Get Ripped Now: 5 Diet Plans to Choose From

One Principle, Several Fat Loss Strategies

Sure, all successful diets involve a caloric deficit, but what’s the best strategy for achieving it? Here are five simple ways to do it.


Losing fat is simple. All you have to do is understand one fundamental principle: create a calorie deficit. Consume fewer calories than your body requires to stay in its current chubby state.

Within this principle, there are many methods to choose from: intermittent fasting, tracking macros, keto, habit-based nutritional changes, Zone diet, paleo, and not eating like an asshole, to name a few.

The struggle? There are so many fat loss strategies claiming to be the best that it’s easy to get lost in the noise. People respond differently to different diets because of current and past training, hormone levels, stress and lifestyle differences, diet history, and genetics. This is called “interpersonal variability.”

So what works and in what context? These five strategies provide some insight:

1. Carb Cycling

Carb cycling manipulates insulin to burn fat and maximize muscle gains. You typically use two separate eating strategies: high- and low-carb days.

  • Lifting days are high-carb days. The carbs provide additional fuel to maximize the anabolic response and muscular recovery.
  • Off days and conditioning/cardio days are low-carb to help shred stored body fat and increase insulin sensitivity, improving nutrient utilization on the high-carb days.

Carb cycling is as easy as it sounds. You can track your macros or follow the simple approach of only eating certain foods, like white rice or starchy carbs, on training days.

On training days, your body has an increased insulin sensitivity due to repeated muscular contractions. With this increased response to carbs, your body drives nutrients into your muscle cells, aiding in repair and growth. Consume fruits and starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and oats) as your carb sources on lifting days.

Taking a day off, just doing cardio, or hitting a low-volume workout? Keep the carbs low. By minimizing carbs a few days per week and eating fewer calories, your body should become more receptive to insulin and drop fat due to the calorie deficit.

Here are two sample days. You can keep the meals the same but add the carb source on training days:

LOW-CARB DAY:

  • Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 avocado
  • Optional Snack: Protein shake with one scoop vanilla protein, 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • Lunch: Mediterranean salad with cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Dinner: Ribeye steak, broccoli, and green salad

HIGH-CARB DAY:

  • Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 avocado, plus 1 cup oatmeal with blueberries
  • Optional Snack: Protein shake with one scoop vanilla protein, 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • Lunch: Mediterranean salad with cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, plus a side of couscous, rice, whole wheat bread, or potato
  • Workout
    Pre-Workout: Surge® Workout Fuel
    Intra-Workout: Plazma™
    Post-Workout: Mag-10®
  • Dinner: Sirloin steak, broccoli, and two baked potatoes with butter

WHEN CARB CYCLING ISN’T IDEAL

If you carry a ton of muscle mass and train hard, the lower carb, lower calorie days might still compromise recovery. Post-workout recovery doesn’t miraculously happen within the day of your workouts.

2. Habit-Based Dieting

This is based on changing daily habits and taking “action steps” to improve health and create a calorie deficit. This approach works very well for people who shudder at the thought of tracking their macros and are patient enough to stick to process-driven goals.

Research says a behavior can take over two months to become automatic. And the formation of new habits? According to one study, it can be anywhere from 66 to 254 days.

Admittedly, this is a tough “sell” in a world where everything is available at the touch of a button. Then again, being jacked isn’t for the weak-minded. I’ve had great results using 21-day blocks to focus on adding a habit before stacking on another.

By selecting habits and action steps that lead to healthier eating and fat loss, you can improve your health and your physique step by step. It just requires patience. For habit formation, the best plan is to start small with action steps you can do even when life is crazy.

For example, if you don’t eat any vegetables, it would be a stretch to add vegetables to every meal, but adding them to one meal per day would be a practical first step. It’s important to select a practical and sustainable task so you can complete it at least 80% of the time.

Here are some habits you could stack over time:

  1. Drink 100 ounces of water every day. Complete for 21 days, then add the second habit.
  2. Drink two quality protein shakes per day. Complete for 21 days, then add the third habit to habits one and two.
  3. Eat a vegetable with each meal. Complete for 21 days, then add the fourth habit.
  4. Go for a 30-minute walk each morning. Complete for 21 days, then add the fifth habit.
  5. Set a nighttime routine to get to sleep an hour earlier than you normally do. Complete for 21 days, then add the next habit.

This may not sound like much, but if you improve hydration, protein intake, vegetable intake, movement, and improve sleep, you’ll dramatically improve your health, physique, and performance.

WHEN HABIT-BASED DIETING ISN’T IDEAL

A habit-based approach to fat loss takes longer than other approaches. While it generally results in better long-term results, people who are impatient and want a data-driven plan with the biofeedback of something like tracking macros can struggle.

3. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t magic. It reduces calorie intake by limiting the time window you’re eating, therefore leading to fat loss. There are a host of other benefits as well.

First, intermittent fasting may improve insulin sensitivity. Your body releases insulin as soon as you see or smell food. The more often we eat, the more often we spike insulin. Of course, insulin isn’t the only boogeyman for fat loss. But over time, especially if you’re struggling with weight, poor insulin sensitivity makes it difficult to lose fat and build muscle.

You give your “insulin pump” a break by reducing the number of meals. In conjunction with a lower calorie diet, this improves insulin sensitivity for further improvements in body composition.

