Refined Physique Transformation

What if I Had to do it All Over Again

A while ago I wrote a series of articles detailing my transformation from fat to fit. While this series helped put my name on the map as a body transformation coach, it also left me with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Simply put, I can't stand to read that piece anymore!

Before & After

While the results from my transformation were good, I know that I took a sub-optimal route to get there. From what I know now, all the variables involved – the training program, nutritional approach, and supplements regimen – could be much improved. There's also the fact that when I look at the pictures from that series, I'm somewhat sad. I'm in such better shape right now that it feels awkward to look back at what I thought was "good shape."

Over the past few years I've been able to reach much lower body fat levels (as low as 3 to 4%) while adding a significant amount of muscle mass. And, except for one foray into the world of "bulking," I never exceeded 9-10% body fat over the past three years, more often than not staying at 8% or less.

I've also helped numerous physique competitors get into great shape, so I feel I'm much better equipped now to design an optimal mutation program. While I won't go into a week-by-week plan, here's how I'd do it all over again.


Nutrition is undoubtedly the most important aspect of body transformation. If you eat like crap, even if you're training hard, you won't reach your physique goals. Sadly, there's no magical program when trying to get super lean; we're all somewhat different so not all types of diet are ideal for everybody.

However, there's one thing that we can hold almost as a universal truth of body transformation: the fatter you are, the fewer carbs you should take in. This goes both for the quantity and frequency of the carb ingestion.

The leaner you are, the more carbs you can ingest on a day-to-day basis and the more frequent carb-ups you should use. Fatter individuals will need to stay away from carbs as much as possible until they get their body fat to a more acceptable level.

Although I can't give exact numbers that'll be perfect for everybody, the following can give you a good starting point when planning carb intake. (Remember that these numbers are for those who want to lose fat, not bulk up.)

For Men

  • Above 20% body fat:  no more than 30g of carbs per day
  • 15-20% body fat:  0.25g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • 12-15% body fat:  0.35g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • 10-12% body fat:  0.45g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • Less than 10% body fat:  0.55g of carbs per pound of body weight per day

For Women

  • Above 25% body fat:  no more than 30g of carbs per day
  • 20-25% body fat:  0.25g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • 17-20% body fat:  0.35g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • 14-17% body fat:  0.45g of carbs per pound of body weight per day
  • Less than 14% body fat:  0.55g of carbs per pound of body weight per day

The leanness factor is also applied to the frequency and magnitude of your carb-up (higher carb days):

For Men

  • Above 20% body fat:  carb-up at around 0.75g of carbs per pound every 14 days
  • 15-20% body fat:  carb-up at around 0.75g of carbs per pound every 10 days
  • 12-15% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.0g of carbs per pound every 7 days
  • 10-12% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.25g of carbs per pound every 7 days
  • Less than 10% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.25g of carbs per pound every 4-5 days

For Women

  • Above 25% body fat:  carb-up at around 0.75g of carbs per pound every 14 days
  • 20-25% body fat:  carb-up at around 0.75g of carbs per pound every 10 days
  • 17-20% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.0g of carbs per pound every 7 days
  • 14-17% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.25g of carbs per pound every 7 days
  • Less than 14% body fat:  carb-up at around 1.25g of carbs per pound every 4-5 days

The type of food you're allowed on those carb-up/refeed days changes too based on how fat you are:

For Men

  • Above 20% body fat:  carb-up only with clean carbs (yams, non-green veggies, fruits, oatmeal, rice, potatoes, grits, etc.)
  • 15-20% body fat:  carb-up only with clean carbs
  • 12-15% body fat:  carb-up mostly with clean carbs. One or two "cheat" items is acceptable but avoid eating foods that are both high in fat and sugar.
  • 10-12% body fat:  Carb-up can include a bit more cheat food, but still stay away from fat/sugar combo foods.
  • Less than 10% body fat:  the refeed can be more lenient. While results will be better with cleaner food, when you get down below 10% it's okay to include some dirtier meals (pizza, burgers, pastries, etc.) in your refeed day.

