Moving Up The Leanness Levels

In the post Leanness Defined, I went over the 4 Levels of Leanness defined by Christian Thibaudeau and Chris Shugart. I also added a level. They are:

  • Level 0 – You are mostly lean, but your abs arent quite flat.
  • Level 1 Flat stomach with no ab definition.
  • Level 2 Level 1 + some upper ab definition.
  • Level 3 Level 2 + lower ab definition.
  • Level 4 Level 3 with deep cuts and dry (no water weight)

Moving to Level 1 Leanness

This is the most straight forward. As you get leaner you will see everything tighten up. I was at Level 0 Leanness from basically the 9th grade until 2 years ago. In order of importance, here are the steps I took to get to to Level 1 Leanness.

  1. Reduced carbohydrate intake. Cut the sugar, bread and alcohol.
  2. Cooked my own meals.
  3. Weekly Intermittent Fasting.
  4. Weight training.

I was already doing the weight training, so really it was the first three items on the list that made the most difference. Note that nowhere on the list did I say go jogging, biking or spinning. The role of exercise in fat loss is way over stated. You are far better off spending your time in the kitchen cooking. Lift something heavy for 20 minutes a week and then focus your effort on food.

Moving to Level 2 Leanness

Going from Level 1 to Level 2 is like flying a plane in a storm. You can’t see where you are, so you have to trust your instruments. I’d like to quote Canada K, who I introduced in the post 17 Lessons For Fat Loss. He refers to this period as the Fat Loss Dead Zone.

Once you slide below 15%, the returns really diminish. You can lose a boatload of fat and it seems invisible. Its not until you get below 10%, or even 8%, where abs start to appear, where your waistline starts to get really tight, and where veins really start to show up.

So basically, there is this giant dead zone in the middle where youre making real gains but theyre incredibly unsatisfying. You must hang in there anyway. If you dont, youll never be lean.

This was an important lesson for me to learn. Going from Level 0 to Level 1 is highly rewarding. Every month you get a little but leaner and your clothes feel a little looser. This isn’t true for the journey from Level 1 to Level 2 Leanness. You’ll start to doubt your plan and be tempted to try new tricks, but patience is rewarded if your plan is solid. One day you’ll see your upper abs. Although I followed the same core principles as stated in the Moving to Level 1 Leanness, I added a few to assist with the process.

  1. Improve Omega 3- Omega 6 ratios. I only eat 100% grass pastured animals or seafood and I stopped consuming seed oils.
  2. More Sleep
  3. Gut Flora Improvements
  4. Cold Weather Training

Omega 3 fat cells are elongated and flexible, which places the hormone receptors on the exterior of the cell facing outward. This allows them to interact with hormones that trigger fat loss. Omega 6 fat cells are less flexible and have the hormonal receptors facing inward, which makes fat loss more difficult. Fixing your n-3 ratios is not something you can do overnight. It can take over 2 years to make the correction. Restaurants are notorious for using factory farm meat cooked in seed oils. You’ll need to source and cook your own food.

I reduced my caffeine intake so I am now sleeping a 8+ uninterrupted hours a night. Sleep helps you target fat loss over lean muscle. When I lived in DC, I would wake up at 4:45 AM and go to the gym. Sleep deprived and tired, I would eat carbs all day. I was never in worse shape.

Improving your gut flora can help you lean out. There are many articles out there explaining how the healthy of our gut flora can impact how we process calories.What have I been doing to improve my gut flora? Eating raw kimchi almost daily.

I have no way to measure the effect of cold weather training, but since it has become a daily part of my life, I feel I need to include it on the list.

Moving to Level 3 Leanness

I have yet to hit Level 3 Leanness. This is the stubborn fat. It has been camped out there for decades and it doesn’t want to leave. I don’t expect it to go easily. I mostly believe that Level 3 Leanness will come by following the same strategies I used to get this far. I’ll be patient and keep plugging away.

Soon I will be posting the winter version of Fall Strategies For Nutrition and Fitness. I believe winter is the optimal season for fat loss.

Moving to Level 4 Leanness

That topic is covered in detail in the article Shredded in 6 Days by Christian Thibaudeau and Chris Shugart.

Last Words

This is just a reminder that I am not a certified personal trainer or nutritionist. I’m just a hobbyist in the art of physique hacking. There are many paths to leanness. This post details what has worked for me.

Published by

MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

3 thoughts on “Moving Up The Leanness Levels”

  1. What is the point of “having abs” other than vanity? I am at level 0, my abs are neither defined nor am I excessively fat (although I do have a small gut visible from the side/front only). Won’t that fat keep me warmer ie. more insulated? Will my hands and extremities be colder if I lose midsection weight?

    I know…lot of questions but after losing weight to the point of having a healthy BMI/weight, I don’t understand why it is necessary to be more lean unless goal/job specific.

    thanks for your post and reply, T.

  2. @thomas – Excess visceral fat is not healthy. It produces estrogen, which is something you want to minimize. I would think that Level 1 leanness should be the minimum goal for most males in modern society. Level 0 might be optimal for a caveman heading into late fall in a cold environment.

    What is the best level of leanness? I think Level 4 is mostly a visual trick which is temporary. That leaves 1, 2 and 3. I don’t know the answer, but I want to find out. I do feel better and have more energy at Level 2 than Level 1 or Level 0. I suspect that I’ll feel even better at Level 3, but that is speculation.

  3. Thanks for the information.

    I am trying to get leaner because I have noticed that even slight decreases in weight seem to positively affect my energy levels. Also, I am losing fat in my face and I think that looks better (vanity) than when I had excessive facial fat. My cheeks on face used to bounce when I would run, that has since been shed however now I have fat under my chin and on my gut. I think if I lose that remaining fat, the chin and gut will be lost in unison.

    Good luck.

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