Category Archives: How to Get Ripped
by Tim Henriques – 8/??/2011
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become a conditioning staple. But what about another simple but hugely effective fat-stripping activity, namely steady-state walking?
Fact is, for the typical T NATION reader that’s muscular, lifts weights regularly, and looking to get a bit more cut, walking can be the perfect compliment to a rigorous weight lifting routine.
Pros of Walking
Doesn’t add training stress. Unlike interval or HIIT, walking adds very little training stress to the body. But combine more intense cardio with several days of weight lifting each week and the body can quickly become over-trained. Walking, on the other hand, is restorative; you feel better after you finish a walk, not worse, and the effects are immediate.
Hard to overtrain. Because it doesn’t accumulate much stress, you can walk a ton. Shin splints might be the biggest worry, but as long as you watch the incline, don’t go crazy with the volume, and wear decent shoes, you should be fine.
Burns a lot of fat. Walking is a low intensity exercise, which means it burns a higher percentage of fat. True, walking for 10 minutes doesn’t burn much fat, but walk briskly at an incline for 4-8 hours a week and you’ll burn a significant amount of fat.
Burns almost no muscle. This is probably the biggest aesthetic benefit to the T NATION crowd. High intensity exercise, particularly cardio, uses glucose for fuel. Normally that isn’t a concern as the body will break down its glycogen storage (stored carbs) for glucose.
However, if on a diet and lifting weights, glycogen stores are depleted. If you add regular intense cardio on top of this, the body will release cortisol to help convert amino acids into glucose to be used as fuel. Those amino acids can come from your hard-earned muscle tissue.
Clearly, this is a problem for a muscular individual as whatever form of energy storage you have, you burn more of that particular energy store. Most Americans have considerable bodyfat, and the body is quick to burn that off once they get moving. But a muscular and moderately lean individual will have more muscle than fat. The body will see the muscle as “excess” and will preferentially burn that muscle to meet the caloric demand of the exercise.
Helps recover from resistance training. Walking promotes blood flow, which has been shown to be very important in helping recovery from injuries. Some feel that walking also has a small spinal flossing effect that helps the nerves align optimally and thus conduct their electrical impulses in an ideal way. Ever hear someone say that a walk helps their stiff and sore muscles feel better? Now you know why.
Doesn’t cause muscle fiber conversion. Walking stimulates the type I muscle fibers and motor units in the body, not the type II’s. HIIT training can call on the type II’s, but it tends to convert them to a more medium power, better aerobic fiber (type IIa) instead of a stronger, larger, more powerful fiber (type IIb or IIx). A 30-second interval might seem short for cardio, but it’s long for someone focused on strength and power and the body will adapt accordingly.
Builds aerobic fitness. Brisk walking won’t get you ready for the Boston Marathon but it does build up the VO2 Max enough to significantly assist with weight training recovery. Walking fast (4.0 mph +) at a high incline for a long duration (without holding onto the handles) isn’t as easy as it seems and it can be a great compliment to the fitness developed through intense weight training. Regular fast walking can often take a more muscular male’s VO2 Max to the 50+ range, which is usually ideal for them to complete challenging weight training workouts.
Stress relief. Walking can be a great way to have some quiet time, collect your thoughts, ponder your troubles (or escape them), talk with your spouse/kids/friends, or just catch up on those “Game of Thrones” episodes you missed. Truth is, once you complete the walk, you usually feel better and life looks better because of it.
Functional. My favorite word – functional has many definitions, but one is something that mimics and/or improves activities of daily living. If you go with that definition I’d argue that not only is walking functional, it’s the single most functional activity a person can perform as the need to walk is crucial for human survival.
Builds work capacity. A fit person should be able to exercise at a moderate pace for a long time. Walking helps build this ability. The knock on most gym rats is that they train their phosphagen (short duration, high intensity) energy system well but they’re one-shot wonders. In other words, if they have to work continuously for any length of time, they can’t handle it. Walking takes care of that.
