I'm a long-time reader, first-time poster.

Some brief background info:

I'm between 5'11 and 6' tall. I used to be a long distance runner in my 20s. I ran half marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, regularly for years. I weighed about 165 - 170 depending and I got skinny in doing so (as expected).

Shortly after that, I got into some basic body-weight only lifting as well as some HIIT. I enjoyed it and noticed some muscle gain via the lifting.

Then we had kids so my entire scheduled changed and over the course of a couple of years (we have two [precious] daughters now), I gained about 40 lbs.

Through diet and exercise, I got back to 168lbs. A year and a half later, I'm still working, and I'm focusing on adding muscle, so I've been working out six days a week with a combination of cardio, resistance, and stretching (once a week), with a single rest way.

Over the year, it's paid off and based on my notes and my performance, there are noticeable strength gains and some visible gains, too. My weight is up to about 185lbs at this point.

However, I'm hitting that point where I'm hitting the body-fat plateau (if there's such a name for it ;). I can't seem to get down past 12 - 14% (depending on the week) body fat percentage no matter what I try or how hard I work.

Some notes:

  • I don't eat fast food except for the occasional meal on a long road trip
  • I drink 0 coke/soda/pop/etc
  • I drink 0 alcohol
  • I drink water
  • I drink coffee with no sugar
  • I eat fruit, meats, some carbs (wheat bread, rice, etc.)
  • I don't smoke
  • I don't do any drugs
  • I don't eat sweets save for the occasional birthday party
  • If I have a cheat meal, it's normally a personal size pizza on Friday nights.

For whatever reason, I cannot shed this layer of body fat on me. People say "Oh you look great don't worry about it," but then I see results some of you are getting and then I read various books, and I know I'm missing something.

The thing is, I have no idea where to go from here. I don't overeat, I don't snack on junk, I workout wearing a weighted vest to help build a bit more muscle than I've previously done in my life, but this persistent layer of a little bit of body fat is preventing me from realizing what I'm capable of doing.

To that end, I'm looking for some advice and guidance. I've read through some Leangains, and I've read about IF, but I'm still not sure how to incorporate this into the lifestyle of a self-employed work-at-home computer programmer with the standard demands of an early 30s dad (who's happily married; that is, I'm not a single father) with two kids.

For what it's worth, I also have a standing desk that I use throughout the day, so I'm not sitting for hours-on-end. All that to show that I'm not a desk jockey for the majority of the day except for when I'm working on my fitness.

I'm looking for some realistic, practical advice for someone in my stage of life on how I can begin cutting back these last few points of body fat given all of the above.

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for whatever advice you have!

  • 1
    A poor man version of leangains is to skip breakfast and work out right before you eat lunch, which might work for you since you work at home. I have personally become leaner, at the exact same weight, doing this over the course of many months. Also, try sleeping more.
    – michael
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 2:08
  • @Michael definitely +1 for sleeping more. If you train in a fasted state, getting your post-workout nutrition in as soon as possible is a good idea, but the first two points (daily diet goals, consistent training) still take precedence. Here is a great meta-analysis on the subject: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577439/pdf/1550-2783-10-5.pdf
    – John
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 7:23
  • If you're going to workout in a fasted state, be ready to lose some muscle and hence lower your metabolic rate as well as strength in the long run.
    – 0xMert
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 20:35
  • Thanks all for the input. I generally try to workout before lunch, the problem is that I gotta be careful to make sure I don't overeat right after it. Usually, I can handle this by just eating slowly but sometimes, after a hard workout, I'm ravenous. Surely some of you know how that goes ;). Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


I had a very similar problem when I was getting ready for my first bodybuilding competition, I know exactly what you mean. So you're around 185lbs with 12-14% body fat (which is very good, nice job). To get to even lower body fat levels, it will be hard work, but it is definitely doable. The main factor when you get to this point is fine tuning your diet in an exact manner. Not eating junk, sugar, etc will definitely get you lean but after a certain point, it's just not enough, your body has adapted to your caloric intake and will not metabolize any more fat as a "survival" mechanism. I will give you a few tips on how to overcome this. I can help you further if you comment back with your current diet as well. Also I'm assuming that you have your training down relatively OK.

  • First, once you get to the level of body fat you are at, it is crucial for success to start counting your calories and macro nutrients (carbs, protein, fats). As a rough example, generally speaking an adult male will need about 15 x bodyweight in calories in order to maintain weight. So if you weight 185lbs, then you would need 2775 calories to maintain the weight you are at. If you want to lose, let's say half a lbs a week (you can't lose much more than half a lbs of fat in one week physiologically) then you would subtract 500/600 from this, and so you would aim to eat around 2175 calories a day. I realize counting calories isn't exactly fun but it is very helpful, and made quite simple with apps such as "myfitnesspal" (what I currently have used to success).

