Q: Hey Tom, I’ve won many bodybuilding contests myself back in the 80`s and my friend, you are full of it! To start, let me just say this: If you were 3.7% body fat, you would be dead! your inerds contain 4% so can you share your secret how how you stay alive at 3.7%? I’d really like to know! My niece sent your www.burnthefat.com web site link to me, laughing her butt off. Good luck my friend, consumers are much smarter than that.
A: Robert, you are correct that there is a certain amount ofbody fat that is “essential” and therefore, necessary justfor good health and normal bodily functions.
Most medical and exercise physiology textbooks say thatessential body fat in men is approximately 2-3%, althoughI occasionally see the 4% number you quoted. The exactnumbers depend on the source. I’m not sure that there isa “definitive” number of what is essential fat.
Also, keep in mind, that skinfold regression equationswhich are used to calculate percentage body fat fromskinfold thickness measurements, are population-specific,so they can overestimate or UNDER estimate, dependingon which one is used on which person.
The skinfold test also has substantial room for errordue to operator (human) error.
Although there are some very high tech and extremelyaccurate methods for fat testing today, body fat testingand especially skinfold testing, is not an exact science.I prefer to look at body fat testing as a method ofgetting feedback and measuring progress, not for obtaining”bragging rights.”
Body fat percentage numbers are often “fudged”,especially in the bodybuilding community, but I canassure you, I am not one of the people who fudge them.
During the 2001 contest season when I won my class at theNPC Natural Eastern Classic Bodybuilding Championships,I was measured on two separate occasions by two separateprofessionals at my club at under 4% body fat (3.7%).In my 20’s, at one point I measured at 3.4%, my alltime lowest.
These were taken with a Skyndex skinfold caliper witha 4 site Durnin equation. There are high tech methodsthat are arguably more accurate, but my tests were performedby qualified experienced fitness professionals who routinelyperform hundreds of such tests every year (and again, Ido it for charting my progress more than anything)
At my competition in October 2005, I measured 5%body fat, then 2 weeks later I measured 4.5%, againwith skyndex calipers.(you can see my most recentcompetition photos at www.bodybuildingsecrets.com if you look back a couple entries in the blog).
Even at age 37, I am quite certain I can once againobtain sub 4% body fat this year when I compete again.Even if I don’t, 4.5-5.0% body fat was good enough lastyear to take 2nd place in an open (non-drug tested)contest in a class of 9 competitors.
If you do some research on Clarence Bass, “Mr. Ripped”himself, you will see that not only does Clarence claim to havebeen in the 2% body fat range at one point, he hasthe documentation to prove it (photographs of the testprocedure and the printed test results, straightfrom the medical center where the hydrostatic weighingtook place)
In addition, any good sports medicine expert or exercisephysiologist will tell you that these extremely low bodyfat levels are also commonplace in elite endurance athletes,although they don’t carry the muscle that the bodybuilders do.
As for “how I stay alive at 3.7%”: You as a bodybuilder, ofall people, should know that competition is all about peaking…
I have never made a claim that I stay at 3 or 4 or even 5% body fat all year round – my low body fat numbers are in peak condition.
In fact, I publicly state quite often that I am usually about 8 or 9%body fat (I am now). I typically measure between 3.5 and 5% forcompetition and hold this for only a brief time – oftenonly for a window of days.
I know many, many other male bodybuilders whohave also reached these numbers because I have measuredthem myself or know the trainers who measured them. Ihave also personally measured a few women who droppedinto the single digits in body fat to peak for a fitnessor bodybuilding competition. High single digits for womenwould be analagous to low single digits for men.
I am making no recommendations or claims about potentialhealth effects of trying to stay that lean for too long,only pointing out the facts to you.
In truth, very low single digit body fat is par for the coursefor steroid and drug taking bodybuilders. Perhaps the onlything remarkable about the fact that I reached sub 4%body fat is that I did it without ever taking fat burning oranabolic drugs. I am life-time natural.
My physique is the result of extremely hard work anddiscipline. I haveNEVER said I had a magic bullet.
I wouldn’t ever say it was easy, nor would I evensay the rigors of bodybuilding at the competitive levelin the final days and weeks of competition prep are necessarilyeven healthy – even when you are natural for life. That is thenature of competive sports. Getting in a race car or the boxingring or even on the football field isnt without risks either.
I don’t recommend for my clients the same body fat goalsthat I strive for – unless they are also competitivebodybuilders. Goals and ideal body fat will vary dependingon the individual.
This is the body fat chart straight from my Burn The Fat book:
: “BURN THE FAT” BODY FAT RATING SCALE :
Competition Shape (“ripped”) 3-6%
Very Lean (excellent) 9%
Lean (good) 10-14%
Average (fair) 15-19%
Below average (poor) 20-25%
Major improvement needed (Very poor) 26-30%
Competition Shape (“ripped”) 9-12%
Very Lean (excellent) <15%
Lean (good) 16-20%
Average (fair) 21-25%
Below average (poor) 26-30%
Major improvement needed (Very poor) 31-40%+
Although these are good numbers to go by, even theseare just guidelines.
Dont be so quick to judge. There are a lot of liars, huckstersand charlatans in the bodybuilding and fitness industries today, especially on the internet,mostly people who use the Internet to hide their names, faces,and fat bodies, but I can promise you I am not one of them.
Stop by my club in new jersey some day and meet me, and even train withme, and once you know me, and when you see the shape I stay in and what I eat and how hard I train, you’ll see.
The Burn The Fat ebook program advertised on www.burnthefat.comis not just the same method that tens of thousands of regularpeople (NOT just bodybuilders!), have used in 131 countries toburn fat, it’s the same method I use to hit low single digitbody fat.
