With an endless variety of new and different weight-loss fads being ceaselessly pushed on the public, it has become increasingly complicated to get started with the seemingly straightforward task of losing weight. In an effort to help you navigate your way through copious crash diets and the excessive restrictions required by draconian weight-loss plans, we at Muscle & Performance have created a no-nonsense scientific system to help you lose a significant amount of weight —we’re talking at least 20 pounds — over the course of three months.
The essential factors contributing to this 20-plus-pound weight loss will be the usual: diet, resistance training and (duh) cardio. We break all these factors down for each individual, so that through consistency, you should be able to lose at least 1 to 2 pounds of body fat a week. Better, you’ll be able to keep it off while maintaining lean muscle mass, strength and endurance.
Most stories about weight loss start with the training — and we get why. Even if you’re not quite at the point at which you can consider training fun, at the very least it’s the dynamic part of undertaking a program like this. But because you spend more time every day out of the gym than in the gym, nutrition is what’s going to make the difference between where you are now and where you will be in three months.
Fundamentally, what you put into your body has a great effect on the number that you see when looking at the scale. Science and math tell us that losing weight can be as simple as consuming fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. At the same time, too high of a caloric deficit will waste away muscle mass and hinder weight loss, because the more muscle a body has, the more calories it burns at rest.
To find the total number of calories you will consume each day, multiply your current weight by 12. The next step is to break that total down into macronutrient totals and figure out what to eat when.
Ingesting an optimal amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in the right ratio will allow your body to burn calories at an accelerated rate. In addition to your food intake, a strategic supplement plan, along with drinking a gallon of water each day, will enhance the weight-loss process.
Protein is known for its role in the muscle-building process, but it’s also critical for maintaining muscle mass while losing weight. A minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (that’s 200 grams for a 200-pound guy) will be needed, with 40 percent of your daily calories coming from protein being optimal. Protein should be the main calorie source at every meal and should be consumed (preferably in the form of protein powder) within 30 minutes of rising in the morning and before and after training.
It is said that “fat burns in a flame of carbohydrates,” but at the same time, excess carbohydrate intake will undoubtedly result in bloat and rapid fat gain. For this reason, your diet plan will limit, but not eliminate, carbohydrate intake. As your physical activity lessens toward the end of each day, you will restrict carb intake with each successive meal. None of the carbohydrates consumed (other than those immediately following resistance training) will be from sugary or starchy sources; rather they will come from fibrous vegetables with some whole grains. Your daily total of calories from carbs will never be above 40 percent.
Fat gets a poor reputation because of its name, but that’s because it’s not very well-understood that dietary fat does not in any way equate to body fat. In fact, an intake of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from healthy sources can be very beneficial to a fat-loss diet. For this reason, you will include some fat in your diet and will supplement with fatty acids, as well. Because carbohydrate intake remains moderate, 20 percent of daily calories will come from dietary fat.
The following meal plans represent a sample day in a diet for a 200- to 210-pound man and a 160-pound woman. You don’t fall into either of those categories? No problem. To personalize the diet, multiply your current weight by 12 to get your daily total calories and divide your daily totals to allow for at least 40 percent protein, at most 40 percent carbs and roughly 20 percent fat.
One of the greatest weapons you have in the war against calories and weight are your muscles. In this program, to stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible, we will use two different training protocols: one for exercising strength and power and another for promoting endurance and stamina.
You will be exercising with weights four days a week. On two of these days, you will be using linear periodization. This is a system used to promote strength, in which you increase the amount of weight you use on each set of a given exercise while the volume (number of reps) of each set will decrease. On the other two resistance-training days, you will use reverse-linear periodization. This just means that the weight will get lighter with each set as you do more reps. Interspersed among these reverse-linear periodization sets are circuits that require you to use the same amount of weight on each exercise but to attempt to perform at a faster speed with each set. To maximize and build your cardio strength output, you will also include supersets, circuits and timed abdominal work on these days.
Throughout the program, you will be doing two different types of cardio, both twice a week. You will use high-intensity interval training — alternating sprinting for 30 seconds with walking for one minute for a total of 30 minutes. Doing HIIT on a treadmill makes it easier to stay consistent with timing, but it can be done outside or on a track, too. And you’ll be doing steady-state cardio, maintaining a slower but consistent speed for 45 minutes. You can use a StairMaster, elliptical or treadmill on an incline, and you can do these cardio workouts on either training or non-training days at your convenience.
Day 1: Strength
On strength days, you will perform high-intensity movements emphasizing particular musculature for a series of two to three exercises, then will move on to a different area of your body. Attempt to perform each set with an increased load while lowering the reps on each set. By focusing movements on one muscle group for each series of exercises, you will reap the benefit of fully exhausting a body-part before moving on to the next fresh muscle group to do the same.
Day 2: Endurance
On endurance days, you will train with highly aerobic exercises, using a lighter weight each set but performing more reps. You’ll also do circuits, attempting to perform at a faster speed on each set. On these days, you will train your full body to maximize caloric expenditure by recruiting as much musculature as possible. Additionally, the exercises target different muscle groups with each movement in order to help mitigate any adaptation the body may go through on the strength days and provide a progressive stimulus to your muscles.
Day 3: Rest
Recovery is essential to promoting successful weight loss on this program. To make sure you do not experience diminished returns from your hard work, the program allows for three rest days per week. Cardio is to be done at your discretion given your energy levels for the day. However, at least one day a week should be a true rest day, with no cardio and no training. This will give the central nervous system a break and ensure your sustained success.