How To Get to 8% Body Fat…And Stay There

by Pat Flynn on May 8, 2013

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How To Get to 8% Body Fat…And Stay There

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To command your respect and hold your attention, I will use big words. And if the desired effect is achieved, you will likely finish this piece thinking you have arrived somewhere in luxury.

For many years now I have beseeched some of the more celebrated wizards of the natural sciences for samplings of their incalculable wisdom, and they have bestowed upon me, most graciously, the secrets behind their biological sorcery—that is, the key to deciphering the riddles of leanness and muscularity. The most enviable of all human forms, indeed is it not?

Now I have experimented in various directions with this sorcery upon the author of this piece, that is, conducting countless experiments upon myself, done mostly in my underpants and long after my keeper has left the grounds.

To name a few: I have danced with the devils of ketosis, boogied with the preachers of starvation (short-term, of course), and partied with the high-priests of Paleo.

But before I venture any further, I offer a few figures and disclosures:

1. I last clocked in at 6.4% body fat via a 7-point caliper test. As this device is rarely precise down to the exact percentile, I recognize I may be higher up into the eights, or down lower maybe even. Whatever.

2. I take no fat burners or drugs of any kind (less you count chicken), only the following supplements: creatine monohydrate (5 grams daily), organic whey protein concentrate, green tea, fish oil, zma, and an organic greens shake.

3. Having six pack abs does not make you a fitness expert, nor does it make you a good coach. It does not gain you entry into heaven, nor does it protect you from bullets, taxes, or hepatitis C. It does not mean you’re healthy—doesn’t even mean you’re fit, necessarily. All you can assume from six pack abs is that the bearer has a low-enough body fat and an amply muscled midsection. That’s it.

I should tell you, however, that when you seek out six pack abs you learn lessons that can be learned no other way. Mine were:

1. If I go below 100 grams of carbs per day, I am likely to scalp someone, burn my house down, or commit some other wholly unreasonable act of unpredictable violence. Once, while in ketosis, I chased a man up a tree, and kept him there for three months.

2. The only PROVEN effective method to lose weight is to spend more calories than you save. So I figure if Americans could just figure out a way to swap their eating habits for their money habits, then everyone would be much richer and far less fat. Someday, maybe.

So, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to show you how I do it—how to get to 8% bodyfat, and stay there—less of course you be a lady, then 8% is far too low, so let us instead shoot for the mid to high teens—if that be the case.

How to Eat for Six Pack Abs

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I guess you could call me paleo-esque. I do not eat grains*, really. Wait, never mind, yes I do. White rice is a grain, and I eat that. I also eat white potatoes. Some would call this heresy*, but that’s OK.

* SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Grain eating may be hazardous to your health—dangerous to you and others around you, and will likely result in a slow, agonizing death—and there is loose evidence to suggest that that is not the worst, but that when you wake up on the other side, Satan himself will take you by the hand and personally escort you to the farthest back corner of hell—a place too gracious even for perjurers, adulterers, and mobsters—to have your legs boiled in molten sulfur for one billion calendar years.

You see, I really have every natural disadvantage when it comes to being lean—both congenital and acquired. My family is mostly overweight, and I am Irish—which means I like to drink whiskey, and my friends tell me I’m very good at it. But I have learned to restrict my drinking to only the days that come after yesterday. Occasionally I slip up, but one does what one can. [Editor’s Note: There was no point to this paragraph, and it probably should have been deleted.]

On non-training days, I typically keep my carbs at or around 100 grams, the lowest I can go before violence. My carbs come mostly from things that are green and leafy, berries, and the occasional sweet potato. On training days I will bump my carbs up by 50-100grams, sometimes higher. I will have my largest and carb heaviest meal post workout, and this is when I will have white rice or white potatoes. I think the white starchy carbs make for a lovely post workout addition.

To accumulate a calorie deficit, I fast. For this, I (one) fast for 24 hours 1x a week and (two) fast every day until about one or two o’clock. Since I train in the mornings, my first meal of the day is typically my post-workout meal, and it is large and exciting and I would never think to share it anyone—not even Mother, a critter to which I am emotionally susceptible.

If I feel like I’m going too far into the negative, which happens on occasion, I add breakfast back in, or take out the full fasting day.

