Everyone wants to be ripped. I do not care who you are or what you do. Having a lean, cut physique is a goal of everyone I have ever met; some are just better liars than others. That being said, there are a million-and-one "experts" out there telling us all how to get that desirable physique.
There is just enough; "This is how I did it so it should work for you..." it makes me throw my hands in the air with a big caveman ARRRG!?! I cringe going to bodybuilding shows because even at the state level there is plenty of mass, but minimal cuts. The "experts" strike again!
Now, as I step off my soapbox, let me make available the real how-to, guaranteed-not-to-fail-you way to get ripped. Am I just another one of the "experts"? I have been called worse — but for the sake of argument — let me provide you some background.
Helping people lean up is what I do. I practice medicine on the side to pay the bills. The following info applies if you are fifty, fat and have a food fetish, or if you are a lean, mean mid-twenties guy or gal that wants to be tighter.
Tens of thousands of eating plans and clients in the last 25 years have provided me, through trial and error, the real how to. Thomas Edison once said while discussing the filament in the light bulb:
So, let's get to it. Here's a quick summation of this article before I start: I will teach you how to get ripped - it takes work; it takes monitoring; it takes constant tweaking. However, if you do it (barring appalling genetics), you will be as cut as you want to be. A few things come to mind as I write this, some I will include, and others I will not:
- Supplements — There are some excellent supplements out there that will assist your goal. Supplement articles Articles.
- Exercises — a number of different types of exercises help you in the cutting process. The specifics? Training Articles.
- "Getting on stage" lean and cut (i.e. involves water changes, tricks of the trade, etc.). Contest Articles.
- Nutrition? THIS article!
- Monitoring lean and fat mass? THIS article.
- Truly getting ripped? THIS article.
Obtaining a ripped physique requires monitoring weight and body composition changes, strength, and energy, as well as being eager with counting calories, weighing foods, and calculating nutrient ratios, all of which will effect your final outcome.
I am going to add bullet points throughout the article as a summation point of how to get ripped. You can then look back at the points as a reference guide for future use.
Measure your body composition for a starting point. Plan on following your body composition at least once a week. As you measure, you can properly adjust calories to spare the lean mass and eliminate the fat!
Anyone who has ever dieted for a bodybuilding show says to himself or herself before they start: "If I could only weigh this much AND be ripped."
We all know that you sacrifice some scale weight getting cut-up — but why? Simply put, when calories in (what you eat) are greater than calories out (what you burn/exercise off), you gain scale weight. The same is true for scale weight loss: Calories in are less than calories out.
Maintenance occurs when the two are equivalent. In my experience, one of the first things people do to get cut up is slash their calories and increase their cardio. I have seen very large bodybuilders get down to 500 calories a day to get just a little tighter. That isn't right!
Our bodies' survivalist instincts go directly to fat preservation and lean mass loss when we cut to many calories. Lean body mass loss must be minimized while you are getting ripped.
Lean body mass contains only 363 kcal/lb (i.e. muscle is 20% protein, 80% water). For example: Weight loss of greater than 0.3 lbs per day on a 1,000 kcal/day deficit includes loss of muscle. If a 1,000 kcal deficit targets lean body mass, one can lose 2 3/4 lbs per day — and it is all muscle!
Quality weight loss must be paced and planned! I am absolutely tenacious when it comes to the importance of measuring your body composition while getting cut up. Loosing all of that hard gained muscle to get a little leaner is just about the stupidest thing I can think of.
There are a number of ways to measure body composition, but the importance of it cannot be overstated when you are leaning up.
Determine your caloric amounts per day based on your lean mass and amount of exercise you are doing
After measuring your body composition you will need to determine your caloric needs to get you ripped up. Total daily energy expenditure is influenced by a number of factors. The most important for this discussion will be your body composition. The more lean tissue, the higher the metabolic rate. The more fat tissue, the lower the metabolic rate.
Your total daily energy expenditure is comprised of three components:
- Resting Or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the minimum energy requirement to sustain the body's functions in the waking state.
- The Energy (Thermic) Cost Of Exercise (TEE). This includes energy spent during activities of daily living as well as the energy cost of exercise.
- The Thermic Effect Of Food Intake (TEF). This is the energy expended on digestion, absorption, and storage of foods.
