As a weightlifter and someone who cares about their physique, the state of being lean and muscular is the ultimate goal. Wether you bulk and cut or simply undergo the feat of trying to simultaneously do both, the end objective is almost always to have low body fat and high amounts of muscle.
This is because when you are at a low level of body fat, you look very defined and your muscles are much more visible since there isn’t a layer of fat covering them. Your waist also gets smaller, improving your overall proportions and making you look bigger than you looked while at a higher body fat percentage.
Other perks to a low levels of body fat are that you will be more athletic and be able to do more movements based on bodyweight like one arm pull-ups and L-sits.
The state of being muscular while not carrying a lot of fat is obtainable. It takes hard work and consistency. You diet and training need to be very good. But, for everyone willing to put the effort in this state is obtainable.
Remaining in this state, however, is a different story and one that requires a different routine and approach than simply obtaining the state initially.
Difficulties of Low Body Fat
To get to a low body fat level, you must be in a caloric deficit. Once the target body fat level is obtained, you can eat at maintenance for that weight and body fat percentage but these maintenance calories are likely still going to be significantly lower than your maintenance prior to losing fat.
The main difficulties of consistently being at a low body fat are keeping up willpower to resist hunger cues, dealing with low energy, having a low libido, losing strength, having a low mood, and poor concentration.
These are all side effects of being at a low body fat. All of these side effects however can be greatly diminished by making changes to your dieting, lifestyle, and the amount of each macronutrient you are consuming while in a caloric deficit.
Solutions to These Difficulties
To maintain a low body fat level, these difficulties will need to be overcame. These next solutions are the means to overcoming those difficulties in order to stay at a low body fat level.
For overriding your appetite and adhering to your diet, you need to be avoiding large binge eating days. The best way to avoid these is to schedule refeeding days once a week that allow you to go over calories to a certain limit. This form of dieting with refeed days is known as intermittent dieting.
Intermittent dieting will help bolster your willpower to eat in a deficit because you will have the knowledge that one day coming up you will be able to eat more. If there is no rest or break in the horizon, you can end up discouraged and say “screw it” then have a 4,000-5,000 calorie binge. If you are building in 3-4 refeed days a month, however, the chances of that happening are much lower.
Intermittent dieting also has physical and health benefits. This study found that refeed days may have a positive benefit on maintaining lean muscle mass and keeping an optimal metabolic rate. These positive effects are very beneficial for weightlifters in a caloric deficit since a high metabolic rate will help burn fat and maintaining lean mass will help keep strength and ensure your gains are not lost while cutting.
If you are finding that even after refeed days it is still difficult to stick to your calories, then you should consider increasing the number of calories you’re on per day. This is also the solution if the problems of low libido, low energy, and low strength persist.
In order to deal with low mood, poor energy, and low libido, one of the best ways to solve these issues is to increase your carbohydrate intake and make sure your cutting diet is at the optimal macronutrient levels. Carbohydrates are needed for glycogen storage in the muscles which is the main source of fuel during lifting. Carbohydrates are also needed by the body for producing normal levels of testosterone, serotonin, and tryptophan, all of which directly relate to mood, libido, strength, and energy.
If you still feel side effects of being at a low body fat and in a caloric deficit, decrease protein intake and boost fat intake. Your body may respond better to a unique macronutrient ratio so this, along with the other solutions, mentioned is likely to help you maintain your level of body fat.
Maintaining low body fat comes with a set of challenges. These challenges mainly are being hungry, having low energy, poor mood, low libido, and loss of strength and muscle.
All of these challenges can be dealt with and defeated. In order to overcome these challenges and successfully stay at a low body fat percentage there are several potential solutions. The most effective solutions are adding refeed days to your diet, increasing carbohydrate intake and lowering protein, and increasing fat intake.
Your macronutrient split plays a large role in your mood and energy and carbs are vital for your overall wellbeing. If none of these solutions work, simply increase your calories slightly until the caloric intake that you’re eating is sustainable and you can maintain your body fat without major difficulty.