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  • Writer's pictureScott Murray

The truth about being shredded

As always, if you are reading this then you have likely come from my recent “The truth about being shredded” video, in which case, hello, now be sure to go back and like the video and subscribe to the channel lol.

Anyway, as I said in the video, today’s blog post is going to cover everything related to the ADAPTATIONS that your body makes when trying to sustain such sickeningly low levels of body fat percentages. Therefore, firstly, when I say sickeningly low levels of bodyfat, I am not talking about your typical lean guy/girl in the gym. One needs to realise that, as humans, that is ACTUALLY how we are intended to look and once considered the “norm” before the 21st Century arrived to where the new norm is to be grossly overweight and highly sedentary. Nonetheless, I digress.

When I say sickeningly low levels, I am mostly referring to 3-7% for men and 8-15% for women, to which many physiological adaptations will take place, mostly in relation to the endocrine system (your hormones) and metabolism.


As seen in the picture below, studies on those at extremely low body fat percentages show drastic decreases (and increases) in certain hormones that promote fat gain through increasing hunger and sedentary behaviour (along with an overall terrible quality of life). Some of which include decreases in leptin, insulin, testosterone, eostrogen and thyroid hormones with subsequent increases in ghrelin and cortisol.

For those of you unaware what these even are and what roles they play in metabolism, muscle mass gain/loss, fat gain/loss etc. I highly suggest you look into the guide to living lean – as they are each covered in immense detail.

However, the take-home message is that, together, the aforementioned hormones play a role in A LOT of processes such as:

· Appetite regulation

· Fat burning

· Hunger

· Satiation

· Nutrient partitioning

· Energy expenditure

· Metabolic rate

· Reproductive function

· Recovery & performance…

The list extends further however, hopefully you get the main point from the above in that, together the adaptations made to these processes ultimately dictate your ABILITY to successfully build muscle, spare muscle, lose fat, gain fat, reproduce as a human, maintain strong metabolic output etc. etc. HOW?

As you may have guessed, maintenance of sickeningly low body fat percentages will in no way BENEFIT any of the above and instead, will NEGATIVELY impact your life by creating an overall hormonal environment that promotes the loss of muscle tissue, reduction in metabolic rate and reproductive function, decreased energy expenditure and nutrient partitioning and an increase in hunger, together promoting one of the most horrible lives you could ever want to live lol.

But wait, there’s more. That is just the hormonal impact when trying to maintain such sickeningly low levels of body fat, now let’s talk about the metabolic impacts.


When it comes to metabolism and mitochondrial adaptations, studies on low calorie diets (as when trying to maintain low body fat percentages) show that the body will decrease most (if not all) of the components of metabolism such as:

· Total daily energy expenditure

· The thermic effect of food

· Non exercise activity thermogenesis

· Physical activity thermogenesis

In a process known as adaptive thermogenesis whereby the body makes alterations to promote the restoration of baseline body weight. Even at a cellular level, studies report marked increases in mitochondrial efficiency meaning your body adapts at a cellular level to FURTHER reduce your overall “maintenance” when shredded. Furthermore, in terms of substrate utilisation, rates of proteolysis increase when sickeningly lean meaning that, you will usually start to shift to using more protein for fuel (or in your case the breakdown of muscle tissue) as opposed to carbohydrates or fats i.e. you lose all your gains.

Again, although everything metabolism and diet related is covered in the guide to living lean – in layman’s terms, when you are extremely lean, though YOU may be concerned with how good you look, your body IS NOT and will begin to shut down energetically costly systems in an attempt to rapidly gain back weight mostly in the form of fat.

Finally, one cannot forget about the effect that all of these adaptations can have on your overall quality of life. Apart from the obvious of having you turn into a hungry, moody, weak, couch potato who has to fight for their lives to just walk up a flight of stairs yet alone go to the gym, psychologically and socially, trying to sustain such sickeningly low levels of bodyfat will batter you into a pulp. In fact, it EXTREMELY common within the literature to see those at such low percentages suffer from severe eating disorders such as bulimia, orthorexia or binge eating and experience high levels of depression, anxiety social isolation.

To throw out some numbers for you, it has actually been shown that the prevalence of eating disorders (female athlete populations in particular) in those trying to maintain such sickeningly low levels of bodyfat can be as high as 62% so please, look after yourself and be conscious of your health and well-being as, an eating disorder can be something you develop for LIFE, not just a few weeks.

Anyway, that is my usual 2.5 hours of writing and researching done for you for today however, hopefully the above helps you to understand that, maintaining a shredded physique, although nice for the gram, is NOT HEALTHY in any way shape or form and will come back to haunt you at some stage (trust me). I am by no means saying that you should resort to the other end of the spectrum and live life as a fat slob however “Living LEAN” at 12-18% for men and 18-27% for women is truly where you should be spending 90%+ of your lifting “career” as it will ultimately be the range most conducive for gains both in and outside of the gym.

Don’t forget to like and share this with someone who could do with reading it and as always, if you read this far then I really do appreciate you so much, your support means the world.


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