I'm pretty active in the gym, going 5 times a week with a mixture of weight training & aerobic (spin classes). One thing I'm not finding the time for lately is running. Anyway I had one of those health screen checkups and it reported my body fat is 20%. I'd like to reduce this to say 15%, but I'm very poor at watching what I eat (so while I am not excessive, I do like pizza, burger, chips etc. a couple of time a week).

I was wondering if anybody knows if it is possible to get a drop in body fat in a short space of time by cutting out junk food and doing specific exercises, or if there is something else I should be looking at. I want to keep gaining muscle so don't want to give up chicken & tuna (which are pretty lean), and milk.

My thoughts are that my body fat isn't really high so it may be difficult to do it in this manner, and it may be a long-term goal. I think eating healthily for a long time will be very difficult for me.

  • 1
    Abs are made in the kitchen. It's a saying because it's true. If you don't want to give up the burgers, pizza and chips, then you're going to be kind of stuck.
    – JohnP
    Nov 12, 2014 at 17:44
  • I was really hoping somebody might have an answer that would not involve cutting out burger & chips... Nov 13, 2014 at 14:49
  • You don't have to cut them out entirely, but given most people's tendency to understate, I would bet that "a couple times a week" is probably 5+. Keep a food diary of everything you eat for a couple days, I bet you will be surprised at how much you actually eat.
    – JohnP
    Nov 13, 2014 at 15:15
  • It's worth noting that the lower your body fat goes the more insulin sensetive you'll (probably) become, so you'll store fat more readily. It's much harder to go from 10%-5% than it is from 25%-20%.
    – Eric
    Nov 13, 2014 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


Step one is to fix your diet. You will have to say no to pizza, burgers, and chips until you hit your goal. That alone will help you start losing fat. The question is whether it's enough fat to hit our goal.

The best way to illustrate what I mean is to use an example.

  • Person A is 200 lbs at 20% body fat. That means 40 lbs of fat and 160 lbs lean mass.
  • Person B is 175 lbs at 20% body fat. That means 35 lbs of fat and 140 lbs lean mass.

Assuming they can both lost only fat (no truly practical) they would respectively need to be:

  • Person A is now 188 lbs at 15% body fat. That means 28 lbs of fat and 160 lbs lean mass.
  • Person B is now 165 lbs at 15% body fat. That means 25 lbs of fat and 140 lbs lean mass.

In this example, person A would need to lose 12 lbs and person B would need to lose 10 lbs. If you can maintain a pace of losing 1 lbs a week it can be accomplished in 3 months or less.

The problem is that as you get to 15% the best bodybuilders will lose 1 lb of lean mass for every 3 lbs of fat. NOTE: that doesn't necessarily mean that you are losing muscle, just mass that isn't fat. Using this formula, we are looking at:

  • Person A is now 183 lbs at 15% body fat. That means 27 lbs of fat and 156 lbs lean mass.
  • Person B is now 160 lbs at 15% body fat. That means 24 lbs of fat and 136 lbs lean mass.

Person A will need to lose a total of 17 lbs and person B will need to lose a total of 15 lbs. This is closer to 4 months of work. If you consider that a short amount of time, then yes it can be done quickly. If you consider that a long period of time, then no it can't be done quickly.

  • I'm currently 71kg (156lbs), 58kg of that I was told in the healthscreen is muscle. So 1lb a week just by changing my diet... will ~I have to just bite the bullet and do it? Will that alone (and not increasing my workouts/doing anything specific) help me achieve the goal? Nov 13, 2014 at 8:28
  • Diet is 90% of any transformation you do. Conditioning does help some, but not nearly as much as making sure you eat and sleep properly. If you add anything, on days you aren't spinning go for a 30-45 minute brisk walk outside. It's active recovery and it burns some fat. Nov 13, 2014 at 13:44
  • I'm interested to see that you mentioned sleep. I'm on no more than 6 hours a night. Would more sleep help me to lose body fat? Nov 13, 2014 at 14:48
  • Yes: webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss Typically 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal. Nothing else helps you build muscle and loose fat at the same time nearly as well. Nov 13, 2014 at 18:10

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