No one who benches 405 pounds for reps started at 405 pounds. It just doesn’t work that way. They had to go through hundreds of hours in the gym and dozens of other mini-milestones before hitting that bar-bending mark. They had to work up to it—5 pounds more this week, 10 more the next. Building on the previous workout is what eventually amounts to four plates on each side of the bar. What if a rookie lifter tried to press 405 without that kind of calculated progression? Well, it wouldn’t be pretty.
The same approach applies to plowing through stores of unwanted body fat, which we’re sure is on your mind after your standard winter of gluttony. Take a look at your sugar-cookied, holiday-wrecked midsection. You can’t pick just one slim-quick method and hope to get rid of that doughy gut by beach time. You have to work toward it. As with weight training, consistently adding new variables into your program—especially when they build on what you’ve done previously—will not only accelerate your fat-burning but also keep your body from getting used to one particular approach.
While making a whole-hearted commitment to fitness as a lifestyle is really the only way to keep those love handles in check for good, we can help you build some serious blubber-melting momentum with our six-week program. If you incorporate one or two new fat-burning strategies each week, by the end of Week 6, you’ll be firing on ten strategic cylinders. There’s no question about it—this year, your six-pack is sure to make an unseasonably early cameo.
SIX-WEEK FAT-BURN PLAN
Follow these steps over the next six weeks to increase your body’s ability to burn fat
1 >> Reduce carbs by half for four days
>> Eliminate carbs from your last meal of the day
2 >> Add two 30-40-minute cardio sessions per week
>> Add 50 g protein and 5-8 g leucine per day
3 >> Add a fat-burner
>> Cut carbs further on one of your low-carb days
4 >> Schedule 40 minutes of medium- to high-intensity cardio postworkout or first thing in the morning
5 >> Have a 500-700-calorie cheat meal on one of your regular-carb days
>> Add 50% more sets to your weight workouts
6 >> Take a three-day break from the entire plan, then start again if needed
STRATEGY 1: CUT CARBS IN HALF
When carbohydrate intake is lowered, the body turns to fat for energy. So to start shedding some fat, cut your carbs drastically—in this case, by half—for four straight days while maintaining your regular workout plan. Not only does this reduce calories, but it also helps control insulin, the hormone released with carb consumption that can increase the appetite.
The easiest way to implement this step is to halve your carbohydrate portion size at meals. Instead of a full bagel, for example, eat half. In lieu of a medium plate of pasta, have a small plate. Eat only three-quarters of a cup of rice compared to the rounded cup you may typically consume. You’ll burn fat and your desire to eat should also subside.
Following a lower-carb diet for too long can backfire for some, decreasing leptin levels and slowing the metabolism, so return to your regular portions after four days. Introducing carbs back into your diet after this kind of drastic reduction kicks up leptin levels and, therefore, your metabolism. In addition, when the body comes out of a brief, modified lower-carb diet, it becomes more efficient at storing carbohydrate as muscle glycogen, key for pushing through your workouts with the type of intensity you need to elicit growth. Glycogen not only powers your training but acts as an anabolic stimulus, allowing the body to retain muscle even as you attempt to whittle away a few extra pounds. And because it pulls water into the muscles with it, it makes them fuller and larger.
STRATEGY 2: ELEVATE YOUR (GH) STATUS
Yes, getting lean is about calories, but it’s also about hormones, so we’ll go ahead and cover all your bases just to be safe. Happily, this will be a bedtime chore and, over the next six weeks, should become as routine as brushing yout teeth. To make it a bit simpler and to get your hormones working in your favor, drop all carbohydrates from your final meal of the day—every day—to slash calories. When you go to bed with a lower blood-sugar level as a result of avoiding carbs in your last meal, the body is more apt to increase its production of growth hormone (GH), which accelerates fat loss by mildly increasing the metabolism and boosting muscle growth.
Also, try adding arginine to your list of supplements to increase GH levels. Arginine, which converts to nitric oxide in the body and increases blood flow, has also been shown to boost the release of GH and support metabolism. In addition to supplementing with 3-6 grams in the morning on an empty stomach, take 3-6 grams of arginine before going to bed.
STRATEGY 3: CASUAL CARDIO
Many cut-up plans use the shock-and-awe method: They require not only drastic diet alterations but long, heavy bouts of cardio. Truth is, you don’t need a lot of cardio to trim the fat if your diet is solid. Losing fat is the cumulative result of what you eat, how you eat and how much you eat, coupled with hardcore weight training. Yet cardio certainly has its place as a stimulus.
Used in moderation, cardio allows you to get over fat-loss plateaus without altering your diet too much. This week, do two moderate sessions (yes, just two) of 30-40 minutes apiece. That’s enough to facilitate fat loss. Remember, the body isn’t a machine. If you try to force fat off, it can backfire, with the body downgrading its metabolism and the amount of calories it burns in response to exercise and diet.
STRATEGY 4: GET LEAN WITH PROTEIN & LEUCINE
By the second week, after you’ve cut carbs and increased your cardio, the body will start to look for alternatives to bodyfat for fuel. Unfortunately, muscle tissue is often its first source. You can reduce that effect by increasing your regular protein intake by 50 grams per day. Either add a protein shake or two or increase your protein intake at the meals you eat before and after training—another 25 grams pre- and postworkout should do the trick. That’s a second scoop of whey protein or about 3-4 ounces of chicken, fish or lean meat.
You can also add a leucine supplement before and after training. Leucine can halt muscle breakdown, aka catabolism. The unfortunate part of attempting to get leaner is that the body often tears down protein, including muscle tissue, at a far greater clip than when calories and carbs are much higher. So to prevent the loss of protein and muscle tissue and the dropoff in metabolism that comes with it, add 5-8 grams of leucine pre- and postworkout.