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How to get ripped fast (Step by step guide)

Before we dig in, I just want to explain that fat loss does not equal to weight loss. With fat loss, we are primarily concerned with losing adipose tissue or fat, with no muscle loss. Weight loss on the other hand is just a total weight lost over a period of time, and it is usually a combination of both fat mass and muscle mass. I have had many clients with near perfect body re-composition where they would keep the same weight for many months.

A lot of coaches would misinterpret this for no progress, however with drastic visual difference, it is a proof that you can in certain cases build muscle at the same rate that you lose fat. The result is same weigh and a completely different look.

Now that we differentiated the two, we will focus on fat loss, and how to maximize it without losing any muscle tissue to get a lean looking physique with clear abs.

Assess your current situation

In order to know where to start, you need to assess your current situation by estimating your body fat percentage. You have to be very careful with this since most people underestimate their body fat levels by 5-10% from my experience. For example if you ask most of the guys about their body fat %, the most common answer you will get is 10%-15%, while most likely they are above 20%.

You may wonder why is this important? The answer to that is quite simple, your current body composition will determine the guidelines for how fast your fat loss should be. This is something that we will discuss in the detail in the step number 2, where I will break it down for you. So how do we know what body fat % we are currently at? There are a few different techniques that you can use like visual estimation and body fat calipers that are less accurate, and also some more accurate techniques like dexa scan. If you are going by a visual estimation, I would recommend you to be very conservative with your estimate and always estimate it slightly higher if you are unsure.

Find the sweet spot for caloric deficit

To lose weight we need to be in a caloric deficit. This will force your body to use energy stores that are stored in your fat tissue at various different places in your body. The only issue with this is that your body does not like this idea, as it prefers to keep the energy storage for survival. This is why setting an optimal caloric deficit is important. If you are already lean, an excessive caloric deficit will cause thyroid hormone, growth hormone, insulin and IGF1 all to take a nosedive, which will slow down the metabolism. This is a defensive mechanism to help you preserve as much energy as possible while increasing the efficiency of energy consumption. On top of this, cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline will spike. Not particularly ideal situation for muscle growth at all. This is why it can be easy to lose muscle mass during a cut if you do not find the sweet spot. In order to avoid unnecessary muscle loss, the stimulus for muscle growth needs to be higher than to catabolize it.

Another important point for fat loss is that excessively large deficits do not necessarily result in significantly greater fat loss. Studies comparing a moderate 25% caloric deficit to very high deficits where the energy intake was just 800 kcal per day, showed more total weight lost in favor of 800 kcal diet, but the muscle to fat ratio was really poor, plus the fat lost was not proportional with the deficit difference. Basically what this means is that there are significant diminishing returns when it comes to lowering your calories drastically.

For example studies that compared 6 month diets where participants consumed 800, 660 and 420 kcal per day did now show any difference in the total weight lost over time. So how do we find this sweet spot? There are few considerations that need to be made before finding the optimal caloric deficit. The main determinant of how quickly you can lose fat is your body fat percentage. The higher it is, the quicker you can lose fat without losing any muscle. This also means that you can start with a higher caloric deficit. Usually the upper limit that I recommend is 50% for obese individuals with body fat percentage of 26 and higher for men and 39 percent for women.

Obese individuals should aim for the quickest fat loss and should not have a limit when it comes to the rate. There is practically no concern for muscle loss in this category even without any resistance training!

As we move down to the overweight individuals, which is for men anything higher than 21% of bf and for women higher than 33% bf, caloric intake should be at least 30% with an upper limit of 50%, and for average individuals between 15-20% bf for men and 24 to 32% bf for women, a recommended deficit should be between 20-40%. So basically to sum it up, the more fat you have the higher your initial deficit should be. As you get leaner and leaner, the size of the caloric deficit should become smaller to avoid any muscle loss.

Get your sleep in order

This is probably one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to losing fat and building muscle. Both are equally important and are one of the main pillars for not only getting in shape, but for your overall health, well-being and cognitive performance. It is precisely because people underestimate the effects of stress and sleep that they simply overlook it, and once they realize they are stuck with their progress, they will quickly blame genetics, wrong program, food options, testosterone levels and start to look for some secrets that will help them to break the weight loss or muscle growth plateau. But what is often the case, is simply that they are sleep deprived, or that the quality of sleep is not good enough, or perhaps that they are going through a stressful period of their life.

Sleep deprivation and chronic stress can have a chain effect over the long term. It is like a ripple effect, that slowly but surely effects your other small decisions throughout the day, resulting in bigger and bigger negative effect over time, simply because it adds up. I will give you an example. Imagine you sleep only 5 hours every working day, and try to catch up with sleep over the weekend (typical scenario for most people, I even did this myself for years when I had a corporate job). Research showed us that sleep deprivation of only 3 hours causes an increase in appetite by 20% the following day! That is practically your entire caloric deficit if you are trying to lose fat. On top of that, it decreases your basal metabolic rate by 2-8% and it decreases your well-being. The last one is quite important, because if you feel miserable, I promise you, everything else will feel miserable, especially dieting since it can take a lot of effort for some people especially at the beginning to follow the diet on point. So if they feel miserable because of sleep deprivation they will most likely sooner or later start making bad decisions when it comes to food options. To offset this feeling, a very common practice it to turn to comfort food and snacking during the day. This is also true when it comes to high stress. So if you sleep for 5 hours, not only will your hunger shoot up the following day, but psychologically you might find yourself very easily turning to comfort food and snacking just to increase your well being. As a result, caloric deficit is completely wiped out, and even worse, a lot of people feel guilty after that, creating a downward spiral.

