The shredded look is in.
Fat-free muscle, a v-tapered upper body, vascularity, and six-pack abs – that’s what we all want. For many, however, achieving it is about as realistic as winning the lottery. In this article, we will demystify the art of getting shredded. In the process, we present you with a template that you can follow to achieve your own athletic shredded look.
THE 3 PILLARS OF GETTING SHREDDED
In order to achieve that ripped, fat-free physique you need to nail three distinct areas of your life:
- Mental intensity
When it comes to mental intensity, most people think of what happens during their workout. Yet, that only accounts for a very small percentage of your day of about an hour or so. What you do in the other 23 hours is going to be critical to getting ripped.
Mental intensity starts the second you wake up in the morning. Start your day with a clear image of the body you want to achieve. Focus on a body fat percentage that you want to get down to and go online to find a photo of a guy at that bodyfat level. Print it out and pin it to your bathroom mirror.
If your goal is to achieve a shredded physique with visible abs, you should set your ultimate goal at 10%. That may take a long time, but that doesn’t matter. If you are currently at 18%, you should really be able to drop one percentage of body fat per month. That will get you down to 10% after eight months. Your physique will be totally transformed, you will have clearly defined abdominals and every muscle will be clearly delineated.
Keep the mental image of your goal body fat percentage with you throughout the entire day. When you find yourself passing by a fast food outlet, bring up that image and tell yourself that that type of food doesn’t apply to you.
When it comes time to head to the gym, you need to get your mind 100% zoned in for success. Your goal must be to achieve more in the gym than you did last time. After all, you want your body to respond and the only way it will do so is by encountering a stress level that it is not used to. If you do the same as before, your body will remain the same as before.
As the time approaches for you to hit the gym, mentally rehearse your workout. Visualize yourself doing the exercises without any effort, completing your workouts with perfect form. Then, when you walk through the gym door, allow a mental switch to flick in your brain. You are now in the training zone. Your workout is your life for the next hour. When you walk onto the gym floor, you should have two things with you; your water bottle and your phone.
Why take your phone on the gym floor?
Because you will be timing yourself on certain exercises. That is the only reason. You definitely will NOT be using it to check your messages, take Instagram selfies or engage in any other form of social media. Leave that to the wannabes who are all about impressing their followers. You are there to smash your workout, not to waste your time!
What you put into your mouth is, by far, the most important aspect of achieving a shredded physique. In order to lose the bodyfat that will bring down your percentage, you need to create a daily caloric deficit. In order to do this, we can use a simple formula:
Bodyweight (pounds) x 10
As an example, a 200-pound guy would require approximately 2000 calories per day in order to maintain his body weight.
One of the problems that all dieters face is the body’s natural defense mechanism known as the starvation response. When we restrict our calories on a consistent level, the body will adjust to the lower energy input by slowing down the metabolism in order to preserve energy. This is the last thing that you want when you are trying to strip off body fat. Luckily, we have a strategy to overcome this obstacle.
In order to prevent the metabolism slowing, you will drop your calories in accordance with the formula above for three straight days. Then on the fourth day, you will increase your intake based on this formula;
Bodyweight (pounds) x 12
Our 200-pound guy would now be consuming 2400 calories.
So, the weekly caloric intake for our 200-pounder would be as follows:
- Day 1 – 2000 calories
- Day 2 – 2000 calories
- Day 3 – 2000 calories
- Day 4 – 2400 calories
- Day 5 – 2000 calories
- Day 6 – 2000 calories
- Day 7 – 2000 calories
Your daily caloric intake will be broken down into five or six meals, spread every three hours apart. This constant feeding will increase your metabolism due to the thermic effect of food. It will also keep you from getting hungry which is the biggest problem that dieters face, often leading to splurges, cravings, and failure. In addition, by constantly taking protein into your system you will stave off any muscle loss as you reduce your caloric intake.
The three macro or big, nutrients in food are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The macronutrients contain different amounts of calories as follows:
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
- Proteins (4 calories per gram)
- Fats (9 calories per gram)
You already know that you will be eating fewer overall calories per day in order to lose body fat. So what types of foods should you cut back on?
Start by reducing your dietary fats, followed by your simple carbohydrates and then your starchy carbs. Do not reduce your intake of lean protein and fibrous carbohydrates.
Your macronutrient ratios during your first three days of caloric restriction should be as follows:
- Carbs – 30%
- Protein – 40%
- Fats – 30%
On Day Four, your higher calorie day, adjust your macro ratios to the following:
- Carbs - 50%
- Protein - 30%
- Fats - 20%
Carbohydrates are your main source of energy. Your carb intake, then, needs to be centered around the time of day when you are most in need of energy – immediately before and after your workout. So, of the six meals of your day, you should take in 50% of your daily carbs around your workout. The other 50% should be spread over the remaining four meals.
Obviously, you need to avoid all processed sugar-laden carbohydrates. If you are serious about getting shredded, these types of foods simply cannot factor into your lifestyle. That means no ice cream, no sponge cake, no sweets and definitely no sodas.
