As the frost grows on the pumpkin, millions of folks who live in the northern side of North America start dreaming of balmy temperatures, fruity drinks, and sizzling white sandy beaches.
Most who choose to live in such inhospitable climates simply learn to accept that winter is just a part of life, another inevitability to go along with death, taxes, and lip-synching at a Britney Spears concert. Yet even the most positive, glass half-full, winter-loving zealot will eventually break down in their Ugg boots and book a week in Cancun or anywhere else where snow is still rightfully considered a four-letter word.
The problem is, cooler temperatures generally bring higher calorie eating, and lower calorie expenditure. That's a great thing, if it's 10,000 years ago and you're trying to survive a harsh winter; it's not so good if it's 2009 and you're using the uncomfortable temperatures to rationalize hibernating in front of the TV with a 12 pack of sticky buns.
So you gotta get outta town, now. But you suddenly have a lot of new fat cells that aren't going anywhere without a nice, long, sensible diet and exercise plan.
Or something a lot more radical.
The 7-Day Radical Diet
It's not that radical, really. All I want you to do is to completely remove your primary energy sources of carbohydrates and fats. That's right, absolutely none. It's only for one week, so you won't die; you'll only feel like it.
Fine. So no carbs, no fat. What's left to eat? Well, there's protein, protein, and more protein.
Now, you just can't consume any type of protein; it must be the lean, white stuff like water-packed tuna, chicken, turkey (breast meat only), quality protein powder like Metabolic Drive® or very lean cuts of pork. Beef, dairy (cottage cheese), and whole eggs are all off limits.
Eating lean proteins with no extra fat or carbohydrate does a few neat things to your body. The thermogenic effect (i.e. the production of heat leading to fat loss) is very important. As you're probably aware, protein has the greatest thermic effect of all the macronutrients.
In fact, the greatest amount of energy (as high as 30%) is required to process (digest, transport, metabolize, and store) protein. Carbohydrates and fats are much lower at a maximum of 10% and 3% respectively.
And less energy in and more energy out equates to weight loss. That can be good, but it can also be bad. Read on.
Sail the Protein Ship, But Don't go Overboard!
Quantity of intake must be relatively low. That means you'll consume small protein feedings very frequently, at least 6 times a day (every 2.5 to 3 hours). For example, a grilled chicken breast, or 1 regular can of water packed tuna, or two scoops of Metabolic Drive. Grill the meat in advance so you can quickly reheat it when it's time to eat. Grazing all day long will keep that metabolic flame stoked!
As for beverages, you can drink water. Actually, you HAVE to drink water.
If you choose to jump right into full Idiot-Mode and don't drink enough water, you're already screwing up. Failure to drink enough water on this plan upsets your sodium balance, and you actually end up retaining water under the skin, making you look bloated and fat.
Remember, caffeine can dehydrate you as well, which can contribute to that puffy look under the skin, so drink up.
Plenty of water is required to flush out the byproducts of protein metabolism. Keep in mind that each gram of carbohydrate carries about 3 grams of water with it, so if you're getting no carbs, you're getting no water. Make sure to drink cold spring water (not distilled as it will further deplete your mineral stores) throughout the day. As far as hot drinks go, black coffee is permitted, although green tea is preferred.
This strategy alone will shrink-wrap your body in two ways. First, by removing all that subcutaneous water beneath your skin during the weeklong protein-only fest, and then by superhydrating your muscle cells when you go carb crazy the following week. The first week you'll look like a smaller, leaner version of your former self while the second week, your muscles will fill out and you'll look like a pumped up, muscular He Man.
Tip #1: Drink large amounts of water (at least 8-10 12 oz. glasses a day. To calculate the number of ounces a day, multiply your weight by 0.5) on this plan. This will saturate your muscle cells and help to shed that layer of water beneath your skin.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Your system will start to tap into your body fat stores for energy. That's good. Through the process of gluconeogenesis, your body will also catabolize muscle tissue for energy. That's bad. However, you can curtail this process somewhat by keeping your protein stores elevated. But without any carbs or fats, most people will feel like a 10-pound bag of wet fertilizer. That's the ugly part. Fortunately, I have a solution.
They're called stimulants; and boy will you need them! The old school ephedra + caffeine stack can be useful in this application, but the problem is it burns out the adrenal glands quicker than a fasted three hour jog through the streets of Baghdad.
A better alternative is a quality ephedra-free formulation like Biotest Hot-Rox® Extreme. Hot-Rox® Extreme has yohimbine HCL and Carbolin 19, two powerful fat burning agents that have led to many lifters leaving ephedra behind for the meth heads in the trailer park. But for our purposes, we want Hot-Rox® in our tool belt for its well-documented appetite suppressing feel-good factor.
Let's face it, eating nothing but small amounts of protein sucks. If a supplement can make all this feel even just a little bit easier by allowing us to forget how damn hungry we are, we'll take it.
A few other supplements that help on this plan include a quality whole food supplement like Biotest® Superfood (this is good insurance, especially when fruits and vegetables are non-existent in your diet) as well as branched-chain amino acids and creatine (these guys are extremely beneficial when carb intake is low; you can take them all day long i.e. upon awakening, between meals and before going to bed.
But they are particularly useful during and around your workouts.) A quality EPA/DHA supplement like Flameout® is also a requirement for obvious reasons; especially considering that your diet is restricted to just fat-free proteins.
Tip #2: If you plan to travel to a third-world country (or Buffalo), start taking probiotics (i.e. "friendly" bacteria) a week before your journey. This is a good preventative measure to help repel parasites that you may encounter while you're away.
Also, if a hot spot is your final destination, consider establishing a base tan (fake bake if you will – just remember to build it up gradually over a few days) and take care of all that hygiene stuff like trimming your nails and maybe shaving or waxing that ape-like body of yours . . . if you're so inclined.