Low impact. Walking is low impact, so even if you have sensitive knees or a bad back, walking shouldn’t affect it. It might even help improve that condition.
Better for strength athletes than running. Running or jogging has many benefits but strength athletes are better off avoiding it. Many lifters most notice their squat goes down, bodyweight goes down, and power goes down when they jog regularly. The heavier you are, the harder running is on your body. Note that I’m talking about jogging or sprints.
Best exercise to perform fasted. The theory behind fasted cardio is that if the body is low in carbs, it will turn to fat for energy. I agree with this premise and walking is the perfect form of exercise for it. Where everybody seems to screw up is by trying to perform HIIT cardio while fasted, which is a) brutal, because you don’t have the energy and b) not smart, because you’ll burn a lot of muscle (assuming you have a decent amount of muscle to begin with).
Great for all ages. Walking is great for every body. It’s great for the old person trying to stay healthy and independent, it’s great for kids who don’t get enough exercise, and it is great for the meathead to build more long lasting stamina, burn off some fat, and just to be healthier.
Everyone knows how to walk. Walking is tough to screw up and the learning curve of walking on a treadmill is super short. The biggest mistake made when walking on the treadmill is holding onto the handles, particularly if the treadmill is at an incline. If you hold onto the handles and lean back you effectively eliminate the incline, as now your body is essentially perpendicular to the treadmill – which is what happens when you walk on flat ground.
It works. What did you see Ronnie Coleman do in the morning and the evening in his videos? He walks at an incline. He’s not the only one. Trust me, if you perform this regularly, it works.
Walking is pretty awesome but there are a few negatives. Here’s a quick list:
Cons of Walking
Walking doesn’t build muscle. Don’t expect walking to build any real muscle, that’s what your weight training is for.
Walking doesn’t make one a good runner. If you want to be a good runner, you’re going to have to run regularly. If distance running doesn’t come naturally to you, you’re going to have to practice it regularly to become proficient. You can be a good walker and a crappy jogger; the biomechanics and the adaptations necessary for the two are quite different and the principle of specificity holds true. Be aware that long distance running and high levels of strength and muscle mass rarely go together.
Walking is time consuming. This sucks for busy people. To burn fat I’d suggest 3 hours of walking a week at a minimum; double that number is ideal. This is where we males can take a cue from our female counterparts and multitask. You’re likely unable to read while walking at the pace I suggest, but watching TV or chatting or listening to music/books/lectures is a great way to pass the time.
I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people reading this spend more than 3-6 hours a week watching TV. On a treadmill you could still watch that amount of TV and get lean at the same time.
When to Walk
Timing isn’t super crucial when it comes to walking. If you just want to be fitter and healthier then walk whenever you can. The total duration doesn’t even have to be continuous. If you want to burn fat, the best time to walk is in the morning in a fasted state as explained above.
The second best time to walk is right after a tough weight-training workout (the workout will have burned off a fair amount of glycogen, leaving your body ready to tap into fat), and the third best time is basically any time you can.
What to Do
The goal is to perform a brisk walk, often coupled with an incline, for a reasonable duration. The incline is a great way to increase calorie burning – a good goal is to find a level that allows you to burn 8-10 cals/min. You’re still walking, so any muscle catabolism will be minimal.
You should be able to complete the exercise in full without stopping. If you can’t, you’re likely going too hard. The duration needed to promote the cardiovascular benefits and burn significant calories is usually 30 minutes or more. Certainly walking one mile (15 minutes) is much better than nothing, but it’s walking 3 or 4 or 5 miles that will really start burning some fat, especially if performed regularly.
Listed below are three walking programs, but first, a few points:
- Most can hopefully complete the beginner program relatively easily.
- The intermediate program is likely the best program for the majority of readers to start out with.
- The advanced program is a good program to work up to, particularly if you’re under 200 lbs.
- It’s much better to start off with a program that’s a little easy and let it progress than to start off with a program that’s too hard. One shouldn’t come close to failing on any of these workouts, particularly for the first month. If you do then you started at least one level too high.
