One of the tricks with getting a six pack, and forging those defined abs, is keeping muscle loss at bay. As such, getting ripped abs isn’t simply a matter of reducing calories, it’s a little more complicated than that. Fortunately a good buddy of mine, Alain Gonzalez, has been kind enough to write an article for us that highlights 3 such methods for removing fat while maintaining our lean, metabolically active muscle.
When it comes to beginning a fat-loss or “cutting” phase in hopes to achieve a head-turning, double-take worthy set of six-pack abs, the goal is simple…put your body in a caloric deficit, slowly, over time. In other words, eat less, expend more energy, and watch the fat melt away.
Sounds pretty simple huh?
Well, if your goal is simply to lose weight, that simplistic approach will work wonders, guaranteed. However, if you’re anything like me, this is far from your goal. Sure, you want to get absolutely peeled to the bone, but just focusing on a caloric deficit and ignoring the important factors for maximum muscle preservation, will only buy you a one-way ticket back to Skinnyville.
Assuming you have put in some work at the gym (and the kitchen), losing your hard earned muscle mass in exchange for shredded abs is not exactly a fair trade. Unfortunately, if you follow the same-old bodybuilding “cutting” techniques that have been vandalizing the pages of every muscle magazine on the shelf or fitness website on the internet, you will 100% lose a great deal of fat free muscle tissue in the process.
If your road map to chiseled abs looks anything like this…
• Cut my carbohydrate intake
• Increase my protein intake
• 3-5 Days of fasted cardio (or traditional cardio)
• No carbohydrates after 7pm
• Consume only chicken breast, brown rice, sweet potato, broccoli, etc.
Then you are DOING IT WRONG!
In today’s article I want to reveal to you 3 Sure-Fire Methods for Peeled Abs without Losing Any Muscle Tissue in the process. These are the same strategies that I use when getting ready for a fitness show, photo shoot, or even a family vacation.
Warning: These techniques are specifically for drug-free lifters only.
3 Sure-Fire Methods for Peeled Six-Pack Abs without Muscle Loss
1. Train for Mechanical Stress – Use it or lose it
The biggest mistake people make when they transition from a growth phase (bulking) to a fat-loss phase (cutting) is, they immediately add in cardio sessions. What they fail to realize is that cardio is not a magic fat burning activity. Instead, it is simply a tool for expending more energy and should be used only if needed (more on that later). The main issue with this is that weight lifting takes the backseat to the cardio when in fact; your cutting and bulking training should look virtually identical…if you want to maintain your muscle mass and keep a nice full look throughout your cut.
In order to burn fat, we must expend more energy than we consume, simple. Now, when we are consuming less calories than we need (caloric deficit), your body will typically look toward your muscle mass because it is extremely metabolically active and unless your body feels as if it needs the muscle, it will likely dispose of it. In the past I have said that muscle is hard to lose…and this is true…if you are going about training properly. You see, keeping your muscles is as simple as using them in a way that forces your body to keep them, period.
Training for Muscle Preservation While Cutting
You lifted a certain amount of weight for a specific amount of reps and sets. This load was necessary in order to build this newly acquired muscle mass. If that workload (or intensity) decreases, your body will likely adjust to the new, lesser workload by burning off some of the now unneeded muscle. It is totally normal to lose some strength during a cut because you are losing weight and this will typically result in the inability to go as heavy as you did while bulking. However, your goal during your cut (in regard to weight training) is simply to maintain relative strength. Because you are on lower calories and your weight is dropping, decreasing overall volume is necessary. On the other hand, building or maintaining strength will come from higher intensity training (lifting closer to your 1rm).
Simply put, decrease the volume (sets and reps) and lift heavier (typically in the 3-6 rep range).
2. Keep Your Carbohydrates HIGH
In the grand scheme of things, the main factor of muscle preservation is (as mentioned in tip #1) performance. When it comes to our diet, the main contributor to energy and our ability to perform is carbohydrate intake.
If you are currently on a bulking phase and you are consuming 400 grams of carbohydrates per day, it won’t be long before your metabolism adapts and this is no longer enough to put you in a caloric surplus. This means that 400 grams of carbohydrates per day is now your maintenance level…you must consume at least this amount of carbohydrates in order to maintain your current weight.
Now you decide it is time to lose some of that unwanted belly fat so you cut your carbohydrates down to 250 grams per day. Well, putting your body in that much of a deficit, so quickly, will undoubtedly hinder your ability to perform as well as you did while taking in 400 grams of carbs (basic stuff).
Decreased Performance = Muscle Loss
Instead, I would recommend that you scale down on your carbohydrates slowly. Not only will dieting become effortless due to the higher amount of carbohydrates, but maintaining or even increasing your performance in the gym will become much easier.
The Ugly Side of Low Carb Dieting
Not only is there no added benefit to low carb dieting when trying to preserve muscle mass, it could actually become counterintuitive. Not only will your strength decrease dramatically, but your metabolism will be forced to slow down making you more susceptible to fat gain in the future when you attempt to build muscle again. Not to mention, as your metabolism adapts to the lower amount of carbohydrates, you will be forced to go lower and lower as time goes by, further decreasing your performance and slowing down your metabolism. Not to mention, hitting some serious weight loss plateaus will cause you to take part in extreme training and dieting for minimal improvements.
3. Occasionally Restore Glycogen Levels – Refeed
What is a refeed?
A refeed day is, in short, a day in which one should (in a calculated manner) increase their carbohydrate intake in order to jump start the metabolism, replenish glycogen levels, and increase energy and performance.
The results of a refeed day can be surprising. In most cases, an individual’s body will look considerably leaner than the day before. However, the optimum results will have been achieved in the sense that the individual’s metabolism will have been kick started and glycogen levels will have been replenished. This will enable them to continue with their weight loss regime to maximum effort without losing their sanity.
“Wait! What about cardio?!”
NEVER add cardio AND decrease calories at the same time
The goal when cutting while preserving muscle is simply to maintain a slight caloric deficit in order to get lean by consuming as many calories as possible while performing the minimum effective dose of cardio. This will not only make for a healthy and effective metabolism, but it’ll ensure energy for intense training and aid in muscle preservation. Not to mention, you’ll never be on extremely low carbs or doing more than 2-3 cardio sessions per week. If you hit a weight-loss plateau, simply decrease the carbs slightly…if you hit another one, add a small amount of cardio, and repeat.
Lose the fat and keep the muscle!
These 3 simple strategies will ensure that you preserve your hard-earned muscle mass while getting rid of the unwanted fat to reveal your new physique. If you are looking for a more specific guide to leaning out for the summer, download my FREE 21 Day Fast Abs program and get beach ready in no time without any extreme dieting or crazy cardio routines!