How To Get Ripped & Cut: Definitive Guide

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How To Get Ripped And Cut #1

While I spend most of my time educating people about sustainable approaches to getting a lean, strong, healthy physique, I do have an interest in the extreme of body transformation, or how to get ripped.

There is a massive amount of confusion about how to get a ripped physique. It’s not about a specific exercise program, or diet as many would have you believe, and it’s not magic.

I wanted to create this guide for you as an honest, no B.S. resource so you can understand the key elements to help you achieve a ripped, cut physique.

Why should you listen to me?

I’ve achieved a ripped physique (photos on this page are of me) and helped guys with even “bad” genetics get ripped too. As the owner of a personal training and nutrition counseling practice, I’m constantly trying new workouts, reading the latest and greatest research on nutrition and exercise, and speaking with natural bodybuilders, nutritionists, personal trainers, and anyone else with a keen interest in physique transformation.

So here’s a definitive guide to getting a ripped physique that I’ve been wanting to share with you. I hope you enjoy it.

How Ripped is Ripped?

The term ripped is used to describe a very low body fat level relative to one’s bodyweight, which creates an appearance of clearly visible striations of muscle and separation between muscles.

What is the body fat level you need to get ripped?

In my opinion, anything under 7% body fat for a man is ripped. For more information on body fat percentages, check out Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

Are You Sure You Want to Get Ripped?

When I present the information you are about to learn to a client interested in getting ripped, that initial interest usually subsides. Getting ripped is an extreme pursuit that requires extreme focus and dedication. There is no way around it. In addition, getting too ripped comes with health concerns. I’ve achieved around 3.5% body fat once in my life, and while I was very happy with how my body looked, my face was extremely gaunt and it looked like I was starving to death. I’m taking a wild guess that wasn’t very healthy.

So not only does getting ripped take a ridiculous amount of effort and discipline, but the extreme is that it may not be healthy either. For me, I can maintain 6-7% body fat while feeling great and looking healthy, but it’s still walking a tight rope.

Finally, the whole idea of an extreme physique opens up a can of worms regarding body image. I’ve gotten ripped as a hobby, out of curiosity, and I really like the look, but I hope you don’t feel any more, or less of a man if you do, or do not achieve a ripped physique.

Get Ripped Step #1: Overcome the Mental “Weight” Hurdle

How To Get Ripped And Cut #2

One of the most frequent questions I get from guys is, “I want to get ripped, but I want to stay the same weight. What do I do?”

This question tells me many guys (1) may not understand the basic arithmetic of getting ripped, (2) are too concerned about the scale and not body fat percentage, which is what it’s all about and (3) overestimate how much muscle weight they can naturally add to their frames (See: How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?). Sadly, too many guys are doomed from the start!

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say there’s a guy Mike who weighs 180lb at 15% body fat and he wants to get ripped. What does Mike need to weigh in order to get a ripped physique (6% body fat), assuming he keeps the same amount of muscle?

The chart below shows you the basic arithmetic assuming Mike loses only fat without losing any muscle. You can also use the Ideal Body Weight Formula to arrive at the desired weight as well:

How To Get Ripped And Cut #3

The Answer: 163lb

Most guys with a few years of lifting experience have an LBM (a.k.a. lean body mass – everything in your body besides fat, including bone, blood, organs, and muscle) of 145lb. How do I know? Well, because I have data on tons of clients and it’s the magic number for the amount of muscle on the average guy who is 5’10, or 5’11”. If you have 145lb of LBM, that would imply you would need to get your body weight into the 150′s to look truly ripped. In the 2 photos on this page, I weighed 165llb with an LBM of 155lb, which is above normal LBM for my height because I’ve lifted for many years.

The build most guys want (it’s like the standard of ripped) is looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. From what I’ve read, he was 155lb for that role. To hammer this discussion home, even a natural bodybuilder (no steroids) at contest time is around 175lb, and that’s a bodybuilder! If you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder, but want a less bulky physique, you must overcome the mental weight hurdle. Again, it’s just basic arithmetic.

If you are having trouble overcoming the mental weight hurdle, when you take a step back to think about it, you are simply losing all the fat on your body without losing any muscle. The leaner you become, the more defined and muscular you become as well, which makes you look bigger. So the first step towards getting ripped is understanding the arithmetic, dispelling any myths of gaining muscle you may believe, and focusing on losing as much body fat as possible while retaining your LBM.

Get Ripped Step #2: Create Your Nutrition Spreadsheet

How To Get Ripped And Cut #3

Losing fat without losing muscle (the key to getting ripped of course) is primarily a nutritional challenge.

The Energy Balance Equation – a scientifically proven fact – states that if you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you would like to learn more about target calorie intake, you can check out this article (See: How many calories should you eat to lose weight?).

The leaner you become, the trickier this energy balance. Fat can be very stubborn, so you really have to nail the target calories you are eating. Can you get ripped without tracking your calories? Possibly. But every serious physique competitor in the world knows EXACTLY what they put into their bodies, which includes:

1) Number of Calories (most important)
2) Macronutrient Breakdown (protein, carbs, and fat grams) of each meal/snack and each day
3) Timing of Calories (when the calories are eaten, a controversial topic like everything else)

As in the sample nutrition spreadsheet above, the nutrition spreadsheet you create will have the grams of protein, carbs, and fat and total calories for each food item in each meal and snack. Then, you create percentage breakdowns of protein, carbs, and fat for each day, which is called the macronutrient breakdown. Depending on who you ask, you will get wildly different breakdowns of what is optimal for fat loss.

Some believe the protein, carb, fat breakdown respectively should be 40%, 40%, 20% (high carb, low fat) some believe 30%, 20%, 50% (low carb, high fat), and others 30%, 50%, 20% (moderate carb, low fat). You can manipulate the carbs and fat that you eat, but I would recommend relatively more protein because research has shown a high protein diet is very effective at helping control hunger.

I personally create one spreadsheet, but feel free to create a few. I strongly prefer creating a spreadsheet over counting calories all the time, which is just too tedious. Once you are ripped, you don’t need this spreadsheet anymore, nor do you need to count calories. But I will emphasize if you are serious about getting ripped, this spreadsheet will prevent you from spinning your wheels.

Get Ripped Step #3: Choose Your Strength Training Method

How To Get Ripped And Cut #4

While every fitness program with an infomercial is going to tell you their system is the best (P90x for example), I can tell you the truth about all these various exercise methods. They are overrated.

Here’s the truth:

You can get ripped powerlifting

You can get ripped doing circuit workouts

You can get ripped using bodybuilding workouts

You can get ripped doing bodyweight lifting workouts

You can get ripped doing kettlebell workouts

Do you know what all these workouts have in common? They are all based on strength training. Strength training is the key (in combination with ample protein intake) to help you retain your muscle as you are shedding fat.

What specific type of strength training should you do? Do what you can sustain is the simple answer. They all work. At Builtlean, we developed our strength circuitsTM method, which is a very efficient way to get both cardio and strength benefits in a short workout. This method focuses on compound movements involving large muscle groups that are combined into circuits. In addition, depending on your results, you may have to create more progression in your workouts to shed the extra layer of fat. This strength circuitsTM method combined with progression is the foundation of my 8-Week BuiltLean Program.

Remember that getting ripped is primarily a nutritional challenge, so strength training is secondary, but still essential.

Get Ripped Variable #1: Carbohydrates

How To Get Ripped And Cut #5

What you see all the time is “nutrition” experts pontificating about the right number of carbohydrates to eat, and what types of carbohydrates are allowed. I want to impress upon you the deep flaws with the “one size fits all” approach to nutrition. Everyone is different. We all respond differently to food.

What I’ve found is that carbohydrates is a variable in the getting ripped equation, which depends on your genetics. Some people (myself included) can control hunger and calorie intake much better on a moderate carbohydrate, even high carbohydrate diet, while others drop fat like it’s going out of style with a lower carb approach.

The delicate balance is that for some, eating too many carbs can encourage overeating and limit fat loss potential. On the other hand, too few carbohydrates may have you dropping hard earned muscle, which is obviously undesirable. I’ve tried the more extreme Paleo/Ketogenic low carb diets in the past and I was extremely hungry all the time and my results were disappointing.

If you have carried excess weight your entire life, my guess is lower carb may be effective, but this is a variable you ultimately have to play with.

Get Ripped Variable #2: Cardiovascular Activity

How To Get Ripped And Cut #6

Similar to the amount of carbohydrates you eat, the amount of cardio you complete to lose the excess fat depends on your genetics. I don’t have to do any cardio to drop body fat, but some people must hit the cardio hard to get rid of that last layer of fat. If you are busy, HIIT cardio is very effective at helping you burn more calories and drop body fat.

