The Simple Truth About Getting Shredded

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Do you want shredded abs? Who doesn’t? In this post I will explain exactly how to get shredded abs in TWO easy steps:

Step 1: Be in a calorie deficit

Step 2: Repeat Step 1 until you are shredded

That’s it. There’s no magic. No secret. No quick fix. No super food or detox or special exercise.

To get shredded abs you have to essentially lose a lot of body fat. It also helps to actually have muscular abs underneath your fat. But I promise, even if you never work out your “core”, if you lose enough body fat you will eventually get some semblance of that “shredded” look.

But I lied. Only Step 1 is easy. To get in a calorie deficit all you have to do is eat less or move more. But Step 2 is the hard part because the key to shredded abs is to make being in a calorie deficit sustainable for months, maybe years. Therein lies the rub. If you are in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time you are probably going to be hungry. Being hungry sucks. So the key to Step 2 is to make it such that your hunger or satiation is manageable for months if not years. People often turn to low carb diets for this purpose because filling up on fats and protein tends to keep the hunger pains manageable while you are in a calorie deficit.

The other thing that happens in a sustained calorie deficit is that your metabolism adapts to being in a deficit and makes it harder and harder to maintain Step 2. It will slow down your metabolism and it will increase your appetite. Your body was designed by evolutionary processes to make it easy to gain weight and hard to lose weight. This makes perfect adaptive sense in an environment where food was hard to come by and you had to burn a lot of calories gathering or hunting food. Now we can walk down to the local gasmart and buy thousands of calories for a few bucks with very little calorie expenditure. So the very metabolic adaptations that once made it easier for us to survive are now making us fatter, month by month, year by year. The freshman 15 is actually just the starting point for the Western tendency to get a little bit fatter every year. Because of this very real metabolic adaptation it’s critical to take intermittent “diet breaks” or “refeeds” to reset our metabolism. There’s a whole art and science to this.

However, the nature of this adaptation makes it almost inevitable that people will yo-yo diet in and out of Step 2. They will be in a calorie deficit for a week or two, lose a few pounds (mostly water weight anyway). Then they get stressed or go out to eat with their friends, get tipsy, and stop at Taco Bell on the way home to devour a 1000 calorie meal along with 3 large sodas. The drunchies are real. Temptations are real. Not all of us have the drive or motivation necessary to be restrictive in our diets 24/7 for weeks and months. We have snacks in house, start a movie, and feel like it’d be freaking awesome to munch our way through the entire movie. Then we have a huge dinner and later icecream at 11pm because “we had a long day and we deserve it”. The realities of our modern food environment make it such that we have to avoid temptation all day long. You’ve been doing awesome with your calories that day but then Carol from work brings in donuts from your favorite local gourmet donut shop. What do you do? You eat one. Then another. Then 3 hours later you sneak back in to see if there’s more left.

Not to mention how hard to is to even determine accurately whether you are in a calorie deficit since tracking calories is notoriously difficult. Nutrition labels are inaccurate, digestion absorption rates are variable, individual differences abound, and weighing out food precisely is a pain in the ass. Not to mention it’s difficult to sustain the habit of calorie counting for the months and years necessary to get shredded.

So the odds are stacked against you getting absolutely shredded, let alone in 12 weeks like so many personal trainers promise. If it was easy to get shredded abs everyone would have them. But it’s hard. Really fucking hard. You have to want it. Really bad. So bad that you are willing to sacrifice your social life and earn the scorn of your family, friends, and co-workers. You have to become that “crazy fitness person” who cares more about their sixpack than having a good time.

But the good news is that the principles behind getting shredded are absolutely basic and easy to follow: get in a calorie deficit and stay there. But the devil is in the details. I haven’t even begun to talk about the importance of developing and retaining muscle mass through strength training, which is super important. If you just starve yourself and do cardio all day you’re going to lose a lot of muscle along with fat which will slowly make it harder and harder to maintain the calorie deficit because your metabolism will be shit. So we not only have to be on point with our nutrition we have to find the time in our busy days to consistently hit the gym or workout for months or years. Like I said: it’s hard work. Real hard.