A study by Ravussin in 2019 reinforced this idea. It found that time-restricted feeding reduces appetite by regulating the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin levels tend to rise before meals and decrease after eating. The more often we eat, the more often we spike ghrelin. Intermittent fasting can help regulate ghrelin levels, reducing hunger and improving appetite control – especially if you’re a chronic snacker.

Intermittent fasting can be a great tool for people with busy schedules. When you have fewer food decisions and choices to make, life is simplified. Plus, if you’re fasting for the early hours of the day, you may notice a “kick” in energy due to the release of adrenaline and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

There are several types of fasting, but the general idea is to give your body a break with purposeful restriction. Some popular options include:

  • 16:8 intermittent fasting: Fast for 16 hours, eat for 8 hours
  • 18:6 intermittent fasting: Fast for 18 hours, eat for 6 hours
  • 20:4 intermittent fasting: Fast for 20 hours, eat for 4 hours
  • OMAD: Eat one meal per day, fasting for 22-24 hours

WHEN INTERMITTENT FASTING ISN’T IDEAL

Intermittent fasting isn’t perfect. If you have a history of eating disorders, stay away from intermittent fasting. I’ve seen people run into battles with binge eating in the evening and struggling to keep weight off when they pivot away from intermittent fasting.

Fasting is also a stressor. The “alert” feeling you get from fasting primarily stems from the release of adrenaline – a stress response. If you’re short on sleep, running on caffeine, and not eating, you’re likely running on cortisol. This can cause issues down the road.

On a personal note, intermittent fasting approaches worked well for me in my mid-20s, but as life has become more complex (a growing business, young kids, life stress), the increase in stress made this more of a short-term tactic.

4. Tracking Macros with a Meal Plan

Tracking macros is simple. You set your calorie and macronutrient targets for the day and get as close to them as you can. The steps here are simple: set your numbers, create meals and menus for hitting those numbers consistently, and eat the same foods repeatedly.

There are many equations and variations to help you set your macros. They’re all pretty damn similar, so let’s keep it simple for fat loss:

Calories: Bodyweight in pounds x 10 = calories per day
200 pounds x 10 = 2000 calories per day

Protein: Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
200 grams x 4 calories per gram = 800 calories

Carbs: Eat 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight
200 grams x 4 calories per gram = 800 calories

Fat: 400 calories remaining, or 20% of your calories
400 calories/9 calories per gram = 44 grams

MACROS

Protein: 200 grams (40%)
Carbs: 200 grams (40%)
Fat: 44 grams (20%)

You can adjust the ratio of carbs and fats based on personal preference; however, consider how most physique athletes eat: high protein, moderately high carb, and lower fat – not keto. Once you set your numbers, stick with them for a few weeks to settle into a routine.

The goal is to have little variation and, therefore, fewer decisions. Set your macros. Set your meals. Eat your meals. Lose fat. It’s that simple.

WHEN TRACKING MACROS WITH A MEAL PLAN ISN’T IDEAL

This isn’t a “fun” way to eat. If you crave variety and struggle to eat the same foods repeatedly, tracking macros with limited food choices isn’t a great fit.

5. Tracking Macros: If It Fits Your Macros

The IIFYM approach incorporates macro tracking but removes the strict planning component. This allows for more variety in your diet.

As above, the steps are simple: set your daily numbers and aim to eat that many calories however you see fit.

Calories: Bodyweight in pounds x 10 = calories per day
200 pounds x 10 = 2000 calories per day

Protein: Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
200 grams x 4 calories per gram = 800 calories

**Carbs & Fats: **1200 remaining calories (see below)

MACROS

Calories: 2000 calories
Protein: 200 grams (40%)
Carbs and Fats: However you see fit, as long as you hit your calories

The IIFYM approach provides more variability. This allows you to focus on your protein and calories – the two most important facts regarding macros – while adjusting carbs and fats as you want.

Be warned, IIFYM isn’t a license to live on protein shakes and candy. IIFYM was popular for years, then got a bad rap because “influencers” highlighted their fast-food diet plans and how they lost weight. While controlling calories is the foundation for losing fat, don’t go overboard on junk food. Eat a good balance of fruits and vegetables and quality starchy carbs.

The upside here is simple: you can fit more of your favorite foods and social events into your macros.

WHEN IIFYM ISN’T IDEAL

With more flexibility in your diet comes more responsibility. When you’re eating a greater variety of foods, your chances of overeating and eating junk food are higher. You’ll have more choices around food and more responsibility to track your meals to stay on target. Know yourself and know the drawbacks of IIFYM.

Finding What’s Right For You

There is no perfect diet. And the way your body responds to different diet strategies can change over time as your stress levels, hormones, metabolic function, and physique change. Find a structure that works for you while keeping the root principle intact: creating a calorie deficit. The key is to find what you can do consistently.

References

References

  1. Lally, P. (2009, July 16). How are habits formed: Modeling Habit Formation - wiley online library. European Journal of Social Psychology.

  2. Ravussin E;Beyl RA;Poggiogalle E;Hsia DS;Peterson CM; (2019, August 27). Early time-restricted feeding reduces appetite and increases fat oxidation but does not affect energy expenditure in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.). PubMed.

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Awesome, practical article. I loved the “here’s when it fits, here’s when it doesn’t” approach

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