diet

To get you ripped and ready in four short weeks, this diet has to be intense. Each week schedules a carb and calorie slash, but protein will stay steady so you don’t risk sacrificing muscle.

Begin the first week with a daily intake of 16 calories per pound of bodyweight. Carbs and protein should both be 1.5 grams per pound. Your total fat intake should be just under 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight.

Each week you’ll drop 2 calories per pound of bodyweight by cutting carbs by 0.5 gram per pound. So for Week 2, calories drop to 14 per pound of bodyweight and carbs equal 1 gram per pound. In Week 3, calories drop to 12 per pound of bodyweight as carbs are cut to 0.5 gram per pound. In the final week, you’ll drop calories to just under 10 per pound of bodyweight by further cutting carbs to about 0.25 gram per pound. It’s impossible to drop all carbs from your diet, so you’ll have to also cut back on fat intake this week, to about 0.25 gram per pound of bodyweight.

Although our sample diets are based on the average 180-pound M&F reader, they work well for anyone in the 160-200-pound range. If you weigh more or less, adjust your calories and macros accordingly to the relative numbers we provided. Since you’re working out six days per week, these menus provide a pre- and postworkout meal. On your one day off from the gym each week, simply drop those meals.

These diets are samples, so feel free to replace the foods listed with others that provide similar macronutrients. There are certain foods you should stick with, however, as they’ll aid fat loss and muscle gain. Eggs, for example, have been shown to not only enhance fat loss in clinical studies but also boost muscle growth and strength gains.8-11 In addition, consuming whey protein around workouts is critical for enhancing muscle growth due to its fast digestion and rich supply of branched-chain amino acids. Do yourself a favor and have a whey shake pre- and postworkout; a whole-food meal won’t be as effective at promoting muscle growth. Whey protein also makes a great between-meals snack: Research shows it significantly reduces hunger due to its ability to boost levels of hunger-blunting hormones.

Before bed, have a casein shake. This is a very slow-digesting protein that’ll help curtail the muscle breakdown that occurs during the night. A whole-food substitute is cottage cheese, which has a high casein content. Otherwise, stick with slow-digesting carb sources for most meals when carbs are allowed. These include fruit; whole grains such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and brown rice; and sweet potatoes. Research shows these carbs enhance fat-burning throughout the day. The exception to this rule is your postworkout meal, when you want a fast-digesting carb such as a sports drink or gummi bears to boost insulin levels and further enhance muscle recovery and growth.

This meal plan will get you ripped and ready in four short weeks. To boost fat loss further, we suggest using a fat-burning supplement.

NEXT: The Sample Meal Plans >>

tuna

Meal Plan

Week 1

Breakfast
2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1 cup Kashi Go Lean Cereal
1 cup low-fat milk

Late-morning snack
1 scoop whey protein
1 medium banana
1 Tbsp. peanut butter

Lunch
1 can white tuna
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 Tbsp. fat-free mayonnaise

Midday snack
10 oz. fresh spinach
1/4 cup oatmeal
3 hard-boiled eggs
2 Tbsp. olive oil/vinegar dressing

Pre-workout snack
1 scoop whey protein
1 large apple

Post-workout snack
2 scoops whey protein
12 oz. Gatorade
20 Gummi Bears (Haribo)

Dinner
9 oz. tilapia
1 cup brown rice
10 oz. green beans

Nighttime snack
1 scoop casein protein

Totals: 2,938 calories, 299 g protein, 277 g carbs, 75 g fat

oatmeal

Week 2

Breakfast
3 whole eggs
3 egg whites
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup strawberries

Late-morning snack
1 scoop whey protein
1 oz. mixed nuts

Lunch
6 oz. turkey deli meat
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 Tbsp. fat-free mayonnaise or mustard

Midday snack
1 can sardines in oil, drained
6 whole-wheat crackers

Pre-workout snack
1 scoop whey protein
1 large orange

Post-workout snack
2 scoops whey protein
20 oz. Gatorade

Dinner
8 oz. top sirloin steak
1 cup broccoli
2 cups mixed green salad
2 Tbsp. olive oil/vinegar dressing

Nighttime snack
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 scoop casein protein

Totals: 2,537 calories, 268 g protein, 179 g carbs, 82 g fat

salmonsalad

Week 3

Breakfast
3 whole eggs
3 egg whites
1 cup oatmeal

Late-morning snack
1 scoop whey protein

Lunch
10 oz. fresh spinach
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 large hard-boiled egg
6 oz. shrimp
2 Tbsp. olive oil/vinegar dressing

Midday snack
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. salsa

Pre-workout snack
1 scoop whey protein

Post-workout snack
2 scoops whey protein
12 oz. Gatorade

Dinner
9 oz. farmed Atlantic salmon
2 cups mixed green salad
1 Tbsp. olive oil/vinegar dressing

Nighttime snack
1 scoop casein protein

Totals: 2,244 calories, 271 g protein, 94 g carbs, 81 g fat

egs

Week 4

Breakfast
3 whole eggs
3 egg whites

Late-morning snack
1 scoop whey protein
1Tbsp. peanut butter

Lunch
1 can white tuna
2 cups mixed green salad
2 Tbsp. low-fat balsamic vinaigrette

Midday snack
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. salsa

Pre-workout snack
1 scoop whey protein

Post-workout snack
2 scoops whey protein

Dinner
8 oz. chicken breast
1 cup broccoli

Nighttime snack
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Totals: 1,712 calories, 275 g protein, 45 g carbs, 45 g fat