I have always been kind of big, in high school I was a lineman in football. At one time I weighed 198 and I am only 5’9″. Now I hover around 175, but it is more fat than muscle these days. At this point I am most concerned with getting rid of my gut. What kind of exercise/diet do you recommend? Should I adopt a diet similar to your competition diet, at least temporarily?
Karl S, Amarillo,TX
Thank you for your question. I think I’ll be able to help you out. I came from opposite direction. I was always small, but then when I got into college in Salt Lake City, UT, I started to get a bit of a gut. I only had it temporarily and then started my fitness-turned bodybuilding programs.
This is how I would approach your mid-section trimming program:
First of all I would set a goal. Not just something that you hope for or that you tell a few people about. Set a goal as specific as possible. Give exact numbers whether we’re talking inches you want to lose, pounds you will shed, pants you’ll fit in, whatever the case may be, make it specific. Have a starting and ending date for when you’ll begin and achieve your specific desired results. Write it down, tell people who are close to you, make sure you stay on your toes and have a supporting cast who will also be checking in on your progress. If it helps, cut out a photo of someone with ripped abs to use as motivation and pick out an inspiring quote or two to help light the fire to keep your training and nutrition programs on course.
Speaking of training and nutrition, let’s talk about it. You don’t need to adopt a pre-contest diet, but you can extract certain aspects of contest preparation to achieve results. I have some photos from early 2003 at nearly 200 pounds and some photos look like I have an awesome gut. Then I prepared for my contest and had abs sticking out, which was my goal. I had specific dates and I worked hard to do it. Now here are some of the things that I would suggest you extract from my “pre-contest” program:
I would focus on abdominal exercises as well as full-body training. I would make sure that your workouts stay quick and intense. Keep sweating and burning calories throughout instead of long rest periods between sets. When I’m preparing for a contest, or getting lean, instead of resting after a completed set, I hop on the floor and do some crunches. I’ll also do them on a bench or an ab machine, something convenient and nearby that will work on the abs while your primary muscle group can rest from the set.
Another suggestion would be to do a 15-25 minute warm-up instead of 5-10 min to get more cardio in, burn more calories, etc. I’d also do 20 minutes on the bike or stair-stepper after your workout as well, a perfect time for some cardio when trying to get lean.
Also if you plan on working abs as well as other muscle groups that day, start with abs so they get hit when they’re fresh. Remember that “speed” isn’t always the best when doing crunches or sit-ups. Try to feel the muscles working and perform the exercise at a pace that gets the best muscle contractions. Also don’t limit yourself to just sit-ups, you can do cable-crunches, hanging leg raises, decline sit-ups, weighted sit-ups, side crunches, bicycle crunches, and use abdominal machines.
Don’t forget about the rest of the body, it’s great to work the mid-section when trying to get rid of a gut, but work the whole body with a 4 or 5-day split, or whatever works for you based on your current program and daily schedule.
Diet….cut out a lot of processed foods, eat a lot of natural healthy foods. You can cut out some carbs, but you don’t have to go too low. Remember that if you’re doing a lot of cardio and having intense workouts with longer warm-ups, it allows you to consume a lot of more carbs since you’re burning them off. So don’t go hungry just watch some of the vegan junk food. Keep the protein high to build muscle while you’re training, with moderate fat intake.
Drink a lot of water, a gallon a day if you can. This can be hard to do, but it’s great for better cell nutrition and for carrying nutrients to all parts of your body, fighting off dehydration, and helping your build the kind of physique you want.
Take notes on your progress, notice what’s working for you and what isn’t working as well as you had hoped. Make some changes if need be but not too soon. Give yourself a few weeks of a certain aspect of your nutrition or training program before you ax it and say it doesn’t work.
Best of luck to you Karl. If you like, feel free to check out some of the “clean foods” I was eating during my contest prep and add a few of those to your diet.
You’ll be lean in no time and forget that you even had a gut.