Why You Should Stay At 12% Body Fat Or Higher

Why You Should Stay At 12% Body Fat Or Higher

What’s up guys, Sean Nalewanyj, realscienceathletics.com
and in this video today, I want to talk about body fat percentages and why I think the vast
majority of guys out there will be best off to stay at or above around 12% body fat and
why I think about 12 to 14% body fat is the ideal sweet spot that will strike the best
overall balance between muscle fullness, muscle definition, along with optimal health and
performance both in and out of the gym. For existing subscribers, I’ve talked a lot
about this subject before and in previous videos, I’ve put 10% body fat as my recommended
minimum, but the more and more that I really look critically at the fitness industry as
a whole and just the rampant obsessive physique, neuroticism, that’s so common within it and
the glorification of body fat levels that just aren’t healthy for most people, the more
and more I really want to help push the narrative away from this, leaner is better mentality
and more toward encouraging people to be comfortable with carrying a bit more body fat rather than
feeling like they need to be really lean all the time. Now, this has nothing to do with encouraging
laziness or settling for mediocrity like I know some people might think or might say,
it’s just about making a logical cost benefit analysis and realizing that the overall upsides
of maintaining a slightly more moderate body fat percentage outweighs the downsides of
trying to stay really lean all the time. Now, some people will for sure disagree with
this and that’s fine. I’m of course not saying that this applies
to every single person out there. There are obviously exceptions depending on
someone’s situation, but what I am saying is that, it does apply to the vast majority
of people out there who don’t compete and who don’t make a living from their physique. I’m pretty confident in saying that most likely
you will feel better, you’ll be happier and you’ll have a better overall quality of life
by keeping your body fat percentage no lower than about 12% and up to about 14 or 15%,
if you’re still going for that aesthetic look. And possibly all the way up to as high as
18 to 20% if muscle definition isn’t a huge concern for you, but you still want to be
within a healthy range. And by the way being at 12%, okay, a true
12% as measured by DEXA, that still qualifies you as being leaner than probably 98% plus
of the general population and you will have visible abs and still look impressively lean
to the vast majority of people if you’re around that body fat level. For example, this is a picture of me from
a couple of years ago at about 12% body fat measured by DEXA. So for anyone who thinks that 12% body fat
is high, it’s only because you’ve been conditioned by the fitness industry into thinking that
seven or 8% body fat is normal, which it absolutely is not and only a fraction of a fraction of
people can actually maintain that year round and even 10% is pretty low for most guys. I think one really important thing to realize
here, is that the difficulty of getting a leaner, doesn’t operate in a straight linear
fashion for each percentage point that you want to drop. And what I mean by that, is that it’s more
like a curve where the leaner you get, the more difficult it becomes to get increasingly
leaner. And that’s because your body requires a certain
amount of fat for proper functioning. And so, the more you try to strip away that
fat, once you’re already toward the leaner and lower end of that healthy range, the more
your body’s going to try to fight back and the more uncomfortable symptoms it’s going
to produce, in order to motivate you to go ahead and consume more calories. So as you get leaner, maybe down toward the
mid teens, each percentage point further that you want to go, requires disproportionately
more effort and more overall restriction to maintain. And so, if your goal is to build a lean, strong
muscular body, but to also feel your best and to have a good amount of overall lifestyle
freedom, to where you’re not having to be overly cognizant of everything you’re eating
and actively restricting your calorie intake down to uncomfortable levels, there comes
a certain cutoff point where that balance starts getting tipped too far. And I think for most guys out there, around
12% is the point where trying to go lower starts producing more net drawbacks rather
than net benefits. And for women, I’d put that around probably
20%. The other thing I’d challenge here is the
whole idea that being leaner even looks better in the first place. It’s easy to just assume that leaner is better
when you’re constantly looking at Instagram content all day long. And it’s this big circle of physique competitors
and people wanting to stand out and get attention to build a following and grow their business. And so, everyone is just feeding off of each
other. And this narrative that low body fat should
automatically be desirable, just gets taken for granted as true. But really is it actually true or is it just
something you’ve been conditioned to think? In my opinion, once you’ve sort of taken the
red pill so to speak, and you really understand how this whole fitness industry really works
and that being really lean is actually just a form of controlled starvation and that people
