There are not only an untold number of methodologies but also an untold number of reasons for guys to exercise. Honestly, isn’t one of the biggest one to get the chicks? Even if that is your surface level goal, getting into shape has profound effects on your confidence, discipline, outlook on life, and that’s not even to mention all of the long term health benefits. Guys who are athletes obviously train to optimize their sport specific results, even if that isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing form their bodies could take. Many other guys go for the traditional bodybuilding training, however, to transform themselves closer to that ‘Greek Ideal’. This body comes with a solid muscle base and lower body fat percentage, highlighted of course by those six pack abs. Some guys see pictures of Arnold or Frank Zane and think that this is their ideal to have that insane size that is symmetrical and also tapered. Other guys see themselves in the aesthetic construct of guys like Zyzz (RIP), Brad Pitt in Fight Club, or Zac Efron in Neighbors and get the motivation to train based off of that. Whatever your case or motivation may be I don’t think there are many guys who would dislike having a set of ripped abs proudly displayed on their midsections. The question is how does one go about getting this ripped look? What kind of diet and exercise program should one follow? In this post, I want to lay out my own current strategy to get in fantastic shape and have a great six pack to go with it.
The diet is the most important aspect of undergoing a body transformation. You can train all you want but if you aren’t eating right, you will never maximize your muscle gain or your fat loss, in essence you will stagnate for long periods of time.
My diet to start off with is pretty basic. I am not following a strictly low carb diet that would induce ketosis and lead to extreme fat loss because I want to keep up my training schedule, which requires carbohydrates to be able to get through. I want to lose fat at a slow pace (0.5-1.5 lbs per week) so that I can retain as much of my muscle mass as possible and potentially gain some. Losing fat while gaining muscle is a very difficult thing to do but it can be done, you simply won’t be doing either at the most optimal level and since I haven’t trained very much in a while I can expect gains simply by starting back up.
In order to accomplish this, I am taking a carb cycling approach to my diet. This means on days that I work out my diet will be higher in carbohydrates and on my two off days I will keep it under 100g of carbohydrates per day and possibly under 75g. My schedule looks like this:
Sunday- Off Day (Low Carb)
Monday- Weights & Cardio (Higher Carb)
Tuesday- Weights & Cardio (Higher Carb)
Wednesday- Weights & Cardio (Higher Carb)
Thursday- Cardio (Moderate Carb)
Friday- Off Day (Low Carb)
Saturday- Weights (Moderate Carb but with extra carbs post-workout)
This is the diet I have followed for the first week and so far it seems to meet my goals of not losing muscle, losing fat slowly, and not hindering my energy levels especially during workouts. I have been working out for over a week and a half but didn’t start concentrating on diet for the first 3-4 days. I am still 2-3 lbs lighter and have a noticeably leaner look than I did when I started the workout plan.
I have yet to count calories and I don’t plan on doing so for a while. My initial focus is to ‘eat clean’ and to keep my macronutrients within an acceptable range. Most meals are kept quite simple with a protein source, a good carbohydrate, and a green vegetable (spinach, broccoli). If I can keep a majority of my meals this basic, I can avoid eating junk food, easily cycle my carbohydrates, and plan my meals in advance.
My definition of eating clean is as follows:
-No Fast food or sweets
- Low Sugar
- On low carb days substitute grains for greens. Also, bump up the protein and fat intake.
-Stay away from liquid calories. Water and skim milk (on high carb days for protein shakes) are what I will be drinking.
-Stay away from heavily processed foods
My protein sources are pretty consistent each day and I simply up my portions on days when I need more. Chicken, tilapia, tuna, salmon, eggs, whey protein, skim milk, beans, and nuts. Those foods make up the majority of my protein intake. The chicken and fish is either steamed or grilled, never fried. Also, lean red meat is acceptable but it’s probably one meal out of the week if that.
Obviously, protein is going to be the key factor to preserving and growing muscle mass while changing my diet and training program. Again, I haven’t counted calories or nutrients beyond my low carb days, just a rough estimation of how much I should eat per meal. I generally keep my meat portions between 8-12 ounces which ensures that I’m getting more than enough protein without going overboard with the calories. I supplement with whey protein powder which I mix with skim milk or add two scoops to water on my low carb days. I want to keep my muscles fed throughout the day and the whey helps me accomplish that.