While I didn’t cover all the minutiae for how to get ripped, if you focus on the key elements I outline above, you will be able to achieve the very rare “ripped” physique.

Best of luck in your quest and let me know what you think of this article by leaving a comment below.

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115 Comments on “How To Get Ripped & Cut: Definitive Guide

  1. Georgiana
    May 11, 2011 #

    I like how you break it down in this article, very straight forward, very simple and truthful. Thank you for the wonderful amount of information you share. It is much appreciated.

    1. Marc Perry
      May 11, 2011 #

      @Georgiana – Thanks very much for the thoughtful comment. It means a lot!

  2. Ori
    May 11, 2011 #

    I like everything about this article. Very well broken down. Step by step, without being the old fashioned step by step. (Hope that made sense.)

    What you say about Keto has been one of my fears. But I like to experiment so I am going to try these ideas, but combined with Keto. I trust and am pretty sure the results may not be the best, but I like to try things for myself and see what happens.

    No to go see the Doc and find out what my LBM, and Fat% is.

    1. Marc Perry
      May 11, 2011 #

      @Ori – Thanks. Good luck with the keto diet!

  3. Chetan
    May 12, 2011 #

    im 6 feet 2 inches. big built structure. but weigh 110 kilos.
    need some useful nutrition tips and diet before and after workouts and cardio exercise.

    1. Marc Perry
      May 13, 2011 #

      @Chetan – Thanks for the comment. I like to keep things simple. My favorite pre workout snack is an apple. Maybe you can opt for some berries Yep, that’s it, and I only a snack if I feel I need a boost. I generally do not have a pre-workout snack if I workout withing a few hours of a meal. Post workout, if you are eating a meal within 60-90 minutes after a workout, then just have the meal and make sure it has at least 30 grams of protein along with at least 30 grams of carbs. For example, a classic is 6-8 ounces grilled chicken, 1-2 cups mixed veggies (broccoli, etc.), and 1/2-1 cup of brown rice, or yams. While I’m not a big fan of supplements in general, I do think a basic whey protein shake can make sense after a strength training workout if you won’t be eating for several hours to help prevent catabolism of the muscle. If you just did a cardio workout, I wouldn’t worry about the “post workout nutrition”, just follow your normal schedule.

      With that said, the reality is that pre/post workout nutrition is a lot less important than what you eat, or don’t eat the other 16 hours you are awake. In other words, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I would worry about total calorie intake though! That’s key.

  4. Hank
    May 13, 2011 #

    The challenge to becoming ripped lies mainly in a change in approach to eating the right foods. The exercise part is relatively straight forward. The discipline to achieve the necessary dietary restrictions is why so few guys are ripped. I do think your suggestions make sense and although complicated are realistic. But motivation is still key.

  5. Neill
    May 13, 2011 #

    Hey man i appreciate the article, i am 5’7″ and 153 pounds, i work out (mainly power lifting and core work outs) 1-2 hours a day and 5-6 days a week, never over work my muscles and focusing on a few muscles a day, i take a pre-work out drink, and take green tea supplements, i watch my diet pretty closely (mens health diet) i was just wondering if you have any ideas to get more cut and farther up on the food chain. Thanks!

    1. Marc Perry
      May 13, 2011 #

      @Neill – Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you are working out really hard, so congrats. I did notice in your comment you said you watch your diet “pretty closely”. If you really want to get as ripped as possible, I would highly recommend spending the 1-2 hours creating a nutrition spreadsheet, or at the very least tabulate the calories of meals that you eat very frequently. At the end of the day, if you don’t know how many calories you are eating and ideally how many protein/carbs/fat grams, then you really don’t know if you are eating properly for a ripped physique. You can try to guess, but every single natural bodybuilder and fitness model I have ever met knows precisely what they are eating when dieting down to lose the last 5lb of fat without losing muscle. I’m assuming you are already pretty lean, so to get to that next level it takes extra precision. The hard part is that most of your energy should be spent on the eating, the exercise is the easy part!

  6. Robert Brooks
    May 15, 2011 #

    Marc, from what i understand, we lose a certain percentage of muscle every year after about age 30 no matter what. Is it possible for a 60 yr. old man like myself able to get ripped?

  7. Moataz
    May 15, 2011 #

    Thanks Marc, I really appreciate all the effort that you put in this article, it is very helpful and to the point. Actually I am doing the same stuff that you mentioned and I am very close to what I want but the last layer of fat is the hardest. Despite that I can see my abs and everything, still I didn’t get the full ripped physique yet. My body is very strange, it responds to lifting weights and bulking up more than losing fat so I stopped any kind of strength training because it was making me lose fat in a slower pace. and when I started doing cardio and sprinting with the same low fat diet I lost fat fast and I retained muscle and actually the core muscles got a lot bigger from sprinting and more cut and defined than my initial attempt of doing cardio and strength training, I am burning a thousand calories on average everyday doing cardio. and also I am sure that my vegetarian low fat diet varies from a 1000 to a 1500 calories per day and I do more regular day effort beside that. do you think I should push the cardio to burn 1500 calories per day?

    1. Marc Perry
      May 18, 2011 #

      @Moataz – That is interesting. Typically it’s the exact opposite; guys start getting ripped when lifting hard and eating well, even if they complete minimal cardio. I must be upfront that I have little knowledge of vegetarian approaches to getting ripped. There are only a handful of bodybuilders who are vegetarian (one famous one is Bill Pearl) and while it’s definitely harder to get ripped as a vegetarian, it is possible. With that said, getting ripped is primarily about calorie intake. Right now, it seems you are eating far too few calories given the amount of activity you are doing. I think you should come up with some type of estimate as to your total calorie burn: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/03/14/how-to-calculate-your-calorie-burn/. Then, decide the calorie level you want: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/. My concern is that you are eating less calories than you are burning simply through exercise, but you still have your basal metabolic rate! In other words, you may not be eating nearly enough food given your calorie needs. Over time, your metabolism can drop like a rock. You can check with a nutritionist of course and see what they say. Best of luck and thanks for the comment!

  8. Tim - The Lean Look
    May 27, 2011 #

    Great Post,

    Well delivered and informative post. A couple of things/courses that have worked for me are Eat Stop Eat – a diet that makes getting lean simple. And Metabolic Resistance Training – this helps people do resistance training and cardio at the same time. Both courses/techniques help you get lean while also leaving a realistic life that isn’t consumed by working out and living in the gym.

    Cheers,

    Tim D

    1. Marc Perry
      May 28, 2011 #

      @Tim – Thanks Tim. I’ve been meaning to read Eat Stop Eat about intermittent fasting, even though it’s not the type of eating schedule I would personally like to follow. Leangains.com is also a great resource for people interested in intermittent fasting with an emphasis on aesthetics. I wrote a post on metabolic resistance training, which I think it’s an excellent way to lose fat at a faster than average pace while spending less time in the gym. The downsides is that it can be just too intense and demoralizing (I only use this style 1x per week) and it’s certainly not for beginners.

  9. Toni
    July 1, 2011 #

    Wow, Marc, consider me impressed. I saw your “before” photos and you look like a totally different person. Anyway, I don’t think being “ripped” is particularly healthy for women. My doctor told me any body fat percentage below like 11% or 10% will cause your monthly cycle to stop which is not a good thing. And not only that but I don’t know any “normal” female (bodybuilders and athletes aside) that could keep up a totally low body fat percentage in the long-term. I know for me as a busy mom of two and wife that I am happy with my 17% body fat but I’d be happier if it went to like 15% – I’m still a work-in-progress. I could maintain that percent (15-17) but any lower and I’d have a hard time continuing with it indefinitely. Plus, considering that for most of my life I hovered in the mid to upper 20′s in terms of body fat percentages, I’m worlds away from where I once was. But this article was very informative. You should write one about women – just a suggestion. BTW, I use kettlebells too and they work really well. Helped me shed some of the lower abdomen “baby weight”. I love your site too. Thanks.

    1. Marc Perry
      July 1, 2011 #

      @Toni – I agree with your doctor. As you get into the low teens in terms of body fat percentage, hormones can be thrown off for women. 15-17% is an excellent and healthy goal where in my opinion you can feel and look great while still maintaining great health and energy.

  10. Toni
    July 3, 2011 #

    Marc,

    I wonder what you thought of the whole “it’s just your genetics” conversation that always seems to accompany any talk about being “ripped”. I’ve heard several well-known trainers who’ve come right out and said that genetics has a lot to do with how well your body responds to diet and exercise. Then a handful of others have said the opposite – that it is possible to change the shape of someone’s body through diet and exercise. I get told all the time by people that the reason I mainly look the way I do is because my relatives are all thin and small-boned. When I try to argue with them and tell them prior to six years ago, I was thin on top and kind of dumpy on the bottom, they roll their eyes in disbelief. Some of them even wonder why I bother to workout the way I do. I’m on the fence about it; I believe that certain things like your skeletal frame is genetic and cannot be changed but can’t everyone benefit from cleaning up their diet and implementing some sort of exercise into their daily life? What do you think?

