I can talk about training, posing, cardiovascular exercise, and how to train for optimal results until the cows come home,
but the information most in demand at fitFLEX, based on the flooding of my mailbox, is how to get ripped. Of course,
training, dieting and cardio have a lot to do with that whole process, so much of what I have written in the past has some
bearing on losing enough bodyfat to be considered 'ripped'. However, I think there is more to getting lean shredded even
than just a simple diet and training regimen followed day in and day out. Content may be everything when talking about a
diet, but in many cases getting shredded has more to do with context than anything else.
Ripped, shredded, cut, peeled, lean.
To the bodybuilder these are words that evoke an image of excellence. Anything short of this means no trophy, no articles
or photo shoot, and a reputation for coming in soft that is as hard to shed as pounds of fat from a bloated off-season
physique. The fact is, if getting shredded were easy, everyone would do it. A bodybuilder does not so much need to learn
what to eat as how to put it all together into a formula for success. Much can be done to shock or force the body into
change, but that only leads to problems down the road. Because this is a hot topic in the world of bodybuilding, I thought
I would create a list of the tips I've found to be effective in making changes that result in success and getting shredded.
This list is about sanity, and not cramming 12 weeks of dieting into six.
Part of the problem for most bodybuilders is their desperate need to look good. I believe actors and models experience this
feeling too. Where vanity and the necessity to be perfect are involved, compulsion rears its ugly head and causes an
otherwise normal individual to lose his or her sanity, perspective and common sense over a trophy and 15 minutes in the
spotlight. Human nature wants to cut corners and find an easier route. The path of least resistance can be the path of most
resistance when bodybuilders get their hands on it.
Getting peeled, shredded or lean doesn't have to be such a struggle. It can be an interesting and educational process
whereby the athlete learns to communicate with his own body. But I often find that people don't want to learn how their
body works. They want to have someone tell them what to do, pay minimal attention along the way, and then wonder why they
are so dependent on a trainer the next time. Hand-holding is a big deal in any business, I suppose. The most sensible
approach for a bodybuilder who has chosen to put his or her body through the rigors of contest preparation is to learn not
only what foods lend themselves well to the desired response, but also to acquire some of the logic that is necessary to
grow beyond the musculoskeletal system.
1 Set realistic goals.
Because bodybuilding depends on illusion, setting goals is difficult; however, it is an absolute necessity for anyone who
wants to achieve beyond the norm. Setting goals enables you to work hard for something. You may never reach an exact bodybuilding
goal- e.g. a particular bodyweight and degree of leanness that corresponds - because nothing that deals with the human body
can ever be precise. Approximating your goals is what matters. The biggest boon to goal-setting is the reward of achieving
improvement - namely, being more ripped than last year.
2 Focus on a specific time frame.
Timing is everything in bodybuilding. Starting a contest diet at six weeks out may be possible for the person who stays
relatively lean all year long, but it doesn't guarantee you will be able to reach your goals within that short a time. Setting
a time frame is directly related to goal-setting, but you must be realistic with what you want to achieve. If you have previously
started dieting at 12 weeks out, with only 15 pounds of fat to lose, and expect to use the same schedule now that you are 30
pounds of fat weight away from your goal, you may wish to rethink your plans. More time is always better than less when you're
dieting for competition. The bodybuilder who is lean at three weeks out, as opposed to three days out, has much more time to
manipulate his water, fill up, and achieve the best possible results from an entire year of training.
3 Make gradual changes in diet
Let's say you've been eating HoHo's and Häagen-Dazs for the past three months in your off-season. If your contest is at least
16 to 18 weeks away, you may not need to diet hard for those 16 to 18 weeks, but then again you may not want to wait until the
12-week mark to begin a radically clean diet either. Making gradual changes will help you to stay on your diet during the most
crucial time between one and eight weeks out. You can't go from a diet of goodies to a daily regimen of turkey and rice with
little transition in between. Gradually work into that clean contest diet over a period of three or four weeks. Abrupt changes
are not only hard on the body, but they are also much harder on mental health and willpower.
4 Balance your macronutrients.
Eating healthful low-fat food on a contest diet is very important, right? Sure. But what's more important is eating a balance
of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) that supports your training schedule, your appetite and your goals for fat loss.
Eating too much carbohydrate can keep the fat on some physiques, while eating too little can eat away at hard-earned muscle.
Protein quantity should always be a bit higher in a fat-loss/lean-out diet because it protects against catabolism, maintains
a positive nitrogen balance in the muscle tissue, and helps keep you alert and strong. Balance your proteins and carbohydrates
according to your body type, but don't forget to get enough fats too. While bodybuilders probably consume less fat than the
average person, fat is a great energy source for the days you spend doing more cardio than anything else.
