Marcus, I feel your pain.
I just added a new photo, after a few weeks of really renewing my determination to get a six-pack. I've never gotten my body fat that low before, my body really loves hovering around 12% body fat. A number of years ago I weighed 235lbs, and didn't have much muscle, so I guess that put me around 30% body fat, and losing down to 12% took a lot of work but my body was definitely compliant. I ate less, it burned fat. I exercised, it put on muscle.
Once I hit 12% it was like running into a concrete wall. My friend, a pharmacology grad student, tells me that's not just my imagination, and that at the nutrition conferences he's gone to, there's plenty of talk about the body having a genetic body fat percentage that it just likes, where it settles into a comfortable homeostasis, and that excluding people with absurd hormone imbalances, that number is in the medical "healthy zone" -- for guys, 12% to 20% or so.
After two weeks I think I've maybe lost one pound of fat, maybe. It's just so brutally hard. I've been using BalanceLog, this calorie tracking program, to track the calories I consume with food and burn with exercise, and while it's obviously approximate, I've had decent luck trying to net 1500 calories a day. I imagine my resting metabolic rate is more somewhere between 2000 and 2200 or maybe a bit more.
The only way fat seems to come off is if I try to stick to that 1500 calories without letting myself feel hungry through the day. That has meant finding snacks that are low-cal but filling and psychologically gratifying, like carrots, celery, sugar-free fudgsicles, etc etc.
I'm also trying to still consume a good amount of protein to support muscle growth as I rock climb and stuff, so I've been taking Isopure (50g protein, 220 cals) after climbing and then on any day when I can squeeze it in without going over.
Sandwiches, too. Lots of sandwiches. A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread is full of nutrients and has a bit of good protein and fat and is less than 500 calories, so it's a great lunch. Other ones I've been doing lately, to mix things up:
- Sliced smoked turkey breast with melted cheddar and sliced apple spinach/tomato/onion/deli mustard on whole wheat bread
- Sliced chicken breast with melted goat cheese on whole-wheat flax-seed bread with spinach/tomato/onion/shaved carrot/deli mustard
- Tofu slabs fried in whole indian spice with avocado/spinach/tomato/onion/carrot/chutney on w.w. bread
Stuff like that. The key for me is to figure out the right amounts of each thing so my mind feels like I'm getting more than a pencil shaving's worth of cheese, but the sandwich stays below 500 calories.
I'm curious to see what happens when I actually get down to 7-8% body fat, whether my body recalibrates at all or whether it'll be eager to jump back up to 12%. If it's too much work to stay down there, it's not gonna last. This is really hard fucking work. (Although I suppose at least once I get there I can add another 500-600 calories back into my day. I daydream about just eating a half-pint of Haagen Dazs every single day on top of what I'm eating now...)