This article is too short to go over detailed calculations, so I am going to use two simple equations to determine the number of calories you need each day. As you measure yourself these numbers will change. This is how you dial in to your maximal leanness. In determining your BMR use the following:
- Male: Lean Mass in lbs. x 12.5 = BMR
- Female: Lean Mass in lbs. x 11 = BMR
To determine your TEE, assuming you are all weight lifters, take 0.086 and multiply it by the number of minutes you are lifting weights x your scale weight in kilograms (scale weight in kilograms is found by dividing your weight in lbs. by 2.2. For example: 150 lbs. / 2.2 = 68.2 kg). This will give you an approximation of the number of calories you are burning in the gym. As an example:
A 150 lb. male in the gym training for 60 minutes would burn the following calories:
150 / 2.2 = 68.2 kg
(Weight lifting variable) 0.086 x (weight in kg.) 68.2 x (min. in gym) 60 = 352 calories
Now, add this number to your calculated BMR, and you will have your calories per day measured.
A 150 lb. male with a percentage body fat of 15% who lifts 60 minutes a day:
- Determine fat mass in lbs.
150 lbs. x .15 = 22.5 lbs of fat
- Determine Lean mass
150 lbs. — 22.5 = 127.5 lbs. lean mass
- Determine BMR
127.5 lbs x 12.5 = 1594 calories/day
- Determine calories spent in the gym
0.086 x 68.2 x 60 = 352 calories
- Add your BMR to your calories in the gym
1594 + 352 = 1946 calories/day
If you do not lift on a particular day, be it planned or not, do not include this portion of the calculation in your total calories. I am NOT going to include the TEF with our calculations as this provides a fudge factor, and brings us to our next important point.
Utilize a high protein diet - protein burns more calories and increases satiety (the feeling of fullness)
Notice I did not say low carb. I said high protein. Carbs are essential for lean mass maintenance. Short-term low-carb diets are great, but we are focusing on getting ripped and keeping all the lean mass we can. We all have been told of the benefits of a high protein diet. Let me review two reasons you may not be that familiar with. These two reasons will help you lean up.
Protein causes the greatest amount of satiety of any of the foods. In other words, the first thing we fear when we cut our calories to lean up is that we are going to be hungry. A high protein diet helps curb a lot of that hunger.
Protein also has the highest thermic effect of any food. This means that it takes more energy or calories to digest proteins than it does fats or carbohydrates.
Some studies have shown that up to 30% of the calories in protein are lost as heat in the digestion process. This is why I have chosen not to include it in our calculations above. This provides a fudge factor, and extra calories being burned that you need not account for.
You WILL be measuring your lean mass throughout your cutting process. This is an area that allows you some leeway and some protection of those hard-earned muscles. Protein sources include all animal products such as meat and dairy, and a variety of vegetable sources.
Adjust your calories at least weekly according to your body composition changes and how you look. Increase cardio if you wish to eat more or get lean a little quicker
After removing all the hype, getting cut comes down to a set of scales (no pun intended). You need to balance your cardio and calories. You need to monitor your lean mass and fat mass, and you need to compare pictures of yourself during the whole process.
Cardio to calories is easy. If you want to eat more, do more cardio and visa versa. If your lean mass is maintaining (a dignified goal while getting cut) and fat is dropping off — you are right on track. Here is where the fine-tuning comes in. People who are successful at getting ripped AND keeping their muscle mass know this to a tee.
The following is a simple guide to help you with your caloric intake based on what you are seeing/getting with your constant monitoring of your body composition and calorie content.
After setting your caloric amount, lifting weights like crazy and doing some cardio you check your body composition and this situation arises:
- Problem: You lost lean mass AND some fat mass (everything went down!).
- Solution: Increase your calories by 100 - 200 a day and recheck it in one week.
- Problem: Your fat increased and muscle stayed the same or increased
- Solution: Decrease your total daily calories by 300 - 500 a day.
Recheck everything in one week. Increase cardio.
- Problem: Muscle and fat stayed the same — no changes
- Solution: Decrease your total daily calories by 300 a day.
Recheck everything in one week.
Consider changing cardio.
- Problem: Lean mass stayed the same and fat dropped.
- Solution: Continue with what you are doing.
Recheck it in four or five days.
The above may seem tedious at first, but once you start doing it, getting into it, and most importantly seeing your results — it becomes very simple and quick to do.
Everyone I know who takes the time to measure their body composition, track their meals and calories, and spend a few extra minutes each day preparing their food succeeds in getting cut to the bone. It is a matter of discipline and priorities.
What is more important — getting shredded by spending a few minutes a week measuring body composition, using a food scale, and a calculator? Or always wondering how the h-ll the other guy got so ripped? Your call... or should I say Your Cuts?