- Don’t start in the middle of a program. Start at the beginning of it, even if you think it’s too easy. If you can’t complete the week 1 beginner walking program then you have to look in the mirror, declare yourself out of shape, and then get your butt in gear!
- This program comes with a suggested frequency of four times a week. If you walk more frequently than that, just repeat one of the days of that week – whichever day you want. Note that each day there’s often minor changes in the speed, incline, or time, so pay attention and try to follow the program as written. Little changes will add up significantly over time.
- Don’t hold onto the treadmill for any length of time.
- Warm-ups aren’t generally necessary, although if you need one feel free to use it. Cool downs are a good idea – cool down for 3-5 minutes at whatever speed and incline you prefer.
- This program was set up for a treadmill so I could give precise speed and incline recommendations without having to worry about the weather. Walking outside is great; you get fresh air and sunshine and you see the birds and flowers and all that crap. The big negative is no regular incline, especially if where you live is relatively flat. You can compensate for this by walking with a 10-40 pound vest/backpack to increase the difficulty.
Rate your fitness level as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Use the following guideline:
Beginner: Would have difficulty walking 3.5 mph at 5% incline for 45 minutes.
Intermediate: Would have difficulty walking 4.0 mph at 5% incline for 45 minutes but could complete the beginner workout.
Advanced. Could handle walking 4.0 mph at 5% incline for 45 minutes.
NOTE: This program is read mph @ incline% for X period of time in minutes, so 3.5@4% 40′ means walk 3.5 mph at a 4% incline for 40 minutes.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Week 1||3.0@1% 30′||3.0@1% 30′||3.0@1% 30′||3.0@1% 30′|
|Week 2||3.1@1% 33′||email@example.com% 33′||3.1@1% 33′||3.2@1% 33′|
|Week firstname.lastname@example.org% 35′||3.2@2% 35′||email@example.com% 35′||firstname.lastname@example.org% 35′|
|Week email@example.com% 37′||firstname.lastname@example.org% 37′||email@example.com% 37′||firstname.lastname@example.org% 37′|
|Week 5||3.4@2% 39′||3.4@3% 39′||3.4@2% 39′||3.5@2% 39′|
|Week 6||3.5@2% 41′||email@example.com% 41′||3.5@2% 41′||3.6@2% 41′|
|Week 7||3.6@2% 43′||3.5@4% 43′||3.6@2% 43′||3.7@2% 43′|
|Week 8||3.7@2% 45′||firstname.lastname@example.org% 45′||3.7@2% 45′||3.8@2% 45′|
Week 9 and beyond. Progress to intermediate workout
Perform cardio a minimum of four times per week, a maximum of six times per week. It’s okay to perform cardio twice a day if necessary (with a maximum of six sessions per week). Try to burn at least 300 calories each cardio session if you choose not to walk. Bike no more than once per week.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Week 1||3.5@2% 35′||3.5@2% 35′||3.5@2% 35′||3.6@2% 35′|
|Week email@example.com% 37′||3.6@3% 37′||firstname.lastname@example.org% 37′||email@example.com% 37′|
|Week 3||3.7@3% 40′||3.6@4% 40′||3.7@3% 40′||3.8@3% 40′|
|Week 4||3.8@3% 42′||3.6@5% 42′||3.8@3% 42′||3.9@3% 42′|
|Week 5||3.9@3% 44′||3.6@6% 44′||3.9@3% 44′||4.0@3% 44′|
|Week 6||4.0@3% 45′||3.6@7% 45′||4.0@3% 45′||4.1@3% 45′|
|Week 7||4.1@3% 45’+||3.6@8% 45’+||4.1@3% 45’+||4.2@3% 45’+|
|Week 8||4.2@3% 45’+||3.6@9% 45’+||4.2@3% 45’+||4.3@3% 45’+|
Week 9 and beyond. Progress to advanced workout
Perform cardio a minimum of four times a week with a maximum of eight times per week. It’s okay to perform cardio twice per day if necessary (with a maximum of eight times per week). Try to burn at least 400 calories each cardio session if you choose not to walk. Bike no more than once per week.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Week 1||4.2@2% 35′||4.0@5% 35′||4.2@2% 35′||4.3@2% 35′|
|Week firstname.lastname@example.org% 38′||4.0@6% 38′||email@example.com% 38′||4.4@2% 38′|
|Week 3||4.3@3% 41′||4.0@7% 41′||4.3@3% 41′||4.5@2% 41′|
|Week firstname.lastname@example.org% 43′||4.0@8% 43′||email@example.com% 43′||4.6@2% 43′|
