Getting ripped takes hard work and dedication, a carefully planned diet and many hours in the gym. At times, it takes an iron will — when you want to cheat on your diet or skip a workout.
There's no shortcut to getting ripped. Whether or not you can get there in 90 days depends on where you're starting from and how much you're willing to work for it.
Diet Is King
How much time you spend in the kitchen prepping meals with the right calorie and macronutrient content is just as important as how much time you spend in the gym. You can't get ripped if your diet isn't on point.
When you reduce your caloric intake, your body starts to burn fat for fuel. How many calories you need to eat depends on a lot of factors — your current body fat percentage, how much you currently eat, how hard you workout, etc. Without a nutritionist to create a personalized plan, it may be a little trial and error at first.
Get good at tracking your calories in a journal or an app. If you're not getting the results you want, tweak your calorie intake. Just remember that you don't want to cut too many calories, which can cause you to lose muscle.
Balancing your macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates and carbs — is key to getting ripped. Experts differ on the exact proportions, but generally a diet that is higher in protein gets good results.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for altering body composition — it provides the raw materials for building muscle and it is more satiating than carbohydrate and fat, which can help you reduce your calorie intake for fat loss.
Once you know your sweet spot for calories, you can create a plan for each meal and snack. If your goal is 1,800 calories per day, you might have three meals of 400 calories each and two snacks of 200 calories each.
You can further break down each meal and snack into macros. Just remember that protein and carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.
Choose Your Foods Wisely
You want to get the most bang for your buck at each meal and snack. Choose lean sources of protein, such as light meat chicken, fish and lean beef, egg whites, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Focus on fresh vegetables which are low in calories and filling. Instead of fruit which is high in natural sugar, snack on sweeter vegetables like bell peppers, snap peas and carrots.
Avoid saturated fats and get healthy fats from olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and avocado. Choose whole grains over refined grains, eschew added sugar, have Greek or frozen yogurt sweetened with fruit or a protein shake when you need something sweet, and avoid eating out whenever possible as it makes controlling your calorie and macro nutrient intake challenging.
Advanced food prep is your friend. Always having a balanced meal and snacks ready to eat in your refrigerator makes it much less likely that you will cheat.
Crush the Gym
In combination with eating enough protein, strength training is the only way to maintain muscle mass while you're burning fat. Strength training programs that are consistent, challenging and changed up every four to six weeks will get you the results you want. You also need to allow adequate time for recovery to promote muscle growth and prevent injury.
Keep your workouts simple by using compound movements like squats, bench presses, dips, military presses, deadlifts, rows and pull-ups. These exercises work a lot of muscles at one time and build core strength. They also burn more calories while you're doing them than isolation exercises.
Do three to five sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise. Make sure each set is challenging. By the last few reps of each set, your muscles should be thoroughly fatigued.
Aim to do resistance-training workouts three to five days per week targeting all your major muscle groups — chest, back, arms, shoulders, abs and legs. A good three-day split is three full-body workouts evenly spaced or one lower body, one upper body and one full body workout. A five-day training plan might be split into legs, back, chest, shoulders and arms with an ab workout on three of those days.
Do Your Cardio
Depending on your body type and how easy it is for you to drop fat, you may need to do a little cardio or a lot. If it's easy for you to drop fat and you're doing well with your diet and training, a few moderate 30-minute sessions or shorter but intense interval sessions after your strength training sessions or on your off days might be enough. If you find it harder to drop weight you might need more cardio and more intense cardio.
However, be careful not to do too much cardio and skimp on strength training. If you have limited time, lift more weight and do less cardio.