Sussex Performance Centre

Lean, Leaner, Leanest

When looking to lose weight, establishing what you want to achieve versus where you currently are, versus what to takes to achieve those goals are considerations often overlooked.

People see a picture of how they’d like to look and don’t fully appreciate what it takes to get there and what their next 3/6/12 month journeys are going to look like.

The internet is flooded with diet fads, ads, comments and ‘gurus’ who misquote experts about how you don’t have to give up the foods you love or your social life. This is probably true for those who are happy to maintain a relative leanness with minimal effort and with an acceptable amount of fat around the usual hot spots.

As you aspire to move from lean (ish) to pretty lean to ‘shredded’ you will undoubtedly need to start sacrificing things you enjoy doing or consuming.

It’s simply down to you to establish what you are willing to do/give up and what you truly want to achieve. It’s worth mentioning at SPC we have no vested interest in our client getting shredded. If we had to dictate, we chose the level that provided optimal health, reduced stress and improved self-confidence.

If you know what you want to achieve then here are some simple steps, consider them guidance (some basic maybe do’s & don’ts).


Before you embark on a journey you must first establish where you are starting. If we are talking about moving from overweight to relatively lean, we are talking a body fat percentage for men around the 14-16% mark and for women roughly 25%.

If we then work back to your starting point from a realistic point of view this probably needs to be around the 20-25% mark for men and the 30-35% for women. If you are above these thresholds, then this article isn’t for you and your first objective should be to start moving every day and addressing either portion control or over consumption of nutrient poor foods with a coach who can help you. 

We are aiming to lose around 5-10% of body fat at this stage. We are going to be realistic here and aim to get this done in roughly 3-6 months.

The reason being that if this is your goal then we know that you are not driven by an overwhelming urge to change your life in the pursuit of abs! We can apply patience and some of that internet guru logic!

To achieve this without much disruption to your life reduce the following;

Start getting better sleep (7-9 hrs), add vegetables at every meal with a good helping of protein throughout the day. Lift weights 3-5 times per week and complete some 20-30-minute cardio sessions 1-2 times per week. Drink 3 litres of water per day. If you do this and control portions then its relatively self-regulating and does not require you to focus too much on calories.

An example diet may look like this;


Oats with berries

Scrambled eggs and spinach


Jasmine rice


Stir-fry vegetables


Fish fillet

Sweet potato


Snack/post workout


Protein shake

Follow this structure and commit to 6 months and you’ll see progress commensurate with your goals. This also allows you to factor in a few of your ‘normal’ dinners out and drinks here and there without derailing your long-term vision.


Right now you’re lean. Great, now let’s get you leaner than the average! Depending on your body type for men this is roughly 10% and women 18%. To do this we now start to apply a bit more discipline and more control over the quantities of the food you consume. Calories need to be set at roughly 10-12 per pound of bodyweight.

Reduce your carbohydrates or fats to allow for you to be in a calorie deficit 

Lift weights 4 times per week and start to introduce HIIT ‘finishers’ at the end of two of your 4 lifting sessions, between 5-10 minutes each. Add in a 30-minute steady state cardio session once a week minimum and allow yourself 8-12 weeks for this phase.

During this period, you will want to reduce treat meals and dinners out to once every two weeks and make sure your adherence/restrictions are controlled carefully.

It’s here we start to remove food items that you know cause you binge.

Your results are only going to be as good as your dedication, so you need to commit to the process and trust that the small amount of discomfort you feel is not worth ruining our diet by breaking you plan!

You’ll also notice very little disruption in the way of strength of fitness in the gym. Too few calories may eventually start to interfere with those conditions, but rarely should they be experienced at this stage.

If this is your first time at this level of leanness and it’s not your natural state, then there is an argument to be made that this is as far as you should go for a little while.

There is evidence to suggest that your body has certain autoregulation systems that are sometimes disrupted by the overly abundant western diet.

At this point your body will want to return to its original state (chubby) but after a long enough time there could be the chance that the set points change, and you establish a new norm. This is still debated but something to consider.

Should muscle gain then be a goal moving forward you will have a greater chance of staying lean as you gain weight!!

Moving on….time to get shredded..

Between 5-9% for men and 10% for women. This is not a place many get to and even less maintain on a repeatable basis.

Simply put, your expenditure goes up and your intake goes down.

Compliance, restrictions and time allocated are all big factors in whether or not this is ever reached.  Be prepared for a miserable existence for at least 8-12 weeks (depending on your starting position). This state requires dedication, commitment and a particular mindset.

The do’s:

The do nots:

  • Drink alcohol at all
  • Eat processed foods, sweets, desserts
  • Skip meals
  • Overeat
  • Have foods in your plan that could trigger you to binge
  • Allow the occasional strategic refeeds of your already consistent carb choice to become a treat ‘day’ of utter crap food.
  • Expect to have a sex drive
  • Let your food cravings override your will

It’s worth noting that these low body fat states are not optimal for long term health and it takes a high degree of professional dedication to maintain or repeat multiple times over.

Please don’t underestimate the dedication required or the hardship involved because you view it through the medium of  instagram. Trust us, it’s not pleasant. The results however are undoubtedly rewarding and the feeling of achievement Im sure is incredible.

This process however isn’t linear – the work taken to get from 10-8% body fat isn’t going to be the same to get from 8-5%. One huge benefit if you can reach these levels is that appropriate reverse dieting could result in some amazing muscle gain when coming out of this phase; something you should consider because you’ll likely realise that actually you aren’t as big as you thought!

So where to start?

Take an inventory of your life and a realistic review of your body and where your body fat levels are. Pick a goal. Seek some advice if you don’t have the knowledge or you need the accountability (most require this and there is absolutely no shame in acknowledging it). Set an appropriate time frame.  Shut up and stick to it.

Timelines: Roughly 6-12 months for maintainable results. If it took you 5-10 years to get into the position you find yourself in (chubby, pudgy, soft etc), don’t expect it to turn around in anything less than 6 months.

Results could be visible after 12 weeks but sometimes you need to realise that if you’re serious and want to be able to maintain it, you could be a 40 week transformation. Be patient and imagine how good you’re going to look in a year from now! 

Naturally you’ll know when you’ve reached your goal. When you do, pour yourself a drink, sit back and be proud of what you have achieved, 90% of people don’t even start, let alone finish. 


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