    1. Marc Perry
      July 4, 2011 #

      @Toni – I do agree genetics are certainly a factor in terms of overall body stature and how fast and how much muscle a person can build, or fat can be lost in a certain period of time. With that said, I’ve been fortunate to help many people with many different types of genetics (yes, those with self proclaimed “bad” genetics”) dramatically change the shape and appearance of their bodies. Bad genetics is a very, very poor excuse for not eating well and exercising.

  11. Edd
    July 24, 2011 #

    thanks man , good article , i appreciate the insight .

    1. Marc Perry
      July 24, 2011 #

      @Edd – No problem, Edd. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Gren
    August 1, 2011 #

    Hi Marc.
    Is there any correlation between fat loss and drinking coffee? I know this may sound silly but I was watching one of those “celeb diets” show on the travel channel and they were talking about how this one actor went from “flab to 6-pack fab” in 3 months. They mentioned that the actor would consume almost 40 cups of coffee a day – something which he had to give up during his training period.
    So I was wondering if there was some sort of connection between the two? It would help, because I too love coffee (I’m downing around 6 a day – no sugar, but with milk) and I too am desperate to get rid of the fat around my waist.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 9, 2011 #

      @Gren – Sorry for the late reply. Your comment slipped through the cracks! I have not heard of caffeine negatively effecting fat loss. I’ve only heard caffeine mildly improving fat loss. With that said, 6 cups is A LOT and caffeine is like a drug that can create dependence, which is obviously not a good situation. In addition, caffeine can effect the quality of sleep and sleep patterns so that’s how caffeine can negatively effect fat loss. If you are not getting enough sleep, your hormones may get thrown off and your body may not be able to adequately recover from workouts to help burn as much fat as possible.

  13. Mike
    August 5, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,

    I’m 5’6 and I weigh 138lbs. I did one of those body composition tests and the results said that I have 12.8% body fat. I decided I wanted to get pretty defined and possibly ripped, if it happens, around the beginning of June. I weighed the same back then as now but I can see more definition in my abs. I was wondering what my caloric intake should be and if it is necessary for me to be eating more than 3 meals a day for me to achieve my goal before the year ends. (I want to get to around 8-10% body fat level) Thanks!

    1. Marc Perry
      August 9, 2011 #

      @Mike – It’s tough to say without a closer analysis but my guess is a 1600 calorie intake would work. If you keep your LBM at 120lb, you only need to lose 4lb of fat to get down to 10% and 6lb of fat to get to 8%, so you are very close to your goal. 3x a day should work fine as long as you nail the calorie level and the breakdown of calories is within a reasonable range (not a crazy amount of carbs). That’s my take!

  14. Kobus
    September 2, 2011 #

    Thanks for your great article. I’m a gym owner/amateur bodybuilder. 93kg, 1.78m and my body fat is around 11%. Can you please help me to get ripped. What would you suggest should my Protein, carbs and fat grams be per day. At this moment its protein 220g, carbs 155g, and fat 45g. My calories is +- 2000 a day. Please please please, I need your help.

    1. Marc Perry
      September 6, 2011 #

      @Kobus – Happy you liked the article. I think your breakdown of macronutrients is reasonable. The protein is a bit higher relative to what I normally see, so common splits are 30/50/20 (protein/carbs/fat), which is promoted by natural bodybuilders like Tom Venuto, and some go lower carb like you are but will take their fat a little higher, such as 40/20/30. Basically go into ketosis. One advanced strategy I did not mention in this article is calories/carb cycling which I have used in the past. It can help you get rid of of the last 5-10 pounds of fat covering your muscle. If you would like to learn more, you can check out Tom Venuto’s e-book, which is basically required reading for bodybuilders and fitness models: Burn The Fat: Feed The Muscle. Good luck!

  15. September 5, 2011 #

    Hi Marc, I was a swimmer and water polo player through HS and College so never cared or worried as I was always pretty ripped no matter what I ate. My problem now is that I dont eat hardly any veggies at all or seafood (as they make me want to throw up) and I dont drink milk. I will eat yogurts, nuts and berries and even salads though. With that said I feel like it is impossible for me to get back into what I used to look like when I was 5″11 and 180Ibs (in college). I recently just cut my calorie intake in half 2 months ago and went from 224lbs to 200lbs even, and I still look overweight, but the strength training and cardio should take care of that easy in the next 2 months, I just cant see myself ever leaning out. Is it possible to get “Ripped” again without eating those foods?

    1. Marc Perry
      September 6, 2011 #

      @Randy – I understand you don’t eat seafood, vegetables, and milk, but I’m assuming you eat everything else? Like chicken, beef, buffalo, turkey, fruits, and the foods you listed? I do think it’s very possible to get ripped. I would consider some type of multi-vitamin and possibly fish oil supplement. I don’t each much seafood either, but I do think you should try to incorporate some veggies into your diet. I don’t like the taste of vegetables by themselves, but when I eat them with meat, and they have some spice or sauce on them, I actually like them. Don’t give up on trying to add veggies to your diet!

      Ok, so with that said, getting ripped from a nutritional perspective is mostly about total calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown as I wrote in the article. I would track your calories and macronutrient ratios. I do think if you can continue losing the fat like you are, you will get lean. It’s a very simple formula; lose as much fat as possible while keeping your muscle. That’s it. It takes time and patience, but right now you have a 20lb dumbbell worth of extra fat on your body. If you take that away, it could make a big difference. You may also consider checking out my BuiltLean Program as you sound like you could be a good candidate: BuiltLean Program.

  16. Andy
    September 13, 2011 #

    Great article. Cleared up a lot of confusion for me.

    I used to love cardio triathalon specific exercises, but now I enjoy the results and time effectiveness of body building/ circuit training way more. My diet is better then it ever has been and now I’m starting to see my abs for the the first time in my life. I know believe I can actually get a six pack if I focus.

    Do you have a recommendation on which form of strength training is the most effective and give the biggest reward on the time investment?

    Also how many days a week should you lift weights/ do circuit training?

    I have some friends that are into the cross fit/ paleo craze and it makes me sick as it looks and feels like a cult, but the results are undeniable.

    I want to do even better.

    1. Marc Perry
      September 14, 2011 #

      @Andy – Happy to hear you are experiencing solid results since you’ve been focusing on strength training, which is my favorite type of exercise.

      I think there are a few things you should think about, which form the foundation of my BuiltLean Program. I wrote an entire article series on constructing maximally efficient, fat burning workouts.

      I am familiar with the cross fit/paleo craze. It’s one way to get in shape, but definitely not the only way.

  17. kevin
    September 24, 2011 #

    Thanks for the article mark! im 16 years old. I know i shouln’t worry about my diet, but i want to start getting ripped to the point you can see most muscles. i weight around 148 lbs, and have a height of 5″9. I work out 5 or 6 times a week. What should I do to get my body tone?

    1. Marc Perry
      September 25, 2011 #

      @Kevin – Thanks for the question. I would argue you DO need to worry about your diet. Your nutrition effects you in every way; your skin, energy levels, hormonal balance etc. You can never start eating right too early. In fact, as I discuss in the article, getting ripped is primarily a nutritional challenge. You could probably use any decent strength training plan to get ripped as long as you are eating right. I have a sample workout in my Get Lean Guide and I created an 8-week BuiltLean Program, which has VERY effective workouts to help guys lose fat without losing muscle to get lean and ripped.

  18. Hank
    October 13, 2011 #

    Great article and nice commentary. Perhaps mention in addition to getting more defined there is a more important feeling of well being.

  19. dane miller
    October 17, 2011 #

    this program is quite helpful and full of good info.i am currently 180 i am 5’10 and have a bulky look . how much wieght do you loss getting ripped my current body fat index is 16%

    1. Marc Perry
      October 18, 2011 #

      @dane miller – Assuming you get your body fat percentage down to 6% while keeping all your muscle, your body weight will be 161lb. Right now your LBM is 151lb. To learn more about how to calculate your “ideal weight”, check out this article:

      Ideal Body Weight Formula

  20. Kobus
    October 18, 2011 #

    Thanks again Marc. I’ve lost 5kg in 3weeks. Body fat now on 8%. I’m running 3days low carbs 1 day high carbs. (250, 150, 30) and (200, 200, 30) pro, carbs fat. I’m also doing twice cardio of 45min a day and then my usual weightlifting routine. One cardio before breakfast.