Low carb diets are great for losing a maximum amount of fat in a minimal amount of time. While I am including carb cycling in my diet, I am not going low carb because it would be detrimental to my muscle gains and I am under no deadline to lose fat. Slow and steady is my plan. Since the body can break down carbohydrates quickly and use them for energy, especially during times of stress (workouts), I definitely want them around so my body doesn’t decide to break down muscle in order to fuel me through the day. Also, as soon as I got off a strictly low carbohydrate diet I would probably gain a bunch of weight back, which would suck.
Carbohydrates also help the body to recover and allow me to have much more energy in order to train both harder and longer. For the purposes of my diet, my carbohydrate sources come from the following foods: potatoes, brown rice, wheat bread, oats, veggies, beans, nuts. On the low carb days, I definitely bump up the amount of veggies I eat, replacing potatoes or brown rice with spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce.
In order to lose fat, I am NOT going on a low fat diet. My fat intake will stay between 15-25% (estimates) of my total calories each day. The reasoning behind this is that low fat diets can inhibit testosterone function which is a no-no for my purposes because I want my muscle and my hormones in optimal range. Honestly, the biggest thing for me is to get my fats from sources that aren’t fast food or other fried disasters. My fat comes mainly from these foods: eggs, nuts, fish, olive oil, peanut butter, and some from chicken (skinless).
Sample Diet (High Carb Day)
Meal 1: 4 Scrambled Eggs with salsa (add black beans for more calories plus protein and carbs) and 1 cup of oats
Meal 2: 1 scoop of whey protein powder mixed with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 3: Chicken with broccoli and brown rice
Meal 4: 1 scoop of whey protein powder mixed with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 5: Peanut Butter Sandwich on whole wheat bread (This definitely adds calories and fat but should work nicely for my purposes of not dropping weight too fast).
Meal 6 (Post-workout): Chicken or fish with 3 small russet potatoes and spinach or salad.
This sample day works out well because all of the parts are in place to make adjustments easily. If I lose weight too fast I can easily up my calories by eating a bit more but not including junk food. If I find that after a while of losing fat I am gaining some back then I can easily cut by replacing with one more low carb day or making some minor adjustment.
Sample Low Carb Day
Meal 1: 2 scoops of whey protein in water
Meal 2: 5-6 scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil with cheese and salsa added. (Remember, I bump up fat intake on these days).
Meal 3: Chicken with Romaine Lettuce salad (mostly use fat free Italian dressing but may use ranch if I need the calories)
Meal 4: 2 scoops of whey protein in water
Meal 5: Fish (salmon most likely for the fats) with lots of broccoli or spinach.
Meal 6 (if necessary): 1 scoop of whey in water with a slice of whole wheat bread –OR- cook up a can of tuna with seasoned with lemon and pepper and add some onion and cheese.
I haven’t done a cheat meal yet but it can be beneficial to have one cheat meal a week where you don’t go crazy but eat something that is outside of the normal diet. Most likely, I’ll do one day where I simply go pretty high on the carbs just to re-feed my muscles but that might only occur once every two weeks or so.
You may have noticed that I did not include fruits with this diet. I am not opposed to fruits completely, I will have a banana a few times per week. However, I tend to stay away from too many fruits and will drink no fruit juices because the sugar gets easily stored as fat. Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are rich in either Vitamins A and C. Romaine lettuce is high in Vitamin K. Potatoes have lots of potassium. So my dietary needs are being met and I supplement with a good multi-vitamin each day. I do eat fruit, simply not every single day.
I take the following supplements:
That’s it for right now and probably for the rest of the process. You don’t need as many supplements as some companies will try to claim, most of your results come from four factors (weights, cardio, rest, diet). Supplements are there to do just that supplement your routine. Some can make you marginally better but they aren’t going to do squat if the rest of your plan is screwed up.
For the time being, I will be working out at home (Updated: Back in the Gym using Visual Impact Cardio instead of Insanity). For my resistance training, I will be using dumbbells and an Iron Gym pull up bar. This limits me to the type of training I could be doing (i.e. heavier lifts) but it should work just fine as there are plenty of dumbbell exercises for each muscle group and I can always add more weight as I progress. Also, I won’t be doing any leg specific days with weights but I will get work on my legs by using the Insanity/Insanity: The Asylum hybrid workout as my cardio.
