Can slow carb get you below 10% bodyfat?
This is a controversial question, for a few reasons. But that’s not going to stop me writing this article. I am taking a very hard look at the slow carb diet, for one simple reason: I have a goal. Much like anyone else’s goals, it has been set, and I am working to achieve it. But that doesn’t stop any of us considering that there might be a better way than what we are currently doing. So, in this article, I will look at the slow carb diet with a more focused goals than simply ‘fat loss’, and decide if slow carb is the right option if your aim is to get into muscle-defining bodyfat percentages.
At first, my gut told me that it was unlikely slow carb was the best choice.
Why? Simple prejudices of mine counted against it. For starters, most people who cut into those single-digit bodyfat numbers do so by being a lot more meticulous with their food than simply eating 4 meals a day and not thinking much about calories, or energy expenditure. Maybe my expectation that getting into those numbers is ‘very hard’ meant I assumed that it meant it took a lot of effort to match up to the difficulty. Secondly, there have been some people who write in to us and explain that they feel like they’ve hit a plateau, somewhere around the 5 lb-to-go mark, which got me thinking. Thirdly, the book itself has a chapter dedicated to ‘The Last Mile” which indicates much, much more strict eating plans that slow carb, and explains that this is what’s needed to lose the last 5-10lbs.
Now, here’s a prime example to me of how things can be a little misleading, or misunderstood in the book. I have a feeling, having read those chapters, that the last 5-10lbs being talk about, could be 5 or 10 lbs on a bodybuilder, who might be 220lbs. So, that equates to, perhaps, a bodybuilder at 8% bodyfat (that means carrying17.6lbs of fat), looking to lose, let’s say, 8lbs. That would get him from 8%, to 5%. Now, that’s quite a change, and 5% is around where someone headed to competition would be wanting to get to (most likely lower actually).
Take a different example, however. How about a guy who is 170lbs, who is thinking about losing ‘the last’ 5 or 10 lbs, and expecting that to get him down to 8% bodyfat. What do those numbers look like? If he gets down to 160lbs, without changing his muscle mass (which is 147.2lbs lean body mass), then he would have started at 13.5% bodyfat.
What does this show?
- That everyone’s perception of ‘the last 5 or 10lbs’ is different
- That 5 or 10lbs can have very different effects, depending on the size of the person.
For our bodybuilder friend, he only lost 3% bodyfat, and in the range where it becomes increasingly more difficult to lose more percentage points.
For our average guy, he went from 13.5% down to 8%. Think this is going to look different? Damn right! This will take him from looking like a desk jockey to an athlete most likely. Many people cite 10% bodyfat as being the milestone below which abs pop out, and muscles become obvious. The difference in muscle definition at 8%, vs 13.5% is huge – people will be commenting on how ‘ripped’ and ‘cut’ he looks.
So, while I was reading ‘The Last Mile’, thinking that it all sounded like a bit too much effort, I was reading a plan for someone who was cutting that last bits of bodyfat off their frame. That’s most likely not where most of us are, but we could be hovering around 12% or so, having done slow carb for a few months.
But I want a plan that will get me to under 10% bodyfat – actually I think around 8% would be ideal. Having seen some recent photos of people at 5%, I think they look just too much like a pro bodybuilder, with veins and muscles bursting through the skin, and that’s really not what I’m keen to look like. They definitely looked ‘ripped’ and ‘cut’, but there’s something about that look that seems a little unhealthy.
So I have been searching around online, to see what else is out there. Lots of people have heard of the paleo diet, which looks like one some people use to get into lower bodyfat percentages, and there are countless other options out there in the form of ebooks, and other similar products. Let me say that I’m sure that the reputable ones most likely all work.
I looked very carefully at slow carb and how it is set out, compared to other plans. Many other plans mentioned eating more often than 4 times per day.
The thing in common seemed to be a range of meals that allowed ample energy, but kept blood sugar fairly constant all day long. Many systems use a 6 times a day routine for this, which means eating every 2-3 hours. A great many of the options I looked at in fact offered more variety than what slow carb does.
But back to the question: Can slow carb get you, or me, under 10% bodyfat (if you’re a guy, let’s say around 15% if you’re a girl)?
To answer the question, we need to take a quick look at calories.
Our old friend, the calorie, I have learned recently, is actually not so much of an absolute measure of food energy, but more of a guideline. Because of the way the body processes different foods, calories, as noted in nutrition panels, really are about what the food offers, outside of the body, and not what it delivers to the body. Accounting for personal variations too would be difficult, so it’s not a bad measurement, just an incomplete one.
I know from doing the calculations that I could be using around 2700-2900 calories per day, in theory, and putting on some muscle, whilst not putting on any fat. This could mean eating up to 3000 calories per day. A quick inspection of my slow carb meals tells me that I’m far from that mark – averaging around 1800-2200 per day on the 4 slow carb meals alone. This is due in part to the fact that I train with weights twice a week, and that I am also moderately active the rest of the time, plus I’m aiming to put on some muscle.
It’s not that I’m saying we need to be in calorie deficit to get under 10% bodyfat, but that calories need to be paid attention to a little more than if we’re losing the first 5 or 10lbs in our fat loss journey. The last thing I want to be doing is eating over, because I do believe it’s less likely for bodyfat to be lost in that state (though it’s not impossible if you are controlling other dietary variables).
But I like simplicity.
If at all possible, I don’t want to be getting into daily logging, or calculations, and I want to keep my food practical. Exercise and diet shouldn’t consume the majority of your thoughts, or your day. They should support what you do in your mind and during your day.
So I want a reasonably simple system to follow, which is why slow carb is on my radar, for this phase of my body recomposition.
The goal is simple, and I think a simple program should be able to achieve it.
To answer the question – whether slow carb can get you below 10% bodyfat, I believe the answer is yes. But that comes with a proviso – to achieve this, I personally believe you would need to be doing some kind of exercise or training. For me personally, I am wanting to do it without losing muscle mass, and while I continue gym training. I don’t feel that slow carb, in it’s 4-meals per day format is the best option to deliver this, however.
What’s the best option?
For me, I have worked with the slow carb principles for long enough now that I can eyeball a serving, or a meal, and have a very good feel for how much energy it will deliver. Therefore, keeping to the same food makes a lot of sense, rather than learning a whole new system, like Paleo, or other glycemic control diets that include many other food types. Going to one of them would mean more thinking about food and food timing during the day much more than my modified slow carb method and I don’t want to add any additional burden.
Slow carb is my base, delivering great amounts of fibre, protein and energy, on top of which I will add 2 to 3 protein shakes, daily, in between meals, plus a handful of almonds. This gets my calories up closer to what I could be using, keeps within the slow carb method of using fat, protein and fibrous carbohydrates for energy (protein drinks to be made with water), and addresses eating more often, rather than eating larger meals (which would most likely not be good for fat loss). I think this is a good blend, and I am very interested to see the results. It is a bit different to the Occam’s Protocol eating regime, which includes a brown starch 2/3 times per day, and which left me with meals that were so large I was feeling sick after them. Likewise, trying to get in a protein shake with breakfast wasn’t practical, so this method should be more stomach friendly. I will be continuing with a routine of 2 weights sessions per week at the gym, and 2 fast-cardio sessions per week, for a total exercise time of under 2 hours per week.
Has slow carb brought you to a low bodyfat percentages? Or are you testing it at the moment to see how low you can go? Have you tried with and without exercise? I’m very interested to hear your thoughts. Even if you think there’s a better method out there! Leave your comments below.
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