It is month 10 of your bulk and you are starting to feel clumsy, bloated and maybe even a little fat.
Your abs start to hide behind a thin layer of water and fat and you cannot wait for the shredding season to come by, so that you can show everyone what you have been working hard for.
However, you don’t really have an exact approach and you start Googling topics on getting shredded.
Well, say no more! If you’ve come across this page, you are on the right place and we advise you to keep on reading, because once you’ve read the whole thing, you will exit with greater knowledge.
Ultimately, we will help you create a mental map of your approach towards your goal.
After having stacked on a solid amount of muscle mass and logically, body fat, it is time to shred off that body fat and reveal the rock-solid musculature beneath it.
Now, first off let’s mention a couple of things.
- While losing body fat to get leaner, we also lose muscle
Logically, we don’t want you to lose the muscle you took so long to gain, otherwise, your long off-season would be pointless and you’ll return to the baseline.
- The more fat you have, the longer it will take to lose it
Again, if you have a lot of fat and want to lose it in a way that will allow you to preserve the muscle and keep your body running healthily, you will have to plan on spending more time during the shred.
To avoid this however, we have to micro-manage our muscle-gaining period and avoid excessive fat gains, as that will only make the process harder.
- After losing the body fat, we will observe a slight bounce in weight
As the body loses its energy reserves (fat), it starts desperately looking to gain them back and in doing so, it slows down the metabolism.
What this means for you is that if you suddenly start eating a lot again, you will quickly gain all the fat back and blur out your shreds.
With the information in this article, we will help you optimize all 3 things mentioned.
You will minimize muscle loss, remain healthy and maintain a lean physique while moving into the off-season, or in other words, the muscle building period.
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Alright, there is one single factor which we like to call the thing that “makes or breaks” your shredding period.
That is namely your caloric intake. So, you guessed it- Hardcore workouts won’t cut it and to get the best results, you will have to track your nutrition!
To lose fat, we must subject our bodies to a caloric deficit, meaning we have to consume less calories than the body requires to maintain its weight, so that it can tap into the energetic reserves- The fat.
The bigger the deficit, the more fat and muscle we lose.
That is to say the deficit has to be rational, so we can still give the body enough energy to sustain vital processes and have enough energy for daily and exercise activities.
Calculating your needs
So, now that we know the most important factor is Calories in vs. Calories out, we can start calculating our daily energy needs.
The amount of energy the body requires each day to MAINTAIN its weight and functions is called “Total daily energy expenditure” and depends on a couple of factors:
- Daily activity
- Exercise output
There are formulas to calculate all of the factors, but at the click of the button, you can use integrated calculators.
Our recommendation is – If it fit your macros as it has been proven times and again to be the most accurate calculator to date.
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Calculating your macros
Alright now you know how much energy (calories) your body needs approximately each day, to maintain its weight and functions.
The next step is calculating your macronutrients according to the TDEE.
Generally, we recommend people to keep their protein intake at 1 gram per lbs. of bodyweight.
That is to say that if you are 180 lbs.
You will be taking in roughly 180 grams of protein, which is a total of 720 calories (4 calories per gram).
This amount will be enough for you to recover and sustain muscle tissue from workouts and also, sustain the countless vital physiological processes that require the involvement of protein.
We recommend you to derive your proteins from animal products, such as chicken, free range beef, eggs and dairy products.
These products contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to recover and sustain.
However, for vegetarians and vegans, it is a rational choice to include a good mix of grains, as those mixes will complement each other and compensate for the lack of one or more of the essential amino acids.
The fat intake is at a recommended 0.35-0.45 g. per lbs of bodyweight.
That is 60-80 grams for a 180 lbs. Person.
Keep in mind that fats are more energy-dense than protein and carbs, as fats have 9 calories per gram.
That is exactly why fast foods are calorie dense- They contain deep-fried meat & potatoes.
And it’s not the meat or the potatoes that is unhealthy, but the means of thermic treatment.
First and foremost, we will mention that fats won’t get you fat.
It is the excess of fat that will get you fat.
As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter if it is an excess of fat, protein or carbohydrates- Whatever you consume that makes up for a number higher than your TDEE, will lead to fat gains if done consistently.
Fats are actually important, as they are a secondary source of energy and play a role in the cells’ structures and they are also a building block for neurotransmitters and hormones.
Furthermore, they also help with the digestion of the other 2 macronutrients, as well as vitamins.
So, it is of prime importance to not neglect that macronutrient, but rather make it play a role in the balance of all 3- Proteins, fats, carbs.
Usually, animal products will provide you with enough healthy fats, but if needed, you can add other fats like olive oil.
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Another very misunderstood concept here!
People go mad and do extreme low-carb diets in hopes of losing fat, simply because they read that carbs get stored as fat.
Well, wrong! The energy balance principle applies for all macronutrients.
Again, if you don’t consume in an excessive caloric surplus consistently, you won’t get fat!
Unless you have a condition that implies a low-carb diet, it is more than a good idea to keep a good amount of carbohydrates in your nutrition plan, as they are the most sustainable and easy to use source of energy for the body.
Carbohydrates turn into glucose and glucose in stored form is “glycogen”, which is stored mainly in the muscles and secondarily in the liver.
Muscle glycogen is used during intense muscular activity, but also during cardio activity, along with liver glycogen. We recommend you to derive your carbs from grains like rice, oats and legumes, rather than simple sugars like sweets.
The recommended carbohydrate intake is the rest of the calories, after calculating your protein & fats, keeping in mind that one gram of carbs is also 4 calories, just like protein.
