7 Reasons You Can't Get Ripped

And What To Do Instead


Can't Get Ripped?

Most people have tried to get ripped... and most have failed. So don't beat yourself up if you're one of them. Here are the most common reasons it didn't happen and how to prevent that from happening next time.

If you have body fat to lose, you'll need to be in a caloric deficit: take in fewer calories than needed to maintain or expend more calories than you're taking in.

The greater the deficit (say, 20% or more below your theoretical maintenance), the faster the fat loss. But that comes with an increased likelihood of muscle and strength loss. A more moderate deficit (10-20% below maintenance) will result in a slower rate of fat loss but also less likelihood of muscle and strength loss.

Of course, it's almost impossible not to lose some strength when you're dieting, but that doesn't mean you have to lay down and take it. Even when dieting, you should strive to increase or maintain what you're lifting. But when the bar starts feeling a little heavier, just know that it's okay.

What to do: There are ways to stay strong when dieting. But here's the main thing to remember: don't let temporary weakness derail your entire fat-loss plan. And don't assume you need a "refeed" so you feel stronger the next day. Refocus and remind yourself of the end goal. Keep grinding.

If you want to shed fat, then you're going to look flat... for a while anyway. You're carb and glycogen depleted, and your pumps are almost nonexistent.

When dieting, you get to a point where you start looking small. Sure, you're no longer holding a spare tire, but you may not be lean enough to see much definition around your abs. So naturally, you start thinking you're too small and have lost all of your gains. This is where most men stop dieting.

What to do: Don't panic. Feeling small is mostly in your head, and it's a short-term feeling. Drop a couple more digits of body fat, and you'll actually start to look bigger again.

Macros? If you didn't know what a macro was, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking it was a kind of shellfish or something. "I'll have the linguine with macros, please."

By talking macros (macronutrients) we're mostly referring to protein, fats, and carbs. The ratio of these plays a role in your health and body composition. Your macros also make up your total energy or calorie intake (kcal or kilojoules). Congrats if you already knew that, though, smartass.

What to do: Figure out how many calories you need and which macronutrients they'll come from to lose fat in a sustainable manner. If your goal is to get crazy ripped, realize that this is not a state you'll stay in for the rest of your life, and that's okay. Your calories and the ratio of macros you choose to eat will likely change to get to that place.

Food Awareness

Tracking your food using an app is a pain. But, it's a whole lot less painful than the old school way of adding it up with a pencil and notepad while looking everything up in an online nutrient directory or book.

Tracking your intake not only ensures you're hitting your daily targets, but it'll also increase your food awareness. Those who track when dieting tend to do better, even after they stop tracking.

They can afford to eat a more flexible diet. The likes of having to eat out shouldn't become an issue. Those who've experienced food tracking are also better at knowing what's in their food nutrient-wise. When they stop tracking, they're better at eyeballing the appropriate servings. Tracking should make you good at guesstimating macros just by looking at your plate.

What to do: You've got to start tracking. Getting truly ripped requires more accuracy than just staying relatively lean.

Sure, if you're eating the exact same thing every single day, then, okay, you don't really need to track. But if not, stop being lazy. Take the extra few seconds to scan a barcode or type your meal into your phone.

Excessively high expectations lead to disappointment. You'll fall short of your targets, which will decrease your motivation. Realistic expectations will give you a better picture of when you truly need to step up your efforts. And, if you're hitting your targets easily, you'll know when you might be able to introduce things like cheat meals or diet breaks.

What to do: Gauge your weekly weight loss and know what to expect.

Yes, scale weight has a lot of flaws, but I've not found a more consistent metric that'll show if you're hitting the mark (or not) each week. I'd even recommend weighing yourself multiple times each week to understand trends.

For example, regardless of poop status, I know I'll be two pounds lighter if I weigh at 6:30 AM versus 5:30 AM. It's important to understand how your own body functions so you can more accurately compare your progress to what's expected. Depending on how much extra weight you're carrying, here's what to expect:

  • Around half a pound per week if you're relatively lean and don't really need to lose weight.
  • Around 1-2 pounds per week if you're average or slightly overweight.
  • Around 2-3 pounds per week if you have a fair bit to lose, sometimes more depending starting point.

Training for a little of everything leads to a whole lot of nothing. While it might be somewhat on-trend to call yourself a "hybrid athlete," hitting the weights and pounding the pavement every day isn't an ideal approach to get you jacked and shredded over the next few months. Neither is trying to emulate the training of your favorite CrossFit athlete.

A 2.5X body weight deadlift, cannonball delts, shredded abs, a sub-6-minute mile... If you've got a long list of goals and you're training for all of them at the same time, you're going to hit none of them. It's like taking a shotgun to a job that requires a sniper rifle.

What to do: If your priority is to get shredded, direct all of your physical and mental efforts towards achieving that goal. Pick the best strength training, cardio, and dieting approach for that goal only. Once you've hit that target with precision, feel free to move on to the next one with sniper focus and precision.

Your diet's going well, you're crushing your workouts, and you're trimming down nicely. Then you listen to so-and-so's latest podcast, read their new book, or watch their YouTube channel, and go down the rabbit-hole of dieting information.

Of course, it's good to expose yourself to new perspectives, but hours spent listening to the benefits of any particular diet would cause anyone to second-guess their efforts. But the proof is in the mirror and on the scales. So, how crazy would it be for you to change your approach right now?

What to do: Don't let new information divert you from a path that's working. Your progress is all the evidence you need.

Sure, being an info sponge is great, but what you're hearing might not be applicable to you, your current priority of getting ripped, or your goal of retaining muscle. If your current plan isn't working, that's a sign to go back to the drawing board and reconsider what you're doing. But stop using "new information" as an excuse for dropping the program that could've gotten you ripped.

Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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