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the ultimate diet-and-exercise program for becoming a hard-ass by spring

12-weeks hard: the ultimate diet-and-exercise program for becoming a hard-ass by spring

Steve Stiefel

If bodybuilding is your life, then you know how much dedication and hard work it takes to build an impressive physique. Now, after months or years of hard work, you may find yourself eager to make the most of that physique. If so, you are ready for this comprehensive diet, training and supplementation guide, which will help you reduce bodyfat so you can display all that hard-earned muscle by the time spring rolls around.

Here’s the best part. With this program, you can reduce bodyfat without losing hard-earned muscle. In fact, you can continue to make muscle gains. FLEX has designed the ultimate 12-week three-part program, each phase lasting four weeks. At the start of each stage, you’ll change your nutrition and training program in order to make greater progress.

FLEX gives you all the supplement advice you need to get the most from this program. We tell you which supplements are musts and which ones can help burn bodyfat. We also give you all the information you need to tailor this program to your physique in order to get the most from it.

Dead of winter is the perfect time to start this program, too. With 12 weeks ahead of you, time is on your side for a brand-new physique by spring.

So, come on, turn the page. FLEX is going to teach you how to get hard to the core by spring.

SECTION ONE TRAIN RIGHT

Although most bodybuilders emphasize diet when deciding to get shredded, how you train also plays a significant role in your ability to shed bodyfat and maintain–or even build–muscle mass. We know that you want to look as good and as big as you possibly can, so we’ve developed the ultimate full bodybuilding routine.

TRAINING PHASES The 12-Weeks Hard training program comprises three four-week phases. In the first phase, you’ll actually be training for muscle growth while you prime your body to start shedding bodyfat. Depending on your bodytype, you may even be able to stimulate muscle growth while reducing bodyfat. By keeping reps low and weights heavy and by emphasizing compound movements, you can keep your muscles growing even if you’re in a slight calorie deficit. This double achievement of added muscle and reduced bodyfat can really make your physique pop. Keep in mind, though, that this can be challenging for some bodytypes–especially smaller bodybuilders and hardgainers. Nevertheless, even these types should be able to maintain muscle mass while beginning to get ripped. During this phase, you’ll weight train four days a week and perform cardio twice a week.

In the second phase, you’ll shift the emphasis away from power movements, while still including a few. Weights are reduced and reps slightly increased to stimulate more calorie burning with less total demand on your body. Since you’ll be reducing calories even more, your body will need this respite so it can recover more effectively from day to day. However, you can up your training volume a little in this phase. Since weight training enhances your metabolic rate even more effectively than cardio, we recommend that you perform five days of weight training and three cardio sessions per week.

The third phase ups the ante even further. These four weeks are the hardest part of the program, but properly following the first two phases will prime your body for success. In this final phase, you further reduce power movements and focus much more on isolation movements for higher reps. These are the exercises that really bring out detail and, with your already significantly reduced bodyfat stores, you’ll really be able to see the fruits of your labor. Depending on how you feel, you can weight train five or six days a week and perform three or four sessions of cardio. That’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to get hard to the core.

CARDIO OPTIONS This program relies less on cardio than many other bodyfat-reduction programs do. Bodybuilders who already hold a lot of muscle mass may lose too much of it if they overemphasize cardio, yet moderate amounts can help you reduce bodyfat without depleting your muscle mass. The secret is finding the right balance. We give you a specific cardio recipe for each phase of the 12-Weeks Hard program. Of course, follow our recommendations to adapt the program for your specific needs.

PHASE ONE: HEAVY LOAD

Schedules: Weeks 1-4

Prescription: Weight train four days per week for four weeks, emphasizing heavy compound movements with low reps. You can schedule these four days as they best fit into your lifestyle. Ideally, you would train two days, rest one, train two days, then rest two. During this phase, train to failure for one or two sets per exercise. Pyramid up in weight, keeping your reps in the prescribed range. At this stage, rest no more than two minutes between sets, even if it affects the amount of weight you are able to use to hit your rep range.

Cardio Options: Perform 60 to 90 minutes of cardio per week, split over as many sessions as you like. You can perform cardio after you weight train, on your rest days or first thing in the morning, especially if you train later in the day. For best results, avoid performing cardio immediately prior to weight training. Hardgainers should restrict cardio to two 30-minute sessions of low to moderate intensity to avoid burning an excessive number of calories at this stage of the program. Those who tend to hold more bodyfat can perform 90 minutes per week split over up to four sessions of moderate intensity.

Intensity is relative to your conditioning. In performing low-intensity cardio, you should be able to easily maintain a conversation. Moderate intensity will force you to breathe more heavily, but you should still be able to talk. Select the appropriate intensity setting on whatever piece of cardio equipment you choose that allows you to meet these criteria.

