Several years ago I sort of accidentally on purpose stumbled on the way to make myself go from average athletic (20% body fat) to, well, sort of ripped (12% body fat).
I say accidentally because my only intention was to exercise and eat right and maybe “tone up” a little bit. But each month, my mirror was showing me amazing results, as were the body calipers. The below plan is what worked for me. If you have ever wanted to try getting “ripped” and are already in pretty good shape, give it a shot and see how it works for you!
My Get Ripped Diet
When I started, I was already a fairly healthy eater. I had eliminated grains from my diet because of a gluten sensitivity and decided to try to remove most dairy, too, because of a childhood milk allergy. So I was left with fruit, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, tubers, and healthy fats like nuts and avocado.
I decided that since I was building muscle, I should focus on lots of protein and veggies, so I made that the central focus of each meal. Here was my daily plan:
- Meal 1 – 2 eggs + lean meat + starchy carb + fruit
- Meal 2 – protein shake with protein + fruit + leafy green vegetable + healthy fat
- Meal 3 – lean meat + veggie or legume + veggie
- Meal 4 – lean meat + veggie or legume + veggie
- Meal 5 – protein + healthy fat
So here is what a typical day looked like:
- Meal 1 (7am) – 2 egg omelet with seasoned ground turkey, bell peppers, 1/2 sweet potato, and apple slices
- Meal 2 (12pm, post-workout) — protein shake with whey (I have since eliminated whey powder, read why here), 1/2 cup frozen fruit, 2T of flaxseed, 1 cup of baby spinach – here’s how to make a perfect healthy smoothie.
- Meal 3 (2pm) – grilled chicken breast with alfalfa sprouts, bell pepper slices, avocado, tomato, and onion wrapped in 2 collard green leaves
- Meal 4 (6pm) – salad w/ field greens, smoked salmon, red and green onion, red and green bell peppers, walnuts, cucumber, celery, balsamic vinegar/olive oil for dressing
- Meal 5 (9pm) – steamed edamame or mixed nuts
Here were some guidelines I set up for myself:
- alcohol was limited to social engagements only, and then red wine or clear liquor/soda was top choice
- all fruit and carbohydrates consumed before 3pm (read more here about nutrient timing)
- 2.5-3L of water every day (read more here about how much water you should be drinking)
- organic and grass-fed foods whenever possible
- “fun” or “cheat” meals once a week, or during social engagements, or when I felt like I needed one, not to exceed 1500 calories
- avoid pasta, bread, grains, and cheese as much as possible (for reasons stated above)
- no artificial sweeteners or sugar, besides a teaspoon of raw sugar or honey in my coffee
- I followed these serving sizes
For the most part if I followed this plan I didn’t have to count calories, just journaling for accountability.
My Workout to Get Ripped
Before this plan, I alternated traditional strength training and cardio at the gym 5 days a week. I found HIIT bodyweight workouts on YouTube one day when I couldn’t make it to the gym with a sick child, and after that day I never went back and have been working out at home ever since.
When you first start HIIT, 1 or 2 times per week is enough. It can be hard on your central nervous system and leave you with too much of a negative energy balance, which will stall your efforts and make you feel like crap. Sub another type of workout in the meantime until you can do it more often. Here is what my workout schedule looked like each week once I worked up to HIIT 3x a week:
- Monday – 40 minutes of circuit training (full body strength training with 2 minute intervals of cardio, like jump rope, in between sets)
- Tuesday – active rest day (walking, yoga, etc.)
- Wednesday – HIIT workout – 12-20 minutes + 20 minutes of cardio (running or jump rope)
- Thursday – cardio (run or jump rope) 30 minutes
- Friday – HIIT workout – 12-20 minutes + 20 minutes of cardio (running, jump rope)
- Saturday – active rest day (walking, yoga, etc)
- Sunday – HIIT track and field workout, 30-40 min (combination of plyometrics, sprints, tire flips, broad jumps, stadium running, etc., completed at local high school track)
Every day I also walked to pick up my children from school, about 1.5 miles.
I’m Not Always “Ripped”
This is not a year-round plan for me. It’s a tool I use every so often to reach a goal, but it’s not my lifestyle. I used it to get in shape for my wedding. And I use it before summer, or to get ready for a photoshoot. The rest of the year I’m much more flexible with what I eat and how often I eat, although the number one priority is always health.
I am still in good shape, but with a little higher body fat percentage. I buckle down and follow these guidelines for 12 weeks to reach that goal for whatever reason, then I’m back to just eating whole foods and balance. (I do follow this exercise routine year-round but it’s because I really enjoy it.)
Have you ever been “ripped”? How did you do it?