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How to Accurately Measure Your Body Fat Percentage

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How to Accurately Measure Your Body Fat Percentage

If you want to know how to measure your body fat percentage simply and accurately (and why most methods are fatally flawed), then you want to read this article.

 So there I was, standing in front of the mirror, slightly baffled.

body fat percentage ideal

What would you guess my body fat percentage was?

Bodybuilders compete around 4 to 5% and look like walking anatomy charts, so I figured I must be around…7%?

Not according to my trusty multiple-point caliper test. It said 11%.

WTF? Talk about a comedown.

I was confused by that reading, though, because I couldn’t pinch more than skin anywhere on my body but was somehow still hauling around close to 20 pounds of fat?

To put that in perspective, here’s what a pound of fat looks like:

pound of fat picture

Where could I possibly have been hiding 20 of those piles of ugly, greasy flesh, exactly? And considering the effort it took to get as lean as I was, was 7% impossible to even do naturally?

Well, I went looking for answers and in this article, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned.

By the end, you’re going to know what body fat percentage is, the pros and cons of the most popular ways of measuring it, how to get an accurate estimate of your body fat percentage, and more.

What Is Body Fat Percentage?

what is body fat percentage

Many people mix up the terms “body composition,” “BMI,” and “body fat percentage.”

They’re all different.

Body composition refers to an analysis of what your body is made of—skeletal muscle, fat, bones, organs, blood, water, and so on.

BMI is short for “body mass index,” which is a numeric expression of the relationship between your height and weight.

And the definition of “body fat percentage” is built right into the term–it’s simply the percentage of your weight that’s comprised of fat.

Thus, when you measure your body fat percentage, you’re determining how much of your weight is fat.

Let’s look at an example just so it’s crystal clear.

Say a person weighs 150 pounds and 15 of those pounds are fat. His body fat percentage would be 15 divided by 150, which, expressed as a percentage, is 10%.

This percentage changes if he gains or loses fat, and it also changes if he gains or loses muscle.

For example, if he sticks to a proper diet and weightlifting routine and puts on 20 pounds, and 5 of them are fat, then he now weighs 170 pounds with 20 pounds of fat.

This would be quite a change visually but not in terms of body fat percentage, which would be 20 divided by 170, or around 11%.

Let’s say he then stops lifting for a year and loses 10 pounds of muscle but doesn’t lose any fat.

Again, this would be a big change in the mirror, but his body fat percentage would still be more or less the same–around 12% (20 divided by 160).

The simple takeaway here is that your body fat percentage is a moving target that changes according to what happens with your body composition over time.

Why Body Fat Percentage > BMI

body fat percentage for abs

As you know, BMI is short for “body mass index,” and it represents the relationship between a person’s height and weight.

To calculate BMI, you divide your weight in kilograms and by your height in meters squared.

For example, let’s calculate my BMI based on the stats of my picture above.

First, we convert my weight and height to kilograms and meters, respectively:

184 (pounds) x 0.45 = 82.8 (kilograms)

74 (inches) x 0.025 = 1.85 (meters)

Next, we square the height measurement:

1.85 x 1.85 = 3.4225

And finally, we divide the weight by the height squared to get my BMI score:

82.8 / 3.4225 = 24.2 (BMI)

According to the BMI chart, different BMI scores correlate to different weight categories:

  • Underweight = BMI of less than 18.5
  • Normal weight = BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight = BMI of 25 to 29.9
  • Obese = BMI of 30 or greater

So according to the BMI measurement, I was borderline overweight…when I had veins popping off my abs.

And therein lies the problem with BMI.

While it can be useful for analyzing large populations, it’s not very helpful as a tool for assessing individual fitness—especially among people with higher-than-average muscle mass.

If you’re trying to assess your individual fitness, you’re much better off using body fat percentage.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How to Accurately Measure Your Body Fat Percentage

body fat percentage scale

Measuring your body fat percentage seems simple enough, but it can leave you seriously confused.

And that’s true regardless of the method you use because, unfortunately, they all have margins of error and can spit out wildly different readings.

For example, the multiple-point caliper test had me pegged at 11% but a handheld device said 8% and a single-point caliper said 6%.

What does that mean, exactly? Are body fat tests just crap shoots, then? Is there any way to really know your body fat percentage?

Let’s find out.

Body Composition Scales and Handheld Devices

The easiest way to measure your body fat percentage is to use a scale or handheld device.

They’re quick and easy but what you gain in convenience you lose in accuracy.

These devices use a method called bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which measures your body’s resistance to a light electrical current.

The science here is simple:

Muscle is great at conducting electricity because it’s more than 70% water, whereas fat is a poor conductor because it contains less water.

Theoretically, then, the fatter a body is, the more resistant it will be to an electrical current.

Makes sense, right?

Sure…it sounds plausible enough…but BIA has some serious flaws.

First, electricity travels along the path of least resistance.

This means that the current will bypass fat stores in favor of tissues that are more easily traversed.

As you can imagine, this skews readings.

Second, most scales and handhelds only use two electrodes.

This is a problem because the current can skip over entire sections of your body. For example, foot-to-foot scales can skip the whole torso and hand-to-hand devices can ignore the lower body.

Naturally, this produces wonky readings.

Third, readings can vary dramatically depending on body conditions.

BIA devices’ accuracy is further undermined by the fact that readings are influenced by various bodily factors.

For example, testing when you’re dehydrated can result in abnormally high body fat measurements, testing after you eat can result in abnormally low measurements–in one study, testing in a fed state reduced body fat levels by 4.2 percentage points–and testing post-exercise can also produce inaccurate results.

Fourth, BIA’s equations are often fundamentally flawed.

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but there’s another major drawback that you should know about.

Turning a measurement of electrical impedance into a body fat reading requires math, and that math often spits out wrong numbers.

Companies have to take several steps to produce these equations:

  1. Accurately determining the body fat measurements of a large “control” group of people.
  2. Measuring the same people’s body fat with the company’s BIA device.
  3. Comparing the measurements and creating an equation that predicts BIA results based on variables such as height, weight, gender, and so on.

This is a good idea in theory, but the problem lies in step #1–the method used to develop the “control” readings.

Namely, most methods used to obtain this calibration data are themselves inaccurate.

For example, a lot of companies use hydrostatic weighing for this, and studies have found that it can be off by up to 6 percentage points depending on factors like ethnicity, body weight, and hydration levels.

And those error rates are absolute, not relative (a person with 10% body fat can clock in at 16% with hydrostatic weighing).

So, what do you get when you use inherently flawed control methods to calibrate the inherently flawed readings of BIA devices?

A very poor method of measuring body fat percentage.

The Bottom Line on Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

All told, consumer-level BIA devices pose enough risk for inaccuracy that scientists have said they simply aren’t a valid way to estimate body fat percentage.

Even the high-end commercial devices can’t guarantee accuracy.

And because these inaccuracies aren’t even consistent, BIA devices also don’t work for tracking body fat over time.

(If they were at least consistently inaccurate, you may not be able to know your actual body fat percentage but at least you could get a clear sense of how it’s changing over time.)

Body Fat Calipers and Skinfold Testing

body fat percentage calculator

Here’s how skinfold testing works:

You use a tool called a caliper to measure your skin’s thickness at various points on your body, add up the measurements, and plug the sum into an equation designed to estimate your body fat percentage.

Not surprisingly, there are several downsides to this method:

First, the result is heavily subject to user error.

Pinch too much skin and you’ll get a measurement that’s higher than your actual body fat percentage. Pinch too little, and you’ll get a measurement that’s too low.

Second, even if you pinch the perfect amount of skin, bad equations can still mess up the result.

One study found that skinfold testing can be off by as much as 15 percentage points, with an average error rate of 6 points.

Two other studies on skinfold testing (one of which was conducted with bodybuilders) found error rates of 3 to 5 percentage points.

That said, despite its drawbacks, calipers and skinfold testing can be a useful way to track changes in body composition over time.

More on this in a bit.

Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)

DEXA is certainly the most high-tech option on this list

It works by taking a full-body X-ray that’s then used to calculate body fat percentage (X-ray energy is absorbed differently by fat and fat-free tissues, which makes it possible to measure each separately).

DEXA is often referred to as the “gold standard” of body fat measurement, but research shows that it can be just as wrong as any of the other methods on this list.

One study found that DEXA can be off by up to 10 percentage points. Two others found DEXA’s error rates to be upward of 4 points.

This helps explain why many bodybuilders have been confused by DEXA scans done at their absolute leanest that range anywhere from 6 to 10%.

Here’s why DEXA isn’t as great as many people think:

  1. The machines’ accuracy is affected by a number of variables, including gender, body size, body fatness, disease state, and hydration state.
  2. Different machines rely on different algorithms to convert the raw data into a body fat percentage, and some are better than others.
  3. The X-ray type (i.e. fan or pencil beam) affects the test’s accuracy.
  4. Different machines can produce different results—even two machines made by the same manufacturer.

Unfortunately, just there’s no way to really know if the results of a DEXA scan are truly accurate.

Bod Pod

The science behind Bod Pod testing is similar to hydrostatic weighing.

You take a seat in a sealed chamber and sensors measure the amount of air that’s displaced by your body.

Then, the readings are plugged into various equations that provide you with different body composition measurements.

Well, we already know that hydrostatic weighing often yields faulty measurements, and it appears that the Bod Pod is even less accurate.

Its readings can be influenced by a many factors, including body temperature, facial hair, moisture, and even the tightness of a person’s clothing.

Given all these variables, it’s no shocker that studies have found the Bod Pod to have rather large error rates.

In one study, the test was off by up to 15 percentage points. In other research, error rates were up to 5 or 6 points.

I can also vouch for the Bod Pod’s inaccuracy.

I’ve worked with thousands of people over the last few years and have encountered dozens who were freaking out over bizarrely high Bod Pod readings (guys with abs at 20%+ body fat, for example).

Pictures and the Mirror

Low-tech may not be sexy but, ironically, this simple method of assessing body fat percentage can be just as accurate as anything else.

You’re not going to determine exact body fat percentages with just a visual assessment, of course, but you can definitely narrow it down to a tight range.

Here are two handy charts you can compare yourself to:

body composition chart men

You’ll notice that the ever desirable six pack tends to show up around 10% body fat, and that ab/core vascularity usually starts peeking through around 8%.

Skin starts getting thin and grainy around 7% and anything below that approaches “freak” levels of leanness.

body composition chart female

Women naturally carry more fat in their breasts, hips, thighs, and butts, so they can look as generally lean as guys but their body fat percentages will always be higher.

For example, a guy at 10% body fat looks fairly lean but a girl at 10% is ready to step on stage and compete.

You should also know that two people with the same body fat percentage can look very different depending on how much muscle they have.

For example, a 160-pound man with 10% body fat has 16 pounds of fat, while a 190-pound man with 10% body fat has only 3 more pounds of fat but a lot more muscle. And the latter will look much fitter.

Here’s a good visual of this:

lean body mass calculator

Both of these guys are around 10% body fat, but the guy on the left is sporting an extra 20 to 25 pounds of muscle that his skinny fat compatriot doesn’t have.

Read: Why People Are Skinny Fat (and How to Fix It)

So visual assessments and comparisons won’t give you the nitty gritty details of your body fat percentage, but they’re all you need to get a general sense of where you’re at.

How Do You Actually Determine Your Body Fat Percentage, Then?

how to measure body fat percentage

If you were reading closely, you’re probably wondering how researchers were able to determine the error rates of these various methods.

What was their gold standard that they were comparing these other measurements to?

Well, the answer is called 4-compartment analysis, and it’s a rather involved process that uses several tests to determine several things:

  • Bone density
  • Fat mass
  • Muscle tissue
  • Water volume

Each of these data points are gathered using a specific testing method proven to estimate it with a high amount of accuracy.

Body water, for example, is measured via deuterium dilution, bone density is measured via hydrostatic weighing (which it’s good for, despite being a subpar method of measuring body fat percentage), and so on.

The data from each of these separate tests is then manipulated mathematically in order to determine body fat percentage. And it works really well.

Now, if you have access to a team of scientists to conduct high-tech tests whenever you feel like it, then you’re in luck–you can always precisely measure your body fat percentage.

Oh you don’t? Well, that’s too bad.

Fortunately, you can do something else instead that is consistent and accurate enough to be worth your time…

The Simple & Practical Way to Measure and Track Your Body Fat Percentage

how to track your body fat

I have a simple, inexpensive, and useful system to share with you for calculating and tracking changes in your body composition.

It’s better than relying on any single method of estimating body fat percentage because it will give you a full, 360-degree view of what’s happening with your body over time.

And that’s what really matters–are you making progress toward your goals or not?

It requires just four things:

  1. A caliper
  2. A measuring tape
  3. A scale
  4. A mirror

And here’s how it works…

1. Weigh yourself every day and calculate the average every 7 to 10 days.

Our weight fluctuates frequently depending mainly on bowel movements, glycogen storage, and water retention.

This is why it’s important not to obsess over daily weigh-ins.

Averaging your weight over the course of a week or so instead gives you a much better sense of where your weight actually stands.

(To do this, just add up your daily numbers and divide them by the number of days.)

If your 7 to 10 day average is increasing, then you can rest assured you’re gaining weight. Likewise, if that average is declining, then you’re losing weight.

It’s also important to weigh yourself in a consistent manner to get the most accurate results.

Ideally, you should weigh yourself first thing in the morning (after using the bathroom and before any food or water).

2. Take caliper measurements every week.

We recall that caliper readings aren’t a reliable method for measuring body fat percentage, but they can be very useful for figuring out whether you’re losing or gaining fat.

As a general rule, if your skin is getting thicker over time, you’re getting fatter. If your skin is getting thinner, then you’re getting leaner

I’ve experimented with a lot of calipers and skinfold testing methods, and here’s the product I like most:

fat percentage caliper

Here’s why I like this caliper:

  • It utilizes one-site testing, which means you can do it yourself and there are fewer chances for making mistakes.
  • Its body fat measurements are surprisingly accurate.

I’ve used this caliper with hundreds of people, and it rarely produces results that are wildly off base. The company says it should be accurate to within 1 to 2% with most people, and that squares with my experience.

Here’s how to use this caliper:

Take that reading every week and you’ll be set.

3. Measure your waist on a weekly basis.

Monitoring your waist size at the navel is an easy way to tell whether you’re gaining or losing fat.

All you need is a measuring tape and if your waist is expanding, you’re gaining fat. If it’s shrinking, you’re losing fat. Voila.

4. Take pictures every week.

Concrete numbers are nice, but at the end of the day, how we look in the mirror is what matters most.

When we obsess over our reflections in the mirror on a daily basis, though, it’s easy to get down on ourselves because we’re going going to miss the gradual improvements that are taking place.

That’s why it can be so helpful to take front, side, and back pictures every week (in underwear and good lighting).

These pictures will help you see progress that you might otherwise not have noticed and keep you motivated.

What’s a Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women?

body fat percentage chart

We live in a culture that demonizes body fat but it’s actually essential for the human body to function properly.

It helps protect our internal organs, regulate body temperature, and produce vital hormones and chemicals, among many other roles that keep us alive and healthy.

This is why you can only get so lean before your health starts to deteriorate.

The perception of “too lean” varies from person to person, but here’s how different body fat levels are classified scientifically:

CLASSIFICATIONMENWOMEN
Essential Body Fat2 – 4%9 – 11%
Athlete6 – 13%14 – 20%
Fit14 – 17%21 – 24%
Normal18 – 25%25 – 31%
Overweight/Obese26%+32%+

As much as people want to be “shredded” these days, you simply can’t maintain a “stage-ready” level of body fat naturally without screwing up your body.

Get too lean and you’re asking for all kinds of trouble. You can mess up your hormones and organs, tank your metabolism and immune system, and battle with chronic fatigue and depression.

And to make matters worse, once you’ve done the deed, a return to normalcy can take a very long time.

That said, you can get leaner than you might think without suffering any of those consequences. 

Check out the following article to get the whole picture of body fat levels and health and how lean you can get (and maintain) without screwing up your body:

Read: What Are Healthy and Unhealthy Body Fat Percentages?

The Bottom Line on How to Measure Body Fat Percentage

how to lower body fat percentage

There’s really no way to calculate body fat percentage with 100% accuracy.

Well, I guess you could remove all the fat from your body and weigh it, but then, you know, you’d be dead.

The point is every method out there for assessing body fat percentage is an estimation. And as you’ve seen, some are better than others but none are as great as we would like to think.

Unfortunately the best option—4-compartment analysis—isn’t available to any of us, really, so we’ll have to settle for an estimated range.

Who cares, though?

The reality is body fat measurements themselves aren’t as important as how our physique is changing over time and how we ultimately want to look.

That’s why I recommend you use the simple strategy I laid out above.

They’re simple and will help you stay on top of whether your diet and workout regimens are keeping things moving in the right direction, which is what really matters in the end.

What’s your take on how to measure body fat percentage? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Toni

    I think genetics definitely factors in here as well. I was hovering around the 29% mark for most of my life, and actually had slight oblique definition. Obviously, as I lost body fat, my abs became more visible. Conversely, I have seen women who are leaner than me with barely any abs to speak of. It depends where you hold your fat. That’s why you ultimately shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone because people DO look different at the same body fat. The visual chart was great as it confirmed my suspicions that I am around 18-20%.

    • Michael Matthews

      Amount of muscle definitely plays a role. The obliques can be quite a prominent muscle.

      Ab development matters too. Most women at 15-17% won’t have as much as the picture above simply because their core isn’t that developed.

      Exactly on the chart–it’s for general reference, not for determining exact body fat percentage.

      • Toni

        True…I had forgotten about if someone’s core is more developed or not. Perhaps that’s why my obliques showed at higher percentages because the muscle was developed more.

        • Toni

          One more thing, couldn’t vascularity be tied to genetics as well? I have some vascularity in my torso (not rope-like, obviously but visible) now. Quite honestly, that is how I knew I had lost a bit more body fat. I always had decent vascularity in my forearms even at higher percentages.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yes for sure. Some people are just naturally more vascular than others, but everyone gets noticeable vascularity in their arms, shoulders, and abs around 7% (men) and 15% (women).

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah exactly.

  • Jesse

    You look amazing. I would be happy with a consistent 10%.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks Jesse. You already know you can do that brother.

  • Milica Kozomara

    This was exactly the article I was about to ask you to write. Thanks! You left out the descriptions of what women will see in the various bf% ranges, though. I find that really motivating – do you mind elaborating?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Milica! Ah yeah sorry, I added that in. 🙂

  • Nelson Snow

    I was measured by calipers by someone I trust and the result was 8.7%BF. However I do not look like the picture for that range I look more like the 11-12% range. Was the reading wrong? or are the pictures wrong? Actually neither IMHO, remember every body is different. You didn’t mention the water tank method, how accurate is that?

    • CPANinjaDoug

      Based on my own experience, the photos are pretty accurate. At my leanest I was at 6.4% and aside from the fact that I didn’t work my abs as hard as the guy in the photo, yeah, that was me. My last measurement was 13.5% and again I am somewhere between the two guys shown for the 11-12 and 13-15 ranges.

      The water tank and the Bod Pod are pretty similar. They are both measuring displacement. The issue is whether you follow the procedure perfectly (and whether the person taking the measurements is doing them correctly). For example, if you take a deep breath and hold it, you’ll get a different result than if you expel all of the air out of your lungs. The question is whether it’s worth it to you to spend the money versus using the calipers or the bio-feedback methods. Personally I take a week’s worth of readings on the scale and average them out. It comes out pretty close that way. It’s not worth it for me to spend any extra money (though when I got really lean I did the Bod Pod method out of curiousity).

      • Nelson Snow

        Thanks for the reply. I don’t feel like spending the extra either. I’d rather have the caliper test repeated at regular intervals to get a fairly good estimate.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks Doug.

        IMO calipers and mirror are the best way to go unless you rreaaaly want to know your reading to the fraction of a percentage.

        • CPANinjaDoug

          I’d agree — as long as you use them properly. It’s easy enough to pinch too tightly and get a too-optimistic reading. This is especially true if you’re taking your own measurements and subconsciously hoping for better results. 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha yeah, true.

    • Michael Matthews

      I would have to see a picture to know for sure.

      Hydrostatic weighing is very accurate if it’s done correctly.

  • Nathan

    Great article as always. I have BLS and just got Cardio Sucks and their is a chapter about running stairs. I like to run stairs for HIIT but I have read that it is bad for your knees. What do you think

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Nathan! Well, too much stair running wouldn’t be good for your knees (all the impact), but if you did 20 minutes a couple times per week, you should be fine.

  • johnsweeney123@yahoo.com

    Keeping it simple, about what % do you consider is ‘shredded’?

    • Michael Matthews

      7% and under in men, and 15% and under in women.

  • female_objectifier

    It seems to me like a good way to ballpark it for ‘most’ people is simply the ratio of weight to waist size. If your weight is going up and your waist size staying same or going down, that would be consistent with building muscle. If waist goes up relative to overall weight, that is clearly not good.

    From the pictures, its kind of surprising that a woman that a woman with 22% body fat still is pretty hot. So question is it just as hard for a guy to reach 12% as it is for a woman to reach that 4th picture 21-23%, or is it about the same?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks. Yes waist measurements are an accurate way to guesstimate body fat percentage.

      Yup, girls can look great in the 20% area.

      12% is not hard at all for men to reach.

  • Chad Faas

    Excellent article…..thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chad.

