Fat Loss Tip: How to Go Below 10% Bodyfat Without Eliminating Carbs From Your Fat Loss Bodybuilding Diet

Typically, when a bodybuilder reaches 10% body fat, in order to keep the process of fat loss going in the right direction, we need to use some metabolic trickery. While at this point, the instinct of many bodybuilders is to eliminate carbs from their bodybuilding diet and go on a ketogenic diet, this is not the best strategy in my opinion.

While eliminating carbs from your diet initially brings about some results in the way of less water retention and a sudden drop in weight, the body immediately puts itself into an emergency state and thus begins to take measures in order to lower its metabolic rate. It will do this through a reduction of thyroid hormone production (which is the hormone responsible for keeping the metabolism high) and the only way to bring this production back up (and thus, boost the metabolic rate) is through an increase in carbohydrate intake. So instead of just eliminating carbs from the diet, a better way to accomplish fat loss when already at 10% body fat is through the use of an advanced technique called carbohydrate cycling.

Carbohydrate Cycling

Since you are already at 10% body fat, it will take some metabolic trickery in order to coax your body to go down to 6%. Here is where carbohydrate cycling really pays off.

When using carbohydrate cycling, carbohydrate intake is lowered significantly (but not eliminated) for a few days in order to put the body in a fat burning state. Then, for one day, carbohydrates are increased again to normal levels in order to prevent the metabolic slowdown that we described above. In addition, by temporarily increasing your carbs, you also get to have better energy levels throughout the fat loss process as well as preserve (and even gain) muscle tissue.

How to Implement Carbohydrate Cycling

There are many ways to implement carbohydrate cycling. However, a simple way is to do three days of lowered carbohydrates, followed by one day of increased intake. As far as how many carbs, proteins and fats to consume, I personally use the formulas below:

Carbs (low days) = Lean Body Mass (Fat Free Weight) x .85
Carbs (high days) = 2 x Carbs (low days)

Proteins (same for high and low carbohydrate days)= Lean Body Mass x 1.25 (you can go as high as times 1.5 if you are training twice a day)

Fats (same for high and low carbohydrate days)= Lean Body Mass x 0.34

So in my case, for example, my Lean Body Mass is 175-lbs (this is my fat free mass). Therefore:

Carbs (low days) = 175 x .85 = 148.75 (so I will round this off to 150 grams of carbs)
Carbs (high days) = 2 x 150 = 300 grams of carbs.

Proteins (same for high and low carbohydrate days)= 175 x 1.5 (since I train twice a day) = 262.5 which I will just round to 260 grams

Fats (same for high and low carbohydrate days)= 175 x 0.34 = 59.5 which I will round to 60 grams.

So now that I have my daily values, I have to figure out what I need to consume in each meal. I believe in eating 6 meals a day so first I will calculate my proteins and fats simply by taking the total amount that I need to consume per day and dividing by 6:

Protein intake per meal = 260/6 = 43 grams (so I will round it to 40 grams per meal)

Fats intake per meal = 60/6 = 10 grams of fats per meal.

In order to calculate the carbohydrate intake, on low days I like to have carbs only for my breakfast, my pre-workout meal and my post workout meal. I chose to have carbs at these times because in this manner, the carbs consumed will be fully utilized by the body for fuel. Therefore, in order to calculate carbs for a low day, simply take the total amount of carbs and divide by 3.

Low Carb Day Carbohydrate Intake Per Meal = 150/3 = 50 grams on 3 meals (breakfast, pre-workout and post workout meals or breakfast, lunch and dinner if it is a day off from weights).

To calculate carbohydrate intake for a high day, simply divide the total carbohydrate intake by 6. So in my case, that comes out to:

High Carb Day Carbohydrate Intake Per Meal = 300/6 = 50 grams per meal.

Food Choices

As far as food choices, for proteins use lean proteins such as chicken and egg whites. Also, feel free to include proteins rich in essential fats such as wild atlantic salmon.

For fats, on meals where you are including proteins that contain essential fats, you don’t need to add any. On meals with lean proteins like chicken, egg whites, or protein powder then you need to add fats in the form of flax seed oil or capsules like EFA Lean.

Finally, for carbohydrates, since our main goal is fat loss, only include low glycemic index carbs such as oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes and, of course, green vegetables like broccoli and green beans.