|Week 5||4.4@4% 45′||4.0@9% 45′||4.4@4% 45′||4.6@2% 45′|
|Week 6||4.4@4% 45’+||4.0@10% 45’+||4.0@4% 45’+||4.6@2% 45’+|
|Week firstname.lastname@example.org% 45’+||4.0@11% 45’+||email@example.com% 45’+||4.7@2% 45’+|
|Week 8||4.5@5% 45’+||4.0@12% 45’+||4.5@5% 45’+||4.7@2% 45’+|
Perform cardio a minimum of four times a week with a maximum of 10 times per week. It’s okay to perform cardio twice per day if necessary (with a maximum of 10 times per week). Try to burn at least 500 calories each cardio session if you choose not to walk. Bike no more than twice per week.
Fancy energy system workouts and complex lactic acid routines are fun and definitely effective, but they aren’t mandatory if you want to get into great condition. The fact is, to get lean, you needn’t look further than your own two legs. Walk, lift, and follow a reasonable diet, and the leanness will come.
The dieting craze, like any craze, goes in cycles. In the 1980′s, fat was the culprit. Fat was stripped from every food imaginable and the results were disastrous. By the 1990′s people realized that fat wasn’t the problem, it was those pesky carbs. This carb-phobic approach was ideal for the protein powder manufacturers that convinced you to load up on their carb-depleted product. And man did those protein pushers make a ton of dough.
Along with the low-carb boom came the frequent-eating craze. Everyone, including myself, recommended that people should eat every three hours. Calories should be spread evenly throughout the day to ensure a steady supply of nutrients for energy, repair, and hormonal control. This approach works well if the dieter is diligent and the food choices are fresh.
Then in 2002, Ori Hofmekler came along and told us that we had it all wrong. His Warrior Diet focused on extended periods of undereating, or “controlled fasting” as he calls it. This was followed by a big meal at night where the majority of your daily calories are consumed.
The Warrior Diet, a system of 18 or more hours of fasting followed by one huge meal (at night!), shocked the world. When the book came out, small frequent meals every few hours was considered the holy grail of dieting. And the evening hours were considered such a hazardous period to your waistline that most trainers recommended that dinner be nothing but a small portion of protein and some vegetables. Any carbs at this time would surely lead to a morning scare where woke up to find the Michelin man, with your head attached, staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.
I didn’t think much of the Warrior Diet when it first came out. I didn’t read the book, but I heard enough talk and read enough interviews from Hofmekler to have a firm grasp on the approach. His system was definitely at odds with what I was doing, and the results my clients were getting didn’t mandate any significant change on my part. That was 2002.
Since then, I’ve learned one essential truth. Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, or boost your energy, gut health is key. I firmly believe that the reason why you could eat virtually anything when you were 17 and not gain fat was because your gastrointestinal (GI) health was at its peak.
Being a nervous system guy, I usually talk about the power of your motor system to build size, speed, and strength. This central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord, while the associated neurons that control your muscles are part of the peripheral nervous system. However, the simple term “nervous system” is an umbrella that covers many areas.
Your gut also has its own neural power source, the enteric nervous system. It controls the function of your gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and gallbladder. The human enteric nervous system contains 80-100 million neurons. That’s virtually as many neurons as are found in the spinal cord! And if that’s not surprising enough, the enteric nervous system functions almost independently of the central nervous system. In grad school my professors referred to the enteric nervous system as the body’s “second brain.”
Yes, that’s how important your gut is.