  • JoeyJax

    Great article as always dude! But the pic. Lol looks like the ripped guy’s got a hard-on from measuring the fat guys belly!! LMFAO

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man and LOL yeah I noticed that after posting. Oh well. 😛

  • Manish Arya

    Hey Mike, My lower body fat percentage i.e. on my legs is very less as compared to my upper body. i can barely able to pinch any flesh on my thighs but my upper body fat percentage (particularly chest, arms, stomach) must be around 20%. Wat shud i do to correct this abnormaly.

    Thanx

    Manish

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s totally normal. Us guys hold a lot of our fat in our midsection.

  • Murilo

    It took almost 20 days to arrive in the UK, but last night I’ve finally received the calliper that you recommended and it confirmed that the BIA method is totally wrong (I knew it already though by comparing myself to the images in the post).
    BIA said that I was 10.8%, while I’m more at 13% now.

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah glad you got it and I’m not surprised the BIA was off by that much.

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  • MyIdaho

    Very well done Michael! I’ve bookmarked your webpage and will be doing much more reading! Enjoyed the article and thought the pictures of varying fat percentages were quite helpful. I’m a couch potato that is just starting the journey for getting fit. Using my hand held BIA device, I’m typically 35% fat (I’m too fat to measure with a calipers…). I can estimate my goal weight by dividing lean mass by (1-desired fat content). My lean mass is 195 pounds and if I shoot for fit (15% BF), then my goal weight is 195/0.85 = 229 pounds.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!

      Cool on your goal. This article series can help!

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /build-muscle-lose-fat/

  • Sam

    I’m confused. The height/waist size (5-8 tall, 33 inch waist 1″ above navel) chart says I’m 14.5% body fat, which agrees with the photo, but the calipers say I’m 24%. Is there another adjustment for older guys (I’m 52)?

    • Michael Matthews

      It sounds like it’s a misreading on the calipers. Maybe you’re pinching too much skin?

  • Mike

    Hi Mike, doesn’t estimating body fat depend on the lighting etc.? I can see my abs in the mirror but if I look down I can’t see them?

    • Michael Matthews

      Certain lighting makes you leaner/fatter than other, sure. Choose something neutral. 🙂

  • Carlos Arteaga

    Hi Mike, I’ve found a lot of formulas on the web that calculate the BF% using a caliper. When I use the Parrillo Method says I’m 20% or so, but I just don’t fell like it. However, Jackson/Pollock 4 points says I’m 12%. I just don’t know what to believe or which one should I take as reference. Should I stick just with Suprailliac meassure using the Accu-Meassure chart?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah caliper testing can be really inaccurate depending on the method and how the testing is done (pinch a little too much or too little, etc.).

      I like the Accumeasure caliper because it’s simple and accurate enough (to within 1% or so). One measure point means less margin for error. Ultimately the mirror will tell you everything you need to know though…

  • gymnastics1

    Listen, yo, ignorance… You are NOT at 6 percent in that photo of yours. Sorry. You can pull this off with newbies, but anyone who knows a thing or two can tall you’re at 10+, looks more like 11. One can blame on bad lighting, but you’re jut not at 6…I’d see lots of striations at 6. Also, since you chose not to show women below 10, misogynyist hater…does it hurt you that many female athletes are leaner than you? No, they don’t have fat in the hips. YOU DO. You also got b*** t*ts, actually.

    • Michael Matthews

      LOL

  • gymnastics1

    You actually looke 12-13-ish not 5 for sure…Accept it: you’re fat and with no lighting could show STRIATED MUSCLES, GRANULARITY OR REAL VASCULARITY.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahahah

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  • john

    Calipers have their problems too. It depends on where you pinch the skin. You have to pinch exactly the same next time round to get a meaningful reading. They measure fat just beneath the skin not around the organs.

    With all these Fat Measurements, they are estimates or predictions based on various formulas. “Fat Free” includes organs, bones, water, muscle, food in the body. There is no way you can specifically measure muscles – unless you have an autopcy! Here’s a good article on the flaws of Calipers…and other BF measurement techniques. http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=250

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s true John, and that’s why I like the accumeasure product. One pinch spot.

      In the end, the mirror is what really matters, but it is good to keep tabs on your percentage using other methods.

      • John

        Mike, what do you think of digital calipers, such as this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sequoia-Fitness-Products-Warrior-Digital/dp/B00488FDO8? They would appear to be easier to use.

        I find BIA to be totally unreliable – so dependant on your level of hydration. Take your BF % then sip a bit of water straightaway- and your weight has gone, BF has gone down. Looks like you gained muscle in seconds!

        • Michael Matthews

          Interesting, never tried one before! I’d like to though.

          Yup, BIA is very unreliable.

  • Marc

    Hi Mike, im 14 years old and i have besn going to the gym cor a for months and i have noticed a considerable difference in my abbs but they are not as visible and it requires that i tense in order to see them. Any tips oh and i seem to only be able to see a 4 pack evn though i canfeel a 6pac.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great Marc, I’m glad to hear you’re making gains! At your age I wouldn’t focus too much on getting really lean as you don’t want to restrict your calories (it isn’t healthy–your body needs the energy for its growth and development).

      So if I were you, I would continue eating the way you are and exercising. You can include some cardio if you’d like, but don’t get into dramatically reducing food intake to get leaner…

      • YoungGun

        Great answer, personally I think too many people chase the 6-pack as if it is the most important thing. At your age especially I would not worry about it. Overall fitness and strength should be your priority. Just keep eating healthy, keep at it at the gym, build some solid strength and muscle. You’ll be surprised at your ab development when you don’t worry about it. They might just sneak up on you.

        • Michael Matthews

          Exactly!

  • Selene

    Thanks for the article! One question: I have got the caliper and it says I am 10% but that’s only because my torso is much leaner than my lower body. How can I get to know my real body fat percentage? Surely I have to use something that takes into account my lower body too, right?
    Thanks for your time

    • Michael Matthews

      Something like a DEXA scan would break that down for you but if you use the right caliper, like the one I recommend in this article, you can get a pretty accurate reading with just the torso measurement.

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  • Clare Burman

    Hi Mike
    Just wondered if you could advise me as to the best times to cut and bulk.
    I’m 33, 5ft 3in, 116 pounds and according to the acumeasure, have a 17.6% body fat. I only strength train twice a week and do HIIT twice also on separate days.
    I’ve been weight training for the past 2 years and have made strength improvements with toning but I feel I could to much better!
    I want to concentrate on muscle growth but am a little worried about increasing fat too much in that time, so at 17%, would you recommend I bulk now, and if so when to stop and cut.
    Cheers!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hi! Great stats. You’re in a position where it’s up to you, really. If you want to get really lean, you can do that. If you want to focus on building muscle, you can do that too. You won’t gain much fat.

      Check out this article of mine:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

  • Ben

    I’m a little confused, and hopefully you can help me out. Just some basic measurements first: currently I am 5’9 ½” tall and weigh 173lbs.
    Back in August I had my body fat measured at the university I attend. I think they did the Jackson-Pollack 7 point caliper test. Anyway, I was told that I was 10% body fat. At the time I thought that was crazy–I didn’t have abs and I looked fat. So I went online and put in my measurements and got about 13% averaged between sites.
    I’ve been seriously weight training since mid October and I’ve gained about 10 lbs, but, according to the same online calculators I used before, now I’m 10% body fat. I still can’t see my abs, except for my obliques, which are very visible. So it seems that even if I’m not 10% body fat, I’m at least in the very lean category, and yet I still can’t see my abs, and I still feel like I’m fat. Maybe it has to do with how my body stores fat, because the only places I have fat deposits are in my face and lower trunk.
    Sorry this is so long, but my main question for you is: can you be thin and just not look like it?

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  • Joelle

    Hi Michael, really interesting article!
    I’m 22, 5ft 8 and weigh 133lbs. I have 17% body fat and can see some definition in my abs, arms and legs. I’ve been exercising at home for the past couple years using Jillian Michaels but I feel as though my body isn’t as defined as I’d like it to be.
    I’d like to lower my body fat by a couple % to see more definition. I’m quite slender so I think it would be impossible for me to get really big but I do want more tone. I use quite light weights which may be a problem too. Can I achieve what I want at home or do you think I should join a gym? I don’t think I even know how to lift weights lol
    Thanks, Joelle

  • 8119tm

    Hi Mike greetings from Ireland
    Im a little confused just took a caliper test resulting in a reading of 10mm converting on chart gives me a bf of 14.8%
    But im look more like 20-24% range in the pic
    My hight is 5ft9″
    Weight 12st 11
    Age 39
    Thanks for any input you have
    just ordered BLS cant wait to get stuck in

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey!

      Hmm which caliper did you use?

      Let me know what you think of BLS!

      • 8119tm

        Thanks michael
        The brand on the calipers is http://www.thehoopdanceco.co.uk bought from amazon
        Also ordered your book yesterday morning but got too excited to start so have just downloaded it to kindle so I will have a copy for home and on the go 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh okay I’m not sure if those are accurate. Some calipers can be quite off.

          Haha thanks so much! Let me know how you like it!

          • 8119tm

            Hi michael
            Love the books the shredded chef has some fantistic tasty foods and so simple to to make my problum is in the evening after dinner im still starving and craving sweet things or crisp type snacks
            At the moment im eating some riveta cracker bread with fat free cottage cheese and cucumber
            But it takes about 6 of them to satisfy me any idea foe a very filling snack

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks! I really appreciate it.

            Check out my food posts as there are good snack ideas in there.

  • Serge

    Hi Mike, I have a question. I’m currently work out on HIIT to shred a fat fast. How to define an optimal weight, where should I stop? I’m 5’11” tall (179 cm), weight is 199 lb, body fat is 23%, Age – 35. My goal is to have around 8% body fat.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hard to say on weight because you lose water and glycogen as well, but 8% is a great goal. Don’t worry about weight.

  • Jessica

    If you are dehydrated when using the calipers does that make your body fat percentage go up or down? Same with water retention and measuring with a caliper. Would that make it go up or down?

    • Michael Matthews

      If you’re holding less water you’ll read leaner and vice versa.

      • Jessica

        Thanks Michael. Does it vary a lot or would it just be +/- a percentage or two?

        • Michael Matthews

          Really depends how much water you’re holding but yes a percent or two seems reasonable.

  • How is salt intake related to the illustrations included – if at all?

  • dat_vascularity

    i get my body fat measured about 2-3x per week using the BIA method, and ocassionally calipers, with the help of a trainer from my gym (we’re good friends which is why i get it done so often lol)
    i’ve been consistently reading anywhere between 6 and 10 percent body fat since around august 2013… its march 2014… so for about 7 months now. Constantly vascular, striations in chest and shoulders with minimal flexing, etc. I’m 22, 5’6″ female, usually weighing between 97 and 105lbs. I also train like crazy, do competitive powerlifting, can deadlift 2.6x body weight for a 1RM, can do muscle-ups, endless pull-ups, benching just over 1x bodyweight, etc etc. Diet is obviously super clean, organic veggies and fruit and lean proteins n healthy fats allllll day long lol.
    My question is… it *seems* like I am still able to function quite well and my gym performance is great, despite the suuuper low bf%, so i was just wondering at what point i might begin to suffer consequences? I dont count macros OR calories, i just eyeball portion sizes and keep it healthy. its been fairly long term that ive maintained this bf%. Are health problems just around the corner..? Should I actively try to gain fat to prevent future problems? whats your take on this?

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow, that’s crazy lean and you’re crazy strong. That’s awesome.

      Honestly I would think you would suffer consequences but if you’re not, dem genetics?

      Are you on drugs?

      • dat_vascularity

        and thank you for replying by the way, its much appreciated.
        a lot of ppl tell me its unhealthy to be this low bf% but im like… well… haven’t died yet lol. but i do wonder if future problems await me.

        • Michael Matthews

          FWIW I do think it’s too low. 15 – 16% is the cut-off point when talking health.

          And if you’re on drugs to stay that lean (anabolics, clen, etc.), I REALLY recommend you stop…

          • dat_vascularity

            hmm that’s weird, i had left another comment previously, oh well. i had just said that I’m not on any drugs whatsoever! Caffeine at the most 😛 I would never and have never take any of that stuff lol. I heavily promote all natural, organic ways of living, right down to organic toothpaste. No GMOs in my life, let alone anabolics 😛
            i have a blog (www.hotandefficient.com) and my twitter is @hotandefficient, ive got plenty of pics/videos up there. I got lots of bloodwork done two weeks ago (thyroid, hormones, blood sugar, all that good stuff) but everything was normal.
            idk, I guess most people have the opposite problem in losing fat… this probably sounds like a “first world problem” for sure lol but i wanna have kids one day and i know this could be a roadblock.

          • Michael Matthews

            Oh okay cool! That’s great!

            You have REALLY good genetics. High-five your parents next time you see them. 🙂

            I wouldn’t worry about fertility. There are plenty of natural things you can do if it’s an issue:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-female-fertility-with-diet/

  • jasmine franco

    So if im at 23 percent body fat can i start doing ab workouts and sed results ? Or should i still lose weight?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes you can train your abs but you will also want to focus on bringing your body fat % down.

  • Pizza the Hutt

    I am 40 years old I weight about 162 pounds (5 foot seven inches Medium frame) had my body fat down to 19.6 a couple weeks back. Since I always carried my weight evenly people might start to think I am way to think but I am eating the right amount of food (Right stuff mostly as well) and the weight comes off. Not sure what is the danger zone for being to thin.

  • scott63

    I’m 50yr old six foot tall health and exercise (weight lifting) enthusiast 204lbs with 17% body fat. I would like to lean down to about 195lbs and 12% body fat. Is carb cutting paleo diet the way?

  • Elga Yuki

    do you have cream? or supplement to tighten the skin? I’ve lost about 52 pounds and I have such of bellies or skin and when I workout the muscle build inside and cannot be seen
    I am now 136.8 pounds with height 68 inches my BMI 20 something but I’m not sure of my fat body percentage from the picture it seems like no picture alike because when I see it likes 25 percent and above but mine is not that big

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  • Guest

    Hi, Mike. On the Accu-Measure chart, the body fat percentage for men goes up by about 1 percent for each five-year age group for the same millimeter readings. What’s the reasoning behind this? And what Accu-Measure labels “lean” in their chart (in the blue shaded area: http://www.accumeasurefitness.com/products/am3k_chart.pdf) includes a higher percentage of body fat for older groups. Does a higher percentage of body fat on an older man *look* leaner than the same percentage on a younger man or are they suggesting percentages for optimal health? I couldn’t find anything on the Accu-Measure website that addresses either question.

  • Randy Triezenberg

    Hi, Mike. On the Accu-Measure chart, the body fat percentage for men goes up by about 1 percent for each five-year age group for the same millimeter readings. What’s the reasoning behind this? And what Accu-Measure labels “lean” in their chart (in the blue shaded area) includes a higher percentage of body fat for older groups. Does a higher percentage of body fat on an older man *look* leaner than the same percentage on a younger man or are they suggesting percentages for optimal health? I couldn’t find anything on the Accu-Measure website that addresses either question.

    • Michael Matthews

      You’d have to ask AccuMeasure as it’s their measuring system. All I know is it’s quite accurate. My guess is it’s related to the natural muscle loss that occurs with age?

      • Steve Crook

        I sent them an email asking pretty much these questions and never received a reply…

        From what I’ve read elsewhere, you accumulate more visceral fat as you grow older. The calliper tables are for *overall* body fat percentage and therefore trying to account for visceral fat.

        For calculating a ‘cosmetic’ fat percentage you could just take the row for a 30 year old and go with that. 🙂 I get a reading of 10-11% which corresponds well with what I can see in the mirror. I’m 58.

        As for the sliding scale for lean, ideal etc, afaik it’s reflecting the %fat, not calliper reading. Us oldies are allowed a higher percentage than youngsters because of that visceral fat.

        Or at least that’s my 5 pence worth…

        • That makes sense. The bottom line is 100% accurate is going to be DEXA. Anything we can do at home is going to have drawbacks…

  • marii

    So, I have a question if my husband is 5’8 and 160lbs with 20% body fat, would he need to lose 10lbs first to be at 15% and then bulk? Am I right or am i totally wrong?

  • Laura0505

    I’m a 16 year old girl and my body fat percentage is around 20% but I want to get it down to 15% to really define my abs if possible. I know I should be consuming around 2100 calories but how much of this should be protein/carbs/fats?

  • Laura55

    I’m a 16 year old girl(5ft 6 and 120lbs) with around a 20% body fat percentage but would like to get it down to 15% to get more ab definition. I know I should consume around 2100 calories but how much of this should be protein, carbs, and fats?

  • Revenwyn

    Here is a stumper for you. I am 5’4″, woman. My genetic makeup is half white, half Native American. My ribs start to stick out around 160 pounds. My ribs are elongated and very broad (my bottom ribs when around 160 pounds are still 36 inches, and my entire rib cage is visible.) I currently weigh 175 pounds, and when I had my body fat analysis done through hydrostatic weighing, my lean body mass was 141 pounds. I showed up around 21% on calipers, 19% on the dunk tank. They did it three times as they could not believe what they were seeing. I used to lift weights (at one point could deadlift 350 pounds.) However I can’t afford a gym anymore, and haven’t lifted for over ten years. The interesting thing is, I got these results last week and compared with ten years ago and it appears that I haven’t lost any muscle mass.

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow you’re just built for lifting! Amazing genetics! High-five your parents. 🙂

  • Ritz Khan Riyal

    hey iam ritz, i weight 194 pounds and 5.11 feet in height. i want to lose fat and i am working hard on it, i just wanna know how much should be my calorie intake per day and how should my carb and protien portions look like. and i lift by the way

  • Ben

    Mike, you say you’re 7% body fat and you use calipers. Have you compared this to a bioelectrical impedance measurement? I get measured by a professional every 2 weeks under identical conditions. The 7-point caliper test hovers around 3.2% while the BIA hovers around 10%. How could it be that inaccurate so consistently?

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t bother with BIA. It can be accurate but the conditions need to be perfect as you know.

      7-point caliper tests can be really inaccurate actually. If you were 3% you’d be dead.

      The caliper I use and recommend is a 1-spot test that is surprisingly accurate.

      • Ben

        The professional who measures me does a 1, 3, and 7 point caliper test and compares them. If they only vary within 0.1-1%, he takes the average to find the most consistent value. This method currently puts me at 3.2 +/- 0.3%. Is this wrong?

        • Ben

          Here’s the 1-point test, just before the “click” to show I’m not over-squeezing. Am I doing this correctly? Because according to the chart, a 2-3mm pinch means 2.5% fat and I shouldn’t be alive…

          • Sam

            LOL you are using an inch scale! It shows 10 mm not 2-3. So probably around 10%

          • Ben

            It clearly has a mm side and inch side. It says 3 mm on the left and 1/8 inch on the right. Please look more carefully.

          • voskyc

            If you have reset the calipher correctly and not pushing to hard when “clicking” the the calipher is not well build.
            It can happen :-), you are about 8%+. I have the same problem with my Calipher, it says Im about 9.4% when im more.

          • Michael Matthews

            You’re probably cilpping too hard. You look to be around 7-8%. Trust me. This is 4%:

            http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5lH0kkICCBM/UpqwYqEc2RI/AAAAAAAABps/0u7XssjWqss/s1600/Aaron+Curtiss+(1).jpg

          • Ben

            I don’t understand how to clip too hard without reaching the “click” from the thumb handle. I guess this test isn’t accurate for me.

          • Michael Matthews

            Strange. Something’s off regardless. Again you’re around 8%.

          • Make sure you are resetting the slider everytime.

  • Grant

    Re: Calipers – do you prefer testing on only 1 site vs. multiple sites (I’ve seen around the net multiple sites tested & then averaged by an on-line calculator). It’s annoying that the chart only gives %s grouped apart from one another (based on chart a 36-40 year old can either be 10.5% or 12.7% or 14.8%). Maybe I’m really 13.5 % yet the chart doesn’t have that as a possibility. You cant tell if you’ve moved a single %

    • Michael Matthews

      Strangely enough I’ve found multiple-site methods LESS accurate than the caliper I recommend here.

      • jeg

        Mike,
        I use the 1 site measurement, but the problem I have is that is shows that I’m about 10% based on the reading, BUT from the pictures above I fall within the 20-24% range. I have a muscular build, but have all my fat in my stomach. Is there a better way to get a do it yourself bodyfat approximation??
        thanks,
        awesome site!!!

        • Michael Matthews

          Interesting! It sounds like you might be a bit off on your technique, but ultimately the mirror tells the overall story…

  • Kristin

    Hi is there any chance we can email? I have some questions! Great website and info! Thanks

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  • guest

    How long would you say it would take to get to 8% bodyfat starting at around 16% if I eat 500 calories less that what I need to maintain. Thanks !

  • Valente Bjj Panama

    I am confused as well… here are my measurements, based on the ihealth scale. I train like a beast, 4 times a week, and my abs are clearly defined. Please help me to understand this.

    [My Weight Summary]
    Time: Jul 19, 2014 1:21 PM
    Weight: 213.8 lb(s)
    Body Fat: 42.0%
    Lean Mass: 123.8 lb(s)
    Bone Mass: 6.1 lb(s)
    VFR: 9
    Muscle Mass: 117.7 lb(s)
    Body Water: 45.0%
    DCI: 1737 Kcal

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s probably off. Those types of devices are notoriously inaccurate if testing conditions aren’t perfect.

