What Body Fat Do You Maintain Year Round?
By Tom Venuto
Q: Hey Tom! I've had your Burn the Fat ebook for years, and I just read it again, I joined the Inner Circle and I'm working out my "get ripped plan." I have a few questions.-
First, I know some people gain back some or all of the fat after a transformation contest and I'm not letting that happen to me. That got me thinking about what's realistic to maintain after a contest.
I read your recent article about how low your body fat should be to look ripped, but what I was more curious about is, through all the years you've been bodybuilding, what is your usual OFF SEASON body fat and what do you personally find maintainable year round? Also, has your body fat percentage varied a lot over the years and what about between contest-season and the off-season? Thanks Tom!
ANSWER: Hi Chris, thanks for your email. This subject comes up all the time
and believe me I do get some flak about my body fat standards. I guess I have
high standards! I believe in setting huge goals. I think people's advice to "be
realistic" is usually well intentioned, but also leaves you selling yourself short.
But, there are a couple areas where being realistic is pretty darn important:
one is in the deadlines you set for your goals and the other is what you asked;
what's a realistic level to maintain (after hitting your peak).
I did touch on maintainable body fat percentages in that last article about body fat
levels to see your abs.
Here's what I can add to that: what's maintainable, (possible to easily
maintain) and what I actually do maintain are not necessarily the same. And
also keep in mind that what's true for competitors may not be true for
non-competitors, who have different sets of standards.
Competition body fat over the years for me has been 3.4 to 5.0%. I have to be
clear and honest: That is not maintainable. A peak, by definition is surrounded
Off season body fat is usually about 9%. Keeping year round single
digits is a goal and standard I've always aimed for. Has it crept up over 10%?
Sure. But that's my signal to tighten the belt on discipline... cut back the cheat
meals... bump up the cardio, etc.
What's maintainable? I could maintain 6-7% bodyfat, but doing that would
take an extra level of effort and diligence - mental and physical - a lot of
it mental. Just purely from a psychological point of view I'd probably need
a good reason why to do that (maybe if I move to South Florida or So Cal,
and i'm on the beach every day, LOL!)
"Reason Why" really drives a person, not just to achieve a goal, but to maintain
it, and that's as true for me as anyone. Maintenance takes effort. Have a reason
to stay in shape after the 49 day challenge is over and be thinking already about
My weight stats? I'm 5' 8" tall and my contest weight has been about
175 lbs which is just inside the middleweight cutoff of 176 1/4. Early in
competitive career I started as a lightweight; was 154 in first 2 shows,
then put on more muscle.
My contest day weight is very "depleted" and "dry" even after 3 days of
carbing up. You could say it's a "false' weight - and totally unsustainable
so when you see contest (day of show/ onstage) weight, keep in mind
that by the next day or two I could be easily 5 lbs heavier with water and
glycogen filling up.
Off season weight usually 190-195 though I've been over 200 lbs numerous
times. Truth be told, I have usually not been happy with my level of leanness
over 200 lbs. I'd like to be 200 lbs + and still see a hint of abs, but "plight
of the endomorph," you know.. its a challenge.
I do not do any crazy "bulking" anymore in the off season, did that more
than once where i intentionally gained up to over 200 lbs, but do I consider
my in season to off season swing (15 or even up to 20 lbs) pretty normal.
A lot of bodybuilders say they stay "within 10 lbs of contest weight" and some
prep gurus say everyone should do the same. But i know guys who gain
10 lbs the day after the show just in fluid and glycogen repletion.
My weight and body fat hasn't varied a lot except in college was the one
time I definitely slipped, body fat went way up into the teens and was starting
to sport a pretty good beer and pizza belly. (stromboli and cheese fries helped
Here's that article about body fat levels and it touches on what's maintainable:
What is the ideal body fat to see your abs
You can learn more about effective strategies for preventing your metabolism from slowing down while dieting (chapter 2), how to troubleshoot progress plateaus (chapter 4), how to pinpoint your exact personal calorie needs (chapter 6) how to maximize your metabolism and maintain your lean muscle tissue with protein (chapter 10) and a lot more in my fat loss manual: Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.
Train hard and expect success!
Tom Venuto, author of
Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle
(The "Fat loss bible")
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is the author of the #1 best seller, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models (e-book). Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle. Tom is a lifetime natural bodybuilder and fat loss expert who achieved an astonishing 3.7% body fat level without drugs or supplements. Discover how to increase your metabolism and lose inches of stubborn body fat, find out which foods burn fat and which foods turn to fat, plus get a free fat loss report and mini course by visiting Tom's Fat Loss website at: www.BurnTheFat.com