Follow these 10 rules to melt away body fat and build an awesome new body.

the rules to getting ripped

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

16 min read

I’m often asked about the best way to get in shape.

The truth is there isn’t a best way.

Instead of there being “one simple trick”, or “a weird hack they don’t want you to know about”, there are actually many different moving parts involved in the process of builing your best body.

So in order to help you achieve the kind of traffic-stopping, head-turning physique of your dreams, take a look below for my list of proven guidelines. I call them “The Rules To Ripped”, and I promise that if you can do all of these things (or even just most of them) you’ll see excellent results in the mirror in a very short space of time.

Table of Contents

1. Set A Proper Fucking Goal

If I asked a bunch of people to tell me about their physique targets, most of them would say:

“Well, I just want to lose a bit of weight, maybe build some of muscle, and look good.”

Congratulations on making me furious.

Gyms are packed with people who have not set proper training goals, and they’re stuck in an endless cycle of doing the same old workouts, then crashing off their diet at the weekend, then starting over on Monday.

This happens because they’re relying on nothing more than motivation to reach their goals, and it’s not enough. Contrary to what the toxic fitness memes say, it’s not that you “don’t want it badly enough”, or that there is “something wrong with you”, it’s that motivation is fleeting and a completely fucking useless long-term strategy.

Setting a proper training goal helps you to build self-discipline, which creates consistency, and that’s how you achieve fantastic results. The “trick” to doing it correctly is to be as specific as possible. I like to use the S.M.A.R.T. technique:

  • S: Specific (your target numbers)
  • M: Measurable (how you’re going to track it)
  • A: Achievable (don’t be silly)
  • R: Relevant (your reason why)
  • T: Timely (set a deadline)

So this:

“Well, I just want to lose a bit of weight, maybe build some of muscle, and look good.”

Becomes this:

My goal is to lose 20lbs before my wedding anniversary (specific), because I want to look awesome for my wife in the photos (relevant). That’s on July 1st, which gives me three months (timely), which works out at 1.5lbs per week (achievable). I will get weighed every Sunday morning on the bathroom scales (measurable).

See the difference?

This will put a rocket up your ass because it creates personal accountability (a 2004 study published in Nusing Science showed that the feeling of “taking control” via personal accountability is the most commonly-reported behaviour change amongst people who have lost weight and kept it off), and it also does a great job of chunking your journey down to make it feel considerably less daunting (i.e. instead of trying to lose “some weight”, or focusing on a big number which seems miles away, now your goal will be achieved with just 1.5lbs per week). This greatly increases your chances of adherence when motivation wears thin and the going gets tough. (1)

So grab a notepad and write down your goals now, or click here to read more about this.


2. Calories Are King

the_rules_to_ripped

No matter where you are in the world, there’s a good chance you are surrounded by silly people.

They’re everywhere.

You’ll find silly people who are incredibly famous for no reason, silly people who like to use the word “bae”, and silly people who believe that putting a lump of butter in their coffee will over-ride the law of thermodynamics.

It’s a jungle out there.

So to keep you clear of all the bullshit, I want you to remember rule #2:

Calories are KING.

No matter what type of food you are eating, or what time of day you are eating it, your weight loss will always come back to the simple rule of calories in versus calories out.

That means if you eat too few calories (not providing the body with enough energy, so it begins to burn through stored fuel) this will put you into a calorie deficit and you’ll see a reduction in body size. Alternatively, if you eat too many calories (providing the body with too much fuel so it stores it for later) this will put you into a calorie surplus and you’d pack on the pounds.

Human beings are hard-wired this way. There is no trick, secret, or hack which can get around it. (2)

Read more on calories in versus calories out.


3. Eat More Protein

how to build muscle fast

Eating protein will help you to build more muscle.

The amino acids found in protein are directly responsible for the hypertrophy (muscle growth) you seek, so it makes sense to prioritize this food group when filling out your meal plan.

But how much do you need?

Well, most people have been given completely bogus information on this.

  • Too low

The nutritional guidelines set by the government recommend just 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight (185lbs = 65g protein). This is far too low to maximize muscle growth. It’s important to remember that these recommendations were created for the general population, and not for men and women who want to go to the gym and get lean as fuck. (3, 4)

  • Too high

Some self-proclaimed “experts” state that your protein needs to be sky-high in order to see results, recommending as much as 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (185lbs = 370g protei). This is ridiculous. Many of these folks own their own supplement line, and stand to financially benefit from setting your targets so high that you need to rely on whey protein shakes.

  • Just right

The answer is somewhere in the middle. The current body of research on the nutritional requirements of athletes states that the sweet spot for hypertrophy is 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (185lbs = 222g protein). Eating slightly more that this (up to 1.5g per lb) might have some additional benefits with regards to appetite suppression, but the muscle building benefits are already maxed out. Use this as your yardstick. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Read more about protein requirements for athletes


4. No Need To Avoid Fat

best diet for building muscle fast

Fat was demonized as the biggest cause of obesity back in the 1980s.

Science has since shown this to be untrue, but many people are still a little bit confused by this nutrient.

So let’s get this straight – fat (the nutrient) and fat (body fat) are not the same thing.

