Lean vs. Shredded

Two terms. Apparently pretty similar, apparently the same game plan. Well, not at all. There is a lot of misinformation in the fitness industry, and a lot of people assume that going from lean to shredded is just a matter of staying on a deficit for a longer period of time. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The difference between being lean and being ripped to shreds is enormous, you need to aware of it and respect it.

Even though, technically, it’s all about the deficit, we are not talking about calories in vs calories out here. We are talking about real human mental strength and will power. Getting lean is easy but getting shredded is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in fitness/bodybuilding.

Honestly, if you don’t have a real need to be shredded (you only “need” to be shredded if you are competing) I would never suggest getting to that point. And here is why.


Body fat… and what that implies. If you want to be lean you have to be around 9 - 10% BF range, which is a healthy and sustainable body fat percentage that will have you feeling and looking great. But if you want to be shredded, you’ll have to go down to 4 – 6%, so get ready to feel like a zombie.

When you are lean, everything is okay. Your hormones are balanced and running at full throttle, you have energy, you feel good, your humor is good, you look good, you may have some hunger here and there but nothing too crazy, not too many cravings, sleep is going to be good, etc. In other words, you will feel and look amazing.

When you are shredded however, that’s a whole other story. Your body doesn’t want to get to such a low body fat percentage, it literally thinks it’s dying so it enters survival mode.

That means:

- Your hormones will go crazy: fat plays such a huge role when it comes to hormones secretion and balance. When you get down to 4 – 5 % BF, your body doesn’t have enough fat to work properly so your hormonal system will start doing exactly the opposite of what it should: cortisol through the roof, GH and testosterone inexistent, leptin on the floor… and consequence of this hormonal imbalance, everything that you are about to read will happen.

- You will be hungry 24/7: again, your body doesn’t want you to be this low body fat, so you will start experiencing hunger 24/7. Your body will try to force you to eat so you can gain some fat back.

- Cravings 24/7: you will not only have cravings constantly, but you will also have the weirdest cravings you could ever think of. Things that you would never think like eating, will start sounding and looking like a feast to you.

- Your mood: exhausted, irascible, miserable, sleepy, dizzy, lethargic, you won’t be excited for anything, sex drive? What is that?, no patience for anything … in other words, you will feel like absolute shit. Sorry to be this vulgar, but its literally how you will feel.

- Insomnia: it may be the hunger, it may be because of the high cortisol or it may be because your body wants you to eat and gain fat, but you will have huge problems to sleep. Your body will keep you awake to force you to eat (which is going to be done by the hormonal imbalance). And since you recover while sleeping, and you will not sleep as much as you should, you won’t recover properly from your sessions, so DOMS is going to be one of your new friends. 4 – 5 hours of sleep is going to become the new normal rule for you (DOMS and lack of sleep = walking zombie).

- Another level of mental strength: you remember Gollum form the Lord of the Rings, right? You will have two personalities now: 1 – you wanting to keep getting leaner and keep pushing yourself; 2 – the devil, developed by your own mindset, who is going to try it’s best to put you out of track, miss workouts, “cheat on your diet” and skip cardio. Basically, you are going to be in a constant internal fight between wanting to do the work and not wanting to do absolutely anything at all.

Being lean is all about monotony. You just have to create the right habits and keep repeating the cycle: eat on a caloric deficit, train, cardio, sleep, repeat. You just keep doing that and eventually you will get lean.

Getting shredded, however, that takes everything to a whole new level of sacrifice, discipline and dedication.


You guessed it: being lean is, being shredded is not.

The consequences of being shredded are so extreme that is not possible to stay at that low body fat percentage for a long period of time. It is not sustainable, and it is not healthy.

Fitness/bodybuilding competitors only stay at that level of “shreddness” for a couple of weeks max. Once they are done competing, the get back to the 7 – 10 % in less than a month.

Being lean is healthy and is sustainable but being shredded is only a temporary state for an end goal. Once that goal is achieved (99% of the times is competing in a show) there is no point on keep torturing yourself being shredded.


You probably already have figured out the answer, but let’s talk about it anyways so you understand the why behind that answer.

Context is everything, so take a look at yours first. You want to compete and earn your pro card? You want to just lose some fat? you want to look good at the beach to make your friends jealous? Whatever your case is, the answer is simple: if you want to compete, get shredded. If not, get lean.

We have already talked about it. Getting shredded is dangerous, it’s unhealthy and it’s something not logical to do if you are not competing. I would rather stay at a bit higher percentage of body fat and being able to enjoy life a bit, than torturing myself with no reason.

That’s it for today’s post!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion or constructive critic, please do not hesitate to let it in the comments section or use my social media.

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See you in the next one! :)