So why does sleep and stress have such a huge impact on how much fat and muscle we lose or gain? Lets start with sleep.

Let me demonstrate you how important your sleep. Lets start of with the effect of sleep deprivation. This is what we have so far from the research.

1. A study done by Wang et al. in 2018 showed that sleeping 40 minutes less during the midweek shifted the ratio of lean to fat mass loss from 20% lean mass loss, to 80% lean mass loss! Another important point was that participants were allowed to catch up on sleep during weekends. 2. Increased appetite by up to 20% 3. Decreased testosterone production by up to 18% 4. Increased insulin resistance. 5. Decreased well-being and cognitive functioning.

This should be more than enough to demonstrate you the importance of sleep. And even without knowing this, you know how you feel when you do not get enough sleep! There is a reason for that.

Lack of sleep is not the only problem here, sleep quality is also important. Without going into too many details, spending more time in deep sleep and less time in Stage 1, 2 and REM sleep the better the sleep quality. Now, the interesting thing about this is that if you ask most people about their sleep quality, they will say it is good. However, subjective sleep quality does not reflect objective sleep quality, especially during high levels of sleep deprivation.

Chronic sleep deprivation is the worst, and also the most common. If you are working 9-5, and you do not go to bed on time, its very easy to not get enough sleep every day. What happens is that you sleep on average 6 hours every day and this leads to chronic sleep deprivation. You still might not even notice any negative effects, but this is because the change is not drastic but more subtle, and human brain is less sensitive to that, however negative effects are just as bad, its just that you do not feel them as much.

To give you an example, there was a study comparing 2 groups, one group was restricted to sleep only 6 hours for 14 consecutive nights, while the other group was completely sleep deprived for 3 nights. At the end of the experiment, group that was sleeping only 6 hours for 2 weeks had the same effect on overall performance as the group that was deprived of sleep for 3 nights!

Alright, so now that we established that lack of sleep is really bad, how much sleep do you really need?

There is a consensus that sleeping between 7.5 - 8 hours is sufficient, however to maximize sleep benefits for strength trainees that are trying to build muscle or lose fat, I recommend sleeping 9 hours. Another important note is that sleep requirements increase as your body fat percentage decreases. So the leaner you are, the more sleep you need for optimal progression.

Keep lifting heavy weights and still aim for progressive overload

There is a huge myth out there when it comes to lifting weights and dieting to lose fat at the same time. The myth is that you should mostly focus on maintaining your strength most of the cut, and that loss of strength is expected. Practically, progressive overload is out of the question. This myth already puts people in a mental state where as soon as they start the cut, their workouts just suck.

The only two scenarios where gaining strength is not realistic is:

1. Late stage contest prep ( where individual is far below the ideal body fat range of 9-15%

2. Elite level lifters (by elite I mean benching twice your body-weight, squatting 2.5 times your body weight and dead-lifting 3 times your body-weight) at this levels, it is almost impossible to develop any progression in a deficit since the trainee is already close to his maximum natural potential.

Most people actually never reach this level, so these two cases do not apply for 98% of the population.

During a cut, progressive overload is just as important to preserve muscle mass. Since neurological adaptations are constant, if you are not getting any stronger on a cut (through an incremental increase in weight load, more repetitions, less rest time or more time under tension) you are most likely losing muscle. This means that it is possible to get stronger without building more muscle if your brain finds more efficient way to activate existing muscle fibers, but it is impossible to get bigger without getting stronger. So for beginners and intermediate lifters, just maintaining strength during a cut wont cut it, as it most likely means you are losing muscle. As a result, when you lose all the fat and go down to 9-10% body fat, you lose a lot of muscle as well (by the way, this is the period that you could have used to build even more muscle even in a deficit) and then you are not happy with the way you look simply because you are too skinny.

As for the optimal rep range, typically you can choose from anywhere between 4 and 30 repetitions. Some exercises lend themselves well to the lower rep ranges (typically compound exercises like bench press, squats, dead-lifts, barbell rows, overhead press) while other exercises are impossible to perform correctly with very heavy weight (like lateral rises, chest flies, reverse flies, bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg curls etc) So you want to go lower to mid range rep with compound exercises and mid to high rep on isolation exercises.

If you go with this expectation into your cut, the mindset that you will have will be completely different, and therefore your workouts as well. As a result, you can build even more muscle during your cut on a well optimized program.

If you want to take action today and take your fitness to the next level feel free to book a free assessment call with me.

What you will get from this call:

  1. I will see what is your current situation and give you my feedback on what is the best way to go forward.

  2. You will understand exactly what  needs to be done in order to achieve your desired fitness goal.

  3. We will talk about strategies that can help you to reach that goal and how to fit them in your lifestyle.

  4. If we both feel that my program and my coaching is a good fit for you, we can talk about working together.

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