The models and athletes in our magazine are so lean and ripped that they almost make it look easy to attain a taut, muscular body. But we’ve got to be honest: It’s hard, it takes time, and it demands an unwavering degree of discipline. In our ongoing efforts to assist you in sculpting the body you’ve always wanted, we’ve laid out the golden rules to getting ripped.
Rule 1: Have a carbohydrate strategy
You’ve probably heard that “carbs are the enemy.” Well, not really. Completely slashing your carbohydrate intake will certainly help with dropping the pounds (and fast), but you’ll also be left feeling cranky, tired, and lethargic.
“Carbs are essential for life, as our brain and [central nervous system] continuously require them to work properly,” says Tim McComsey, a trainer, dietician and correspondent to HUMANFITPROJECT. “Restricting carbs completely will allow for any muscle mass to be metabilized to provide us with energy.”
Therefore, it all comes down to consuming carbs correctly, not cutting them completely. “To get lean, a balance of the right amount of carbs first thing in the morning and after a workout is ideal,” McComsey says.
Rule 2: Eat more fat
Yeah, we said it: eat more fat.
“Fat doesn’t make you fat, too much food makes you fat,” says McComsey. Consuming more fat in your diet will actually help curb cravings after you’ve reduced your carb intake.
“Fats help curb hunger because it takes the body longer to break down, use, or store,” he says. Hormones also play a role, especially when it comes to muscle-supporting testosterone. “Fats are needed to create and balance out hormones in our body to function normally,” McComsey adds.
Rule 3: Swap fruit out for veggies
Fruit is great—it’s full of nutrients and antioxidants to help protect the body—but the downside is that it’s also full of sugars (read: carbs). How do you not lose out on all the benefits? Swap in veggies (or fruits that people typically consider as vegetables) for fruit.
This strategy allows you to keep the necessary nutrients and antioxidants in your diet, but reduces your overall sugar/carb and total calorie intake. One apple has 125 calories and 25 grams of carbs. One large red pepper—okay, technically a fruit, but generally prepared like a vegetable—has 40 calories and 5g of carbs. You do the math.
Rule 4: Ditch cardio for weights and circuits
Here’s another fitness myth: If you want to get lean and strong, hit the cardio machine. That’s not true.
“You will not make more muscle this route,” says McComsey. When you do cardio, you’re burning calories, but you’re missing the muscle growth stimulation from weight training. “The more muscle that you have, the more calories and fat you’ll be burning,” he says.
McComsey recommends hitting the weight room 3-4 days per week with one of the days being a circuit with a variety of exercises. If you need to do cardio, try one day of 20 minutes of fast-slow intervals.
Rule 5: Lay off the sauce
Party boy, are you? If you’re serious about losing weight and getting lean, you’d better start seriously considering the effects of alcohol on the body.
“Alcohol causes fat to be stored instead of being used for energy. Essentially, your body will put a hold on the digestion of any food until the liver can excrete the alcohol,” McComsey says. Alcohol also hurts you in two other areas: “It’s a diuretic, which dehydrates you and reduces energy levels. It also can decrease testosterone in our bodies, which is critical for creating muscle,” he adds.
Next time you’re planning a guys night, stick to one or two light beers or hard liquor with a diet soda mixer. A six-pack starts in the kitchen.