So what does this have to do with the Warrior Diet? Well, this month marks the year anniversary when I actually read the book cover-to-cover and put Ori’s principles into play in my own life. Since I was already ears-deep in gut research, I had been using many supplements for support such as probiotics and HCl. I was satisfied with the results those supplements gave me, but I felt I could do more. I kept reading about the benefits of fasting, so that’s when I decided to give the Warrior Diet a try.
There are many ways to follow the undereating (controlled fasting) phase of the Warrior Diet as Ori explains in his book, but here’s a quick overview of what I did.
From the time I woke up until 7pm I had three glasses of juiced vegetables spread evenly throughout the day. Each glass contained the following:
1 medium/large carrot
1/2 of a large cucumber
2 large celery stalks
A pinch of sea salt (to keep electrolytes in balance)
1/2 of a large cucumber
2 large celery stalks
A pinch of sea salt (to keep electrolytes in balance)
I drank this concoction at 8am, noon, and 4pm. From 6-7pm I trained and then I had a big dinner that started with a salad, followed by a large protein source, followed by a starch such as a yam or wild rice. For dessert I’d have berries and maybe a small serving of a chocolate dessert. This is the basic formula Ori recommends for the evening meal (minus the chocolate dessert).
Here’s what I experienced while on this diet for one week.
The controlled fasting phase for the first day was tough. I felt pretty lethargic overall. This was no surprise given that I’d eaten every three hours for the last, oh, 17 years. But I powered through it. I was hungry as hell when dinner came around and I ate a larger dinner than I’d had in years.
The first thing I noticed after dinner was that my stomach was almost as flat as when I started, even though I was completely full. This reminded me of my teenage years when I could eat a horrendous McDonald’s super size meal and have no gas, bloating, or indigestion because my gut was so healthy. Without a doubt, my controlled fast with vegetable juice upregulated digestive enzymes higher than the probiotic/HCl supplement combo I had been taking.
The second day was much easier. I actually felt pretty good during the day and by 5pm, the time of day when I usually have an energy crash, my overall energy and alertness was high. Hofmekler says that fasting will boost growth hormone throughout the day and activate the sympathetic nervous system (your energy system). Given the way I felt, this could certainly be true.
By the end of the week I had lost an inch off my waist, my gut health was higher than it had been in a decade, and my energy was at its peak. My venture in the world of the Warrior Diet paid off.
There were other reasons why I chose to give the Warrior Diet a run. First, I’m so busy during the day meeting with clients that I prefer to not eat. Second – and this is the honest truth – I go out to dinner every single night. Why? First, I’m the world’s biggest foodie. I live for great, rich, satisfying food. The boiled chicken breast and steamed vegetables lifestyle has never been a part of my life. Sure, it’s been a part of my client’s plans when fast fat loss was the goal, but these were people who didn’t really care about food. I, on the other hand, think about what I’m going to have for dinner the second I wake up.
So for me, the Warrior Diet fit my lifestyle perfectly. I have no problems with willpower so I could easily skip food during the day, especially when I knew I could eat a lot of satisfying food at dinner that night.
But many people want to eat during the day. Maybe breakfast is the only time when they can sit down with their kids, or maybe power lunches make up the bulk of a business person’s lifestyle. Or maybe the idea of not eating until 7pm every night sounds like torture. These social reasons are valid, and for them, I wouldn’t recommend the diet because you really have to get the undereating phase right for the diet to work.
Out of all my clients, half of them eat Warrior style. The other half eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Both methods will work. The trick with eating frequent meals is that your food choices have to be fresh and you have to keep the calories relatively low in each meal. A huge meal like the Ori recommends thrown into a frequent feeding diet plan will quickly expand your waistline.
One of the best elements of the Warrior Diet is that you end the day feeling completely satisfied with food. This is where the small, frequent meal dieters typically fall short since they usually eat bland foods. The reason why this approach doesn’t work is simple: if you’re going to eat, the food must be satisfying to your body and senses or else you’ll fall off the wagon.
