Getting ripped is not about a specific diet, workout routine or program. It is also nearly impossible to build large amounts of muscle mass and lose weight (get ripped) at the same time, which is a common misconception in the fitness industry. Your body is mostly only capable of doing one drastic transformational change at a time. There are no special hidden formulas or well kept secrets to getting ripped and looking fantastic, just scientifically proven methods that require effort and mental resolve. Following these steps below and being consistent are the best methods to reducing body fat (not building muscle) and getting ripped.
What Does Getting Ripped Look Like
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and “looking ripped” is very subjective. Your definition of being ripped, may be different than my perspective on being ripped. All subjectivity aside, a good rule of thumb is 8% -10% body fat for men, and 15% -17% for women, however again everyone looks different depending on build, body type, and fat distribution
You Must Be In a Calorie Deficit
The most important thing that you need to remember is if you want to get ripped is that you must be in a calorie deficit. This means that you have to burn more calories on a consistent basis than you intake from food. If we think of a calorie as a unit of energy, and fat as stored energy from excess calories in our bodies then we can make a reasonable conclusion that we need to dissipate that excess energy to remove the fat.
Here is a simple example to help make this more clear.
Monday: Intake 3500 calorie, burn 2500 calories
Tuesday: Intake 3700 calories, burn 2500 calories
Wednesday: Intake 5000 calories, burn 4000 calories
Thursday: Intake 3200 calories, burn 3300 calories
Friday: Intake 2700 calories, burn 2500 calories
Totals: Intake 18,100, burn 14,800 = 3330 calorie net gain
By the above example I have actually gained close to a pound of additional body weight, as 3500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat.
Now let’s take a look at another example
Monday: Intake 2100 calorie, burn 2500 calories
Tuesday: Intake 2000 calories, burn 2500 calories
Wednesday: Intake 2700 calories, burn 4000 calories
Thursday: Intake 1800 calories, burn 3300 calories
Friday: Intake 1900 calories, burn 2500 calories
Totals: Intake 10,500 burn 14,800 = 4300 calorie net loss
In this example I had a net loss total of 4300 calories this week and as a result I lost about 1.3 pounds.
Calories matter the most when trying to lose weight and getting ripped, it is impossible to do either if you are not in a calorie deficit. You can obtain a calorie deficit by eating a low calorie diet, exercising to create a calorie deficit or a combination of both. I recommend the latter not the former, a combination of both will lead to better healthier habits, and be more sustainable. You have to be consistent in order to see results, you cannot eat nothing one day, and then pig out and do no exercise for two days and expect to see results. It is the day in and day out efforts that will get you the type of body you want. Consistency, consistency, consistency is the most underrated term in the fitness industry. Without consistency you will achieve very little to nothing.
Tracking Your Calorie Intake and Fixing Your Diet
“Fixing your diet” means being conscious of what you eat, and how much you eat. The best way to do this is to track the calories of everything you eat during the course of the day. Use a calorie tracking app or pen and paper. A food scale makes for much more accurate assessments. To get an estimate on how much you should be eating, you need to figure out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE (calculate it here or here). Adjust your calorie intake to match your goal, whether that is getting ripped, muscle gain or even just trying to lose a few pounds. If you wish to gain muscle, eat over your TDEE. If you want to lose fat and get ripped eat under your TDEE. The better idea is to remain conservative and stay within 500 calories above or below and remain consistent. You can be more extreme and go a 1000 -1500 difference but beware it is tough to do and not recommended until you take time to learn what you are capable off. This is much easier said than done.
Important Note: The value returned from a TDEE calculator is only an estimate of your daily calorie needs. You still need to track your daily calorie intake and compare that to your weight loss/gain to determine a more personalized approach. For example, if you are accurately tracking your calorie intake and are consistently eating at a “500 calorie deficit” (i.e. 500 calories under your calculated TDEE) but still not losing weight, your actual TDEE is probably lower than the value returned from the calculator. Adjust your daily intake downward by 200-300 calories and reassess for a few more weeks. Repeat this process until you are losing weight at the speed predicted by your daily deficit. Also, consider that regular adjustments in calorie intake will be needed along the way, as losing weight (or gaining weight) means you will be burning less (or more) calories each day due to the changes in your body weight.
Remember: it took you a long time to get in the state you’re in; it will take a long time to get out of it. There are no overnight success or miracles, be prepared for hard work, sweat and pain!
Where do we get that 500? It’s in order to lose 1 lb per week – you need to be in a 500 Calorie DEFICIT per day (1 lb of fat = 3500 Calories, so 3500 Calories/7 days per week = 500 Calories per day).
In order to lose 2 lbs per week, you need to double the above calculation (1000 Calorie deficit per day).
In order to gain 0.5 lbs per week, it is advisable to be in a 200-500 Calorie SURPLUS.
Again to get ripped you must be in a consistent calorie deficit, it does not matter how much you work out, how healthy you eat, what supplements you take, it will not matter unless you are burning more calories than you are taking in.
What to eat?
If you want eat healthy and feel good see our health eating guide on that. For getting ripped a general suggestion would be to make sure your diet consisted of:
Protein: 20-40% (nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, lean meat, cheese). Why protein as a supplement, mixed with milk or water. I personally get the cheap stuff at Walmart, as I find it works just as good, and a lot of times taste better. Just be careful, because depending on which one you buy they have a lot of calories. Mix with water to reduce calorie intake, milk tastes better though.