with shredded abs are often not in good health and actually feel like crap either all the
time, or at least for certain portions of the day, those physiques start to look different,
right? They don’t look as appealing anymore, at least
not to me. For me, when I see someone with good muscle
development and visible definition, but with more moderate body fat, it just looks healthier
and more balanced than someone who’s shredded. And to me the shredded physique just looks
depleted and unhealthy a lot of the time. And also remember that out there in the everyday
world outside of this little online fitness culture, a lot of people really don’t think
that excessive leanness looks good because they haven’t been as conditioned as the people
who are really absorbed in fitness social media all the time. And then the other thing to consider too is
how you end up looking in clothes. Yeah, when you have your shirt off, that increased
muscle definition does usually look pretty impressive and it definitely makes you look
bigger in pictures and videos. If you’re someone who makes fitness content
or posts their physique online for whatever reason, but most of the time throughout the
day you’re wearing a shirt and it’s already challenging enough to look big in a shirt. If you’re a natural lifter who also wants
to stay relatively lean, but when you try to maintain a really low body fat, a lot of
the times in clothes, it’s going to look like you barely even lift because your overall
body size decreases and you really lose that muscle fullness. So you end up putting in all this effort to
have lean abs, even though they’re covered up for most parts of the day. When on the flip side, you could just add
a bit more body fat and you’ll actually look better when you’re wearing clothes, which
is most of the time because your body won’t look so depleted. So in my opinion, not only will you feel better
at a more moderate body fat level, but it actually just looks better as well. And then the other benefit of staying in that
12% plus body fat range, is just in terms of overall lifestyle. You don’t need to be as restrictive with your
calories. It’s much easier to just be able to go out
to a restaurant or out with your friends and not need to be constantly aware of your food
choices. It just puts you in a more balanced headspace
where you look good and you are lean. Because remember that 12% body fat is leaner
than probably 98 or 99% of people out there, but you can also enjoy those other aspects
of life more freely without that constant feeling of restriction. And on top of that, if you do happen to go
off track in the short term, maybe you gain a few pounds of fat for whatever reason, it’s
also much easier to get back on track and it won’t bother you as much mentally. When you put so much focus on leanness, that
can actually really mess with your head because you’ll find yourself always obsessing over
every ounce of fat you gain or lose, every tiny bit of fat on your midsection. Always checking the mirror constantly. The point of fitness is to enrich your life
and to make you feel better about yourself. And when you get overly focused on trying
to be lean all the time, it actually can have the opposite effect. You’ll actually become more neurotic and more
self conscious about how you look. And then because that level of leanness becomes
your new normal, you have the added stress of always wanting to maintain it. So the bottom line here is that, in my view,
the key is to find the proper balance between muscle fullness, muscle definition, while
feeling your best physically and mentally on a day to day basis and yes, there are exceptions. Some people out there are fine at 10% body
fat or possibly lower depending on their genetics and their individual circumstances, but for
most people, for probably 95% of natural lifters out there, who don’t compete and just want
to live a good overall life, that involves looking impressive physically, but it doesn’t
totally revolve around that. I would say about 12 to 14% body fat is going
to be that good solid balance point. You’ll have that muscle fullness but still
look impressively lean at the same time. You won’t feel overly restricted throughout
the day and you’ll have peak energy, peak strength, mood, libido, and you’ll almost
certainly be in a healthier place mentally as well. If you found this advice helpful and you want
to learn exactly how to eat and train to strike that proper balance between size, leanness,
and overall lifestyle, then make sure to take my physique quiz over @quiz.seannal.com because
that’ll hook you up with the proper step-by-step program you need based on your individual
goals, body type and experience level. You can click up at the top of the screen
for that or use the link in the description box below. On the supplementation side of things, you
can also visit realscienceathletics.com to check out my science-based, no B.S supplements
that I personally formulated to help fully streamline your program and optimize your
overall progress. And you can use coupon code YouTube 10 to
save 10% off your entire first order. And as always, make sure to hit the like button,
leave a comment and subscribe below if you haven’t already in order to stay up to date
on future videos. Thanks for watching guys and I’ll see you
in the next one.

