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How the weight loss challenge winner will win

Over the next two months, a bunch of guys (and one woman) at my workplace are competing against each other to see who can drop the largest percent of their total body weight (not actually fat, just weight, which includes muscle). There’s significant money involved. It’s serious. The winner will be the person who adheres to these practices most diligently.

The winner will eliminate all processed sugar from their diet.

Processed sugar not only causes significant water retention, it also majorly interferes with metabolic processes, hormonal signaling, increases triglyceride levels (and generally turns the blood lipid profile to sh*t), and fuels the growth of cancer cells. Like to feel hungry when your body doesn’t actually require energy? The loser will eat sugar. The loser will consume sugar while restricting calories, white-knuckling the ride on a busted Cyclone of a blood sugar roller coaster, watching their hopes of comfortably maintaining a consistent caloric deficit be snuffed out by the demon molecule. A couple of pieces of fruit each day is fine because the fructose is buffered by water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The winner will remember this.

The winner will exclusively eat wet, organic foods in their most unrefined form.

No boxed or packaged foods. Vegetables. Eggs. Sweet potatoes. Sardines. Some fruits. A few servings per week of white potatoes and rice are ok too (blasphemy, maybe). What’s that thing about wet foods? That sounds nasty. I’ve written about it elsewhere on this blog, but the synopsis is that if your food isn’t hydrated, it will detract from your efforts. Most processed foods aren’t wet or nutrient rich, and as such, are metabolically disorienting. Take, for example one ounce of baked Lay’s chips is, which I think are quite unhealthy. On the other hand, six oz of organic russet potato is quite good. Same calories, completely different metabolic effects. Baked Lay’s: no water, negligible fiber, no minerals, sodium imbalance. Organic russet potato: fiber, water, minerals, naturally occurring sodium. After baked Lay’s you = hungrier. After white potato with butter you = fuller. Yes, I said butter. Read the next one.

The winner will not be afraid of eating fat. In fact, the winner will eat more fat as a percentage of their calories than the loser.

You might be ready to cast this article off after reading that one, but hang on a sec. It’s entirely possible to shed body fat simply by cutting carbs and increasing fat intake. I do it whenever I feel like dropping a couple of pounds. The idea that fat makes a person fat is corny and mad old. It’s an idea that remains legitimate only in the minds of crabs. Sugar is far better at making a person fat because of the metabolic havoc it wreaks. Dietary fat is the ultimate tool for fat loss, but it’s got to be the right type of fat: that is, mainly saturated. Saturated. You read that correctly. The villification of saturated fat based on the famous (and famously debunked) 1958 “diet-heart hypothesis” is clearly less chic these days, and there’s a reason for it: naturally occurring saturated fat is a nutritional beast. Not only does it not create an unfavorable blood lipid profile, but it also helps balance to the endocrine system. Sugar does exactly the opposite. Although increasing saturated fat intake can increase total cholesterol, total cholesterol has ABSOLUTELY zero to do with cardiovascular health and heart attack risk. HDL:LDL ratio is important, total cholesterol:HDL is more important, and LDL particle size is maybe the most important. The point is that replacing sugar and non-hydrated carbohydrates with the right type of saturated fat can dramatically improve all of these markers. So what’s the right type of saturated fat? First, a little on what’s not the right type of fat: vegetable oils i.e. polyunsaturated fats. They’re are generally terrible because they are so easily oxidized before and after consumption, which causes all sorts of cell-level damage to the cardiovascular system. Canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, peanut, cottonseed, grapeseed and sesame oils are positively demonic. Margarine and “butter-like spreads” are all simply solidified vegetable oils and possibly even worse for you than the oils themselves because of the chemical stabilizers used in them. Monounsaturated fats, like avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil are definitely better. Saturated fats, like unrefined virgin coconut oil, organic butter from exclusively pasture-raised cows, and humane raised eggs (humane means the chickens are bred in healthier, less contaminated conditions) are best. Small amounts (less than two oz) of extra dark chocolate (~85% or above) is also a winner (must be organic though, since conventionally raised cacao crops are can carry a load of pesticides). The proper type of saturated fat is second to none at helping to curb appetite and calibrate the body’s autoregulatory mechanisms, assisting in cellular repair (cell walls are ~50% saturated fat) and improving immune response, but it also helps balance hormone levels–especially testosterone in men. Why would this be important to the winner of the weight loss challenge? The fullness part is obvious. But when a person is reducing energy intake, i.e. going on a “diet”, it’s easy to lose focus, become depressed, lose their mind, and be generally miserable. All this crap can be counteracted to an extent by the positive hormonal effects of the right saturated fats. This isn’t to say go apesh*t on them, and it’s also important that if you’re eating animal fat that it comes from the cleanest animal meat (that means organic definitely and certified humane, when possible). Environmental toxins are readily stored in fat cells, so any crap eaten by the animal ends up in its fat cells, and will end up in you. But it is to say that shifting the balance of calories from processed carbohydrates to unrefined plant-based saturated fat can be a very smart thing to do.