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  • Amy Holt

    Hi Mike,

    I had my body fat percentage measured today at the human performance centre. They used a scale that measured my height and weight. Then I stood on another scale and held two devices out to my side while it scanned my body. It’s called an inbody composition analyser. Although the body fat percentage reading seems incorrect from the above pictures. I am 22 years old. Height 167cm and weight 51.5Kg. I have been lifting weights for about 6 weeks now, so I am a newbie. My body fat percentage was calculated as 25.3%. I can see my ab definition and have very minimal belly fat. Most of my fat is on my bum and thighs. I didn’t think it was that much though. I weighed in the middle of the day after food and a protein shake. I thought I would be around 20-22%. Should I try another method?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm it could be 25%. It depends how you hold it. Was it a DEXA scan?

  • Ketan Pandya

    Good article, thanks for sharing Mike. I have started telling people around to set their goals in PBF and not in KG/Pounds. One question regarding the caliper device way of measuring. How can a caliper device measure visceral fat? I understand the method involved is only going to measure subcutaneous fat and if you ignore visceral fat, that’s where your skinny fat term comes into the play! Do you think this caliper method is useful for a skinny fat person?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      The caliper won’t take into account visceral fat but unless you’ve spent years drinking alcohol you probably don’t have a visceral fat issue.

      The average skinny fat person is just holding a bit of sub-q fat with very little LBM.

  • Samuel Sander

    Is there a certain time of the day one should measure his body%? I mean, you’ll likely have a lot smaller bodyfat% in the morning after going to the toilet as opposed to in the evening after eating a full dinner. Or should we just take a few measurements throughout the day and calculate an average? Many thanks in forward:)))

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I like to measure after the morning toilet visit.

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  • Steven

    Hi I have a question

    • Michael Matthews

      What’s up?

  • vrk1975

    In my case, ironically the Omron bio-eloectrical impedance has been most accurate.

    When at 24.9% using DXA
    Omron gave 24.2% –
    Callipers gave 18%

    When at 15.4%
    Omron 15.6%
    Callipers 12.7-14%

    So bio-electrical impedance is not that bad as long as measurement i done 2 hrs after hydration and food intake,

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it can be fairly accurate if testing conditions are right.

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  • mark

    I started body building 5 mos.ago. I am 6’2″. I way 228lbs and am 67 years old.. I basically work on my arms, chest and shoulders. I work out 5 days a week for about 1 hour a day. The reason I don’t work on my abdomen is because I have a colostomy. I have increased my muscle weight but can’t seem to get cut! Do I have to lower my weights and do more reps? I hear so many conflicting stories. What do you think?

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  • Feeling Scrawny

    Everyone talks about loosing weight, Mike. What about those who are having trouble gaining weight I am a fifty year old women who has had two children both c section. In my younger years my weight would average around 92lbs. to…. at my best 110lbs! I have always had a muscular physic but now as gravity and a little more weight lose due to stress has brought me down to my lowest ever 85lbs. of nothing. I need to gain some muscle back and firm my butt and abs up again. what would be the best way to go about this diet wise and weight lifting wise. If I wee to get a little sick there would nothing left of me. I am very petit but still have a little muscle left and don’t want to lose anymore, can not afford to. Still have a ten year old to keep up with and be here in a healthy way for her.!! People tell me to eat whatever I want but its hard when you don’t have an appetite. Please any suggestions would greatly be appreciated!.

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  • Guillermo Calderon

    I had a stroke 8 years ago and became morbid obese 6’1, 330 pounds, in March 2013 I had gastric bypass and have lost 150 pounds. Now I have loose skin at my stomach, back and buttocks. What do you recommend to tighten up these areas? My doctor says skin removal surgery but I don’t want that. Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Unfortunately some people only have surgery as an option. That said, you could first get to about 10% body fat and then reassess…

      • Guillermo Calderon

        As of right now I’m at 13% body fat but will not do surgery. I’ve been told to keep on lifting weights and lots of sit ups. Any advice?

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay. How much loose skin are you dealing with? Can you upload a picture?

  • AJ

    Hi Mike hope all is well! Been on BLS for about 2 months and dropped down from 165lbs to 155lbs. Im 19 years old and about 5 ft 8. Have tried measuring with the callipers but not sure if I’m doing this correctly as BF is coming up at 10% – don’t think I’m this lean. What do you think I roughly am? Cheers buddy hope you’re having a smashing christmas!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man merry xmas! Great job on your progress so far, I would guess around 11-12%.

      • AJ

        Thanks bro! Gonna carry on cutting till end of Jan and then try putting on some real mass! Will keep u updated with progress pics!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! Please do!

          • Al

            Hi Mike, at what bf% does the belly look flat even while sitting down? Mine looks flat while standing but bulges while sitting —- so does that ever happen at 12% or only at higher % like 20% etc.? Thanks, mate.

          • I’d say around 10%.

  • Jackson R

    Hey Mike, I just watched your video and read your above article on Bodyfat percentage measuring. I bought the calipers you recommend and followed the directions in the package. I watched your video too for more input. I got a consistent measurement of 13 MM which should put me at12.5 percent at age 20. Here’s the thing: I hold a lot of my weight in my glutes, and thighs just like a woman LOL! I don’t know why, but I always have. Should I use the chart for women which would indicate that I am 21.5 percent bodyfat? Should I maybe take the average of the male percent for 13 mm and the female percent for 13 mm?
    I’m wondering what you think because I want to use the percent to calculate my caloric needs for cutting with the Katch Mcardle formula.
    Also wanted to say that your book was friggin great. Your stuff seems to be some of the only No Bullshit material out. Everything else left me extremely confused about how to reach my goal. Its a relief to find out that it is really not all that complicated. Thanks Mike!

    • Jackson R

      Also just in case it makes a difference. I weigh 156 lbs right after using the bathroom in the morning. I am 5 foot 9 inches tall. I have been lifting weights for 2 months but inconsiently until this week. I have a pretty small bone structure/frame and have looked pretty lean at about 135 or 140 before.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      Haha that’s just genetics and it can definitely skew results. I wouldn’t say the women’s chart would be most accurate though.

      Fortunately BMR doesn’t change much with slight changes in BF%. If you’re in the ballpark, you’ll be just fine. And you can always adjust based on how your body actually responds.

      Thanks a lot man. I really appreciate it. LMK how it goes.

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  • Senyo Curiel

    Hello Mike, what is you opinion about messuring fat with this link: http://www.homeware.be/huidplooien.php

    It is a Dutch site. I’m sorry.

    You use the second last table on this page.

    They use the following information:
    – Gender (geslacht)
    – Weight (gewicht)
    – Waist (taile)
    – Then you press the button Calculate (berekenen).
    – Your fat% will be calculated.

    I’m curious hoe you think about this and which results you get with this system.

    Regards,

    Senyo

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Gregory

    Mike, is it accurate to say that even when bulking an individual can burn the added pound of fat to pound of muscle gained ratio with a bit of proper, moderate, cardio? Power walking, for example, being my preferred!

    • Not really, no, because then you would be in a calorie deficit, not surplus. And being in a surplus is what makes “bulking” work, you know?

  • Cory

    Hello Mike – I really enjoy the Legion products and your workout plan. It has helped me a lot. I do have the Body Fat Caliper, but want to see if I am measuring right. I am getting around or a little above 13%. I attached a picture to see if that is what you see. I am cutting right now. Should I cut down to 10% or is it the 10-12% range before bulking? Thanks

  • ryan

    Hey mike I use the jefit exercise program and a workout of my own design.

    Mon, weds, and Fri I do abs and cardio

    Tues, and Thurs is chest, back and arms

    Yoga on the weekends for an hr apiece

    Would this work?

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  • Frustrated

    Hi Mike, I’m using BIA to measure bf. And have done bod pod too. It reads between 16.3 and 17% tested several times. Your thoughts? I’m following your diet recommendations of 20% deficit and multiplier of 1.5 for activity but not losing! Can’t drop below 160 lbs so I’m dropping to a 30% deficit. Is that typical?

  • KSI

    Hi Mike! I’m wondering what you estimate my bf at? I’m currently eating at a 20% deficit but haven’t gone below 160 in months. My measurements are dropping but this lack of weight loss is a head scratcher. I’m thinking to do 30% deficit. Thoughts? Did your Beyond leg workout today….wow. If this is what I feel like today, tomorrow should be a doozy!

    • Hey! You look great. I would guess about 20%? You have a fair amount of muscle so that makes it harder to guess.

      Tell me more about your diet numbers and compliance and why you feel you’re stuck?

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  • seth

    My name is Seth. I read in one of the other comments that you want to lose body first before bulking. I always thought it’s better to have fat when trying to gain muscle so the fast turns into muscle. I’m 5′ 9″ I’ve went from 150 to 170for that reason. Am I wrong here?

  • anton

    `Hi mike. just a few questions.
    are the guys in the 11-19% body fat pics flexing their abs? & if we try to estimate bodyfat % based on these types of pics should we flex as well?
    is there a specific body fat % that the serratus becomes visible?
    can your abs become visible at a higher body fat % if they are well developed?
    thanks for the all the great info

    • Yeah those are definitely flex pics. 🙂 Abs become visible unflexed around 8% if they’re well developed.

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  • Zaher

    Hey mike, I know for a fact that 6 months ago i was at an approximate body fat of 42%, but when i measure my Body fat now its between 21%-23%. could you give me an estimate by any chance?? thanks bud 😀

    • Great job man! Yeah low/mid 20s would be my guess. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Dave

    Hi Mike. I hope you’re well. I wondered if you could give me an estimate on my body fat % please? I’ve been doing loads of cardio but next to nothing on the weights side of things. I’m going to change that going forward. My legs have had enough of the relentless running! I want to now build some lean muscle. I’m thinking of exercising in the fasting state to get rid of the fat I need to and then hopefully build some muscle. Just some definition is what I am after. Thanks, Dave.

  • ‘Anton ‘Flores

    hello mike, i’m skinny before about 116lbs and i do dirty bulking and weight training 4-5 times a week, i eat everything in sight..now im 147lbs. im 26yrs old and 5’7ft tall..am i still small or skinny for this frame? should i do clean bulking to get those abs? or should i diet to lose weight? my concern is if i lose weight ill lose muscle gains.. i need your advice mike.. thanks in advance.

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  • Emily McNelly

    Hey Mike! I measured my body fat % with calipers this week and I am around 23%. I started Crossfit in Sept 2013, and since then my upper body has transformed, loss fat, and gained muscle. My lower body (butt & thighs) has held onto stubborn fat. I honestly feel like since I’ve lost weight, my cellulite has gotten worse in my saddlebag area. My body is so disproportionate. (pear-shaped) I just started tracking my macros this week to see if I can kick-start my fat loss focusing on diet and not just Crossfit. With this I am eating a certain amount of Carbs & Protein Pre/Post workout. My question is, should I not be following a program like this if I want to lose fat? Should I be working out fasted? I am just so frustrated that I have my body almost where I want it and I cannot kick this fat…..Thank you!

  • Alexandra Kaui

    Hi Mike!
    I love this article that you made especially since it displays what the body fat percentages look like for women. I got a caliper test at a local gym for what seemed to be credible and the person doing the test has alot of experience doing it. She took measurements on my stomach, arms, back, legs (basically all the normal areas) and her numbers spit out that I had 16% body fat. I’m 5’2 at 126 pounds. Although when I look at the pictures on here I look more within the 24-26% range. I play golf and I workout 3-4 times a week and I make sure I eat right 80% of the time. Most of my fat is in the midsection, I have very lean legs and arms. Is this only because my body shape isn’t normal or is it because the caliper isn’t as accurate? I heard it was supposed to be within 3-4 percent but even if I did that I still don’t look like the picture above. My goal is to be able to see my abs. I am able to see the outline of my abs but that is all. What should I do? Is my fat percentage too high and if I can see an outline does that mean I’ll be able to see abs someday with hard work and dedication?
    Thanks for the help it truly means alot!

  • AK

    Hi Mike!
    I love this article that you made especially since it displays what the body fat percentages look like for women. I got a caliper test at a local gym for what seemed to be credible and the person doing the test has alot of experience doing it. She took measurements on my stomach, arms, back, legs (basically all the normal areas) and her numbers spit out that I had 16% body fat. I’m 5’2 at 126 pounds. Although when I look at the pictures on here I look more within the 24-26% range. I play golf and I workout 3-4 times a week and I make sure I eat right 80% of the time. Most of my fat is in the midsection, I have very lean legs and arms. Is this only because my body shape isn’t normal or is it because the caliper isn’t as accurate? I heard it was supposed to be within 3-4 percent but even if I did that I still don’t look like the picture above. My goal is to be able to see my abs. I am able to see the outline of my abs but that is all. What should I do? Is my fat percentage too high and if I can see an outline does that mean I’ll be able to see abs someday with hard work and dedication? Im leaving a picture so can you please tell me how much fat you think I have? Im 19.
    Thanks for the help it truly means alot!

  • Adam

    Hi Mike. I have the same Accumeasure caliper shown in article and video. It has a stop, where if the caliper fingers were in contact, the lowest it would read would be 6-7 mm. In the Accumeasure chart, they go down to 2-3, and you measured 4mm in your video. I don’t see how this is possible w the instrument and just wanted to make sure I am not missing something.
    Adam
    Adam

    • Adam

      Nevermind, I wasn’t seeing the piece on top that moves!

      • Mark Cachia

        Adam, thanks for the question and answer! I had exactly the same question and had been using the caliper wrong. It isn’t clear in the directions. The good news is that I lost 3%bf immediately. 🙂

    • Hmm you’re doing something wrong. Check it again.

  • Andrea

    Could you please let me know where I stand as far as BF please. I think in the 24-26 range. But to me, it seems to vary day by day, some days I’m less “round”

  • Andrea

    just wanted to add one more with better lighting

    • Hey hey!

      You look great and yes I would guess around 23 to 24%.

    • Andrea

      Thanks, so much!! Wow I can breathe now, I have an “idea” of where I stand. To get down to like 21%, the major thing is just to cut calories by like 20%?? So if I’m maintenance at like 1800, go down to like 1500 calories?? IS there any other advice you have for me, or links to your blogs for getting down just a few percent?

  • Simon

    Hey Mike:) Great page! Lots of inspiration and tons of helpful advice. Just wondering if you could give a rough estimate to my bf% based om the following pics?:) Aiming for 8%, but I’m still holding some fat at my lower abs/sides.. Really hard to get rid of it:/

    • Thanks man! You’re lean. I’d guess 8% actually. You don’t get paper thin around your waist until you hit the 6% range…

  • Toni

    I use my body fat percentage just as a guide nowadays. Trying to get away from obsessing over yet another number. I seem to ping pong back and forth between the lower end of the fitness range and higher end of the athletic range if I go by the photos you provided. Body fat in women is not as “cut and dry” as it is in men IMO because you can look great, and be perfectly healthy as a female with a higher body fat. Also, it depends where you hold your fat too…that can make a huge difference in your overall look.

    • Absolutely. People hold fat in different areas and that alone can make you look very different even if you’re at the same BF%.

      Same for the men too.

  • Dave A

    Love the video…now I’m going to just do Suprialliac as the single point, weigh myself daily and take average

  • Jawsh Yoast

    If I have one hour a day, six days a week available for working out what would you suggest be my plan. Lift weights 5 days and cardio 1 day? Lift 4 cardio 2? My concern with going to a 3 or 4 day split is completing the workouts in an hour. I already have trouble finishing the 5 day split workouts in an hour with 3 minute rest between working sets and 1-2 minutes between warm up sets (following times from book.) I am trying to cut and I think I am around 15% right now and holding. Suggestions?

    • Hmmm. Let’s start with 4 days lifting and 2 days cardio and see how it goes.

      What do you think?

      • Jawsh Yoast

        Sounds good. If I run out of time on my lifting days, can I do calves or abs on my cardio days?

        • Yeah that’s not a bad idea. If so, do the them separately or if you have to do them together, do the abs or calves first. 🙂

  • Tony

    For some reason I just can’t get meaningful results on the pinch tests. I keep getting between 9 and 10% bodyfat using a 3 point test (chest, thigh, navel). But it’s impossible. I look more like 15-20%. I have a hanging stomach pouch, almost no visible abs, and very little vascularity. Is there a way to make sense of this? On the test, I get 6mm on my chest, 15mm on my abdomen, and 14mm on my thigh. According to this 3-point test and your program, I should be switching from a cut to a bulk, but I don’t look like I’m at the right body fat percentage for it.

    • Yeah you’re definitely not 9 to 10% if you don’t have abs. Post a pic and I’ll let you know what I think?

  • Erik Sandoval

    Found a company, BodySpec, that does DEXA scans for $45 – it’s what they specialize in. It’s available to anyone located in several CA areas. In case anyone is interested. I can’t try it yet, as I move to CA in about 1 month.

    My only grief is that I have been on the BLS program for nearly a month – 2 months by the time I get to CA – and I won’t be able to accurately track all my newbie gains! The struggle is real…

    Calipers will have to suffice for now 🙂

    • Damn. That’s awesome! I wish they had some locations in FL…

      And don’t worry, there’s still plenty of gains to make after the first two months. The caliper does a pretty good job. 🙂

      LMK how it goes with the DEXA. I look forward to seeing your progress!

      • Erik Sandoval

        Yeah, looks like there aren’t any places in Florida or Washington D.C. Then again, it’s not like you need to track much! Haha 😛

        I’ll email you when I get the results; it’s suppose to be a 7-page report, so it sounds like they give quite a bit of detail.

  • Jeremy

    Hi mike
    I was wondering what is ideal body fat level for man and woman from a health perspective ?
    I have seen you say under 15% is important but is 8% more ideal than 15 % for example ?
    I say this from the point of view from someone who is quite fit (maybe 12%) but easily prone to blood sugar slightly high
    I know your not a doctor but you are very well read and so was wondering your opinion on this or may have some suggested reading

    • There really isn’t a set BF% range that I consider healthy. If you’re eating healthy, not spending too much time in a deficit and just taking care of yourself, you can healthily maintain as low as 6-7% BF. Anywhere from there up is fine.

      For women 15% and up.

  • Michael Quinn

    Hi Mike. I have been keeping track of my body fat percentage and bmi but am a bit confused. On the last measurement my fat percentage was 18.1 and my bmi was 27.1. My measurements on the previous tests were 22.4 body fat and bmi of 27.1. My body fat went down bmi stayed the same. Why? Is this good or bad?

    • Don’t worry about BMI. It’s not really useful if you’re lifting weights. Just watch body fat % and the mirror. 🙂

  • John Doe

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve measured my body fat using your recommended caliper (1 site) and another highly recommended one (Trimcal 4000 .. 3 and 7 site) .. Coming up with 8-9% readings. Over time, weight loss seems to add up well with % body fat lost. But the mirror says something else.. I think I’m higher or simply have a poorly developed core. I’ll attach a flex / unflex photo.. Let me know what you think.

    • I’d guess around 14 to 15% but it could be more related to poor core development, in which case I would guess 12% or so.

      • John Doe

        What do you think is the problem? I can only imagine it’s tester error.. Maybe grabbing too little fat? Can’t be where I carry fat since I also used the multi site methods and got a similar result…

        I think I’m closer to 12% …. If i were actually 15% the mm fat grabbed would have to almost double!

        • Yeah could be grabbing incorrectly or just holding fat in other areas.

          You could get DEXA scanned to know for certain…

  • Brenda

    Hi mike! I stand at 5 ft 103 lbs or so but have bf around 21-25 depending on what scale I go on. After losing fat when do I switch to maintaining diet? I’m currently lifting 5x a wk and doing hiit cardio 3-4 x a wk and got a cutting diet from y’all but haven’t implemented it yet. Thanks for all you do!

    • When you’re as lean as you want to be, you would reverse diet to maintenance cals. Check it out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      Cool on the training! LMK how you like the meal plan!

      • Brenda

        Meal plan is going great…I think you have a mistake on the harvest chicken soup though..it says add in remaining ingredients but there arent anymore listed? Can’t wait to try it as its still cooking!

        • Awesome to hear!

          I’ll check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!

          LMK how you like it.

          • Brenda

            It was delicious! I made it Friday and didnt get to enjoy it over the weekend because people kept bringing me food! Ugh why is life hard…but I plan on getting back on track this week!

          • Awesome! Haha rough life. 🙂

  • Shannon

    Hi Mike! Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for the women (like myself) who are trying to lower BF percentage, but are afraid of being left with no boobs in the end haha. Seriously..it’s a little depressing
    Thanks!

    • Hahah I wish I did. 🙁 You WILL lose some boobs but genetics are going to determine how much.

      Consolation though is you can build a killer ass to compensate for what you lose up top. 😉

    • Sam

      Haha Mikes response is gold – killer ass for the win!

      Can report as I get leaner for comp I have kissed byebye to boobies – most every girl does. That’s what happens when you lose body fat.
      Either buy some new ones (lol) or choose between a killer body or having boobs.

  • Kal-El

    Mike, could you make a guess of what’s the bf in these pics?

    • I’d guess 22%.

    • Tom

      Your probably 20%+- could be 19% because you don’t have hanging saddle bags on sides, but hard to tell.

      • Kal-El

        Thanks Tom 🙂

  • Tyler

    Hey Mike I’ve just started recently going to the gym and doing a bunch of compound lifts like I’ve seen you suggest. I am cutting at the moment, but would like to know any advice you would have to as what my Body Fat % might be and if I should continue to cut for a little longer and then bulk or how I should go from here.

  • Chin

    Hey Mike. At what body fat % would the lower ab bulge be gone? Below 10%?