So here are the points I want to make in this post. First, I give the Warrior Diet my thumbs up. If fat loss, improved gut health, and longevity are what you primarily desire, and if that style of eating fits your lifestyle, give the diet a trial run. Second, I’m seeing more and more people in the fitness industry recommend a style of eating that Ori brought to the forefront almost a decade ago. In fact, I was at dinner last week with a colleague that I highly respect and we had a good laugh about the Warrior Diet. He started experimenting with it at exactly the same time that I did last year. His clients have all reaped big benefits from that style of eating, and he has made it a part of his routine, too.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the next diet “revolution” is going to revolve around periods of fasting.
Finally, you don’t have to eat Warrior style to change your body for the better. However, if that style of eating fits your lifestyle you should definitely try it. I think the key point that Ori taught us is that we probably don’t need to eat six times per day to get results. Our guts aren’t designed to be crammed with food every few hours.
It’s the quality of food that matters. Three or four meals with fresh food sources are better than six or seven meals made up of protein powder and a handful of supplements. Fresh food sources contain all the enzymes your overworked gut is craving. So you can fast, or you can eat fresh produce and wild fish, etc to restore your gut. You shouldn’t be afraid of food, you should be afraid of poor-quality food that doesn’t satisfy your body.
As Wolfgang Puck likes to say, “Live, love, and eat great food.”
You’ll never get ripped without changing your diet. It’s as simple as that. So what changes should you make? This is where you’ll get a million different answers. It seems that every week a new book, article, or diet comes out claiming there’s a better way to lose fat. But you know it’s the same ol’ B.S.
I can sum it up for you right now. The key to losing fat super fast and finally get the lean body you want hinges on vegetables.
Yuck. Vegetables. Who likes them, anyway? Not me. If I never had another one again it’d be too soon.
But vegetables are loaded with all the stuff you probably don’t get enough of such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients while being low in the stuff you probably are getting too much of: calories. Whenever a client needs to lose fat like yesterday, I put him/her on a diet that consists mainly of veggies. It not only works for them, it also always works for me.
And let me tell ya, it works fast!
However, like I mentioned, most people don’t like vegetables. So the question is: How bad do you want to lose fat? If you’re sick of feeling like your fat loss is going nowhere, it’s time to get focused and just do the vegetable thing. The good news is that you can eat any vegetables from the following list in any amount. Just eat until you’re full four times a day. After day 1, the diet will slightly shift toward protein sources.
Trust me when I say that this is one of the fastest, healthiest ways to boost fat burning to the max. It’s not easy, but it works incredibly well.
Vegetables to choose from: artichoke, asparagus, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, green beans, kale, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, spinach, squash, tomato. These can be eaten raw, steamed, or in a big salad drizzled with a little olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar.
DAY 1: At 8am, noon, 4pm, and 8pm eat as much of any vegetable as you want, in any combination. You don’t have to eat at those exact times, but spread out the four meals as evenly as possible. Drink 100 ounces of water.
DAYS 2-4: Eat vegetables at the same four times each day but add in 20 ounces of protein from fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, eggs or seafood at 8am and 4pm meals. Drink 100 ounces of water.
DAYS 5-7: At 8am, noon, 4pm, and 8pm eat vegetables in any combination and quantity and have 20 ounces of protein from fish, chicken, lean beef, eggs, turkey or seafood. Drink 100 ounces of water.
What about supplements? For one week I recommend you avoid any of them, even after lifting weights. This should not be a week where you’re looking to achieve a new one-rep max in your lifts. Think of this as a detox program for your body and organs with the side-effect being rapid fat loss.
On the morning of day 1 take your weight and waist measurement (around your navel) and repeat those measurements on the morning of Day 8 – the day you return to your normal schedule.
I’m challenging you to do it for one week. Don’t worry about anything else. Just do this and post your results on this blog. Heck, take before/after pics and I might use them for a future blog.
Fast fat loss doesn’t have to be complicated. Give this 7-day plan a try and you’ll see how effective a simple plan can be to finally bring those cuts out of hiding.