How To Burn Fat Like A Bodybuilder (Without Muscle Loss!)

How To Burn Fat Like A Bodybuilder (Without Muscle Loss)
Achieving low body fat levels takes hard work and discipline, but having an understanding on how to manage carbohydrate intake helps facilitate the process.

The number of strategies to burn stubborn body fat stem far and wide. All kinds of fat loss workout plans, programs and the latest techniques flood the internet almost daily making promises they can’t keep.

Do you fall victim to information overload? Don’t know where to turn? Look no further than the competitive bodybuilder when it comes to losing fat and keeping your hard-earned muscle. Bodybuilders have a unique perspective when it comes to dropping unwanted pounds – they have to.

It’s not something they desire, dream about or wish for one day, it’s something they must do in order to reach their ultimate goal – to place as high as possible in a competition. It’s much like their job. Do what it takes to lose fat and keep muscle.

We can all learn a thing or two from a traditional bodybuilding diet. But first, let’s break down what the typical bodybuilder does in order to achieve such low body fat levels.

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How Bodybuilders Burn Fat

Contest dieting, as it is often referred to, isn’t something taken lightly with a few topical suggestions easily executed. It is a well thought out plan of scheduled meals, adjusted macronutrients and laborious consistency. Below are a few key concepts of a traditional bodybuilding fat-loss diet.

  • All macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are carefully gauged according to bodyweight, body composition and ultimate goal. Water intake is also kept high.
  • Protein is kept optimal for muscle gains and prevention of muscle loss.
  • Healthy fats are vital in energy use and hormonal balance.
  • Carbs are complex in nature and are oftentimes cycled for greater fat loss.
  • A minimum of 12 to 16 weeks are required to reach the goal.
  • Weight training is kept heavy and cardio is added to accelerate fat loss.
  • Progress is closely monitored on a weekly basis. Adjustments may take place at these times.
  • Rest and recovery are practiced with the utmost discipline to ensure all body systems function properly.
  • Cheat meals (if any) are deliberate and seldom.
  • Consistency is the bodybuilder’s best friend.

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It Takes Work, and a Lot of It

One of the most, if not the most, important factor for success is the act of consistency. Staying the course and not wavering or giving yourself excuses is the surest way of getting to the finish line. Bodybuilding diets aren’t full of nice little ways to be flexible and be easy, they are disciplined and deliberate plans of consistent action all pointed toward one goal – to get you ripped. It’s not an easy or incredibly enjoyable process but if your goal is to lose fat and you are serious about that objective then a bodybuilder’s approach might be just what you need.

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What You Can Do to Burn Fat Like a Bodybuilder

Below are some ways to make a bodybuilding diet plan work for you. They are presented in such a way for you to easily put into practice for your own personal success.