I’ve consistently used the carbohydrate cycling technique with awesome results. Many others have used it as well. Give it a try and I guarantee you that every time you go through a cycle of 3 days of low carbs followed by one day of high carbs your body will change by burning body fat and retaining, or even gaining, muscle.

Take care and train hard!

Hugo A. Rivera


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  1. hugo,
    i am a triathlete. i train on the bike, run and swim alot. i am wanting to incorporate a weight training exercise into my program but find time restraints and a low energy level often prevent this. do you have any suggestions?
    Jeff Wilson

    • Hello Jeff,

      Sounds to me like you need to up the carbohydrate and good fat levels in your diet so that you can have the energy needed for your daily activities. Been a triathlete as you know requires a lot of energy and often the problem encountered by athletes of this nature is that they do not eat enough. Up the carbs by a good 100 grams (in complex form) and the fats by around 42 grams (1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 of flaxseed oil, and 1 from fish oils) and see if this helps. If not, add 100 more carbs from simple form and see if you notice a difference.

      As far as the workouts, just do 3 sessions of weight training a week of 30 minutes each. Please see the routine below:

      Abbreviated Bodybuilding Split Workout Routine
      Workout (A) – Chest/Back/Abs

      Triset #1:
      Incline Bench Press 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Wide Grip Pull-ups to Front 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Crunches 3 sets of 15-20 reps

      Triset #2:
      Chest Dips 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Close Grip Chins (Reverse Grip) 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Hanging Leg Raises 3 sets of 15-20 reps

      Triset #3:
      Incline Flyes 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Low Pulley Rows 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Bicycle Crunches 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps

      Workout (B) – Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps

      Triset #1:
      Upright Rows 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Triceps Pushdowns 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Incline Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps

      Triset #2:
      Bent Over Laterals 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Concentration Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 3 sets of 10-12 reps

      Triset #3:
      Lateral Raises 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Hammer Curls 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

      Workout (C) – Thighs, Hamstrings, Calves

      Triset #1:
      Squats (Medium/Wide) * 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Lying Leg Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Standing Calf Raises 3 sets of 12-15 reps

      Triset #2:
      Leg Press (Close Stance; feet and legs together) 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Standing Leg Curl 3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Calf Press 3 sets of 12-15 reps

      Triset #3:
      Leg Extensions 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Stiff Legged Dead-lifts or Lunges (Pressing with heels) 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
      Seated Calf Raises 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps

      *Note: Perform squats with a medium stance and when you hit failure, then change to a wide stance and keep the reps coming until you hit failure again. If you suffer from back problems you can substitute for a leg press machine and use the same technique.


      * Workout Frequency
      This routine can be performed as little as 3 days a week and as much as 6 days. All you have to do is rotate workouts A, B, and C.

      * Rest in Between Tri-sets
      After each tri-set you can rest 1 minute to 90 seconds at the most. Keep up a fast pace. Also remember that there is no rest between the exercises in the tri-set. So for instance, you will go from Incline Bench Press to Wide Grip Pull-ups to Crunches and then rest 1 minute before starting again.
      Please keep me posted.


  2. This was a good article, much better than I expected (no offense, there’s just so much drivel these days with everybody and their brother repeating the same mantras over and over). You explain the process really well. I especially like the fact that you base the protein figure using LBM instead of total bodyweight.

    The carb total for the low carb days seems kind of high–what do you base that on?

    Another question–what do you think of macro-partitioning, in particular, not combining carbs and fats? You obviously combine them from the information above, but have you ever tried that type of partitioning. I’m currently alternating low carb and low fat weeks (low meaning shoot for 30 grams or less daily-definitely don’t get over 50 grams). Combining this with resistance training and cardio, each 3-4 days per week, I’ve lost 15 lbs in about a month and a half.


    • Hello Jack,

      Thank you so much for the compliments! Means a lot!

      As far as the carb count, my goal is not to create ketosis on a low carb day. My goal is simply to compromise the carbohydrate stores in the body. That is the reason why the carbs are higher.

      As far as macro-partitioning, I have done it. As a matter of fact, I have followed a diet like the one you are doing now with really good results.