For Women

  • Above 25% body fat:  carb-up only with clean carbs (yams, non-green veggies, fruits, oatmeal, rice, potatoes, grits, etc.)
  • 20-25% body fat:  carb-up only with clean carbs
  • 17-20% body fat:  carb-up mostly with clean carbs, one or two "cheat" items is acceptable but avoid eating foods that are both high in fat and sugar.
  • 14-17% body fat:  Carb-up can include a bit more cheat food, but stay away from fat/sugar combo foods.
  • Less than 14% body fat:  Carb-up can include a little more cheat food, but still stay away from fat/sugar combo foods.

As you can see, for quick body composition changes I do recommend using a low-carb approach. Carb-cycling is a very effective way of eating. When properly planned it'll allow you to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain. But when it comes to rapid drops in body fat, a carb cycling approach isn't ideal unless you're below 10% body fat.

Fish Oil

One mistake I made when I underwent my original transformation was that I didn't include enough fish oil. I now firmly believe that mega-dosing fish oil is one of the best strategies you can use to impart drastic body comp changes to your physique.

When in a rapid fat loss phase, most of my clients will ingest at least 15g of fish oil, sometimes up to 30-40g. I personally use 30g per day. I like to use one or two servings of Flameout® per day and I make up the rest with a good blend of fish oil.

I do split the intake of fish oil throughout the day, normally at 3 to 5g per meal over five or six meals a day. (I don't take it post-workout.)

Protein Intake

In my original transformation, my protein intake was too high and my fats were too low. This led to some muscle loss and lack of energy. A lot of people don't limit themselves to a low-carb diet; they also ingest very little fat.

They reason that if they drop the carbs, their body will be forced to use fat for fuel, which is true. They go wrong by taking their reasoning one step further and assuming that if they cut out fat from their diets too, then they'll burn much more fat because the body will have to scavenge its own fatty acid reserve.

It will, to some extent. But the thing is that if one energy source is disproportionately high compared to the other ones, the body will adapt to use this fuel source as its main one. So if your protein intake is way higher than the other nutrients, your body will become good at using protein for fuel. Since protein is an inefficient fuel source, the body will be quick to breakdown muscle tissue to produce the energy required: you'll be burning down the walls to heat the house!

So remember, when using a low-carb approach, fat intake should be high enough for your body to avoid turning into a protein-burning machine. During a proper low-carb diet, your fat intake should be pretty close to your protein intake. Remember that 1 gram of fat has 9 calories while 1 gram of protein has 4. So 110g of fat is equal to 250g of protein. A 50/50 ratio (plus trace carbs) is a good place to start.

As your body becomes "fat adapted" (good at using fat for fuel – this requires 10-14 days) it's possible to gradually reduce the proportion of fat in the diet. But I'd avoid going down lower than 30-35% and personally I stick to 40-50%. So if your caloric intake is set at 2750kcals/day (a good place to start for a 200-210 pound individual) it means that you should ingest around 320g of protein, 150g of fat, and anywhere from 0 to 30g of carbs (or a bit higher depending on your body fat levels).

When dieting down using a low carb approach, ingesting 1.4 to 1.6g of protein is plenty if your intake of good fats is adequate. Natural trainees do have a limited capacity to build muscle from the ingested protein, so anything more than that will simply be turned into glucose (via gluconeogenesis) and your body will then become good at using protein for fuel. This will both slow down fat loss and facilitate muscle loss.

Every time you consume a caloric deficit you'll have to bump up calories to prevent muscle loss, but too much protein might very well be as bad as too little protein in that case!

Green Veggies

In my initial transformation I included the carbs from green veggies in my dietary allowance. For that reason I actually stayed away from them. I preferred to have more leeway with my carbs than to have 20g of carbs from greens.

