Q: I’ve got a lot of fat to lose, but I’m super motivated to get ripped by summer. My problem is that I’m not sure how to go about it so I get the fastest results possible. Should I go on a low-carb diet and do cardio every day? I want to build muscle too, but a lot of people tell me that a low-carb diet isn’t good for adding muscle mass. Help!
A: There have been lots of heated debate about low-carbs vs. higher-carb diets. The answer is very simple, which we discuss in our nutrition guide, X-treme Lean. You should treat carbs as fuel…
You need enough glycogen from carbohydrates to replenish what you burn from your muscles—–to keep them full and able to contract intensely for muscle-building workouts. On top of that, you need a slight excess to power bodily functions, like optimal brain activity. How much is that?
The body stores about 400 grams of glycogen in the muscles and liver. If you train two or three bodyparts hard at a workout and deplete all the glycogen from them, that adds up to maybe 100 grams. You need another 30 to 50 grams for good measure (and good brain health). That’s a total of 130 to 150 grams a day you need to replenish.
What if you take in more than the amount your brain and muscles use?
Now if someone doesn’t work out, they need even fewer carbs, but most people take in 200 to 300 grams a day. (Now you begin to understand the obesity epidemic.)
In fact, if the over-carbed sedentary folks start doing cardio, they basically burn excess blood sugar to fuel that activity, without using a lot of bodyfat (we have a way to tap into fat stores almost immediately with cardio, as you’ll see in a moment).
But back to you: First, start gradually reducing your carb intake, and take in very few at night when you’re more sedentary. We say “gradually” reduce your carbs because a severe cut all at once can send a starvation signal and cause your body to hoard fat and burn muscle tissue. Reduce carbs and calories slowly over a few weeks (and, if possible, try to get the majority of your carbs around your workout to refill muscle stores).
Once you reach 130 to 150 grams a day, hold it and gradually increase activity. Simple. Higher-carb, or cheat, days every so often are mandatory for proper thyroid function and metabolism revving.
As for weight training, we suggest you focus on growth hormone increases and triggering muscle microtrauma, the two keys to fast fat-to-muscle effects. For example, do the last set of each of your big compound, or midrange, exercises, like squats, in negative-accentuated, or NA, style—that is, one second up and six seconds down.
NA sets require less weight, but the slow-mo lowering causes muscle microtrauma. It’s that negative stroke that produces microtears that help you shed blubber quickly. How? Your body burns fat for energy when it repairs that muscle damage over many days. In other words, you are burning fat continuously, even when you’re sitting still.
On isolation exercises, like cable flyes, use drop sets—two sets back to back with a weight reduction. That will increase muscle burn, which increases growth hormone release. GH is a potent fat burner and also an anabolic synergist—it helps make other muscle-building hormones, like testosterone, more powerful so you get bigger and leaner.
Now for the fat-to-muscle finisher: After every weight workout, do at least 15 minutes of steady-state, low-intensity cardio, like on a treadmill. That’s critical because right after you hit the weights, all of the sugar is out of your bloodstream—you’ve burned it all during your sets and reps. That means your cardio will tap into fat stores almost immediately. Very efficient blubber-buster tactic!
There are a number of other fat-to-muscle techniques to speed your results for faster fat loss, but the above should get you started on your road to ripped.
Note: X-treme Lean is our complete fat-loss and nutrition guide, including info on X Reps and our meal-by-meal diets with gradual carb reduction; The Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout e-book takes your fat-loss workouts to the next level with more GH-surging tactics as well as microtrauma increases and cardio timing—printable workout templates included. They’re also available together along with X-traordinary Abs in our Triple-Shredded Combo.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
Build MASS with bodyweight training
One way you’re guaranteed to pack on stacks of muscle is through a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which more than doubles 24 hours after an intense workout…
Until recently, MPS was only elevated when trainees would lift 70-90% of their one-rep max…
That’s not only dangerous for your joints, but it also sets you up for high injury risk every time you exercise…
It used to be believed that training with your own bodyweight couldn’t get you the same results as training with your 70-90% one rep max… Until NOW.