Chris Aceto Flex
Are there really any secrets left in the world? With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of information across the globe, “secrets” are now few and far between. That’s especially true when it comes to dieting tips. That’s not to say all the tricks for getting lean are widely known. In a few cases, far from it – there are a handful of techniques bodybuilding pros regularly employ that don’t get much play elsewhere. But they work, and here, I’m going to share six of them with you.
SECRET #1: POP-TARTS CAN MAKE A DAMN GOOD FAT BURNER
When you eat less, you burn less – that’s how the metabolism mechanism works. When you diet, your body does everything it can to fight you, as it responds to a cut in caloric intake by burning fewer calories. Called the starvation response, it’s how humans naturally make do with far fewer calories and carbohydrates. The body downgrades its calorie-burning potential by dropping its levels of metabolic-boosting hormones, including leptin, thyroid hormones and, to a lesser degree, growth hormone.
One way to sidestep this adaptation is to include a day of jacking up another hormone – insulin – by eating plenty of fast-digesting carbohydrates. Quick carbs such as those in fat-free muffins, Pop-Tarts and Cream of Rice cereal mixed with jam or bagels trick your system into believing your strict diet is over, thus bumping those calorie-burning hormones back to steadier normal levels. When you return to a caloric deficit by eating less, you do so with a better metabolism, one in which hormones that support fat burning are no longer suppressed.
SECRET #2: IN CERTAIN CASES, “LOW CARB” ISN’T NEARLY LOW ENOUGH
Everybody hits a roadblock from time to time when they are unable to drop excess bodyfat – even pro bodybuilders, who do it for a living. Often, the problem relates to a sluggish metabolism, which can be fixed by secret #1. Sometimes, however, the issue is simply the need for a fresh stimulus. Following the same training plan day in and day out doesn’t work forever because, in order to make continual progress, the stimulus must change.
Well, the same holds true in getting cut. You have to give your body a reason to drop additional bodyfat; that calls for decreasing calories and carbs to extremely low levels. I typically tell my clients to lower carb intake on two separate days of the week – say Tuesday and Friday – down to as few as 50-70 grams (g). The shock radically reduces glycogen stores, which are directly related to burning fat. When glycogen levels (the amount of stored carbohydrates located in muscles) fall, fat burn rises precipitously.
SECRET #3: KETONES ARE KEY FOR FAT LOSS
It would be nice to cut calories and cruise into a bodybuilding show or simply a lean physique without ever having to readjust your diet. In the real world, the process is never that easy. Many factors come into play that can make getting ripped to the bone quite a pain in the you-know-what. When the extreme low-calorie days discussed in secret #2 no longer work, I may tell a bodybuilder to slash carbs to 30 g for four days, Monday through Thursday, while subsequently supplementing with 20-25 g a day of medium-chain triglycerides and 3-5 g of carnitine. Those two supplements help promote a metabolism shift in which greater amounts of fat are burned.
When carbs radically plunge and stay low, ketone formation increases. Ketones are byproducts of fat breakdown and can help make you leaner by causing a small uptick in the metabolic rate. Ketones are also highly effective at preventing muscle loss when carbs remain radically lower; ketones are burned preferentially to muscle tissue. If there are large quantities of ketones floating around in the blood, the body will burn those rather than melt away muscle tissue.
Carnitine is a cousin to amino acids and supports fat loss by funneling fatty acids into the machinery in muscle cells where they are burned, giving your body energy while leaning you out. Carnitine also aids in the metabolism of ketones, helping you access the energy within them, while offering additional metabolic support by making ketones more efficient at preventing muscle breakdown. Both actions contribute to greater fat loss.
SECRET #4: SEEK OUT SALT
When you cut carbs, be it for two or four days, or remain on a low-carb diet for an extended period of time, you may notice that your muscles take on a flat appearance. Unless you’re about to step onstage, there’s really nothing too wrong with flat muscles, generally – flatter muscles are actually an indication that muscle glycogen stores aren’t jacked, and lower glycogen stores encourage fat burning. Flattening out, though, has the potential to interfere with maintaining your muscle during a prolonged diet. Many things can influence whether you will hold or lose muscle mass while getting leaner, one of which is the water level within your muscles. Glycogen has the effect of pulling water into your muscles, which encourages muscle retention; in other words, water allows you to hold onto mass.
When glycogen levels drop during a diet, the water levels inside your muscles also drop, jeopardizing that all-important muscle retention. How can you keep water inside your muscles while keeping a tight check on carbs? By adding salt to your diet. Sodium helps keep water in the body. Most believe it traps water under the skin, which is true, but it also drives a special internal pump that allows the glucose from carbohydrates, amino acids and creatine to make their way into muscles. All three drag water with them, influencing fluid receptors in muscles that encourage muscle retention. Holding onto muscle, which unlike fat stores is a calorie-burning powerhouse, helps keep your metabolic rate elevated.
It may seem counterintuitive, but salt can help get you ripped. When cutting carbs, take in 20 milligrams of sodium per pound of bodyweight per day. That’s 4,000 milligrams for a 200-pound bodybuilder.
SECRET #5: MANY FAT-BURNING SUPPLEMENTS ON THE MARKET WORK VERY WELL
The usual monkey wrench in the dieting equation – burning less when you eat less – may be avoided if you offer your system strong metabolic support to keep it revving when overall calories are reduced. I like to use ephedrine-free dieting supplements as a way to keep the metabolism elevated all the way through a diet. Well-formulated fat-burning products increase levels of norepinephrine (NE), a hormone that triggers the breakdown of bodyfat.
NE levels generally rise when training, but the problem for some people is that NE levels start to decline as a diet continues. It’s a part of the adaptation response, in which your body gets stubborn and tries to fight you in your quest to rip up. Adding NE support can keep you from entering a starvation state; the more you can do to avoid a metabolic adaptation and slowdown, the more likely you’ll achieve a tight level of conditioning. Other known NE inducers include caffeine, niacin and supplements derived from capsicum or ginger.
SECRET #6: TURN UP THE VOLUME OF YOUR CARDIO – SOMETIMES
I’m not the biggest fan of cardio. Why? The body adapts to cardio rather quickly, which means it responds to continual cardio work by burning far fewer calories than you would normally expect. It’s an adaptation response, akin to what happens when we diet or use the same weight-training program for an extended period of time. However, going to the extreme with cardio for a couple days can exert a big jolt on your metabolism.
For example, let’s say a bodybuilder is cardio training for 30 minutes five days a week. If he were at a sticking point, trying to burn off the final few pounds to reveal dazzling muscularity, I’d tell him to do three 30-minute sessions on both a Saturday and Sunday. Nothing crazy, but at a level of intensity on par with an easy walk is sufficient to influence the body to tap deep into stubborn fat stores it might normally wish to hold onto. I don’t recommend this for every weekend – maybe every other weekend during the six weeks preceding a competition or other event you are trying to get ripped for
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