Russ Howe PTI's Dropset City

The Rules To Ripped

These ten tips will help you to lay the foundations of a rock solid body transformation. I call them “The Rules To Ripped”.


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16 min read

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.

the rules to ripped

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)

Read more about goal setting.


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)

Read more on optimal calorie intake.

how to build muscle fast

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)

Read more about protein and muscle growth.

diet tips to build muscle

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.

Learn more about protein timing and muscle growth.

are protein blends better

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.

best diet for building muscle fast

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)

Read more on the benefits of proper fat intake.

eat carbs to build muscle

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.

Learn more about using carbs to gain size.

Haribo Gummy Bears after a workout

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)

Learn more about my post-workout Haribo protocol.

best supplements to build muscle and lose fat

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.

Carbon Diet Coach

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.

the rules to ripped summary

In Summary

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.


  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. Pryor J. L., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on cycling sprint performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2012).
  29. Lichtman S. W., et al. Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. New England Journal of Medicine (1992).
  30. 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).

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?

russ howe pti

Featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 104,357 people getting his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.

In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.

Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young boys.

You can get more tips by joining the e-mail newsletter above, and you can instantly access full workout plans by hitting the button below!


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

      Thanks Mary-Anne, I appreciate that!

  2. Rachel avatar

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

  3. Paul avatar

    SO much great info here.

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