Is getting ripped worth it? Are a few compliments at the beach worth all the sit-ups?

Heck yeah, its worth it — the fame, the fortune, the women….haha, hope you know none of that is true.

I’ve done several professional fitness model shoots and been in some of the mainstream magazines, and the pay is crap. From what I understand in the Y2K dating world (I wouldn’t know, I’m married,) a few “C-Notes” go a lot further than a six-pack when trying to get laid. And fame? Unless you like Borat-style high-fives from the dude working out next to you at the gym, who always smells like beef and cheese (sometimes with a hint of onion), no one in the real world really cares about your six-pack.

But I don’t think that is really what you are asking. Deep down, whether we admit it or not, we all want to be in great shape with a year-round six pack, look great in a bikini or board shorts, etc. — for personal vanity or ego reasons, or just because it actually is pretty awesome. That’s like asking someone if they want to be rich. Of course they do.

What you really want to know is do you have to turn your life upside down and/or be miserable all the time to do it?

You’ve been falsely led to believe the process of getting ripped is a lot harder or more “extreme” than it actually is — you have to give up your career, live in the gym, jump around like a cheerleader on an energy drink bender 7 days a week for the next 90 days, cook, Tupperware, and eat 8 meals a day (what busy professional has time for that),etc..

Here’s the truth. Most people have no frickin’ clue how to get and STAY ripped, and this includes most “fitness professionals”. How do I know? I’ve been in the field for over a decade. Sure, they might be able to help you improve performance, but training for “cosmetic/physique enhancement” goals is completely different than training for athletic performance. Why do you think so many gym trainers are just as flabby as the general population?

You need to stop listening to the “scientists” who have no practical experience in the real world, the athlete who is genetically gifted and/or drug enhanced but has no clue about an informed process that can be duplicated by a real person in the real world, or the trainer who followed some extreme plan to get in shape that one time in his life for a photo for his website or Facebook page, but couldn’t sustain that ill-advised plan indefinitely, rebounded and yo-yo’d, could never get back in shape on a more reasonable plan, and now says getting ripped is not worth it or unhealthy, etc.

Just because most have no idea what they are doing doesn’t mean its not possible.

I’m going to admit, I’m too busy right now to make this a polished piece (only paid stuff gets the full editing treatment – haha). But I am passionate about this topic because I hear so many fitness people proclaim its not possible. So I’m just going to rant and fire off some bullets (bulletpoints) on this topic. Hopefully, you learn a thing or two along the way. Its better that way — its authentic, uncensored, and uncut.

I’m going to try to shatter some common industry myths and give you some practical advice.

First off, I want you to know I at least somewhat know what I’m talking about regarding this topic. Here is a random, impromptu picture I posted on my Twitter account the other day in response to an email that said people can’t be ripped year-round and fitness people don’t look like the airbrushed photos on their websites.

This photo is not photo-shopped, I have no tan on, I did not dehyrdrate or pump up, and I’m not training for anything specifically. I just took my shirt off and snapped it.

I do not use performance enhancing drugs, I have the genetics of a Skinny-Fat Guy, but probably more interesting to you: I strength train 3 days a week, 4 at the most, for 40-45 minutes, I do absolutely no cardio (HIIT or low intensity) whatsoever, I eat 3 meals a day, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day for me (I eat a light protein-only breakfast), I eat the majority of my calories and carbs at night, I don’t take any fat burning pills, etc.

OK enough about me, which I know you care nothing about personally. You just want to know how I can help you get and stay ripped. Lets go.

1. Exercise is relatively useless for fat loss, at least that’s what the science and my years of anecdotal evidence has taught me. In research for a current project, I looked at dozens of studies and the summary is this: A) Diet accounts for the majority of people’s fat loss. B) Exercise is ineffective for fat loss alone, without dietary change. C) Exercise added to a targeted diet plan is not that much more effective for fat loss than diet alone!

2. What is exercise good for then? Its great for determining what type of weight you lose. The right exercise is EXCELLENT at preserving/building lean muscle mass while your diet takes care of fat loss. This is important because lean muscle is what provides your body with its shape, definition, and tone. Even a lean body with no muscle looks soft & flabby/skinny-fat, definitely not ripped.