The one exception to the no sugar rule is directly after your workout. You have just spent an hour depleting your glycogen levels and your muscle cells are screaming for that immediate energy source to be replaced. So, if you are going to eat anything sweet, you need to have learned it through your workout. You’ve then got a window of about half an hour to have a small serving of simple carbs. The best thing that has been proven to get the glycogen directly into the muscle is a half dozen serving of gummy bears!
The vast majority of your carbs, however, should come from fibrous carbohydrate sources. Carbohydrate manipulation is your secret weapon for personalizing your fat loss program. Your goal should be to lose 1-2 pounds of body fat per week. If you are not achieving that level, reduce your carb intake by 25% for a month. If that does not stimulate more fat loss, reduce by a further 25%. Compensate for the reduced carb intake by increasing your lean protein consumption in order to meet your daily caloric goals.
Best Carbs for Fat Loss
- Brown Rice
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Mixed Beans
Best Fibrous Carb Sources
- Vegetables – go for bright colorful vegetables that are full of micronutrients.
- Fruit – choose such high fiber fruits as berries (raspberries have 8 grams per cup), apples, peaches, oranges, and strawberries.
- Beans, Lentils, and Legumes.
Best Lean Protein Sources
- Seafood (anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, tuna, salmon, oysters, scallops, shrimp, flounder)
- Poultry (chicken and turkey – skin removed)
- Dairy (reduced on low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Meat (lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb, bison, ostrich, venison)
- Eggs (the perfect protein source!)
- Protein Powder (unsweetened whey or egg white based)
Best Healthy Fat Sources
- Rainbow trout
- Albacore tuna
- Fish Oil
- Krill Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
In order to maximize your fat loss, you should drink plenty of water. Make it your goal to down 3 liters per day (105 ounces). You should also stick to the same basic foods week in and week out. This will make it easier to prepare your meals and to stick to the plan. It may get a little monotonous but just keep in mind what you are doing this for – to get in the best, most ripped shape of your life, not to tantalize your taste buds!
Our next suggestion follows on from the last one – get into the habit of meal prep. Many people find that Sunday afternoons are an ideal time to prepare their main meals in advance for the week. They take a couple of hours to cook two or three large servings of a dinner meal, then divide them up into meal sized portions, put them in Tupperware containers, label them for the days of the week and then put them in the freezer.
You will be amazed at how much easier your evenings become when you get into the meal prepping habit!
To achieve your goal of getting absolutely shredded you need to be doing three forms of training . . .
- Steady State Cardio
- High-Intensity Interval Training Cardio
- Weight Training
Steady State Cardio
There are a number of different cardio exercise choices when it comes to doing steady state workouts. We have found that the one that will burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time, while also getting your legs defined, is the Stair Climber. Every time you work out on the Stair Climber, set the timer for 40 minutes and your pace at 90 steps per minute.
You will be doing this steady state cardio three times per week on alternate days.
High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It involves doing a cardio exercise very intensely for 30 seconds, followed by a very brief 10-second recovery. You repeat this pattern for a set number of rounds. You will be doing your HIIT training 3 times per week, again on alternate days.
If you are not able to get to the gym for your HIIT workouts, you can simply head down to the local park. Your exercise of choice will be sprinting. After a 2-minute warm-up, go directly into a hard out 30-second sprint. Then walk with your hands on your hips to recover for exactly 10 seconds before going into your next sprint. Do this for 8 complete rounds.
In the gym, you should alternate your 3 days of HIIT between running on the treadmill, rowing on the rowing machine and doing kettlebell swings.
You will be training with weights four times per week, using an upper and lower body split routine. You will be performing most sets in the 8-10 range, with some extra sets of 20 reps to skyrocket your metabolism.
Here are the two workouts that you will alternate over the four training days:
Workout 1: Upper Body
- Chin Ups: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
- Bent Over Barbell Row: 4 sets / 8-10 reps
- Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets / 4-8 reps
- Dumbbell Incline Press: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets / 4-8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
- Lying Triceps Extension: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
- Standing Supinated Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
Workout 2: Lower Body
- Barbell Squat: 3 sets / 8-12 reps, 1 set 20 reps
- Leg Press: 3 sets / 8-12 reps, 1 set 20 reps
- Standing Leg Curl: 3 sets / 8-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 3 sets / 15-20 reps
- Kneeling Cable Crunch: 3 sets / 15-20 reps
- Prone Superman: 3 sets / 15-20 reps
- Side Plank: 3 sets of 60 seconds
The key to success here is to be absolutely focused on your exercise form. Perform your sets slowly, with a focus on the negative (lowering part of the rep), which should be performed at half the speed of the positive (lifting part).
The key to muscle stimulation is time under tension, which is the actual amount of time during your set that you are performing the reps. For maximum stimulation, your time under tension per set should average out to 40 seconds. That is about twice as long as most people take to do their sets, which means that the majority of people are exercising way too fast. Slow it down to really feel the working muscle group, aiming for 40 seconds per set.
You have just read through a complete plan to allow you to get shredded. It’s not pretty and it’s not easy. But it works! Follow it to the letter and you will slowly but surely whittle your body fat percentage down to that magical 10% that will get you looking super shredded.
Learn More About Other Healthy Ingredients in Our High Protein SuperFat Nut Butters or Read Our Ultimate Guide to Nuts.