Getting your body fat levels down to the shredded condition required to compete in bodybuilding is no easy task. Following a generic healthy meal plan with some light cardio and strength training thrown in won't cut it. You need to personalize your approach, dial in your nutrition and keep your training intensity high to reduce your body fat and get ripped.
Reduce your calorie intake with the aim of losing body fat. This is rule number one of looking ripped, since you must consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis to lose fat. Nutritional scientist and pro bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton recommends multiplying your body weight in pounds by between 13 and 17 to find your daily dieting calorie intake. If you carry fat easily, aim for the lower end of this or go up to the top end if you're naturally slim and slender.
Train with weights that feel heavy to you. Heavy weight training builds and maintains muscle mass while you're losing fat. Switching to light weights for high reps, as traditionally recommended, is a mistake, according to strength coach Joe DeFranco. Going lighter could even cause muscle loss, as they're not getting the stimulation required to maintain their strength and size. DeFranco advises performing challenging sets in the six to 15 rep range.
Start performing high-intensity interval training -- HIIT. This form of cardio burns more fat and maintains muscle mass more effectively than steady-state or low-intensity cardio, claims trainer and bodybuilder Ivan Nikolov. It can increase your production of growth hormone, which speeds up fat loss and burns more calories than working at a low intensity. Perform two HIIT sessions each week. Use any piece of cardio equipment and warm up for five minutes. Crank up the resistance and work as hard as possible for 30 seconds, then reduce the resistance and speed to an easy pace for two minutes. Repeat this six times, then cool down for five minutes.
Add in medium-intensity and low-intensity cardio when your fat loss stalls. For bodybuilders who carry a large amount of mass, low and medium-intensity cardio can create a large calorie burn and be productive for fat loss, notes strength coach Darren Mehling. Start with two 30-minute sessions each week, either on a cardio machine or by walking, jogging, swimming or cycling and increase each session by five minutes if your weight loss stalls one week.
Drop your calories if your weight loss stops. As your fat mass reduces and you get lighter, you'll burn fewer calories, notes nutritionist and bodybuilder Tom Venuto. (Ref 5) This means at some stage, you'll need to lower your calorie intake. Weigh yourself once a week and if your weight is the same one week to the next, lower your calories by between 50 and 100 per day.