Shortcuts to packing on new muscle mass and getting ripped to the bone are frequently peddled on late-night TV, but sadly, these feats cannot be accomplished with quick fixes or next-day miracles. You can, however, implement certain dietary practices that, over time, will guarantee your investment in fitness. Yes, getting in your best shape ever requires hard work in the gym, but without the proper nutrition to fuel your gains, you’re dead in the water. Feeding your body the right way is just a matter of repetition—learning and developing the kinds of dietary habits that leave your body with no choice but to respond with cover model-worthy size, strength and detail. By applying the bulk of these 16 strategies to your diet, you’ll find that things really do fall into place automatically, even if they don’t happen overnight.
Adding new muscle to your frame is an admirable pursuit, but no matter how much weight you lift in the gym, you’ll never obtain that tight, shredded look you covet without chipping away at your bodyfat stores. Many people mistakenly think that losing fat is simply a matter of exercising more and eating less, yet a bodybuilder can’t afford to arbitrarily hack calories and run until it hurts. It’s about striking a balance. These tips will help you get lean without losing hard-earned muscle.
1) Cycle Carbs
Limit your carbohydrate intake for 4-5 days, then boost carbs for the following two days. When you cut calories you lose fat, but when you cut calories and limit your carbs to 100 grams or less for 4-5 days, the body goes into a fat-burning mode that’s influenced both by fewer calories and a favorable hormonal shift. When you reverse the process and increase your carb intake to 250-300 grams for two days, you drive your metabolism even higher. Just remember to keep protein intake high to spare muscle tissue.
2) Clock Your Carbs
Too many carbs can make you fat, but too few for an extended period can slow your metabolism. That’s why timing is important: Consume a hefty sum of your daily carbohydrates at breakfast and after training. Eating at least 50 grams of fast-digesting carbs first thing in the morning and immediately postworkout hinders training-induced muscle breakdown and keeps cortisol, a stress hormone that destroys muscle and slows metabolism, in check.
3) Use BCAAs to Preserve Muscle
To help prevent catabolism, take 5-10 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) with breakfast as well as before and after training. Ingested preworkout, BCAAs are used by the body as a substitute fuel source so it doesn’t tap into stored muscle protein to get through a session. Also, when you’re going low-carb, BCAAs can better trigger protein synthesis.
4) Make Carbs Work for You
Since building muscle is the best way to burn more fat in the long run, you need to make your workouts intense enough to elicit the gains you want. Taking in 20 grams of fast-digesting whey protein and 20-40 grams of slow-digesting carbs (from sources such as fruit, sweet potatoes or brown rice) 30 minutes or less before your first rep helps you power through your workouts with the required intensity. Keep the weight loads up and your rest periods short to burn through your preworkout fuel.
5) Increase Neurotransmitters
What’s a neurotransmitter? Think spark plug. These chemicals in the brain signal the body’s internal fat-burning machinery to shift into an active state. Caffeine, evodiamine and tea (green, oolong and black) boost these fat-fighting chemicals, especially when taken before training and in the absence of carbohydrates. Dosages vary, but each can be taken in a stack with other fat-burners 2-3 times a day, with at least one of those doses coming 30-60 minutes preworkout.
6) Prioritize Slow-Burning Carbs
Slow-digesting carbs such as beans, whole-grain breads and pastas, oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes should constitute the bulk of your daily carbohydrate intake (the exceptions being first thing in the morning and immediately postworkout). Slow carbs reduce the effect of insulin, the hormone that initiates both hunger and fat storage. Research confirms that athletes who consume slow-digesting carbs burn more fat throughout the day as well as during exercise.