Purpose: To keep stimulating muscle growth while you begin your diet and prime your body to start pulling fat from body stores.

WEEKS 1-4 WORKOUTS

These are the exercises, sets and reps that FLEX recommends to get you started. Feel free to make substitutions if you find that some exercises work better for you than others. Keep in mind, though, that we’ve chosen these exercises to balance one another and develop your entire physique; if you make any changes, the exercises you insert should fulfill a similar function. For instance, if you choose to perform flat bench presses instead of inclines, you should also change flat dumbbell presses to incline dumbbell presses to make sure you are hitting your chest from both angles.

Again, work to failure in one or two sets per exercise. To warm up, perform five to 10 minutes of light cardio, such as walking on a treadmill. Then, add a warm-up set of 15 to 20 reps with a light weight, particularly for the first exercise of your workout. For your first working set, choose a weight that will allow you to hit the high end of the rep range. For subsequent sets, increase the weight so that you are able to reach failure within the rep range.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

DAY ONE: Legs and Abs

Leg extensions 3* 10-15

Squats 4 6-8

Leg presses 4 6-8

Leg curls 4 10

Standing calf raises 3 12-15

Ab crunches 3 15

Hanging leg raises 3 15

DAY TWO: Chest and Triceps

Incline bench presses 4* 6-8

Flat dumbbell presses 4 6-8

Incline flyes 4 10-12

Dips 3 15

Triceps barbell presses 4 6-8

Two-arm overhead dumbbell extensions 4 6-8

DAY THREE: Shoulders, Traps and Abs

Seated barbell front presses 4* 6-8

Seated dumbbell presses 4 6-8

Lateral raises 4 6-12

Barbell shrugs 4 6-8

Leg raises 3 15

Cross-body crunches 3 15

DAY FOUR: Back and Biceps

Deadlifts 4* 6-8

Barbell rows 4 6-8

Pulldowns to the front 4 10

Barbell curls 4 6-8

Seated dumbbell curls 4 6-8

Hammer curls 4 6-8

Note: Precede workouts with five to 10 minutes of light cardio.

* Perform a light-intensity warm-up prior to the first working set.

PHASE TWO: POWER DOWN

Schedule: Weeks 5-8

Prescription: Starting with week five, you’ll shift to working out five days a week, reducing the amount of power training you include in your workout. Again, use the strategy that best suits your schedule. Two options include five on, two off, or three on, one off, two on, one off. For the fifth workout of each week, simply repeat the first workout, then start the second week with workout number two, and keep cycling in that manner until you reach the end of this training phase.

Include a warm-up as you did in the first phase and, again, pyramid up in weight until you are reaching failure within the rep range. Note that as the rep range has increased for this phase, you’ll be using a lighter weight to reach failure. In addition, decrease the amount of rest between sets to no more than 90 seconds. By increasing the intensity this way, you will ramp up metabolic efficiency so that your weight training is supporting both your muscle mass and your bodyfat burning.

Cardio Options: Most bodybuilders should perform three 30- to 45-minute sessions of low to moderate intensity. Again, you can perform cardio on rest days, after a workout, or first thing in the morning if you train later in the day. Hardgainers should keep cardio sessions to three 30-minute sessions of low intensity work. Those who tend to hold more bodyfat can perform three 45-minute sessions of moderate intensity work.

At this stage, your definition of “low” and “moderate” intensity may have changed due to your improved conditioning. Follow the guidelines from the first phase in measuring your intensity: Low, you should be able to easily carry on a conversation; moderate, your breathing should increase, but you should still be able to talk. Feel free to increase the settings on your cardio equipment a bit, but make sure that you’re following the prescription that’s right for you.

Purpose: To keep stimulating muscle growth, or at least achieve muscle maintenance, while you more aggressively strip away bodyfat.

WEEKS 5-8 WORKOUTS

During this phase, you’ll perform a few power movements, such as squats and flat bench presses, but the emphasis is shifting toward isolation movements for higher reps. Reduce weights–especially for your heaviest sets–since your goal is shifting away from muscle growth and toward muscle maintenance while you’re in a calorie deficit.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

DAY ONE: Legs and Abs

Leg extensions 3* 10-12

Squats 4 8-10

Lunges 4 8-10

Leg curls 4 10-12

Seated calf raises 4 10-15

Hanging leg raises 3 15

Cable crunches 3 15

DAY TWO: Shoulders and Triceps

Dumbbell presses 4* 8-10

Machine presses 4 8-10

Lateral raises 4 8-10

Close-grip cambered-bar presses 4 8-10

Pressdowns 4 8-10

One-arm overhead extensions 4 8-10

DAY THREE: Back and Biceps

Chinups 4* to failure

Barbell rows 4 8-10

Seated rows 4 8-10

Pulldowns 4 8-10

Barbell curls 4 8-10

Preacher curls 4 8-10

DAY FOUR: Chest, Traps and Abs

Incline dumbbell presses 4* 8-10

Flat bench presses 4 8-10

Incline flyes 4 8-10

Shrugs 4 8-10

Ab crunches 3 15

Cross-body crunches 3 15

Note: Precede workouts with five to 10 minutes of light cardio.