The winner will track energy in and out.

I’m generally not a proponent of tracking calories, but energy balance is important when it comes to losing weight. There’s some nuance to this argument in that fat loss is the product of both caloric restriction and proper metabolic signaling, the efficiency of which is enhanced when whole, natural foods are consumed. But still, the law of thermodynamics is inflexible. Fewer calories in than out will result in weight loss. There are some great tools out there for tracking consumption, like MyFitnessPal, and for tracking activity (FitBit etc.).

The winner will eliminate most structured cardio in favor of lifting heavy weights. Is your mind blown?

The most effective way to force the body to prioritize shedding fat when in a caloric deficit is by providing a reason for it to retain muscle fiber. In a caloric deficit–especially in the presence of structured and more intense cardiovascular exercise–the body wants to shed muscle along with fat because muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. Create a reason for the body to prioritize muscle maintenance and fat loss will accelerate. And one note on lifting–we’re not talking about curls, sit-ups and shrugs here. We’re talking about barbell squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, Pendlay rows and the like. Nothing complicated, but big movements that tax most of the large muscle groups and elicit a hormonal response most conducive to fat loss. There’s a good deal of detailed content on this topic sprayed across this blog. If you’re in an energy deficit, you won’t put on muscle (so don’t worry about adding body weight).

If the person who wants to win is really serious, they will fast every day for a significant number of hours and do it for the rest of their life.

This is the big one. When properly applied, fasting is the most incontrovertibly efficient path to fat loss. This blog is replete with posts about the virtues of regular fasting, not the least of which is that it’s an awesome tool for weight loss and effortless weight management. Those last three words are huge. Most of us are pretty familiar with the weight-loss rebound phenomenon, characterized by big fat loss followed by big fat gain. The simple reality is that the practice that made the big fat loss possible was very likely unsustainable. Atkins, or extremely low-carb diets are examples of programs that are nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime. Daily fasting is a metabolically and nutritionally sound lifestyle change. I’m living proof that it’s possible, and pretty damn easy to fast for 20 consecutive hours per day, every day. I’ve been doing it for more than three years and have only benefited from it. With specific application to fat loss, fasting, in my opinion, is the only way to go. When you’re fasted, your blood sugar levels are rock steady, and your metabolic system draws exactly whatever energy it requires from muscle glycogen, liver glycogen and fat stores. I call it a “clean burn”. Mental focus and cognition are noticeably increased due to the upregulation of a chemical termed brain-derived neurotrophic factor.  When you’re following a traditional diet on which you’re eating several times per day but just a lot less food, your blood sugar levels swing around, making you feel hungrier and less likely to be able to comfortably control your eating. Ever feel sluggish after lunch? You can blame insulin for that. No insulin = no sluggishness. To be uncouthly honest, the “six small meals per day” thing is raging bullsh*t, an utter farce, and a nonsensical, pandering load of guar gum. The only reason why the TV “nutritionists” are pushing this hooey is because as soon as you eat, your blood sugar goes haywire. That’s the reality. Eating six times a day is essentially methadone after heroin, or like cocaine after cocaine.

