It’s possible for everyone to get fit and lean. You just need the right motivation and plan in order to achieve your goal of 10% body fat. This article is meant as an outline for your dieting regimen, not as a set-in-stone template. Your individual lifestyle should be taken into account when following this diet: what foods you like, how many meals a day you want to eat, and your daily schedule.
For those who want to cut down their body fat percentage without losing muscle mass or strength, this diet comes highly recommended. Remember that even with proper training and dieting it may take months before reaching 10% body fat. Following these guidelines should help you cut down to 10% body fat over the course of a few months.
Many people want to lose weight and are afraid that decreasing their daily calorie intake will result in muscle loss. This is untrue. If you maintain your caloric intake but increase the number of calories burned (through exercise), then yes, you will lose body fat – including losing the fat stored in your muscles.
Here are some of the basics you should keep in mind:
When cutting down body fat, it is important to maintain a good complex carbohydrate intake. Carbs not only provide energy for physical activity but also help to retain muscle mass while dieting.
Your daily carb intake should be between 3 and 5 grams per kg of body weight (5). However, if it’s your first time on this type of diet plan, then start with 1 gram per pound body weight and increase as needed. Don’t forget that you can find carbs in non-starchy vegetables so eating plenty of these is recommended.
Protein will help preserve lean muscle mass when cutting down body fat percentage. Consume 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (5). It’s recommended to consume your daily protein intake over the course of a few meals instead of eating them all in one sitting.
Fats are an integral part of any diet, especially when trying to lower body fat percentage. You do not want to go too low on fats because it will be much more difficult to get enough calories from food and you may be at risk for muscle loss due to insufficient calorie consumption.
Your daily fat intake should be around 0.5 grams per kg of body weight with no more than 30% coming from saturated fatty acids such as coconut oil, which encourages inflammation in the human body leading many people to avoid it (5).
The rest of your daily fat intake should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as those found in extra virgin olive oil, nuts and avocados. If you are allergic or sensitive to nuts or seafood then use extra virgin olive oil instead since it has many health benefits.
Read More: Macro Split For Cutting: The Truth Behind Counting Your Macros
What Is The Best Diet To Get 10% Body Fat?
The diet to get 10% body fat is comprised of a higher protein and lower carb intake. While the Standard American Diet (SAD) consists of 40 – 60% carbs, the 10% diet has less than 25% (10). The reasoning behind this drastic change is simple: Decreasing your daily caloric intake ensures that you will lose weight; however, by keeping a healthy balance between carbohydrates and protein, you will not lose muscle mass or strength during this process.
The Keto Diet For 10% Body Fat
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, medium protein and low carb diet. This makes it excellent for cutting body fat while maintaining weight/strength.
On this type of plan, you will be consuming an extremely low amount of carbs every day (no more than 50g) which is equivalent to two medium apples or an equal sized piece of fruit per day (6).
Consuming carbs this little leaves your body with no other choice but to use your stored glycogen as energy during workouts and restocking once the exercise session is over – not enough energy coming in means that your body burns fat instead.
Because the intake was so low to begin with, after a few days your glycogen will be completely depleted and you will have to start burning fat for energy. Once it is depleted, this is when your body starts to use the stored fat that was previously placed around your abdomen and thighs as fuel during workouts; once more, not enough energy coming in means that your body burns fat instead (3).
This process of using stored fat to burn for energy is called ketosis, which results in a loss of weight – quite simply, you are eating yourself into shape! If you follow this diet correctly and eat within reason, then you can lower your body fat percentage to 10% (6).
Here’s how a day of eating on the keto diet for 10% body fat would look like:
- Breakfast: Egg whites with a lot of vegetables or whey protein smoothie
- Lunch: Lean meat such as skinless chicken breast or fish, cooked in olive oil, with a few pieces of sweet potatoes and a lot of vegetables
- Dinner: Steamed fish, such as salmon, with non-starchy vegetables and avocado slices.
Snacks between meals can include a protein shake or whey protein snack bars. Try to also include a few handfuls of nuts for extra healthy fat.
The Bodybuilding Diet For 10% Body Fat
A typical bodybuilding diet involves increasing your overall protein and calorie intake and incorporating regular strength training into your workouts. It places emphasis on quantity and meal timing during various phases of weight training.
There are essentially two phases to a bodybuilding diet: bulking and cutting.
The bulking phase is designed to gain maximum muscle while adding little amounts of body fat, while the cutting phase is used to lose any excess flab gained during the bulking period.
You should also take in more protein than you are currently taking in (1g per pound of bodyweight). This will ensure that your body is filled with plenty of nutrients and amino acids which will help build muscle mass faster than on a normal diet.
The macro ratios for the bulking phase are (7):
- Protein: 25–30%
- Fat: 15–20%
- Carbohydrate: 55–60%
Here’s how a day of eating during the bulking phase would look like:
- Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with spinach and cheese, turkey bacon, and whole milk
- Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich topped with banana slices, whole milk
- Dinner: Fish fillet, whole grain rice, and steamed vegetables
- Snacks: Protein shakes with protein powder, berries and almonds
Combine all these meals with an intense strength training routine that includes resistance exercises.
The cutting phase is based on the same principle of a bodybuilding diet, but with fewer calories and higher in protein. This is also when you add interval training to your workout routines.