Tip #3: Don't tan too fast. Burning even slightly will cause edema (the swelling of tissues that promote healing) and can leave you looking puffy. Build up that tan gradually to show off your muscularity. A good tan looks healthy; a bad one looks like you're a 21-year old douchebag from New Jersey.
All Aboard the Overtrain
Training will be important this week. You actually want to overtrain (or more appropriately, you need to induce a state of overreaching which is basically a short-term, transient form of overtraining). In other words, if you're used to training 3 days a week, I want you to train 6 days this week. They won't be long sessions, but they will be intense.
Contrary to popular belief, use low repetitions in your training because you won't have the energy to perform tons of reps. Pick the big boys, though: squats, deadlifts, chins, dips, presses and rows, and structure your program in this manner:
- Day 1 Chest & Back #1
- Day 2 Legs & Abs #1
- Day 3 Delts & Arms #1
- Day 4 Off
- Day 5 Chest & Back #2
- Day 6 Legs & Abs #2
- Day 7 Delts & Arms #2
- Day 8 Event
- A1. Incline Bench Press
- A2. Subscapularis Pull-Ups
- Use a wide, pronated (palms forward) grip on the bar. Pull your body up until your chin clears the bar, then push yourself away from the bar as you lower.
- B1. Flat Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press
- Palms are facing each other.
- B2. Seated Cable Row
- A1. Back Squat
- A2. Lying Leg Curl
- Keep the feet neutral (neither pointed in or out) and plantarflexed (pointed away).
- B1. Romanian Deadlift
- B2. Sicilian Crunch
- Lay on a Swiss ball or AbMat and crunch upwards with a dumbbell or weight plate resting on your chest. At the top of the movement, extend your arms and keep them in-line with your trunk as you lower slowly to the bottom.
- A1. Parallel-Bar Dips
- A2. Mid-Incline Hammer Curls
- B1. Standing Military Press
- B2. Seated Zottman Curls
- Raise the weight with a supinated (palms up) grip and lower with a pronated (palms down) grip.
Take this day off from training. This would be a good time to go for a tan, haircut, maybe do some shopping for clothes, toiletry, etc. and pack your suitcase. If you're going away, you could also take care of some of that "hygiene" stuff, you hairy bastard.
- A1. Bent-Over Barbell Row
- A2. Low Incline Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press
- Set the bench at 10-20 degrees and use a neutral (palms facing each other) grip.
- B1. Sternum Parallel-Grip Pulldowns
- B2. Flat Pronated-Grip Cable Flyes
- Position a flat bench in the middle (perpendicular) of a cable crossover unit. Attach a rope to each low-pulley and use a pronated (palms forward) grip. The elbows should be slightly bent and the wrists straight and firm as you perform the flye motion.
- A1. Bent-Knee Deadlift
- A2. Seated Leg Curl
- B1. Russian Good Mornings
- Adopt a wide grip on the bar and a wide stance on the floor. Lower into a quarter squat and then keep your knees fixed at that angle rotating only around the hips. Make sure to keep your back flat (don't round your back) and stick your chest out.
- B2. Hanging Leg Raises
- A1. Seated Preacher EZ-Bar Reverse Curls
- A2. Close-Grip Bench Press
- B1. Close-Grip Chin-Ups
- Use a supinated (palms facing you) grip and position your hands about 4-6 inches apart.
- B2. Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extensions
Take plenty of low rep (below 5) warm-ups progressing up to your working weight, which you will perform for only 2-3 sets of no more than 4 or 5 reps. Raise the weight as fast as possible and lower it slowly under control. Take as much rest as you need between sets, but make sure to complete your workout in under an hour (30-45 minutes should be enough for this routine) and you're good to go.
Tip #4: Structure your program in a vertical sequence pairing antagonistic (opposite) muscle groups/exercises/movements for optimal effect. (Note the "A" and "B" exercise pairs in the above program.) Doing so will increase rest intervals allowing for complete recovery and greater recruitment of high threshold fibers while promoting greater range of motion and balance around the joint(s). All of this will increase strength and performance especially when energy levels might be low.
Wow, What a Feeling!
This plan gives you permission not to train while you're away and actually grow and get stronger through the magic of supercompensation. The first half of the week is necessary to recover from all that intense training and the second half of the week is used to overcompensate, so that you return from your vacation bigger and stronger.
It allows you to enjoy your holiday or event since you can consume what you like, when you like, with absolutely no restrictions- your muscles will simply soak it all up! At this point they're like sponges, and from my experience you've got a good 3 or 4 days (if not longer) of filling out the right way.
Think of the first time you took creatine – it's that kind of feeling, where your muscles swell up with fluid as if you're connecting a garden hose to them. Also, you can ride the anabolic wave of increased testosterone and insulin while a jacked-up thyroid will keep fat gain at bay.
While eating whatever the hell you want is truly one of life's greatest rewards, at some point (like at day 3 or 4) the supercompensation window starts to wane, and you'll likely want to start curtailing your intake of simple sugars, starches, and enormous portions. Packing a quality meal replacement powder like Metabolic Drive Complete fits the bill nicely here.
I certainly don't suggest switching to an all powder diet, but even replacing even one or two trips to the buffet a day with a quality food supplement can help mitigate some of the damage that too many days of prolonged gorging can have on your newly-chiseled physique.
That's the plan. Battle through one tough week of boring food and intense training and you'll be rewarded in the end with a lean, rock-hard physique.
Get ripped quick schemes are a lot like get rich schemes; they rarely work and usually backfire. But combining a smart plan with a little hard work and dietary discipline can go a long way towards putting the finishing touches on a physique that deserves a second look.