These ten tips will help you to lay the foundations of a rock solid body transformation.
I call them “The Rules To Ripped”.
If you’ve previously used any of my training programs, you’ll notice that there are a few techniques regarding nutrition and supplementation which I regularly include. I do this because these methods are proven to increase muscle growth and fat loss results beyond the levels most people expect to achieve from a workout program, and I’ve put them to the test on the gym floor with countless clients over the last twenty years.
There’s ten in total.
1. Be Clear About Your Goals
Tell me about your dream body.
If you just said, “Well, I just wanna look good!”, congratulations for making me furious.
Gyms are packed with people who haven’t laid out clear goals. Most of them waste years going through the motions, trapped in an awkward phase of doing the same old workouts in the gym, crashing off their food plan at the weekend, and starting over every Monday.
So this is why rule #1 is to be very specific about your goals. Take out a pen and paper and write down the following:
- your new target weight
- your reasons for wanting to change
- your deadline for doing so
It’s a simple thing to do, but it has a couple of amazing benefits.
First, it means you can structure your training and nutrition to match your goals. This will help your results improve from the get-go! Second, it creates personal accountability. This will unlock a laser-like focus which most people in the gym have never felt. A 2004 study published in Nursing Science found that the feeling of “taking control” which comes from creating personal accountability is among the most crucial factors in the process of losing weight and keeping it off permanently. (1)
2. Calories Are King
We live in an age of silly people.
Silly people who are famous for doing very little. Silly people who use words like “bae”. Silly people who believe that it’s possible to override the law of thermodynamics by putting butter in their coffee or drinking carb blockers.
I need to steer you clear of such bulls**t, so I want to make something very clear – calories are king.
If you eat too few calories per day you will slip into a calorie deficit (not providing the body with enough energy so it begins to burn stored fuel) and this will lead to a reduction in body size. Alternatively, if you eat too many calories you’ll go into a calorie surplus (providing the body with too much fuel so it stores it for later) and you’d pack on the pounds. We are hard-wired this way, and there is no trick which can get around it. (2)
3. Eat More Protein
The protein you eat has a direct impact on the muscles you build.
Sadly, even though most of us already know how important it is, the majority of people are still eating nowhere near enough to reap the rewards.
This is never the trainee’s fault, but rather the poor information they have been given.
Government recommendations advise that the protein requirements for an average adult are 0.35g per lb of body weight, which equates to 64 grams of protein for a person weighng 185lbs. Unfortunately these guidelines were created for individuals who lead sedentary lives, not people who lift weights, and it is not enough to support muscle growth! (3, 4)
On the other end of the spectrum, some people claim you need as much as 2 grams of protein per lb of body weight to see any results, which equtes to a massive 370 grams of protein per day for a person weighing 185lbs. This is way too much, and quite frankly the main reason they’re telling you this is because a lot of these self-proclaimed experts happen to own supplement companies and stand to benefit from making you rely on powders to hit your target.
The current body of research on the protein requirements for athletes shows us that the sweet spot for muscle growth is around 1.2 grams per lb of body weight. Going slightly higher (up to 1.5g) might have additional benefits pertaining to appetite suppression, but won’t lead to more muscle growth. This equates to about 222 grams of protein for a person weighting 185lbs. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
4. Eat Protein Frequently
Okay, I’ve got a confession to make.
A lot of readers will be expecting me to recommend eating more frequently because it’ll speed up your metabolism and help you to burn more fat, but that’s not the case. Depite being a popular belief which can still be heard on most gym floors, it’s actually a myth!
Research shows us that the number of meals you eat per day has zero effect on metabolic rate or fat loss. However, there are some benefits to spreading your intake of one particular nutrient throughout the day – protein. It appears that doing this allows for a slightly better uptake of amino acids versus consuming the same amount of protein in one huge serving. (11, 12, 13, 14)
If you’ve been using my diet plans you might’ve wondered why I always get you to eat three main meals, interspersed with whey protein shakes as snacks. This is why.
5. Use A High Quality Whey Protein Blend
Seeing as we’ve been talking a lot about protein, let’s stick with that.
Companies automatically point you towards their most expensive products, so when you enquire about something like whey protein you should expect they’ll wax lyrical about things like whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrosylate, promising greater muscle growth in exchange for a heavily inflated price tag.
Don’t fall for it.
Believe it or not, research shows that you’ll achieve superior muscle growth with a protein blend versus expensive isolate formulas – despite them being considerably cheaper to buy! A 2009 study from researchers at the University of Texas found that a combination of whey protein, soy protein and egg protein returned the best results. This makes sense, as different protein sources provide the body with a broader range of amino acids, as well as different digestion speeds, versus whey alone. (15)
Of course, you don’t just want any old blend, you need a high quality one! In order to do that we must look at the protein-per-serving ratio. Example; if the serving size is 40 grams and it contains 30 grams of protein it has 75% protein-per-serving.
You want at least 75% PPS as a baseline target. This ensures your product has minimal filler, and cements its status as a premium grade whey protein supplement.
I recommend this one or this one. The only time you really need to look at isolate formulas is if you simply prefer the taste or if you experience digestion problems with whey protein, in which case I recommend this one.
6. Do Not Avoid Fat
Fat got a bad rap in the 1980s, when it was believed to be the #1 cause of obesity.
Even though science has since shown this not to be the case, most people are still a little bit confused by it.
