James McQuarrie

A collection of random links and thoughts curated by James McQuarrie

How I plan on getting my body fat percentage to under 10%

At the beginning of last week I posted My 4 things to achieve before I’m 30 bucket list in which I set challenge number 1 to be getting my body fat percentage under 10% by the time I’m 30 (May next year).

I thought I’d share how I plan on doing it.

Step 1 – measure, measure, measure.

Before I do anything else I should explain that I’ve been measuring and recording my body fat percentage almost daily for over 12 months. Last year I wanted to loose some weight and get fitter, so in order to track my progress I bought a Hanson HFA Cellis Body Fat Analyser Monitor White (Amazon link) that can measure both my weight and my body fat percentage, used it every morning and recorded the results on my iPhone (See How my iPhone helped me loose 10kgs for more details).

Over the course of last year I lost about 10kg and got my body fat percentage down from over 25% to under 20% with 17.5% being the lowest I’ve hit so far.

I’m fully aware that the scales are not the most accurate way of taking these measurements, but I’m working on the basis that its better to have some readings than none and as long as I continue to use the same method of measurement at least it will be consistently less than accurate.

So, step 1 in the plan is to continue measuring and recording (daily) my weight and body fat percentage so I can track my progress and see where / if I slip up on the way.

Step 2 – diet.

Last year’s weight loss was down to three things; more exercise, better diet and the determination to stick to both of those things. For the better diet element of that trio I simply focused on two things:

  1. recording everything I ate and drank Monday – Friday
  2. eating more fruit, veg and less fat on those days

It worked. By recording what I was eating / drinking and my weight / body fat percentage at the same time I started to see patterns and correlations between my diet and my body’s reactions. If I had a bad day and ate something fatty I could see the results of my actions over the course of the following day’s readings.

But it only worked for so long. Over time as the weight dropped off and my body fat percentage came down with it, I started to plateau. Short of not eating or exercising for every waking moment (more on that in a bit) I couldn’t make any more gains. So I started to look at possible diets that could help.

Enter The Slow Carb diet. You can read all about it on Tim Ferriss’ blog or in his book The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman: The Secrets and Science of Rapid Body Transformation. But it basically boils down to eating:

  • veg
  • lean, unprocessed protiens (eggs, steak, chicken, fish, etc)
  • legumes (lentils and beans).


  • sugar
  • fruit
  • dairy
  • “white” carbs (bread, pasta, potato, etc).

You follow these rules for six days a week and then having one “cheat day” a week where you can eat and drink anything you like. And as much of it as you can physically stuff in.

That’s a VERY rough summary and I’d suggest reading the blog / book and other resources for more information if you’re interested in trying this out.

Slow carb diet fans make some bold claims about its ability to help loose body fat and weight, so I’m giving it a try. I’m just over a week and a half into the diet so can’t make any bold claims of my own just yet, but I have lost some weight and my body fat percentage has dropped too. Rest assured I’ll keep you posted once I have more numbers to share.

I’m still recording everything I eat and drink, even on cheat days, so I can again understand what may be effecting the numbers if they start to go the wrong way.

Step 3 – exercise, but more smartly

As well as changing my diet last year I significantly changed my exercise routine. Going from faffing around in the gym 3 days a week not really doing more than going through the motions to working out 4 nights a week and running 3k 3 times a week round Regents Park.

It worked, but again I feel like I could do better. So, for this new target of less than 10% body fat I needed a new workout plan. But, it needed to fit some important criteria:

  1. firstly, it couldn’t be an all consuming, 30 hour a week epic workout. I need to work and find time to relax as well as workout
  2. secondly, it had to be do-able without me having to join a gym.

So the new plan is to workout four nights a week, doing more targeted, compound exercises (squats and the like) with slower more controlled movements and fewer reps and to run 5k twice a week. (I’ll be writing more about the routine in the future).

I have some dumbbells and a set of kettle-bells to use at home for the weights aspect of the workout so I don’t need a gym membership and in total the running plus weights, plus warm down / etc is taking under 3 hours a week to do so far. So, no gym and no epically long workouts either. Win.

Putting it all together

So, to summarise my plan is to:

  • Measure, record and track everything I can that may effect my body fat percentage
  • Follow the slow carb diet to accelerate fat loss
  • Follow a workout plan that gets the maximum gains from the minimum input

I plan on following this plan for six weeks (I’m in week two at the moment) to test how effective it is for me. At the end of the six weeks I will analyst the progress and adapt and change the plan accordingly, and run with the updated plan for another six weeks. Rinse and repeat.

I’ve chosen a six week block to test at a time as I’ve found it’s about the right length of time for my body to adjust, adapt and bed in to a routine. As I have 11.5 months left to hit my target, as long as I’m moving in the right direction I’m happy for now.

For those who are interested: at the beginning of last week (day one of this experiment) my numbers were:

  • Weight: 99.9kg
  • Body fat percentage: 19.2%

My current numbers (as of this morning) are:

  • Weight: 97.8kg
  • Body fat percentage: 18%