      After many years of trial and error I have found the carb cycling strategy to be a strategy that can be used for the rest of your life while a ketogenic diet like yours is a short term solution that can get you quick results but that is hard to maintain on the long term. Just my opinion. Both work very well and the key, like with anything, is just to be disciplined.

      Thanks again for writing, congratulations on your weight loss and keep up the GREAT JOB!


  3. Good article and I would like to try it but how do you know what your lean body mass is? I am assuming it is different from your actual weight. thanks

    • Hello Jill,

      First, figure our your Lean Body Mass by using some Accu-Measure calipers. This is a very cheap and accurate way to measure body fat.

      Second, once you have your body fat percentage, you figure out how many pounds of fat you carry. Example: a 200-lbs guy with 10% body fat carries 20 lbs of fat (200 x 10/100).

      Third, you take your total weight and subtract the fat weight. In the example above, that would be 200 – 20 = 180

      The result is the Lean Body Mass (which is the fat free mass). In the case of our example, we have 180 as the lean body mass.


  4. Juan from Cardenas here . . . hey what are your thoughts on GRAINS? I see you recommend low glycemic grains . . . do you disagree with the people who say grains are bad for you? I’ve heard a lot on anti-grain pronouncements . . . I’d like to read the other side’s opinion!

    • Dear John,

      Could you please elaborate your question a bit by naming the grains that are being touted as bad ones?


  5. Hey Hugo, you’ve a truly awesome physique with solid fat loss tips for bodybuilding, you definitely know your stuff, I’ve been developing a somewhat similar carbs cycling system or approach for many years with excellent results also…so I know your formula works!

    • Thanks for the comment and keep up the good work!

  6. Hugo,

    Im following your BRE workouts and diet. Im on week 13 and am really enjoying the progress. I currently eat my maintenance plus 700 to 800 calories from Mondays to Fridays and then only my maintenance calories during the weekend. As far as my workouts, I do them in the morning at 5am. Ive gain some weight (174lbs currently from the 164lbs I used to be) and would like to gain more. However, summer is coming up and I want to get lean and add more definition to my body.

    If I follow this carb cycling, will it negatively effect my weigh gains and muscle gains? How long do you recommend I do the cycle? And, since I workout at 5am, should I eat carbs before and after and then no more for the rest of the day? What about cardio, should I still do my 25min cardio sessions 4 time a week?

    hope this mesage finds you well. Cant wait to try this new technique.


    • Dear Francisco,

      I am doing well, thanks for asking!

      Following the carb cycling technique will not affect your mass gains. You may lose some weight, but in the form of fat. Carb cycling in my opinion is the best fat loss technique there is.

      Do carb cycling for a good 12 weeks if you really want to get shredded. Then once September comes you can switch into exclusive mass gain mode again if you wish.

      Also, since you workout first thing in the morning do the carbs on post workout meal, and then the two meals that follow that one.

      In regards to cardio, just keep at it.

      Take care and train hard!

  7. Hey Hugo…great article..thankyou! In your opinion I am taking in 30 grams carbs for 5 days to get the fat burning. Do you think this is to low? I am follow Nick Nilsons guide. Thans ,Tom

    • If you are following his plan, follow it to the letter.

      I’ve done this kind of dieting and it works for a short period of time. It’s not the sort of thing I would do for life, but it definitely works on the short term.

  8. Hey, this is a great article! Simple and straightforward. I used your formulas to figure out my personal numbers. I have a question: it seems the calories are pretty low (something like 9 calories per lb of bodyweight on the low carb days). I was wondering if this is okay, and for how long of a period can I continue this without harming my metabolism. Can I use your formula if I’m still 16 weeks out from a contest, or should I wait to get a little closer? I still have about 8 percent bodyfat to lose. Thanks so much for the info!

    • Dear Sunny,

      Thank you for the compliment.

      The low carb days are low in calories but that is why we also have medium and high carbs…to avoid a metabolic slowdown.

      Yes, definitely. Feel free to use the formula at 16 weeks out. That will get you in shape ahead of time and then all you have to do is increase the carbs slightly (by around 30-50 grams per day) in order to maintain condition.


      • when you say 30-50 grams a day increase. Do you mean from your low day or high day and when you increase your carbs is it continous and if so for how long?