Fasting only takes a day or two to get used to. Water, black coffee and unsweetened tea can be taken, but nothing else. No diet sodas. Nothing else. The beauty of fasting is that once you’re at your desired weight or body composition, counting calories is no longer necessary. They body’s tendency or “desire” to autoregulate is more palpably expressed when the eating window is compressed. Simply, it’s more difficult to overeat when there’s less time to do it. Don’t get this twisted though–if you eat cake and ice cream during the eating window, none of this matters. But if you eat unprocessed, simple foods during the eating window, you actually, exactly, literally will never have to think about managing your weight ever again because your body will do it for you. Even more spectacular is that fasting dramatically boosts autophagy, the process by which cells recycle metabolic and other waste, especially in the brain.

The winner will not pay any mind to mularkey about not eating before bed.

Because if you fast, your only realistic option is to eat before bed. If your energy balance and food selection are on point, it matters not in the least.

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Ripped Recipe: Chia Pudding

It’s been a long time, I know. The long and short of this post is chia pudding. It’s embarrassingly easy to make. If you like tapioca pudding or bubble tea, you’ll probably love this. The seeds, which are mucilaginous (root word ‘mucous’, mmmm!), soak up a ton of liquid and become a little goopy, but in a great way, if that makes sense. They look like little tadpole eggs. The resulting pudding is smooth and crunchy. Just be careful because this is a soluble fiber bomb with around 10g of total fiber. You might consider scaling into it for that reason.

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp chia seeds
1 cup whatever liquid you like, e.g. coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, cashew milk, milk milk, just not Pepsi.

Preparation:

Mix the two in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. Consider stirring it again during the process as the seeds can clump (although you might like the clumps, or you can smush them out later on). You can mix in whatever flavorings you like once it’s done, like stevia, honey, high fructose corn syrup (j/k), cinnamon, apple pie spice, lemon and mint, vanilla, or you can even go savory if you’re insane.

Is the Bench Press Dangerous? Yes. Press Dumbbells and Ignore the Masses.

It seems like anyone who lifts weights bench presses. It’s a classic movement that can develop serious upper body pushing strength. But for all its popularity and potential for strength development, I’ve realized that its nasty side probably makes it one of the least efficacious movements for chest development.

I’ve been benching since the age of 13–almost 22 years now. When I came off a two-year lifting layoff around three years ago, the flat and incline barbell bench presses were two staples of my training routine. But as the load increased, I began experiencing discomfort in and around the acromioclavicular joint at the top of my left shoulder. Over the ensuing weeks, that discomfort evolved into pain and reduced mobility. Since I can remember, I’ve had a moderate [and strange] obsession with kinesiology, so I was compelled to dig deeper into why specifically the bench press might have been causing shoulder pain, and might be dangerous in general. Yeah, I said it, and I have two good reasons for why I think that.

First reason: Excessive range of motion

I definitely think that lots of people can get away with benching heavy, like people with shorter arms and thicker torsos who don’t have to move the bar as far as longer-armed individuals. But for a guy like me with longer arms and not the thick torso of a powerlifter, my potential range of motion on the bench is very large. When I lower the bar close to my chest, my elbows drop two inches below the level of my shoulders, a position that places the shoulders in an exceptionally dangerous position under a load, causing the humerus to actually pull away from the body and a stupid amount of strain to be placed on the rather delicate muscles and connective tissue that comprise the rotator cuff.

