At the beginning of each new year, people all over the world gear up to get in the best shape of their lives, regardless of the current state of their body. Once the fog of the holiday hangover has cleared, everyone suddenly looks up articles on how to get shredded for summer, then they throw out the soda cans and sugar cookies from their cupboard, renew their gym membership, and go all in to get the six pack they’ve always dreamed of.
Unfortunately most people approach their health and fitness goals in the new year with the wrong mindset. The majority of the population spends the holidays binge eating everything in sight, only to switch to chicken salads and lemon-water as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day. Going from one extreme to another is rarely the best way to achieve fat loss success, especially if the goal is to keep the weight off forever.
In reality, the key to burning fat and creating a better body is to construct a plan that is realistic and sustainable. You can burn fat and build a better body in 90 days, but going 100 mph right out of the gate on January 1st is not the best idea. Instead, you need to build a plan that allows you to increase intensity over the course of a few months.
If you learn how to get shredded the right way, you will see the fat loss and muscle gain that you’ve been hoping for. The best part about all of this is that you don’t have to wait until the new year to start your plan. The best time to get in shape is tomorrow, not next year.
To enjoy success with weight loss and muscle gain, your plan will need to focus on 3 distinct areas or pillars of physical transformation:
If you want to step up your physique game for beach season this year, you cannot ignore any of the three pillars of physical transformation, but nutrition is by far the most important of the three. Without fueling your body with the proper food, it will be very difficult for you to shed body fat and show off the hard-earned muscle you’ve been building in the gym during the offseason.
So what does it take if you want to see positive body composition changes over the next 90 days? Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do nutrition-wise to build your dream body.
It’s common for people to drastically cut calories when they first begin a weight loss transformation plan. Not only will doing this make you detest your diet, but it will also prevent you from losing weight in the long-run.
One thing that our bodies are great at is adaption. When you start a diet and eat a certain amount of calories to reach your weight loss goal, your body will be in a caloric deficit and you will lose weight, at least initially. Over time your body will adapt to your new caloric intake and eventually you will stop losing weight, even if you don’t increase the amount of calories you are eating. So what happens then?
If you want to continue to lose weight, you’ll need to increase your activity (weight training, cardio), or reduce the amount of calories you are eating. If you significantly dropped your calories when you first began your diet, you won’t have much room to go down when you inevitably hit a weight loss plateau. Your body needs a certain amount of calories to function normally, so taking calories down to a low level can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening in some cases. So how do you avoid this?
If you are conservative about how many calories you cut at each stage of your weight loss plan, you will continue to lose weight while still consuming enough food to keep you satiated and your energy levels high. The best way to start is to find out your maintenance calories, and then how many calories you need to take in each day to lose weight. You can accomplish this using our free macronutrient calculator. All you need to do is plugin your stats (gender, height, current weight, goal weight, etc.) and the calculator will tell you exactly how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight, or hit your weight loss goal.
After determining the total calories for your transformation plan, you need to determine your macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein). Our macro calculator will also lay all of that out for you. But why are macros important? Let’s break it down.
The Role of Protein
If you are trying to lose weight and sculpt a better physique, protein needs to be a priority in your diet. When you are leaning out, protein becomes highly valuable, because it will help you retain lean muscle mass and promote new muscle growth. The more lean muscle you have on your body, the more fat your body will burn over time.
Protein also provides a distinct advantage when it comes to weight loss because the thermic effect of protein is high, which means your body needs to use more energy to break those foods down.
A recent research study shows increased dietary protein as a successful strategy to prevent or treat obesity through reductions in body weight and fat mass. The researchers concluded that higher protein diets that contain between at least 1.2 and 1.6 protein kg−1 · d−1 and include 25-30 grams of protein per meal can lead to improvements in appetite, body weight management and even cardiometabolic risk factors compared to lower protein diets. Higher-protein diets have been promoted to increase energy expenditure through increased postprandial thermogenesis and resting metabolism.
So not only is protein great for weight loss, it’s also crucial to promote general health.
So how much protein do you need to consume on a fat burning plan?
Most experts recommend consuming .8 - 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight while on a fat loss transformation plan. How you distribute your protein throughout the day is up to you, but most physique competitors prefer to get in 4-6 meals per day, with each meal packing up to 20-30 grams of protein, depending on body weight.