100 thoughts on “Why You Should Stay At 12% Body Fat Or Higher

  1. What do you personally consider as your ideal year round body fat "sweet spot"? Comment below.

    Don't forget to follow on Instagram as well for daily informative content and updates: https://www.instagram.com/sean_nalewanyj

    You can also take my physique quiz at https://Quiz.SeanNal.com to find the exact training and nutrition strategy I recommend for you based on your individual body type, goals and experience level.

  2. I have a couple questions!
    1, do you have any tips for improving grip strength?

    2. You mentioned eating a gram of protein per lb of body weight. So if I'm 200lbs and ate 400 g of protein, wouldn't I preserve my muscle regardless of how many calories I ate – deficit or surplus?

  3. I will never understand the obsession over body fat percentages for people not competing in a show. There is no 100% accuracy when measuring body fat. Most people overestimate how lean they really are to begin with. In terms of body fat, the only thing that really matters is how you look in the mirror. No one really cares what body fat percentage you are outside of the small fitness bubble of lifters with body dysmorphia

  4. Great video Sean and I completely agree. I try to stay around 15% year round and feel great and enjoy life far more than when I was sub 12%. 👍🏻

  5. This is a good message. These days, walking cadavers who happen to be genetic freaks on lots of drugs are glorified for reasons completely unrelated to athletic performance, health, beauty, or fitness. Unfortunately this look is almost a "necessary" credential to be taken seriously in this industry.

  6. I follow the Jason Blaha method. I look like a potato, but I tell everyone that I'm 14% body fat. If they ask to see my dexa scan, I tell them it burned up in a fire.
    Seriously, this is a great video. Most people lose focus on what their goals really are. Long term health should be your #1 priority.

  7. Your videos are always on point ! Where do you live Sean? Would love to link up and do a collab video on natural bodybuilding

  8. for me,,going back to the fundamentals of functions of fats in body will be our guidelines of having "healthier" body shape,not from being judged by the industry.totally agree with you Sean!

  9. 12 % is actually freakin leannnn
    I think most people way overestimate their body fat level
    so I believe if these people are at 12 % body fat, they will be satisfied
    they probably think they are 6~8% body fat anyway.

  10. It depends if you on Gear or Natural when you are natural its a lot harder if you are on STERIODS which most IG MODELS are you can maintain low single digit bodyfat year round.

  11. I 100% agree. Thank you for putting this out there. The "fitness" industry needs to start to shift in this direction.

  12. I couldn't agree more with your video and it's refreshing to see more people in the industry shed light on this topic! I think too many potential lifters care more about six pack abs than actually looking strong & aesthetic.

  13. Great advice mate. This kind of realistic no nonsense content is so needed. The fitness industry is just an industry of people with eating disorders

  14. Body dysmorphia, 🤣😂I don’t want to look gaunt, would like to enjoy my cocktails and good meals. Of course I love my gym too. Hunk Sean , I have no one but myself to impress, am not living a life for others🤣

  15. Total honesty as usual Sean. I once got down to 10% as a goal, it made me miserable and I looked sick. Happy at 15-17 all year round.
    Love your work mate.

  16. People also need to remember when they are looking at Instagram content is that 99% are in the perfect lighting, posing, with a pump and they wouldn't even recognize them in person as they aren't even filling out a small shirt

  17. I reached 9% naturally during my still in progress reverse dieting, now I'm 11%, I can't say if there's a visual difference, BF was an obsession but I'm changing my mind, now I'm more interested in building muscle. By the way, I came from 35%.

  18. i’ve been preaching 10 to 12% for a long time to my gym partner, but he insists that sub 10% is where it's at…. I'll let him suffer 😂

  19. The science King back and better I would love to meet you I am a big fan I appreciate all you do for the fitness community.

  20. Good post Sean I believe that too much emphasis is put on body fat percentage and not enough on health and performance. As for asthstetics we all look better at different metabolisms and peak at different fat percentages.

  21. Amen! About time a prominent fitness YouTuber call out the unrealistic notion of staying super-duper mega-lean. A notion popularized by gear-heads, which is not applicable to most anyone else. I mean heck, Sean posted a photo, in this video, of himself at 12% bodyfat, and most guys would be very, very happy with that look. Even 15%, with a decent amount of muscle, would look very good.

  22. Hey bro, do you have a video of how to use a BF caliper correctly and how to properly measure BF using the caliper?

    I agree that Dexa scans are more accurate but it's be costly after each cheat day every week.


  23. Thanks.🌷 When you lose too much body fat, this means that you gain facial wrinkles and look older than you really are.

  24. Anything below true 11-12% i feel like crap. 12-15% year round is ideal.
    Now for anyone saying that’s high, i’m talking about a TRUE 12% BF. Not instagram “12%”

  25. Dude i totally agree 12-14% body fat is actually my goal for summer cause last summer I dieted really hard lost 45 pounds and ended up looking skinny and depleted while being ~10% sure I looked good without a shirt but as you said when I was wearing a shirt I barely looked like a lift even though I had a solid base after lifting seriously for 3 years and my libido and energy was non existent I felt like garbage all the time so I would say it wasn’t even worth it to be fair this time around I will just aim towards being 12-15% which gives you the best of both worlds . Awesome video btw and keep up the good work you sure are a really knowledgeable guy

  26. Solid video wish most newbies knew this. This is why I only go to the gym 3 days a week focusing on the compound lifts.