Second reason: Internal rotation of the humerus

This, I believe, is the primary reason why bench pressing heavy loads is bad. Really bad. Question: if you had to shove an attacker as hard as you possibly could to save your own life, how would you do it? You’d probably unconsciously put yourself in the most anatomically advantaged position as possible without thinking because it’s what feels right. It’s the way we’ve evolved to push stuff. You’d probably bring your hands close to your chest with the base of your thumbs somewhere in the vicinity of your nipples (providing they don’t hang too low). You’d also naturally bring your elbows close to your sides and would keep them from flaring out as you pushed because you can transfer more power in this position. You’d also depress your shoulders and retract your scapulae. [All instinctively, of course.] Additionally, your fingers wouldn’t be pointing straight up and down, but rather 25 or 30 degrees out to the sides. In my opinion, this is the single most glaring problem with all barbell pressing variations. Because your hands are in a fixed position, your wrists are also fixed. This means that as you move the bar away from your chest, the humerus (bone from elbow to shoulder) wants to rotate internally via elbow flare, no matter how perfect your form. To understand this motion, put your right arm out in front of you, palm forward (fingers up) as if signalling someone to stop. Now rotate your arm so your fingers are pointing to the left. Your elbow moves away from your body as your humerus (upper arm) rotates inward. As the weight gets heavy, this can, and likely will grind on your shoulders by creating the right environment for impingement and acromioclavicular joint damage (bony process at top of shoulder).

What to do? Limit [eliminate] bar benching in favor of dumbbells.

The goal of bench pressing is to stimulate the pectoral muscles, right? Right. But in my experience, dumbbell pressing variations are much more effective for pec stimulation, and especially so for filling out those pesky upper pecs. The key to maximum pectoral stimulation with dumbbells is as follows:

1. Just like bar benching, keep shoulders down and back (depressed and retracted)
2. Keep elbows close to sides (no more than 20-30 degrees from body)
3. Do not drop elbows below plane of torso at bottom of movement
4. The magic move: when pressing, focus on rotating your palms inward (toward your face) through the entire motion while simultaneously moving your ELBOWS in toward each other. This results in the strongest adduction of the humerus as possible with external rotation. This is both the safest AND most effective way to stimulate as many pectoral muscle fibers as possible. Of course, you could eliminate pressing altogether (I know, blasphemy!) in favor of all sorts of bodyweight pressing movements using gymnastics rings and develop real strength. Another post for that, though.

Ripped Recipe: Frozo-Fizzed Fruit Float

This is an every night thing for me.

Fizzily fantastic.

                        Fizzily fantastic.

Ingredients

Fruit of your choice
Trop 50 juice, whatever flavor (I like the blueberry pomegranate)
Plain or flavored seltzer (I like Polar champagne strawberry, apple ginger, lemon, and blackberry bergamot best)

Preparation

Dice whatever fruit you like into approximately 1/2″ cubes and freeze for a few hours. I like watermelon, plum, pear, sometimes nectarine and sometimes a little banana.

Put frozen fruit into a glass (I like a wider, shorter one). Fruit should come up to or close to rim. Pour cold seltzer over fruit until covering half the fruit. Fill rest of glass with cold Trop 50. Eat.

When the cold seltzer hits the frozen fruit, it sort of freezes to the outside and creates a carbonated slush shell around some of the fruit. I never drink juice except for the few ounces of Trop 50 I use in this recipe. I’m not a big fan of artificial sweeteners but Trop 50 impresses me somewhat because stevia is used in it. I guess stevia in the powdered form is technically artificial, but it’s sure not aspartame, sucralose or acesulfame potassium.

Fasting 20 Hours Daily: My Experience One Year In

I haven’t posted for a long time, but I just had the sudden urge to write. I’ve officially been fasting every day for a year now, the majority of which has been for 19.5 hours daily (9pm – 4:30pm). I don’t see myself ever going back to a more “normal” eating pattern. When people find out that I fast every day for so long (usually because I don’t eat at work), most of them are intrigued and ask questions. I thought I’d post some of the questions I’m asked most frequently and how I answer them.

“Don’t you get hungry?”

This is almost always the first question. Sometimes I do, but only for very brief periods (like five or 10 minutes) that quickly pass. I consume the number of calories appropriate to my fitness goals (whether it be muscle gain or fat loss) in my 4.5-hour eating window at the end of the day, which I believe my body is processing through a good portion of the period during which I’m fasting and that helps limit hunger. I drink two cups of coffee each day as well, which definitely helps reduce pangs.