* Perform a light-intensity warm-up prior to the first working set.

PHASE THREE: REP IT UP

Schedule: Weeks 9-12

Prescription: Train with weights five or six days a week for four weeks.

Increase reps and incorporate more isolation movements. Decrease the intensity of your power movements because you are consuming fewer calories. The best way to do this is to reduce the amount of weight you use while only slightly increasing the number of reps you perform. Evaluate how you feel to determine whether you are up to six weight workouts a week (see “Self-Evaluation”). When you feel strong and even-keeled, train six days a week. If you’re run down, back off to five or fewer training days per week. Again, keep rotating the four workouts, so that you perform your Day One workout as your fifth workout and your Day Two workout as your sixth workout.

Include a warm-up as you did in the previous phases and, again, pyramid up in weight until you are reaching failure within the rep range for one or two sets per exercise. Since the rep range has increased again, you may need to use a still lighter weight. In addition, rest no more than 60 seconds between sets. At this stage, your weight-training workouts will be much more aerobic than they were at the beginning of the program. This will help you further increase metabolic efficiency and bodyfat burning while still allowing you to maintain your muscle mass.

Cardio Options: Perform three or four sessions of 30 to 45 minutes each week at low to moderate intensity. Again, perform your cardio sessions on a rest day, after a workout, or first thing in the morning if you train later in the day. Hardgainers should keep cardio sessions to about 90 minutes per week at low to moderate intensity. Those who tend to hold more bodyfat may perform up to four sessions of 45 minutes at moderate intensity each week.

With additional work, your level of conditioning may have improved again. Increase the settings of your cardio equipment to hit the appropriate intensity level.

Purpose: To maintain muscle mass while searing detail into your physique. Train with intensity, but don’t overtrain because that will negatively impact your appearance.

Reducing the intensity of power movements and weights while increasing isolation movements and reps will help you achieve this.

WEEKS 9-12 WORKOUTS

At this phase, while you’re in a significant calorie deficit, monitor your body to make sure that you’re keeping up with the demands of this workout schedule. Don’t simply perform your workout because it’s on the calendar. Stay in tune with your body, and don’t push beyond its limits.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

DAY ONE: Chest and Abs

Bench presses 4* 10-12

Incline bench presses 4 10-12

Cable flyes 3 10-12

Dumbbell pullovers 3 10-12

Ab crunches 3 15

Cross-body crunches 3 15

DAY TWO: Back, Traps and Biceps

Pulldowns to the front 4* 10-12

One-arm rows 4 10-12

Seated rows 4 10-12

Dumbbell shrugs 4 10-12

Seated dumbbell curls 4 10-12

Cable curls 4 10-12

DAY THREE: Legs and Abs

Leg extensions 4* 12-15

Squats 4 10-12

Lunges 4 10-12

Standing calf raises 3 15

Hanging leg raises 3 15

Cable crunches 3 15

DAY FOUR: Shoulders and Triceps

Dumbbell presses 4* 10-12

Machine presses 4 10-12

Lateral raises 4 10-12

Narrow-grip bench presses 4 10-12

Pressdowns 4 10-12

One-arm overhead extensions 4 10-12

Note: Precede workouts with five to 10 minutes of light cardio.

* Perform a light-intensity warm-up prior to the first working set.

SELF-EVALUATION

Getting hard to the core is not simply an issue of mind over matter. It’s a tradeoff between the two. You must have the will to follow your nutrition and training programs, but you also must have the intelligence to know when to give your body a break. You won’t make the most of your program if you force your body into a state of overtraining. When you are overtrained, the hormones in your body shift from anabolic to catabolic, and your body can actually begin to hoard and store bodyfat even though you’re in a calorie deficit.

If any of the following symptoms occur, rest your body for a couple of days to recover, then return to your training program when you feel fresh.

* You feel achy and continually sore.

* You are stressed out.

* You are having trouble sleeping.

* You notice considerable weakness. (You will get a little weaker as the diet kicks in, so take this into account. However, if you know you’d be significantly stronger with a couple of days rest, give your body a break.)

