Hey Siege, I'm no beginner, but I'm struggling to get my body fat to 5 percent. I want an elite transformation. What's the best way to do one?
Maybe you think that transformations are just about big fat guys holding a newspaper, but I assure you even elite guys who train hard and stay relatively lean all year long want to transform. To me, an impressive transformation is a guy going from 10 percent body fat to 5 percent. I know just how hard and how seriously dedicated that guy had to be to accomplish that task.
Name: Noah Siegel
Weight: 218 lbs
Occupation: Physique athlete, Optimum Nutrition-sponsored athlete, personal trainer
While dropping to 10 percent body fat is an admirable task for many people, an "elite" transformation demands something more. To get in range of 5 percent body fat, I assume you've probably been busting your ass for years in the gym and kitchen. You're not a rank beginner; you know the basics and have already made fitness a substantial part of your lifestyle. I can help you go the rest of the way.
Here's my usual game plan for bringing my body fat level into that 5 percent range. Each body is different, so what works for me may not work perfectly for you. Take what's useful to you and then make changes according to your own nutritional and exercise needs.
Let's get lean!
It's pretty hard and can actually be counterproductive to hold sub-7 percent body fat year-round. Life is too short to spend the entire time worrying about five extra grams of carbs. We all need a break and some downtime to enjoy the sweet things in life. The time off from serious dieting is good for our bodies and our mental focus; it allows us to grow, recover, and come back even stronger. Every good training program allots time for an athlete to recover, and your nutrition plan needs to follow a similar protocol.
My off-season diet usually begins around October and lasts until February. This time allows me to recover from the hard work I've done, physically and mentally. It's also around the holidays so I can spend time with my friends and family without fear of eating an extra cookie or some cake. This little break from dieting doesn't mean that I let myself go completely. I still track my macros; I just leave an allowance for extra cheating.
My typical off-season daily diet consists of 2,800-3,000 calories. My daily macro plan contains about 325 grams of protein (45 percent of calories), 250 grams of carbs (35 percent of calories), and 60 grams of fat (20 percent of calories). I allot one cheat meal each week. Using this plan, I stay around 215 pounds and I have good energy and feel strong. My totals may seem low to some of you, but I like to stay in striking distance of shoot-ready shape.
I like to keep my carbohydrate level moderately low because it enables me to stay comfortably lean. I stay away from pastas and breads almost entirely. This is not a rule that everyone must follow, but I've found that leaving bread and pasta out of my diet keep me from spilling over into the fatboy range. The majority of my carbohydrates come from fruits, berries, oats, vegetables, and small amounts of rice and potatoes.
When I start my shredding process, I drop my protein intake to one gram per pound of goal bodyweight and supplement with more BCAAs. While my total calories go way down, protein still makes up roughly 42 percent of my total calories.
I drop my carbohydrates to 0.75 grams per pound of goal body weight, which is roughly 30 percent of total calories, and I ingest the majority of those carbohydrates before and after my workout. I know all you "if it fits your macros" (IIFYM) fanboys are going to have a shit fit with this one, but you'll have to deal with it. Yes, I believe in nutrient timing and the hormonal response to training stimuli, so you can keep eating your Pop-Tarts and I'll stick to what has worked for me.
My fat intake will not change during this time, but—since total calories have come down—my percentage of fat calories climbs to 28 percent. I make sure that the fat comes from healthy sources. I love avocados, coconut oil, and my one true love will always be peanut butter!
My cutting diet spans an eight-week period. During this time, I continually lower my carbohydrates by 25 grams each week until I'm down to 50 grams per day for the last two weeks. During these eight weeks, I also like to do periodic carbohydrate re-feeds. On my re-feed days, I eat 250 grams of carbohydrates.
I don't schedule my re-feeds with absolute certainty because they're based on how quickly the weight comes off and how my body feels. If you want to introduce carb re-feeds into your cutting program, you'll have to do a little trial and error. Give yourself the time to figure it out so you can alter your plan if it's not quite going the way you want it to.
Siege Shredding Tip
During a diet, I have casein protein every night. I find that it helps ease those midnight hunger pangs so I don't get urges to eat at night.
"But Siege," you're saying, "What about cardio?" Don't worry, I'm getting there. The one thing I hate more than a bad Sunday morning hangover is cardio. To me, cardio means taking less rest time between sets and moving from muscle to muscle quickly. I take exception to this rule when I start leaning down.
During my shredding phase, I add four or five 20-minute cardio sessions each week. These sessions are only intended to burn excess calories, not improve performance. My goal for each cardio bout is to burn between 200 and 250 calories. Usually, I do two sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and three sessions of low-intensity steady state (LISS) each week.
If I feel like I need more intensity, I'll increase the number of HIIT sessions. I do all my HIIT work outdoors on hills or stairs. I don't feel comfortable sprinting on a treadmill and I don't think sprints can be done effectively indoors. My HIIT cardio consists of 10 sets of all-out sprints up a hill or stadium stairs followed by 30-second rest periods.
I want to emphasize that, with the exception of this added cardiovascular work, there is absolutely no change to my workout routine. My workouts will suffer a bit and I will lose some strength, but that's usually par for the course. The rep schemes and the duration of my workouts do not change.
Once I've reached my goal for body composition, I move into a period of body stabilization. During the leaning-out phase of my program, I usually lose 20 percent of strength on all my lifts. I don't want to remain weak, so the goal of body stabilization time is to regain my strength and intensity during workouts while maintaining my desired body composition.
I return my protein intake slowly back up to 300 or more grams per day, but keep my carbs around 125 grams and my fat around 60 grams. This macronutrient profile allows my body to recover from the beating of the diet, but doesn't give it extra calories to put on much, if any, body fat. Combining this macro plan with lots of water allows me to stay lean for the 3-4 months I need to be in tip-top shape.
The goal of this process should be to constantly strive to achieve progress in muscle composition while staying as lean as possible. Eventually, I regain 100 percent of my strength.
It's Your Turn
You have the plan; now it's time to turn your pretty damn good body into an absolutely incredible body. It's time to kick life up a notch and do a transformation that would make the Incredible Hulk blush with embarrassment!