Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
Think about your average day: You wake up, maybe grab something to choke down as you hurry into work so your boss doesn't notice you've overslept, again. Get to work, survive on nothing but java until noon, grab a bite to eat for lunch, then squeeze in a quick workout at around 5 or 6 o'clock before heading home to eat whatever's handy in the fridge and veg out in front of the TV. Not exactly whittling your physique into a shredded, Adonis-like image, are you?
Now, switch gears and envision that perfect day – 24 hours of metabolic mayhem that sends bodyfat packing its bags as quickly as it so rudely imposed. Who can exemplify that ideal?
How about 2002 USA Champ Troy Alves? After all, he muscles up and leans down for a living. We tagged along with Troy for one day in Phoenix in hopes of uncovering exactly what he does to achieve that ripped-to-the-bone look. Sun up to sun down, we captured a genuine and unrehearsed fat-fighting day for one of today's rising stars. While Troy's approach may seem extreme, his results speak for themselves.
Just 10 short years ago, Troy was deciding how to execute the mandatory poses as he readied his then 160-pound physique for the Mr. Muscle Classic. These days, the 36-year-old is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jay Cutler and Kevin Levrone, most recently at the Arnold Classic Fitness Weekend this past March, where he cracked the top 10. Talk about progress.
The following timeline shows Troy's methods for getting lean, while maintaining his muscle mass, during a typical pre-contest day (in preparation for the Arnold). While this bodybuilder's schedule may not mirror yours, no doubt you can learn a thing or two – or nine, as in the number of meals Troy devours a day – on your quest to get lean.
5:30 a.m. – Cardio
No one said losing fat was a walk in the park. If it were, it would be a damn early one for Troy, who gets going well before the crack of dawn. "I'm up by 4:30 and in the gym by 5:30," he says. Gulping down nothing but 24 ounces of water beforehand, Troy spends an hour at a medium pace on the treadmill. This helps him burn primarily fat as an energy source for this 60-minute jaunt.
7:00 a.m. – Meal 1
Hungry and partially fatigued, Troy jumps into his Toyota 4-Runner and heads home to fuel up – his first of nine meals for the day. "The advantage to eating many times is that your body is constantly burning calories and it keeps your metabolism high." Meal one consists of a bowl of grits, yielding 50 grams of carbohydrate, and eight scrambled egg whites.
8:00 a.m. – Meal 2
An hour after his first meal, Troy mixes up a whey protein shake, giving him another 60 grams of protein. "I spend a good part of my day scheduling my meals and making sure I'm eating what I need, when I need it," says Troy. "Nutrition is more than half the battle."
8:30 a.m. – Nap
Half past eight, Troy hits the couch. "Pre-contest training and dieting is pretty stressful. Napping or just taking some time to slow down can help recovery. Usually I try to nap, even if only for 20-30 minutes," says Troy. By nine, it's back to the nutrition regimen. 9:00 a.m. – MEAL 3. "This meal is a chicken breast and a sweet potato," says Troy. "If I had to guess, I'd say there's about 40 or 50 grams of carbohydrate in the large size sweet potato I eat and 40 grams of protein in the large chicken breast."
10:15 a.m. – Meal 4
A personal trainer, Troy heads out to meet a few clients and downs another protein shake, again yielding about 60 grams of protein. It's only 10:15 and he's already had four feedings (protein shakes count as meals, mind you).
11:45 a.m. – Meal 5
"I usually train people from 10:30 to 12:30 and grab another sweet potato in between sessions in preparation for my 12:30 workout," explains Troy. He can get away with this carb-only meal because it falls just 45 minutes before he works out.
12:30 p.m. – Lift
Troy hits the weights for an hour to an hour and a half, six days a week.
2:15 p.m. – Meal 6
After lifting, he grabs another protein shake and trains another one or two clients.
