At some point, all of us want to show off what we've been working so hard for in the gym.
Perhaps it's something big you have planned, like a sunny two-week vacation or cruise, or maybe just a simple afternoon trip to the beach or pool. Regardless of where you wish to look your absolute best, this article will explain how to get there.
Obviously, I can't turn you from Homer Simpson into Ronnie Coleman, but if you're already relatively lean this plan will take you to the next level of definition and fullness. You won't get asked "Hey, do you work out?" but rather, "Damn, how much time do you spend in the gym per day?"
Diet is Key
Not surprisingly, the key to a hard physique is nutrition. You can train until you're blue and spend every waking hour (and sometimes every non-waking hour) on the treadmill, but if your diet isn't dialed in, your physique won't be dialed in, either.
So the main focus of this two-week turnaround will be your daily menu and manipulating it to harden up while retaining as much muscle as possible. We'll cover cardio, supplements, and training as well, but those are merely the icing on the cake. The bulk of your results will come from what you eat.
We'll be using carbohydrate cycling to prep for the big day. Carb cycling lets you take advantage of the fat-burning effects of a low carb diet while still allowing the benefits of a periodic carb up (increase metabolism, refill glycogen stores, increase leptin, and staving off potential catabolism).
Note. This exact setup might not be a perfect fit for your situation (perhaps you have three weeks, or just ten days), but you can see the general principles involved. Simply modify them to fit your own circumstances.
We kick things off with four low carb days in a row (Monday through Thursday). This serves to deplete glycogen stores and keep insulin levels low to optimize fat burning. I'd advise weight training two or three of these four days as it'll help deplete muscle glycogen, burn fat, and support muscle maintenance.
Cardio should be done every day – 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity. Some sprint intervals would work great here, or just alternating two minutes moderate with one minute hard. The goal is to burn both glycogen and fat.
How many carbs, you ask?
To start, we'll use .25 grams per pound of bodyweight (that's total bodyweight, not LBM). So if you weigh 200 pounds, you'll have 50 grams of carbs per day for four days in a row. That's pretty low, but we don't have much time and need to maximize progress (without risking catabolism) before the big day. If you weigh more (or less), just calculate accordingly.
Set protein at 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (so 300 grams for our 200 pound male) and fat at .25 grams per pound of bodyweight (50 grams). This gives a daily calorie total of 1850, a little less than 10 calories per pound of bodyweight.
Here's a sample daily menu using these macros.
Low Carb Day
- Wake-up: Take 2 caps Hot-Rox® Extreme and drink a cup of black coffee
- AM cardio. 30 minutes (fasted)
- Meal 1: Half-cup oatmeal (raw measure), 2.5 scoops Metabolic Drive® Protein, 1 teaspoon macadamia nut oil, 1 teaspoon psyllium husk (for fiber)
- Meal 2: 6 ounces chicken breast, large green salad with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Meal 3: 2.5 scoops Metabolic Drive® Protein, 1 ounce almonds or walnuts, 1 teaspoon psyllium husk
- Meal 4: 6 ounces turkey breast (cooked measure), 2 cups asparagus or cauliflower, 1.5 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
- Weight training workout *
- Meal 5: Two-thirds cup brown rice (cooked measure), 7 ounces lean fish (tuna, cod, etc.)
- Meal 6: 5.5 ounces eye of round steak (cooked measure), 2 cups broccoli, 4 caps Flameout®
* if you don't weight train on one of these days, swap meal 5 and meal 2 so you consume the carbs earlier in the day
Now Back Off The Throttle
After a string of low days, throw in a higher "carb load" day. This replenishes glycogen levels to support heavy training and staves off potential muscle catabolism while serving to keep the metabolism running efficiently.
For this higher carb day, set carbohydrate levels at 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight, protein at 1.25 grams per pound, and limit fats to the essential fatty acids in Flameout®. For our 200-pound individual, this comes out to roughly 2250 calories for the day, or 11 calories per pound of bodyweight. This is still low enough to promote fat loss, but with macronutrient manipulation set to optimize muscle retention.
For our 200-pound individual this carb load day would look something like this:
Carb Load Day
(No cardio on these days – just weight training)
- Meal 1: 1.5 cup egg whites, 3 pieces Ezekiel bread toast
- Meal 2: 5 ounces chicken breast (cooked measure), 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup broccoli
- Meal 3: 1 cup oatmeal (raw measure), 2 scoops Metabolic Drive® Protein
- Meal 4: 4 ounces turkey breast (cooked measure), 8 ounces sweet potato (cooked measure), 1 cup green beans
- Weight training workout
- Meal 5: 2 scoops Surge® Workout Fuel, 2 scoops Metabolic Drive® Protein
- Meal 6: 5.5 ounces eye of round steak (cooked measure), 1 cup brown rice, large green salad, 4 caps Flameout®
Note: If you're already lean and have a fast metabolism, think about bumping the carbs up to two grams per pound of bodyweight on this carb load day .
