As easy as the models and athletes in our magazine make being lean and ripped look, we’ve got to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s hard, it takes time, and it demands an unwavering degree of discipline. In our on-going efforts to assist you in sculpting the body you’ve always wanted, we’ve laid out the gold rules to getting ripped.
Rule #1: Have a carbohydrate strategy.
We’ve heard it all before: "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 because our brains and CNS [central nervous system] require them continuously to work properly. Restricting carbs completely will allow for any muscle mass to be metabilized to provide us with energy,” says Tim McComsey, personal trainer, registered dietician, and founder of TRymFitness.
Getting lean all comes down to using them correctly, not cutting them completely. “A balance of the right amount of carbs first thing in the morning and after workouts is ideal,” he 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 body takes longer to break down, use, or store fats,” 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 out fruit for veggies.
Fruit is great. It’s full of nutrients and antioxidants to help protect the body, but the downside is that they’re also full of sugars (and sugars are carbs). How do you not lose out on all the benefits? Swap out fruit and eat veggies instead.
This strategy allows you to keep the nutrients and antioxidants while reducing your sugar/carb and total calorie intake. One apple has 125 calories and 25 grams of carbs. One large red pepper has 40 calories and 5 grams of carbs. You do the math.
Rule #4: Ditch cardio for weights and circuits.
Want to get lean, hit the cardio machine. Right? Wrong.
“You will not make more muscle by trying this route,” says McComsey. When you do cardio you're burning calories, but you're not stimulating your muscles to grow as you would with weight training. "The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you'll be burning," he says. McComsey recommends hitting the weight room three or four days per week, with one of those 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 we? If you’re serious about losing weight and getting lean, you’d better think seriously about the effects of alcohol on the body.
"Alcohol causes fat to be stored instead of being used for energy," McComsey says. "Essentially, your body will put a hold on the digestion of any food until the liver can excrete the alcohol."
Alcohol also hurts you in two other areas: "It is a diuretic, which dehydrates you and reduces energy levels," he says. "It also can decrease testosterone in our bodies which is critical for creating muscle." Next time you're planning guys' night, stick to one or two light beers or a hard liquor with a diet soda mixer. After that, opt for club soda with a lime—nobody but the bartender will know.