“How do you stay awake and how do you think clearly?”

I’m way more awake and clear-headed during my fasted period. When I begin eating food (particularly carbohydrates i.e. rice, potatoes and oats at the end of the day), I become palpably groggy and sluggish. That’s good because it helps me go to sleep, but only when I want to go to sleep. I’ve learned to use carbs like some people use Ambien. Only difference is that the carbs are natural, while Ambien is a scary chemical monster.

“Doesn’t eating so much right before bed make you fat?”

Clearly no. Not only have I found no academic literature demonstrating causality between eating right before bed and getting fat, but I also happen to finish eating literally a few minutes before going to bed every night and it has absolutely no effect on fat gain. Energy balance is still king. I also have a 50% bro-science theory that the body can more efficiently digest food when it doesn’t have to divert energy into doing other stuff like moving around, talking, thinking etc.

“Doesn’t your metabolism slow down?”

No. There are mountains of peer-reviewed studies in well respected medical journals clearly demonstrating that the metabolism of a healthy individual (human) doesn’t slow until somewhere in the three-day fasting range. My own experience is the best proof for me, and I see no hint whatsoever that my metabolism is slowing. In fact, my hair and nails have been growing noticeably faster since I began fasting, which is an indicator of a faster metabolism.

“How can you possibly build muscle without eating for so long?”

Technically, my fasting isn’t absolute; I do take BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) during my fasting period: ten grams spread out during and immediately after lifting, then another ten grams a few hours later. It works out to 80-100 calories (BCAA is technically protein, so it’s 4 cal/ gram). It’s the one supplement that without question has a direct effect on my rate of muscle growth. When I began fasting, I took BCAAs according this schedule, but after a few months of doing it, dropped the second serving out of a combination of forgetfulness and believing they weren’t necessary (I think I even mentioned that in a past post). I maintained a six-day heavy compound lift schedule and maintained my total daily caloric intake, but my gains slowed dramatically. I chalked it up to the body’s natural adaptive response (sort of a foolish idea looking back). But nearly four weeks ago after reading more about the importance of BCAAs while fasting, I reintroduced the second serving of BCAAs into my routine, and sometimes also a third smaller serving around 2pm. I changed nothing about my lifting or caloric intake other than the extra 40 or so calories that came from the added aminos. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was like flipping on the muscle and strength switch. Every single one of my big lifts has increased (working max on the deadlift by 6% and a whopping 11% on the back squat in just four weeks), and I’ve visibly added muscle. My wife noticed, some coworkers noticed, and my clothing is tighter in the right spots. I’m not a big fan of supplements (aside from creatine monohydrate, fish oil, whole food multi and vitamin D), but I strongly believe in the power of BCAAs for gains while fasting. I don’t think they’d be worth it if I wasn’t fasting since I’d be eating real food and getting a similar effect. The hypertrophy signaling power specifically of the BCAA leucine has received a good deal of attention in the bodybuilding community recently, and, based on my own experience, it’s definitely not just hype.

“How do you have any energy to lift heavy without food?

I eat a lot at night and lift early in the morning during a time when I believe my body is still processing all that food from the night before. I have more energy lifting fasted than I ever had lifting after eating a traditional breakfast. I’ve begun referring to it as “clean” energy in that blood sugar levels are stable and there’s very little circulating insulin. As long as I’ve consumed enough complex carbs the prior night, I have a ton of energy, which can probably be attributed to good muscle glycogen levels. I’ve heavily experimented with both carbohydrate loading and restriction, and have found that my strength and stamina decreases noticeably when I’m restricting, even when keeping total daily calories constant.