  • Hey Mike :):) in your opinion, when do WOMEN reach that ‘paper thin’ skin that you refer to quite a lot? im not sure I want it, but even though I can see my abs right now i can still ‘pinch 1/2 inch’ ! getting a bit obsessed about pulling it! hahahahahah. Just wondering more out of curiosity if that will ever go…I don’t want to be obsessive about something that for example cannot be achieved in women at 15% and above… hope that makes sense, Nikki

  • Zach

    Hi Mike. I ordered the caliper to get a better handle on my body fat %, but the YMCA and Navy methods put me at 11-13%. You mentioned those methods often tend to run over, but when I look at my body compared to the photos here I look more like the 13-15% picture than the 10-12%. I’m 6’4, 184 lbs with a 33″ waist and 16″ neck and while I’ve been doing HIIT bodyweight for 18 months or so (and it’s made a huge difference) I figured as a novice weightlifter I’d be better off starting on a cut to take advantage of some newbie gains. If I’m already in the 12-14% range or so, is that still a good idea? I’m aiming to be around 195-200 in the 10-12% range when I’m done (I enjoy the occasional drink and am too much of a foodie to push below that).

    • Cool on your stats. Hm you could bulk up to the 16 to 17% range but then I would recommend cutting. Best to start off right.

      • Zach

        Thanks for the reply. The caliper gives me just about the same thing (10-11 MM or 12.6%), so I figure next week I’ll start bulking. One question I have about that is the calories needed for a bulk/cut. I have a spreadsheet set up to calculate my TDEE, BMR, cut (TDEE*.775) and bulk (based on 1g protein, 2 carb and .4 fat per lb) calories. When I’m bulking/cutting, how often/should I recalculate those numbers based on my weight? I.E. should I adjust the calories accordingly every week, every 2 weeks, etc? Thanks.

        • NP.

          Cool on the bulk.

          For cals/macros, .4 fat per lb is too much. You can make sure your cals and macros are correct using this:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          As to when to recalculate, that depends completely on results. As long as you’re gaining .5-1 pound a week, there’s no need to change anything.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • Zach

            Mike, I was using the formula for bulking from p. 123 of the book. Today I went and got a hydrostatic measurement to get an idea where I was before I start. I was stunned when they put me at 17-18% bf. I’ve done the caliper 20 times and keep getting in the range of 12-14%, and both Navy and YMCA put me in that range too. I’m at a loss what to think here, so I’m going to put up a pic and ask you. (Also, I just jaw surgery 8 weeks ago and couldn’t lift until last week, plus I was on a liquid diet during that time (with not enough protein/calories) and dropped about 6-7 lbs). What do you think? I’m pretty happy with this body type in general btw, I can fill out a shirt fairly well w/traps and pecs (enough so people comment I look fit) and my stomach is flat. I like food and beer too much to push down to a 6-pack type body fat (and I don’t spend enough time shirtless to care), but I want to put some lean mass back on. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ca94d2357a2c860413ba2f7a8dc3d02ac78f8fa732ec244470d61db29929bc7f.jpg

          • Hey man! Hard because of the hair and paleness haha but I would guess around 17%. Definitely not 12%…

          • Zach

            Haha yeah, that I figured out pretty quickly. I swear the caliper keeps giving me around 14%, but I doubt I’m there (maybe I have a different fat distribution than normal). Thanks for the reply, and your book is great Btw. I’m working on the paleness, it’s mostly due to having been trapped inside post surgery a couple months ago.

          • It’s possible. YW!

            Glad you like the book.

            Hope you’re doing better now and are able to enjoy some vitamin D.

  • dean
  • Hi Michael! I think you’re awesome btw!!!

    Anyway, I was wondering why you said that a one-site test is more accurate than multiple tests. I remember reading somewhere we can have fat in certain areas more often than in other places (but then again I remember reading to remove visible fat from anywhere on our bodies, we need to lower our body fat percentage).

    Thanks in advance!,
    DK (Dustin K.)

    • Thanks man!

      It can be yes and yes that is true–some people store an abnormally large amount of fat in the lower ab area, which can throw off single-point readings.

      • Okay. May I ask how one-site testing can be more accurate than multiple tests?

  • Franken Steine

    I’m having trouble reading the body fat caliper properly. It just jumps from 10 to 20 mm with four notches in between.

    • Which are you using?

      • Franken Steine

        The one you recommended, accufitness

        • Okay you need to work on your technique then. Did you watch the video?

          • Franken Steine

            Ya I watched it. I just dont understand the measurements in miIimeters. It goes from 10 to 20 with four lines in between and so on. I’m not sure if each line represents a 1 or a 2 maybe. like my measurement falls 2 lines behind 10, so is it 12 mm or 14 mm?

          • Ah I gotcha. Each line represents 2 mm.

            If the measurement falls 2 lines behind 10 that’d be 6 mm. If it’s 2 lines ahead of 10 that’d be 14.

            Make sense? LMK.

          • Franken Steine

            makes perfect sense, thank you

          • Franken Steine

            One more thing: I’ve been doing fasted hiit cardio twice a week and read your article on how it accelerates muscle breakdown. Is there any way to minimize that without supplements (not a fan)?

          • Unfortunately, supplements like HMB or Forge are the only way to prevent muscle breakdown without causing an insulin response. Which you have to make sure of to stay in a fasted state…

          • Franken Steine

            Alright then. lastly, to properly calculate my TDEE, when I multiply my bmr with the duration of my workouts, do I include the time I take to rest inbetween sets? Sorry to bombard you with questions, your articles and podcasts have really pushed me to diet and workout effectively.

          • No worries! Yeah, you can include the rest time. Just count the total time working out.

            Glad the articles and podcasts have been a help!

          • Cool. YW!

  • Nikola

    Yo Mike,can you guess my bf? Thanks

    • I’d guess about 15/16%.

      • Nikola Kozlina

        Yeah it was my assumption too(caliper showing the same).Just wanted to make sure,because i was like 22% one month ago,so I lost like 9 pounds of fat in month(my strength in gym is same,even made some strength gains).All by following your advice,thank you :))

        • Nice man. That’s a big change! Glad you’re maintaining strength too. Sounds like you know what you’re doing. 🙂

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Mark

    Hi Mike, love your material, bought your book, great stuff. Quick question on an aggressive cut (25%). That would put me about 20 cal above BMR at 1.35 act factor and below at 1.2 act factor. Am I calculating that right? My BMR is 1940, 31yo, 190lb at ~14-15% bf. I want to cut these last 10-15 pounds but don’t know if I should run at BMR or be more slow and avg around 2150. Thanks

  • Stephen Reyes

    Hey Mike,

    According to the caliper, I measure at around 10mm or 12.7%. I’m 26, 5’8.5″. Would you agree with that? I feel like I may be higher. I’m trying to cut down to sub 10 in 2 months.

    Thanks,
    Stephen

    • Hey man sick beard haha. Great build too.

      I would guess a LITTLE higher–14 to 15%–but it’s splitting hairs.

      8 weeks of doing everything right should get you to 8 to 9% easily. This will help:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/rapid-weight-loss/

      • Stephen Reyes

        Thanks! haha! when are you getting one of your own?!

        Awesome! I was trying to get an idea of my lean body mass so i can calculate my macros properly. 2100 calories seems like it should be enough. that’s about my 25%. Protein at 190g (i now weigh 180) fats at 47g. Carbs at 230g. doing the bls 5 day plan. throwing in some bodyweight calisthenics HIIT stuff in the afternoon. Job is pretty sedentary. taking phoenix, forge, and pulse.

        thanks you for your help!

        keep you posted on my two month progress.

        • Meh my beard game sucks. No point in trying.

          Yeah those macros/cals sound good. I like it. Let me know how it goes along the way and thanks for all the support. You the man.

          • Stephen Reyes

            haha! i would say maybe after puberty… but you’re past that… haha! one day… maybe?

            i will! i will update you at the 1 month mark! and as always. i will keep supporting!

          • Hahah I don’t think I have the genetics for it. 🙁

            Sounds good man!

  • Edgar Allanbro

    Hi Mike,
    My electrical impedance scales consistently say I’m 15-16% bf. I’m 25, 5’7″ and about 155 lbs.

  • Shannon

    Hey Mike!
    So, I’ve been counting macros for almost 3 months now, and I also go to the gym 4-5 days a week. I’ve lost 2 pounds but I can’t seem to get any lower than that. I’ve seen some definite improvement in muscle definition in my arms and legs; people actually comment on it often these days. Just for reference I am 5’1 female and I started at 116 pounds (now 114), and 26% body fat. Although I see physical changes, I don’t think I have even lost 2% body fat. I’m not sure why I’m not making as much progress as I’d like and it’s very frustrating. My macros are already very low (23 fat, 116 carb, 130 protein) and I feel like if I lower them anymore I will starve haha. Do you have any advice? Thank you!

    • Shannon

      Also my basic measurements are 34-25.5-36 if that gives some more insight to my weight distribution

  • Mohd Alaiti

    Hello Mike, maybe you can help with a prediction. How much body fat do you think i have?

  • Bradley Headstone

    Visit http://korr.com/ to find out how to accurately measure body fat.

  • Dani

    Hello Mike, how you doing?

    I am one of those hidden followers that read everything but never writes 🙂 I am a little bit confused about my bf. Calippers (accumeasure) says between 4-5mm (7.5%), but comparing my pics to others i don’t think i am that low bf by no means. Also, depending on the light (white light, yellow light, shadows …) i seem to be “stronger and less defined” while other times i seem to be “leaner but much less stronger”. Can you please throw some light in here? This is taken first thing in the morning, no pump, only flexing the abs and asleep as hell 🙂

    Thank you very much Mike.

    • Hey hey! Thanks for writing. 🙂

      That seems about right. I’d say around 8% BF.

      • Dani

        Thanks for your help Mike! Would start a little “bulking” phase right now then.

  • Kal-El

    Hey Mike,
    What would you say my bf% is?

    • 18 to 20% I’d guess.

      • Kal-El

        Yeah?
        My calipers read 15%. 😅

        When you’re cutting and you improve on all your major lifts, it means you haven’t lost any muscle right?

  • Kam Barnes

    Hey Mike,

    I was wanting to get your opinion on my bf%. I started your BLS program just over a year ago at 230lbs / 30+% BF and I’m currently 178.5lbs @ 6 foot 1 & 19yrs old and the Accumeasure Body caliper says ~12-12.5% BF for my age group as I’m measuring slightly under 12mm but I was wanting to double check with you & get your input bc I’m wanting to get to ~10% before I reverse diet into a bulk because I’m wanting to bulk for at least 6 months before capping out & having to cut again.

    Thanks!

    • Yep, 12% BF is about right.

      Let’s continue cutting to 10% BF then you can reverse diet and focus on building muscle.

  • Eloy Oliveira

    Dear Mike,

    I would like to know my body fat percentage approximately. Thank you!

  • Kaylem Williams

    Hey Mike,

    I’m would like to know my body fat percentage approximately.
    I’m currently 147 pounds 5 foot 5 inches and would be it for health reasons suitable to continue losing more body fat at the age of 16.

    Picture taken in the morning, fasted for 10 hours prior

    • You look around 8% BF. You look great! I wouldn’t recommend cutting anymore.

      Let’s get your intake up and focus on keeping the protein high and eating nutritious food.

  • devhinvi

    I have been researching these fitness level estimation strategies for the last few weeks. Latest research has shown that the waist-to-height ratio, as a surrogate for body-fat percentage is a highly correlated with premature death from obesity. In general, your waist size should be less than half height, else you are in trouble! Also, the newer Body Shape Index (ABSI), which includes a measure of waist, age and gender, is an even more comprehensive metric. As this research paper suggests, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0039504, it is much better than BMI, and Waist-to-Height ratio at predicting fitness level. Here’s one calculator for estimating yours: http://deep-calculators.com/body-shape-index-calculator . The site also has a body fat percentage calculator, if you just need that.

  • Josh

    Hey Mike,
    I’d like to know my approximate body fat % – looking at the chart I’d guess 11-12%? It’s kinda hard to tell cause I’m very skinny with a small frame (60kg, 5″7′, 21yo). I’d say I’m definitely a beginner when it comes to weight training and exercise in general; I do 3 full body workouts per week with rests inbetween. The pic is pretty recent, I look fuller in the chest/shoulders/arm regions but abs pretty much the same, perhaps marginally more defined.

    Should I focus on training abs on the rest days? (none of my workouts currently isolate the abs, but on occasion I’d do a couple sets at the end if I fee; like it lol). By the way, I can’t exactly afford a gym membership right now, so all my exercises utilize dumbbells and/or my own body weight.

    Sorry for the wall of text, I just don’t think it’s in my best interest to bring my body fat% down lower and risk losing muscle, I feel comfortable with the structure I’m currently following. Your advice would be very much appreciated, thanks!

  • Luis Sanchez

    Hi there Mike, I’d like to know my body fat %… I can guess I have around 15-16%… I’ve been watching videos on YouTube and many people recommend to get bulky first and then cut. That’s what I have been doing in the last 2 moths (3 months on Nov, 17th). Would you recommend me to burn some of my fat % first? and if so how can I do that without destroying the muscles I built in the last 2 moths?

  • Daniel

    Hi Mike, could you give me your estimate on my body fat?
    10 months ago, I’m on bulk since then, on cutting right now, trying to improve that picture 😉

    Great site and content!.

  • Sebastian Castro

    Your work is great! I haven’t had reasonable results measuring my body fat percentage, where am I at?

  • Dre180

    Mike-
    I’m having trouble accurately measuring my body fat. Currently on the BLS program and love it. Just ordered the meal plan as well and I just want to know where I stand so I can set my caloric intake and macros correctly. Can you please let me know what you think? I’m trying to cut to 9 or 10 % before I start bulking. Thanks.

  • Russell Corrigan

    Hey Mike, great article. I’ve been reading that the DEXA scan can give a reading that’s out by 5%. Do you know if this is true?

  • Chelsea

    So, this is embarrassing for me to admit, but I just did my BCA for the US Navy and they said that I was at 32% body fat (max for females before you get a failure is 33%). The thing is, in the pictures of the females you posted, I look more like the girl who is 27-29% body fat. I literally don’t look “obese” at all. I know I’m not the healthiest person, but I try to eat healthy and work out at least three times a week. I have a really wide “hip” area at 43inches and I think that’s what caused my Body Fat percentage to go up. I’m just wondering is it possible that the Navy was wrong? I know you said it’s not always reliable, but I don’t look obese at all and I’m just really embarrassed about this whole thing.

    • Check this out Chelsea:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      It’s an updated version of this article that goes into a bit more details.

      Long story short is every method is flawed in its own way and ultimately you’re making an educated guess.

      That article will also point you in the right direction to improve your body composition.

  • Kal-El

    Mike, what do you think my fat % is?

    • I’d say around 16% BF.

      • Kal-El

        Thanks Mike.
        How long would it practically take to cut down to 10 % assuming I do everything right?

        • It depends on your starting weight and how much you lose per week.

          The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds and if you’re doing it right (lifting heavy, keeping the protein intake high and not too steep a deficit) the weight will be mostly fat.

          That should give you an idea.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Awela Madala

    Yo, Mike, what do you think my body fat % is and do you reckon I can start bulking

  • Awela Madala

    Yo Mike, what do you think body fat % is and do you reckon I can start bulking

  • Franken Steine

    How often should I adjust my caloric intake? My weight doesn’t seem to be changing, or my body fat percentage, though it’s been two weeks.

    • If you’re not losing 1-2 pounds a week on a cut or gaining 1/2-1 pound a week on a bulk, you should adjust your intake accordingly.

      • Franken Steine

        The thing is I don’t want to lose weight, only decrease my body fat percentage. I read somewhere in one of your articles that even if your weight stayed the same that it didn’t mean you weren’t losing body fat. Unfortunately I can’t remember which article.

  • Kal-El

    Mike
    What do you think my bf% is?

    • I’d say about 16% BF.

      • Kal-El

        Yeah?! My calipers read 14! 😔

        • 16% BF is just an estimate based off the pics. Also, the caliper is subject to human error.

          • Kal-El

            Yeah got it 👍

  • Kelvin Guzmán

    Hey Mike! Have you ever found yohimbine tolerance a thing? I know its also a stimulant. Do you feel more tired when you stop taking it like when you drop coffee? How about the fat burning effects? Thanks!

    • Good question.

      I know it gets more effective as a fat burner the longer you take it because it accumulates in the body.

      I haven’t experienced any type of energy drop-off when I stop taking it.

      • Kelvin Guzmán

        and keep it off is just as easy? I’m always weary of down-regulation of anything. In this case, the upregulation of alpha receptors. I am sure with the right energy balance and lifestyle, the effect would be negligible. Just wondering what your experience is.

  • Kal-El

    Mike, a guess on my bf% please?

    • You’re looking leaner my friend! I’d say about 14% BF.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      • Kal-El

        Haha awesome 😀✌️

  • Carl West

    Hey Mike, I used the skin fold caliper to find my body fat percentage and the first time it was about 23%, the second was about 17%. I think that I am probably 20 percent. I just wanted your opinion on this if that’s alright. Great article by the way!

    • Hey Carl! Thanks!

      It’s tough to see with the photo, but I’d say about 22% BF.

  • Carl West

    Here are my pics.

  • Chafin Pitts

    Hi Mike! How often do you recommend testing BF %? My husband and I both are following TLS & BLS and just found out the local university has a bod pod that’s actually at a reasonable cost for measurements. Thanks!

  • Brandon Dedic

    Any idea on my body fat level and what I should do? Still a bit of stubborn fat.. I want to be really lean and then slowly put
    On muscle over
    Summer.. Flexing a little in the picture

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike I was wondering what you think my body fat is? not really sure if I should cut or not

    • You look about 12-13% BF. You’re kind of at an in between. If you have something coming up you want to be lean for, I recommend you cut. If not, and you want to put on some muscle, you should bulk.

  • Corway

    Hey Mike. Just need a second opinion. Went to get my fat tested at the gym today on one of those dodgy scales and it said I was 12%. Trying the method with the calipers in the video says im 9%. And looking at the photos I really cant tell/ Im confused so I was hoping you could have a stab at it. I weigh 201 lbs 5 ft 10 have veins in my abs, shoulders, arms, chest legs etc. Thanks
    ps. yeah thats a hernia and its fugly I know

    • Yep, definitely not 12% BF. I’d say around 8% BF.

      You look great man! Don’t worry about it.

      Welcome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Dominic Shoucair

    Hey Mike. Haven’t gotten any professional opinions yet other than my uncle who is a personal trainer. He says I’m around 10% body fat. Im still trying to get to 8. Im 5’9 and 70.5 kg currently so like 155lbs. Would you (or anyone else) say I’m 10, below, a bit above?

    • Dominic Shoucair

      Also not sure how long it’d take me to get to 8% but I’ve gone down pretty quickly in the last 8 weeks on a good deficit losing about 0.5-1lb a week (not gonna lie some muscle loss is DEFINITELY present) but I eat roughly 1400 cals a day, lift MWF compound exercises and everyday of the week except Sunday do 300/600 cals (tues/thur/sat) of cardio

  • Dominic Shoucair

    Forgot the pictures oops

  • Kal-El

    Mike, how much bf% do you think I’m at?

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I feel like I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately but I’m a little confused. I know this may sound like a stupid question but would you say it’s best to go with the measurement of the accu measure and decide wether to bulk or cut based off of that or only use it to tell wether I’m gaining or losing fat because I really don’t wanna bulk if I shouldn’t be.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I feel like I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately but I have just one more for now. I feel like I’ve got a litter leaner over the past few weeks just do to my metabolism having a really hard time gaining. Would you say I look lean enough to bulk and also would you recommend using the accumeasure caliper to determine wether to bulk or cut and take the reading as your body fat percentage or only use it for telling wether your gaining or losing fat. Thanks so much for all the help so far again and sorry for all the questions.

    • No worries! Hmm. If you’re losing weight and getting leaner on a bulk we definitely gotta increase your intake. You’re lean enough to continue bulking. Let’s add 50g carbs to your daily intake and see how it goes.

      The caliper should be used for both. It’s a great way to track progress, and it’s also accurate within 1-2% for calculating your BF%.

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • sean_noonan

        Alright thanks man

        • NP!

          • sean_noonan

            Hey would you say if my weight hasn’t gone up with the new intake after 7-10 days I should increase again or should I give it a little more time. Also should i add 200 calories again or just do it by 100 this time. Again thanks for all the help.

          • Yep, I’d increase it again. No need to wait longer than 7-10 days.

            Let’s go up by 100 cals and see how you do. Remember, the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week so keep adding every 7-10 days until you’re gaining at that rate.

            Yep, sounds like you have a fast metabolism. Lucky. 😉

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I seem to have gained maybe .5 pound based off this weeks average compared to last week. If it goes down again ill probably increase again. Im hoping im one of those people who make leaner gains because of the metabolism.

          • Ah okay. Then let’s keep intake the same. That’s right in the range you want to be gaining in.

            With the amount your’re gaining, and if you’re sticking to the macros, don’t worry about the weight gain composition. There will be minimal fat.

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I averaged again because I forgot to add a day and it made the weight the same is last week I don’t know if I should add 100 now

          • In that case, let’s increase your intake by 100 cals (25g carb) and see how it goes.

          • sean_noonan

            Ok

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i seemed to weigh in on the higher end of my usually weigh in over the past month so hope fully thats some gains

          • sean_noonan

            hey so my weight seems to so far have gone up 2 pounds but the thing is last time it went up at a little faster of a rate (1.5 pounds) it was down about 2 pounds the next week. Would you say its a good idea to give this intake another week?

          • Hmm. Alright. Let’s keep the intake the same for another week and see how you do.