3. 1 & 2 above should be enough to teach you that you should use diet to attain the majority of your fat loss, and all of your exercise should be geared towards building or preserving muscle. So thinking of exercise in terms of “burning fat” is ineffective and inefficient, at least from a cosmetic perspective. Girls going to aerobics classes or living on cardio machines or guys doing “insane” or “high intensity” workouts in an attempt to “burn more fat” is misplaced effort (unless you play a sport and/or have specific performance goals). You should be putting that effort into improving your diet, and strength training to build and shape your body. You don’t need 20 hours of cardio a week, or 2-a-day training sessions to get ripped (or to try and make up for a crappy diet — doesn’t work). You need 3-4 days of strength training and a solid fat loss diet. That is doable and realistic as a long term plan.

4. What type of strength training should you be doing? That’s where the debate begins, but that’s a whole other debate for a whole other time. Since diet is the most important fat loss piece, lets get to that:

5. Food choices will always be the most important step in the fat loss hierarchy. Why?

  • It is virtually impossible to stay in the relative calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, at least for any meaningful length of time, if you are making poor food choices. You can’t cut calories while eating crap and expect to stay the course.
  • This is where point systems or other calorie counting diets fail. You’re not going to be able to stay on a diet plan for long eating low calorie lasagna, fudge cake, or 100 calorie “snack packs”. Fake foods like this are just empty calories with no functional nutrients. They have no effects on satiety or
    hormones that regulate appetite and energy intake. You will feel constantly hungry, deprived, and miserable dieting on these foods. In other words, you will constantly feel like you are DIEting. With this approach, getting ripped is not worth it.
  • Eventually, you’ll wake up next to a few empty doughnut boxes from an uncontrollable binge. As motivation declines, the time between these binges will get shorter and shorter. One day you’ll come to realize that you are eating crap just about every day and have completely given up on your fat loss plan.
  • That’s why people yo-yo on and off these plans. They are not sustainable. And it’s not because YOU went off the diet. It’s because THE DIET was not sustainable in the first place. You’ve seen it happen with celebrities, you’ve probably seen it happen within your circle of friends, and maybe you’ve even experienced it for yourself. Points systems and calorie counting may work in the short term, but they rarely work for the long run
  • While it takes incredible discipline to stay in a targeted calorie deficit with poor food choices (because refined foods have no effect on satiety and are so easy to overeat), it’s not all that hard to do it when making good ones. It’s
    easier to stay “faithful” to your fat loss plan when it emphasizes real, whole, natural melons (or nuts), I mean food.:)
  • As an experiment, I’ve had female clients struggle to net 1200 calories a day and male clients 2000 calories a day when they cut out all refined foods (including oils), and ate only lean proteins and vegetables (includingpotatoes and yams).
  • You can remain in the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, while still giving your body all of the essential nutrients and micronutrients it needs, indefinitely, IF you are emphasizing real foods. Which means you can maintain a year-round fit physique, low body fat percentage, look awesome, AND have great health and vitality. No more yo-yo’ing.
  • It’s not about weird, mysterious practices or get-ripped-quick schemes that are marketed to you. It’s simply about eating more real food
  • (A). Eat low calorie, nutrient dense, high satiety foods (lean proteins, vegetables, 1-2 pieces of whole fruit a day, and if you exercise (which you’ll have to in order to get ripped) include some low sugar, gluten free starch foods like yams, potatoes, and rice. (B) Eliminate high calorie, nutrient poor/empty calorie, low satiety foods (refined & packaged foods, sugar, oils, etc.)

6. Low carb diets work great for sedentary and diseased populations (obese, type II diabetic), to improve their health and lose weight. But it won’t get you fitness model-style ripped.