As an aside, I see no point to carb restriction other than for vanity’s sake. Yes, a high carb intake (200-300g/ day for me) tends to blur the abs a little and cloaks deltoid striations as a result of some fluid retention, but it’s such a great boon to strength development that I don’t care. My perception is that a common belief is that carbs cause fat gain. I think people tend to mistake the associated water retention with fat gain. It’s also why people drop weight like mad for a week or so on low carb diets. Most of that is just water. I don’t think there’s any way to have it both ways; it’s just not possible for a TRAINED individual to continue to make strength and size gains on a low-carb or calorie restricted diet. That kind of diet is great for getting ripped, but not stronger.

“Why do you fast? What’s the point?”

All said, fasting makes it much easier for me to control my calories, it improves my focus, it’s easy and convenient (no thinking about what food to bring to work, no lunch prep) and it’s vastly improved my understanding of how my body works. It’s special to me and always with me. I’ve become preternaturally aware of specific foods’ effects on how I feel. For example, I’ve learned to break each day’s fast with some meat (both fatty and lean), cheese and fruits and vegetables rather than something higher in carbohydrate because carbs absolutely, positively make be feel like I’ve been sprinkled with sleepy dust. Not a bad thing at all–just not good when I’m not ready to sleep.

Ripped Recipe: One step sorbet

Some might say this is a cop out, but it’s one of my go-to dessert (or anytime) recipes. Here it is: cut fruit into a 1/2″ dice. Freeze for a couple of hours. Certain fruits yield a really nice texture when frozen. I particularly like pears, grapes, watermelon and fresh figs, which are amazing when frozen whole for a couple of hours. Nectarines and plums are pretty good too.

Fresh black fig frozen for a couple of hours. It's so sorbet-like you'll do a double-taste.

Fresh black fig frozen for a couple of hours. It’s so sorbet-like you’ll do a double-taste.

Frozen watermelon cubes. An awesome snack or dessert.

Frozen watermelon cubes. An awesome snack or dessert.

Ripped Forever: Launching Soon

The majority of content on this site will be available by June 16, 2014.

Hi. My initials are DJS. This writing is about how to get ripped, and more importantly, how to stay ripped (or, at least how I went about it). I’m normally an extremely private person. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter, and I’ve never left a comment on YouTube. I’ve never sent nude photos of myself to anyone. I’m exceedingly protective of my phone number and email address. I prefer not to take my shirt off in front of anyone other than my wife. I have decided to post shirtless photos of myself on the main page of this blog; needless to say it was a complicated decision. But the reason I’ve decided to do it is to demonstrate a physical transformation that I think many people believe is difficult to achieve, and especially to maintain. In practice, I found that getting ripped and staying ripped can be accomplished with legitimate ease and comfort. With a moderate reconfiguration of my lifestyle based on a lot of reading and years of experience learning how to get ripped the very hard and counterproductive way, I figured out how to get ripped in only a few months with relatively little effort, and more importantly, how to stay ripped.

I’m not asking for donations, nor am I selling something. I’m certainly not revealing the newest “secrets” about how to get ripped in a book for a limited time only. I’m simply sharing my story and experience with anyone who is interested because I’ve experienced real results. I think others might find it helpful in achieving their own goals.

A little about me

I’m in my early 30s, and am a native and resident of Brooklyn, NY. My family on both sides goes back for three generations here. I live with my wife and son. I work in an office managing a team of great analysts, studying things and solving interesting problems. I am also the founding director of a nonprofit dedicated to simplifying volunteer management during emergencies. I’ve always been quite interested in nutrition, anatomy and fitness since I was a kid (sort of weird). Out of a personal interest, in 2011 I was credentialed by the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a Certified Personal Trainer and took clients as a hobby, but am no longer certified since I do not have the time to take continuing education courses. Nevertheless, my deep interest in nutrition and physiology remains strong. I would not necessarily consider myself an expert in either though… more of an enthusiast.

