Despite what you may think, the biggest difference between 7 and 20 percent isn’t your workout—it’s your diet, all the experts agree. The difference boils down to eating for performance and balanced enjoyment, and eating to look good, McCall says.
“The 7% guy is definitely following a very strict regimen,” he explains. He’s probably eliminating certain macronutrients, like being Paleo with no carbs, and is definitely paying very close attention to what he eats.
Meanwhile the 10 to 12% guy is in constant flux—some weeks he’s at 9 percent, others he’s at 12%. “He might have a cheat meal—splurging on wings instead of steamed asparagus when out with the guys—but not necessarily a cheat day,” McCall says.
Someone at 15% is having a cheat day. “He’s paying attention and making certain decisions—no fried foods, burger without the bun, no accidental break room pastries. But he’s not uber health conscious,” he adds.
It comes down to what your priorities are: Do you want to go out and have a beer with the guys once a week and look pretty good—certainly better than most—or do you want to limit the places and things you can eat, but look ridiculously cut?
“To some people, the aesthetics are very, very important—and that’s fine,” McCall adds. But for others, the balance of looking good and enjoying a few indulgences in life is more desirable.
“When you want to hit a new body fat category, you have to decide: How important is being less than 10%? Because it requires certain lifestyle commitments,” he explains. At 20%, you might cave and have half a pizza. At 15%, you’ll have one or two slices. And at 8%, you’re sniffing the pizza and eating your salad.