  • If you’re sedentary, you should follow a Paleo-style diet 100%. Your
    activity levels are zero, so your concentrated carbohydrate needs (starch
    and especially sugars) are minimal. You can get the carbs you need from vegetables and whole fruits
  • Research implies that for obese and sedentary populations, a low-carb plan is the best approach to improve biomarkers of health, reduce insulin resistance, and lose weight.
  • If it was around in caveman times, you can eat it. If it was not, you probably should avoid it. What about fish, chicken, and vegetables? Yes. What about pizza, doughnuts, subs, and chips? No.
  • That is basically the Paleo approach in a nutshell: clear, concise, and straightforward enough, right? That’s why I like it as a starting
    template for most people that don’t really give a hoot about fitness
    (unlike an obsessed dude like me). They don’t have to worry about calorie calculators, macronutrient prescriptions, food logging, or any other higher-level methods.
  • This helps many break addictions to sugar and refined foods, improves eating
    habits, removes allergenic foods and “anti-nutrients”, improves
    insulin sensitivity, helps overweight people lose a ton of fat, etc.
  • But rarely is it enough to get someone ripped — that’s a whole other ball
    game with a whole other set of rules. That requires some serious strength training, and regular strength training requires modifications to a 100% Paleo Diet because exercise changes your internal physiology for up to 48 hours. If you train 3 days a week or more, you are in an altered physiological state ALL THE TIME.

7. Athletes and regular strength trainers following the low carb trends is a mistake. I don’t care what some out of shape researcher sitting in his office smoking a tobacco pipe says. What works on the chalkboard is different than what works in the real world. Its like in your entrepreneurial world — you can either listen to the MBA student theorizing about stuff, or the dude who has actually built businesses in the real world.

  • You’ll never convince me that an obese, insulin resistant, sedentary, office
    worker who just wants to be able to see his wee-wee again should be eating
    the same thing as a ripped, insulin sensitive, athletic, Alpha Male trying
    to reach peak athletic or physical conditioning, and can’t even keep his
    wee-wee in his pants for more than 5 minutes.
  • You’ll never convince me that an overweight, Bon-Bon-eating woman who’s been kicking back on the couch for the last 5 years should be eating the exact same thing as a bikini babe who’s been kicking booty in the gym, strength training on a regular basis.
  • Not all of us want to have the energy of a slug, the personality of a snail,
    the cravings of a vampire, the brainpower of a zombie, or the libido of a corpse just to get in shape. That may be fine if being a meathead or diva is your full-time profession, but it certainly won’t cut it in the competitive business world.
  • Modern carb confusion stems from the fact that carbohydrates can be beneficial or detrimental. Carbohydrates can fuel activity, or they can get stored in our fat cells. Carbohydrates can help us build muscle in response to
    activity, or they can be converted to body fat. Carbohydrates can help us recover from strenuous activity, or they can cause us to fatten up during periods of inactivity. You can see the key word in all of the above scenarios is ACTIVITY.
  • It helps if you look at carbs simply as fuel for high-intensit activity. If you perform strength-training sessions on a regular basis, then you need
    carbohydrates, perhaps a lot of carbohydrates. Those carbs will be used to fuel and recover from training sessions.
  • Starches and glucose are preferentially stored as muscle glycogen. And with the constant depleting of glycogen reserves with intense training, a high starch intake is necessary to refuel these stores, and is less likely to spillover and be stored a body fat.
  • This is not true for the sedentary individual. Doesn’t it make sense — muscle energy reserves fuel muscle activity? If you are not using/depleting muscle energy reserves through activity, you don’t need to refill them, thus you don’t need to consume much starch.
  • A good analogy is gas for your car. If your car has been sitting in the garage, it doesn’t need gas. Loading up on carbs is like trying to fill up a full tank.
    It just spills over the side. In the human body, that overspill equates to body fat storage, and a host of other negative effects — like elevated triglycerides,
    cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
  • However, if you drive your car around every day, sometimes for long mileage, you have to fill it up often. If you don’t, you will run out of gas.
    An empty tank in the human body equates with becoming tired,
    depressed, lethargic, irritable, impairs performance, muscle loss,
    stubborn fat, frustrated that despite dieting your body is not changing, etc. No “rippedness” is worth that. Maybe this is why many say it is not worth it to get ripped. They are going about it the wrong way.
  • This is exactly the scenario that plays itself out with many strength-training
    athletes who strictly adhere to low carbohydrate diets. They are confused, thinking the low carb diet plans that are the best for sedentary populations are also the best for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • The result of this hormonal and physiological environment is the
    “Skinny-Fat Syndrome”. Guys and gals who are consistently training hard, following the low-carb trend, “thinking” they are doing everything right, are
    pretty lean everywhere else, but hold flab right around the midsection. Oddly enough, it is too low of a carbohydrate intake, and the refusal to offset catabolic activity with an anabolic recovery period, that is KEEPING them fat. And besides, it’s a miserable way to diet.
  • As counterintuitive as it sounds, some carbs in the diet can offset the
    catabolic activity of exercise (insulin counteracts cortisol and prevents
    it’s over-dominance), can initiate the recovery and repair process, can
    help you build lean muscle, and can help you burn fat in the recovery
    period. They can support optimal testosterone and thyroid levels.
  • And most importantly, they help you not feel like A$$, and actually be able to function in the real world while getting ripped.
  • I have worked with physique athletes who got over their misconceptions and
    “Carbophobia”, leaned up, and reached personal, record low body fat percentages by ADDING carbs back into their diet. Carbs like low sugar, gluten free, low “anti-nutrient” starches — potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes,
    rice.