How this blog is different

There are several blogs out there about how to get ripped, but this one is a bit different in both tone and form. You might notice (if you choose to read more once content is posted) that I generally won’t prescribe advice, make sweeping statements, or say to “do this” or “do that”; in my opinion, there are too many internet experts. Although I do believe I possess a deeper knowledge of this subject matter than the average person, I frame most of the techniques I discuss in terms of how they helped me, but it doesn’t mean that you must use them too and that if you don’t you’re a fool. There are many blogs/ boards/ forums about how to get ripped that are mean spirited and unnecessarily critical of individuals who do not agree with their ideas or don’t adhere to a certain lifting routine or philosophy. My belief is that most people in the gym or visiting this site (or those like it) are doing so in an effort to improve themselves in some way, and that’s a good thing. The way they’re currently doing it might not be as effective as the way I or someone else does it, or they might have a different goal, but that’s not for me to be concerned with; I have found that I experience my greatest successes when I direct my energy and focus into what I’m doing rather than what others are doing, which is why I frame most of what I discuss in terms of my own experiences.

This site is simply host to a description of the techniques I used to accomplish my goal of getting ripped and staying ripped. You might consider incorporating all, some, or even none of them into your own path learning how to get ripped. However, since I do believe that getting ripped and staying ripped requires a holistic approach, incorporating only a few of these techniques might not yield the same results for you. Whatever the case, I hope you can find something positive or informative on this site. Please do feel free to comment and/ or ask questions (respectfully, of course).

A little history about my quest to get ripped

I have been conducting some sort of physical training for twenty years, but I only got moderately ripped for the first time in my early-mid 20s, and I did it the very hard and counterproductive way. During that time, I knew a really well muscled, ripped guy in the gym I was a member of then. I needed to know how to get that ripped. When I asked him how he did it, he told me, “really hard cardio.” Because he was ripped, I accepted that as the only truth. It’s clear to me now that not only did he leave some information out, but also that “really hard cardio” is one tool that some people might use, but that I absolutely did not use to get ripped.

In any case, being the gung-ho (and overly eager) kid that I was at the time, I took his pronouncement as gospel and made it my life beginning the next day. So in addition to lifting six days per week on a three-day split, I also began performing metabolic work including high intensity interval training (CrossFit type routines), and running at a fast pace (I’m talking a 6-minute mile for 20-25 minutes) several times a week. My mindset was that if I wasn’t burned out at the end of a workout, if I didn’t experience a pump in whichever muscle groups I was working that day, and if my t-shirt wasn’t saturated with sweat, then I hadn’t done enough that day toward my goal of getting ripped. In retrospect, I’m surprised that I even took off one day per week. What I had to show for all that grueling work was 9% body fat (which in my opinion isn’t particularly low) and some new muscle, but it was so damn hard to get to that point. And worse, more often than not I had a dreadful feeling that my condition was balancing on a knife’s edge, and boy, was I was right; after only eight months the supports came out. The daily exhaustive grind caught up with me in a big way. Not only was my body always tired, but I was mentally drained as well.

Flash forward a decade and here I am again. During a time when extraordinarily draining and complicated CrossFit and P90X and Insanity workouts are widely touted (at least in the media) as the keys to developing a ripped physique and burning fat, I ignored them and learned how to get ripped through a process that seemed almost effortless. I still shake my head in disbelief thinking back at how I much time and energy I put in ten years ago compared to quite literally less than 20 percent of that now, yet how now I’m significantly more ripped and feel so much fresher and looser than I did then.

How this site will be organized

Rather than only providing a list of topics or articles, I thought that an outline highlighting the points and practices that I believe were most relevant to my own transformation would be more intuitive and useful for those who choose to read further. I don’t claim it’s the best way, and it’s not the only way, but it was very effective for me and the lifestyle changes required were comfortable and actually enjoyable. My primary concern was that once I got ripped, I would be able to stay ripped indefinitely and with little thought and effort.

During the process of getting ripped this time around, I dropped from 13% body fat to below 8%, which equated to nearly 9 lbs of fat, but the scale only reflected a 2 lbs decrease, meaning that I simultaneously added 6 lbs of muscle. This is often referred to as a “recomposition”. I will repeat that my transformation wasn’t difficult; it was slow, comfortable and methodical.