We also decided to turn this into a killer new Road To Ripped podcast episode!
To listen to our commentary and two cents on this epic list, just press play and read while you listen…
The 14 Roadblocks To Getting Shredded
1) You’re not counting your calorie intake
If you’re following a diet that doesn’t require you to count your calorie intake, you’ll never get truly lean.
You see, most diets try to trick you into eating fewer calories through a variety of means. This works for a little while and you’ll lose some weight at first. But at the end of the day, you’ll either get fed up with non-sensible eating restrictions, or you’ll just start eating more of what you’re allowed to eat. This is commonly seen with people who follow the paleo diet. At first they will automatically eat fewer calories. But eventually they’ll start going to town on nuts, fruits, tubers and fatty meats. Or worse, they’ll make paleo pancakes and deserts using coconut milk, almond meal and food products with very high calorie density.
The 300-400 calorie normal desert turns into a whopping 800 calories of a potentially mediocre tasting alternative. The same is true with intermittent fasting. If you aren’t tracking your calories, eventually you will adapt to being able to eat more food in a smaller window. Soon enough, fat loss will come to a halt. The only way to guarantee fat loss is to track your calories.
2) Using too big of a deficit
For those of you who have been tracking your calories, it’s very likely you’re creating too big of a deficit. I did this for many years and it’s one of the reasons why I struggled to get truly shredded. This happens for one of two reasons. Either you are trying to lose fat too quickly. Therefore you set calories very low, creating massive 1000+ daily deficits.
Or it happens because you completely underestimate your maintenance calorie requirements. I’ve even seen some prolific fitness experts recommend setting calories below your resting metabolic rate for fat loss. This is crazy talk. If you go too low in calories, you’ll feel miserable, you’ll lose muscle, sex drive will drop and invariably, your natural instincts will take over.
You’ll end up going one step forward and one step back, spinning your wheels over and over again. Patience is one of the most important qualities for achieving fat loss.
3) Cutting out fat or carbs
Many times people undergoing a diet opt for very low carb or very low fat approaches. Neither of these are ideal. Going low in fat is a brutal experience.
You’ll never feel full, food will taste awful and your testosterone will suffer. Not to mention, fat is vital for health. Going very low in carbs can be an equally awful experience. Carbs are a feel good macronutrient. They trigger the release of serotonin in the brain which make you feel relaxed, happy and sleepy. With low carb diets you constantly feel on edge, sleep suffers big time and training really sucks.
Carbs fuel high intensity exercise like strength training so your lifts will go down considerably. As well, carbs raise insulin levels, which helps with building and maintaining muscle mass. As long as calories are controlled, carbs and fats are your friend. Keep both balanced and you’ll feel way better.
4) Eating non filling foods
When calories are low, it’s essential that you fill yourself up with foods that are going to keep you full.
Refined foods, liquid shakes, nuts, high calorie sauces and calorie beverages should go out the window. Even rice should be ditched. Lean meats, eggs/whites, cottage cheese, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, beans and veggies should become your staples. Coconut oil can be added for cooking and butter for taste to hit your fat numbers and to make food more tasty and filling.
5) Eating foods you don’t like
If you are eating meals and foods you don’t actually like, cravings are going to be your constant companion.
But when you feel truly full and satisfied after a meal, dieting will be a walk in the park. Every now and again I will have pancakes or ice-cream. I make sure to hit my macros and it’s completely fine. I feel fantastic, absolutely no guilt. Whatever your favorite foods are you should definitely find a way to keep them in your weekly plan.
Intermittent fasting makes eating incredible food effortless. So instead of having boiled chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli, have crispy chicken cooked in coconut oil with delicious baked potatoes wedges and broccoli on the side.
6) Having cheat days
Cheat days are an absolute calorie deficit disaster. One day of no holds barred gluttony usually equates to 2000-3000 calories over your maintenance requirements completing undoing many of the diet days. Not to mention, how gross do you feel when you eat soo much junk and stuff yourself in preparation for six days of rigorous dieting? Instead of having cheat days you should have reefed days.