How to Train for Six Pack Abs

In my last article I talked largely upon the benefits of metabolic conditioning—specifically kettlebell complex training—for augmenting work capacity. But I forget now if I mentioned the other benefit of high intensity complex training, that is, how it melts fat like raw meat on a hot grill.

Aside from sprinting, I do not run. I do not enjoy it. And because I do not enjoy it, I do not like doing it, because I do not like doing things that I do not enjoy, if you can believe it.

What I do enjoy is low-rep strength work approximately four days a week, high intensity metabolic conditioning two to three days a week, and low-intensity cardiovascular activities as often as possible. This is the philosophy behind my Birth of a Hero program, and it is a potent fat burner.

Allow me to expand upon this.

I train strength, on the main, four days a week. My current split is Monday, Tues, Thurs, Fri.

I work three-month cycles, but I do not wave the load, least not in the traditional sense. Instead, I begin each cycle with a “heavy load” (something that challenges me for 1-5 reps). I keep that load constant for three months. By the end of which, hopefully, it has become a “moderate to light load”, because I have grown stronger. Therefore, I have, in effective, “waved the load,” by not waving it at all. Voilá!

Currently, I am training mostly bodyweight and gymnastic style movements, such as the muscle up and the pistol squat.

 

 

I follow a rep scheme of 1,2,3,1,2,3 for every lift I do—a classic gymnastics style rep/set structure. For three months, there is no variation, not even when it starts to feel “easy”. When three months have passed, I bump the weight back up to a “heavy load”— or, in the case of bodyweight training, move onto a more difficult progression—and repeat the cycle.

[I’m not going to just give away the full program, but if you’d like it online coaching, and are willing to pay for it, then please email me at PatFlynn@ChroniclesOfStrength.com with the subject line of “I’m Not a Cheap Ass.” It’s expensive, but I’ve heard it’s worth it.]

Two days a week I add in metabolic conditioning via kettlebell complex training (typically on Mondays and Fridays). If I’m feeling spunky, I’ll make it three (or perform a metric crap ton of kettlebell swings intermittently throughout the week). This comes after my strength training, never before. I keep my complex work diverse—sometimes double bell, sometimes single bell, sometimes heavy, sometimes light. Inefficiency is your friend here and offers the refreshment of variety.

If you’d like some ideas, I have a free eBook on 101 Kettlebell Complexes that you can download HERE. It’s a gift, don’t worry about it.

Finally, I keep on the move as much as I can. Super-low-intensity stuff, lots of walking and hiking, especially on the weekends. Fasted hiking is a sneaky way to cut off that last bit of stubborn fat. I oftentimes bring along my trusty St. Bernard, Lola, for guidance and good humor.

Lola

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Concluding Thoughts

There are a great many articles out there on how to get lean from people who have tried but did not succeed, even more from those who have never bothered to try at all but just wanted to talk about it anyways. I just wanted to be a little different, that’s all.
–    Pat
PS – If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments or come say hi on Facebook.

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About Pat Flynn, RKC: Pat Flynn is a certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor, fitness philosopher, and 7th degree blackbelt in hanging out. Pat is the founder of ChroniclesOfStrength.com where he talks mostly on how to chop fat and multiply muscle through kettlebell complex training.

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  • Great blog Pat!! Motivation for beach season 😉

  • Charles

    Smart, witty and informative as always. Kudos!

    • Pat

      Thanks for the kind words Charles

  • Jamie

    Very good article. How much of a calorie deficit have you seen be successful? I have read a lot about not going too low, but have seen very little written about what that is and for how long. It seems to be a tricky thing that can really screw up your metabolic rate, but a key component to getting into the single digits of body fat. Thanks.

    • I’ve never gone too low. I strive to go just as low as I need, and not a smidgen lower.

  • ralph00031

    how long did you do this for? looking at my carb intake for the past four weeks i’ve been hovering at around 250g and want to add to my eating regimen, but would like to know for how long to try this program before i kick back to a more normal carb intake.

    • Hey Ralph,

      This is a lifestyle for me–in other words, this is my normal.