There’s a reason fitness models get paid to be fitness models: they have to basically spend their whole existence focusing on nutrition and fitness and even they don’t stay super shredded year round. It’s not even that healthy to have super low body fat percentages anyway (especially for women). So why are we so obsessed with abs? Why this cultural fixation on being absolutely shredded? My hypothesis is that it’s the rarity or novelty factor that largely drives it. Getting ripped abs is so difficult to achieve that those who do get them instantly stand out for it and are thus seen as desirable. But of course we all know that ideas about who or what counts as “hot” vary from time period to time period, culture to culture.

I hope this post illustrates both the simplicity of getting shredded and the complexity of taking that simplicity and making it sustainable for months and years. Good luck!

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New home gym finally assembled!

The Titan t2 short power rack came from amazon in record time! My gf helped me assemble everything in the basement. Although the space is tight I am so happy with how it turned out! With a bit of finesse, I have a plan to be able to do all the major lifts (will post more pictures later as I get all the equipment I ordered)

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Although I didn’t get hired at Club Fitness I am taking new steps to being an independent personal trainer. I booked my first training session with a friend! And I also garnered a couple other leads on Facebook and instagram. I have also begun advertising my services on Facebook and ordered some business cards. So excited! I can’t wait to start training people. I am brimming with ideas about how to help people transform their lives.

This week’s progress – May 19, 2017

This week has been really, surprisingly good. Almost too good?

Stats last Friday:
– 171 lbs

-BF% on Omron monitor: 22.7%

Stats this morning:

-164.8 lbs

-BF% on Omron monitor: 22%

That’s a pretty large difference. Not sure what the explanation is other than losing water weight since according to My Fitness Pal I should be losing only about 2 lbs of fat a week at 1540 calories a day. My sodium intake has been fluctuating a lot but otherwise my diet this week was super consistent – I chalk it up to the “whoosh effect“.

Macros: 38%P / 41%F / 21% C

Average daily sugar intake: 27g

I have also been really good at hitting my caloric number daily. I strive for 1540 exactly instead of 1000 one day and 2000 the next day. I feel like the more consistent I am at hitting 1540 the better my results. But if I go over on work-out days it’s not a big deal because I know I am burning a good amount of calories. I am not eating back any of my calories burnt from exercise.

My lifts in the gym have been pretty good. Numbers:

Squat: 175×5

Bench: 95×5

Deadlift: 175 x 5

These are all improvements over last week.

Overall my energy is good. I use intermittent fasting to control my satiety i.e. if I compress my eating window mainly to the afternoon/evening 1540 calories with my macros leaves me usually feeling stuffed by the time I go to bed. The only time I’m hungry is when I’m fasting the morning but that’s to be expected. It’s amazing what chicken breast and veggies can do to satiate you – a 99g chicken breast fillet is 100 calories yet leaves me really satisfied especially if I have it with some ranch. Add in 150 calories of veggies in microwaveable steam-fresh bags and that’s a great meal to satisfy me. In contrast, my gf ate a 750 calorie mini-pizza yesterday but afterwards told me she was still hungry (not implying my gf is unhealthy – far from it – she just isn’t as strict with her diet as me because she has different aesthetic goals atm).

Back on track

After hurting my right shoulder back in April I am finally back on track in the gym. I have two different workouts: A and B. A involves squats, bench, rows and a bunch of accessories and B involves squats, deadlifts, overhead press, and a bunch of accessories. The workout is never exactly the same depending on how I am feeling, how busy the gym is, and what equipment is available. Although I am using progressive overload since I am on a cut it is difficult. Currently I am going more for strength in the 5 rep range.

I am working on being consistent with my diet and tracking my calories more accurately. I bought an Omron BF % monitor to use as a progress marker. It currently puts me at around 23% bodyfat which actually seems pretty accurate. Actual weight loss is slow but I definitely see body composition changes in the mirror. The diet is the hardest part. My belly fat is very, very stubborn. I have been sticking with a mixture of low carb/low sugar and maintaining a steady caloric deficit. Will this make me lean? I hope so. I’ve looked up the diet plans for bikini competitors and my diet is not too far off from theirs. I definitely wanna get that Omron number under 20% and see what that looks like.