  21. Marc Perry
    October 18, 2011 #

    @Kobus – Wow, that’s awesome! Congrats. Sounds like you are putting in a ton of effort and have really nailed down your nutrition. Keep up the good work.

  22. Sean
    October 22, 2011 #

    hello there what is your take on the anabolic diet? I have been on it for about 3 years now and it has worked very well for me. I used it to gain muscle mass and also for getting ripped. I am trying to get into fitness modeling/ modeling casually. So right now I am still in a ripped phase and just trying to maintain it or go a step farther and get more ripped. I really admire rich Gaspari back in his competition days and now. As he had nutrition down almost to a science and it seems you do as well. His conditioning was insane. If I can get almost to the level of that it would be good. But I don’t know all the way extreme he went with the vascualrity. Anyway I usually diet really strict monitoring my caloric intake and keeping carbs to min 30-45 grams 5-6 days a week. Right now I do 4-5 days a week of weight training and on the last day I will do a full body workout. Supposedly I have heard that it will deplete any last glycogen you have in you. Then fill it back up with about 90-150 grams of carbs the rest of the day. It seems to have been working what is your thoughts of that? Then the following day rest day is my cheat day/ refeed day carb loading. I keep fruits to very min as supposedly i have read it can slow results in fat loss or maintaining a ripped look. So I have one to two piece of fruit on last day of the strict diet that is it. Vegetables I have just started to incorporate back in specifically broccoli {yuck lol}. But just curious of what your views are on this.

    1. Marc Perry
      October 24, 2011 #

      @Sean – Thanks for sharing your exercise/nutrition regimen and the results you’ve seen. From a behavioral perspective, my understanding is the Anabolic diet is great for people who enjoy extremes. In terms of body composition, like any diet, it’s a matter of preference. From what I can tell, it’s working for you. Without question, a very low carb diet can speed up fat metabolism.

      The challenge as I allude to in the article is that for some people (myself included) a low carb diet for even 5-6 days can seriously limit strength/energy in the gym, affecting workout quality, can make muscles look “flat” and possibly strip some hard earned muscle. With that said, it really depends on the person. From my experience, ectomorph + meso-ectomorph body types can do really great on an anabolic/lower carb diets, but I think for an ectomorph, or even meso-ectomorph , it just wouldn’t make much sense. From what I can tell, the possible negatives of the anabolic diet are not effecting you, which is great.

      The “holy grail of fitness” from aesthetic perspective (in my humble opinion) is looking strong, fit, and very lean year round without the use of dangerous supplements. The thing I want to warn you about is that looking “shredded” or “ripped” like in a bodybuilding magazine is an illusion. I MUST update this article VERY soon to clear this up. My guess is 95% fitness model/bodybuilders you’ve seen in the magazines are (1) on steroids, or other heavy duty supplements and/or (2) take diuretic, apply dark self tanner, & pump up before the shoot. In other words, the water is flushed out of the body to create an extra ripped appearance that is basically not natural. I’ve done photoshoots/videoshoots before and while i refuse to take a diuretic, just the difference in lighting, whether I’m pumped, my level of hydration which is affected by sodium/carbs/water intake, can make me go from lean to shredded, and that’s assuming I have the same exact body fat percentage! I would say even just getting a pump makes a HUGE difference.

      By the way, Rich Gaspari was 100% taking steroids. Here’s an excerpt of an article about Steroid Use, “My heroes had been guys like Rich Gaspari, Dorian Yates, Flex Wheeler, and Arnold. All of them had those incredibly full, round muscles with all sorts of nasty veins, striations, and deep separations that are only possible with the assistance of anabolics.”

      What I’m getting at is even for people like me and you who take the aesthetic to a certain extreme, it’s all about being lean and fit all the time. Pushing yourself to get better. But in terms of the extremes of fitness modeling/bodybuilding, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, and the “crazy” ripped shape is NOT sustainable. You can try playing around with your water retention and playing around in the gym to get the right pump and see what happens You may realize you’re already leaner than you may have realized. I know this is long winded, but I really need to add these points to the article and make you aware of the dangers of comparing yourself to people who are loaded up on “stacks” of steroids and supplements.

  23. ben
    October 27, 2011 #

    Just browsing the net and you are right on!! Great advice! At 40 not trying to lift what I could at 18 but found bodyweight circuits minimal rest especially w burpies. Get sooo bored on the bike and jogging hurts my low back.. Next purchase is a weighted vest! I try to juggle the intiensity I really like to train hard but it will break you down if you do it every day! Diet is the hardest for me!! Easy availibiity of fast foods for a single guy!

  24. Evans
    October 27, 2011 #

    Okay. So here’s my situation if you can help out Marc, and I have been reading around the internet. I’m fairly new to muscular fitness. I do sit-ups, and push-ups and run quite a bit. Now, I’m 6’0″ and roughly about 175 lbs with a lanky type build. I am striving for a decent cut as well as a bit of muscle gain on my arms (which I assume will come naturally, due to the fact that my arms aren’t all that big in the first place). I’m also, as of current, deployed, therefore we must eat at the chow hall. We have a okay gym and such. However, like everyone here, I’m also trying to get into better fitness and thus my physical desire is to be cut, not big. Thus my question is what kind of foods should I be aiming to eat (seeing how I have no control of a rotated menu), and what kind of exercises should I be striving and at what reps, seeing how I have limited capabilities with my gym?

    1. Marc Perry
      October 28, 2011 #

      @Evans – Thanks for the comment.

      Your questions appear to be very general and I could write a book on each one! The short answer is the information you seek is in my BuiltLean Program. This program is something I created over three years that has a nutrition/exercise plan that can be customized to your specific fitness goals and habits. People around the world are using it with excellent results. For me to attempt to create an exercise/nutrition plan in a short comment box simply would be infeasible.

      If you are not interested in purchasing the program for whatever reason, I would search around my site as there is A LOT of information with addresses the lion’s share of your questions like exercise selection etc. Also, if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to download my Free Get Lean Guide, not just for the information in the guide, but I have email subscriber only content that goes into depth about exercise selection etc. and how to construct the perfect fat burning workout. You don’t want to miss it.

      Thanks for stopping by my site!

  25. xnihilo
    October 29, 2011 #

    Marc. Great site. Most of your information seems to be aimed at men. There are obvious differences for women (different body fat percentages, probably lower max strength, lower calorie needs etc.) but is there any reason why your program will work or not work for women? I don’t see a lot of discussion about women’s specific needs here but I’m fairly convinced that the basics are the same for a woman wanting to increase LBM and lose fat. What, if any, alterations would you suggest if I started following your 8 week plan, or do you have a plan tailored specifically for women? p.s. I’m a woman, obviously :-)

    1. Marc Perry
      October 31, 2011 #

      @xnihilo – That’s a great question and one I get ALL the time! I have to address it more fully in an article. In short, there are certain physiological difference of course between men and women including hormones, strength levels (upper body mainly), muscle endurance (women tend to be better), body fat percentages, and lower calorie needs to name several.

      With all that said, a man and a woman can use the same exact exercise routine and both can get great results. My BuiltLean Program can certainly be used by women and has been used by women around the world with exceptional feedback! You are right that BuiltLean in general is male oriented but that’s mostly a marketing thing. The program works just as well for both sexes. The thing to think about is if you are comfortable and appreciate the benefits of strength training to help you lose fat and improve your health. FYI, I do plan on getting some female success stories on my website soon. Maybe you could be one!

      If you have any questions as you are completing the program, I’m happy to answer them! I’m excited you are considering giving my program a try. If you have anymore questions, please let me know!

  26. don
    November 4, 2011 #

    hi marc my weight has beeen going up and down for 6 years im 26 and ht 6’0 i weigh 300 now but just last year i weighed 235 i use to lift weights real hard for 5 years and i crashed dieted overtained then just stoped all together last year thats how i put on the weight all fat! but im stiil strong i went to the gym and still can lift 405 at least 3 times even though i havent lifted in a year so my question is since is seems like i still kept my LBM from years of working out since i weigh 300 i wanna just do body weight exercises to lose all my fat. plus i can still do dips and other exercises that most ppl my size even smaller ppl would have a problem with i have 215lbs of lBM and 85 lbs of fat! so could i get ripped at home plus i have 50lbs dumb bells i use to and i mix up my workouts so would that be enough for me to maintain my muscle and lose fat???

    1. Marc Perry
      November 4, 2011 #

      @don – happy to hear you are looking for a more sustainable way to get lean and improve your health. That’s the name of the game! So many people unfortunately who go on crash diets and exercise plans set themselves up for failure.

      In my experience as long as you do basic strength training exercises a couple times per week that hit your large muscle groups (think squats, lunges, push, pull, and core exercises – bodyweight exercises are fine), you should be able to hold on to your muscle as you eat less calories. You really don’t have to kill yourself with weights to keep your muscle. Also, keep in mind protein intake should be elevated as you lower your calories, which will also help fuel muscle and prevent muscle loss. Consider around 30% of your total calories can come from protein.

