Your Obsession with the Six-Pack is Killing You

Your Obsession with the Six-Pack is Killing You

By Jared Boynton 

Congratulations! You did it – you finally reduced your overall body fat percentage enough to have visible abdominal muscles. You’ve achieved the dream, and now you never want to go back. In fact, you’re so obsessed with maintaining your leanness year-round that you’re deathly horrified to increase your caloric intake at all. You’ll bump up your calorie intake, sure; but even with the small incremental increases that you make, you’ll barely have any impact on your metabolism at all. You’ll fall by the wayside, comfortably increasing your calories to a level where you’re JUST satiated enough to be comfortable never increasing them further. Next, you’ll allow cardio to fall off. You’re eating more, but you’re comfortable that your intake is still low enough to drop your intervals or drop your cardio completely.

And through this whole process, you’re totally wrecking yourself. You’re allowing your body to get acclimated to a state where your maintenance calories are much, much lower than they should be. Eventually, as your body adjusts to this low-calorie maintenance state, your leptin levels will return to homeostasis (your hunger will disappear), your body will cease producing an adequate amount of digestive enzymes (again, your hunger will disappear), and your BMR will remain extremely low – which makes everything far harder next time you want to shred off those last few pounds.

 Here are the reasons why a calorie surplus is necessary:

  1. In a deficit, your fat cells eventually become so insulin sensitive that all nutrients will be shuttled into them directly before being shuttled into where you want them (muscle tissues).
  2. Without increasing calories again after a cutting phase, you’ll run into either:
    1. Fats being too low, which will result in a serious deficit of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) that are essential for all-around health as well as muscle growth and maintenance. OR
    2. Carbs being too low, which will lead to a state of constant glycogen depletion which is absolutely not conducive to muscle tissue growth or maintenance at all. Without the presence of glycogen, the mTOR pathway will never be signaled to trigger hypertrophy.
  3. As you remain in a deficit for an extended period of time and continue to burn through body mass, a large portion of which will eventually be muscle, your total daily caloric expenditure will eventually drop far lower than it was when you had the muscle tissue to support burning calories. Only through a sustained caloric surplus is muscle growth possible.
  4. Your thyroid will eventually down-regulate, stop producing TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), and top producing T4 and converting it to T3. This will further decrease your daily calorie expenditure. The thyroid will begin producing these hormones again over time as you maintain a calorie surplus. 

Some of these can be mitigated by maintaining a fairly intensive cardiovascular regimen – Insulin sensitivity within muscle cells in particular – but not every athlete wants to continue to blast out 45 minutes of high-intensity interval training each day while they’re in the “offseason” or a maintenance phase. 

The moral of the story here is that maintaining a lean, ripped body 365 days a year is fine – as long as you want to look like a skeleton with abs, because unless you’re supplementing with anabolic hormones your body will eventually begin to catabolize all the muscle and start replacing it with fat. Remember: lean muscularity is not a state that the human body is designed to maintain. Though it may sound counterintuitive, pushing the calories up will often AID in fat loss, instead of hurting it. 

Set your body image issues down by the door and approach bodybuilding the way it’s supposed to be approached – objectively, with scientific evidence, and with emotion set by the wayside. The few minuscule pounds of fat that you may pack on during a SMART, planned out caloric surplus will ultimately be paired with a substantial amount of muscle gain, which will only make things easier for you as you continue your journey with fitness – dry your tears, because you’ll look even better next time you push through a deficit phase if you approach your surplus with an open mind.

Jared Boynton holds a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee, and is an internet-based performance and conditioning coach and the owner of Genomax Performance Coaching. His experience has been accrued through years of real-world implementation with both his own physique and the physiques of numerous clients. You can contact Jared via email at or via his website,


  1. Völzke H “The prevalence of undiagnosed thyroid disorders in a previously iodine-deficient area”, Thyroid. 2003 Aug;13(8):803-10.
  2. Fernandez ML “Rethinking dietary cholesterol.”, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 Mar;15(2):117-21. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834d2259.
  3. Huanguang Jia “Review of health risks of low testosterone and testosterone administration”, World J Clin Cases. 2015 Apr 16; 3(4): 338–344.

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