            Happy to help. 🙂 LMK how it goes.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            would you reccomend adding 50 grams of carbs again if my weight goes down a couple pounds

          • Yep!

          • sean_noonan

            alright

          • Yep, definitely. Totally fine to add in both carbs and fat.

          • sean_noonan

            Hey I got a few questions. Would you say it’s a good idea to weigh things for meal planning it’s been working well for me especially with things that on the nutrition label that aren’t specific ex. “about 5 like rather then 5”. I’m thinking it would help be more accurate. Also how do you know if your pushing your self hard enough because especially on deadlift I went up like 30 Pounds over 1 week and I still feel like I could do more, Would you reccomend to keep adding weight to get an idea of what my max is so I can figure out whats enough for working sets. Again thanks so much for all the help.

          • sean_noonan

            Hey i got a few questions. would you say its a good idea to weigh things for meal planning and would it be a reliable way to take the grams of the nutrition label and calculate the serving size and macros to what they would be for 1 ounce? I’ve been finding it easier then measuring with a cup or table spoon. And also do you feel as though its neccesary to max out on your major lifts for one rep to know wether your pushing yourself hard enough on your working sets with 80-85% 1RM? Also again thank you so much for all the help so far.

          • I’d stick to the same unit of measuring the weight just to prevent confusion, but yeah, that’s totally fine.

            Nah, you don’t need to. You just need to be lifting as heavy as you can in the 4-6 rep range. If you can get more than 6 reps, it’s too light. If you can’t get 4 reps, it’s too heavy.

            Also, you can just calculate your 1RM here:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/one-rep-max-calculator/

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            yeah ive been mostly doing it with arizona, I just figured how many carbs were in 1 oz then i can make the serving whatever i want in my meal plan

          • Ah okay. Yep, as long as you’re tracking it accurately, that’s totally fine.

          • sean_noonan

            At least I think it’s accurate. Would you say the carbs are consistent per 1 ounce? The same way they are in the serving size

          • sean_noonan

            At least I think it’s accurate, would you say the carbs are consistent per 1 ounce the same as it is in the serving size? Also I ended up making my intake 4100 because my weight went down a couple pounds again, so hopefully that works. I don’t really mind eating this much though because I pretty much never get hungry.

          • Like are the macros per ounce consistent in every ounce? I’m sure they are. Or at least that there isn’t enough of a difference for it to matter.

            Sounds good! Glad you’re okay with it! That’s a LOT to eat consistently, haha.

            Let’s see how it goes!

          • sean_noonan

            Ok

          • sean_noonan

            i think its gone down like 3 haha

  • Tuan Tran

    Hello sir! 🙂 can you help me figuring out my bodyfat percentage is in these picture? I don’t know how long it will take for me to get below 10% bodyfat. I’m currently intermittent fasting 18-20 hourse each day, getting 2100 kcal, weight lifting 5 times a week and doing 400 worth of cardio 5 times a week 🙂 my macros are 40 % protein, 45% carbs and 15 % fats. I’m currently getting 2 free meals a week where I eat whatever I want from 45-60 min and then i’m doing a 22-24 hour fast after. It’s like my getting leaner after every time i’m doing this. I’m getting my free meals each wensday and saturday.

  • Tuan Tran

    Hello sir! 🙂 can you help me figuring out my bodyfat percentage is in these 4 pictures (it was taken yesterday) and what my bodyfat percentage is in the picture 5-6 (it was taken 2 years ago in another room)? I don’t know how long it will take for me to get below 10% bodyfat. I’m currently intermittent fasting 18-20 hourse each day, getting 2100 kcal, weight lifting 5 times a week and doing 400 worth of cardio 5 times a week 🙂 my macros are 40 % protein, 45% carbs and 15 % fats. I’m currently getting 2 free meals a week where I eat whatever I want from 45-60 min and then i’m doing a 22-24 hour fast after. It’s like my getting leaner after every time i’m doing this. I’m getting my free meals each wensday and saturday. I really want to get below 10% bodyfat before I go on a 3-4 months of lean bulk, that’s why.

    • Tuan Tran

      @michael_matthews:disqus Hey champ 😀 are you there?

  • Eric

    Hi Mike, I am in your phase 3 of BLS Year One Challenge, 4 days heavy lift and 3 days HIIT cardio 30 mins per day.

    Average 2100Cal per day (45% protein 35% carb 20% fat)

    How much bf% do you think I’m at? (I am 6 foot,162 pound.)

    How long do you think I need to see clear defined six packs?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thank you so much!

  • Kal-El

    Mike, what do you think my bf% is?

  • Tuan Tran

    Hello sir! 🙂 can you help me figuring out my bodyfat percentage is in these 4 pictures (it was taken yesterday) and what my bodyfat percentage is in the picture 5-6 (it was taken 2 years ago in another room)? I don’t know how long it will take for me to get below 10% bodyfat. I’m currently intermittent fasting 18-20 hourse each day, getting 2100 kcal, weight lifting 5 times a week and doing 400 worth of cardio 5 times a week 🙂 my macros are 40 % protein, 45% carbs and 15 % fats. I’m currently getting 2 free meals a week where I eat whatever I want from 45-60 min and then i’m doing a 22-24 hour fast after. It’s like my getting leaner after every time i’m doing this. I’m getting my free meals each wensday and saturday. I really want to get below 10% bodyfat before I go on a 3-4 months of lean bulk, that’s why.

    • Tuan Tran

      @michael_matthews:disqus hello sir 🙂 are you there?

  • Tuan Tran

    Hello sir! 🙂 can you help me figuring out my bodyfat percentage is in these 4 pictures I don’t know how long it will take for me to get below 10% bodyfat. I’m currently intermittent fasting 18-20 hourse each day, getting 2100 kcal, weight lifting 5 times a week and doing 400 worth of cardio 5 times a week 🙂 my macros are 40 % protein, 45% carbs and 15 % fats. I’m currently having one free meal a week where I ate everything i want for 45 min as the last meal of the day to not extending the cheat

    • Hey hey! I’d say you’re about 10% BF.

      Cool on all the training you’re doing and everything you’re doing regarding your diet.

      Great on the cheat meal you’re having weekly. To help keep it under control, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/cheat-meal/

      You’re looking good man. Keep up the good work!

      • Tuan Tran

        Thanks so much for the feedback sir! I’ll take your advice and use dem 🙂
        Do you have any idea how long it’ll take before I can reach around 7-8 bodyfat?
        I’m considering doing a lean bulk soon and i’ll like your opinion where my weak points are? i would like to have an aesthetic physique just like jeff seid in this picture? I think he’s bodyfat is around 5

        • Eric

          Hi Tuan, Nice body and looks really good!
          I am wondering what is your height and weight?
          How long did you take to get current body?
          Were you kind of skinny or fat before lifting weights?
          Appreciate your answers

        • Tuan Tran

          @michael_matthews:disqus

        • Tuan Tran

          @michael_matthews:disqus hey champ 😀 are you there?

          • Yep! 🙂

            YW. You should be able to do it in 4-6 weeks with proper training and dieting.

            Regarding your weak points, your best bet is to find out what they are using actual measurements. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/ideal-male-body/

            Yeah, Jeff has a great physique. He’s actually probably 7% BF in this pic.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon.

          • Tuan Tran

            i’m so greatful for your feedback and it motivates me to achieve my dream physique 🙂
            I have a question about reverse diet and when i’m done cutting. Right now I get 2200 calories each day and i’m in a 700 calorie deficit now. I train fasted 5-6 times a week and doing cardio faste also where I burn 400 calories 5 times a week. When i’m reverse dieting, can I get even leaner and build muscle by adding 100 calories each 7-10 days while training fasted 5 times a week and doing cardio 400 calories 5 times a week?

          • Tuan Tran

            i’m so greatful for your feedback and it motivates me to achieve my dream physique 🙂

            I have a question about reverse diet. Right now I weigh 80 kg and got a bf 9-10. I get 2200 calories each day and i’m in a 700 calorie deficit now. I train fasted 5-6 times a week and doing cardio faste also where I burn 400 calories 5 times a week. I’ve calculated my TDEE to 2800 calories.

            Right now i’m reverse dieting. Can I get even leaner and build muscle by adding 100-150 calories each 7-10 days while training fasted 5 times a week and doing cardio 400 calories 5 times a week?

            i’m not sure if adding 100-150 calories each weak will get me leaner and build muscle because of all this cardio and training fasted. I Think it will still put me in a big deficit. What do you think ? @michael_matthews:disqus

          • Tuan Tran

            i’m so greatful for your feedback and it motivates me to achieve my dream physique 🙂

            I have a question about reverse diet. Right now I weigh 80 kg and got a bf 9-10. I get 2200 calories each day and i’m in a 700 calorie deficit now. I train fasted 5-6 times a week and doing cardio faste also where I burn 400 calories 5 times a week. I’ve calculated my TDEE to 2800 calories.

            Right now i’m reverse dieting. Can I get even leaner and build muscle by adding 100-150 calories each 7-10 days until I reach my TDEE 2800 calories while training fasted 5 times a week and doing cardio 400 calories 5 times a week?

            i’m not sure if adding 100-150 calories each weak will get me leaner and build muscle because of all this cardio and training fasted. I Think it will still put me in a big deficit. What do you think ? @michael_matthews:disqus

          • Tuan Tran

            @michael_matthews:disqus this is the last message my man 😀

          • Happy to help!

            Yep, you can continue getting leaner during the RD all the way up until you reach TDEE. You will probably experience some strength gains from eating more too.

            You won’t start making significant strength gains though until you’re eating in a surplus.

            No worries. 🙂

          • Tuan Tran

            Thank you so much sir! you have a great day!

          • Welcome! You too!

    • Eric

      Hi Tuan, Nice body and looks really good!

      I am wondering what is your height and weight?

      How long did you take to get current body?

      Were you kind of skinny or fat before lifting weights?

      Appreciate your answers.

      • Tuan Tran

        Hey Eric! thank you very much for the feedback. I appreciate that a lot!
        My height is 181 cm and my weight is 80 kg.
        I actually have a picture to show you of my process. I bulked for 1 year and went from 74 kg-100 kg. Then I cutted down to 78 kg with around 10% bf and it took me 4-5 month. Since then I’ve lean bulked to 87 kg with took me 4 month. Now i’ve been cutting 10 weeks and went down from 87 to 80 kg with around 10% again and i’m cutting till i reach 7-8% bf. Anything else brah?

        • Eric

          Thanks for your feedback. If I guess right, you are asian too right? How long have you been working out?

          • Eric

            I would like to get some of your feedback on what I am doing.

            Some background, I lost 40 pounds last two years with some BS program. And start heavy lift 6 month ago following BLS program.I am in BLS program one year challenge phase 3, if you know.
            I am currently
            Doing 4 days heavy lifts and 3 days 30-min fasted HIIT
            Eating 2100cal (15% deficit) with 45%-48%Proten 40% Carb and 20%Fat with one high-carb day each week.
            My strength is increasing but really slow, Now, Deadlifts only 250 pound, bench 190, squat 225, military press 110
            What you think about my progress, what should I do to get the defined SIX Pack?

          • Eric

            Here are some pictures of my current look.
            Welcome any suggestions

          • Tuan Tran

            Congrats with the great weight loss 🙂 When you want to get a great physique like a fitness model, I suggest that you search for their training split. Keep in mind that having a mind muscle connection is so important when you want to stimulate your muscles. I think your weak points are chest, shoulders and maybe back. Jeff seid is my idol and I’ve been copying his training split for a long time.

          • Eric

            Thanks a lot, so what you mean by muscle connection? Any webpages I can read on or any other resources you can share with me?

          • Tuan Tran

            Np brah 🙂 http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4-tips-to-help-train-brain-massive-gains-mind-muscle-connection.htm

            How much do you weigh and what does your training split look like? would you like an aestehtic physique?

          • Tuan Tran

            I dont know what BLS program is.
            I think it’s more optimal for you to focusing on having a mind to muscle connection when you’re lifting than focusing on how much you can bench, squat and deadlift. When you are training and have a mind to muscle connection, you’ll activate your muscle even more and it’ll burn. By doing so you’ll burn even more calories and it feels harder. When you’re in a caloric deficit, it’s quite hard to making any strengh gains. Instead of doing 30 min of HIIT cardio faste, I think it’s better for you to starting to track your cardio by doing 4-5 sessions of cardio each week where you burn 300 calories. When your process slows, when you burn 350 calories each week. That’s what I was doing.

            The only way to get defined six pack it to being in a caloric deficit and following a strict diet while lifting 4-6 times a week and doing cardio.
            Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? That’s what I did to get to 10% bf and to burn stubborn fat. I’ve help a friend with his weight loss and he went from 87-71 in 5 months and soon he’s ripped.

          • Tuan Tran

            Np brah. Yes you’re right 🙂 i’m a vietnamese. I’ve been working out 4 years but the last 2 years have been with the help of this coach. He won the danish championship in bodybuilding last year.

  • Jane

    Hello, could someone help me determine my BF%? I am looking to lose some of the fat and am unsure of where to start with the calculations as I’m not great at using the calipers. Thanks!

  • Zeke

    Hello, could someone help me with my bf. I have calipers but feel like I don’t use it very well. A little background: I am 5’9 and about 162 lbs. I started working out at 195 about a year and a half ago.

    Any help would be appreciated

  • Zeke

    Could you help me with bf% thank you.

  • Zeke

    Hello, could someone help me with my bf. I have calipers but feel like I don’t use it very well. A little background: I am 5’9 and about 162 lbs. I started working out at 195 about a year and a half ago.

    Any help would be appreciated

    • Thanks for the info! Great job on the weight you’ve lost!

      I’d say you’re about 15% BF.

      • Zeke

        Thank you Mike for the quick reply. I really appreciate it. Here’s to continued progress!

  • Talya Jacoby

    There are a few ways to determine body fat %. There’s a gadget which pretty useful as it can tell you WHERE the fat is accumulating in the body which can also give you a hint towards the reason (ie high oestrogen, restricted blood flow etc..)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVc1afDlSt4

  • Wondering

    I was wondering what you thought my bodyfat % was Mike. I have read your books and I’m trying to decide what to start with. A cut or bulk but first I want to know y bf% 😛

    http://i.imgur.com/jORoELs.jpg

    Here is the imgur link because it won’t let me direct upload it as it is too big.

    Hope to hear back from you!

    • Hmm. I’d say you’re about 13-14% BF.

      Thanks for reading my books! Let’s start with a cut to 10% BF. Then you can bulk and focus on building muscle. Also, if you’re new to this style of training, you’ll be able to build muscle while losing fat anyways so it’s a win-win. 🙂

  • Kal-El

    Mike, what do you think my bf% is?

    • Could just be the pics, but you look bigger! I’d say 14-15% BF.

      • Kal-El

        It’s not the pics. I think I’ve put on some weight. I’ve been bulking for a month now. Also, I didn’t workout for 3 weeks before that. I was travelling and wasn’t eating well. Anyways, I’m back to the routine 👍🏻💪🏻

        • Oh okay! That’s great!

          Glad you’re back at it. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • sean_noonan

    Hey last thing for now but would you say I look around 10-12 percent. That’s what my caliper says now and I just wanna make sure I’m doing it right. Also would you recommend to continue to try to bulk now.

    • NP! Yeah, I’d say you’re about 10-11% BF.

      Yep, if you have more muscle you’d like to put on, let’s do a bulk!

      You’re on an RD, correct? If so, sure, let’s chill at TDEE first for another week to allow your weight to settle. Then you can go to bulking cals.

      Sound good?

      • sean_noonan

        i think its going up actually at the rate of 1 pound.

        also wait whats rd?

        • Ah okay. RD = Reverse diet.

          • sean_noonan

            alright

          • sean_noonan

            hey i got a drink that has bunch of vitamins it has 5g carb and 25 calories. Do you have any idea why this is, ive always wondered, Its just it kinda confuses me with my meal plan

          • Not sure what you’re taking or what’s in it, but it’s most likely from the sweetener and/or fillers.

            All cals and macros are accounted for!

          • sean_noonan

            its gfuel

          • sean_noonan

            im thinking its fine if i just have a serving or so because really the extra five or ten calories in the drink should really matter. just as long i i track the 5g carb

          • Yep, that should be fine!

            And it looks like the cals come from the fruit powders and maltodextrin.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            hey would you say its necessary to increase protein intake as you build muscle (like maybe add 5g when you gain 5 pounds)

            Also would you say newbie gains are still possible even if it takes a while slowly increasing to get to a surplus

      • sean_noonan

        shit i just realized what you meant by reverse diet. No this is my first ever bulk.

        • No worries! Looks like you’ve been on it awhile. Keep it up.

  • T

    He Michael,

    Hope you can help me to estimate my body fat ! I am quit tall (6ft5) and weigh in at 218 Lbs. So thats actually pretty heavy. I have the feeling that most of the strength is in my lower body, as I always practiced sport more focuses on the lower body. ( Hockey, squash ). What do you think my body fat is based on these pics ? And do you think a cut first to 10% body fat ? Or am I too low on muscle for that ? Thanks !!

  • David

    Hi Mike,

    What do you think my bodyfat is? I am 171cm and 61kg. What should I do to get abs, cut more or try to build muscle?

    David

  • David

    Hi Mike,

    What do you think my bodyfat is? I am 171cm and 61kg. What should I do to get abs, cut more or try to build muscle?

    David

  • Dany

    Hello Mike ,

    First of all 10x for the amazing articles man, awesome stuff, great info dude. This is my no. 1 site for learning fitness, 10x to the “teachings” from your articles I finally know how to cut after 2 years of training my ass off in the damn 8-12 reps range and supersets, stripsets, dropsets and all the other fancy “full of results” methods. And eating too much healthy food off course.
    Now I’m on a cut from Mars, I started at 85 kg and now I’m around 76-77kg, (just training bodyweight for a month now like 5-6 days a week ‘cuz I didn’t had time for gym lately, but I’ll get back in the gym next week) and I was wondering if you can please estimate my bf% just to get an idea about how long to keep cutting.

    10x a million for what your doing man💪!

    • Hey hey! My pleasure! Thanks for all the kind words and support!

      Glad to hear you know what you’re doing now. 🙂

      Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      Cool you’re keeping up with bodyweight training while you can’t make it to the gym. It’s definitely better than nothing!

      I’d say your’e about 14% BF.

      Happy to do it. Talk soon!

  • Bizango Boy

    Hi Mike. Wondering whether I should continue to bulk or cut (leaning towards cutting because I want to see a bit of definition, if there is any) I used calipers and calculated roughly 28% body fat, not sure if this correct or not. I’ve been lifting for about ten months. I’m really enjoying your book btw, great source of information. Any advice would be well appreciated. David

  • Amir

    Hello Mike,

    Currently I am trying to loose weight and minimizing muscle loss of course. Do I do calories restriction, keep good protein intake, I do cardio by switching between the edge aerobic/anaerobic and aerobic during 1 hour before breakfast (fasting). I take BCAA and water+honey at the middle of this training to give me some sugar to be able to continue to perform. Right after this cardio I try to do 2 sets of body weight every muscles (chin up, deep, abs). After 2 sets or 3 sets max (if I train with someone), I’m dead which imply shaker, pool, home… I do that 2 to 3 times a week.

    I was thinking about something like HIIT but when I am fasting. I know I need sugar for that but if I push myself and become exhausted after such a training my body will try to adapt to this hard training and that’s what we want right ? the harder it is the more improvements/results we get. Obviously I am not planning to do body weight training after a fasting HIIT. What do you think about that ???

    I am getting results until now and I feel great but I was wondering if there is something better to minimize muscle loss. My diet is good (omega 3, very little saturated fat, no insulin pic, quinoa, toffu, soya milk, oat meal, honey (1 spoon a day), date (moderate).

    I take fat burners before running and I am 36 yo. Btw the formula says that my max heart rate would be 185 but I can maintain 180 for 15/20 minutes. Right After a sprint I am slightly above 200 (maybe 205) and I believe that’s my max according to how I suffer…

    Sorry for that long shot and thanks a lot for your website, advices…

    • Hey hey! Cool on the training and dieting and what you’re trying to do.

      HIIT is a good idea to help accelerate fat loss. For HIIT all you need is 20-40g of protein or the correct supplement if you want to do it fasted. Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/

      If you’re going to be doing both bodyweight training and HIIT, that’s fine. Just make sure you do the bodyweight training first.

      To help ensure you lose fat and not muscle, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

      Cool on the heart rate!

      No worries. Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • Kyle Jacobs

    Hey Mike,

    I have a question about my BF%. I am 27 years old, 74″, and weigh ~238lbs. Caliper readings put my at 20.5% body fat and the neck to waist ratio puts me at 21%. This would mean I have right around 189lbs LMB, and this does not make any sense (I don’t think) based on the “how much muscle you can gain” article. My neck measurement is 17.5″, waist is 39.5″, and hips are 34ish (pants size). At the same time, I do not think I have much more BF than that based on how my body looks…. So I have no idea what I am doing wrong. Any thoughts?

    Sorry for the ramble, I know you read a ton.

    Thank you for everything you do,
    Kyle

    • Hey Kyle,

      Honestly I wouldn’t worry much about it one way or the other. Let’s make your first goal 10% body fat and go from there…

      • Kyle Jacobs

        Okay, sounds good. On my way there! Started at around 24%. Thank you for all you do and all your work

        • Great! Awesome job on the fat you’ve lost so far. Keep up the good work. 🙂

          My pleasure!