Well, after talking to some experts and reading more on the subject, I've stopped counting the carbs from green veggies. Most of them are fiber and aren't absorbed by the body. So now I try to eat as many green veggies as possible. I emphasize broccoli, cucumbers, celery, and lettuce.

First, it helps keep me full, which is very good for appetite control. It also helps slow down the absorption of nutrients which keeps the body anti-catabolic due to the steady flow of nutrients entering the bloodstream.

Fiber will also clean the digestive tract. This will have a positive effect on nutrient absorption (more of the protein you eat will actually be absorbed). So the bottom line is that you shouldn't hold back on the greens for fear of overshooting your carbohydrate allowance.

The Berardi Compliance Form

During my original transformation, I often made the mistake of compensating one slight cheat with excessive restriction. For example, on the occasions that I fell off the dieting wagon and indulged in a "bad" food, I'd make the double mistake of skipping a meal to make up for the cheat. The thing is, a missed meal is just as bad as a cheat meal when talking about body composition.

Missed meals can negatively impact your insulin sensitivity and lead to fat storage, muscle loss, lack of energy, and hunger pangs (which can lead to binging). Simply put, never make up for a mistake with a second one. Cheating is bound to happen (hopefully very infrequently) and if it happens, you must resume your scheduled diet as soon as possible.

I'm now using Dr. Berardi's diet compliance form: I have seven meals a day so that's 49 meals a week. I shoot for a 90% compliance to the diet so I can basically "afford" five dietary mistakes per week. A missed meal is a mistake; so is eating a non-diet meal.

Normally, I try to put all five "mistakes" on the same day (my cheat day, which is normally on Saturday) but sometimes – either when I'm below 8% or in a mass gaining phase – I'll have one or two cheat meals on Thursday and two to three on Saturday. But the point is that you should shoot for 90% compliance to the planned diet, and don't forget that missing a meal is a mistake too.

Another aspect of compliance is that when an unplanned binge/cheat happens you should go back to your planned diet ASAP. A lot of people use such unplanned binges to go off of their diets for a few days. What often happens is that someone might cheat on a Wednesday, reason that his whole week is messed up, and will decide to "get back into it on Monday."

So they set themselves mentally to eat like crap for four or five days before getting back on the wagon. This makes no sense. It's like blowing a tire by accident and then decide you "might as well blow the other three since I'll be going to the garage on Monday."

Bottom line: unplanned cheating shouldn't be an excuse for getting off of your plan.


Rather than critique the supplement plan I used in the past, I'll tell you what strategies I use right now and what I recommend to my clients.

Peri-Workout Nutrition

When dieting down the first time I kinda dismissed peri-workout nutrition, instead believing that any nutrients ingested pre and during workout would have a detrimental effect on my fat loss. I also stayed away from peri-workout carbs to stay as low as possible. This was a big mistake on my part.

I know now that proper pre, during, and post-workout nutrition can drastically enhance your muscle growth. And during a fat loss phase, anything that can help increase your anabolic drive will help you maintain (or even increase) muscle mass.

We understand the need to quickly replenish the depleted glycogen stores post-workout, to spike insulin in order to create an anabolic milieu, to shuttle protein to the muscle as fast as possible after a session to maximize growth, and to reduce the negative impact of cortisol during the workout. I now believe that not including a good peri-workout nutritional strategy is counterproductive to body transformation.

The thing is that we still don't want to go above the prescribed carb intake for the day. So there are two possible solutions:

1 - Rely on Mag-10® post-workout without exceeding the daily carb allowance.

This works best for relatively lean individuals (15% or less) since their daily carb allowance is higher. For example, someone who's 210 pounds at 15% body fat could ingest as much as 75g of carbs per day. One full serving of the new Surge has 49g of carbs, so technically one can ingest as much as half a serving split pre and during workout and one full serving post-workout if he doesn't consume any carbs during the day.

However, it might be "safer" to use half a serving split pre and during and another half serving post-workout. In that case I'd add 10-15g of glutamine to both drinks to compensate for the decreased carbs.

