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  • Too lean?

    Is there such a thing? Can a person be too lean? I would like to know.

    I have had 2 body-fat percentage readings they said I was at: 1) 4.5% (Calipers) 2) 11% (electrical conduction)

    I work at a personal training studio, as a Massage Therapist, I'm very active and I used to live off cheap carbs (pasta/rice) up to about a month ago when I started going Primal. I have always been active in MMA/BJJ/Combat Sports, I am 5'9" and weigh around 140lbs typically, and have always been lean. The 11% was taken just before I started and the 4.5% about 1 or 2 weeks Primal. The accuracy is not exact as both methods have a decent margin of error.

    I was boxing today with one of the trainers I work with and we got on the topic, I told him my Body-fat % was about 5% and he thought that was unhealthy and nearly anorexic. I have never been able to keep extra weight on. Trust me I tried, I've worked with trainers, eaten for months until I was sick, taken every supplement, I made it to about 150lbs once and after a month of cutting my eating to a comfortable level I was back to about 142lbs.

    I feel fantastic, I started going Primal because I was always hungry and when I didn't eat I would get shaky and irritable and after ready the PB I found that it was because of those carb-crashes from my carb heavy diet. Since I changed my diet my energy levels are constant, my mood is great, and my ability to get up in the mornings is much better (I have never been a morning person). I also consume on average 3000 calories a day.

    So back to the original question, can you be too lean? Am I too lean?
    Last edited by TrPAssasin; 03-31-2011, 03:14 PM.

  • #2
    As long as you are eating the amount of calories you do and the fact that you are feeling great tells me that you shouldnt worry about a thing. I do myself have a very low body fat percentage (5-6 %). Have you ever considered that the person commenting on your bf % is jealous? Happens to me all the time =P


    • #3
      Originally posted by TrPAssasin View Post
      Is there such a thing? Can a person be too lean? I would like to know.
      For women it's definitely possible. For men I kind of doubt it with exception of diseases of fat metabolism/regulation.


      • #4
        We all have different levels where our body is most natural and comfortable. For someone who is predisposed to carrying extra body fat, 5% would be very low and most likely stressful.

        Just the very small amount of food this person would have to eat to maintain such a low body fat %. For someone like you who simply can't eat enough food it is perfectly normal. I wouldn't worry a bit. If you feel well, you are well.


        • #5
          Originally posted by PatrickF View Post
          For women it's definitely possible. For men I kind of doubt it with exception of diseases of fat metabolism/regulation.
          This is very true, from personal experience. I stop ovulating when I get really lean...damnit!
          For lots of tasty recipes, check out my blog -


          • #6
            Check out this Bodyfat Estimation Thread and you can compare yourself with a lots of photos of people trying to guess-timate where they are on the Body Fat spectrum.

            What was the method of calculation of the BF% with the calipers? AFAIK the Jackson-Pollack 7-skinfolds method is one of the most used. Just for a reference, I personally took a test a couple of weeks ago and I got SUM of all skinfolds 37.2 which translates to 5.9% BF.

            As a little offtopic, I'm trying to get even leaner but it's getting (if it isn't already) quite hard since I'm Very-Low-Carb Low-Calorie (sub 1800 kcal), 3-4 days in a row of Protein-Spared-Modified-Fast, and the results (if any) are appearing very very slow ... this is on my much larger frame than yours - 6'5" 185 lbs.
            Last edited by trippplez; 03-31-2011, 09:57 AM.


            • #7
              If you're eating adequately (3000kcal counts, I think ) that's just your body regulating itself to where it's happy. If you weren't eating enough it should show in your energy levels and performance as your body down-regulates metabolism to save resources. What are you eating, exactly? Adding some carbs might put a little more padding on if the idea makes you feel better, but then again as long as your healthy the lighter frame gives you an advantage in boxing, doesn't it?


              • #8
                Thanks guys for all the input.

                I am eating a diet high in protein (approx. 1g/lb of body weight) and fats (averaging around 170-200grams although some days it's gotten to 250) and my carbs I don't really worry but I eat a fair amount of sweet potato (sweet potato hashbrowns for breakfast and serving my curries on sweet potato) but my carbs sit anywhere in between 100-200 but I'm not really paying attention. I jsut up the carbs before a big day/work out and I'm cruisin.

                I figure you are all right: 1) they may be jealous 2) I feel good so I must be healthy 3) it's definitely good for boxing

                As far as the caliper test goes, it was part of a Biosignature assessment from a practicioner that I was setting up an inter-referral program with.


                • #9
                  I think that the indicator is that you're feeling great and that's what matters. I'm in the 6% to 7% range and I will probably be dropping a little lower as it warms up around here and I get back into summer mode. Most people aren't used to seeing lean people and my friends say that they would like to look me but it looks like too much work to them. To me, if you're able to maintain or gain muscle mass and you're functioning with plenty of energy then you're not too lean. If, on the other hand, you're at 4% body fat and you're trying to lose weight for any reason other than you're entering a contest and you need to temporarily then you're probably not doing something healthy.


                  • #10
                    Not to sound like a debbie downer, but there is always a chance the caliper measures were inaccurate. Even personal trainers goof them up. That being said, no, if you're a guy and you're eating enough and feeling good, a low bf percentage is fine. For a girl, the sign things are getting extreme is the loss of a period. Guys don't have that problem, but hormones can still get funky. Plus, anorexic people who haven't reached corpsey-looking levels often have bf readings that are surprisingly high in comparison to their weights, because they've lost a lot of muscle.


                    • #11
                      and which trainer was it who told you that Ant-man? I think we both know you are a lean mean machine and we shouldn't take everything people in the health and fitness industry say as gospel! A bit like doctors and nutritionists really Grok on with your bad self!


                      • #12
                        If you feel good & like the way you look, then you're good.. Being lean is what most health enthusiasts are after, & sounds like you're genetically gifted to maintain low body fat.. Lucky guy.. I am also very lean like you (5'10", 160lbs), & often told, "gain some weight".. "you're too thin".. Mostly this is coming from older people in my family that think lean, thin, & healthy means "you're sick".. ha

                        If you feel great, you gotta be doing the right thing, or you'd experience side effects, & wouldn't feel so good..

                        But, you're commenting here for a reason so it sounds like you may be second-guessing something..

                        Do you like the way you look with this level of leanness? (sounds like you like the way you feel, but is this also the look you are going for? both are good to have.. Looking & feeling good)

                        Would you like to be heavier & beef up a little?

                        If you want to make some adjustments, that can be done..

                        Posting a pic also helps, not necessary, but probably helps in receiving objective opinion from others.. I've seen guys @ 4-5% that looked great & seemed very healthy & athletic.. I"ve also seen guys @ 4-5% that look weak, hungry & a bit undernourished..
                        Last edited by abc123; 01-11-2012, 03:29 PM.