“How to get ripped”. It’s probably not by typing those words into a search bar that the fitness models you follow enviously on Instagram acquired the abdominals of an Adonis or shoulders that could dislodge a doorframe. It’s their job to be in that type of shape, right? Well, yes. Kind of.
What these body types are really more indicative of is that there is no quick fix; a low body fat percentage is a matter of consistency. The best way to achieve it, according to the powers that be of the fitness industry, is through habit-forming – incorporating subtle lifestyle tweaks into everyday routine.
A short-lived resolution list and gym membership gathering dust are not the ways to get ripped. Instead, try adding these daily habits into your regimen to see your waistline shrink and muscles grow. Best start making friends with your tailor because you’ll soon be in need of some serious alterations.
Never Fail To Prepare
Because, as the old saying goes, they’d then be preparing to fail. “Mapping out your sessions and meal prepping for the week are the most effective first steps to success,” says Third Space personal trainer, Leo Savage.
That doesn’t mean cooking 80 steaks on a Sunday night. Just book in a fitness class that costs cold hard cash to avoid any urge to drop out. And if you’re not a morning person, score more sleep by soaking oats overnight for a pre-prepared carb-loaded breakfast. A little prior thought goes a long way.
Never Skip Breakfast
Whether it’s the aforementioned overnight oats or smoked salmon and eggs on rye bread, making a proper breakfast every day is essential. That cereal bar on the train doesn’t cut it.
Researchers at the University of Bath revealed that opting for an extra 10 minutes in bed eats into your weight loss potential. Instead, a morning bowlful kick-starts your metabolism to the sum of an additional 442 calories burned every day.
Add a black coffee (put down the latte, please) and further investigation found you’ll burn calories 11 per cent quicker, too. A useful safety net when you’re booked in for a client lunch that doesn’t exactly fit the rest of your nutrition plan.
Set An Alarm
Interestingly, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology found a trigger cue (be that a ringing phone before every workout or a calendar reminder to signal your next protein shake) associates an action with a sound, forming an internal prompt.
This conditions your brain to crave a workout every time you hear it. It’s nerdy science, but it works. And who said alarm clocks are evil?
Never Take A Rest Day
For those with even a passing knowledge of exercise plans this may seem sacrilegious, but listen up. “Skipping rest days does not mean daily strenuous exercise,” says founder of the Brotherhood Training Club, Kemo Marriott. “However, it does mean that some form of activity is completed every day – you need to move daily in order to maintain a habit of exercise.”
This not only increases your total calorie expenditure but promotes the hormonal releases that can help you recover from major sessions. So, in addition to your boxing training and deadlift session, add in some low-intensity hot yoga and a long slow swim to your week. No one said a habit has to be boring.
Protein may be best associated with the lumpy shakes chugged by tattoo sleeve-toting gym bros, but this macronutrient is also incredibly important for fat loss. “Protein has a high thermic effect,” says Marriott. “Around 25 to 30 per cent of its energy is utilised in its metabolisation.”
For the bamboozled among you, this means that you burn more calories digesting foods high in protein than others, helping you to lose weight. Protein is also filling, making diets more manageable, and it also reduces the amount of muscle you lose while restricting your calories. Stock up, get ripped. Simple.
Set And Reset Goals
“The guys you want to emulate in the gym always have a clear goal,” says Savage. “They don’t just exercise for the sake of it, but train for a purpose.”
Looking good on holiday shouldn’t be one. Make it objective, quantifiable and achievable. Things like ‘do 10 pull-ups’ or ‘tighten my belt by one notch’ are more effective, and more positive.
Make sure you update the way you plan to achieve these goals, too. The same bench press session every Monday for two months will end in plateaued results, so consider using a fitness watch to keep tabs on your progress.
“We subconsciously mimic the behaviours of those we spend a lot of time with,” says Marriott. “It’s called the ‘Chameleon Effect’.” It’s also the reason why there’s safety in numbers when following a fitness plan.
Surround yourself with the friends who support your healthy habits, and save seeing those most likely to prop up the bar for Friday.
Set up a group chat on your phone where you can share meal pictures for recipe inspiration, or join a sports team where squad training can drag your enthusiasm levels out of the doldrums.
Dumbbell exercises like bicep curls may pump you up in the short term, but heavy, compound lifts like deadlifts, squats and bench presses are the preserve of the ripped elite. “It’s been proven over and again that lifting heavier recruits more muscle fibres,” says Savage.
More muscle fibres not only repair larger, meaning you’ll pack on size and mass, but you’ll also burn more calories post-workout. So reach for the barbell and start setting PBs.
But not the ones you were hoping for. Increasing water intake is an effective way to feel full, helping you to eat less. Moreover, it can boost your metabolism and by swapping beer for good old H2O, you can avoid a drop in testosterone.
The nutritionist-approved way to stay hydrated on a training programme is by working out your fluid losses. “Weigh yourself before a session and afterwards towel dry before weighing again,” says Jo Travers, author of The Low-Fad Diet. “Figure out how much you have lost and replace it with double the weight in water weight.”
For example, if you’re 75kg before, 74.5kg after and drank 500ml during your workout, the overall loss is 1kg and you should replace with two litres of water.
Get Enough Rest
“Poor sleep has been shown to increase the hormone ghrelin [which stimulates hunger] and decrease the amount of leptin [low levels signal a need to eat more],” says Marriott.
With all the willpower in the world, walking the supermarket aisles with a primal hunter in the pit of your stomach is bound to undo your hard work, with at least one pack of Doritos or frozen pizza going through the till.
In fact, American researchers found that weight gain increases by up to 30 per cent if your shut-eye drops from a restful seven hours to below five. Log off work emails and all other tech an hour before bed; this will shield you from blue light, allowing your body to ease into sleep mode. Lights out and good night.