Though protein distribution will not make or break your diet, most experts agree that getting in a fast-digesting protein source (like whey protein), within 1 hour of completing your workout will lead to more strength gains and muscle growth over time.
What Type of Protein Sources are Best to Consume on a Fat Loss Diet?
If you are in a fat loss phase, it’s best to focus most of your protein intake on lean protein sources. Some examples of this could be:
Try to include some protein variety when constructing your meal plan so you don’t get tired of eating the same food over and over. Remember, achieving a physical transformation is about creating a lifestyle. Don’t think of it as a short-term goal, think of it as living a new healthy life.
If you find that getting 20-30 grams of protein for each meal is a daunting task, you may want to consider adding a whey or plant-based protein powder to your diet. Supplementing with a high quality protein powder can help you hit your protein requirements, build muscle mass and sculpt a better physique.
The Role of Carbohydrates
Anyone who goes through an impressive physical transformation can speak to the importance of carbohydrates. Yes, there are fat burning diets out there that focus on keeping carbohydrates extremely low all the time--the ketogenic diet for example. But for those who are interested in having the energy to perform high intensity weight lifting and cardio sessions day in and day out, to burn fat and transform their body, keeping carbohydrates in the diet is a smart idea.
Interestingly enough, when it comes to weight loss, research shows no significant difference between those who choose to follow a low carb diet compared to a higher carb diet. The most important thing to consider when dieting is the quality of one’s food choices. However, there have been numerous studies conducted over the past 40 to 50 years that consistently point to carbohydrate as one of the primary macronutrients for sustaining and improving physical performance. Having sufficient carbohydrates can help you recover from difficult workouts, replenish muscle glycogen, and enjoy the energy necessary to perform at a high level.
Now that we’ve just made a case for following a carbohydrate-rich diet, we will say this: there is nothing wrong with tapering carbohydrate intake over time. After all, lowering carbs over time is one effective way to initiate fat burning. But even though it may be a good idea to bring carbs down over time, in the early phases of a diet it’s best to eat the highest amount of carbohydrates you can without gaining body fat.
Instead of dropping your carbs to zero on day one of your diet, consider slowly progressing into the “low carb zone”. Not only will this help your body react slower to metabolic adaptation, but it will also help you avoid the dreaded “hangry” pains while also helping you adhere to your diet more closely. At the end of the day, if you stay in a caloric deficit and adhere to your diet, you will be able to lose weight and transform your body. If you’re wondering how to get shredded, that’s one of the most important tips.
How to Determine Your Ideal Carbohydrate Intake
The goal in the early stages of your diet should be to diet on the highest amount of calories and carbohydrates possible. Every person is a little bit unique in the way that they respond to carbohydrates, so determining the exact number (in grams) of carbohydrates you need to consume on a daily basis will require some effort. One way is to check out our free calculator, which will give you a great starting point. In addition to using a calorie/macro calculator, you also need to pay close attention to how your body is responding on the scale to your carbohydrate intake.
If you are a 200-pound man eating 300 grams of carbohydrates per day and you aren’t seeing the scale move after a few weeks, there is a good chance you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake. That doesn’t mean you should cut your carbs in half. No no. This means that you should reduce your carbs by 20-25 grams per day, and check the scale and your body measurements every day to see if the drop is resulting in greater weight loss.
When Should you Lower Your Carbohydrate Intake?
This is where a lot of dieters make a mistake. Most people drop their calories and carbohydrates every week or so when they begin a diet because they want to see faster progress. Unfortunately, your body can only lose weight so fast.
If you want to see consistent progress on the scale and in your body measurements, it is crucial that you only reduce your carbohydrate intake (and calories), when you hit a weight loss plateau. So what does this look like in a real life diet?
Let’s say that 200-pound man we referenced earlier begins his diet on 300 grams of carbohydrates, 200 grams of protein and 65 grams of fat per day. If the man hits these exact macros for a 7-day period and loses 2 pounds, then he should not decrease his carbohydrate intake or his calories, and he should continue exercising as he was before. If after 5 weeks the man is eating the same amount of carbs and calories and he doesn’t lose any weight, then it might be time to reduce his carb intake slightly, even if by only 20-25 grams per day. If the man makes the adjustment and he loses 1.5 pounds the next week, you’ll know that you are on the right track. You’ll then stay at those new calories until you hit another weight loss plateau.