  • Mia

    Hi. Mike, I have a question regarding women weight loss and muscle building. I am right now 5’4″ and 103 lbs, I used to be around 96 lbs, I know I am still under weight right now, however I am very active, hitting gym, doing cardio 5 times a week, my bf is around 20%. I am looking for to lower my BF rate to around 17%, and still can keep my weight under 100, or at least around 100. Is that even possible ? I always adore what VS model’s body shape, with toned body and not too bulky muscles. Any advice on daily intake calories ?

    • Hey Mia! Thanks for the info. Glad you’re staying active.

      In order to lose fat, you will have to lose weight. Fortunately, you should only have to lose 3-5 lbs to reach your goal of 17% BF if you’re 20% BF currently.

      For you intake, you can calculate it here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      LMK how it goes!

      • Mia

        Thanks , Mike ! I would like to lose weight actually. However by by doing cardio only, it feels like I am stuck ( 5 times a week, 40 mins per time). Are you suggesting doing weight training to replace cardio to achieve the goal ?

        • Welcome! The heavy weightlifting will definitely help maintain muscle and increase your TDEE hence create a bigger deficit.

          This will be good to keep in mind to keep the weight moving:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

          • Mia

            Thanks Mike, I will keep post after my weightlifting from next week. Another question I have mild water retention problem, maybe that is also why my weight is not changing, everytime I drink soda, even diet one, my weight can increase a little bit the second day. Do you suggest not intake any sodium or as low as possible ?

  • Sali

    Hello
    Iam 39 years old mother of three kids
    Iam 5.6 weighting 168lb
    I Feel i weight more than what i look
    I want to reach 150 but really iam stuck in between 171:168 for like a month now no more losing

  • Jason Mitchell

    What would you say my body fat is? I’m 5’8″ 120 lbs with a 27″ waist. I was not flexing in the front photo. I had thought around 8-9%.

  • Tuan Tran

    @michael_matthews:disqus hello sir

    • Nice work! Looks to be about 10%. Go ahead and bulk!

      • Tuan Tran

        thanks for the reply champ! i’ll go bulk for a couple of months then! have a nice day!

        • NP. Have fun with the bulk 🙂

          • Tuan Tran

            thank you @michael_matthews:disqus 🙂 how long would you recommend me to lean bulk before going on a mini-cut? I was thinking about bulking until end december

          • It’s not so much about time as it is about results. I recommend bulking to about 15-17% before cutting again.

          • Tuan Tran

            That sounds good 🙂 can you tell me what happens with ones body when you weight train og doing cardio fasted while eating in a surplus? 🙂 I was thinking if you burn more fat that way while gaining muscle because i’m eating in a surplus?

          • Yup yup!

          • Tuan Tran

            That sounds good 🙂 can you tell me what happens with ones body when you weight train og doing cardio fasted while eating in a surplus? 🙂 I was thinking if you burn more fat that way while gaining muscle because i’m eating in a surplus?@michael_matthews:disqus

          • It all comes down to energy balance, the more cardio you do, the higher you TDEE is hence allowing you to eat more to reach a 10% surplus

            Remember, too much cardio will negatively affect your ability to build muscle

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/cardio-and-muscle-growth-friends-or-foes/

  • Destiny

    I bought an accumeasurer and I am SOOO dang frustrated! I’m a 38 (almost 39) female topping the scales at 119-121. I am muscular and have the very beginnings of a 6 pack. Like I can only see it in the morning before eating! After reading TLS, I bought the caliber and my readings make no sense. 13% body fat? NO way. It’s barely on the scale at 1/8″ or 1 mm. That’s not right. I am doing 1″ up from hip. I’ve done it 20 times and it’s always the same. Any videos or sites for tips? I’ve scanned YouTube and it looks like I”m doing it correctly. Thanks for any help.
    -Destiny

    • Hey Destiny! Are you taking measurements at multiple sites for the average?
      Accumeasure has a great video:
      http://www.accumeasurefitness.com/how-to-videos-measuring-body-fat-with-an-accu-measure.html

      Pinch 2-3″ and really get in there.
      When making a second measurement at the same site, wait at least 15s.

      • Destiny

        These are great tips! Thanks! I wasn’t doing 2-3 inches. I’ll try again!

        • Good. Let us know how it goes. Definitely takes some practice.

          • Destiny

            I tried and tired and never could get an accurate measurement from that trusty ascu-measure. I ended up going somewhere and having my numbers ran by a professional. I’m 39.

          • Aw solid effort, nonetheless! Hope you can practice and nail it down eventually. Glad you got it done though!

  • Andrew

    Another great article! I’d like some help determining where my BF is sitting. I gained a lot of fat last year when I starting lifting (rookie mistake). I don’t know what percentage I ballooned to, but I’d have to estimate it was about 14-16%. An injury in January prevented me from being consistent and progressing in the gym, however I’ve been following the program and cutting for the last 9-10 weeks.

  • Nancy B

    Hi! While at 62, I’m not exactly looking for 6 pack abs. But I managed to finally drop my weight back below where it was at 52, and have started trying figure out how much more actual fat I have to lose. I was looking for the best way to get an idea at home, and the online calculators had my percentage all over the map, Seems like the caliper is the best way to go. Thanks for the detailed article. (Sorry I can’t buy through your link to Amazon, as I live in the Virgin Islands and they tack on an exorbitant shipping fee).

    FYI, I got into the habit of weighing myself daily and taking a 7-day average back in the ’90’s. I keep a spreadsheet and it takes about a minute to record it daily. It really is the best way to track weight gain/loss. Since I just keep adding on, I have an historical record, too, which includes notes on my exercise, travel and other life events. That helps me see what I did that screwed my weight up, or made it come down.

    • Excellent, Nancy! That’s a great way to track progress. Good job. Yes, calipers are your best bet. Definitely pick up a pair somehow.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    What’s up with the major shifts in the fat chart depending on age? How reliable is that? Because I finally got my accumeasure after waiting nearly 3 months for it to show up, and I feel like there’s no way I’m getting an accurate reading. I’m going up an inch from my hip, at an angle just like you show in the video, and if I seriously DIG and grab as much as I possibly can, I get a reading of 6mm! Which is 9% for my age group. If I take a more “natural” grab, it’s 4mm every time, which is 7%! I don’t think either of these could possibly be right…

  • natrally m

    Hi, the macro calculator here gives equal weighting to carbs and protein (around 140g each) with fat at around 30g with total calories of around 1450 (I’ve compared the results from the calc and by using the formulas given in the article – 1-1.2g protein per lb of body fat etc) .
    Another site (IIFYM) which asks for more detailed and specific info (eg height, actual numbers of hours of exercise – rather than a range, etc) gives me macros of 93 protein, 149 carbs, 41 fat, 1333 calories.
    And ‘The Body Coach’ Jo Wicks recommends 2 low carb meals out of 3 per day – which seems more in keeping with Muscle for Life macros.

    I’m confused as to what to do for the best! I’m a 41 year old woman weighing 116lbs, trying to quickly shed 5lbs (preferably of fat!), which sits mostly on my lower belly. I’m 5 foot 3, exercise hard 3 to 4 times a week (spin and condition, body con, circuit with an emphasis on whole body moves and using body as weight – burpees, Turkish get ups, press ups, squats, lunges, planks, body crawl, ‘suicides’ etc).

    Grateful for your input and clarification. Many thanks.
    ps I’d consider a tailored programme but want to get going yesterday! I see it takes up to a couple of weeks for a tailored programme.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey quick question. So im at 5100 calories now and i think im almost at the point where i can reliably gain weight. Would you say my bodyfat looks any different now? Also would you reccomend the weight gainer shakes from myprotein? They dont really seem to have junk ingredients. Its just its getting really hard to eat this much food.

  • sean_noonan

    hey quick quesion. what would you say my bodyfat looks like now? Im at 5100 calories a day at the moment and i think im almost at the point where i may be starting to reliable gain weight. Never thought it would take this much food though. Definately cant weight to cut when its time.

  • Meenz

    Hi their this isn’t a great pic but just wondering what you think my body fat percentage roughly would be thanks

  • Gregory

    Hey, Mike. My abs are visible without flexing only in good lighting. What could be my body fat percentage in that case?

  • Rachel

    Hey Mike, what body fat percentage would you guess most swimsuit models like the one in the picture to be?
    Thanks

  • anabel

    hi, what would you say my body fat percentage is, I need to put it in for my custom meal plan and I have no Idea. I have around 53 kg and am 163cm tall.
    I work out with heavy weights three time a week(lower body) and do 25min of HIIT sprints followed by 15 min of weightlifting for my upper body twice a week.

    thank you 🙂

    • Hmm. I’d say about 23% BF.

      Cool on all the training you’re doing. You look great!

      My pleasure. 🙂 Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

    • Yardiebwoy

      I’m no fitness expert, but you look great and shouldn’t be concerned with 23% assessment.

      • I completely agree. She looks great and that’s just my estimate based off pics. She could be leaner.

        • Yardiebwoy

          lol, you mean bony/anorexic.

  • Thomas Wang

    How detrimental is it for a teen to go on a cutting diet for 4~6 weeks? I’ve heard people on the internet screaming that it may screw my hormones up, but I just wanted to try and see if i could ever go past the 13~14% benchmark. Thanks!

    • Thomas Wang

      Oh and I’m 17, 75kg at 14ish % bf.

    • You’re not going to see much change with just 4-6 weeks. Instead of cutting, I strongly recommend that you increase your physical activity instead.

  • ADB227

    Hi Mike,
    I am a 45yr/female who is experiencing hormone issues with a drop in metabolism. I am 5′ 5 1/2″ , petite build, and went from 120 to 145 in a matter of 6 months. I am now fluctuating between 135 – 140, run and do yoga 4 days a week, one hour a day and my caloric intake is averaging around 1400.
    Why am I not losing weight?
    Is there someone I should consult for this. I never had a problem losing weight in my life if I worked out consistently. Thanks for your time.

  • Lucia

    Hi Mike!
    This article is great!! Thank you for sharing all this info 🙂 I would like to ask you one thing though.. what do you think about the SlimGuide caliper? Is it accurate enough? I just don’t feel confident with a caliper that measures jus one spot!

  • toby Cannon

    Hi Mike,

    one of the best articles so far! been watching my weight drop for the last 3 months (5 kilos lost). my aim was 10% body fat but my scales say 15 % fat…..please let me know what you think in the photos, thanks!!

    • Thanks! Nah, you’re not 15% BF. I’d say you’re about 12% BF.

      • toby Cannon

        Thanks for the info, appreciate it

  • toby Cannon

    forgot to say 41 year old, 177cm, 66 kilos 🙂

  • James

    Hey Mike!

    I’m 6’2” currently 183 pounds (morning weight). I’ve been on a cut for about 5 months and I’ve lost about 23 pounds. I’m getting kind of anxious, because after 23 pounds I still don’t see sign of abs, so that means I gotta keep loosing weight!….and for a 6’2″ guy, going into the 170’s sounds like a skinny tall guy to me, even though I already feel skinny. For years I’ve been used to be over 200 pounds and even 225 pounds. Feeling very strong in the gym and big on a shirt, but around the 20-25% Body fat.

    I just want to reach the 10% body fat for the first time in my life and finally have abs!

    So can you please guesstimate my body fat in my pictures below and tell me approximately how many more pounds I have to lose, to reach 10% body fat?

    I will really appreciate your response.

    Thanks,

    James

    • You’re doing great, James! Keep up the great work. Looks like you still have about 3-4% until you hit 10%. It’ll take as long as it needs to take. Don’t sweat looking smaller. It’s temporary, and part of the process. Plus, you’ll have the benefit of seeing all that muscle definition!

      Abs also need enough development to “pop”:

      https://legionathletics.com/best-ab-exercises/

      You got this!

      • James

        Thanks so much for responding Mike! That’s really cool!

        You’re one of the few in the fitness industry that I follow, since I can relate to you because I believe you’ve said you’re 6’2″ and natural. To me you are BIG and I wish to look that big and lean one day.

        In Youtube most fitness gurus are average height or pretty much short fucks which I can’t relate, because for us tall guys is difficult to look big while being lean. We gotta pack tons of muscle to do that.

        So I gotta a few questions, I will appreciate you answer:

        Judging by my photos…
        1. How much more pounds of muscle can I build naturally approximately?
        2. Am I gonna look like a skinny bitch when I hit 10%?
        3. What do you think of my muscle quality right now?

        Thanks so much!

        James

  • Tobin

    Hey Mike,
    I was wondering whether I should cut or bulk, for the next 8 months. I’m 5’10” 167, and I think about 12-14% bf. Is this correct? If not what do you think the proper procedure should be? (I am flexing in the picture) Thanks for the valuable information!

    • Tobin, you’re looking around 12%. Keep up the cut, and you’ll be set for a bulk soon!

      • Tobin

        If I eat a 5-10% surplus above tdee, do you think Layne Nortons 6 week bulk/2 week cut idea would have some recomp benefits or no? I would like to build muscle to increase my powerlifting numbers soon. Also, here is another picture, since the other one was probably poor quality. I am going to do whatever you suggest, since you’re the best in the business! Thanks Mike!

  • Kal-El

    Mike? What would you say my bf % is?

  • Josh

    What would you say my BF is?

  • Johnny

    How do you feel about Direct Segmental Multifrequency-BIA devices? I’ve read that these now rival the accuracy of a DEXA due to the fact it does analyze your body in 5 different segments (2 arms, 2 legs, torso) similar to DEXA versus a stand BIA device that doesn’t.

    • Haven’t looked into that. Sounds interesting. Will check it out. Thanks.

  • esarbee

    Hi Mike

    Great article and very informative. I guess BF readings can be unpredictable. I was measured at 14.7 a few months back and then increased training yet it came out at around 16.7 at my last reading … I did eat , which I don’t usually do , before being measured so was wondering what your thoughts were on flucuating numbers. I’m also fully aware not to read too much into the numbers!!

    What do you think my pic looks like?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Hey hey. Thanks!

      Yup, they can vary wildly and be completely inaccurate depending on the device you use. Even when using a proper device, the results can vary just off water retention, user error, etc.

      I’d say you’re about 17% BF.

      My pleasure! Will do. 🙂

      • esarbee

        Ok thanks. Have bought the calipers and it’s coming in at around 15%

        • Awesome!

          • esarbee

            Yeah think that’s my range , certainly seeing how hard it is to keep dropping though. Calipers have been consistent thanks to your instructions so thanks again …

          • Any time man. Happy to help.

  • George

    Hey Mike!
    How much do you think my body fat is? I can’t decide to cut or to bulk. I am doing martial arts so I don’t really want to bulk a lot, but i want at least my abs to show more.
    Thanks, keep up the good work.
    -George

  • Brofessor

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been following your principles (regarding dieting and training) over the last six months and I’ve managed to get fairly lean. Wondering how far away I am from 10%bf. What do you think? Thanks!

    • Hey man, nice work! You’re looking right about there at around 11%.

  • Gremier Alemany

    Hey Mike, having a hard time with my lower abs. Can’t get rid of the pudge. Any ideas for me? What do you think my BF is?

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike, I don’t know if I increased calories to quickly over the last week. Would you say I should maybe cut for a couple weeks and go back to bulking? It’s just it took forever to gain but now I have an idea of where my maintenance truly is.

  • Jas

    HEy Mike. Please

  • Jas

    Hey i cant upload my pics. Please check. thanks

    • Have you tried the little picture button on the bottom left of the text box where you type replies?

  • King

    Dear Mike,
    I have been eating a very clean diet. I workout every day at home. I also go tot the gym twice a week to do a full body workout. I don’t eat fast food and sodas. I don’t even drink alcohol. Please see my photos and tell me where do I stand in terms of my body fat percentage. One of them is a relaxed pose and the other shows my abdominal region flexed. I don’t know how long would it take for me to see my abs. I am so lean. I look quite skinny in clothes. P.S. I am being 100% natural. I mean not even protein supplements. I understand that my protein intake is very less as I mostly rely on eggs, lentils etc. for my protein intake. I also eat butter and ghee for fat. How long do you think will it take for my abs to be visible? Thanks,

    • Looks like about 14%. Losing about 1lbs/week is a good target.

  • Kal-El
  • sean_noonan

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5c4048ea02e5b970330d7b4c90f2d75f0f27915247b57c09feaca21e9622c47c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/956df2d4aeb7d0c81228a56fade37fcadeed0795992a3df84b952b0089235d39.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e40beeb4c8e62b7b8969f77f45008f8ca04279be102ff2e76bb5ef5c05c63395.png

    hey i feel like i maybe should start a cut now. Ive been bulking for around 8 months. Some of these picture were after i ate a bunch of food so i dont know if that will make it look like higher bodyfat but would you say it would a good idea to cut for a bit

    • Yup time to cut. You can push it another 1%BF or so.

      That’s a nice long 8 month bulk! Genetics will play a role. But really, it does take time. For the photo you attached, 2-3 years is definitely doable.

      • sean_noonan

        Should I start cutting now?

      • sean_noonan

        Got up to a 420 x 4 deadlift though so I definitely built up some strength. Just hoping to keep it now

      • sean_noonan

        hey so i was already gaining weight at my current intake Would you say If I took off 25% of my calories i should start my cut there?

      • sean_noonan

        hey i took off around 22% of my calories and i did 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight. Would you say this is good for now?

        • Recalculate your TDEE and chop off 20-25%. Same cutting guidelines apply:

          1.2g/lbs body weight protein, 20% fat, rest into carbs.

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

          • sean_noonan

            wait how do i recalculate my tdee

          • sean_noonan

            hey so i finsished my bulk at 5000 calories And i cut of like 22% and got 3900 and did the macro split. Would you reccomend to take off more calories?

            Im confused about the calculator though because it says my calories should be like low 2000’s and i feel id lose too much weight doing that. SO im not 100% sure what to do

          • Jump right into the cutting targets. As long as you inputted good data, the calculator will spit out pretty good approximations. Adjust based on results. As long as you continue to lift heavy and get enough protein in, you’ll be fine.

          • sean_noonan

            wait so even from 5000 cal to 2200 it feels like alot to take off

          • sean_noonan

            is this a normal amount of calories to take off on a cut i just wanna make sure before i do anything

          • sean_noonan

            Sorry for all the messages but Would you say I should be able to maintain strength from dropping down from 5000 to 2200. I’m kinda unsure on what to do and I don’t wanna mess things up by either eating to much or too little

          • sean_noonan

            I’ve been kinda unsure with my intake over the past couple days so I’ve been changing my macros a lot and I just wanna be more consistsistent so I don’t mess it up

          • sean_noonan

            Wait so is 1 pound a week good for cutting and if I lose more how many calories would you recommend to add. Also is this a normal drop just kinda nervous about dropping calories so much especially all the way from 5000 but if it’s necessary I will. Sorry for the spam just have never really ate this little calories.

          • Yeah 1lbs/week. Add 100 back if you’re dropping too fast.

            Perfectly normal, and if you happen to have a higher TDEE than what the calculator spits out, then adjust based on results–same as always.

          • sean_noonan

            so just give it a week than adjust

          • sean_noonan

            hey for bodyfat would you say 16 is accurate and also should i do hiit?

          • Yeah, start doing HIIT. To speed up the cut.

          • Matthew Miller

            Hey Mike! I have a question about when the best time to cut is. I’ve been following your program for a year now and I’ve seen amazing results and I love how simple it is to follow but I’m still perfecting my diet and what works for me since in the past I was relatively lean.

            In your book you say the best time to cut is when you’re 13% body fat. I just don’t know if I’ve reached that point yet and I’m also very squared to cut again because I hate how loose my pants get and I start feeling so small 🙁 haha. I’m gonna attach a few pictures because I’m not sure if it’s time yet.

            If you would let me know that would be amazing. Obviously lighting is misleading!

            Thank you! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d6925f4aaea5654c16f07fb0e64461fa16cd052d746816d4ce81e66e15aa650.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e98eb862aadb4742b2652b7ed30c82a22ec9bd4d3fe5290e98027763c992efd.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/12d486748b0c34ddd8a6210def6d79e9aa6994a671ab2dbb68afc0dd20413af7.jpg

          • Looking pretty lean at roughly 12-13% there! Looking smaller is a normal part of the process and only temporary. You can cut down to 10% right now before bulking, unless you’re already in a bulking cycle…which in that case, keep going until you hit 15-17% before dropping it down to 10%.

          • Yes, and HIIT is a great idea.

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i ended up doing 2300 because sometimes im active doing other stuff other then cardio and lifting so ill just give it a week then adjust as needed. Also would you reccomend to start the cut with hiit or should i add that later?

          • Either works, but I’d start introducing it now to work on your cardio conditioning.

          • sean_noonan

            would you say 3 or 4 times a week is good? i Started doing some already just not sure how much because i dont wanna mess with my strength

          • Totally fine. Won’t mess with your strength.

          • sean_noonan

            Would you recommend to give 3000 to the end of the week in just kinda confused what to do

          • You can try that, since your TDEE is higher than what the calculator says. Again, adjust based on results.

          • sean_noonan

            Ok.

          • sean_noonan

            How much should I take off if I don’t lose weight

          • sean_noonan

            hey last message for a while. I know ive kinda spammed recently but would you say it would be a good idea to drop back maybe to 2400. I feel like im wasting my time giving 3000 a week when i could be losing fat and simply add back if i lose too much

          • sean_noonan

            sorry for all the messages recently i will back off for a bit

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i ended up doing 2600 but ive lost like 6 pounds which i think some is water weight but i think i might need to add back some calories

          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan
          • That’s pretty fast. Add back 100 for sure. How’s your strength?