As always, lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs are always a source of high protein, low fat meals that will taste good, keep your calories low, healthy, and great for retaining muscle mass while trying to get ripped.
Fats: 10-30% (oils, plants) – Seems contradicting? While contrary to popular belief fats are good for you.
Carbohydrates: 30-65% (brown rice, oats, whole-grain wheat, flax) – Yes excess carbs turn into fat, but you realistically cannot walk around all day looking and acting like a lifeless zombie. You need carbs for energy to help you get through your day, exercise and lift weights to retain your muscle mass while getting ripped.
The best way to make sure you are getting these percentages close are to understand what macros are and to learn how to count them, similar to what you do with calories. This might all seem confusing or overly complicated, but it really is not. You are just making excuses and need to toughen up if you are serious about getting ripped, or living a healthier lifestyle.
There are many apps or websites that will do all the hard work, you just need to take the time to input the data. As I mentioned earlier, another way is to do it yourself and buy a food scale. You can buy a decent scale on Amazon for less than 20 bucks.
Here are some example meals you can eat while getting ripped. Keep in mind that my calorie needs are may be different than your calorie requirements. I can enter a calorie deficit at around 3500 calories because of my body size, and level of activity.
How to Workout When Trying to Get Ripped
Look when you are on a calorie deficit you are going to feel like you are always starving, feel lethargic, lazy, tired, unmotivated, and you are going to feel like doing absolutely nothing. This is natural and will get better as time goes on and your body adjusts to the changes. It is best to stick with simple compound exercises when trying to get ripped. Bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder press, leg press, etc. These lifts work multiple body parts and different muscle groups all at once, insure you are hitting all the right areas, and expend a lot of energy. You are going to get tired faster than you normally would, so you might need to start with less weight and reps until you understand what your new limits are while in a calorie deficit. It will be very challenging to add in supplementary and isolation exercises while getting ripped like bicep curls, tricep extensions, calve raises, sit ups, as these also require a lot of energy and will take up precious energy resources while trying to maintain the fundamentals and do the big compound exercises (at least not on the same day). You would not plan a 1,000 mile journey across the country on a quarter tank of gas would you? The same reasoning applies to your body, you are going to have less energy to burn so you have to plan on doing less. Stick with the exercises that are most important and focus on them while getting ripped, isolation exercises can be done on your rest or cardio days.
Try and do some light cardio on a bicycle or slow jogging to help and create the calorie deficit after your weight lifting routine. I recommend to do cardio afterward for the same reason I recommend that you limit your isolation exercises. You are going to be extremely lethargic and if you do cardio first you will have no energy left over to complete compound exercises effectively to help maintain your strength and muscle mass. Cardo is a little bit easier and takes less focus when slow jogging in place on a treadmill versus lifting a couple hundred pounds over your head. If you can wear a sweatshirt while jogging, this makes your body work harder to maintain your body temperature, therefore burning more calories – making your goal of getting ripped all that much closer.
Here is an example workout routine that I would do when getting ripped. Feel free to use or adjust as you see fit.
5X5 Bench Press.
5X5 Overhead Shoulder Press.
5X5 Hex Squats (can substitute for bar squats).
4X8 Pull Ups
15 minutes of cardio
4X12 Lat Pulldowns (Note: I usually go to failure on the last set).
5X5 Barbell Rows
3X12 Dumbbell Bench Press
4X8 Leg Press
15 minutes of cardio.
I would rest and do 30 minutes of cardio. On my rest days I usually run at home around the block a few times.
Thursday and Friday:
I would do much of the same that I did on Monday and Tuesday but would be sure to listen to my body. For example if my chest was still fatigued or sore, I would wait an extra day to do chest and do something else in it’s place.
45 minutes of cardio and maybe a few isolation exercises like bicep curls, calve raises or sit-ups. As I mentioned above I do not do these on the same days I do big compound exercises as I simply do not have the energy. Notice I also do more cardio on this day as that is what I am mainly focused on when getting ripped.
Rest, Rest, Rest
Dealing with Hunger Pangs.
As already mentioned you are going to be constantly hungry and most likely a little grumpy until adjusting to the changes in your diet. The last time I went on a cut and got ripped I was very grumpy at first, but it seems like the feeling of being hungry never went away. I did however get acclimated to this feeling and it did not bother me after a week or two. I simply stopped thinking about it and went on with life. The best advice I can give you is to read this article here on dealing with hunger pangs, drink lots of water, and do not skip more than a few hours between meals. These strategies will not completely get rid of your hunger pangs, but will reduce the intensity level of them to make them bearable and not as noticeable.
Bulking Muscle Takes More Physical Energy but Getting Ripped Takes More Mental Toughness
A big theme of this article is consistency, you have be committed to remaining in a calorie deficit each day. It is going to be very challenging, and truthfully I find trying to get ripped way more difficult than building muscle. It takes a lot more mental toughness to achieve than just anything else in life, but you can do it! If you are having trouble staying motivated read our article on How to Get and Stay Motivated or this tip on How to Overcome Yourself.
Good Luck on getting ripped, please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or thoughts.
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.