The macro ratio on the cutting phase is (7):
- Protein: 20–25%
- Fat: 15–20%
- Carbohydrate: 55–60%
Here’s how a day of eating during cutting phase would look like:
- Breakfast: Protein shake with fruit or vegetable juice and an egg white scramble
- Lunch: Steamed salmon with broccoli and olive oil dressing
- Dinner: Skinless chicken breast sautéed in olive oil, whole grain rice, and steamed vegetables
- Snacks: Greek yogurt
Unlike the keto diet, the bodybuilders diet allows you to take carbohydrates to fuel your workout. Depending on your goals, you can increase or decrease your carbohydrate ratio during the bulking and cutting phase. Because everyone’s body is different, such a flexible 10 body fat diet plan may be best.
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The Vegan Diet For 10% Body Fat
Vegan diets have proven effective for reducing fat and improving metabolism. The vegan diet has also been shown to be a good way of maintaining an already lean body (8). In order to get 10% body fat on a vegan diet, you’ll have to combine it with exercise.
How to diet to go 10% body fat the vegan way? It is a good idea to eat five or six small meals a day, spaced about three hours apart. This will keep your blood glucose levels more constant throughout the day; it’s also easier on your digestive system. Try to include two types of complete protein in each meal, as well as vegetables and fruit with plenty of fiber. These nutrients are necessary for energy and muscle maintenance. Include plenty of healthy fats found naturally in nuts, seeds and avocados along with healthy oils such as olive oil, flaxseed oil and wheat germ oil which can help maintain an already lean body.
Here’s how a day of eating on the vegan diet would look like:
- Breakfast: Vegan protein shake with fruit and whole wheat bread made with vegan nut butter
- Lunch: Portobello mushroom sandwich with whole wheat bread
- Dinner: Black bean and corn salad, brown rice and soy milk
Combine this with an intense strength training routine that includes resistance exercises. This will help you reach your ultimate goal of getting to 10% body fat.
Work Out Plan To Get 10% Body Fat
Lowering your body fat percentage will take more than diet. You must incorporate a workout program that has both weight training and cardio.
You’ll work out four days per week, splitting up your routine as follows: legs, chest and shoulders, back, arms. Each day of the week should target one muscle group. You need to strength train to increase your muscle mass. In turn, you’ll burn more calories and body fat (4).
To build muscle, choose a weight that is heavy enough so that you can only complete eight repetitions of each exercise before your muscles are fatigued. If you are able to do more than 12 reps with good form for an exercise, it’s time to increase the weight.
Some exercises work multiple muscle groups such as squats and lunges which hit both legs and thighs (frontal thighs). A sample routine that can be tweaked to fit your fitness level is:
- Legs: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each including the following exercises: Squats, Lunges, Calf Raises
- Chest & Shoulders: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each including the following exercises : Barbell Bench Press, Butterfly Machine Overhead Triceps Extension
- Back & Biceps: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each including the following exercises : Deadlifts , Chins (pull-ups), Hammer Curls
Remember not to work on muscle groups more than once per week. The goal is to recuperate from your workouts so they can have the greatest impact possible.
You will also participate in cardiovascular workouts six days per week consisting of 45 minutes total. Walk briskly on each day, except leg day. To power your cardio exercise, you can take a protein shake before or during your walk.
The remaining time needed for a good workout plan is to stretch after each training session and take care of any injuries that result from the workouts. This is important because if you work out with an injury, your body will not heal properly and you could possibly end up with more serious injuries in the future (9).
Read More: Cardio Versus Fat Burning: Which Matters For Weight Loss?
Tips For Lowering Body Fat Percentage When You’ve Hit A Plateau
You’re aiming for 10% body fat because you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight already. So, if you think you’re on the right diet and exercise plan but can’t seem to be making progress, here are three things you can do to break past the fat-burn plateau.
This might sound counterintuitive, but it works. Increase your total calorie count to allow for more food intake and thus more calories burned (by virtue of increased metabolism + exercise activated thermogenesis) (2).
How much more? Well, that depends on the amount of weight loss/fat gain you are looking at achieving. A rough guideline is 500 kcal increase per 1lb lean tissue gained/lost (1). For example, if I am looking for 2 lb of lean tissue gain – I would add 1000kcal to my current daily caloric intake (~5000kcal).
Eat every 2-3hrs during the day (you want to try and keep your insulin levels as even as possible).
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Switch Up Your Workout
Push harder with your exercises. Rather than just slogging through a higher volume of work, make sure that at least one aspect (the intensity or duration) is increased. For example add more weight during each workout for resistance training sessions and/or increase either the duration or intensity of cardiovascular/aerobic exercise.
Also consider adding some interval-type cardio like sprints or HIIT workouts, where you cycle between all-out effort and easy recovery periods – this will prime your body to be more efficient at burning fat for fuel while sparing muscle loss when dieting.
To get the lean body you want, reaching 10% body fat is obviously not easy on any diet. You have to choose a diet that you can stick to long-term. If you combine a good diet plan and incorporate it with some intense exercise; you could very well reach your goal.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial (2012, nih.gov)
- Diet induced thermogenesis (2004, nih.gov)
- Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults (2012, nih.gov)
- How to Determine the Best Macronutrient Ratio for Your Goals (2016, acefitness.org)
- Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patient (2004, nih.gov)
- Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding (2004, pubmed.gov)
- Plant-Based Diets in the Reduction of Body Fat: Physiological Effects and Biochemical Insights (2019, nih.gov)
- Top Strategies for optimal Recovery Between Workouts (2017, acefitness.org)
- What is it and Where do we go Next? (2021, doctorkiltz.com)