  27. Cameron
    November 7, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks for the information. I am a former student athlete trying to get a good physique back. In my playing days I would say I had a better than average body physique at 185 lbs, but not as ripped or cut as I would have liked, and I could probably attribute that to not caring about what I ate because I would just burn it off. But now I’m getting serious about it. That being said, I’m about 6’2″ and weigh 196 lbs. Could you tell me the target macronutrients I should be looking at on a daily basis. Thanks.

    1. Marc Perry
      November 7, 2011 #

      @Cameron – Great to hear you are getting back into shape. Macronutrient breakdown really is subjective as I allude to in the article. With that said, I do strongly believe relatively higher protein is very important especially in a calorie deficit (30%), with carbs, go as low as you can go while still having energy for your workouts. Again, it’s subjective, but 35%-40% – roughly 150-200 grams works well (I go for 150g or less) for a lot of people, and the balance is fat. A lot of bodybuilders swear by 30/50/20 macro-nutrient breakdown and I’ve used it with great results, but taking down carbs is more aggressive, just need to be careful with energy levels and make sure your muscle mass is not decreasing.

  28. Turan
    November 8, 2011 #

    Marc I was wondering how you pin point your calorie levels, both for cutting and maintaining? Just trial and error? Because those online calculators and so forth really don’t work for me.

    And also, I’ve decided not to over think it, well I guess that is a relative term, I mean I still count my daily calorie intake, but I figured that if I eat healthy, do resistance training, and throw in some running I’ll get ripped. I’m very happy with the results, I’ve gotten stronger and have lost body fat at the same time. But, can it just be that some people store fat in all the wrong places (for the purposes of getting ripped that is) to truly achieve that cut look? Or does it simply mean those people need to work harder at it?

    Thanks for any input.

    1. Marc Perry
      November 10, 2011 #

      @Turan – Regarding figuring out your maintenance and cutting calories, I would say check out this article: How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight? . In terms of figuring out your calorie burn, I would use the Katch & Mccardle method if I was you. It’s most accurate. In terms of storing fat in the wrong places, yes, you do need to work harder at it but you CAN eventually lose all the fat. Where we store or gain fat is genetically predetermined.

  29. Rich
    November 10, 2011 #

    Hey Marc!

    I’m 31, 6’2 & 210 lbs & 14% body fat. I’m in the Air Force and deployed to Afghanistan. With that being said, I have no idea what the Macro nutrient Breakdown of the food I consume is…Is there a way I can achieve my goal of getting ripped without that?

    I try to eat lean protein and a few veggies every meal, but it’s extremely difficult here. The food here taste pretty bad to begin with & some days there are no “lean” proteins available. I don’t eat pork & I rarely eat beef, so I stick to chicken, turkey, or fish. I pretty much try to eat the same thing everyday, 4 hard boiled egg whites & about a 1/2 cup of regular oatmeal & a tangerine for breakfast, some type of lean protein (I try to get a portion the size of my fist & a half a fist) and two veggies for lunch & dinner (sometimes this is hard to find) these people here cooking find a way to make simple things like salad nasty! I do strength training with weights (after-burn affect) and calisthenics 5 days a week. I work out at night 8pm to about 9:30-10. and I take Syntha6 after my workouts, but that’s about an hour before I go to bed…Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. Marc Perry
      November 10, 2011 #

      @Rich – It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right; emphasizing lean proteins, incorporating as many veggies as you can, lifting weights + doing cardio. That’s a recipe for a lean body. Are you losing 0.5-2lb per week? If you are, I would say stick with whatever you are doing and see what happens. My opinion is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  30. sixgun
    November 14, 2011 #

    wow that picture above is the definition of ripped!

    “Remember that getting ripped is primarily a nutritional challenge, so strength training is secondary, but still essential.? – The truth

  31. November 27, 2011 #

    Marc…i love ur well structured program and it has given me extraordinary results.I am 14 yrs old and 5ft 10inc and weight 54kilos with 10-12 Body fat percentage.But i cant see a defined and toned set of abs.I am already eating lite and controlling the snacks i eat.Can u please tell me useful exercises that would help me get a well defined set of abs…Thank u very much Marc

  32. Ozell Alvizo
    December 19, 2011 #

    nice site you have. First time reading but will definite be back! Rock on

  33. George
    December 21, 2011 #

    I have to say that with this article you have saved me up hours of investigation about how to get ripped. Now I know all the basics about how to do it. I can see all your articles are serious and aren´t tricky; besides, they’re based on scientific facts and of course, lots of experiece. I have to tell that since I was 14 (now I’m 17) I want a ripped physique (yes, just as B.P. in “The Club Fight”) but I kind of failed (still, got some results) primarly because of bad information. And I think’s that’s all about: the right information. So, thumbs up for this website Marc.

    1. Marc Perry
      December 22, 2011 #

      @George – Thanks a lot for the great feedback. It did take me a LONG time to figure out how to get ripped because there is so much noise out there.

  34. Zalaba
    December 29, 2011 #

    I’ve written to you Marc,but i’m still confused about losing the last inch of fat…Everybody says it’s very hard…I just need to know how to get to that 6% body fat from 10% where I am know because it’s very easy(for me)to stay at that percentage and i’m sure of it:)

    1. Marc Perry
      January 4, 2012 #

      @Zalaba – Here’s what you sent me via email:

      -Weight 165 pounds or 75kg Height 6feet or 183 centimeters
      -I have 2500 callories in an intense day(walking at least 1 hour,soccer training 1hour-2hours)
      -I have 2000-2200 calories on rest day with a slow jog for 30-60 min

      My best guess is you may need to take your calories lower while making sure to eat enough protein. I think it’s worth a try. A lot of big bodybuilders go as low as 1800 calories and don’t cycle calories/carbs. The cycling may in fact be hurting you. You can do a couple weeks at 1800 and see what happens, just be sure your strength levels stay the same.

  35. Zalaba
    January 5, 2012 #

    Ok 1800challenge-that means 300/meal x6=1800
    -only lean protein like chicken breast skinless,tuna,eggs(a bit of fat,but good i suppose)
    -carbs from vegetables and fruits only
    Am i right? Only low calorie foods…Let’ see…Thanks

    1. Marc Perry
      January 5, 2012 #

      @Zalaba – That sounds sensible to me. FYI, you don’t need to eat 300 calories 6x per day, you could do 500 3x per day then 150 2x per day. It’s up to you. Emphasizing lean proteins is always a good option, along with veggies/fruits. Not having starchy carbs is aggressive so be careful you have enough energy for your workouts. Good luck.

  36. Zalaba
    January 6, 2012 #

    Thanks a lot for the new information…i will follow ur 500×3 and 150×2…way better and easier to follow…don’t worry about carbs,i always have a protein/carb before and post workout.Now i’m waiting for the results

  37. Liza
    January 8, 2012 #

    Yes I’m a girl, but I’m glad I found this website! I used to be a ballet dancer–5’1″ and between 97-110lbs. For those who don’t know, ballet is strength training, mostly anaerobic exercise. I never counted calories or really knew anything about correct nutrition, but I was always lean. Then I stopped dancing abruptly because of depression. I went to college. Now I’m 20yrs old, 5’2″, 143lbs, and 30.2% body fat. Finally, (I hope) I am emotionally ready to take care of my body again. I will apply some of these principles so I can get “a little ripped”. But I know it’s going to take me longer than 8 weeks, whether it’s because I’m a girl, or I go to college, or that I don’t have time to count calories or live in the gym, unfortunately.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 9, 2012 #

      @Liza – Thrilled to hear you liked the article and I’m also excited to hear you are ready to improve your body/health!

  38. Shyam
    January 9, 2012 #

    Hi Marc ,
    I should say that ive known a lot of things from ur posts .. im 21 yrs old now.. ive been working out since 5 yrs now .. but because of certain disturbances such as exams and other academic issues i miss out on working out for long periods such as 2 to 2nd half months at a time .. ive become lean since i didn wan2 gain fat while i was not working out .. ive started again and am hoping to gain some muscle mass .. im 5’7” tall and weigh 67 kilos i look very lean though .. im a vegetarian and i dont eat egg either .. i take fitness very seriously and its high time for me to really get a good physique .. ive started going to the gym regularly now .. i am a patient person when it comes to weight concepts .. i wan2 know how long it will probably take to get a good noticeable buff .. i have got less fat and i am a fit and strong person and have good contours of muscles .. i have increased my food intake ( oats, pulses , grams , wheat , fruits ,etc) PLEASE suggest some tips and any changes which might help me

    1. Marc Perry
      January 9, 2012 #

      @Shyam – Hey Carlos,

      There are a few important themes for getting bigger. I plan on expanding these concepts into a 101 type of post for building muscle:

      1) You must eat more calories than you burn – If you don’t, you have no chance at gaining muscle. This is the hardest step for a lot of skinny guys. Do the opposite of what this article says http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/
      2) Eat ample protein – Roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight (this may be difficult as a vegetarian, if you are not allowed to have whey protein, I’ve heard Sun Valley is very good).
      3) Lift more weight over time – set a new personal record on a given lift every workout. Should be moving heavier weight over time
      4) Focus on basic compound movements – Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Pull Ups, Shoulder Press etc. Keep things simple.
      5) Be Patient – Gaining muscle doesn’t happen overnight, takes months, and sometimes years to get a lot bigger.

