Want to see your six-pack again - or for the first time ever? You'll find all you need to know to get superlean in a dozen simple rules.
1. Slash (Calories) and Burn
Step 1 revolves around simple math: You must eat fewer calories than your body is accustomed to in order to drop bodyfat. When a calorie shortfall is created, the body responds by digging into bodyfat reserves to make up the difference. And presto, you grow leaner. All other laws aside, this one heads the list every time, no matter what dietary approach you take.
Do This: Most guys who are fairly active and exercise regularly burn about 18 calories per pound of bodyweight or more per day. On that basis, a 200-pounder would consume 3,600 calories daily. To start dropping bodyfat, reduce your calories to between 14 and 16 per pound of bodyweight per day on workout days, or 2,800-3,200 calories daily. On nonworkout days, drop to about 12 calories per pound per day (2,400 calories for the guy who's 200 pounds).
The easiest way to cut calories? Eliminate excess dietary fat - meaning no butter, oils, salad dressings (low-fat or fat-free dressings are okay); remove the skin from chicken; substitute egg whites for most of your whole eggs; avoid whole-milk dairy products; and ditch marbled red meats such as rib-eye for lean cuts such as flank. Keep some healthy fats in your diet, such as salmon, mixed nuts, peanut butter and avocados.
2. Curtail Carbohydrates
Though calorie control is a must, hormonal control is nearly as important. Coupled with calories, hormones govern fat-burning. Suppress fat-storing hormones and you can expect a significant amount of bodyfat to melt away. The ideal way to control these hormones is to keep your carbohydrate intake in check, since carbs kick up insulin, a hormone that inhibits fat breakdown and drives fat storage. Eat fewer carbs and insulin levels tend to moderate, leading to fat loss.
Of course, not all carbohydrates are equal. In short, fast-digesting carbs tend to create a large insulin burst, leading to more potential fat gain. These carbs include white bread, most cold cereals, any sweets, rice cakes, white rice and white potatoes. Conversely, slow-digesting carbs (found in whole-grain breads, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and legumes) don't cause much of an insulin rise, so these should make up the vast majority of your carb consumption.
Do This: The commonsense approach is to halve your carbohydrate portions. If you tend to eat a large bagel for breakfast, eat only half and save the rest for tomorrow, or simply eat a smaller bagel. If you typically eat 2 cups of pasta at dinner, eat just one. In time, you'll see the effects of insulin control.
As for carb choices, the aforementioned bagel should be 100% whole wheat, not white. At all times during the day, in fact, choose whole-grain foods over refined ones, the only exception being immediately after a workout, when fast-digesting carbs reign supreme for boosting insulin and replenishing muscle glycogen stores (see Law 8). Keep carbs to less than 2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.