You worked hard all year to build a strong and healthy body—you got your waist down a few more inches, abs were visible, fat was under control, and your muscles were feeling hard and dense.

But then the holidays hit. First came Thanksgiving, during which you took it easy, wolfed down mostly lean protein, and refused dinner rolls or an extra serving of pumpkin pie. But then as Christmas approached, your food choices became worse and worse. Your mom brought over her special sugar cookies, your neighbor gave you a box of fudge, and then over the holiday you sat around all day eating salty snacks and fatty dips. New Year’s saw a little too much alcohol and more finger food, and when 2018 dawned, the scale spat back a rude number—15lbs over your recent best. And there's no denying it—that 15lbs is starting to show.

It’s a tough thing to behold, but the reality is that your slide wasn’t that bad. You still have a solid foundation of muscle underneath all of that stuffing, pie, eggnog, and gingerbread. You'll just need to buckle back down on a clean and lean diet, and spend a few weeks sweating to get back your pre-holiday body.

For nutrition, you should already know the plan by now: sticking to whole foods, ditching anything processed, nixing sugar as much as possible, heaping on lean meats, and loading up on fibrous foods. (But take a look at our 10% body fat workout and nutrition plan to help get you back on track.)

For the workout portion of your march back to becoming mean and lean again, we hit up Nick Pags, N.C.C.P.T., co-owner and an ACE-certified instructor at RIPPED Fitness in New York City. “This program is not for the faint of heart,” he says. “It’s a bit unorthodox, and the results will produce a spike in lean muscle mass and size, as well as a serious shred of body fat making for a plan that hits the best of both worlds. But the price you have to pay is an intense amount of work and some serious soreness.”

How it works

The workout is a five-day split:

  • Day 1 focuses on the upper body,
  • Day 2 gives you some HIIT using bodyweight and cardio equipment,
  • Day 3 targets the lower body,
  • Day 4 hits the abs and focuses on recovery (yoga/stretching/rolling),
  • Day 5 goes back to bodyweight HIIT and/or on cardio equipment.

“For the HIIT days, have fun,” says Pags. “I’m an advocate of treadmill interval training because it’s so effective.” Go for 20–30 minutes of 30-second intervals: 30 walking, 30 jogging, and 30 max-effort sprinting. Your speed doesn't need to be the same each go-around, he says, and adjust your pace if you’re gassing out early into the run—you can do the same thing on a rower, elliptical, or any other cardio equipment.