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There are a lot of misconceptions as to how percent body fat relates to appearing lean or being able to “see your abs”. 

How is this possible? Let’s examine what body fat percent is measuring which is a ratio of fat to non-fat. In the fat bucket you have essential and non-essential fat and in the non-fat bucket is lean body weight (bone, muscle, water). Here can lie some of the misconceptions. Say you lose 10 lbs. in a month, since your calories are lower your carbohydrate intake is likely lower (along with your fats). So, of the 10 lbs., 4 of it is fat and 6 is water. This would register as an increase in body fat percent because even though you lost fat you lost leaner bodyweight (in this case water) But there’s more- Your body fat percent number still isn’t going to say too much about how you look or if you’re going to see your abs. It can serve as a general ballpark figure but let’s dive deeper and look at the key factors in one’s ability to see their abs or appear “shredded”. This refers to how your body fat is placed over your body. Is your body fat stored all around one place or evenly throughout your body? Males sometimes store more fat in their midsection and are leaner in their extremities whereas females tend to store more fat in their hips, glutes, and thighs and appear leaner around their waist.

Subcutaneous & visceral fat, also known as surface fat & non-surface, fat is your fat stored more around your organs and internally or more on the surface of your body directly below the skin. This is a very key factor as subcutaneous fat is what we see as visceral fat is stored underneath the muscles and around the organs. 

This concept resembles the above discussed topic. Here the primary aspect we look for is how much fat is stored within your muscles. Some people store more fat on top of their muscles while others store more inside and throughout their muscles.

Burning that candle at both ends, spending WAY too much time in the gym, excessive caffeine intake, lack of sleep, oxidative stress, inflammation, and day-to-day stress can have a huge impact on water retention and how we look. Oxidative stress and inflammation in themselves can cause a lean individual to look very watery and flat.

Using the appropriate diagnostic tool to measure progress is a game changer. If your goal is to look ripped, then take biweekly progress pictures. If your goal is to perform better, then track performance metrics. If your goal is to feel better, then keep a daily journal.

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