            Photo looks like about 14%.

          • sean_noonan

            its ok its especially bench i struggle with but deadlift and squat havent had to much trouble. Would you say 200 is too much? And thanks for responding quickly.

          • sean_noonan

            bench ive lost like 5 pounds in strength. Im alot better on deadlift and squat though.

          • OK. Add 200 cals back.

          • sean_noonan

            Alright thanks

          • sean_noonan

            Then maybe take off 100 if I don’t lose weight?

          • sean_noonan

            hey would you say i should add another 200 if my weight is still going down alot like this just incase it does

          • Yeah, adjust as needed.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            would you say its ok to add 200 calories again tomorrow if i lose another 2 pounds in the morning? Also would you say muscle loss would be a risk or maybe i should start at a new intake like with alot more? Im really confused about what to do with this cut and it just seems really odd im still losing weight so rapidly at 2800 especially with no cardio

          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan

            Yeah Sam k said to try 3000 for a week since it was such a big drop im kinda confused about what to do with my intake now

          • sean_noonan

            I’m being told 2 things I just don’t wanna mess up the cut

      • sean_noonan

        Also how low would you recomend to drop the fat because at the peak of my bulk i was at 129g

  • Chanale Janean Carter

    I have a serious question. I have read books and I am not sure if I am just completely illiterate or what. I weigh 160lbs, I am 5’1, my BMI when I google calculate it is 29 so I am like obese. I am ready to not be but get caught up in the same negative cycle of bs, Please help me figure out the calories and macros I need as well as what kind of lifting and amount of cardio I need.

  • sean_noonan

    hey mike, what bf would you say i look like now? Also my weight has seemed to go down like crazy. I havent even done any cardio which is weird (kinda got nervous to do it as my weight went down alot) and im already eating 1000 more calories then the macro calculator said to lose weight and its still going down rapidly. Im not sure what to do Im probably just gonna have a cheat meal today and go over maybe 500-600 just for today but this just seems crazy. Ive maintained almost all strength but is this normal? it just seems so weird. i actually gained 5 lbs on squat, bench is the same or at least 5 lbs lighter and OHP ive only lost 1 rep and weighted chinup is same and deadlift is the same actually 5 pounds more than the video i uploaded. Im just not sure what to do right now I guess add another 200 maybe 300? maybe This is water weight?to.https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/50e0295e60583ba2eba6adc137414d71e707e651ed6d1148bf2911bfbb00beff.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/09f17732519153c04becbd7bc77f6b2db0b212fe23e949243831d815f7021d86.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d3d72e76f67d678d102b8f2045ba99d01d595728657dc291edd7b155f4a72f8.jpg

  • sean_noonan
  • sean_noonan
    • sean_noonan
      • Yeah, they happen. Water weight, stomach contents. As long as the general trend is going down, you’re all good.

        • sean_noonan

          Would you say this looks like a good speed though

    • 12-13% or so. Just a bit more.

      • sean_noonan

        Ok

      • sean_noonan

        Should I add back some calories or does the weight trend look ok?

        • Looking better now.

          • sean_noonan

            ok so stay on the same intake

          • yep!

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            hey would you say its normal to be kinda dissproportionate with legs at this point. I feel like my upper body is coming in alot slower. And also would you reccomend to continue to do reverse pyramid training i wanna be able to make as much gains ass possible my next bulk

          • Yep! Add some cardio.

            Yes and no. Could be some muscle loss, could be insufficient workout fuel and recovery.

          • sean_noonan

            my macros now are 250p 410c and 40f fat at 300 cal. Would you say I should change anything? Its only been 5lbs drop on flat bench though and every other push movement hasn’t really changed except for reps. by workout fuel do you mean preworkout and should I change volume I’m kinda confused

          • As long as you’re making good progress and not continuing to experience a drop in performance, you’re doing fine.

            Well, if you don’t have good rest and nutrition you can’t expect to have good performance right?

          • sean_noonan

            yeah

          • sean_noonan

            the only thing i really struggled with was flat bench really. before was like 210 for 2 or 3 (had added weight that day so didnt know how many reps i could get i think i may have gotten 2) and now is 205 for 2-3 so i think its 5 lb drop rougly

          • Awesome! Sounds like you’re doing pretty well. When deeper into a cut, it does get harder.

          • sean_noonan

            for cardio would you say 3x a week is good

          • Happy to help! Yes, 3x/week cardio is super.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            hey would you say reverse pyramid training is a bad idea I know kinobody reccomends it and on my next bulk i just wanna be able to gain as much muscle as i can and do it properly. Ive been doing this so far i just wanna make sure i dont screw it up and if i shouldnt then stop now.

          • Well, you can do BBLS if you’ve met the prereqs:

            Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
            Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
            Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
            Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

            I’m not too sure of your background and the context here, but you could probably benefit, based on the numbers I remember you pulling on the deadlift. Check this out and it will help you make a decision:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-pyramid-training-workout/

          • sean_noonan

            wait so its reverse pyramid training is beyond bigger leaner stronger

          • Yep!

          • sean_noonan

            i guess i could maybe hit the bench and military press numbers the ill try it

          • Definitely!

          • sean_noonan

            i just wanna build a good physique though and just do whatever it takes to get there naturally. I feel like i need more size in upper body though. Also one more thing would you say that reall developement and density takes longer to come in, Like is that something that will come after 2+ years?

          • Yeah, it can take some time to fill out. You can make solid progress 2+ years and get to a physique similar to the pic you sent awhile ago.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            i think i might be lean enough to bulk though. I weighed 185 now so im not sure how much longer to cut to

          • If you’re sitting at 10 or 11%, go for it!

          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan

            Wouldn’t you say I look like 10% ?

          • sean_noonan

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b0615f70a5b5ee3416ff8d4993edd782cfd2b6fdea886fa1c8e537017867d03f.jpg

            Here’s another with different lighting just wanna make sure I’m lean enough

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i checked ive hit them only for squat and deadlift

          • sean_noonan

            I really don’t wanna lose muscle I’m notsure if I should change anything

          • sean_noonan

            i really just wanna make sure i dont lose muscle

          • sean_noonan

            thanks agian for responding wuickly

  • Joshua89

    Hi, Mike do you know what my fat percentage is in these pics. As you can see I am a quite a mesomorph (I think that i have at least decent genetics) with no weight lifting history. I am 20years old. 6’4 and weigh in around 215 pounds. I have a little bit naturally wider hips. http://m.imgur.com/a/VzBO8

    I bought and read your book. I got hang about everything from calories, macros, weightlifting and HIIT. I just cant determene my body fat percentage.

    1. Is a calorice deficit of 25% to much for a begginer. I have never done any strenght training so i am a begginer. Would i be able to build muscle and build muscle at the same time?

    2. I bought a few supplements that my budget allowed me to
    Fat burners: ECA, Green tea extract and BCAA for fasted training
    Others: Whey, Fish Oil, Multi, Creatine and Beta Alanine. I think that with this i have the basics covered

    3. How long will i take to get to 10% if i lose 2 pound every week ( with ECA of course.

    4. After i am done with my transformation I will send you the pics.

    Best regards

  • Dave Rosati

    Hi Mike,

    Is it possible to just have “thick skin” that prevents accurate bodyfat percentage readings?

    I just finished an 8-week cut during which I lost about 12 lbs., going from 168 lbs. to 156 lbs. (I am a 5’6″ male). During this cut, I kept protein high and was in the gym lifting heavy many hours per week so I didn’t really lose much in the way of strength/numbers on my lifts (though I did of course lose a little bit on some lifts). In terms of appearance, I definitely got more muscular looking and vascular, though in terms of absolute size my various measurements did go down a little bit (presumably largely due to loss of subcutaneous fat surrounding the muscles though). I went from having the faint outline of abs to having full abs without flexing and have pec and delt striations and very visible obliques when flexing. While I’m not new to weightlifting, I’m new to lifting heavy so it’s even possible that I could even have had newbie gains on my side allowing me to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

    Despite all of this, my bodyfat percentage as measured with the one-point AcuMeasure caliper you recommend barely budged. I went from a 13.7% reading to a 12.7% reading, which was basically a 1mm change. I cross-checked these measurements with bioelectrical impedance machine and Bod Pod tests at the beginning and end and they roughly agreed with the caliper readings. In the end I was still at 12.7% bodyfat despite all the visible progress described above and losing 12 lbs. on the scale, which would suggest major muscle loss and minimal fat loss.

    I just want to know how trustworthy all of these bodyfat measurements are and whether I did in fact lose this much muscle during this cut. All other signs (strength, mirror) point to no, but when every single bodyfat percentage test tells you the same thing, it makes it hard to question them.

  • sean_noonan
  • sean_noonan

    Hey I got a quick question. I found a pic from last summer last summer and I’m just wondering what bodyfat I looked like here I feel like I may have let bodyfat get a little high on my previous bulk. Also would you say it’s possible maybe with my metabolism to stay lean while bulking like maybe just add calories as needed for strength gain and would you recomend what Greg o Gallagher says is true about staying lean while putting on muscle ? I really wanna do a successfull bulk but I don’t wanna fee really gross in the end like I did last time. I do feel like I have a better idea of my metabolism now though https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ac8d8d7b21d9ff89c233e5d24cda35fbb15fb9d57add4e25c1f150727fb14fab.jpg

    • sean_noonan

      Spell check screwed me up so many times it made me say picnic room instead of pic from

    • sean_noonan

      Here’s the weight trend last time I was around 4000 cal so I think that might be a sweet spot https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6b1b8c5bc226b96f6c1ee735464316b6065c1c3de3ff6167a424d20cc147596c.jpg

    • You can do it that way, sure.

      • sean_noonan

        Also one last thing then I actually will back off. What bodyfat would you say I looked like in the pic in July just curious and is it normal to feel fatigued easier towards the end of s workout after a cut because I’ve. Wen having a hard time with strength towards the end of a workout. And I’m definitely ok with gaining Some fat on the bulk I just wanna make sure I do it properly

        • Well…you are pulling and pushing more weight than before, so it would make sense. As long as you’re steadily gaining weight each week while making strength gains, you’re doing it right.

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I guess so

          • sean_noonan

            Plus i couldn’t gain strength while cutting on bench

      • sean_noonan

        Like I don’t want to sacrifice muscle growth because I’m to worries about staying lean though

  • Harald Kroiss

    Great Article! Thank you for the write. 🙂

    Altough i have one question, when i go for your 4 measurements is there a specific time its should and shouldn’t be done? I mean are the skinfolds subjective to water retention or something else? what about waist measurement? On full or empty stomache, does it matter? Morning or evening does it matter?

    I plan on doing the fat,waist and pictures on Sunday evening before i go to the gym every week. Is this okay?

    • I definitely prefer all my clients to take all their measurements first thing in the morning (after restroom). This takes stomach contents and any bloating out of the picture, and is easy to keep up the consistency.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey what bodyfat would you say I look like now? Seems ridiculous but I think I got leaner even on 3700 and I haven’t done cardio in like 2 weeks it’s weird.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d235faf920e7e411e0570cf4dea3a607a61954062976a97e29d880cb38cc638e.jpg

  • sean_noonan
  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike I was wondering what you would estimate my body fat at? Also would u suggest cutting or bulking .. pictures are flexing and not flexing https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a478117b96d1a5945b4edf79474f094f339713e753b11fa40b3c155f7e6a9b03.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8fabd28e1d398fe9c07c049ad630cd4151ec5f99b345045368f5548a70532af9.jpg

  • Went to YouTube to refresh myself on my Accu-Measure (I use it weekly, but I always like to refresh myself when I sense I’m at the end of either a bulk or a cut) and, lo and behold, I found this little nugget. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU8Wkgxfzf0 😛 Better explanation than I’ve seen from a lot of other videos! You should be linking your YouTube videos more often!

    • Haha great! Glad to hear it helped.

      • How much does posture affect the Accu-Measure reading? I’m guessing if I’m slouching, the fat will curl up and I could get a higher reading. So do you measure while you’re standing straight and rigid, or does it really not make much difference?

        • As long as you’re pinching the same amount of skin, it won’t change a whole lot, but can definitely get thrown off if you’re not careful. So, don’t slouch haha just stand up straight and be normal.

          • Thanks, Roger! One thing: I didn’t slouch (stood up straight) and measured around 6-7mm (sometimes 6, sometimes 7, and that’s been the trend the last few days), which is about 10% BF. But I look at myself in the mirror, and I don’t really think I’m at 10%. I have some abs showing, but nothing like the pictures posted here or on a Google search. Maybe my caliper is off and I should grab a new one? Or maybe my abs are too underdeveloped right now? (I have a hard time building muscle, which I attribute to insomnia/sleep apnea.) Should I give myself more cutting time and try again in a week, or should I go for broke and start RDing?

            I’d say I resemble most the 10-14% guy at http://ketogains.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/BF-Male.jpg. Then again, I have a lot of Sasquatch hair there that maybe I should shave to get a better indication. 😛

          • Hmm could be any combo of user measurement error, needing more abs development, or even lighting. If you’re still making fat loss progress, I say keep going until you see good abs definition like in the photo above and in the article at 10%, and then start the RD. Sounds like you’re pretty close anyway, so even cutting at BMR for 2 weeks to sprint for the finish line wouldn’t be a problem.

          • Yeowch. Bringing me down to BMR is gonna hurt. That’s about 1,700 cals (150 lb. guy doing about 5-6 hours of exercise per week). But okay. I allotted my macros to 45% carbs and protein (which gives me about 1.2g of protein per lb. of weight) and 10% for fat. Does that sound good?

            Don’t think lighting is an issue. I do my measurements in the bathroom, lights on.

          • Yeah, it’s not a fun thing to sustain. But, gives a nice final fast shred. 10% is way low for fats, though. Would definitely bump that up to 20%. Now BMR is just an option, but you can still get away with the tried-and-true standard methods of increasing exercise (HIIT/cardio) and/or reducing cals to get that fat loss nudge.

            In any case, keep cutting if it doesn’t look like 10-11%.

          • Done. This is gonna hurt. Can’t argue with the results, but hoochimama if this takes longer than a couple weeks….

          • If you feel it’ll take longer than that to wrap up your cut, stick to the standard protocol of increasing HIIT and reducing cals (not going below BMR). Keep up the great work!

          • Thanks. Already increased my HIIT by a session and my cals are at BMR now. I figured time to stop being vague and get a real assessment. Here’s a pic. What do you think I’m at right now? Like I said, Accu-Measure says around 10% (6-7mm) but the mirror says otherwise. Not sure if this is underdeveloped abs or just a bit too much body fat. I’m trying to be as gentle with the caliper as possible when I take my measurements.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ca87558096df37e3e3e7b30df8f9ad42efe855593efb5e4ec897d59a1b43dd59.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a1c42bc4051d2b34a28880f7c56d59efd5478d0835950686126937c7721bf825.jpg

            (Never mind the bathroom clutter. 😛 And sorry. Try and rotate as I might, the pic is still landscape orientation.)

          • Huh. You’re pretty lean, but I’m surprised the abs aren’t making a bigger appearance. Does look like a combo of needing more abs development and the fact that you are holding some fat in that area covering up the muscles. I wanna say 11-12%.

          • Ok, so I’ve been down to 1,700 cals a day (BMR) and I don’t see any noticeable improvement in the mirror. I’m essentially at the same place. The caliper says I’m down to 6mm.

            As a background, I’m down to 146 lbs. I’m going to the gym 5 times a week (5 hrs) and using the 1-Year Challenge to outline my workouts. I’ve been doing that since New Year’s 2016, so I’ve been on the 1-Year Challenge for 14 months and now just finishing up phase 1 for the second time (I’m starting a deload week today). I do HIIT cardio (burpees and walking in the winter because I hate to run in the snow) two times a week for 20 minutes each session. I’m not sure if my schedule can fit another session of cardio, and I’m hesitant since it might be too much if I’m not gaining any muscle in my bulks. Plus, it’s really hard to dedicate about 75% of your calories to 2x the preworkout (weights and then cardio) and 1x the postworkout (weights) twice a week. I essentially skip lunch and have egg whites as a “dinner” since all my carbs are used up by the time I’m done my workout meals. On a weight-only day, I skip lunch so I can eat dinner.

            My macros are 35% carbs (149g), 20% fat (38g), and 45% protein (191g) (protein in grams is about 1.3x my weight in pounds). I suffer from sleep apnea, which might be getting in the way of my muscle growth. Anyway, my weight right now is slightly less than the last time I was at the end of a cut. Any thoughts here? Are my abs just really underdeveloped and I should start RDing or another bulk? Or do I painfully have another week or two left of cutting? (I’ve been at or near 10% right now for about a month, trying to melt off the last few ounces.) I’ll post an updated pic when I get a moment. A little frustrated, so looking for any advice on how to tweak things. It’s hard slogging it out for 6 hours a week and getting little in the way of the mirror.

          • Ok, so it’s been almost two weeks and I don’t see any noticeable improvement in the mirror. I’m essentially at the same place as last pic, but the caliper says I’m down to 6mm.

            As a background, I’m down to 146 lbs. (from 160lb. when I started cutting). I’m going to the gym 5 times a week (an hour each time) and following the 1-Year Challenge. I’ve been doing that since New Year’s 2016, so I’ve been on the 1YC for 14 months and now just finishing up phase 1 for the second time (and starting a deload week today). I do HIIT (burpees and walking inside in the winter because I hate to sprint in the snow) two times a week for 20 minutes each session. I’m not sure if my schedule can fit another session of cardio, and I’m hesitant since it might be too much cardio if I’m not making gains while I bulk. Plus, on cardio/weight days, it’s really hard to dedicate about 75% of your calories to 2 preworkout meals (weights and then cardio) and 1x the postworkout (weights) twice a week. I essentially skip lunch and have egg whites as a “dinner” since all my carbs are used up by the time I’m done my workout meals. On a weights-only day, I skip lunch but have a midsized dinner.

            At BMR, I’m eating 1,700 cals right now. My macros are 35% carbs (149g), 20% fat (38g), and 45% protein (191g) (protein in grams is about 1.3x my weight in pounds). When I’m bulking, I eat 2,800 cals: 50% carbs (350g), 20% fat (62g), 30% protein (210g) (protein is about 1 to 1.1x my weight in pounds).

            I suffer from sleep apnea, which might be getting in the way of my muscle growth/fat loss. Anyway, my weight right now is around the same as the last time I was at the end of a cut. Are my abs just really underdeveloped and I should start RDing? Or do I have another week or two left of cutting? (I’ve been at or near 10% right now for about a month, trying to melt off the last few ounces.) Not sure if I can take another week or two of skipping lunches and sometimes dinners. And, if I’m not making gains in my bulks, should I be eating more than 2,800 cals? (I came to that number using the calorie tool on this site: TDEE + 15%. Maybe I have an above-average metabolism, but I do gain some fat at 2,800 cals.)

            Here’s an updated pic. A little frustrated, so looking for any advice on how to tweak things and get noticeable results for all my effort. It’s hard slogging it out for 6 hours a week and getting little in the way of the mirror. Thanks.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9a7beae60d1a61bffd5ee1ef9cc9334b66beb01c4386418663db0890843015b5.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/da691de6dc4de323612eca21dc71f7350f0510d8526b9599801f10be84583be0.jpg

          • Oh man that is rough… Possible to increase HIIT sessions by 5-10 min? We’re looking at an RD if no more fat loss is happening.

          • How’s this plan sound? I’m on a deload week right now, so I’m a little hesitant to start RDing on the same week my gymload is lightened. I’ll increase my cardio to three 25-minute sessions and see if there’s any further fat loss? Or would the lightened gymload kind of mess up those results anyway? Should I just start RDing?

            I can kind of see how I could have underdeveloped abs too, though. Looking at me, seems my chest and arms are decent, but not too developed. The abs look like their development is falling in line.

          • Ah gotcha. I’d just RD.

          • Thanks. Doing that now. Backing up a bit in the discussion, what reason would there be for me to not see much results? Maybe I wasn’t eating enough when I was bulking at the top of my cals? I’d calculated (using the site) that my TDEE was 2,500, so I used 2,800 as my bulking cals. Should I stop RDing at 2,800/day, or should I test myself at 3,000 to see how things go?

          • Your metabolism eventually catches up with your deficit and it gets harder and harder to lose fat. Totally normal.

            RD up to your TDEE based on current weight, bf%, and exercise. Then, tack on the 10% surplus.

          • By “not see much results,” I meant, when I finished my latest cut, I seemed to be at around the same place I was at when I finished the previous cut, which told me I didn’t gain muscle while bulking or I’d lost it while cutting. Sorry for not being clear. So I was wondering if I should still stop at 2,800 cals/day (what I ate at the top of my bulk the last time) or should I try to eat bigger? Maybe test the waters at 3,000 or whatever? Maybe my TDEE is higher than the average, so what I thought was a 10% surplus was less? Problem is, if I’m wrong and I eat 3,000 cals/day when I don’t need to be, I’ll just be putting on fat faster than I should. Just trying to figure out what I did wrong last time so I don’t make the same mistake.

          • Sorry. Wasn’t clear. I mean that I didn’t really develop the muscle I probably should have on my last bulk, when I was at 2,800 cals/day. Does that mean I should test the waters at, say, 2,900-3,000 cals/day, and see if my development falls in place? I would, of course, RD up to that first, not just jump immediately to that intake.

          • Hmm. There are a number of possible reasons why you didn’t make the gains you should’ve. How much weight were you gaining weekly on your previous bulk and what did your macros look like?

