With warm weather approaching, the call for an effective shred has never been stronger. Use these 6 tips to ensure you’re six-pack-ready for summer!
Winter’s winding down, and everyone’s favorite seasonal superpower—the ability to hide excess pounds under a warm sweater—is fading fast. In fact, the summer sun will be high in the sky sooner than you might think, which means shirtless weather is coming in hot. Don’t get caught unprepared! If you want to reveal a shredded six-pack come summer, now’s the time to plan and prioritize your weight-loss goals
Here are six of my tried-and-true get-lean strategies to help you prepare to bare all when the sun comes out to stay.
1. Combine Cardio Styles
Most people default exclusively to high-intensity interval training, or HIIT cardio when it comes to getting lean. After all, the intense metabolic demand HIIT places on your body is like nothing else, and when done correctly, can take several days to recover from. What that means for you is a heightened calorie-burn both during the workout and as you recover.
I like to do my HIIT in short, sharp bursts, performing 30-second sprints on the treadmill or rowing machine, followed by 30 seconds of rest, for 10-15 rounds. But I don’t stop there. I actually follow my HIIT with 15-20 minutes of low-intensity cardio to help remove metabolic byproducts that accumulate during high-intensity exercise, which allows my muscles to recover quicker and gets me ready to train all over again.
This approach combines HIIT’s fat-burning ability with the recuperative benefits of low-intensity cardio, basically giving you the best of both worlds. I even like to add a little extra steady-state (because it doesn’t demand much in terms of recovery) when I want to burn even more calories.
2. Balance Your Reps And Volume
A lot of people assume that in order to get shredded, you need to lift more reps per set and really “feel the burn,” but this isn’t necessarily true. Your nutrition and cardio should do the shredding for you, and your lifts should work to maintain your muscle mass and strength. To that end, I stay in the range of 6-8 reps for all my lifts when getting lean. This allows me to keep my muscles full and strong, potentially add a bit of new size, and hit an ideal short-term hormone release.
But just because I use relatively low reps does not mean I skimp on volume! I do 4-5 sets of each exercise rather than the standard 3-4, which increases the overall time under tension for each body part, burns more calories, and contributes to the overall fat loss. I also front-load my workouts with at least two compound movements, which require a lot of energy. Once I’m depleted, I finish up with a few isolation movements.
3. Advance Your Training
When it comes to shredding, I love implementing giant sets—basically, circuits for one body part or multiple exercises performed back to back—especially for my legs, which respond well to high-rep, high-volume work.
I usually hit two compound exercises in a row, such as squats and leg press, then hit my legs immediately afterward with isolation exercises like leg extensions and curls. This forces my muscles to work 3-4 times as hard and 3-4 times as long per set compared with a straight-set format.
The increased time under tension caused by giant sets leads to more muscular exhaustion, a greater energy demand, and more fat burned post-workout as those muscles try to recover.
I’m also a huge fan of forced reps—when your partner helps you lift beyond what you could lift alone—for leaning out. Forced reps push you further than you would normally go on your own, driving adaptation and producing an additional calorie burn that a straight set does not provide.
I recommend choosing a weight where you fail after about 6-8 reps. Once you feel like you can’t push out even one more rep, have a partner help you squeeze out 3-5 forced reps with the same weight. I guarantee you’ll push yourself to limits you never thought possible!
If you’re training solo, try using the double-rep method (DRM) for cutting. Set yourself up with a weight at which you fail at 8 reps. Do a set of 8 with that weight, rest for 5-8 seconds, and then do another 16 reps broken down into several “mini sets.”
Use the rest-pause technique—performing as many reps as you can, and then taking short, 15-second rests—to get through that second double set.
DRM training really pushes the envelope of both your pain threshold and your muscular endurance. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed the theme yet, it also helps you torch more calories!
4. Manipulate Your Macros
One of my favorite quotes is “what gets measured, gets managed.” Carefully planned nutrition is everything when trying to cut, and knowing how to manipulate your macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—is essential when building your get-lean plan.
Most people choose to cut carbs in order to get lean, but this is where I differ. I like to keep my carb intake relatively steady year-round to keep my energy high, which allows me to work out harder. To trim some fat from my body, I simply trim some fat from my diet.
Usually, my fat intake is about a half a gram per pound of body weight, which comes out to about 90 grams of fat daily for me. As I get closer to my goal date, or the date on which I want to look my best, I taper this number until it reaches about 40 grams a day.
This simple change gives me just enough of a caloric deficit to burn fat while still leaving me with enough calories from dietary fat to power my essential bodily functions. To compensate for this deficit, I also typically bump my protein up from 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight, which keeps my hunger and cravings at bay and prevents catabolism, or muscle breakdown.
5. Keep Records
If you don’t know where you’ve been, how do you know where you’re going? I’m a bit of a data geek, so I love to keep detailed records of my calories and macronutrients from every diet and show prep I’ve ever done. This gives me plenty of information to compare and allows me to assess the best plan of action to meet my next goal based on my current condition.
When mapping out your plan, give yourself plenty of time to make adaptations. For example, I am usually not more than three weeks out from photo-shoot conditioning, but if I want to step it up and really get stage-ready peeled, I give myself 10-14 weeks. Nothing good comes from rushing the process.