      Many people have used my BuiltLean Program to help add muscle, but instead of creating a calorie deficit, they create a calorie surplus. Good luck!

  39. Shyam
    January 10, 2012 #

    thanx a lot marc .. my gym instructor also pointed out about having whey protein and increasing the calorie intake .. im already at it .. another query which i wanted to ask all these years .. how often should i work out ? ive read that the muscle needs around 72hrs to recover before its strained again .. since ill have to lift heavier weights suppose i did a lat workout and am willing to do a chest workout the next day the lat muscles will also be involved while doing certain chest exercises .. so what steps should be taken .. ? is it ok if i workout on different muscles 5 days a week ?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 12, 2012 #

      @Shyam – Your question could be answered with a textbook worth of information, but I’ll try my best to keep it short and sweet.

      How many times you train each body part depends on how much volume/intensity you hit each muscle group with each workout. If you did a light full body workout, you could probably hit all muscle groups 4-5x per week without any issues. If however, you do 12 sets to failure all with chest exercises, it can take a good 5 days to recover. So first, you need to find a body part split you enjoy. Maybe its a body part each day (which I don’t recommend), upper body/lower body, or chest/biceps, back triceps, shoulder/legs, which would imply 3 workouts per week (more of a fitness model routine, but one that I’ve found works very well for sculpting a physique for advanced lifters). I think my BuiltLean Program uses a great progression and is very effective for maximizing fat loss without muscle loss, so it’s worth a serious look.

      In short, you can hit a muscle very hard (once per week) with 9+ sets, or you can hit it 2x per week with around 6 sets, always listening to your body to see how sore you feel after each workout. You must think about your own schedule, what works for you, than choose a body part split you want to follow.

  40. Cleef
    January 12, 2012 #

    Hi Marc

    My Goal for 2012 is to have lean body and Six pack… i know its hard to do that i been doing exersice the a while. But i been going off and on on it tho… I’m going to be 30 this year and i start my work out and eating healthy now for the year… I took a before picture Hopefuly it work for me… I jog, go to the gym now and do crunches and sit ups.. but I’m going to try your work-out plans too to get more results faster.. If you have any tips Please let me know. thank you for your website and i pray to God it help me in this Journey.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 13, 2012 #

      @Cleef – I’m turning 30 myself this year and I’m excited to feel better when I’m 30 years old than when I did at 17. I’m a lot stronger, more flexible, and fit now! If you are looking for a more structured program, you should definitely consider the BuiltLean Program I developed.

  41. Hussain
    January 14, 2012 #

    Hi i’m 20 years old Guy n em 5’2 inches tall..em looking for the best physique according to mu height…could u guide me..??

    1. Marc Perry
      January 14, 2012 #

      @Hussain – I’ve got tons of articles on this site, including the one you just read that should be able to give you plenty of guidance. In fact, I get emails every week of people who are using the free information on BuiltLean.com along with my BuiltLean Program to make great changes in their bodies. Good luck!

  42. jason
    January 15, 2012 #

    Hi Mark ,

    I am a 33 year old male 5′ 11″ 175 pounds ( but yet you can still see my rib cage on my sides) probably 15% body fat. My goal is around 7 to 9% . Should I try to build more mass first since you can somewhat see my ribcage.? I started a work out program (2-3 hours heavy lifting free weight’s. Basic lifts. Consatrating on my form 4-5 times a week) in the fall of 2010 stopped around June of 2011 after seeing very minimal result. I know it was not along time but with me having a very extremely physically demanding job (a framer/ carpenter) that I try to turn into somewhat of a workout when I can , and a somewhat poor diet I was worried I was doing more damage then good to my muscles. Becouse there is no recovery time due to the constant heavy. Lifting. Any idea on what to do about that? Or should that really not make a difference ? I started going back to the gym this week and I’m trying to do a better job with my diet but don’t even know where to begin as far as calories and so forth go . Not to mention I’m somewhat of a picky eater. I also started taking animal paks to help with. Vitamins and amino acids. And I also started taking amplified wheybolic extreme 60 for protein. Will this help? One other thing is although I feel somewhat strong I I’m not happy with my chest or biceps what I mean is I can squat 365 pounds. 3 sets of 5-8 reps easily but yet I’m luck if I can bench 165. By the third. Set I can barely get 2 reps Please Help! I want to see results without having to hire a nutritionaliest and trainer wich may be the next option.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 18, 2012 #

      @Jason – I would definitely focus on losing fat without losing muscle with the secondary goal of increasing strength, which is difficult but not impossible. If I were you, I would only lift weight 3x per week given your demanding job, so that your program is more sustainable. Apparently, you didn’t keep up your last program, which definitely is not good (not necessarily a reflection on you, but the program as being too demanding for your lifestyle). As you say, you don’t have a handle on your nutrition, which will make it extremely difficult to get results. That should be your first line of business is start tracking your calories and get a sense of the calories/protein/carbs/fat in different foods. Before hiring a trainer, or a nutritionist, I would seriously consider my BuiltLean Program where I put together the pieces as best as I can for you and it’s a MUCH cheaper price point!

  43. Craig
    January 18, 2012 #

    Ketogenic diet was awful, why is that?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 18, 2012 #

      @Craig – Because such low amount of carbs dramatically effects mood, ability to focus, and most importantly to me, energy levels. My strength levels took a 10% dive on that diet. Finally, I was always hungry even though the number of calories I was eating was satisfactory. Finally, whether or not the diet is “healthy” is very, very questionable (ketones are likely NOT a good thing). I think for those who are obese, a ketogenic diet may make sense, but I don’t see any good reason to get a lean and ripped physique with a diet that requires under 50 grams of carbs (or even under 150 grams for that matter). There are certainly staunch proponents of the diet, so at the end of the day, you need to experiment to see what works best for you. Always keep in mind that calories is still the most important part of the equation by far, more than protein vs. carbs vs. fat.

  44. Travis
    January 18, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    I am a 32 year old male who recently went back to a structuredfitness regime. I mostly do high intensity workouts including weights and my own body weight with one road run per week as well. I have been able to keep up a regime of two workouts per day every day, except Sunday where I only run. Is this too much? I have also restricted the calories in my diet, and have opted for a high protein low carb and fat approach. The problem is I haven’t lost any weight. I have noticedmuscle mass developing, but my love handles and gutdon’t seem to be budging? any tips?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 18, 2012 #

      @Travis – How long have you been following this regimen for – the workouts per week + restricted calories? No budge in weight?

  45. Vance
    January 19, 2012 #

    This is the first article I have ever read that confronts the mental weight hurdle. I didn’t even realize I was struggling with such a thing and I am a NSCA-CPT! I’m 6’4″, at %15 body fat, and weigh 200lbs. I have been eating 2800 calories to maintain my weight, thinking that as long as I exercise hard and eat right that muscle would take place of the fat. According to your “How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?” article, my max LBM is 205lb, so my thinking maybe right if I want to give it about 5 more years (I have already been strength training for about 5 years). Well, I don’t want to wait that long for a ripped physique. I am going to take your advice and drop my calories to 2000 a day consisting of 200g of protein, 200g of carbs, and 45g of fat. I’m very excited to begin this new regimen and see how far it takes me!

    Also, I watched your video “How To Count Calories To Lose Fat”. I have an android and I use the myfitnesspal application. It is great calorie counting tool.

    I am also curious if you think eating the majority of your carbs early in the day makes a difference as opposed to spreading them out evenly.

    Thanks for everything!

    1. Marc Perry
      January 19, 2012 #

      @Vance – Happy to hear you liked the article. I would say the #1 hurdle for guys who are very motivated to get ripped is definitely the weight scale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guys get down to 11-12% body fat, then they just freak out because the number on the scale was getting too low for them to handle. One of the most ripped guys I’ve ever seen who had a crazy good build was 6 feet and 150lb. Completely shredded with athletic (not bodybuilding) proportions. Regarding the carbs, there is no scientific evidence that carbs in the morning, or at night makes a difference in terms of fat loss (will explore this in more detail in another article). With that said, I do like “tapering” my carbs because it makes it easier to cut overall calories and keep blood sugar levels stable. I also find having fruits/stachy carbs in the morning helps my energy levels, which is an important part of the overall ripped equation.

