Getting Fit: The Lean vs Shredded Debate

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 8, 2023
Lean vs Shredded

In the fitness world, words like ‘lean’ and ‘shredded’ are often used. They’re not just cool-sounding words; they stand for different fitness goals that can change how you exercise and eat.

When we say someone is ‘lean’, we mean they’re in good shape, with a decent amount of muscle and not a lot of body fat. This look is healthy and sporty, with a toned look that shows they’re fit but not super muscly.

On the other hand, ‘shredded’ comes from the world of bodybuilding. It means having so little body fat that your muscles are very clear and separate, which is why we say ‘shredded’. Bodybuilders or people who really like fitness and want to look very muscly often aim for this look.

Knowing the difference between ‘lean’ and ‘shredded’ is really important for anyone setting fitness goals. These words tell you what kind of exercises, food, and changes in your life you’ll need to reach your goal.

Understanding the meaning of each word helps you set appropriate goals. It also allows you to make wise decisions about your fitness journey. Additionally, it enables you to track your progress more effectively.

Now, let’s dig deeper into these two fitness states to help you figure out which one matches your personal goals.

Lean vs shredded Comparison Table

Sure, here’s a comparison table between being lean and being shredded:

Body Fat PercentageTypically around 10-15% for men, and 20-25% for women.Typically under 10% for men, and under 20% for women.
Muscle DefinitionSome muscle definition, particularly in good lighting or specific poses.High muscle definition, visible at all times regardless of lighting or pose.
LifestyleGenerally maintainable with a balanced diet and regular exercise.Requires a strict diet and intense exercise regimen, often difficult to maintain long-term.
Health ImpactGenerally healthy if achieved through balanced nutrition and exercise.Can be healthy in the short term for specific goals (like bodybuilding competitions), but maintaining extremely low body fat levels long-term may have negative health impacts.
Physical PerformanceGood balance of strength, endurance, and agility.May have high strength and muscular endurance, but overall performance can be impacted by extreme dieting necessary to achieve this state.
AppearanceFit and athletic.Extremely fit, almost “sculpted” look, with prominent muscle striations.

Understanding ‘Lean’

In fitness talk, when we say ‘lean’, we mean a body that’s fit and toned, with a good amount of muscle and not too much fat. A lean body isn’t just about how you look; it also shows that you’re healthy and fit.

A lean body has muscles you can see (but not as much as a ‘shredded’ body), a flat or slightly toned stomach, and overall looks strong and fit. This is the kind of look you might see in athletes who need to be strong, fast, and able to keep going for their sport.

Being lean has lots of health and fitness benefits. If you have less body fat, you’re less likely to get heart disease, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. In terms of fitness, having a lean body usually means you’re better at sports, can move around more easily, and have more energy.

To get a lean body, you usually need to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. This means eating foods that are full of nutrients and high in protein and fiber, but low in fats and sugars. You also need to do regular workouts that mix strength training to build muscle with cardio exercises to burn fat.

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Remember, getting lean isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about losing fat while keeping or even building more muscle. To get lean, you need to be dedicated, patient, and think about your overall health and fitness.

Understanding ‘Shredded’

In fitness talk, the term ‘shredded’ refers to having a body with extremely low levels of body fat. This results in muscles that appear defined and distinct. It’s like the body has been ‘shredded’, showing every muscle clearly. This is the kind of body you often see in professional bodybuilders or fitness models.

A shredded body has clear muscle definition. The muscles have visible lines and visible veins. Having a flat stomach is not the only goal. You should also aim to display a well-defined six-pack or even an eight-pack. It’s important that all your muscle groups, from shoulders to calves, are visibly defined.

While being shredded can show that you’re extremely fit, it’s important to remember that it can also come with health risks. Getting this low in body fat often needs strict dieting and intense workouts, which can be hard on the body. It can lead to hormonal problems, affect mental health, and even hurt your immune system if you’re not careful.

To achieve a shredded physique, you typically require challenging workout routines. These routines often focus on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). They also emphasize heavy weightlifting to help promote muscle growth.

Your diet is crucial. It usually involves eating protein, limiting carbs, and managing calories. It’s not unusual for people trying to get shredded to use supplements to help their muscles recover and grow.

