Wouldn’t it be nice if you could eat any food under the sun in any amount you wanted and maintain a ripped six-pack?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could lose 20lbs of fat in two weeks with minimal effort?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look like a bodybuilder and be as strong as a powerlifter by sitting on your ass and watching TV?
Do you realize where I’m going with this?
None of the above is realistic, but you’ve probably gotten caught up in this weird trap of thinking they are.
You see there are undisputed truths if you want to shred body fat and get lean.
These truths are rooted in reality… much like you’ll never be rich if you spend more than you earn and you won’t make an NBA roster if you’re under 6′ and athletic as a tree sloth.
Indeed, getting shredded takes tons of discipline, willpower, effort, planning, and preparation. It’s not something you just stumble into, but I digress.
So what I want to do right now is go into 5 of these truths, truths that once taken to heart, will help you ACTUALLY get shredded.
Truth #1: A Calorie Deficit is Imperative
Above all else, a calorie deficit is needed to shred fat and get lean.
There’s no way around this one. Energy balance is a physiological reality and cannot be circumvented. It doesn’t matter if you’re keto, carnivore, warrior, vegan, or you eat nothing but twigs.
You will not lose fat if you eat more calories than you use, end of story.
Truth #2: Hormones are Extremely Important
Hormones such as Testosterone, Growth Hormone, Cortisol, Insulin, Leptin, and Ghrelin (just to name some of the more notable ones) all play roles in your quest for better body composition.
Meaning: you want to optimize these hormones any way you can to look amazing.
The problem is that being in a calorie deficit creates kind of a hormonal mixed bag.
Here are some of the key hormones, what happens, and what we can do to keep them optimized.
Test will be lower when in a deficit. The problem is that testosterone is VITALLY important for just about every function. We can somewhat remedy this by eating plenty of fat, cruciferous veggies, dark berries, and getting plenty of protein. We can also try to sleep better and LIFT while cutting down on cardio (“Wait, what???” I’ll explain below when I talk about Cortisol).
Also, we need to make dieting down as quick as possible. No endless dieting. The faster we get to maintenance calories the better for our hormones sake.
Cortisol levels go up in a deficit, and this makes it harder to keep muscle. What’s worse, Cortisol also makes it harder to sleep, further impairing Test production. Ugh.
Again keeping what you eat, how you sleep, and how much physical exertion you do in check will minimize muscle loss and help you keep your sanity.
Is cardio absolutely necessary? Cardio is great for your overall health and well-being. BUT… when you’re in a calorie deficit, cardio is not your friend. You see, cardio does burn lots of calories and can help you lose fat faster, but it also increases Cortisol levels which can eat away at muscle. A good bet is to cut cardio down to the bare minimum and keep your resistance training sessions short and intense when in calorie deficit (in #3 and #4 below I’ll explain this more).
Leptin and Ghrelin
These two are responsible for appetite (in a nutshell). Basically, Leptin will go down and Ghrelin will go up, turning you into a hungry beast (which is basically just your body trying to keep you from starving to death).
You will be hungry all the time. Most meals won’t really be that satisfying. You might mess up and binge for days. It’s all part of the process. There’s really nothing you can do about this but have cheat meals every so often and just stick it out.
Insulin is a storage hormone, and it drops while cutting down. When insulin drops your body won’t store energy in fat cells. This is good.
What’s even better is that becoming more insulin sensitive will do wonders for your overall health and longevity.
As a matter of fact, keeping Insulin levels in check (i.e. avoiding sugar and white four) when not in deficit is a smart move.
GH is vital in fat loss. Growth hormone skyrockets during fasting, or when insulin levels are low. Optimizing GH (again through good sleep, nutrition, and training) will help you keep a favorable body composition.
So yeah as you can see, cutting down can royally screw your hormones.
We can’t do much naturally about this but just grin and bear it, get down to our goal weight, and get to maintenance calories as fast as possible.
Truth #3: Shredding Fat is Around 90% Nutrition
And I mean 90%.
You’ve no doubt heard of the Twinkie Diet guy. The guy lost weight just eating Twinkies. This illustrates how important nutrition is in fat loss (by demonstrating that a calorie deficit is imperative).
Now do I recommend this approach?
Yes, the guy lost weight, but he didn’t do any favors for his body composition or his health. The things is, we’re not here just to lose weight. We’re here to lose fat, and we’re here to actually look and feel awesome, for a lifetime.
This means you’ll need to cut most of the crap and fill up with proteins (think steak, eggs, chicken, turkey, etc.), nuts, veggies, fruit, and water. These will be your star players, the ones that win the games for you.
Most processed foods will be relegated to the sidelines. You’ll need to plug them in occasionally when your star players need breaks. Some processed foods won’t even be allowed in the stadium. Cut them ruthlessly.
We do this because you need to be filled up and satiated with less Calories. When getting ripped, bang for your buck is of the utmost importance.
Additionally, these foods will optimize your hormones and keep you healthy as a horse.
Truth #4: Moving Your Body is Still Incredibly Important
Moving involves daily activity, cardio, and resistance training. All 3 will be needed to get shredded and stay healthy and strong.
Now, it’s true you can lose fat with just controlling diet, but again we must look at body composition and overall health. An optimal amount of resistance training and cardio will help your heart stay strong, help you keep (and even build) muscle and strength, and allow you to eat more. You’ll also be able lose fat faster than just diet alone. Also, it’ll help you get that hard, defined look.
And yes, you must train, but don’t get it twisted: recognize that your fat loss progress will be mostly diet, and training is the icing on the cake.
Truth #5: A Commitment to the Long-Term is Imperative
It doesn’t happen in a day. It doesn’t happen in a week. It might not even happen in a month. Think in years. Getting a great physique takes time. That’s why you must commit to the long-term and find something sustainable.
If you don’t commit to the long-term you’ll end up as a yo-yo dieter, always following the next hot fat loss fad while never actually getting the body you want.
I don’t want that for you.
Truth #5, Expanded: A “Diet” is a Fancy Word (and Also a Marketing Term) for a Short-Term System That Creates a Calorie Deficit
A “diet” is simply a short-term strategy that may have worked for someone, or even many people, all packaged up with a nice little bow on top.
Don’t think there’s anything magical about diets. Nothing will help you lose fat faster, easier, or with less effort than is necessary.
You see, a calorie deficit is easy to create, but impossible to maintain.
This is why you’ll see someone follow a new diet, make some progress, and then regress after a few months. He made the mistake of choosing something unsustainable, something that so badly messed up his mind and body that he was forced to go back the other way, HARD.
Buddha said that the middle road is best, right? So we can suffice to say that maintenance is where you want to spend most of your time (in the middle of a deficit and surplus). In fact, the way to stay lean is to get down to a goal weight and then stay around maintenance calories. No endless dieting, no yo-yoing, no kidding.
Let’s start using our brains here. You know that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Fat loss is no different.
Your body is smart, and there really are no shortcuts.
Actually, there is one shortcut: do things the right way, right away. You’ll be lightyears ahead of the quick-fix crowd in no time.