  46. Ben
    January 19, 2012 #

    Great article. I’ve done P90X in the past with great results. I’m 5’10″ and was 180 pounds before doing P90. Ate right while doing it and went down to 165 pounds. I was pretty damn ripped. The thing is, is that I stopped and I’m back up to 180 pounds again. lol. I started lifting heavier at the gym and haven’t been eating right especially with the holidays. I think I’ve gained muscle and of course fat. So I’m looking to keep lifting and excercising, but its time to start eating right. This article gave me some great info on where to start. I’ve also downloaded calorie counter on my phone. Great app. Shows you all the info from what you have eaten through out the day. Even has a scanner to scan the barcode on the things you’ve consumed. Hope it helps me with getting ripped again. Thanks for the article. Very insightful.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 22, 2012 #

      @Ben – Thanks for your comment. I’m really happy you found the article useful and you are starting to track your calories. The one very big downside of P90x and why I don’t recommend it is that it’s an unsustainable exercise program for most people. 6-7x per week for 60-90 minutes is a lot of time.

  47. Alexander
    January 22, 2012 #

    Hi Marc!

    You Did a hell of a job building this site with so much powerful information!
    I admire people like you, smart, passionate and wililng to share.
    I have a sluggish thyroid, hypo-thyroidism as they call it here in Italy.
    By chance I found a doctor 3 yrs ago who prescribred me a simple diet customized for my thyroid type, called “hypo oxidator metabolic type diet” which partially solved my problems, including athma problems.

    Since I always feel cold in winter I was hoping to find an info re a Traning Exercise Routine to enhance warmth and energy perception from within tailored for people with hypo oxidator metabolic type. If you have any hint I would really appreciate.
    Kind regards.

  48. jay
    January 23, 2012 #

    Really usefull information, i am however struggling to get my fat % down i do alot of mma and also weight training (ex bodybuilder) i am 5’10″ and weight 215lb at about 19% bf, im basicly aiming to lowew this to around 10-12% whilst trying to keep as much of if not all of my lean mass.
    ive been trying to follow the following program

    roughly 1800 cals – 2000 cals per day

    consuming approx 220g of protein lowing my carbs down to around 100g and upping my fats slightly

    proteins come from shakes and lean meats i.e chicken and tuna steaks

    with carbs i have stuck to wholemeals i.e brown rice wholemeal bread with linsead and soya and green veg and eat these first thing i.e porridge or bread and with my midday lunch and pr eand post work out.

    i train in the evening and consume around 5-6 meals aday including shakes which i count as a meal. am i going the right way about things as i am pretty new to cutting and before focusing on mma and fitness was solely fixed on bulking .

    as i have dropped from 24% bf to 19% but my weight seems to have stayed the same ?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 24, 2012 #

      @Jay – From what you’ve described, your approach appears to be sound. Carbs are a little on the low end for what I prefer, but it depends on your energy levels in the gym and if you can still workout hard. Overall, I would stick with it. Pay particular attention to total calorie intake, def want to get that right.

  49. Will Shoucair
    January 24, 2012 #

    One of my favorite time-crunch exercises is the 8-count bodybuilder. Just 15 minutes a day (3) all-out 5-min workouts) will incinerate fat and sculpt the lean, toned physique you’ve been looking for.
    1) begin with a body weight squat (hips down and weight in your heels)
    2) drop your hands to the ground and kick your legs out to plank position
    3) PULL yourself down to the floor (don’t just drop)
    4) explode back upward into plank (try to make your hands leave the floor)
    5) kick your legs out to form an x while maintaining plank position
    6) bring your legs back in
    7) pull your feet up under your chest
    8) jump straight up
    Perform 5 reps, rest by inhaling and exhaling through your nose 8 times and repeat until your 15 minutes is up.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 24, 2012 #

      @Will Shoucair – Sounds like you are describing the burpee exercise, which can certainly get the heart rate up. I prefer a weighted burpee, as I show in this Metabolic Conditioning Circuit.

  50. jenkins
    January 24, 2012 #

    Hi,

    Recently started a cutting diet after bulking up to 182 pounds. After plugging in the numbers, I am supposed to eat 2013 calories per day to achieve 1 pound per week weight loss. I make sure to get my protein first and aim for 1g per pound of body weight so 182 pounds. I then try to get 90g of fat then the rest is on carbohydrate. I split weight sessions, monday is chest and tri’s, wednesday is back and bi’s and friday is abs,shoulders and chest, I do these for half an hour then do 15 mins on treadmill, 10 minute row and 5 mins on the stepping machine. When bulking I just did an hour of solid weights, but now I split cardio into it. Is it okay to combine the two in one workout? I am also confused as to how my body gets energy…is it more of a priority to get fats over carbohydrates? I am also confused because if I am eating my food, then surely I burn what I have eaten off in the gym instead of existing fat?

    I am confused…please help

    1. January 29, 2012 #

      @jenkins – it sounds like you need a primer on the concept of “Energy Balance”. While I haven’t written an article on this concept in detail yet, I do plan on it. The tricky part about energy balance is that the calorie burn side of the equation can fluctuate. So if you eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight, right? But what happens if your calorie burn decreases because you are eating less calories, which is a natural protective measure? I don’t want to confuse you more, but most of the energy you body burns is NOT from exercise, but to keep you organs alive and well. Exercise typically only contributes 25% of your total calorie burn, and maybe upwards of 35% if you are exercising a lot. Again, bear with me as i plan on adding an article about this in the future!

  51. deuce
    January 27, 2012 #

    Marc,

    Your website has alot of good and useful information on it to help people get lean. I have a question about counting the calories. I have been losing weight following a low calorie diet. I am now around 190lbs and 22% bf and seemed to just fluctuate between 186 and 190 lbs. I have been consuming around 1500 calories to get to this level weight and have been pretty much stuck since. I currently run 4 days a week and do circuit training 2 days a week. I think my issue could be I am not consuming enough calories with the workload I am putting on myself. what is your opinion? If I do need to up my calories, to reach my caloric goal should I look at just eating the higher number of calories as my caloric goal or should my caloric goal be the net amount of calories consumed minus calories burned?

    thanks,

    Deuce

    1. January 29, 2012 #

      @deuce – It sounds to me you are not eating enough calories and in fact your calorie intake is less than your BMR, which is generally not a good thing. You have roughly 150lb of LBM and my guess is a BMR around 1800, so 1500 is just too low. For more info on what can happen when you don’t eat enough calories for long periods of time, check out this article: Starvation Mode: Are You Eating Enough?. I would consider increasing your calorie intake to about 2500 for a good week. A few days might do the trick, but it sounds like you may have really decreased your metabolism substantially. When we eat less, and especially less than BMR, the body can go into starvation mode and decrease metabolism as a survival measure.

  52. deuce
    January 30, 2012 #

    Mark,

    Thanks for the quick response. A few more questions for clarity:
    Are you saying that by upping my calorie intake for a few days will get my metabolism up to where it needs to be?
    After that should I then try to aim for a calorie intake closer to my BRM?
    What should I be more concerned about the amount of calories I consume or the net amount of calories(calorie intake minus calories burned) I have for a day?

    Thanks you for your insight into this!

    1. January 31, 2012 #

      @deuce – That’s the hope…increasing your calorie intake for a week to your maintenance level (the total estimated daily calories you burn per day including exercise) will help reboot your metabolism. Metabolism is a complex subject that is affected by numerous hormones etc., but oftentimes just upping the calories can help spark the metabolism to get back to more normal levels. From there, you should follow the advice of my “How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Weight” article. I think creating a 25%-30% calorie deficit without going below your BMR could work well.

  53. Shannon 5-10/250
    February 1, 2012 #

    I am 38 5-10/250. At 24 I was 205 with a 10-12% body fat. I have since gained muscle along with unwanted fat. I gain muscle and fat easy. I do 45 min of cardio daily and lift 4-5 times per week. I quit drinking. I consume 2000-2300 cal 60-70 g fat 250-300 g carbs

    My goal is to get below 10% fat

    Any suggestions?

    Shannon

    1. February 2, 2012 #

      @Shannon – Sounds like you are on the right track with your training regimen and calorie targets. The carbs sound pretty high to me and that’s a macronutrient you may need to play with. Also, the protein on the other hand sounds low. I prefer 1 gram of protein per pound of LBM, then figure out your carb/fat intake from there. If you continue to lose 1-2lb per week, then there’s nothing to worry about in terms of your carb intake. Some people oxidize fat easier on lower fat/higher carb diets vs. higher fat/lower carb diets. It’s something you need to figure out for yourself. Hope that helps a good luck!