What are the Best Carbohydrate Food Sources?
There are plenty of options when it comes to healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down into two main categories: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are often referred to as “slow digesting” because it takes a lot of energy for your body to break them down. Simple carbohydrates are often referred to as “fast digesting” because they body is able to digest them rapidly and convert them to sugar. An example of a slow digesting carbohydrate would be oatmeal, whereas an example of a fast digesting carbohydrate might be a pop tart.
For the most part, it’s best to stick with complex or “slow digesting” carbohydrates when you are trying to transform your body, except in the few hours before and after your workout. If you just completed a very intense leg day and your body is craving something sweet, indulge by all means. Your body is in the perfect position to absorb the food you consume in the period before and after your workout, so eating something sugary or fast digesting in any way won’t do you any harm.
Here is a list of smart carbohydrate choices for your transformation plan:
One other important thing to note on carbohydrates. While total daily carbohydrate intake may be the most crucial element to control in a dieting phase, it may be wise to consume the bulk of your carbohydrates in the few hours before and after your resistance training workouts. For example, if you are allotted 200 grams of carbohydrates per day as part of your diet plan, you may consume 25% of your total daily carbs in your pre-workout meal (50 grams), and 25% of your total daily carbs in your post-workout meal (50 grams), for a total of 100 grams. You can spread out the remainder of your allotted carbs throughout the day, but stacking the majority of them around your workout may help your body burn fat more efficiently.
The effect of stacking your carbohydrates in the pre and post-workout meals are far from definitive, but some research suggests that nutrient timing, specifically with carbohydrates, can play a role in body composition changes.
What About Fat?
Despite what many critics might say, fat is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to undergo a physical transformation, and anyone that wants to lead a generally healthy life. Fat intake plays a crucial role in hormone regulation, brain function, and joint mobility. If you take fat levels too low, you become foggy, restless and moody. You may think that eating more fat sounds counter-productive to weight loss, but the opposite is actually true.
How Much Fat Should you eat on a Weight Loss/Transformation Plan?
Of all the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) fat is the most calorically dense. For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, you’re consuming 4 calories. With fat, you are consuming 9 calories for every 1 gram of fat you take in. Because of this, most people need to be careful about how many grams of fat they consume each day to stay in a caloric deficit. Keep in mind that just two table spoons of peanut butter contains a whopping 16 grams of fat and 200 total calories. If you are only consuming 2,000 calories per day on your diet plan, 200 calories is 10% of your total daily calories!
Once again, we’ll refer you to our super easy-to-use macro calculator if you want to know exactly how much fat you need to eat in a day to start your transformation plan, but in general you want to consume between 20-30% of your total calories as fat. So if you are consuming 2,000 calories per day, 20% fat would equate to 400 total calories, or 44 grams of fat per day. You can also bump that number up to 25%, which would be 55 grams of fat. Or 30%, which would be 66 grams of fat. When it comes down to it, it’s all about what you prefer and what is most sustainable for you.
Once you determine how many grams of fat you need to consume each day, you then need to pick and choose what fat sources you will add into your diet. The goal here is to avoid trans fats (zero nutritional value and lots of health risks) and lots of saturated fat, and choose fats rich in healthy fatty acids.
So What Kind of fat is Best?
Anytime you are on a fat loss/transformation diet, you need to be very careful about your food choices, and the same thing applies with fat. Here are some good, clean choices for fat sources in your diet:
How to get Shredded: Summing it all up
If you want to truly transform your physique and have people asking you how to get shredded, you need to have a plan in place with your nutrition. As a starting point, we recommend using our free macro calculator to find out how many calories and protein, carbs and fat you need to be eating each day to get the body you want. Once you have your numbers, you need to lay out a meal plan that makes sense for you, making sure to eat healthy whole foods 80-90% of the time.
In addition to knowing and tracking your caloric intake over time, it’s also beneficial to weigh out your food. It doesn’t matter what type of digital food scale you purchase, the important thing is that you are as accurate as possible with your food measurements. You may think you are doing everything right, but if you are guessing every day on your food intake you will never see the progress you’re hoping for. If you are consistent with your nutrition, in time you will see your body make drastic changes for the better.
What are your best hacks for nutrition?