2 – Replace the carbs with other ingredients that might have a similar effect.

Carbs themselves are not anabolic; they can help muscle growth through glycogen replenishment and via an insulin spike, which prevents muscle breakdown and facilitates the uptake of amino acids in the muscle. If we can get these same benefits without using carbs, the anabolic response will be adequate too.

A good strategy to use is this:

Pre-Workout (30 minutes prior)

  • 5g glutamine
  • 5g creatin
  • 5g BCAA
  • Half scoop of whey isolate (12-16g)


  • 20-40g of BCAA (the more you can afford the better)
  • 10g of glutamine


  • 20-40g of glutamine (work up progressively as some might have stomach problems with mega dosing)
  • 10-15g glycine
  • 10-15g leucine
  • 1.5 scoops of whey isolate (40-45g)

Leucine can spike insulin almost as well as carbs but it doesn't take you out of ketosis or prevent you from being in a fat-adapted state. Glutamine and glycine are two amino acids that have been shown to restore muscle glycogen almost as well as carbs. The 35-55g of combined G&G will almost have the same effect on glycogen replenishment as a similar dose of carbs.

The whey isolate has the same purpose as "regular" post-workout nutrition: to provide building blocks for muscle growth. So basically you're using individual amino acids to stimulate the effect of carbs on insulin production (leucine) and glycogen replenishment (glutamine, glycine).

HOT-ROX® Extreme

I did use the original HOT-ROX in my first transformation and it worked very well. But honestly, the new HOT-ROX® Extreme is light years ahead of everything else. I personally have to use only one capsule per day most of the time because of its strong effect!

Feel Good Supplements – Body and Mind

In most people, the psychological aspect of dieting down is the hardest to master. It's no different for serious lifters who are dead-set on transforming their bodies. While a hardcore trainee deciding to get cut generally has a stronger will and more discipline than the average couch potato, some things can chip away at that determination and eventually undermine his effort. Here are a few of these things and what you can do about it:

1 – Feeling Like You're Shriveling Down

While the average dieter likes to feel smaller, the bodybuilding dieter doesn't. Feeling smaller makes you believe (sometimes rightfully so) that you're losing muscle mass. This problem is compounded by the fact that until you get down to something like 10% body fat, you won't actually be lean enough to see a significant difference. So until you're lean enough to see decent muscle definition you'll only feel and look smaller. Obviously this isn't very conducive to diet compliance!

All those efforts and you don't feel or look better... yet. Those who are able to reach their physique goals are those who can get through that psychological barrier and eventually reach a body fat level that will make them look bigger even though they're getting smaller.


However, I'd venture to say that a vast majority of "body transformers" stop their programs way before they can get the body they want. I can't blame them though. In the past I tried numerous times to get ripped but could never make it past the four to six week mark, not because of a lack of will or discipline, but rather because I honestly felt that my body wasn't headed the right way. It wasn't until I toughed it out for the long run that I reached the physique I wanted.

Before I decided to go all the way, regardless of the outcome, I'd always go back on a mini-bulk because I felt flat and weak. Feeling "flat" (like your muscles are empty shells) can be the dieting bodybuilder's number one nemesis. We all like the feeling of being pumped, full and tight. So when that feeling goes away we often panic and stop the diet.

Sometimes this situation can lead to another problem: the lack of pump during your workout can make you increase your training volume way too much. A lot of people are "stimulus addicts." They simply love the pump they get in the gym. When dieting down, the pump might not be as intense, so in an effort to get the same level of pump as when they're not dieting down, some guys will jack up the volume, chasing the elusive pump.

The problem is that when you're dieting down your body doesn't have the capacity to handle as much physical work because you're not giving it as much fuel. So doing too much volume can lead to stagnation and even muscle loss.

Okay, so what can we do to avoid feeling flat and small? A very simple trick is to combine glutamine, creatine, and glycerol/glycerin several times a day. Glutamine and creatine are both muscle cell volumizers, meaning that they can "fill up" the muscle, making it less likely to feel flat.