Remember, getting a shredded look isn’t for everyone, and it needs a lot of time, energy, and discipline. It’s always important to think about such a goal in a balanced way, considering both how you want to look and the possible effects on your overall health.

The 10 Key Differences Between ‘Lean’ and ‘Shredded’

In the realm of fitness, ‘lean’ and ‘shredded’ are terms that define specific body goals. At first glance, they might seem similar. However, they have different body compositions, training routines, diets, and lifestyles.

Here are the 10 key differences between being ‘lean’ and ‘shredded’:

  • Body Fat Percentage: A lean body typically has a lower-than-average body fat percentage but is within a healthy range. In contrast, a shredded physique aims for an extremely low body fat percentage to maximize muscle definition.
  • Muscle Definition: While both lean and shredded bodies display muscle definition, a shredded body takes it up a notch with more pronounced muscle separation and visible striations.
  • Diet: Maintaining a lean physique calls for a balanced diet that includes ample protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. To get a shredded look, you need a strict diet. The diet should have high protein, low carbs, and careful calorie management.
  • Workout Intensity: Regular exercise is essential for both, but the journey to a shredded physique typically involves more intensive workouts, such as heavy weightlifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Lifestyle: A lean body allows for a more flexible lifestyle, whereas a shredded physique often demands significant discipline and commitment, impacting various aspects of your life.
  • Health Risks: Both states promote physical fitness, but striving for a shredded look can potentially lead to health risks like hormonal imbalances and weakened immune function if not managed properly.
  • Maintenance: Generally, a lean body is easier to maintain over the long term. Maintaining a shredded physique often requires continuous, intense training. It also requires strict dieting.
  • Performance: Lean individuals often enjoy a balance of strength, speed, and endurance, making this state ideal for many sports. Individuals with shredded physiques may have increased strength and muscular endurance. However, they may experience reduced overall endurance due to their extremely low body fat.
  • Aesthetics: A lean body looks fit and toned, while a shredded body is highly muscular and chiseled, often resembling the physique of competitive bodybuilders.
  • Supplement Use: Whilesupplements can be used by both lean and shredded individuals, those aiming for a shredded look might rely more heavily on them to support muscle recovery and growth.
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Choosing Between Lean and Shredded

Understanding the Differences

Before we talk about what could help you decide, it’s important to know what a lean and shredded body are. A lean body usually has less body fat than normal and some muscle definition. On the other hand, a shredded body has very low body fat, which makes the muscles look super defined.

Personal Fitness Goals

What you want from your fitness journey is really important in deciding if a lean or shredded body is right for you. If you want to look fit and toned without needing to do super tough workouts or follow a really strict diet, a lean body might be what you’re aiming for. If you want to appear very muscular and defined, like bodybuilders in competitions, you should aim to achieve a shredded physique.

Lifestyle Preferences

Think about what you like to do every day. To have a shredded body, you need a lot of self-control. You have to eat very healthy and do tough workouts. But if you like to sometimes have treats and do lighter exercise, then aiming for a lean body might be a better fit for you.

Health Considerations

It’s really important to think about your health when deciding if you want a lean or shredded body. Trying to get a shredded look can lead to health problems. These problems include hormonal imbalances and weakened immune system. So, always talk to a doctor or nurse before making any big changes to how you live, eat, or exercise.

Setting Realistic Goals

Remember, fitness is a journey, not a destination. It’s important to set realistic goals and celebrate small victories along the way. Whether you aim for a lean or shredded body, always prioritize your health and well-being.


In simple words, everyone’s journey to get a lean or shredded body is different. It really depends on what you want, how you like to live, and what’s healthy for you.

A lean body means you have less fat than most people but not too less, and you can see your muscles a bit. This gives you a fit look and lets you live a little more freely.

On the other hand, a shredded body means you have very little fat and your muscles are very visible. This needs more discipline and hard work but it gives you a muscular and defined look.

Remember, there’s no “one right way” in fitness. Whether you choose to aim for a lean or shredded body, make sure it’s what’s best for you. Always think about your health first, set goals that you can reach, and talk to doctors or nurses when you need to.

At the end of the day, the choice between getting lean and getting shredded is all up to you. Whatever you choose, be proud of it, celebrate when you make progress, and enjoy the journey to becoming the best you can be. Here’s to you becoming healthier and fitter!

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.