This is where you set calories at maintenance or slightly higher and emphasize carbs to boost leptin (the hormone that regulates metabolism and appetite). One or two of these per week is perfect, ideally on a lift day.
7) Being way too strict and rigid
Relax, it’s a diet, that’s it. Hell is not going to break loose if you go over your calories by a tad.
You have to live a little after-all. Don’t put your life on hold until you’re at 7% body fat. Learn to enjoy yourself while making weekly progress. This is when dieting falls into the background of your life. You hardly even realize you’re dieting and you can enjoy the adventure. Don’t try to be perfect, as long as you do your best, progress will take place.
If you only accept perfection then you will feel guilty when you mess up and the guilt will cause you to spiral out of control. This is no way to live life. The more relaxed you can be while still being in the ballpark, the easier it will be to get to your goal and stay there.
8) Freaking out over weight fluctuations
Here’s the deal, scale weight is dependent on many factors. Water retention, glycogen levels, food content and of course, the gravitational pull at that specific moment all play a role.
If your weight spikes one day, don’t let this freak you out. Expect your weight to bounce around all over the place. You must become emotionally un reactive to it. My suggestion is to weigh yourself daily and try to hit a weekly low each week. Alternatively only weigh yourself every couple of weeks. In addition, I suggest tracking your waist measurement.
If your waist is going down but your weight is staying the same, you’re probably building muscle while dropping fat. I have several different methods of tracking my level of leanness and that of my clients.
9) Not Strength Training
Here’s the deal, if you’re not strength training, a good portion of the weight you do lose will be from lean muscle tissue.
This will leave you small and weak, lacking solid muscle definition. You may drop 20 lbs but potentially only 14-15 of those pounds will actually reflect fat and the rest will be from losses in lean mass, this is hardly ideal. With proper strength training, you can maintain all of your muscle throughout a cut and end up lean, hard and toned. The best news is that you’ll hit your body fat percentage goal faster because all of the weight you’re dropping will be fat.
10) Lifting too often and with too much volume
All right, so you understand the importance of resistance training, but have you taken things too far? Are you hammering the gym 5-6 days per week, with 20+ sets per workout? This is almost as bad as doing absolutely no strength training. As a natural, your body is only good at doing one thing at a time. Replenishing depleted glycogen and adapting to such a high workload is going to interfere with your ability to make strength gains and rebuild muscle tissue. This becomes exceedingly true when you’re undergoing a calorie deficit.
What’s more, if you’ve been low carbing it, your glycogen levels in your muscles will be chronically depleted. As a result, you’d be lucky to hold onto the muscle and strength you do have, let alone increase it. Thankfully, the solution is simple. Cut back on your training volume and hone in on the core movements. What works best is three workouts per week, four to five exercises per workout and two to three sets per movement. Sounds easy? Talk to me when you’re performing chin ups with 100 lbs, incline benching over 225 lbs and performing full range handstand push ups as if gravity was turned off that day. This is the type of strength that I build my clients up to with very minimalistic routines.
11) Doing crossfit or high intensity interval training to get lean
I’m fine with people doing intervals and conditioning workouts if improving their aerobic and anaerobic conditioning is a high priority. However, this is rarely if ever a concern unless you’re a serious athlete who requires additional conditioning work.
The problem with interval/conditioning work as a fat los strategy is that it’s terribly inefficient. Sure, you’ll burn a few hundred calories, but oh my, god, was it actually worth it? You will have cut into your recovery capabilities and increased your appetite. This means that sticking to your diet will be a nightmare and your strength training workouts may suffer.
Additionally, you’ll end up overeating to accommodate the calories burned. This becomes exceedingly true when you’re around 12-15% body fat or less. Your body becomes more sensitive to calorie deficits so any calories burned results in a proportional increase in appetite. This can actually make fat loss harder because when you go off your diet and eat more, you feel guilty. Guilt is a very counterintuitive emotion. When guilt creeps in we become highly irrational and dig our selves in a deeper hole.
