The Dangers Of Being ‘Shredded’, According To Gym Junkies

"Being this lean feels awful. I have no energy, zero interest in sex, and a pathological obsession with food."

Forget brain training and emotional growth; getting ‘shredded like Zyzz’ is a goal we all furtively harbour. But life realities mean the majority of us spend more time shredding cheese (and our fingers on a keyboard) than we do in the gym.

It doesn’t have to remain that way though. And for those that want to peek through the looking glass at their abs’ possibilities, transformation coach James Kew recently took to Instagram to show you what the various stages of being shredded really feel (and look) like.

The infographic shows a series of body fat percentages, from 18% to 6%, alongside how you feel when you’re at them (ranging from “awesome” to “kill me now”). The image is also captioned alongside an explainer.

“So often we can get so caught up in wanting to get leaner that we can forget how being lean influences how you feel!” Kew writes. “Here is how I have felt at different body fat [percentages].”


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A post shared by James Kew (@jameskewfitness)

At 18%, Kew writes he feels as follows: “Loads of energy, feel strong in the gym! Able to eat loads of calories and feeling very full.” Then at 14% he’s: “⁣Still feeling good and looking a bit tighter” and his “abs [are] starting to become visible.”

Then at 10% “it’s now requiring some degree of conscious effort to stay this lean,” he writes. This is compensated though as at this percentage he is “looking very respectable with the shirt off.” The downside? “Hunger is creeping in and [he is] starting to get a bit more stressed about food in general.”

“Workouts feel tougher as energy dips.⁣”

Next, at 8%, Kew says, “I’m really having to restrict calories to get this lean, and definitely feeling the effects.” Additionally, “Every training session is incredibly draining, and I’m very dependent on caffeine to just get through the day. Looking great with the shirt off, but smaller in clothes as there’s no layer of fat to help me fill them out.”⁣⁣
Finally, the toughest of nuts – 6%. Of this body fat percentage, Kew says, “Being this lean feels awful. I have no energy, zero interest in sex, and a pathological obsession with food. I spend hours watching food porn instead of pornhub. My face looks gaunt, and everyone keeps asking why I look so ill. Look shredded when naked, but look skinny in clothes.⁣⁣”

This leaves us with just one question: is it really worth it? Or should we just stick to our biscuits, beer and baggy cargo pants?

DMARGE got in touch with Jeffrey Choi, a Level 3 Personal Trainer at Fitness First Top Ryde Platinum who specialises in body transformations for both men and women, to get his take.

Broadly speaking, Choi agreed with Kew’s infographic, though pointing out “how we feel at each range of body fat percentage will differ from person to person, so I wouldn’t say there are hard and fast rules.”

“That said, anything below 8% isn’t very sustainable and it’s likely you’ll feel worse at this range. I don’t see the point of aiming for this unless you are preparing for a bodybuilding show or professional photoshoot, or you are an athlete that requires low body fat percentage to make weight, for example MMA fighters.”

Ben Lucas from Flow Athletic echoed this sentiment, telling DMARGE, “Getting under a certain percentage of body fat will definitely affect your mood, energy, possibly your social life too. There is a reason why body builders fluctuate in weight and one of those reasons is that it is not sustainable to be under 8-10% body fat all year round. Thats why a lot of them will get ‘comp ready’ and then they will carb cycle to get back to a more sustainable weight.”

Choi told us the sweet spot of feeling your best is in the 12-15% range, where you enjoy looking and feeling good and can still live your life: “This is where I like to be and I find I can sustain it without too much effort.”

“I personally don’t feel as good when in the higher 15-18% range, as I really enjoy my workouts and don’t feel as mentally sharp at this level. However, for most people this is a perfectly healthy place to be and to most people you look good and healthy.”

Choi, who has competed in Natural Bodybuilding shows in both the Fitness Model and Men’s
Physique categories, placing in the top 3 (Both ICN AND WFF), and who has conducted his own tests at different stages of body fat percentage, using Dexa scans, inbody and pinch test with an experienced coach, then provided DMARGE with his own take on how you feel at various body fat percentages.

Male: 18 – 15%   Female: 20 – 23%

  • Enjoy flexibility of food choice
  • Some people can stay at this bodyfat percentage range without diet and training
  • Even for the average person, this range is easily achievable and sustainable without affecting their social life
  • You look above average among the general public

Male: 12 – 15%   Female: 17 – 20%

  • Still enjoy flexibility of food and nutrition – however require some effort and discipline
  • It is still sustainable and achievable but you definitely need a combination of training and
  • Optimal for muscle hypertrophy
  • You look good among average gym junkies

Male: 10 – 12%   Female: 14 – 16%

  • Require some degree of effort and discipline in terms of training and nutrition
  • Probably starts to affect social occasions
  • Likely to be the most shredded person in an average commercial gym
  • Sustainable for those who enjoy being shredded and who spend a dedicated amount of time in the gym each week, having consistently trained for years
  • For some females their menstruation cycle will be affected

Male: Below 8%   Female: Below 13%

  • Definitely start to affect both physiological and psychological state
  • Impairs performance in the gym (not good for strength training and more prone to injury)
    due to calorie restriction
  • Affecting hormones for example, decrease in libido for female menstruation cycle will definitely be affected
  • Feeling hungry all the time, cravings
  • Not optimal for muscle hypertrophy in long run

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