  9. Will I benefit from carb cycling as a female with 24% body fat? I would like to get down to about 18% and am on the training program from the body sculpting bible. I want to start it this week if you recommend it! Please let me know as soon as possible!


    • Hello Jennie!

      Absolutely! As a matter of fact, in the BSB I do cover carb cycling. You do have the new editions (the one with the DVD) right? If so, take a look at the Nutrition section.

      Best of luck!

  10. Hi Hugo, i’ve read your article and find it really interesting, I do however have a couple of questions.
    Firstly my job involves alot of lifting all day long, I’ve done my measurements and im 188.5 pounds, fat free that would be 175.53 pounds. According to your formula i would need around 150g/carbs on my low days. Heres what im worried about, i perform my BRE workouts at between 5 and 6:30 am, I then walk three miles in to work and then lift on average 2 tons (4400 pounds) at work throughout the day. Now thats probably not that heavy in your standards, my workouts average around 6-7 tons ( 13200- 15400 pounds). Am i not going to feel really rough and lethargic without the carbs.

    Secondly, with working out am should I consume my carbs on my first three meals, therefore pre, post and then breakfast. Or post, breakfast and 11am meal.
    Thanks for the imput and keep up the great work.

    Yours truely BRE member.

    • Hello Christopher,

      The key for you then is to up the carbs just a bit.

      What I would recommend is to add 50 grams to all of the numbers that the calculations provide. If you see after a week that you are very lethargic, add 50 more grams to all of the numbers. In this manner you will find the right number for your activity levels.

      As far as the meal times, do post, breakfast and 11am for maximum fat loss.

      Best always.

      Take care and keep training hard!


  11. Dear Hugo:

    Your blog is as wonderful and information-rich as all your fabulous books on bodybuilding. Thank you so much for your exceptional contribution to people’s healthI

    Would you please consider offering your Body Re-Engineering Program in a hard- book format? A spiraled edition of the Program, for instance, should not be so hard to produce and you could charge additional fee for the hard copy and the delivery. I would also suggest that you add the Index to your Body Re-Engineering Program should you consider offering the Program in the hard-book format. Your superb books on bodybuilding lose much of their value as reference books because of the lack of indices in all of them, at least those editions that I own. Books are references and, therefore, without indices they are not so helpful and efficient as they would be with indices.
    Regarding e-books, I suggest that they are messy to keep, take a lot of space because they are printed on one side of the sheet of paper and consume a lot of space on the shelf and in a binder they are very unwieldy to use. If you considered offering your Body Re-Engineering Program in a hard-book Program with the Index I, for one, would buy the Program in a heartbeat, and I believe that there are many people who stop short of buying your Program because of this strict limitation of the format that the Program is offered. I am not writing the above to try to entice you with future profits–I am very well aware how successful you have been with both your hard-copy and electronic books and that your primary goal is rather doing good than well–therefore, I am suggesting that you consider offering a hard-copy [spiraled] edition of your Body re-Engineering Program to do more good than with only one option of the electronic book of the Program.

    Hoping that you might consider offering your Program in the hard-copy format,
    Your admirer and an avid reader of your books,
    Alexander Astor

    • Dear Alexander,

      Thank you so much for your advice.

      I will look into the feasibility of doing this along with my partner and will keep everyone posted.

      Best always!!!

  12. Dear Hugo:

    Your advice on how to reduce body fat below 10% is as informative and enlightening as all your recommendations and directions. Thank you ever so much for this wonderful advice!

    Could you please consider advising your readers how to start the fat elimination process–there is too much information both in the books and on the line that is not either complete or is not professionally correct. For example, whereas it is very important to be aware of the hormonal response to one’s fat reduction process, many writers on the issue ignore such an important question and, accordingly, the results for the trainee are disasterously antipodean to the results sought.

    If you would consider writing on the topic of fat loss for ordinary people who are not as shredded as professional body builders, there is no doubt in my mind that you will cover all the bases there to be covered as to fat elimination process beyond exercising.

    Thank you again for your hard pro bono work for people’s health.
    God bless you and people like you–you are the epitome of the idea of the US!
    Very cordially and appreciatively yours,
    Alexander Astor

    • Dear Alexander,

      Thank you so much for your extremely kind comments! They really mean a lot to me…thank you!