  • After you get your calories down, you have to fine tune your macros according to your individual attributes. First and most important, you're going to want to maintain all your muscle mass. This is because more muscle equates to higher metabolic rate (metabolism), strength, mood, and obviously physical appearance. To do this, you must invoke protein synthesis, which is usually done through just consuming protein. Now since you're an adult, a good amount would be about 1-1.5g of protein per lbs of bodyweight (180g- 270ish g).

More info regarding age and macros: https://www.biolayne.com/articles/nutrition/anabolic-eating-for-your-age/

  • Now, this part is a bit tricky and will depend on your carb (and ultimately insulin) tolerance. For the most part, the best (well, at least quickest) approach to the other two macros (fats and carbs) would be to adopt some sort of low carb high fat diet, especially when you get to very lean levels. The reason for stubborn fat, generally, is due to insulin and insulin resistance. Insulin, a storage hormone, gets released when you eat foods high in glucose (white rice, candy, coke, white flour, potato, etc), in terms of fat loss, insulin basically inhibits fat burning and stores fat instead (VERY overly simplified but u get the point). Also, since you're not in your early 20s or teens anymore, it's reasonable to assume you've built some sort of insulin resistance over the years so this is key. So clearly, if you wanna get VERY lean, you must inhibit periods of very low insulin (fat-burning periods). In order to achieve this, you're going to want to minimize carb intake, and when you do eat carbs, eat ones with high fibre and low glycemic index (brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, vegetables). I'm guessing you already know that the human body metabolizes glucose (usually from carbs but CAN be from muscle if not enough protein). Since you will have low glucose levels due to low carbs, your body will need some sort of other fuel source, and that will be fat! Once your body gets efficient at breaking down fats (ketosis) from food, it will also break down fats in your body since it wont have any glucose for energy. Therefore, I recommend anywhere from 20-30% of your calories come from fat, i.e for you this would be, 400-600 cals which is roughly 40-70g of fat a day. Try to stick to healthy sources like fish, eggs, some cheeses, avacado, etc.

  • Well, now we are left with carbs, so we had 2175 calories minus 270g (4 cals/g) of protein and 70g of fat(9cal/g) which is 465 calories from carbs, i.e around 110-120g. Note how I maxed protein and fat calories above, you don't have to do this, you can do 40g of fat in order to increase carbs and etc. Now of this 110-120g of carbs, basically all of them should come from high fibre, low GI foods like I mentioned above. But if you want to take it to the next level, then you should utilize nutrient timing. Which is basically only consuming carbs at the points of the day where you are most insulin sensitive (the more sensitive the better since you will release less insulin in response to lesser sugar). These times would be right when you wake up (your body has metabolized most of the food during the night and you are now in a catabolic state) and right before and after your workouts. Also note that, working out increases insulin sensitivity. So divide up your carbs around that. For example you could eat oatmeal for breakfast, brown rice for post workout, and skip pre workout all together if you want, or etc.

Another great article by Layne Norton regarding cutting:


  • "you can't lose much more than half a lbs of fat in one week physiologically". Is there some reference for this? I've been losing almost exactly 2 lbs (0.9 kg) each week for the past few weeks and I'm sure most of that is fat. If I'd lose an additional 1.5 lbs of lean body mass on top 0.5 lbs of fat each week I'm pretty sure I'd be dehydrated AND an actual skeleton. And it's not like I have a great deal of fat to lose anymore anyway.
    – G_H
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 11:30
  • Apart from that, awesome answer btw. I've also struggled with losing the last bits of fat on the lower belly despite long caloric deficits and getting to a point of having my ribs almost sticking out my skin. Not really looking forward to going back to keto, but maybe a few weeks could help.
    – G_H
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 11:50
  • 1
    It's worth noting @G_H that you can do all the dieting in the world to show abs but if they aren't built up as a muscle group, they won't show well. "Abs are revealed in the kitchen but made in the gym". I struggled with this too, went back on a bulk, focused on core work and next time I cut I had much better defined abs.
    – John
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 12:20
  • @JJosaur Definitely. In my case, though, there is very certainly a nice layer of fat on the lower abdomen. Like you'd find on the side of a thick sirloin steak :P
    – G_H
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 12:41
  • 1
    @G_H you can lose more than 0.5lbs of fat a week (assuming you're at least relatively new), but from what I've read in multiple studies, the rest of the 2lbs will usually come from temporary depletion of glycogen stores, hence why you will usually gain some of it back after the diet. The last bits of fat i.e the stubborn fat is generally just due to the insulin resistance that you've built over the years, as well as genetics mostly. Getting rid of it requires you to tune in your diet basically perfectly...I've been there and it's not fun but it does work if you've very strict.
    – 0xMert
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:18

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