For competitors or those that have gotten really lean at what point would you say you start feeling like your leanness would not be maintained long term? When are your everyday energy levels affected?
I have never competed but I have gotten my body fat down to approximately 5% before. And from that experience I can tell you that I felt a whole lot better when my bf was in the 8% to 12% range. I felt that the higher bf gave me more energy and I actually slept better as well. Others may have different experiences of course as we all differ slightly.
Eight weeks out, with the last month being near unbearable.
Yeah I’d say once the six pack really is visible, for me, is when the daily tired feeling sets in.
At that point calories have been low for a while, and they are probably “unsustainably” low along with cardio being relatively high, leading to the fatigue.
While there are many factors to this (what your non-training daily routine looks like, if you’re cycling calories, how much cardio you need to rely on to maintain a certain pace en route to a final level of conditioning), I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has gotten used to a range of calories balanced with expenditures will notice a big difference in how they’re feeling day to day when their caloric equation takes a big enough hit. This can be a substantial drop in food intake, or even just suddenly having to hit the gym 7x/week when they’ve gotten by with 4-5 for an extended duration up until now.
I will stress that there is a point in most preps where the scale either doesn’t move, or just gets stuck plenty and you’ve got to rely on other indicators of steady movement, and it’s at those points where I think individuals really feel the pains of the process.
For an average gym rat, 4 weeks may give you a “this isn’t very fun” wake up call. Others can gut out 8-12 weeks. 16-20 week preps are tough, and grinding (even the best of them), and those last few to several weeks can push people to the point of questioning just what the hell they’re even doing. I’ve shared some stories with close friends where I would be alone in the gym at night, pushing through those last bits of cardio, just a few weeks out from a contest, and suddenly found myself on the verge of tears just wanting it all to be over… Despite what many online experts/coaches/gurus make you believe so that you hire them, no one gets into contest winning shape by smiling and having the time of their lives every day of their preps.
In my experience this what exactly what happened to me. Typically the prep is “manageable” and you can get through the normalities and movements of every day living without feeling it too much. Once I my cardio got bumped to every day and cals were cut deeper, is when things became unsustainable and not realistic or desirable to maintain. I’ve become ok with letting my abs get a little blurry in the off season, provided I’m lean enough to look like I work out and for good health. If it they start getting too blurry I’ll dial back and lose a few pounds until I’m back to what I feel is good off season conditioning, but after a prep you definitely become OK with not being shredded all the time, because you realize what it takes to get there and maintain it, and it’s just not worth it (or healthy!)