Glycerin has been shown to increase water storage in the muscle. That's why endurance athletes use glycerol/glycerin during their race: it keeps the muscles hydrated. Bodybuilders have also been using it before stepping onstage because it pulls water out from under the skin and into the muscle, making them look both dryer and fuller.


The late Dan Duchaine was the first one to recommend using glycerol/glycerine for bodybuilding purposes. More recently, authorities such as Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale and yours truly have been recommending glycerol/glycerine when on a low-carb diet. It helps keep you feeling pumped and full and allows you to train harder (muscle dehydration equals loss of strength).

I recommend 5g of glutamine, 5g of creatine, and 15g of glycerin/glycerol taken four to five times a day (morning, two to three hours pre-workout, 30 minutes pre-workout, during the workout) for maximum results.

2 – Feeling Run Down

Dieting and hard training can take its toll on the brain and nervous system. Technically, if your caloric intake is set properly and if your fat intake is high enough, you shouldn't lack physical energy. Give your body enough fuel and it'll function properly (although it might take it 7-10 days to adapt to the nutrient dominance of the diet).

But a lot of people still feel tired and lack energy when dieting down. When this becomes a burden to their everyday tasks, the diet is often stopped. In some cases this psychological stress is due to dietary boredom (when you're using a low-carb diet you don't have a very wide meal choice) or to carbohydrate "addiction" – a high sugar diet can become almost as addictive physiologically and psychologically as other forms of addictions.

However, in a lot of cases it can be due to a draining of the CNS or a neurotransmitter imbalance. Brain Candy™ can do a lot of good things to enhance CNS restoration and neurotransmitters production. I've found this supplement to really improve my mood and diet compliance in the later stages of a fat loss diet. I normally use two to three servings spread throughout the day.


Most gym rats are aware of the benefits of a good creatine supplement during a mass gain/hypercaloric phase:

  1. Creatine increases strength and power output which allows you to lift more weight, thus stimulate more growth.
  2. Creatine allows you to perform a few more reps at a high level of lifting intensity, again allowing you to stimulate more muscle growth.
  3. Creatine allows you to recover faster between intense sets of an exercise. This can increase lifting density (more total work per unit of time) which is another powerful stimulus for muscle growth.
  4. Creatine causes muscle cell volumization (each gram of creatine stored in the muscle brings 2.7g of water with it) which increases intra-muscular pressure, shown to put the body in an anabolic state.
  5. The "muscle swelling" effect also positively affects strength by way of better mechanical levers.

But what about when dieting down? Well, creatine can help for many of the same reasons. I always say in regard to training that the methods that are best to make your muscles grow while bulking are also the best ones to help you retain that muscle when cutting. The same holds true for supplements, and particularly creatine.

Besides the "feeling fuller" effect, creatine will help you maintain or gain strength while dieting down. It will also allow you to be able to perform the work you have to do in the gym, which will allow you to keep your muscle mass while losing fat.

It has also been shown that creatine supplementation can actually increase metabolic rate by around 5%, which amounts to you burning an additional 120-160 calories per day. Nothing enormous, but when trying to get super lean every single bit counts.

Strength Training

One mistake I made was performing too much strength work when trying to get super lean. While I did get lean, I made the process much harder physically and mentally than it should've been. My mutation looks good on paper, but to be honest it wasn't all rainbows and roses! There were some times where I barely made it to the gym and really put in a token effort once there. This wasn't because of a lack of will or because I was being a wuss, but simply because I'd worked myself into the ground.

While on some days I did feel pretty good and had decent workouts, on some other days I was either a mindless zombie or a psychopath! This also had some negative repercussions on my life: I didn't have much energy to perform my daily tasks, I sucked as a boyfriend, etc.

I'm a big believer in Dr. Berardi's G-Flux approach; however, when calories and carbs are very low and you do have a busy schedule, doing a ton of training might work against you rather than for you.

