Getting ripped is a goal for many, but few will actually achieve it. To really showcase your hard-earned muscle, focus needs to be not just on lifting and training but on burning fat and cutting the junk from your diet. Fact: body fat blocks muscle definition. So attack it! And try these tips to finally get that lean, cut physique you desire.
Slowly but surely
Depending on how lean you are already, it’s going to take about 12 to 16 weeks to really sculpt muscle. It’s best to give yourself time to lose fat steadily over the course of time rather than trying to get ripped fast. This will allow muscle growth at the same time, if it’s done right. When you resort to extreme tactics, cutting out carbs completely or doing excessive amounts of cardio, you might actually sacrifice some of the muscle you’ve already worked hard to pack on. Set a goal date for yourself and aim to get cut slowly. It can help to register for an event a few months out, whether it’s a bodybuilding contents, photo shoot or vacation, to give you a constant reminder to stay on track.
Know where you are
When transitioning into a cutting phase, you’ll want to take a good, hard look at your current diet. A good way to start is to jot down everything you eat and drink for a few days. Now, review the list. Try to estimate how much protein you’re getting, as well as how many fat grams and carbs you’re taking in. It’s a good idea to do this once a month in order to see where you’re falling short and what needs to be improved.
After an initial “clean up,” gradually begin a stricter diet, tapering down carb and fat intake and aiming for a lean protein intake of 1.5 grams per pound of body weight daily. You don’t want to jump from a sloppy diet to a shredding plan in a day—muscle will be sacrificed if you drop calories and carbs abruptly. As a general rule, reduce carb intake by 25 percent every four weeks if fat continues to be stubborn (200 grams carbs x 0.25 = cut 50 grams). The same approach should be taken for increasing cardio. If the fat isn’t coming off, add about 10 minutes of additional cardio work every two to four weeks (to a maximum of 45 minutes, five times a week). When you’re getting closer to your goal and fat is noticeably gone, taper cardio down again to 20 minutes to let your body fill out with muscle.
As much as looking in the mirror is going to give you a good idea of where you’re at with your progress, there’s nothing better than photos to really see the changes. Ask a friend to shoot some pics, including front, side and back views, doing the same pose and wearing the same clothing every time. Over the weeks, these photos will be a good source of motivation. If you look better every time, you’re going to want to keep going. If not, the pics may be just the kick in the pants you need to get serious.
You may be aiming for perfection, but without the occasional cheat, it’s going to be a long few months. Not only is it hard mentally, but your body needs a break, too. Metabolism can slow down on a calorie-restricted diet, so adding a high-calorie and high-carb meal into the mix every now and then can trick your body into thinking its not dieting. Some experienced athletes are capable of doing a cheat day, but it’s best to stick with one cheat meal if you’re new to this. Do it after you’ve blasted a lagging area to be on the safe side.
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