  • Pat – Outstanding article. Very similar to how I eat and even the path I took over the years playing the detective to figure out what works best for my body with smart exercise and nutrition. I started at 283lbs and probably 45% fat (or who knows… you stop counting at that high) in my 30’s. Fought obesity since age 13. I have yet to reach that elite athlete BF% for a female but am in my early 40’s and in the best shape of my life. I range 19 – 23% and probably headed lower by default. I only put the best quality clean foods in my body. . 98% of the time and I don’t feel like I am being restrictive. I enjoy it! I also stay sane by keeping my carbs between about 80-100 and find that works best for me. I even make room for a balls out cheat like a slice of NY style cheese pizza or cheesecake every few weeks to months. My primary motivation these days is my pursuit of my KB strength training goals with my RKC. I also just want to live a long and healthy life with those I love. Over time the numbers really have become less important. I much rather focus on passing the snatch test and obtaining my instructor cert… just because I can! The fat loss is a bonus. Great detailed write! Thanks!

    • Hey Stacy, thanks for sharing your experience, very inspiring! I have no doubt you will find great success as an RKC instructor. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Hi Pat

    Quick question you say that you fast until one or two o’clock and that you workout in the mornings and have your largest carb meal post workout. So is your fast from your morning post workout meal until 1 or 2 pm?

    • Say I workout at eleven thirty and finish at twelve thirty, my first meal will then be around one. So my fast is from the last meal I ate before bed, until one.

  • Wolflean

    Hey Pat,

    Great read sir, I will definitely be taking tips from this! Short and simple question though; what name brand of organic whey isolate do you use?

    Thanks as always! Love all the posts and articles, you rock dude!

    You’re friend

    Ryan B aka Wolf

    • Wolf,

      I am currently using Tera’s Organic Whey.

  • Shawn

    Believe in the short-term fasting, also believe in largest meal being post-workout….my schedule dictates that I workout at about 5 AM. Any ideas on how to resolve this? Should I look at doing the fast end of day/overnight? Thanks for the article and ideas…

    • Give it a shot, I know some folks in a similar situation and it seems to work well for them.

  • Ash

    Your fitness advice is always par excellence and what is even more impressive is your linguistic legerdemain. Most fitness writers are at a stage where they get confused between lose and loose. A distant second would be Leangains’ Berkham. And you seem to have built up a following that not only laps up the coaching you provide but also appreciates your consistently good prose. Cheers.

    • Thanks Ash, your kind words mean a lot. Just trying to help people loose weight is all.

  • Hunter

    Good morning Pat. So nothing pre workout? What about us that work heavy labour all day, workout around five o’oclock, eat around six-six thirty and hit the sack before ten? Basically what I do and feel alright, but still need to shed some fat. I usually just have coffee, tea, and water during the day (the odd protein shake pre workout). Any thoughts? Thanks. Hunter

    • Hey Hunter, a little coffee, a little tea, no big deal. Just be careful as to not overwork the stimulants–for many it’s all too easy to slam down stims pre-workout and get sucked into the “cycle of doom”. The odd protein shake is cool too, especially if you’ve been fasting for that long already.

  • Patrick

    I’m about 14% body fat 16 years old and 153 pounds …I do weight training about 5 days a week mostly heavy and on top of that I do insanity (plyometric cardio circuit) about 2-3 times a week ..but want to get down to about 8-10% body fat …is there anything I could do to speed up the process? Thanks

  • Yousef

    Ive read sooo many posts on this subject of 8 % bodyfat and honestly yours is the best. Great stuff man

  • You are such a fun writer! I can’t wait for your next post. 🙂

  • Terich

    This needs a lot of discipline and is more suitable for the really dedicated. This outline could even discourage the ones who feel that they won’t be able to do anything remotely near these tips. It may be more beneficial overall to reach and inspire more of the general population, for example, to just lose 3 to 5% of their body fat to start with – on a large scale this would be a massive achievement and help more than refining the already very lean to super-lean. Interesting read though, thank you.

  • Bren

    I’m 5,11 and have about 12 to 14% body fat I want less. I wanna get to about 8% so I can have my veins pop more and be stronger how can I lower it fast?

  • Tino Gisondi

    wtv man im not impressed. i just got back from japan and i got my 8th degree in hanging out. they don’t just hand the belts out. you need to seriously work for it. mm yeah thanks for the article though. i’m doing a 120 day challenge. i used to train a lot so my body will remember my incredible power. muscle memory or some shit like that. imagine, i’m 275 pounds and i’m still considered cute. at 200 pounds i will be considered very cute. thanks

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