  1.  Make a plan: The most important part of any lofty endeavor is to have a thorough plan of action. If you are new to this, however, the trick is not to jump in head first, but to gradually build consistency over time. To build muscle and lose fat takes time so apply the same thinking to your long-term dieting goals. Gradually clean up your diet, gradually become consistent with your meals, gradually build on your discipline. These, in turn, will create a solid and stable long-term foundation that you will add to each week. Make a plan and build on it.
  2. Keep protein high: You’ve heard that axiom before but do you honestly practice it? Start by adding a little protein to each meal. This may include adding an ounce or two of meat or one or two more eggs or egg whites to meals. The first step is to make sure you are getting at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Later, you may need to increase this slightly to 1.25, 1.5 or even 2 grams per pound. The key is to take in a consistent supply of protein to help reduce the risk of losing muscle while dieting.
  3. Support your training: While we are on the subject of protein, be sure to support your training with quality sources. Of course you want to eat several high-protein, quality meals per day but you also will want to bookend your training with amino acids as well. For convenience, a whey protein powder product can be ideal. 20-30 grams of whey prior and 40-50 grams after training will ensure the recovery process is at the forefront so you can reap all the rewards of your workout session. If you prefer whole-food sources, easily digestible proteins such as eggs and fish are viable options.
  4. Fats can stay, increase them if necessary: The research touting the benefits of healthy fats continues to mount. Not only are they an excellent source of energy when carbs are kept low (on a diet) they also have been shown to play key roles in the regulation of key hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone which can be vital in the process of burning fat. Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and olive oil should be normally kept at around 20-30% of total calories. On extreme low carb days your fat intake can increase slightly to compensate for the energy loss.
  5. Types of carbs count: Another no-brainer is the fact that you should take in complex forms of carbohydrates. Brown and white rice, sweet and white potatoes, raw oatmeal, quinoa and Ezekiel bread are just a few examples of ideal energy sources. At first you will want to cut out highly processed carbs like desserts, cereals, pasta, most breads and snack foods. These not only do a number on your beltline but also on your blood-sugar levels as well. Aim for 1 to 2 grams of quality, complex carbs per pound of bodyweight to establish a baseline. Afterwards, you will know where you stand regarding energy levels, bodyweight changes and workout performance.
  6. Cycle those carbs: Now, here’s the trick. Most successful bodybuilding diet plan will have you manipulate carb intake in some fashion. From my own experience cycling carbs seems to be an effective and fast way to drop fat, save muscle and maintain energy levels for your workouts. The way I see it, there are two ways to approach this, and either approach has you manipulating carbs by depleting and then feeding in a cyclical manner:
    • You can drop carbs to 1 gram per pound of desired bodyweight for low carb, non-training days and increase carbs to 2 grams per pound on training days. Also, you may have one day per week (preferably a heavy training day) where you take in 3 grams per pound as a “cheat” day.
    • You can have set days per week you go low and high such as 4 days of low carbs flowed by 1 day of high carbs. Keep cycling this 5 day approach.
  7. Cheat tactfully: “Cheating” on your diet isn’t a green light to go crazy and eat whatever and however much you want. For the disciplined few it simply means eating more of the same bodybuilding-friendly foods. If you are carb cycling a high carb day would suffice for most as a “cheat” day. For those who can afford it having a cheat meal once per week can also be an option. Don’t fool yourself. If you aren’t making the progress of a pound or two of fat lost per week then you have no business eating high calorie meals every week.
  8. Have patience and discipline: Anything worth getting requires serious hard work. Results don’t happen overnight or day to day or even weekly. The body is not a machine. It doesn’t respond in a linear fashion with evenly-spaced gains and losses. Especially during the major road bumps and periods of little or no progress, patience is a requirement on the long road to lean. As stated before, discipline is built over time just like your physique. Trying to do everything at once is a perfect plan for failure.

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Sample Bodybuilding Diet Plan

Below is a sample diet plan for the average 200 pound lifter wanting to drop body fat like a bodybuilder. Use the low and high carb days as needed – either as low on non-training days and high on training days or as 3 or 4 days low carb and 1 day high carb cycles.

Training/High Carb Days
Meal 1: 1 cup of oatmeal with 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter, 2 eggs and 5 egg white
Meal 2: 6-8 ounces of chicken breast, turkey or meat in a salad with 2 tbsp of oil-based dressing and veggies, 1 ½ cup (cooked) rice, 1 ounce of nuts
Pre-workout: 1 apple, 1 scoop of whey protein powder or 6 egg whites
Post-workout: 1 apple, 1 scoop of whey protein powder or 6 egg whites
Meal 3: 6-8 ounces of chicken, turkey, meat or fish, 1 cup of green veggies, 2 cups of sweet potato
Off/Low Carb Days
Meal 1: ½ cup of oatmeal with 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter, 2 eggs and 5 egg whites
Meal 2: 6-8 ounces of chicken breast, turkey or meat in a salad with 2 tbsp of oil-based dressing and veggies, ½-1 cup (cooked) rice, 1 ounce of nuts
Pre-workout: 1 or ½ apple, 1 scoop of whey protein powder or 6 egg whites
Post-workout: 2 scoops of whey protein powder, 1 cup of berries
Meal 3: 6-8 ounces of chicken, turkey, meat or fish, 2 cups of green veggies, 1 cup of sweet potato

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