  54. satya
    February 2, 2012 #

    hey marc …thnx for the valuable info

    i m 5 ft 7inch tall,weighing in a avearage of 156-158 lb…..i m thinking of ripping my body …
    but should i put on more weight and go for it ???

    i m more needing of that brad pitt kind of body for my height..
    and should i do cardio for how long and in which days of the week???
    and along with that is it ok to do intense weight training??

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      @satya – Whether or not you have enough muscle is you’re call. I haven’t seen you in person, so it’s tough for me to give you an exact answer. I can say don’t worry too much about the extra cardio and yes, do continue strength training intensely. As I state in the article, nutrition is the key. So many guys/girls don’t get this point no matter how many times I repeat it! If you are eating well and strength training and the fat still isn’t coming off, then you can start adding in more cardio.

  55. Joel Meler
    February 3, 2012 #

    Hey I’m 17 5″7 135lb and I’m starting a very healthy diet in which I stopped consuming sugars and eat the lowest amount of calories possible. My body Fat percentage is around 10 to 12% so you can imagine that I’m already somewhat lean, it’s just not that defined , especially on my abs and my pecs. I want to get more defined, ultimately ripped and I’m willing to do it. I a have a power tower at home where I can work out my pecs, arms, and abs 3 times a week, so does this means that as long I take care of my calorie intake, do cardio every day, and workout my abs, pecs, and arms I’ll get ripped?

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      @Joel Meler – Yes. Exactly. 95% of the time simply eating the right calorie intake (which is a calorie deficit), intaking ample protein, and lifting will help you get ripped. You should be shooting for losing 0.5-1lb of fat per week. Also, by lowest amount of calories possible, I’m taking that to mean a 35% calorie deficit to your estimated calorie burn. Your body’s metabolism can drop significantly if you just try to eat like 500-1000 calories per day.

  56. Vinita
    February 4, 2012 #

    Hi Guys .. I ahve seen a similar kind of information floating everywhere on the net … caluating calorie intake .. Micro and Macro nutrient … breakup and all on this … I have been quite a regualr gymmer but now since 8-10 months I have gained 5 kgs and I cant seem to get it out …I dont know how many calories I have been consuming since I dont know how to calcuate that … I am currently 56 kgs 154 cms .. and my problem area is the waist line which has increased to 31 cms … from 27 … Can some one please guide me from the beginning.. It shall be of a lot of help . Please let me know .

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Vanita – Here’s a good place to start: How to Count Calorie to Lose Fat.

  57. Sean
    February 5, 2012 #

    Hey marc hope all is well. I am 20 180lbs, and i want to achieve the cut slim look. I have been working out pretty consistently last semester of college then Christmas break came and i indulged a little. Then this past month i began to take it much more seriously. I started to run often now its on and off depending on my school work load. i go to the gym monday-friday for about 1-2 hours doing various workouts from different sites. my diet is somewhat ok but i find myself still eating a bit more then a should. Within the past month i have gained a bit of definition on my arms and chest but abs is taking long then i had expected and i want to slim my thighs. Do i have to cut back more on what i eat and focus more on cardio? any tips, suggestions, or criticisms is much appreciate. I work at hollister and after seeing some of the guys stand in the front of the store shirtless I am very determined to get that physique not for that position but to better myself and my heath thank you.
    Sean

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Sean – Sounds like you have a reasonable plan. You are doing plenty of exercise, so as I mention in the article, I would focus on nutrition and continuing to lose fat without losing muscle which will help bring out more definition in your chest and abs. You are close to the promised land my friend, just need to keep pushing forward with the strict eating and you will get the body you want.

  58. Joel Meler
    February 7, 2012 #

    Hey thanks on everything, and i read your guide. i feel like your someone who really knows what hes talking about. Is there a way i could communicate with you more efficiently and faster, like email or something.

    Thank you, appreciate it.

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Joel Meler – Thanks for your comment. Due to the volume of emails and comments I receive, it’s not possible to answer a specific situation in depth. You can contact me here regarding setting up a 30 minute coaching call if you are interested. In the future, I may not be able to even answer comments anymore as the volume is becoming too significant across my entire site!

  59. Danny
    February 7, 2012 #

    Hi there, I have been carb cycling for a few weeks to lose the last few pounds of fat over my abs, and I got pretty ripped by the end of it. Now I want to just eat a balanced nutritious diet without worrying about carbs, and after 2 days I have gained a tiny bit of fat back. Could this be because my metabolism had slowed down? And it will just take some time for it to speed back up? I don’t want to worry about carbs anymore, so I hope I can burn it back off.

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Danny – Welcome to the “I want to stay ripped without ruining my life with strict dieting” club. I’ve been a member for the last few years. My guess is what you are experiencing is increased water retention. When you go low carb, it flushes out water which give you a striated look. When you take the carbs back up, your muscles appear fuller and larger, but you sacrifice that extra ripped look. It’s a pain in the butt, but it is what it is. I want to discuss this stuff in another post, but getting that ripped look of guys on the magazine is nearly impossible without severe water depletion, and that is if you are already very lean. Not only that, they usually pumped up before the shoot. So stay lean is great, but getting that unnatural ripped look for long periods of time is well, unnatural.

  60. Domenique
    February 8, 2012 #

    Hi Marc, Thanks for the great info. Im 1.57m and weigh 53.5kg. I follow intermittent fasting approach with a 40-30-30 split between protein carbs and fats on a training day with 1350 calories and 50-20-30 split on non training days with 1200 calories. I just recently started weight training 5 days a week and do cardio about 4 days a week, 30 mins. Should I up my cardio? Currently i dont do cardio on leg days – which is twice a week – my legs and glutes need serious toning all round, abs are getting there and arms as well. Since Im on intermittent fasting I prefer to do my weight training and cardio in the evening, does cardio after weight training ‘eat’ into muscle?

    1. February 13, 2012 #

      Domenique – Yep, if only we could spot reduce, that would be awesome! I’m sure you’ve come across LeanGains if you are into Intermittent Fasting, which I think is a viable way to get ripped, but not my preference. Martin’s got a lot of resources over there. Seems like you have two questions:

      1) Should I up my cardio? – This usually does not make that big of a difference, but couldn’t hurt as long as your strength levels are not decreasing and you are not losing muscle.

      2) Does cardio after weight training ‘eat’ into muscle – It depends. If you have a long, grueling workout, I would pay attention to pre and post workout nutrition, with an emphasis on pre and workout nutrition. You may even consider sipping on a protein shake during your workout, or some food in between strength and cardio if you are worried about muscle loss. Several proponents of intermittent fasting (if I’m not mistaken) recommend consuming as much as 10-20 grams of BCAA’s before a workout to help prevent muscle breakdown.

      One last thing, you didn’t include how long it’s been, or if you have even stopped getting results. If you are experiencing roughly 0.5-1lb of fat loss per week without losing strength, you’re doing great – so whatever you are doing is working.

  61. Domenique
    February 8, 2012 #

    forgot to say Im at 14.7% bf but still need to tone and honestly think I could possibly get to 11% bf or lower to look lean all over. If only we could spot reduce ….

  62. February 9, 2012 #

    Glad to see someone addressing this question. Our Registered Dietitians get this one quite often.

  63. Mustafa
    February 9, 2012 #

    Hey thanks for the true picture of getting ripped ,I was doing some mistakes before and now I have the key …thanks again

    1. February 13, 2012 #

      @Mustafa – Happy it was helpful for you!

  64. Suzanne
    February 9, 2012 #

    Was wondering if anyone could shed some light on what my body is going through? Do crossfit exercise then added in some 10k runs! Was only eating roughly around 1000 calories a day for about 6 month, now I have started retaining fluid and whenever I exercise I can feel my legs and thighs puffing up!! Have now started eating 1600 calories a day, carbs and protein included. What has happened to me? I was wondering if it was down to a VLC diet how long will it take my body to get back to normal??

    1. February 13, 2012 #

      @Suzanne – If you have been very low carb, it sounds like you “puffing up” is simply water filling up your muscles. Carbs contain a water molecules in their chemical structure, so as you increase carb intake after depleting glycogen in your body, the increased carbs suck into your muscles, which also increases water retention. The good thing is that your muscles appear “fuller” and you should have more energy/endurance. The bad thing aesthetically is that you won’t look quite as lean because of the water retention. If you experience any unusual symptoms, I would see your doctor right away to look into this issue further! In terms of getting your body back to “normal”, which I take to mean replete with glycogen, it should happen right away, but this is a question for a registered dietitian with experience in sports nutrition.

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