  27. PREACH! The more lean, the more miserable lol just trying to be healthier make my workouts feel more fulfilling and mental state that much more positive I appreciate the genuineness in your opinion ✊🏼

  28. I'm 14 percent body fat. I've been lifting a year. I weigh the same but body composition changed. I do not diet but eat plant based and use chronometer to track nutrients. what is a healthy range for women ?

  29. Nailed it as always. My focus is to be and look strong, fit and healthy, not look like I have giant worms growing under my skin.

  30. Not sure what my body fat percentage is, but I can usually see four out of six pack. That’s good enough I think. Thanks Sean!

  31. What I do is set 10% as a floor and 15% as a ceiling. But I never want to touch the floor or ceiling. So if I'm cutting and I get to 11% body fat, I will begin my reverse diet. Then during a bulk, if I'm at 14 point something percent then I will begin a cut again.

  32. I feel very slow (combat sports) when I'm close to 15% rather than 7%. Downside is, 7% often drains any energy making you a walking sad zombie. Sweet spot around 10% for me.

  33. This is a brilliant approach to health, happiness, and life. This cost/benefit discussion from Sean is unique to his channel and in my view the most valuable concept on the internet related to having a healthy, happy and balanced lifestyle.

  34. 1.) I rarely ever see really really shredded naturals. A lot of guys say they have sub 10% body fat but arent even close. At all. Its a non issue. Most people need to lose more fat, not less.

    2.)18- 20% BF is a lot of fat to be carrying, say someone is 170 lbs 18-20% BF, they are now carrying upwards 30-34 lbs of fat on their frame, that is a lot of fat to be carrying around. Which takes up blood, oxygen, micro nutrients away from your vital organs and muscles and gives a place for estrogen and toxins to store up in.

  35. Tbh Sean I like your videos and have watched you since I started lifting.
    But I don't agree with this video,sure I understand where you are coming from and trust me I had all the symptoms like being tired,hungry all the time and etc…
    But I feel inscure if I'm not below 10% and I say it openly,I don't like myself if I am not ripped asf and my jawline is not like the edge of the knife. I study psychology and I understand where my issues come from but I still love 8%-10%… But you are right I feel the best at like 15% but fuck how I feel I need to be ripped lol

  36. As always Sean,you are talk to exact point, what my personal view is if one is not a professional bodybuilder, the fat % rate you said is healthy, we as non professional should have a healthy,aestthetic and fit body then just a camera friendly body.Thankyou.

  37. Maybe it’s just me but I like to lift heavy and build some size and strength the only thing I worry about is my bf getting to outta hand, so I tend to try and cut out a lot of processed food (I do slip) but that shit is more important to me then having an extremely low bf which ummm I have heard how weak and depleted physic competitors can be. I mean having a strength based or more useful in real life circumstances then having a really lean body, I mean girls do like confidence as well not just the body. But again that’s just me, great vid Sean

    PS: BB OHP > DB flies 😛😛

  38. Thanks Sean , I really respect you and your info and I truly needed to hear this. Your a great breath of fresh air to the fitness community

  39. I used to think that it was okay to be above ones ideal weight if the body fat % was decent. But I have seen the opinion that excess muscle is more demanding and an even bigger strain on the heart than excess fat. Given cardiovascular issues are the leading killer… thoughts?

  40. I agree body fat is exaggerated by most and it's not healthy to be low for long periods of time, but some of the commenters seem to take this video as an excuse to be 25-30% BF and think that is good. At that BF level, you're probably lazy and eat garbage.

  41. Definitely needed this advice! As new fitness YouTubers, our mindset has been focused on getting lean "to get more views" or "show we can walk the talk", but this video right here solidifies the importance of long-term physical AND mental health.

  42. Ladies can vary I had serious ill health at 33 per cent so dropping to around 17-19%. 14 per cent body fat was quite unsafe and wasnt very aesthetic too flat. Being exhausted all the time Is one of the toughest things about being lean. I will never will see 33 percent again though. My bones degraded and my immune system crashed. I'm in it for the long haul.

  43. C'mon man…..Terry Crews is like 4% and still has love handles. I can easily get to 8% and be happy with a barely showing 4 pack.

  44. Preach bro! Working at gyms and gnc in the past really messed up my self esteem and self view something I’m still struggling with as a natty 6’5

  45. One of the few YouTubers that actually know what he's saying and doesn't talk bullshit. Thank you for making this video. Definitely subscribed!

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