What do we mean by that- Let's take the 180 lbs. Individual for example.
Say it is a 180 lbs male that requires 2800 calories to maintain his weight. The macros for him would therefore look something like this:
Protein- 180 lbs * 1 = 180 gr = 720 calories
Fat- 180 lbs * 0.4= 72 gr = 648 calories
Carbs= 1432 calories (2800-720-648=1432 calories remaining) = 358 grams of carbs
Now that we know the MAINTENANCE calories & macronutrients, it is time to create the deficit, needed for the body to tap into the energy reserves- The fat.
It is important to note here that we have to create the deficit mostly at the expense of fats & carbs, with the second one being the predominant choice.
Proteins will be essential to keep the muscle retained as well as maintain a proper inner environment.
Another important mention is, as we said earlier, the rational deficit.
That is a deficit that will allow you to lose fat but also prevent muscle loss and give you energy for daily and exercise activities.
That is to say that we are looking for something sustainable that we can adhere to.
Dieting shouldn’t be a torture, as that would stress the organism, which, most of the times leads to negative outcomes.
By losing fat and getting shredded, we are looking to feel better, be healthier and look better.
The recommended caloric deficit is 400-500 calories per day.
1 lbs of fat contains 3500 calories, so a daily deficit of 500 calories will lead to a weekly deficit of 3500 calories, making our body burn 3500 calories for a week and shed off 1 lbs.
For individuals that have higher body fat percentages, that number can go up to 2 or even 3 lbs per week but that should be considered the upper limit, as a bigger deficit will lead to a yo-yo effect in the long term.
So, if we take the same 180 lbs. individual, who needs 2800 calories & 180, 72 and 358 grams of proteins, fats and carbs respectively, we can start off by removing 10 grams of fat (90 calories) and 80 grams of carbohydrates (320 calories).
That will make for a deficit of 410 calories.
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Adjusting the diet
It is important to know that these calculators and formulas only give an approximate number.
However, that number is accurate with +- 100-150 calories, meaning that a couple of adjustments would be needed before we reach the golden environment of 1 lbs/week.
To properly adjust the diet, start monitoring yourself.
Each Sunday, do a morning weigh-in on an empty stomach, before breakfast and after going to the toilet? This is your true weight.
Keep in mind that the first week, you will usually drop 3 to 5 lbs- Some fat, a lot of food weight and a lot of water weight.
After week 1, the real monitoring starts. If you start at, say, 180 lbs and after 7 days you reach 175 lbs, then your goal for the next week should be ~173 lbs.
If you are losing more than 1.5-2 lbs weekly, make sure to add some food! And vice versa, if you are not losing at least 1 lbs weekly, remove some food.
Ultimately, the goal is to reach a sustainable loss of ~2 lbs per week, during which, you shouldn’t feel exhausted.
Okay, we now know that we should eat less than the body requires to maintain its weight, all while giving it enough food to sustain activity and health.
But what about training, is it important?
Of course it is, especially if you are looking to get shredded rather than just lose fat.
Training will help you retain muscle tissue and also shape it up, if done correctly.
By doing the right resistance workouts, you will achieve an in-depth, detailed development of the musculature, meaning more fibers, rounder muscles and vascularity.
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General training guidelines
- First off, forget about hardcore training & high levels of intensity.
By nature intensity results in positive adaptations such as muscle growth and increases in strength, which is not the main goal of the shredding period.
The main goal is muscle retention & shaping, which can be realized through higher repetitions, moderate weights and lower rest times in-between sets.
- Secondly, include more isolated movements.
Compound movements generally are aimed towards muscular development and strength increases.
That however, doesn’t necessarily mean we should completely exclude them, but rather do them in the beginning and then moving on to isolated movements that will help us optimally contract each muscle group.
- Demolish your weak points.
Place your weaker muscle groups in the beginning of your training split or even the workout, doing more exercises, sets and repetitions for them.
- Avoid redlining!
As we mentioned in the first point, high levels of intensity are not the goal of a shredding workout.
Go into a flow that allows you to achieve optimal muscle contractions, pumps and stretches, through some compound and some isolated movements.
Is cardio needed?
As long as you have a caloric deficit, it is not really mandatory.
However, if done a couple times per week, it can have great benefits on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which is why we encourage you to include cardio workouts and even sprints at least once a week, during your shredding period.
However, we will say it again- Cardio is not the determining factor for fat loss.
Getting out of the shred
As we said, after losing fat, you might risk gaining it back if you suddenly start eating like you’re in an off-season again.
To avoid that, we need to do a reverse diet, knowing that the body takes time to adapt and get the metabolism back up to pace.
We recommend you to start increasing your caloric intake with 30-50 calories per week, adding protein & carbohydrates and tracking your weight.
Furthermore, you will have to gradually transition into a building period, as gaining more muscle will allow you to increase your metabolism.
That is simply because more muscle means you will need more energy to sustain it and of course, it will burn more energy through more work.
To do that transition in your workouts, start focusing more on compound movements again, while adding more weights and increasing rest times up to 90 seconds between sets.
To sum it up
In order for you to get shredded, you will need to subject yourself to a sustainable caloric deficit that gives you enough food for daily and exercise activities, recovery and doesn’t get you exhausted.
The workouts during the shredding period are done through some compound movements, some isolated movements and moderate intensity with higher repetitions, good contractions.
The rest times between sets and exercises are reduced to 30 seconds gradually and the workout frequency is 3 days on 1 day off for intermediate and advanced trainees.
As we get out of the diet, we start gradually adding more food to our diets while monitoring our weight and transitioning into a compound movement-based training, where we add weights and increase rest.
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