5 Eat often!
The mistake a lot of fledgling bodybuilders make is to eat too few calories while preparing for competition. This is a huge
mistake, and anyone who has made it knows how sluggish his metabolism becomes. By eating often, you keep your calories in check
and, at the same time, stimulate the metabolism. Cutting calories may seem the most obvious way to get shredded, but it often
isn't the intelligent route. If you eat small meals from five to eight times per day with a protein source in each, you can get
up to one-third leaner because your metabolism cannot sense that you are dieting. Once the body's furnace (your metabolism)
senses that it might starve, it begins to slow down to conserve energy. Unlike an automobile, you want your body to burn
inefficiently rather than efficiently. You want your metabolism to act like a Ferrari, not a Honda. Eating often is also a way
to satisfy your psychological hunger and keep your body happily full of energy.
6 Record your progress and learn how to alter your diet.
Keeping a record of your progress on a daily basis may seem a bit over the top to a lot of people, but if you consider that it
takes only about five minutes a day to record everything you ate, the amounts, and how you felt and looked, it isn't such a big
sacrifice of time. After a while you will wonder why you never kept records before. The wisdom in keeping a diet journal isn't
just that you can effectively track your progress. A mirror can do that just as well. More valuable is the ability to directly
correlate those pages with your success. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt why your body did or didn't respond well. That
information allows you to alter your diet based on past results. Learning how to interpret through the mirror and alter your
calorie count, the amount of aerobic exercise you do, and the ratio of macronutrients is a tough chore without the aid of a
journal. Though you may become more adept at making alterations based on visual data, you must remember that your body changes
in some way every single day. What worked for you last year may fail you this year. With a diet log or journal, the devil is in
the details and you never have to guess why you aren't getting lean.
7 Don't skip meals.
The best way to ensure failure is to skip meals. A funny thing happens when you skip meals. Your body believes that it is in
danger and remains sluggish for hours after you do finally eat. You are not allowing that overdue meal to work for your body.
In fact you are ensuring that it works against your body. It hoards calories and starts to become that efficient machine again,
just as it does when you eat only three meals a day. Skipping meals is a danger to retaining muscle mass too. I know some men
who lose eight pounds in a day by missing just one of their scheduled meals. Now, of course, these are guys with fast metabolisms,
but the same effect may also happen to anyone during a diet phase when the body's metabolic functions have sped up. For women
the opposite process seems to apply. Instead of losing those eight pounds, women gradually put on excess fat when they skip meals.
Certainly this result is detrimental to any diet that aims at fat loss.
8 Pack your food ahead of time.
This advice goes hand in hand with eating often and not skipping meals. When I diet for a contest, because I work such long
hours and don't want to eat fast food while trying to get shredded, I cook my meals the night before. Since I get up at 4 o'clock
in the morning, my food doesn't sit in the refrigerator for very long. I cook enough chicken breasts for the whole day, plus
vegetables and rice or some other starch, like yams, and I never have to worry about where my meals will come from or whether
they will be cooked to my specifications. This method is also very convenient.
Packing food for an entire day into a cooler in individual portions enables you to eat when you want to and get the precise
calories you need. Whereas one day you may feel like eating every three hours, maybe on a heavy-activity day you are extra
hungry and require to eat more often.
9 Drink plenty of water.
Water is greatly underrated. It is to the diet what training is to building muscle. When you are dieting, water can make the
difference between reaching your goals and just falling short. Scientists have proven that water stimulates the body to release
its own water, and acts as a natural diuretic in abundant amounts. I think people too often rely on diuretics for last-minute
contest prep because they haven't wanted to drink a lot of water. A vicious circle keeps on perpetuating water retention under
the skin. Being properly hydrated is essential to losing fat and cleansing the body of toxins (ketone bodies) that are thrown
off by fatty tissue as it is burned. Just when you begin to think you are drinking enough, drink more. Water is virtually the
only natural resource that is free, so make use of it.
10 Stay lean all year long.
I can't overemphasize the importance of staying lean throughout the year. If you are serious about competitive bodybuilding,
you will strongly consider staying no more than to 15 pounds above your ideal contest weight. Although this figure changes from
year to year, you can generally gauge how much excess fat you are carrying. Even 20 pounds is all right as long as you can still
see a hint of separation in your muscles. Staying lean all year teaches you discipline, helps you to correct physique flaws
through training (because you can see your physique and determine what needs to be done), and helps you to achieve a harder overall
look the next time you compete. Not that you can't get hard if you don't stay lean all year long. You can. However, the leaner
you stay, the more easily you can avoid excess water retention, keep the metabolism working strongly, and build more muscle.
Muscle needs a little fat to grow, but not 40 to 50 pounds of it!
These ten ways to ensure you will be shredded when contest time rolls around have helped me over the years, and have helped
my clients greatly. Though they are all relatively important, the most significant one is attempting to stay lean all year I
can't stress enough the effect this self-discipline has on the finished physique. You may notice all the tips seem to work
interchangeably. A certain synergy about them necessitates that you regard all as major requirements for getting ripped. If
you are currently applying none of these principles, just start with one or two that you find to be realistic for yourself. I
can almost guarantee the results you get from your next contest will be drastically different.