Eating the correct amount of dietary fat will play a key role in supporting your gym training because it regulates the production of crucial muscle building hormones like cortisol and testosterone. And, weirdly, certain dietary fats like Omega-3 will actually help you to burn body fat!

The minimum threshold for fat inake is 0.3 grams per pound of body weight (185lbs = 56g fat). I like to set the target alishglty higher at 0.4g per pound (185lbs = 74g fat) as this provides you with a buffer to ensure superior results. (10, 16, 17)

Read more on the muscle building benefits of fat.


5. Use Carbs To Go Up Or Down On The Scales

eat carbs to build muscle

Carbohydrates are the food group you can play with.

We use them to fill out the remainder of your calorie intake.

So if you had 800 calories left after setting your prpotein and fat targets, that’s your carb spend. If you go on to make reductions or increases to your total calorie target later, do it via increasing or decreasing your carbohydrate spend and leaving protein and fat as they were.

We prioritize protein and fat because they play a more important role in what you’re trying to achieve. The nutrients found in each of these food groups are deemed essential, because the body can’t create them on its own and they must come through our diet, meanwhile there are no essential carbohydrates.

I’m not saying carbs are bad, by the way. I’m just saying they’re less important.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. They are broken down into glycogen. The reason they’re deemed non-essential is because the body can actually create glycogen with a combination of protein and fat if it needs to, but it cannot do this for the other food groups.

Learn more about using carbs to gain size.



6. Take Proven Supplements Before & After You Train

best supplements to build muscle and lose fat

By providing your body with the correct nutrients before and after your workouts, you can improve both your performance and your results.

We want to be consuming these ingredients 20-30 minutes prior to training:

  • 6-8 grams citrulline malate
  • 3.2 grams beta-alanine
  • 200-400mg caffeine

These are proven to boost training output, and the good news is you can pick up a solid pre workout like this which contains them all in the correct doses. (23, 24, 25, 26, 27)

After training we want to grab 5 grams of creatine monohydrate and mix it into your protein shake. Creatine is the most important muscle building supplement of all, and continued usage will lead to gains in both explosive strength and lean muscle mass. Considering the immense results it offers, it’s actually dirt cheap, too. (22)


7. Frequent Protein = More Growth!

muscle building tips

In the words of Foo Fighters:

“I’ve got a confession to make.”

A lot of readers will be expecting me to say that eating more frequently will speed up your metabolism and help you to burn more fat, because that’s a commonly believed fitness rule, but instead I’m gonna take you in a different direction.

You see, the number of meals you eat will have zero effect on metabolic rate or fat loss, so we need to put that myth to bed. (11, 12, 13)

However, there do appear to be some benefits to spreading your protein intake throughout the day. Research suggests this allows for a slightly better uptake of amino acids into the muscle cell when compared to consuming the same amount of protein in one serving. If you’ve followed my most popular diet plans before, you might have wondered why I usually structure them around three main meals and a couple of shakes? Now you know why. (14)

Learn more about protein timing.


8. Enjoy A Handful Of Post-Workout Haribo!

Haribo Gummy Bears after a workout

Fast-release carbohydrates are wonderful straight after a hard workout.

They’ll give you an instant energy boost and help your body to replenish your glycogen stores. I recommend grabbing a handful of Haribo Gummy Bears to do this, because the main ingredient is dextrose, which can be immediately used.

This is a little “trick” my clients have been using for years, and they sure do get some funny looks from other gym-goers when they whip out a bag of jellies, but it’s a technique which works like a charm. You see, while the primary goal here is to help your body begin the recovery process, you also have the added benefit of being able to enjoy a treat after training. (18, 19, 20, 21)

The psychological aspect of that is huge, and generally leads to greater overall diet consistency.

I recommend having 17 bears (32g carbohydrates).

Here’s a detailed article on this.


9. Use A High Quality Whey Protein Blend

best supplements to build muscle fast

A good whey protien supplement will make it easy for you to hit your targets because they’re just so convenient.

Ideally you want a product which has at least 75% protein-per-serving (i.e. if the scoop is 40g, it should contain at least 30g protein). This ensures ou are getting as litte filler as possible.

Now let’s look at the formula itself.

Brands will automatically tell you to buy their most expensive products, so you should expect they’ll wax lyrical about formulas which contain costly ingredients like whey protein isolate and/or whey protein hydrosylate, which promise greater muscle building results in exchange for a heavily inflated price tag.

However, science is NOT on their side.

Instead it supports the use of a whey protein blend. These are way cheaper to pick up, and they consist of several sources of protein mixed together (i.e. whey, egg, casein, etc). Interestingly, in 2009 a study from the University of Texas found that a combination of whey protein, soy protein and egg protein out-performed a shake containing just whey alone. They credited this to the different speeds at which the amino acids are released from each source, leading to a better uptake into the muscle cells. (15)

If you need help choosing a good supplement, I recommend this one (UK & Europe) or this one (USA).

The only time you will ever really need an isolate formula is if you have digestion problems (i.e. lactose intolerance), in whihc case use this one.