To get a good idea of my current approach to strength training and fat loss, take a look at my Destroying Fat article. The gist of it is to include:

1 – Two or three heavy lifting sessions per week

"Heavy" is a relative term. A newbie with less than a year of lifting experience should avoid going too low in reps. Similarly, I don't think it's smart for someone 16 or under to go below 5 reps per set, unless he already has several years of serious training experience.

Lifting heavy, and especially trying to increase your strength in a selected rep range, is the absolute best way to force your body to maintain or even increase its muscle mass while dieting. Face it, when calories are on the low side your body really doesn't want to add any more of that energy-hogging tissue called muscle. It must have a darn good reason to keep or increase its muscle mass.

That "good reason" is having to produce a lot of force on a regular basis. If you don't keep at least some heavy lifting while dieting, muscle preservation will be very hard to accomplish and you can forget about adding muscle size!

2 – One or two lactate-inducing sessions per week

Ever since Coach Poliquin started to use lactate-inducing workouts for cutting phases, these types of workouts have been the gold standard when it comes to lifting for fat loss. An increase in lactate production is linked to a surge in growth hormone output (that lasts up to an hour or two after the completion of the workout) which facilitates the mobilization of stored fat. This means that more fat is burned for energy.

The keys to inducing a maximum lactate production are:

  1. Performing a high density of work. This means taking very short rest intervals between sets and performing a relatively high number of reps per set. Basically, the goal is to perform as much work as possible in a selected period of time.
  2. Avoiding muscle unloading during a set. This simply means that the muscles being worked during a set should always be under tension, never relaxed. So you shouldn't take any rest between reps (e.g. holding the bar at arms length for two to three seconds between reps on the bench press). If the exercise includes a "locked joint" position at the end of the movement (any form of pressing, squats, leg presses, deadlifts) you should either squeeze the muscles hard at the end of each rep, or stop one or two inches short of lockout to avoid having the load being supported mostly by the skeletal structure instead of the muscles.
  3. Train the whole body or at least a large portion of the body. The bigger the muscle mass involved, the more lactate will be produced. For the same reason, compound movements will be better for lactate-inducing purposes than isolation work (e.g. a squat is superior to a wrist curl

As long as all these elements are respected, any lactate-inducing workout will work – circuits, Tabatas, complexes, German Body Comp, etc. As lactate production is maximized, fat loss will happen. There are no secret workouts: focus on lactate production and you can't go wrong!

I'd like to say a few things about complexes though. I know they're very popular right now, but personally I'm not fond of them. They will work, no doubt about that. As I mentioned, anything that increases lactate production to sky-high levels that are sustained for a certain period of time will lead to fat loss. However, I feel that any form of Olympic lifts (which are part of complexes) should never be performed for high reps or in a fatigued state.

This is mostly for safety reasons. If the lifts can't be performed using excellent technique, they shouldn't be used at all. The Olympic lifts are very effective movements, but if they're not done properly they do carry a relatively high risk of injury.

When you're fatigued, maintaining a proper lifting technique will be hard. Individuals who are super efficient technically (those who've been training on the lifts for years) will be able to pull it off, but most people will suffer from technique degradation as fatigue sets it. This increases the risk of injury and it also makes you learn bad motor habits.

During a lactate-inducing workout, most of your reps will be performed in a fatigued state. Technique will suffer when you're fatigued, so you end up performing a lot of incorrect reps which will ingrain bad technique.

If someone can perform complexes with perfect technique during a whole lactate-inducing workout, then more power to them. But there's nothing magical about complexes; they work because they increase whole-body lactate production. There are safer ways to do this.

I do believe that when using a lactate-inducing protocol one should use mechanically simple movements to reduce the risk of injury. Remember that it's the lactate production and caloric expenditure that make this method work. For that matter, 4-8 x 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest would also work very well as a lactate-inducing workout.

