I am at a healthy weight with good muscle mass (6 ft., 160 lbs., and ~11% body fat) for a 50-year-old male. What diet “dos” and “don’ts” do you have to reduce body fat to 10% or lower?

– Jerrod S.


Wow, Jerrod! Your 11% of body fat is already at a level that others aspire toward. Hard to say what will give you that final edge to reach sub 10% not knowing what you’ve done so far to get where you’re at. According to the makers of three major body composition analyzers*, less than 10% body fat for men aged 40-59 is “underfat”. The body needs a minimum amount of essential fat for cellular processes, an estimated 5% for men. At this point, too little fatty tissue impairs endocrine and metabolic functions.

Of course, by building muscle mass and increasing percentage of lean body mass, your percentage of fat will drop (without having to lose fat mass). Dedicated athletes, fitness models, and physique competitors reach low levels of body fat by different means. Regardless of goal or specific approach, they all take eating and exercise very seriously, to the point these two activities can make up the bulk of their waking hours. For whatever reason you want to see a “10%” on your next body composition assessment, you’ll have to be even more strict on the diet you follow now or reduce portions slightly. No magic bullet here – just more of the hard work you’ve already put in!

* Omron, Tanita, and InBody. Manufacturer’s websites accessed 3/25/2019.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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