My schedule looks like this:
Sunday- Off (maybe a walk around the neighborhood)
Monday- Arms/Shoulders (morning), Insanity (night)
Tuesday- Chest/Back/Abs (morning), Insanity (night)
Wednesday- Arms/Shoulders (morning), Insanity (night)
What I like about this schedule is that I get 4 weight lifting workouts per week as well as 4 cardio workouts per week by using Insanity. Monday-Wednesday, I separate the two types of workouts to ensure some recovery occurs and a maximal effort is given (got this idea from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding).
I usually substitute the upper body exercises that are in Insanity by doing other cardio movements since I have already lifted weights during that morning. I scheduled Friday and Sunday as off days and designated them as low carb days because it works best with my schedule. Also, the Thursday-Sunday portion allows for plenty of recovery from those first three days where I double up the workouts and may workout 1.5-2 hours total.
The importance of rest and recovery cannot be understated. Getting enough sleep each night will allow my body to grow and recover. Also, the body releases a majority of hormones through certain sleep cycles, meaning if you don’t get the sleep you won’t get as much of the necessary hormones. Rest isn’t being lazy, it lets your body hit an optimal state to maximize the results.
Too often people solely focus on diet and exercise in order to achieve some physical change. That’s great and also wildly important but they also tend to completely ignore the psychological aspects of changing parts of their lives drastically. Think about how many times you ate junk food or sat on the couch merely out of habit. You could have worked out or eaten better and you logically knew you should have but you just didn’t ‘feel’ like it. The problem is that if you decide to undertake a new workout and diet without addressing your bad habits and mind states, you will most likely fail in your pursuit once the initial motivation wears off or you become busier than you had anticipated. I am going to lay out some ideas and helpful tips that can help to stay committed to undergoing a body transformation to get those ripped abs.
Change Your Environment
One way to avoid eating junk food is to not keep any in your house. If you can’t see it, then you probably won’t eat it. This also applies to other daily distractions that may keep you mindlessly occupied instead of hitting your workout goals for the day. For example, consider deactivating Facebook if you spend a lot of time on that. Think about the things in your life that can hinder your progress or derail you totally and figure out how you can remove or lessen that negative influence.
Have a Plan
All the words I wrote up above? That is a plan. Well, more of an outline for the purposes of this post but I do have a more detailed plan for how I want to achieve my ripped look and for what changes I need to make in my lifestyle in order to achieve that goal. A basic plan can start small, maybe, simply a workout plan that you do for a month or so to install it as a habit in your life. After, you’ve got the workout part down pay, then maybe you address your eating habits in a more serious way. If you aren’t good a sticking to plans then maybe a complete lifestyle overhaul all at once isn’t a good plan for you. Maybe you need to break down your negative patterns step by step. (See: Exercising but Not Losing Weight, Spring Break Workout Plan)
Meditation is a great habit to pick up. It is simply focusing your mind for 20 minutes or so and clearing out all of the thoughts that are racing through your head. Doing this really helps me to relax and focus on what I truly want to do instead of whatever my mind is worried about at that particular time.
Motivation comes and goes, however, you can find sources of inspiration each day to help keep you on track. I like to download motivational podcasts and speeches and listen to them during the day. You might find some cool motivation videos on YouTube that can get you psyched up before your workout. Maybe you have someone who’s physique you admire and you can read an interview with them about how they achieved their goals. Whatever it is, make sure you have a steady stream of positive energy coming into your life, it really does make a difference.
Consistent Not Perfect
Understand that you will make mistakes and occasionally miss workouts. That’s okay. The biggest factor in affecting a positive change is being consistent, not being perfect. If you want to get in shape then you need to stick with it, so don’t let one bad day ruin your whole week, or a week ruin a whole month. If you fall off the wagon, get back on.
Okay, there is my post on getting ripped abs. I plan on updating and revising it as I see fit and as time goes along. I will take the above information and utilize it for the time being but I definitely will make adjustments if my fat loss is too slow or if I drop weight at a pace faster than I’d like to. I’m really like the process so far, I have tons of energy and I’m really focused on giving it my all so that I can transform my body. It’s hard work but it is definitely worth it.