A good weekly training split could look like this:

  • Monday: Chest and back, heavy
  • Tuesday: Legs, heavy
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: Lactate-inducing workout
  • Friday: Arms (heavy) and shoulders
  • Saturday: Lactate-inducing workout
  • Sunday: OFF

Here are the loading parameters for the "heavy" sessions:


  • Exercises: 3 for big muscle groups, 2 for small ones
  • Reps per set: 6 to 10 reps
  • Sets per exercise: 3-4
  • Possible special techniques: none


  • Exercises: 3 for big muscle groups, 2 for small ones
  • Reps per set: 4 to 8 reps
  • Sets per exercise: 4-5
  • Possible special techniques: antagonist supersets, rest-pause


  • Exercises: 2-3 for big muscle groups, 2 for small ones
  • Reps per set: 3 to 5 reps
  • Sets per exercise: 5-6
  • Possible special techniques: antagonist supersets, rest-pause, partials at end of set, double contraction (one and a half reps)

Energy Systems Work

Most people will need to perform some energy systems work to get super lean. However, that doesn't mean doing endless hours on the Stairmaster. We're not gerbils! In the past I recommended a lot of interval energy systems work. However, I do feel that when using a low carb approach, this isn't ideal.

High intensity energy systems work relies mostly on glycogen for energy. But when you're on a low-carb diet your glycogen stores won't be as high as during a normal diet. And the limited amount of glycogen you have will be needed for the heavy lifting sessions and lactate-inducing workouts.

Adding-in high intensity energy systems work will only lead to further depletion of the glycogen stores and to muscle catabolism. The body will break down muscle tissue into amino acids which will then be transformed into glucose by the liver.

So when adding ESW to a low-carb diet you should focus on the methods where glucose use is minimal. This means either low-intensity cardio or very short sprints. Low-intensity cardio at 65-70% of your max heart rate won't use too much glucose/glycogen.

Yes, this form of training burns less calories than intervals. However, when carbs are restricted, intervals can lead to muscle loss. Low-intensity work won't. Sprints lasting around 10-12 seconds can also be used since they rely mostly on phosphagens for fuel, but anything longer than 15 seconds won't be as effective.

Low-intensity work is best performed right after the lactate-inducing sessions because fat mobilization is at its highest. This way, the low-intensity work will be much more effective than if it were used by itself. Thirty minutes at around 70% of your max heart rate is sufficient for optimal fat loss.

So the updated schedule becomes:

  • Monday: Chest and back heavy
  • Tuesday: Legs, heavy
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: Lactate-inducing workout, then 30 minutes low-intensity ESW
  • Friday: Arms (heavy) and shoulders
  • Saturday: Lactate-inducing workout, then 30 minutes low-intensity ESW
  • Sunday: OFF

A third session could possibly be added after the leg workout, but I'd start at only two weekly sessions and bump it to three only when fat loss stalls.

This is one problem I see with a lot of people attempting a body transformation: they do too much too soon. They set their caloric intake at a super low level from the start, perform tons of cardio, and use all the fat loss supplements known to man. They lose fat fast, but eventually the body will adapt and they'll stop progressing.

Where can they go now? They can't cut calories even more without risking muscle loss, they can't add more training without interfering with that little thing called life, and they don't have any more fat burners to add to their arsenal. Bottom line: they're stuck!

We all want fast results. Fat loss if a very emotional issue; we want to be lean ASAP. But you must realize that the ones who will reach their goal are the ones who can progress for the longest period of time. And that requires doing the minimum necessary to get the job done and only adding things in as progress stops. In other words, gradually cut calories, increase cardio, and add supplements, but only as needed.


Over the past few years I've been able to get a ton of people into great shape using this approach. Of course, it's an ever-evolving process, but right now it represents the way I do things and it has led to some tremendous results with much less suffering than I had to endure in the past.

This is obviously only a blueprint, not a precise plan. But if you respect these basic principles and are in this for the long run, you'll get the body you desire. As coach Poliquin said, "Getting lean is simple, but it's not easy." If you're willing to put the effort in and follow the plan, success is right around the corner!

Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.