Think a cut chest, carved arms, and defined abs all day every day are out of reach? It’s not easy—but it is attainable. Your ability to burn body fat is partially determined by genetics, so it’s not enough to follow your favorite trainer’s every move. Everybody and every body is different, so we tapped 11 real guys whose livelihood relies on keeping their body fat down. They’ve revealed exactly what’s behind their diet, workout, and lifestyle that let’s them walk around shredded day after day, year after year.
“I didn't always eat breakfast but noticed a world of difference when I started. I now have oats with 1% milk, 1% yogurt, Brazil nuts, and frozen berries or slices of ginger, along with a slice of toast with avocado and egg. I’m so much more energized and focused throughout my day when I have breakfast. I make sure to eat food that cleans and refuels my body, so I’ll snack on nuts and dried fruit. Then, a standard lunch is a juice from Joe and The Juice and a spicy tuna sandwich. For dinner, I love when I can cook a roast for friends. I started cooking my own food and it's helped me to cleanse my palate and re-discover what real food tastes like. If I'm going out to eat, I am aware of exactly what my body needs so I can order without overthinking. Conscious eating becomes subconscious and so it's not a diet—it's just a preference. I know why I'm eating. I limit my intake of processed foods and drinking liquor or beer next to none. Maybe once a month I'll have a beer—or a king size Snickers.”
“I have a baseline of eating clean and I follow a protocol called Intermittent Fasting, which is a time management of how you consume your calories. I fast 16 hours, then my eating window is an 8 hour period. The science behind it is brilliant and once you adopt the lifestyle it’s amazing! Typically Monday through Saturday, I eat high-protein, whole foods and protein shakes married with veggies, some fruit, rolled oats, and brown rice. I always drink a gallon to a gallon and a half of water everyday (#chuglyfe). Typically I practice Sunday Funday, where I still do Intermittent Fasting but I bump up my calories and eat whatever I want in the 8-hour eating window, which actually works essentially like a refeed day. My workouts vary based off the style of training I’m into—currently, I’m doing a bodybuilding-style training for 12 weeks.”
“I got injured a month ago, so to get my body fat back down to 9%, my plan currently focuses on eating a good portion of clean protein, fiber, good fats, and carbohydrates from vegetables or grains on every meal. I cut down any processed sugar, leaving only that which comes from natural foods (including fruits) and cut out alcohol, which is not only a high-calorie product but it also affects our general health and fitness. I try and hit full-body workouts 6 times per week with a different exercise within the same muscle group each day and I drink sufficient water, which will increase the metabolism and help to burn fat. Lastly, having a wholesome lifestyle is very important for achieving maximum physical and psychological health. This includes a good night sleep, various leisure activities, commitment to family, and positive state of mind.”
“It's been about 4 months since I switched over to a Pescetarian diet and it was one of the best lifestyle changes I could have ever made. Because most seafood has a lower amount of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol per serving than most meats, I get all of the advantages of a vegetarian diet along with benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish. In addition to my daily kickboxing workouts, eating fish, increasing my vegetable and nut intake, and drinking about a liter and a half of water every day has made me feel healthier and enabled me to achieve my fitness goals."
“I do light workouts in the gym around three times a week focused on core strength and stability, but mainly get a full-body workout from running in the mountains on varied terrain that builds leg and core strength. I run around 100 miles a week when peaking for a race, but my focus is on vertical gain. I try to maintain a relatively balanced diet, but food should be fun, so I still have a few beers and eat out regularly. Beer is the one thing that tends to lead to me eating worse and, potentially, missing the occasional training run, so I have to be careful about that. But after a big race it’s good to relax physically and mentally, therefore food and drink are one area that I’m happy to indulge in for a week or two after a 100-mile race. Other than that I mainly try to eat a varied diet that includes fresh produce and conveniently, two of my favorite foods—-salmon and avocado—are healthy. I don’t avoid any particular type of food, but aim to have some degree of moderation and minimize the amount of processed foods I eat.
“I maintain such a low number by front loading my carbs (complex with no simple sugars), with the most in the morning and slowly decreasing them throughout the day. I do 2 to 3 days of HIIT with cardio, focusing on short bursts of energy over long distances to make the heart rate fluctuate so you’re burning only fat and not muscle. And I never skip leg day. This way, I burn more calories and increase testosterone which helps keep body fat down. Lastly, I let myself have a treat or sweet once a day to keep myself sane. If you take all the pleasure out of life you’ll go crazy and end up sabotaging your diet.”