After the carb day, go back to the low carb menu and daily cardio. You might feel even more hunger in the days that follow since the carb load day speeds up the metabolism. Bite the bullet and stick to the plan. You'll now be burning more fat than before on these days. Tell yourself that hunger is just a byproduct of fat leaving the body.
Follow the low carb setup for three more days, then have another carb load day. You should now be about four days out from your event (assuming a 14 day setup). After this second carb load day go back to the low carb days but cut carbs in half (reduce each carb portion by 50%). This will further amplify fat burning and set you up for an effective carb load right before your event.
The day before the big day, start off with the low carb template, but in the evening switch the last three meals to the meals from the carb load day. This will help start to fill you out for the next day. On game day, use the carb load day menu again to keep filling out the muscles so they'll be full and tight.
As mentioned, cardio should be done on all the low carb days, preferably before meal one. If this doesn't jibe with your schedule, just get it done when you can. The next best time would be after your weight-training workout, but before you have your post workout meal. I suggested 30 minutes, but if you're on the softer side you may want to bump this up to 45 to 60 minutes a day. I didn't prescribe cardio on the carb load days, but for those with more fat to lose, adding some cardio on these days wouldn't be a bad idea. Remember, this is a two-week timeline and we're trying to make the most progress possible in the small window that we have.
A solid fat burner like Hot-Rox® Extreme would be a great addition to the diet, taken both pre-cardio and pre-workout. It will amplify your metabolism, suppress appetite, and give you some energy to work with when carbs are low.
Essential fatty acids are covered in the diet plan by way of Flameout®.
I'd also include creatine monohydrate (5 grams daily) to help retain muscle mass and strength.
I'd recommend getting to the gym at least five days a week during this two-week turnaround. How you split that up bodyparts-wise doesn't matter. You could do one or two body parts per day, or an upper / lower split, a push / pull / legs split, or some other variation.
The key is working the muscles to not only retain size but also burn calories and glycogen. Don't go nuts though, 60 to 90 minutes per session is plenty. If you're going to be taking full body pics on your game day, stop training legs about one week prior. Legs need some recovery time to look their best in terms of separation / definition.
Upper body training is fine right up to the finish line.
- Monday: Low
- Tuesday: Low
- Wednesday: Low
- Thursday: Low
- Friday: Carb Load
- Saturday: Low
- Sunday: Low
- Monday: Low
- Tuesday: Carb Load
- Wednesday: Very low (cut carbs in half)
- Thursday: Very low (cut carbs in half)
- Friday: Very low (cut carbs in half) then carb up in evening (Last three meals, 50 grams per meal).
- Saturday: Carb Load (Game day!)
- The day before your event, cut out all added sodium. This will help shed subcutaneous water, giving you a dry, hard look. Simply avoid adding any salt to foods, or using condiments with sodium in them like mustard or soy sauce.
- The day before your event, stop drinking fluids around 8 P.M. in the evening. This coupled with cutting sodium will help dry you out.
- On game day, just sip water through the day. As little as possible.
- Keep fluids and sodium high leading up to the last day. This shouldn't be hard to do as you'll probably be doing it already. When dieting, we tend to drink more fluids and salt heavily anyway. By keeping them high until the final days, you "teach" your body to flush them more efficiently, so when you do pull them out, your body continues to expel them at a fast rate.
- On game day, reintroduce sodium to your diet by salting all meals. Without fluids, sodium will pull subcutaneous water into the muscle, making you look not only drier but also fuller. A potent combo!
- If you're very lean, consider having a junk food type meal like burgers or pizza on the morning of your big day. The combination of fats, protein, and moderate carbs, along with a healthy dose of sodium, will give you a very full and hard look. Note, remember not to drink with this meal, and if you don't have a very defined physique already, it's probably best just to stick with the regular carb up meals.
Masterpieces take time. Two weeks isn't very long, but by using these principles you can maximize the progress you can make in that tight timeframe. Let's face it, life is busy, and opportunities for the average guy to show off the results of all his hard work in the gym don't come around too often. With a little planning and a shot of discipline, you can avoid looking like a sack of potatoes the next time you're walking around shirtless.