In other news, I am taking my CPR/AED certification class tomorrow. My studying for the NASM exam is going very well. I took the practice test and got an 80%. I feel like I know the material pretty well. But I am going to keep studying – not in an immediate rush to schedule the exam. But I am feeling more and more confident. I’m also pretty sure I know which training company I want to apply for – it’s a local personal training management company that works with the local gym chain I go to. It seems within my grasp. I am definitely excited about starting the path towards being a fitness professional.

My fitness and nutrition regime – April 2017

Right now my goal is to lose body fat (BF%) while¬†either keeping my muscle mass the same or slightly growing it. At 5’10 my current weight is ~173 lbs and BF% ~25%. My waist at its widest is around 38 inches.

I am going to attempt to eat relatively low carb high protein 6 days a week and have a “cheat-day” on Saturday. I’m shooting for at least 150g of protein a day. My maintenance is probably around ~2500kcal and I’m cutting at around 1800kcal. On the cheat day I don’t count calories. Otherwise I’m counting with My Fitness Pal and strictly weighing everything out. No guessing. No estimating. If I can’t weigh it or calculate precisely, I don’t eat it (except on cheat day).

I’m lifting weights probably 4 times a week with a primary focus on legs and glutes. I squat pretty much every time I go to the gym. I’m still discovering my maxes. So far my PR for squat in my new hormonal configuration is 170. It’s hard to gain on a cut though. I’m hoping the carb cycling will help with gains and bring me closer to a recomp than a true cut.

I’m also spending a lot of time doing low intensity cardio on my at-home exercise bike. I have also recently discovered kettlebell swings and have incorporated them into my workout days. I’m contemplating doing a light set of 25lbs kettlebell swings daily for metabolism and recomp purposes but not sure if that would interfere with my recovery. I’ve seen different opinions about daily kettlebell swings depending on your goals and fitness level.

I would love to lose about 20 lbs of fat from my stomach area, increase my legs and glutes in size, and lower my BF% to reveal abs better. I have no idea what my body will look like once this mini-transformation is over. But I’m excited. I will be posting before and after pictures once I am happy with my progress, probably in like 3 months.

My aspirations for being a personal trainer are pushing me harder to get in the best shape of my life – who would want to work with a personal trainer who cannot even transform themselves? If you cannot even transform yourself where all decisions are 100% in your control – how can you expect others to want you to transform them as well? The probably is I have no guarantee my methods are going to work. Hopefully I will be able to adjust as needed as I progress. I will keep this blog updated.

New Beginnings

I’ve been blogging about philosophy, psychology, and gender for a long time and I figured it was time for me to start a health and fitness blog. The reason I am creating a whole new blog for this is that it can be difficult to talk about these things in modern day America. There is a tremendous amount of collective social anxiety surrounding health, obesity, and fitness. There is so much information out there, much of it garbage, that it can be difficult to sort through the BS and find reliable facts and science relating to something so incredibly complex as human health. There is also increasing awareness of the dangers and negatives of diet culture and how that impacts people, especially women and young girls.

With all the intense pressure of the diet culture, talking about weight, health, and fitness can be socially touchy. Many people don’t want to discuss uncomfortable truths and face the reality of their decisions and lifestyle.

But I believe firmly that while it is pointless to be insensitive and cruel the growing rates of obesity necessitate an evidence-based approach to tackling our nation’s health problems. I believe that there are too many half-truths and oversimplications out there. For example, calories: do they matter? Should we count them? Is “calories in, calories out” true? Everyone seems to have their own opinion. This blog will hopefully sort fact from faction as well as grapple with the tough philosophical problems these issues raise such as: what does it mean to live a good life? Is being healthy an essential part of the good life?

In addition to covering the science and philosophy of fitness, this blog will also be a diary of my own fitness journey as I work to achieve my own fitness and body composition goals.