      Today I actually did a video that talks about the subject of losing weight. I was once overweight and like yourself I figured that this is something that can help a lot of people out there.

      As soon as the video is ready I will publish it on the blog…either today or tomorrow 🙂

      Thanks again and many blessings to you as well!
      Hugo Rivera

  13. Hugo, i have been using your BRE and have good results but diet is has been tough. In this article you mention ‘lean body mass’. how do you find that number? it seems to be the key.


    • Accu Measure Calipers is the best way to measure LBM.

      How’s your diet coming along?

  14. what is the most accurate and easy way to calculate LMI?

    • I would say, just get some Accu Measure calipers and that should take care of things. They are actually VERY accurate.

  15. Here you go Hugo. These three are from MARKS DAILY APPLE. Not the only place I’ve seen an anti-grain bias but he’s one of the best writers out there so his arguments are clear.

    Grains and intestinal ailments http://www.marksdailyapple.com/grain-pain/

    Why grains are unhealthy http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/

    Grains not all we’re told they are http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-grains/

  16. Hi Hugo,

    Thanks so much for the great article! I had a few questions:

    1. I was wondering whether we should only count net carbs when determining the amount. E.g., I get less energy from vegetables than I do from sweet potatoes, and I assume this is because of the increased fiber in the vegetables. So should we "net" the carbs by subtracting fiber from overall carbs?

    2. Does this diet induce ketosis for the "fat burning" low carb days? If so (and even if not), are there some scheduling concerns for certain activities? I am thinking specifically of my priority muscle group (where I want to add size) and cardio. My intuitive sense about it is that you should work out your priority muscle group on your highest carb day, and regarding cardio, if I do cardio 5 days per week, I want my ketosis/"fat burning" days to fall within those 5 days, as opposed to my "off" days.

    Thanks again,


  17. hi , i weight 150 lbs offseson as is the amount of carb and protein right i have to use if i want to lose fat and gain mass….?

    • Hi Vanessa!

      If you are following the carb cycling principles then here are your requirements:

      Low Day Carbs -128g
      High Day Carbs -256 g
      Protein – 225g
      Fats – 51g

      So you will do 3 days at 128 grams of carbs followed by a day of 256 grams. 3 days low/1 day high and then start over.


      Mon –

  18. Hey Hugo can I still do cardio 6x a week with the carb cycling method?

    • Absolutely my friend. Best! HR

  19. Hi HR,
    I started proper bodybuilding at the start of 2012 then i became seriously ill (typhoid) in May2012, however i recovered and started workouts again in November2012 but did not find any extraordinary improvement as i early did (before i fell ill) and that’s what keeps me worrying. Now-a-days i am thinking about supplements and proteins but i am a little bit shy in moving towards these because till now i used natural food. but i am fed of it, just cant eat all the time. so what do you suggest me as per my body propositions. one thing my ideal body is not to make huge and heavy cuts i just want to increase my size more and more with good shape and look good for example John Cena. Thanks in Advance!
    Looking forward

  20. Hello

    this is firstly fantastic information, just wanted to clarify does your vegetables ( greens count towards your carbs?

  21. Do you do any cardio with this diet plan and also how do you maintain where you are at when you get there?

  22. I’m 5,7 at 158pd with 13 % body fat with 138 pd of lean muscle at 53 of age.

    ?1. Should I stop HIIT on my off day (25min) 3 times a week if I cycle my carbs
    ?2. Will I lose lean muscle ?The reason I ask it that on my low carbs I only take 1700 Calories and on my high carbs days I only take 2200 Calories. My TDEE is 2300 Calories with 3 medium exercise.

    Thx and hope to hear from you…

  23. I’m 5,7 at 158pd with 13 % body fat with 138 pd of lean muscle at 53 of age.

    ?1. Should I stop HIIT on my off day (25min) 3 times a week if I cycle my carbs.

    ?2. Will I lose lean muscle ?

    The reason I ask it that on my low carbs day I only take 1700 Calories and on my high carbs day I only take 2200 calories. My TDEE is 2300 Calories with medium exercise. 3-4 days exercise.

    I do not want to lose the muscle I have now, Im afraid that I don’t eat enough calories with your numbers.

    Can you help,


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