How To Get to 8% Body Fat…And Stay There
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
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’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.
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.
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.
PS – If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments or come say hi on Facebook.
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.