic healthy guy; so many set the %fat as a target.

Me? I'm 45, a former slug, and around 15% fat (was probably 30+% at one time). 135 miles/month on the treadmill made me skinny and weak (but still probably 18% fat). This year, I've been replacing skin and bone with a tad of muscle thanks to T-Nation. I am not going to make single-digits, but I too have ab-seeing %fat as a goal for next year. It's going to be very VERY hard for me, but even I want to do it too, as it will make me FEEL healthier and fitter (I've never seen my abs). My wife won't love me any more (or less), but I still want to do it because of what it represents, and to prove that I can.



Mine comes from performance alone. Off-Season I am around 9-10% and much more comfortable there (diet wise). Last season my race weight was 6%. This season somewhere around 5-6% will be my goal.


It's too bad we can't find some strategies that will make the body decide to stay at some reasonable level of fat percentage.

Of course, defining reasonable will not be easy to do.


I don't want my bodyfat that low at all. I'm actually just interested in seeing what drives people. Because I do know there are people on this site with those goals. Personally all I want is to be strong, healthy, have some solid size, and decent leaness. I've basically achieved this although there is of course always room for improvement.


Yeah. I stay around 10-11% naturally unless bulking by eating mostly healthy and training hard but no specific calories or depriving myself or any of that. As an endurance athlete with considerably less muscle, I was also around 5-6%. I would never try to get there today. It's just not worth it to me to be strict like that diet-wise to the meticulous degree necessary to get that lean without losing muscle. But I understand that to some people it is and have always wondered at that motivation. As someone said, I can understand it if competing. It's harder for me to get a handle on as just a general goal in life.


Wizlon, I can understand the goal to be nice and lean if you've never been. But I think that once you get there, you'll realize that there's nothing so inherently wonderful about it. Personally, I have good abs when 10% and solid definition generally. This is fine with me, but beyond this just seems unecessary to me.


I don't have a goal to get that lean again (been about 8% one time in my life for about 8 months) but I did notice that people treated me differently/better, even though I was small (148 lbs).

I've been on the other side of that for the majority of my life before I leaned up and I was around 23%bf at 180lbs about 1.5 years after being 8%.

Now I'm up to 180 again, but with more muscle and less fat than when I was around 23%bf. If I had to guess I'd say I'm around 16(ish)% and I'm happy with my results so far.

I also plan on continuing to add mass for at least 4 more months or so, maybe more depending on where I am at that time.

I'd be very happy weighing close to 200lbs with 12%bf (I'm short-5'5").


Why would anyone want to be hugely muscular or want to bench a grand?

For the majority of ppl who train and have these goals it will never come into play in their everyday lives.


Neither would being able to sprint a 4.4 40, or being able to jog for 20 minutes, or being able to squat over 100 lbs.

Where should goals of gaining muscle, or endurance, or losing fat end? Right at the point where we can survive a desk job and sedentary lifestyle?

I can feel good and energetic at a bodyweight of 150 lbs, but I feel better at 180, even with about 7% more body fat on me.

I have a mass/strength building goal right now (while also improving endurance), hence the added body fat which I am willing to have to reach my goals. Once I reach my LBM goals, getting rid of the excess fat will be easy if I do it right.

I can only imagine that I'll feel even better with better cardio vascular endurance, muscular endurance, and muscle mass, and lower body fat when I reach 200(ish) pounds.

Lifting heavy weights feels good and gets addicting and fun, especially if you change things up and continue to improve.

I think once you start to do it correctly, and get good at it you'll understand.

Of course it's your choice if you want to have mediocre, easy, small-results-producing goals.


Ditto here. I race BMX and XC/DH on the MTB and strive to stay 7-%ish most of the time. I let myself get sloppy this summer and I could feel it in both my speed and agility. I genereally "bulk" for two months in the winter just to regain any muscle lost over the season and try to stay lean and do low volume/low reps/high weight most of the year thereafter.


Yeah. My personal take on it is to keep bodyfat as low as possible in the longterm once all desired muscle has been added without feeling deprived. Feeling deprived for me is not lack of laying on the couch chowing down on doritos. But my bodyfat is and will be whatever it is from training hard, eating good and healthy, and being a little more liberal on the weekends. And that turns out to be pretty low. I see no need for it to be any lower at most points of the year.


At 9-10% I feel like a lard ass. As girly as it sounds, those 5-6 lbs can really make a difference.


I wish my body's natural set point was 10-12%. I feel great at that level and am very lean and can see plenty of muscle definition and abs. I've been below 8% before, and I was shredded to shit, but I could not keep that leanness for more than a few months as my strength was drastically reduced, and I began to feel weak and hungry all the time.

Unfortunately, my body's natural set point seems to be in the 15-18% range and right now, I'm definitely between 16-18% (18% according to one of those bodyfat testers that you hold out in front of you - However, I did another one that you stand on barefoot and it said I was 24%!!!!!).

But I see no need in being in the single digits again unless I was competing in some sort of sport where being very lean was beneficial. But if I could stay 11-12% year round, I'd be more than happy.

Hmmm...maybe I can go see Dr. Nadler and get some "Ab Etching" done since that's where I carry my fat. That would be sweet if I could afford to do it.


My set point seems to be around 13-15
% body fat. I'm comfortable at this level most of the year, but like to drop to 9-10% in the summer.

Those that strive of supper low body fat all year round are most likely endurance athletes or fitness models. You can't gain size while maintaining such leanness.

Are there any health issues with consistently low body fat?


I think it also depends on your start point. At 5'9" and 205lbs, my motivation for training was that I wanted to be extremely lean rather than extremely fat. So I set a goal of 7% BF.

At the moment I'm about 13-14%, at 163lbs. I've also gained muscle whilst losing fat (bench has gone from 85lbs to 200lbs for example), so god knows how high my BF% must have been originally if I was that weak at my starting weight.

Had I started out lighter, I probably would have set a goal that was strength based. Once I hit 7% BF (which should happen around 150lbs) I'll probably set new strength-based goals.

So I think it does depend on where you start. Skinny, lean types want to be bigger. Fat-asses want to be leaner.

EDIT: I found this page by googling, and didn't check how old the threat was. Sorry for reviving something so old :wink:.


LOL @ 2005 Thread


Another win for the class of 2010.


Didn't you just revive a 2003 thread recently Chuck?