8. You can use whatever meal frequency pattern is most functional given your schedule and daily demands.

  • One of the biggest fitness myths is that you must eat 5-6 small meals a day,
    never go more than 2 hours without food, have your whole life revolve
    around fitness eating, be obsessive with your eating schedule, have no
    social life, etc., to get ripped.
  • This eating 6 small meals-a-day nonsense is impractical for most, and
    completely unnecessary. When disregarding personal bias, tradition, or gym
    myths, numerous studies show that there is no major difference between
    smaller, more frequent meals or larger meals spaced out further apart in
    terms of fat loss, and metabolic factors related to fat loss.
  • You can get in ripped on a more realistic and sustainable eating structure — 2-3 meals a day. Obviously, this fits in better with normal business and social patterns, and is a more realistic, LONG-TERM approach.

9. Screw what fitness people say, the most functional and sustainable plans are the ones in which the majority of calories are eaten at night.

  • Another myth that may have you thinking getting and staying ripped is impossible is that you must cut calories at night, go to bed starving and unsatisfied craving food, wanting to gnaw off your significant other’s arm, etc.
  • When looking at client food logs over the last decade, I can tell you that 90%
    of people’s cheating and bingeing comes at night, because the reality is
    that human beings are meant to be nocturnal eaters. Trying to cut calories
    at night goes completely against our evolutionary instincts, natural
    desires, and social patterns.
  • It is a miserable way to diet, and only a very small percentage of athletes can
    make this work as their every day, default plan. Even then, a lot of them can only make it work during their in-season, before they go crazy in off-season binges.
  • We evolved on a fasting/feeding cycle. We are meant to eat lighter during the day while “hunting”, and eat the majority of our calories and carbs at night while relaxing. You should do the exact same thing if you want to make dropping fat as easy as possible. Go with, not against, your nature.
  • This goes against everything you’ve heard about an optimum fat loss protocol. It also goes against everything you read about in the health and fitness industry. But guess what? It works. I can tell you without a doubt that it works well for losing fat and retaining lean muscle mass, peer-reviewed research (and my year-round six-pack) back up those claims.
  • You can keep slaving away at a plan that produces mediocre results for you at best, or is so miserable you only “diet” and get in shape once every 4 years, or you can give something else a try — something that you can maintain indefinitely.

10. Some actual practical stuff for you.

  • If you’ve read some of my published articles then you know my general dietary approach. If not, you are out of luck! Haha, just kidding.
  • Here’s the general structure I recommend for a functional and sustainable plan to get ripped.
  • Eat a protein-only breakfast.
  • Eat A Paleo-style lunch (protein, vegetables, whole fruit). NO STARCHES.
  • You see, you still want to keep carbs relatively lower during the active hours
    of the day to optimize fat burning and stay mentally sharp (avoiding rebound hypoglycemia, etc.).
  • Eat a Japanese-style dinner, with the majority of your calories and carbs aT night. You’ll need starch to replenish muscle glycogen reserves, for their anabolic/muscle preserving effects, and to prepare for the next training session.

Like I said, no editing on this one. I hope you learned a

thing or two, some of that gibberish made sense, and it helps you get closer to
your physique goals.

If not, we’ll try again some other time, because right now
— I am tired of typing and you are tired of reading.

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