4:00 p.m. – Meal 7
Troy heads back home for his 4 o'clock meal – a medium steak, yielding about 40 grams of protein, and a large serving of vegetables, usually broccoli or a salad.
5:00 p.m. – Meal 8
Troy mixes up yet another protein shake.
7:00 p.m. – Meal 9
Troy's final meal of the day is a lean steak with an array of mixed vegetables.
8:00 p.m. – Cardio
The final seven weeks before a competition, he'll squeeze in his second cardio session for 45 minutes.
10:30 p.m. – Sleep
The perfect fat-fighting day doesn't leave much time for leisure activities. Come 10:30, Troy literally crashes into bed, recharging his mind and body for another go at it the next day.
Your training split: Troy maintains a six on, one off lifting schedule pre-contest, training all bodyparts once a week. Taking very few days off ensures that his body will be continuously burning calories.
Rest periods: "I'll rest for a couple minutes between sets when I'm trying to grow, but speed things along before a competition by cutting down on the rest between sets," says Troy. Fast-paced is the name of the game during the final 12 weeks. "I do my set and my training partner gets ready to do his set as I finish up mine. I do the same while he's finishing his. It's a fast, almost nonstop pace, and it helps burn fat and add detail to the muscles." Â technique: Though Troy relies primarily on cardio and dietary changes to burn fat, he understands a few manipulations to his training technique also help enhance muscle definition. "To get cut you have to squeeze the muscle and feel what you're doing. I don't just throw the weight up – I concentrate on what I'm doing, feeling the muscle and allowing it to stretch through its full range. When you train for quality like this, you look more defined once you've gotten rid of the fat with diet and cardio."
Don't Rush It "You can't get in shape overnight," says Troy. "I take 12 weeks to reduce my weight to 215 pounds from 240 in the off-season." Drastic dieting can lead to a loss in strength and muscle mass, causing a slowdown in metabolism. Troy isn't one to hop on the bathroom scale to measure progress. "I'm more concerned with the visual changes," he says.
Cardio Is King "I start with an hour of cardio a day for the first five to six weeks," says Troy. At the seven-week mark, Troy adds another session of cardio in the evening, this bout for 45 minutes. "People think we starve to get ready for a competition, but we don't. Cardio allows you to eat more, which helps you maintain muscle mass." When it comes to intensity, Troy favors a medium pace. "If you go all out, you can't last for an hour, and going too easy doesn't burn enough calories." No slave to heart rate monitors, Troy relies on intuition: "When I'm really starting to breath heavy and know I can last an hour, I know I'm at the right intensity."
Let Your Eye Be Your Guide "I don't get particular with ounces and weights with the food I eat," says Troy. Instead he relies on eyeballing it. If things are going well, and he's seeing more definition in his physique, he'll stay the course. When he feels the need to speed things up and drop a little more bodyfat, he'll cut down on the portions of his carbohydrates, opting for a smaller sweet potato, for example. Troy reasons: "I think, not counting everything forces you to listen to and watch your body more closely to see how it reacts to your diet and cardio."
Don't Be Fat-Phobic Troy has tried the fat-free approach but swears by red meat when dieting. "If I eat only fish and chicken, I lose my size. When I eat steak, I'm able to better maintain my muscle mass," Troy says. "Maybe it's the added fat. When your carbohydrates are lower, you have to eat some fat." Of course, his steak is not heavily marbled. Troy chooses round, flank and sirloin steaks – the leanest cuts – and trims away all visible fat.
Taper the Carbs Through the Day "I don't eat a lot of carbs later in the day," says Troy. "My preference is to eat most of them earlier in the day and before training, when I need immediate energy. That falls in line with the widely held belief that carbs eaten later in the day, and especially at night, might affect one's ability to get as ripped and lean as possible."
Chris Aceto graduated with a degree in applied exercise science from Springfield College in Massachusetts. His books Championship Bodybuilding and Everything You Need To Know About Fat Loss are available at www.nutramedia.com or by calling 207-934-7812.