My goal is to make fat loss as effortless as possible. This means the emphasis should be on solid nutrition and strength training. I also like to use 40 minutes of brisk walking on rest days. This burns a few hundred calories with a negligible effect on my appetite. Further, walking helps with recovery, improves mood and also gives me a chance to listen to audiotapes.
12) Doing high reps to get defined
As if high reps make your muscles defined and low reps make your muscles bulky!
I would love for someone to try to explain that concept to me. Muscle is muscle! You can make a muscle bigger or you can make a muscle smaller. You can make the fat surrounding a muscle bigger or you can make it smaller. So to achieve a highly chiseled state, you need to build up a solid amount of muscle, while stripping off any fat that is blurring muscle definition. The most effective way to accomplish this is through a combination of strength training and nutrition.
The nutrition will take care of fat loss so you can reach a low body fat and the strength training will build up the amount of muscle required for the dense and defined look. Doing high rep training will make it much more difficult to build up the necessary muscle mass for the lean and muscular hollywood physique. Not to mention high rep training with short rest periods triggers sarcoplasmic muscle growth. This means your muscles will get bigger from an increase of fluid within the muscle cells.
This contributes to the puffy bodybuilder look. So if you want to be lean, hard and defined you should be focusing on getting strong and taking long rest periods. This will increase the actual contractual filaments in your muscles giving them a firmer and harder presence.
13) Not tracking you workouts
It pains me to see that I’m one of the only people at my gym that actually records his workouts.
In fact, I could attribute most of my progress to the fact that I record each and every set of every workout I perform. For 8 years I have been constantly testing solid workout programs, recording them, adjusting them and making them more effective. I’ve then taken this strategy and applied it with my clients.
When I or anyone of my clients hits a plateau, I go in there like a doctor with a scalpel to see what I can change or adjust to keep progress moving. You start to learn really quickly how to structure and set up a very effective workout program. You also start to see that some of the most hyped workouts that most people follow completely suck. You’ll make strength gains as a beginner but very quickly it will be next to impossible to get stronger.
If you’re tracking your workouts and making progress in reps performed or weight lifted, then no one can take that away from you. No matter what someone says, if you’re making weekly progress then you’re doing a great job. And you shouldn’t actually make any changes until you plateau for two consecutive weeks. This is one of the reasons why the muscle confusion principle is garbage. If you change things up every workout, you will never be able to make any progress.
14) Pushing happiness into the future
If you’re like me, throughout your cut you probably tell yourself that you’ll be happy, fulfilled and complete in the future when you’re absolutely shredded at some arbitrary body fat percentage.
This might sound like a positive and productive mindset, but it’s quite the opposite. What happens is that the present moment becomes reduced to a means to an end without any real value. Your sense of self becomes invested in having a certain physique or attaining a specific goal in order to feel complete and happy. This creates unnecessary pressure, stress and urgency.
It also invites compulsive thinking about your diet, training and rate of progress. The more you think about your diet, the more likely you are to screw up and the slower it will go.
You must feel complete and at peace within and you must steer clear of basing your identity around your body, your car, your job or any other external factor for that matter. When you’re no longer identified with form, there becomes ease, joy and lightness in working towards your goal.
Funny enough, you then quickly realize that the most rewarding aspect of undergoing a transformation or striving for a goal is the actual journey. The journey requires you to transform your way of thinking and outlook, before the physical transformation can manifest. It forces you to use your mind instead of being taken over by it with false rationalizations and negative thought patterns.
After you have transformed your physique, you will have way more confidence and self-assurance to pursue any other goal in life. Whether it’s to start a business, meet a beautiful women, learn a skill or do something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Getting into awe-inspiring shape is not just cosmetic, it is life altering.
The physical change is just on the surface, the mental change is much more profound.