Everyone wants to be lean and shredded all year round. What is the point of putting in all this hard work if we don’t look like the culmination of all that work? Many of us restrict out diets and do cardio all year round in an attempt to maintain this lean, shredded body. The problem is, many of us take this way too far and prolong out diet so long that we experience complications and make it virtually impossible to get into super-shredded show-quality condition if we wanted to.
Life-threateningly low body fat percentages for men is 3%, and women experience complications anywhere under 13%, such as hormonal and menstrual complications. With that said, optimal body fat percentages are a good sight higher than this. While it isn’t that big of a deal to diet down for a show and get to extremely low body fat levels, maintaining these low levels over weeks or months will invariably cause these issues, either minor or major:
Low heart rate, greatly decreased metabolism – Keeping a restricted diet and/or low body fat percentage for too long will trigger our body to adjust to the point where we simply don’t burn calories anymore. We feel tired, run-down, and our workouts greatly suffer.
We chip away at muscle- Body fat’s main purpose is as energy reserves. When we don’t have ample supplies of body fat to pull from in high energy demand times, we end up, slowly but surely, chipping away at hard earned muscle tissue.
We can’t recover from training – With low body fat come
s low glycogen stores. It’s not completely possible to maintain high glycogen stores (carbs in the liver and muscles for energy) AND low body fat percentage. Invariably, should we have high glycogen levels, our body will begin to store any slight excess as fat for use at a later time.
We ache! – In addition to the three above, body fat serves the purpose to insulate, cushion, and repair joints. When we don’t have high enough body fat for a long enough period of time, our joints and bones become unhealthy, achy and tired.
A lot of these complications can be offset with targeted meal-timing techniques, in which we load glycogen stores prior to physical activity and fully deplete them in low energy usage times to maintain/achieve low body fat. With that said, even the most clever meal strategy can’t defy 10,000 years of human evolution. If you are experiencing complications in your training, like low energy levels, joint pains and/or body aches, a compromised metabolism or slow recovery, try bumping up your calorie intake by 20-25% (regardless of your body fat %) for a week and see how you feel. Even though we may end up gaining a couple % body fat, the short term vanity is a small price to pay for long term success, a healthy body, feeling good and the ability to get super-shredded a few months from now.