10. Get An App To Track Your Nutrition

best nutrition tracker app

If you don’t track, you don’t know.

It baffles me how many gym-goers do not pay any attention to what they’re putting into their body on a daily basis.

People are fucking awful at estimating their food intake. I’ve lost count the number of people I’ve met over the years who told me “I’m eating 1600 calories per day but can’t lose weight”, only to discover the real number was almost twice that. It asn’t their fault, they genuinely didn’t realize what they were doing.

So tracking your food with a good app removes any doubt from the equation, and gives you a significantly higher chance of hitting your targets. Heck, some studies show this is one of the best ways to create personal accountability, too (Rule #1). (28, 29)

I suggest using Carbon Diet Coach. It was developed by Dr. Layne Norton, PhD, and it’s two steps ahead of the competition.



The Rules To Ripped: In Summary

personal trainer South Shields

Consider these 10 rules the keys to muscle growth, fat loss, and leading a healthy lifestyle. They give you step-by-step instructions on how to build the body you want, and they don’t need to be any more complicated than that.

Start at the top and work down.

  1. Set a proper fucking goal
  2. Calories are king
  3. Eat more protein
  4. No need to avoid fat
  5. Use carbs to go or down on the scales
  6. Take proven supplements before & after you train
  7. Frequent protein = more growth!
  8. Enjoy a handful of post-workout Haribo!
  9. Use a high quality whey protein blend
  10. Get an app to track your nutrition

If you have a question just drop it in the comments section below. I hope you enjoyed the read.


References:

  1. Berry D. An emerging model of behavior change in women maintaining weight loss. Nurs Sci Q (2004).
  2. Howell S., et al. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab (2017).
  3. 10 Protein and Amino Acids. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Institute of Medicine (2005).
  4. Bray G. A., et al. Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA (2012).
  5. Morton R. W., et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med (2018).
  6. Thomas D. T., et al. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2016).
  7. Jäger R., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2017).
  8. Witard O. C., et al. Effect of increased dietary protein on tolerance to intensified training. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2011).
  9. Leaf A., et al. The Effects of Overfeeding on Body Composition: The Role of Macronutrient Composition – A Narrative Review. Int J Exerc Sci (2017).
  10. Helms E. R., et al. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2014).
  11. Perrigue M. M., et al. Higher Eating Frequency Does Not Decrease Appetite in Healthy Adults. J Nutr (2016).
  12. Raynor H. A., et al. Eating Frequency, Food Intake, and Weight: A Systematic Review of Human and Animal Experimental Studies. Front Nutr (2015).
  13. Ohkawara K., et al. Effects of increased meal frequency on fat oxidation and perceived hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring) (2013).
  14. Moore D. R., et al. Daytime Pattern Of Post-Exercise Protein Intake Affects Whole-Body Protein Turnover In Resistance-Trained Males. Nutr Metab (Lond). (2012)
  15. Paul G. L., et al. The rationale for consuming protein blends in sports nutrition. J Am Coll Nutr (2009).
  16. Heald A., et al. The influence of dietary intake on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system across three ethnic groups: a population-based study. Public Health Nutr (2003).
  17. Whittaker J., et al. Low-fat diets and testosterone in men: Systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2021).
  18. Nilsson M., et al. Metabolic effects of amino acid mixtures and whey protein in healthy subjects: studies using glucose-equivalent drinks. Am J Clin Nutr (2007).
  19. Wojcik J. R., et al. Comparison of carbohydrate and milk-based beverages on muscle damage and glycogen following exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2001).
  20. Parkin J. A., et al. Muscle glycogen storage following prolonged exercise: effect of timing of ingestion of high glycemic index food. Med Sci Sports Exerc (1997).
  21. Glynn E. L., et al. Muscle protein breakdown has a minor role in the protein anabolic response to essential amino acid and carbohydrate intake following resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol (2010).
  22. Rawson E.S., et al. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res (2003).
  23. Duncan M. J., et al. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. J Strength Cond Res (2011).
  24. Childs E., et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl) (2006).
  25. Kim T. W., et al. Caffeine increases sweating sensitivity via changes in sudomotor activity during physical loading. J Med Food (2011).
  26. Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (2012).
  27. Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
  28. Lichtman S. W., et al. Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. New England Journal of Medicine (1992).
  29. Ingels J. S., et al. The Effect of Adherence to Dietary Tracking on Weight Loss: Using HLM to Model Weight Loss over Time. J Diabetes Res (2017).

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Get More From Russ!

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

4 responses to “The Rules To Ripped”

  1. Mary-Anne Bach avatar
    Mary-Anne Bach

    Wow!! Stumbled across your site in my pre-workout research and am still here. LOL Love how much effort you have put into the blog – seeing references cited is refreshing. I am learning lots. I have worked out my whole life ( everything from swimming to martial arts to spin classes to home videos to now Crossfit) and I finally feel like being very serious about it. Its great to having access to a site like this.

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Thanks Mary-Anne, I appreciate that!

  2. Rachel avatar
    Rachel

    What a top blog! Post workout Haribo is my new favourite thing 🙂

  3. Paul avatar
    Paul

    SO much great info here.

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