“In the winter, I bulk up at 12 to 15% body fat, but when summer comes I like to dial things in to get down to around 8 to 10%. How? In January I start really cleaning my diet up, cutting down on post-dinner late night eating and limiting it to something like a protein shake or almond butter on a rice cake. Next, I start really measuring and reducing my portion sizes—instead of 8 ounces of protein per meal, I cut back to 5 oz. I go from 1.5 cups of carbs per meal to 3/4 cup, and I fill up on veggies and fruits when I am hungry rather than crackers and cheese. To nail my fat burning zone, I ramping up cardio to one hour a day walking uphill at a steady pace, and I start incorporating HIIT full body workouts so I can get the most bang for my buck during my workouts. These changes are all I need to drop 5% body fat.”
International trainer, nutritionist, and fitness program creator
Body fat: 7-8%
“I typically train about five to six days a week, with one or two rest or low intensity training days. Usually, three to four days are full-body strength training, each workout consisting of supersets, drop sets, and/or compound exercises. This formula, if done right, provides both cardiovascular and strength training in a short period of time (about 60 minutes). If I have time, I’ll do about 20 to 30 minutes of low intensity cardio, like walking on the treadmill. The other days, I do 30 to 45 minutes of HIIT on a stationary bike or sprints on a track/treadmill. I am always changing my own workouts which creates a 'plateau-proof' training regimen. But eating healthy and consistently with the right portion of macronutrients throughout the day is 75% of the effort in achieving transformation. I eat five or six meals a day, with an average of 40g of protein, 25g of complex carbs, and 15g of fats. That equates to about 2,500 to 3,000 calories in a day. The only simple carbs (sugar) I get is from fruit, which I will consume in the morning and sometimes at lunch. Preparation is the key to a successful meal plan for me. I take the time each weekend to plan and prepare my meals for the upcoming week.”
“People usually think I train for hours on end and eat a hundred egg whites a day to stay lean. The truth? Time is the most important commodity, so maximize it. Consistency is key—I train six days a week. Period. A full workout is typically around 45 minutes. Stuff always comes up, but I make sure to get my workout in, even if it's just burpees in my boxers before bed. Make the most of the time you have to work out when you get the chance. Get your heart rate up, get sweaty, and you’ll get ripped. Next, you have to go to bed earlier to cut down on body fat. Your cortisol levels spike when you are not rested properly, which results in higher fat stores and less muscle growth. Variance is key. You have to keep your body guessing what you will throw at it next, not only with reps, load, intensity and rest, but also the equipment used and the movements you are working with. As for eating, I think in terms of nutrition, not diet. I eat salmon or cod five days a week and steel cut oats for breakfast every day. I only eat fruit either pre- or post-workout and avoid sugar as much as possible. However, I love to have a cold beer and pizza as much as the next guy. I just stick to a clean lifestyle 80%+ of the time. Keep certain barometers in check to make sure you keep it clean and watch your healthy habits form.”
“I eat a lot of leafy greens and vegetables with high water content. I cut out foods with bleached flour and saw good results, but realized I could probably go a step further, so I cut refined sugar too. I do three days of interval-type training, either interval sprint repeats or HIIT. I only lift weights two to three days a week because I do full-body training, hitting all the large muscle groups with compound lifts like deadlift, squats, dumbell curls to shoulder press. I also follow the technique of lifting and lowering the weight very slowly, holding at the end of each range of motion for two seconds. This style results in much more tension on the muscles and connective tissues, which forces the body to release more growth hormones and build more muscle, as well as having leaner muscles.”
“I follow a diet that is a mixture of Zone and Intermittent Fasting, but all food I eat is very simple but effective. It is comprised of meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, some starch and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut oil). I use Zone to determine the amount of food I should have for the day, what’s called a block prescription. I am a "5 blocker," so I aim for 35g of protein, 45g carbs, and 15g of fat per meal, five times a day. With zone, meals should be spread throughout the entire day but because I do an intermittent fasting, all meals are consumed within an 8 hour time frame. There are many different forms of intermittent fasting, but I follow a feeding window of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during which I consume all my calories. I then fast from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. but consume 8 to 10g of BCAAs every three hours. I typically do one workout session a day, usually CrossFit for two to three hours, and then five to six times a week.”