So let’s get this straight – fat (the nutrient) and fat (body fat) are not the same thing. In fact, eating dietary fat (like Omega 3s) can actually help you burn body fat! It also plays a key role in the muscle building process, because eating sufficient fat helps the body to regulate many of the hormones involved in hypertrophy, such testosterone and cortisol.
Research shows that we must consume a minimum of 0.3 grams per lb of body weight to unlock these results. I like to go slightly higher, giving you a buffer, by setting it to 0.4g per lb. If you’re trying to gain size and you struggle to eat enough food you can also use fat to bump your calories, as there are nine calories per gram. For instance, adding a couple of scoops of MCT powder to your protein shake increases the numbers by 150 calories and it’s all good stuff! (10, 16, 17)
7. Carbs Are Your Secret Weapon
Carbohydrates are the macronutrient you can play with.
The healthy fats and amino acids you’ll obtain from eating fat and protein are deemed essential because the body is incapable of creating them on its own. That’s why it makes sense to prioritize your intake of those two macronutrients when creating a muscle building diet.
However, there are no essential carbs.
When you eat carbohydrates they are broken down into glycogen, which is our preferred energy source during intense exercise, but if you were to allow your carb reserves to run very low your body is actually able to produce its own source of glycogen via a combination of protein and fat. That’s why they’re not essential.
I recommend starting at about 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of target body weight (2 grams if you’re trying to gain size), and adjust this figure in the coming weeks depending upon how your body reacts.
8. Enjoy Post-Workout Haribo!
For the most part I suggest getting your carbs from slow-release foods like pasta, rice, vegetables, etc.
These will provide you with a sustained energy release, as opposed to giving you all the goods in one go and then leaving you feeling hungry again soon afterwards.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m against fast-release carbohydrates. I firmly believe that if you can fit them into your numbers in a way which works for you, then you’re totally fine to do this. In fact, there’s one time of day where I not only recommend fast-release carbs, I insist upon it… immediately after your workout!
Website members often tell me they get funny looks at their gym while they tuck into their post-workout Haribo Gold Bears. This is because people automatically presume that anything which looks like a treat is bad for you, but that’s not the case here at all! Using a fast-release source of carbohydrates like Haribo Gold Bears will temporarily spike your insulin levels, and while that’s not ideal at most times of the day, it’s actually perfect immediately after training. During this time your body is hungrily gobbling up all of the protein in your whey protein shake to begin the recovery process, and spiking insulin levels allows for better delivery of these nutrients to those tired muscles. Plus, a handful of jellies is a great reward for training hard and doesn’t break the bank calories-wise, so enjoy! (18, 19, 20, 21)
9. Use Proven Supplements Before & After You Train
There are two types of supplement out there.
Those which I class as everyday essentials, which plug gaps in your diet and make it easier to get the nutritional benefits of foods you woudn’t normally eat, and those which I class as training boosters.
Everyday essentials include a good multivitamin, an Omega-3, and for most people a vitamin D3 supplement. A multivitamin ensures you achieve the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals every day without needing to be super varied with the foods you eat, and the healthy Omega-3 fats are an essential nutrient which have a direct involvement in the muscle building process. I also recommend vitamin D3 because most people don’t spend long enough outdoors.
Training boosters are things which enhance your workout experience. Things like creatine monohydrate, which will give you more explosive power and lead to more reps being performed to failure, and caffeine, which can significantly boost your energy output in the gym. (22, 23, 24, 25)
Alongside these two, citrulline malate (6-8 grams) will enhance recovery speed between sets, beta-alanine (3.2 grams) will boost endurance, and the often forgotten betaine (2.5 grams) will enhance explosive strength. (26, 27, 28)
The good news is you’ll be able to bag most of these training boosters in one single product by opting for a superior pre workout like this or this. The second one is lower cost, but necessitates adding creatine separately.
10. Track Your Nutrition
If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you’ve probably heard me say this a thousand times:
“If you don’t track, you don’t know.”
Tracking your nutrition gives you a significantly better chance of reaching your goals. Heck, studies show that sometimes just the simple act of tracking what you eat (not even instructing a trainee to change anything) increases results due to the accountability it creates. Couple this with the fact that most people are terrible at estimating food intake and calorie output (by as much as 75%) and you can see why it’s a no-brainer to remove this huge element of doubt from your diet. (29, 30)
There are several nutrition tracking apps to choose from, so have a browse and find one you enjoy. If I may recommend one, I suggest using Carbon. It’s developed by the guy who taught me about nutrition, Layne Norton PhD, and it’s a step ahead of every other app.
Well, there you go. I’ve figuratively just handed you the keys to build the body of your dreams.
Here they all are:
- Be Clear About Your Goals
- Calories Are King
- Eat More Protein
- Eat Protein Frequently
- Use A High Quality Whey Protein Blend
- Do Not Avoid Fat
- Carbs Are Your Secret Weapon
- Enjoy Post-Workout Haribo!
- Use Proven Supplements Before & After You Train
- Track Your Nutrition
How you use “The Rules To Ripped” depends upon a few things – your training goals, experience level, timeframe – but one thing’s for sure; with these ten ingredients you can create a bunch of healthy habits which prioritize you looking and feeling great, laying solid foundations for you to enjoy living the best years of your life.
Refer back to this page anytime you need nutritional guidance, I always keep it updated with the latest science.
I hope you enjoyed the read.
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- 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).
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