No matter what your timeline, write down everything as you go through that process: what you ate, how it affected your physique, even if it did anything to your body’s level of detail or your overall mood. This way, next time you want to lean out, you’ll have an accurate and exact accounting of what worked and what didn’t.
6. Supplement Smart
Getting lean is no easy task, and supplementing your nutrition can help with cravings as well as energy levels. I love to have a protein shake with my oats after every tough workout to kick-start recovery, spur muscle growth, satisfy my sweet tooth, and help me stay full.
I also take a multivitamin with Omega 3 and 6 daily to ensure I get all my essential fatty acids and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that could be missing from my whole-food diet. And, when it comes to traveling, I always carry a protein bar to make it easy to sneak in meals, even when things get busy.
More than just a pick-me-up, your morning cup of tea or coffee may actually help your weight-loss efforts! But when it comes to fat loss, which one of these greens reigns supreme?
When it comes to losing fat, no magic pill or powder can replace consistent work in the gym and a clean diet. Your efforts will always trump anything a supplement can do. That said, there are a handful of ingredients that may help boost your metabolism and enhance your weight-loss efforts.
Two of those ingredients—green tea and green coffee—may already be part of your daily morning ritual, but they’re also sold in supplement form as green tea and green coffee extract. If fat loss is your goal, is one extract better than the other? It’s time to put these two green titans in a head-to-head battle for fat-loss supremacy!
Make Time For Tea
Green tea, which comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, has been recommended as a healthful drink for centuries with potential health benefits ranging from improved antioxidant status to cardiovascular support. Although multiple parts of the plant can be used, it’s the extract from the leaves that seems to offer the most health benefits, especially when it comes to weight loss.
The two components primarily responsible for green tea extract’s (GTE) health benefits are catechins, which provide the majority of antioxidants benefits, and caffeine, which enhances thermogenesis and fat metabolism.
When compared to a placebo and caffeine alone, GTE has been shown to significantly increase 24-hour energy expenditure. Over time, increasing the number of calories you burn both at rest and during exercise could lead to favorable changes in your body composition. Furthermore, there are multiple studies showing GTE’s ability to increase rates of fat oxidation (or fat burning) over a 24-hour period.
Long-term consumption of green tea extract has been shown to support modest weight loss, around 2-3 pounds, over a 12-week period.3 While GTE clearly won’t do all the work for you, research suggests that, when combined with exercise, it can support greater weight loss when compared to exercise alone.
Green Is The New Black
Green coffee extract (GCE), as the name implies, is extracted from unroasted green coffee beans. Its main active ingredients are compounds known as chlorogenic acids, which are thought to be responsible for its weight-loss effects.
While it’s not entirely clear how it works, chlorogenic acid may be able to promote fat loss by increasing the activity of PPAR-alpha—a gene involved in fatty-acid transport and oxidation—and reducing the creation of new fat cells through its antioxidant effects.
To date, there has been only one study to demonstrate a positive effect of GCE on weight loss in humans. A 2007 study published in the Journal of International Medical Research found that when GCE was added to coffee, participants lost (on average) almost 12 pounds over a 12-week period when combined with diet and exercise. This compared to only 3 pounds lost in the coffee-only group
While results from this study are promising, larger, better-controlled studies are needed to truly determine the effectiveness of GCE as a weight-loss tool.
Lean, Mean, Green
Green tea extract is the current winner in the battle of the bulge! For one, GTE has a higher caffeine component, and when it comes to ingredients that can have a significant impact on supporting your metabolism and help you burn more fat, caffeine is king. Second, the research on GTE far exceeds that of GC, making it a little more convincing that including GTE as part of your diet may potentially be beneficial to fat loss.
You may find some supplements that use a combination blend of green tea with green coffee extracts, but there is currently no research suggesting this is a more effective combination than either in isolation.
What To Watch Out For
The weight-loss benefits associated with green coffee and green tea extracts are greatly reduced when you mix the extracts with milk and sugar. Additionally, research suggests that protein consumption can have an inhibitory effect on their absorption.[Therefore, benefits of GTE and GCE may be maximized when consumed with water 2-3 hours before or after a meal.
Both of these substances typically contain caffeine and therefore may cause potential side effects associated with caffeine consumption, such as increased heart rate and digestive upset, but as long as you don’t guzzle the stuff, you should be in pretty good shape. Start with a low dose, see how your body handles it, and then make adjustments from there.
A Practical Approach For Use
GTE and GCE are most effective when caffeine resistance is minimized. If you’re already a coffee addict, the benefits of green tea extract and GCE supplements will likely be less effective.
While you may think you can get your daily dose of GTE just by sipping on some green tea, think again. An effective dose (about 600 milligrams) would require you to drink 8-10 cups of tea! Supplements can definitely make things a little easier on you; just make sure you’re getting 30-60 percent EGCG—the active ingredient in green tea responsible for its fat-burning effects—in each serving.
Green coffee supplements are generally sold containing 40-50 percent chlorogenic acid by weight. In order to get the most effective dose of 120-300 milligrams of chlorogenic acid, you’ll want to look for a supplement containing 300-750 milligrams of green coffee extract.