          • Not sure. The previous one would have been my first bulk (after a cut from 30% to 10%). I wasn’t sure what my TDEE was, though, so I was testing things out. My weight wobbled around 148 lbs. to 155 lbs. while I was finding my TDEE and, when I finally think I hit my bulking cals, my weight seemed steady around 155 lbs. and didn’t go above that. Not sure how much was muscle, how much was fat, and how much was water retention. I was also a rookie and didn’t take the proper pics. My weights are hard to go by, it seems, and I use the caliper to dictate when to start bulking and cutting phases. I always chalked the inconsistencies up to water retention or if I had a big meal on some nights before I weigh (I weigh myself each morning).

            I had the same macros as I use for my bulks, though: fats 20%, carbs 50%, and protein 30%.

          • All right. Let’s do the bulk this time by the book. You should see better results this time around.

          • Sounds good. Wish me luck!

          • You got this 🙂

          • If your weight isn’t increasing at 0.5-1lbs/week, bump up the cals. That could take you past 2800 easily.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I’m really sorry for all the messages and i can’t thank you enough for the help but what’s really unclear to me is. Is it OK to gain more than 1 pound a week and should I be worried about having gained 15 pounds. This honestly has been driving me crazy and I really wanna make sure i do this correctly https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5bddad07eca1872ca4d6ebddf0eae550f88cac2ae36a3eed0b68940f09b80a16.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/46277404f7e11d24e52a4ab70e9999124fcdef5ae43ebe8317bd9070845e68c4.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5b25c8ebe549f69800986364f08de67e67dac8e2519f7d5b6b13361213de3847.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a3993110caabe35ccf1c21475cf06cdce61661359d62e2efabb71185acd4c528.jpg

    • I know you do have a tendency to carry a ton of water weight. Taking that into consideration with a 10 week bulk, it would look like you gained a tad fast. Take off the 100 and let’s see how it plays out.

      Also, let’s take this back to email for a continuous exchange.

      • sean_noonan

        Alright thanks man

  • Ryan Bray

    Hello,
    Thank you so much for the article. Can you tell me what my Body Fat % is? Also, if i should cut or bulk next. Thank you very much. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fc440bcb93a8bffa556eb5da6d06e0988b5b407eb60410ee4c64b6f7259c43a6.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike I think I may have bulked a little too quick and that 4800 even with my metabolism might have been a little high.

    Im curious what would you say my BF looks like now and what would you recommend to do I’m kinda nervous about this and if I do. It I really wanna dial the next bulk properly

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dbcf16f2e404784994f66dfde9b8d0140efc610f9ce5831ff6e2d042e535125d.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9c963c516644906e413f1e834298607019096060c5c03f03b34b42558fca04ee.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/afdcf2e949d7b8c976b11c02c9fc5643671130183f6f6077ca1c3d7bc183bb78.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey my weight has still bumped up and I’m weighing another 4 pounds heavier I think I kinda bulked way to fast. I’ve taken off 100 I’m not sure if at this point I should cut actually. I’m not sure what to do I think bulking maybe with a lower intake.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/23c39167d84d206d55d89a92de9fab3045cd50556d58d0216d6b39916c00c470.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4df873e26f1372fa458f0596ed92045055e50b60acec4f3b87d0ce86513b1ac6.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike I’m sorry for so many messages. It my weight won’t stop bumping up I do t know if I should stop bulking but it has me really nervous about this bulk. I’ve taken off 300 but I’m. It sure if I should take off more. I think a lower intake next time would be a good idea though https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f98aaf669798282ee4bb67be79f2c11f26ccf9cfad122ec88207a481407804c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/62b50d441a0952d77f3e79f014a9be030911cd03e947c1c9b0784f8909404705.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/52a5b88455d5a3031553c0da735082c28834cb9656040a0c4140a5b6bcefd188.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a54048b9de93124db2dc2befcbffcc03506beafc8901078d35d0e90b2c0853f8.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike I got a question. I know I’ve asked a lot but my weight still won’t stop bumping up and it has me really nervous this bulk isn’t going so good. I’ve taken off another 100 and I’m not really sure about taking off more. Can you help me with what to do I really wanna dial this correctly. It does mean a lot that you care so much to help and thanks again.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/52a5b88455d5a3031553c0da735082c28834cb9656040a0c4140a5b6bcefd188.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/01da68ed68ee4ae4585c8f34440f2f2f45814383c129761ed2b0975aea36581e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/07f7c48cb2996d2878a635c7e2b6a8338fc0a711cc5f2f2be333be3ab567b3f7.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d50ce99fd42c067d07088677f80f2ef7bc11366e609b3b494d2a3d1be93ae4f.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Would you say my body fat looks alright for 2 months of bulking and I should still be able to by miss out on gains even though I gained a little fast in the beginning?

    I’ve been able so far since the progression started to add 2.5 lbs to my bench every week on flat and incline so hopefully I can keep progressing like this

    The weight trend definitely seems better as well. Can’t wait to keep adding strength hoping the size and density will come in my physique eventually.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b85a7c5db168e2a9ae42560f77e12724e3d5158249afbfaf79f3c9082974c7c.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/32e7d38dbc4eb0a2ad56fa03c96d52ddf2946d50d78e7a2ccb7f5375a38127a8.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2ab39d2f4e0ea6703dbcee82712cf7e9681aad3ec6f4787c699c77e1dd74d403.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2bc3474a854473a7c6506cc056e63c7fc3d6234e5de27e1bb41aae4ca086112d.jpg

    • Looks good!

      • sean_noonan

        Would you say it’s ok to still go heavy on deadlifts if I wanna work on my bench right now? If I was to really push it and try to set new PRs would that affect my bench strength?

        • Definitely!

          • sean_noonan

            Ok I’ll probably take another week to dial in form and then I’ll start adding weight. Also I think I need to add 100 Cals because the weight trends plateaued for 2 weeks so hopefully that will get things progressing with my bench and all

          • Sounds good!

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I weighed 191 so I def can add some calories. Also this might sound crazy but my appetite is so big currently I think I might Need to up volume of food I legit couldnt weight to the morning. I had to eat at 1 am I guess it’s better to have this isuee then The other way around haha hoping my appetite doesn’t die off like it did last time

          • sean_noonan

            the thing is my weight jumped down to 191 so I’m kinda confused do I look to gain from 191? do I forget about all the other weeks? this is so confusing haha. maybe add like 35 carb and see how it goes

          • I’d start with 100 and work your way up.

            You can if you want, but the BLS style will still serve you well. I’m telling you, just start the 30-day chest routine.

          • sean_noonan

            ok

          • sean_noonan

            So maybe drop a little weight enough to 3 sets of 4 and move on from there? And yeah ill just do the chest routine and thanks for responding.

          • sean_noonan

            yeah ill do the 30 day chest routine. Maybe try and drop the weight on bench so I can hit 3 sets of 4.

            also don’t lift with a fever (I attempted that yesterday and it did not go well at all I’m hoping that’s not my normal strength because it would suck to randomly lose 10 pounds on bench)

          • Awesome!

          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan
          • Looks like it’s trending down with the cal decrease. 4500-4600 looks to be a good spot right now.

          • sean_noonan

            alright

  • Calm Down

    Excellent, excellent, excellent article. Well written and extremely informative. I started eating healthy (plant-based diet) in Dec. 2016 and dropped lbs without working out. Now, I am ready to begin 30-min of intentional physical activity and build muscle. Also, ready to set goals and measure progress.

    • Thanks! Nice work with your progress so far. It’s only going to get better once you implement the exercise 🙂 Keep it up!

  • Lisa

    Great article, very informative, thank you. I have noticed that when i use the hand held monitors vs the scales with the foot monitor that the hand held gives around 3% higher reading than the foot monitor. Having read this article i can see that this may be due to more muscle in my legs than in my upper body. Could it also be the fact that the skin on my hands is rougher than on on my feet and i have a few hard spots of skin on my hands from lift weights or would the difference be negligible? Would be it more accurate to take an average of these to readings then? Many thanks

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the article!

      Could be a number of reasons. If you are unable to have a good caliper measurement performed, then your best bet would be to take the average and refer to the photos above to make a best-guess estimate.

      • Lisa

        Thank you for your reply. The feet reading gives around 18% and the hand held at the gym gives around 21% so il take an average and watch for trends. By the pics above i think it would be the 18-20% so at least that is around the 18-21 readings im getting. Thank you again

  • Very comprehensive post!

    • Thanks!

      • I’m halfway to getting my personal training certificate. I’ll have to use this process with my clients. I order those calipers through your link.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey i got a quick question.

    I honestly don’t know what to do at this point. I’m thinking it may just be best to cut down to 10% and redo the bulk considering where my bf is .

    I lightened the flat bench around 20 lbs from my last workout since I was unable to hit my reps with 205. It was weird even with 195 I couldn’t even get 3 reps. There has to be something going wrong right now especially considering i had 207.5 x 4 a couple of weeks ago and may have easily had 210 or 215 considering how easy it felt.

    Can you help me with another bulk to make sure I do it right? And maybe start a cut for now?

    I feel like by the time I get my strength back to where it was my body fat will be to high to keep bulking. Im not trying to sound negative but I just find this very disappointing. Something Im doing has to be messing this up but I just cant really figure it out. My last deload was around a week ago so I know its not that.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd3240fda304319cf521aa6bf00def202cef32915699e5b7f4628a73cc1f9428.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I got a quick question.

    I can’t really tell if I’m 10% BF yet. I’m weighing around 191 and I remember last time I was 10% I was weighing like low 180s.

    Do you think I have too much more to go? I’m kinda confused.

    If I’m ten percent now then I don’t know if that would mean I finished my last cut below ten percent?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cee2c2df0eca7d000f943bc4c5444fefd143dbe59976f8167a8d1276bc9d6eb4.jpg

    The right pic is now and the left was last December

  • Mia Gamboa

    Hi Mike, a buddy of mine is a Navy vet and he said that the way they calculate body fat is by measuring the the circumference of the hips, waist and neck (and factoring in height and weight, of course). Any thoughts on this or similar methods?

    • Yup, that is a method of measuring body fat, but it can be very inaccurate.

  • Taylor Drennan

    Ok so 2 questions, about what bodyfat % do i look like in these 2 photos ( Bathing suit was about 3 weeks ago and orange training bra was from today) and do i look any leaner/softer or anything between the two? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/33cef173e090b23d63d33eb2293cfb0469b948717ac4a65b12a574a81a7d554f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0506541f5e6606b7918083508a53711b96b4a5d75a6636abc78a94461043a11.jpg

    • Taylor Drennan

      Im sorry that i keep coming back like a total worry wart but i think i totally screwed up when i first started the program. Ive been tracking my waist, hip, and thigh measurements while tracking my body fat as well. My measurements have been staying the same but my skinfolds have been getting thicker so i think im losing muscle and gaining fat and its only getting worse. Im trying to get back on track so i can finally get this right. I cant give up on myself and im going to keep pushing through but i need guidance.

      • Are your lifts improving? (ie. More weight, more reps, or sets getting easier?) Remember, you only increase cals if your bodyweight is not increasing. Furthermore, fat gain is totally normal during a bulk. Don’t sweat it! Manipulate your cals depending on results.

        • Taylor Drennan

          Ok so heres a run down on whats been happening ever since i started TLS.
          When i first read the book, i started by using the formula given to find my TDEE and macros. They seemed kind of low to me but i didnt really know where my body was in terms of calories so i started there. Mistake #1, i started getting kind of sluggish and ‘hangry’ in a way and that sent me on a roller coaster of binging and restricting.

          In my photo with the dark top, i had a binge episode and took a photo to compare it with my other photos to see if i had any significant fat gains (i was about 116-117lbs). After that binge i started over while trying to find my maintenance again and did well for a week but my weight dropped like a rock and so in the photo with the orange top im about 3 lbs lighter. I was afraid that i was losing muscle rapidly and gaining fat in its place because my measurements would stay the same or get smaller (waist, thigh, hips) but my BF% would stay the same. This scares me because i dont want my BF% to get any higher and cutting at this weight scares me because i know ill lose muscle in the process.

          On top of that, ive been kind of stuck on my lifts. Sometimes after a day where i binged, my lifts would get stronger, but then whenever i go back to what i was originally supposed to eat they would stay the same or get lower (by either 3 reps or even 5 pounds lighter).

          Im tired of this roller coaster and i want to start over on the right track but i dont know what my goal should be at this point. First of all, what should i do about the binging and what do you recommend i do if it happens again? Second do you think i lost a lot of muscle in this process? Lastly, i know im somewhere between 20-22% BF, what should my first goal be at this point?

          Thank you so much for your help and sorry if i can be a pain.

          • Regarding binging:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-stop-binge-eating/

            It’s a bit more troublesome when your metab is higher than what the calculator tells you. It takes some experimentation to find your maintenance. Right now, you can bulk if you’d like, or maintain. This is a personal choice that I can’t make for you.

            Don’t worry about it! We’re always happy to help. Let me know what you want to do and I’ll give my recommendation.

          • Taylor Drennan

            I would like to bulk because of the fact that there really isnt anything for me to cut down to (Im 5′ 10″ and 114 lbs). I want to be somewhere around 125-130lbs at least. The only things im worried about are
            1. gaining too much fat week to week since im fairly in the middle of where i should be to start bulking so i know i cant bulk as long for my first one. I know now that fat gain is inevitable so ill just have to suck it up and go with it.
            2. Im struggling with a lot of my heavy weight exercises regarding form mostly with deadlifts and squats, which sucks because my thighs are my fat gain areas and also since i do a lot of walking, i feel like they might not recover enough and thus will not grow or even worse ill lose muscle there.
            Deadlifts: its hard for me to get down to the bar with a narrow stance and sometimes the side of my hip and tailbone will get really sore while trying to do them
            Squats: My hip mobility and flexibility sucks so i cant go down all of the way or ill fall backward. I can somewhat do front squats but i feel like i lean forward too much so it doesnt work my quads like it should.
            Should i substitute a different exercise for squats while i work on my hip mobility?

          • Great!

            1. Yes, fat gain is inevitable. As long as your strength is increasing and you’re not gaining more than half a pound a week, you’re golden.

            2. Let’s work on your set up and form:
            https://www.strongerbyscience.com/how-to-deadlift/
            https://www.strongerbyscience.com/how-to-squat/

            Now for mobility (do these every day)
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-flexibility-and-mobility-for-squatting/
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/mobility-exercises/

            You don’t need to go down all the way on your squats. Thighs parallel or slightly breaking parallel is enough. LMK how it goes.

          • Taylor Drennan

            Thank you!
            Ok 2 more questions (I know i ask a lot. Sorry!)
            Im going to get a BF test by InBody near the end of this month. If i actually find that my BF % is a bit on the high side despite being very underweight, do i need to take extra precautions to make sure i dont lose any muscle (besides raising protein intake and keep progressing on my lifts)
            2. Ive read your article on binging but im always clueless on what to do when it happens. Do i cut for a week? Stay at maintenance?

          • Any time. No such thing as too many questions. You can always email us too.

            If cutting, as long as you’re eating sufficient protein (1.2g/lbs bodyweight), enough cals (not going below BMR), and lifting weights, you’re golden.

            If you’re bulking, continue the bulk until you hit 25%BF and just control your intake so you’re gaining 0.25-0.5lbs/week.

            For binges, you can consider reducing calories the next day or two if you want (but you don’t have to), and just acknowledge the fact that it happened, and make a promise to yourself to not do it again. I mean, why sabotage yourself when you’re working so hard, right? 🙂

            Looks like you’re doing well. Keep it up!

    • Hey Taylor, from the photos, you look leaner in dark top, but the BF% difference is slight and it could be that you are carrying some water weight in the orange. I’d put you around 18-20%. Excellent work.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike I got a quick question. I think my cut is like 90% over and I’m not sure if I should stop and RD now and bulk with roger.

    Do you think I look lean enough or maybe should I cut another pound or so?

    I’m just nervous because my pressing is really starting to struggle and I really don’t know if I’m losing muscle.

    It’s been a little under two weeks since my last workout and I got 205 x 3 last time and could barely get one this time I’m hoping it may just be low energy I don’t think I could have lost muscle that fast. Other than that I’ve maintained my OHP 100% and have o my gained strength on squat which is good.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f563a50333ce9991635650a481ff644bee476a89d9330cc211bd7e5dd8e50ab6.jpg

    • You can start now on the bulk or cut for an additional two weeks. Nice work, Sean.

  • wishladya

    Very informative. It didn’t answer my question. I’m 76 female, buns of steel, no fat cushion. Abs of steel somewhere beneath fat on stomach that looks like I’m 6 months pregnant with triplets, big boobs. I’ve been doing crunches for 27 years. 30 min walk or run daily, rain or shine. 1200 calories a day. At 21 I weighed 125 and no muscle tone. My legs are skin, bone and muscle. Working on more upper body strength. How do I figure weight goal with muscle rather than fat?

  • Yolanda

    Hi!
    Thank you so much for the article Mike, it was very informative. I have owned a body composition scale for some years and now am considering to get a body caliper, but there’s something that concerns me. Isn’t measuring only at the waist going to give me an inaccurate reading? I have this lovely accumulation of fat in my thighs a.k.a. cellulite since I was a teenager, and even though I look very lean in my torso (my ribs are very visible now) the cellulite is still there. I have observed that I get leaner much faster at my waist than at the thighs, which makes me wonder if a body caliper is a good option for me, or should I stick with the body composition scale only? Or do both?

  • Jake Goodman

    Hey! What BF % do you think I’m at? Want to make sure I’m getting right calorie intake & just want to know where I’m generally at. Hard to find body fat % reference pics online for guys like me w less muscle development. Thanks so much!! Side question.. do you recommend taking “Phoenix”year round or only when in deficit?
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8fb918f2a45d36957bac0e35c365a04b12fa16dfae7e5fc16e510288cb095bbe.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fed205a07f8bf1503e29814badc505f8d027bd9442fef3f0b4a3f5f90bbf8f57.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6cf11adb50a238018817c6904edb811516fe91ee3a5c836170de40cad940d84d.jpg

    • Hey Jake, visually it looks around 16%. Your best bet is to do an actual measurement (properly).

      Take Phoenix only when cutting.

      Hope that helps!

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Hey Mike, when is the best time to do a skin calipers test? The first thing in the morning when I wake up?

    • That’s when I like to do it because I’m taking measurements during that time anyway, but the difference isn’t dramatic vs other times of day.

  • Brian Smarker

    Mike, the BIA I have used usually puts me in the 8-10% body fat range, though when I look in the mirror, I would estimate more like 13-15% or possibly more (I’m 55 years old). I would like to lose 5 to 10 pounds and visually be in the 8-10% body fat range. With weightlifting six out of seven days per week, I consider myself in very good shape, but with more body fat than I’d like to have. The weight I’ve gained appears to be fat, though I know some of it is muscle. I will be changing my eating habits based on what I’ve read at Muscle for Life. My question, though, is should I focus on cutting weight first, then bulking, or will it even matter?

    • I do not trust BIA measurements. I recommend getting down to 10% before reverse dieting/bulking. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts. Alternate your bulk and cuts and stay between 10-15%. Check this out for more info.

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

  • Rae

    So grateful for this article. I’ve seen my husband lose 30 lbs in 2.5 months. He had more to lose. Me, I am feeling discouraged but I know my body. I’m 142 lbs and I have lost one lb in 3.5 weeks. And that is with a good eating plan, being in a deficit, and working out. I also know my body, I’m a “whoosh” person who all of a sudden drops lbs in hat seems overnight. I’m ~ 25% body fat based on your recommended caliper and the pics.

    My doctor now has this new portal. I get an alert. I’m almost in the obese range @ 5’2″. My recent visit for what ended up being hives triggered this. My vitals are great. Blood pressure is 116/75. I think it is irresponsible for doctors to use automated messages and factors like this. My physical is next month but I also got a message from her gently scolding me for not following her recommendation of exercising and examining my diet and that we’ll “discuss”. Her big thing is it has to cardio. (Was told this last year when I was crossfitting 4-5 days a week.) in all your research, how behind do you think the medical field is?

    • I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling, despite being active with a proper diet. Doctors mean well, but a lot of them have no interest in researching the benefits of lifting weights. Listen to what your doctor has to say, but continue lifting weights and doing HIIT cardio and eventually your body fat will drop. Keep up the god work.

  • amos

    Hi! I’m almost 8 weeks into my cut and have lost a total of 9kg/19.8lbs (175lbs to 154.8lbs @34.6inch to 31.5inch waist at navel line). I would consider myself skinny fat during that time before my cut. Today, when I checked checked my fat calipers and weight, I was at 151.2lbs @10mm skin calipers and 31.4inch waist (10mm of skinfold calipers). But when I take my pictures, I don’t look like I’m at 10% bodyfat (more like 12-15%). I’m going to extend this cut to one more week and see how it goes before I start reverse diet and bulk. Would you care to estimate my body fat with these pictures? Thanks!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c14e560ceb362d020ff7aba10634e8d033b49f58284bf5d2ef2f0b332347fc1.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b66be35ce99a394cbd29473c1905012884e2d096db9cbb03a1188a07c45927d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0df6ecb9a092980bf3c39ed39b5a1b3fd7cfbfe771aa543f2ae1ed71324ef902.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0e6ce9cae90631bd2cf04b87caa27d323a71d35e8e0f1de3d9602a9a5f1c8e57.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/570a3477b2009cc59db0e979d0ba24c95839a6ab1d569ad22803b8e65914bfc5.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6cba21aa701c7808c5141f785268af0d94df317861ea2f1ca0ebb0aac1b1465.jpg

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