ADMIRE THOSE RIDICULOUSLY ripped guys from The Expendables? Here’s a secret that’ll come as both a relief and a letdown: Physiques like those of Stallone and crew have the life expectancy of a mayfly—a day or two after the shoot.
We’re not saying it’s CGI or Photoshop that’s responsible for creating these onscreen bodies. Rather, it’s a secret, weeklong get-shredded strategy that separates people who make their living with their bodies from guys like us who just want to eat popcorn and watch them dodge bullets. The movie stars, the underwear models, the pro bodybuilders—they don’t look like that all the time. They can’t. But when it’s go time, they’re ready with Hollywood’s biggest get-shredded secret.
Thing is, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be in on the secret, too. Whether you’re planning a last-minute vacation, or auditioning for latest action movie there’s a method you can follow to get as lean and hard as possible, so your muscles look like they’ve been shrink-wrapped by your skin. Follow these seven steps to get “the body” for your big moment.
1. Start lean
Here’s the tough-love truth: If you can’t see your abs pretty well already, you need to diet to get your body fat down first. The shrink-wrap plan is primarily for losing subcutaneous water weight that’s obscuring definition, so if your belly hangs over your waistband, it’s going to take more than a week to get rid of it.
2. Do the math
You should already be following a diet to get lean, and should therefore be aware of how much you’re eating. But to remove any guesswork, we’ll give you some numbers to hit for the week: Consume one gram of protein and 10–11 calories for every pound of your body weight; 20% of those daily calories should be from fat, and the remainder from carbs. (Remember to first subtract the protein calories you’re also eating from the total allowed before you calculate the number of carbs.)
3. Eliminate allergens
It’s possible you’ve lost significant fat already with foods like milk, wheat bread, and artificial sweeteners in your diet, but for the next week, cut these out entirely—even if you don’t think you have an intolerance to them. Even the slightest irritation to your digestive system can cause bloating and water retention, so eliminate the risk completely. Dairy and gluten appear in numerous condiments (soy sauce, salad dressings, some brands of barbecue sauce, etc.), so to avoid a potential problem, read labels and control your intake as much as possible. Season your food with condiments such as sea salt, salsa, and balsamic vinegar instead.
5. Keep your carbs up
After your last training session (Wednesday, in this example, two full days before Saturday’s event), eat two to three grams of carbs per pound of body weight for the rest of the day. If you train at night and it’s hard to eat enough carbs before bed, you can split up the total and eat the rest of the carbs on Thursday night. Insulin sensitivity remains high for 48 hours post- workout, so glycogen will still go to your muscles. Otherwise, on Thursday, go back on the diet prescribed in Step 2.
Once your muscle glycogen stores are full, they’ll remain this way for days, as long as no other strength training is performed (because muscle glycogen is burned only during high- intensity exercise). Carbing up on Wednesday also gives you time to make adjustments. If you feel you look flat and small on Thursday or Friday, increase your carbs a bit. Bloated and soft? Cut them back a bit. Make adjustments by 25–50 grams at a time.
6. Keep drinking water
In an effort to look even dryer on game day, some guys will drastically cut their water intake. This only causes the body to react the opposite way, causing you to retain more water to avoid dehydration.
Drink your normal amount of water up until the night before the target day, at which point you should cut it back. The day of your event, halve your water intake until you’re ready to party. This will help you appear a little tighter without giving the body time to react negatively to water restriction.
7. Keep eating salt
It’s widely known that salt causes water retention—but if you cut it completely, your body will scramble to prevent water loss. (Sorry, but it’s smarter than you are.) Continue to salt your food as you usually do until 24 hours before you go shirtless. At that point, avoid any extra sodium (that is, beyond what’s already in your food). When you’re ready to live it up, don’t feel guilty having a drink—at least, not the first one. A little bit of alcohol at this stage will actually help your cause—giving you a tighter look—as it has a slight diuretic effect.
What the plan looks like
Saturday (one week out)
Figure out your calorie, protein, carb, and fat allowance and start eating accordingly. Eliminate all potential allergens (e.g., dairy, soy, and gluten).
Wednesday (three days out)
Complete your last workout of the week, focusing on the body parts you want to look their best on Saturday, such as arms and chest. Don’t train abs. After your workout, increase your carb intake so you’re consuming 2–3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight by the end of the day.
Thursday (two days out)
Adjust carbs if necessary, depending on how you look. Be conservative.
Friday (one day out)
Adjust carbs if necessary. Stop salting your food 24 hours before the time you plan to lose your shirt. Limit your water at night.
Avoid salt and drink half your normal water intake up until the party.