Transform Theory: Drop Fat And Gain Muscle In Plenty Of Time For Spring

Even if you didn't resolve to change in January - or you did, but you're now struggling - you can easily hit the restart button. Here's how.

Let's try this again. It's a brand new year, and this time you're going to do things right. Your mission is to transform your body from what you let it become in 2011 to what you want it to be in 2012. The goal, then, is to lose as much fat as possible while maintaining, and adding, as much muscle as you can.

You won't get there by starving yourself and boring yourself to tears with endless cardio sessions, because all you'll be burning with that strategy is precious muscle tissue. What you want, and what this transformation program will teach you to do, is to set up your workouts and diet to work synergistically to drop the fat you don't want while conserving the muscle you've worked so hard to build. Here's how it's done.

The Foundation

To lose weight and say goodbye to fat, you have to operate at a caloric deficit, meaning you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. Simply put, eat less and exercise more. Sound advice, but there are some specifics involved. For most males, a good starting point for losing weight is to consume approximately 12 calories per pound of body weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, that's 2,400 calories per day.

Don't just focus on total calories, though. Their source is important, too. For example, a gram of protein contains four calories, as does a gram of carbohydrate, while a gram of fat contains nine calories. Consuming the right amounts of these three
macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat), in the right proportions,
will ensure an optimal balance between muscle building and
fat burning.

In The Gym

Without intense training, even the best-designed diet will fail at retaining optimal muscle. This is the 'use it or lose it' principle. If you don't give your muscles a reason to exist - such as lifting heavy weights - they'll totally dissipate and leave you with nothing but your love handles. You don't want to train too much, however, especially when you're cutting calories. So for this 8-week transformation process, you'll be weight training four times per week, hitting each body part with a lot of intensity once every seven days.

That's not all, though. Cardiovascular activity plays a huge role in any transformation program - at least in the ones that work. Cardio burns additional calories and keeps your heart healthy. It also helps you recover from weight training, so perform all the cardio in this program as prescribed, and don't skip any sessions.

The Macros

Protein is a very important muscle-sparing nutrient, so you'll want to take in roughly 1.25-to-1.5 grams per pound of body weight. Carbs help support intense training and muscle fullness, but too many of them will inhibit the fat-burning process, so you'll have to limit them on this diet - 0.5-to-1.0 gram per pound of body weight. fat is an additional macro energy source that plays a key role in numerous processes in the body, so although you won't want to drop it to zero, you'll be keeping it at a moderate 0.3-to-0.5 grams per pound of body weight.

The sample diet we've provided here offers daily meal plans for a 200-pound male looking to drop weight. Included is your daily schedule for both training and non-training days. Because your energy doesn't need to be as high on rest days, we're lowering your carb intake quite a bit, although we're raising protein during these periods to prevent muscle catabolism.

The Workout

Day 1: Chest/Shoulders

Day 2: Off (Cardio Only)

Day 3: Back/Traps

Day 4: Off (Cardio Only)

Day 5: Arms

Day 6: Legs

Day 7: Off (Cardio Only)

For A.M. Cardio

30 minutes of fasted cardio (treadmill, bike, elliptical, stepper) at 70% of your maximum heart rate

Cardio Duration

Weeks 1-4: 30 minutes on all off days
Weeks 5-7: 30 minutes every day
Week 8: 30 minutes on all off days

Daily Meal Plans

Training Day

Meal 1

Meal 2

Meal 3

Meal 4

Meal 5

Meal 6


  • Carbs: 175g
  • Fat: 55g
  • Protein: 250g
  • Calories: 2200

Rest/Cardio Days

Upon Waking

Meal 1

  • Oatmeal


    1/2 cup

  • Omelet


    2 whole egg, 10 egg whites, and mixed vegetables

Meal 2

Meal 3

Meal 4

Meal 5

Meal 6


  • Carbs: 75g
  • Fat: 80g
  • Protein: 275g
  • Calories: 2120

How It Works

After Two Weeks

Have a "carb load" day on one of your training days. Take the original carb portions listed for a training day and double your portions for one day only.

After Your Carb Load

Reduce all carb portions on training days by 50%. Do this for two weeks.

After Your Two-Week Carb Reduction

Have two carb-load days back to back, as outlined above, then resume the lower carb diet you used in Weeks 3 and 4.

For The Remainder

Repeat this process one more time to complete the eight-week plan.

What You'll Feel

Carb cycling aloows you to take advantage of the fat-burning benefits of a low-carb diet while still experiencing the surge of a periodic carb-up, an action that will increase your metabolism and refill glycogen stores. Your strength and energy will also be high following carb-up days.