I am an active competitive bodybuilder… apractitioner, not just a writer… a doer, not just a talker.
My very best to you,
Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Fat Loss Coach
PS by the way “inerds” are technology geeksthat sit behind computers all day long. “innards”are your internal organs, which I believe is whatyou meant :-)
BURN THE FAT SUCCESS STORY OF THE WEEK
I’ve purchased quite a bit of equipment over the past year, but Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM) has truly been the single most important tool I’ve ever used to realize my personal fitness goals. It’s very much like a friendly (and easy to understand) technical manual for the human body.
It sure is easier to fix what you don’t like about your body once you understand how it works. There’s a lot about it that’s counter-intuitive (like it SEEMS like you should be able to lose fat by skipping meals) so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on the information in your book.
About a yea
r ago I was 235lbs (5’10 and something over 25% body fat with a very formidable spare tire) and finally just decided I had to do something about it to be able to live with myself. I began working out with some of the “as seen on tv” machines and gimmicks.
While I had some VERY limited success, it wasn’t until months later that I discovered your book and started getting some real results that I know will last (because I’ve made this a lifestyle, not a quick fix).
Today I’m 180 (roughly 17% or so body fat) and still dropping fat. (dropping faster than ever now that I’m finally getting around to doing the cardio thing like I should have been doing the whole time)
Anyway, once I’m under double digit body fat, I’ll send you an update with the whole story.
Thank you again for BFFM!
To see more reader feedback and all the latest BURN THE FATsuccess stories visit www.BurnTheFat.com/testimonials.html
This is my favorite blog post on here so far. I agree with you and I believe that you hit 3.4%, 3.7-5% body fat in peak condition and 8-9% off-season. I’ve seen all your pictures! Way to tell that guy! What an intelligent approach you made. Don’t ever let non-believers discourage you. I don’t think you do. Keep it all up!! :-)
Just today I had a distant family member and former national bodybuilding champion accusing me of being on something…anything to get myself as lean as I did after my first cut (16.80% to 6.20% in 13 weeks). Now that little incident told me two things:1) People don’t care about real life results. Many just they need to hear it’s a scam. They need to prove to themselves that it can’t be done. Rather than to admit they don’t have the heart to really go for it, they seek proof in the failing or so-called ‘lies’ from others that they are not accountable for their own poor results.2) He’s a BB himself. He knows what it takes to get in your best shape ever (or he at east should know). If he had done things naturally himself, he never would have accused me of fawl play. He must have been somthing himself. Sad…I told him there was no way I could prove to him my results are legit. But neither could he rightfully claim that they are not. I said: “You have the connections, you could even have me tested if you’d like. I dare you to have me checked at a time and place of your choice. I would welcome it. But know this, all you will ever face reading my test results will be your own disbelieve.”Good reaction Tom. Great post. Thanks for sharing!Take care,Karl
Way to explain it Tom! I know first hand how difficult it can be at times dealing with all the stabs from the vast majority. I think its quite funny that so many people are completely blind-sighted by what it actually takes to get competitively lean. I believe in you buddy, and attest my own personal accomplishments to your solid techniques and teachings!..Thanks again :)
Most important about that coment above… Tom actually DIDN’T say anything about him keeping (or encourage someone else to do so), his bodyfat at that level nor below.In fact I once read another article from Tom saying that a woman did lower her body fat for a fitness competition to a VERY VERY low level and afterwardds, she encouraged others NOT to do the same and she even said she WOULDN’T do that (competition) again.If this bodybuilding guy making this comment would read Toms Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle (BFFM) e-book, he will find that Tom is completely informed about the importance that nomral and healty body fat levels play in the body, and I believe he (a nice guy sharing his knowledge) woldn’t try something that could put his life in danger (and it seem obvious he wouldn’t encourage someone to do so).It isn’t logical nor moral. It’s recomend to stay tuned at his blogs and personal URL’s. It is like in a R&D center where students attend courses (from Ph D individuals or experts) in order to achieve a postgraduate degree. Those Masters share their knowledge to students just as Tom (nice guy) do. Criticism MUST be constructive and objective, clearly disqualification is not.
Not only do I believe in your figures, I’m so convinced I’ve hung the pictures from your October ’05 competition plus some info on you (and the BFFM web-site) on the notice board of my gym. I was tired of all the kids asking me what they could take to get bigger quicker. Now you’re hanging there, they stop, look, read – and ask no more. A few have asked about more constructive info, which I have been happy to provide, and they are getting results (“surprise”). Don’t go away, you’re a real inspiration !
Don’t sweat it. It’s just a number, a result of a calculation based upon some sort of measurement (probably calipher)s. It’s a reference point so you can objectively compare your shape to … well, your own previous shape. BB contests or general aesthetics are not based upon objective numbers, so what gives?
Good response!Yeah, he has “won many bodybuilding competitions”. I would like to know his name, the shows he won, and see his pics.
I don’t think this was mentioned either…..using calipers to measure body fat only measures the “subcutaneous” fat on the surface of the skin and obviously it’s a lot harder to estimate the fat within the organs, etc. Well, hopefully he’s scratching his head now ;o) Keep up the great work Tom!
Good for you Tom. You don’t need to explain yourself to the non believers; you will spend the whole lifetime defending yourself. Looking at your photos I never doubt (not for one second) that you did not reached the sub 4% body fat.You are a real inspiration to me and many guys I trained with. I hope you will be around for many years to come. I am currently working in Australia/Kazakhstan and would love to meet up and train with you in NJ one day.
Last may I competed and the morning of the show I measured in at 3.02% bodyfat. I cut from 220lbs. to 175lbs. in 22 weeks. I won my division. It is possible to get very low bodyfat levels IF a person is willing to put in the WORK.