* You feel depressed. (When your body is in an anabolic state, you tend to feel happier and better balanced. When you are in a catabolic state, you may feel depressed. Taking a rest may have a dramatic effect on your mood and on your physique.)

* Your resting heart rate is higher than normal.

Also consider including an extra “half-cheat” day, where on a second day during the week, you add half as many carbs to your daily allotment as you would add for a full cheat day.

SECTION TWO DIET RIGHT

When you try to lose bodyfat, it’s easier to keep your muscle mass–or even add to it–if you don’t cut calories excessively. Many pros have learned the benefits of a slow-and-steady diet plan, compared to a brief restrictive diet that tends to break down muscle mass as it strips away bodyfat. Severe dieting can push your body into a catabolic state; by slowing down the dieting process, you can keep your body in an anabolic state and continue to grow while you shed bodyfat.

THE BASICS To get started, you need to know how many calories you consume on an average day. Your initial bodyweight is an important factor in determining the best diet, but your daily caloric intake is even more critical. The best way to calculate this figure is to track everything you eat for four or five days, total the calories and divide by the number of days you kept track. During the tracking days, remember that you aren’t dieting yet; to get a clear picture of your nutritional requirements, you should eat as you normally would for maintenance. This helps you calculate an accurate daily baseline value. Many people consume an inconsistent number of calories from one day to the next without realizing it. If you only track one day, the numbers may be skewed toward either under- or overdieting.

To calculate your caloric intake, FLEX recommends The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne Netzer (Dell Publishing) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl.

GETTING STARTED Once you’ve calculated how many calories you take in on a daily basis, choose the category in the accompanying “Calorie Consumption Guide” that best applies to you. If you fall squarely between two calorie points, split the difference (on all the values) between the two calorie ranges. This will give you more accurate target numbers throughout your 12-week diet. This is important because you want to keep your calories high enough that you don’t lose weight too quickly–as we mentioned, the more quickly you lose weight, the more likely you are to also lose muscle mass.

PHASE OUT BODYFAT We’ve split the diet into three four-week phases, each progressively more challenging than the preceding one. You might think that the best strategy would be to start with the caloric levels of the final phase, and just consume those amounts for 12 weeks. Surprisingly, you might end up smaller and fatter if you choose to do that. The body burns fat more effectively with small incremental downshifts in calories. When you take in slightly fewer calories, your body is happy to tap into bodyfat stores for energy. Basically, you’re sending your body the message that everything is still OK; you’re just giving it slightly less energy on a daily basis.

A radical downshift in calories can send your body into a panic. Perceiving the deprivation as an extreme condition, akin to starvation, your body begins to preferentially tap into muscle mass for energy, hoarding bodyfat. That’s certainly not the environment you want to create.

The body burns fat more effectively with small incremental downshifts in calories.

By stepping down your calorie intake a second and third time after four weeks of accommodation, your body will be much more willing to work with you. When you get to the third phase, your body won’t perceive the reduced caloric intake as drastic, and it won’t behave as it would if you had directly downshifted to this level from the outset of the diet.

It’s important to transition into the second and third phases as your body begins to adapt to the decreased amount of food you’re giving it on a daily basis. After a few weeks in one phase, your bodyfat burning will begin to plateau. Taking calories down another notch will help keep you in bodyfat-burning mode.

Professional bodybuilders know this is the case, which is why you hear them talk about dieting in phases. The first thing many of them do when they prepare for a contest is to “clean up” their diet. They eliminate junk food, foods high in fat, and sauces and condiments. They begin to eat more basic bodybuilding foods. This has the effect of reducing calories somewhat, even without specifically cutting them. Then, when bodybuilders do begin to cut calories, they follow a gradual reduction scheme to keep burning bodyfat.

CHEAT TO LOSE Another important element of the diet program is “cheat” days. In essence, these are high-carb days that really crank up calories, reloading your muscle glycogen stores and giving you the energy to get through your next week of training. In addition, cheat days will help keep up your metabolic rate and keep you burning bodyfat. When you cut calories across the board every day, your body adapts to the lower threshold, reducing its metabolic requirements and making it harder to burn bodyfat. By providing one higher calorie (and carb) day a week, you keep your body confused about the amount of calories it will receive, and it continues to tap into bodyfat stores rather than reducing its metabolic rate.

Make the most of your diet by keeping your calories and carbohydrates consistently low, as outlined in the chart. Then, one day a week–choose a day that best fits your schedule–double your carb intake. For example, a bodybuilder who eats 3,000 calories a day should consume 300 grams (g) of carbohydrates daily. On a cheat day, he would consume 600 g of carbohydrates. That cheat-day carb count remains the same throughout the program. For instance, even though this bodybuilder is only eating 250 g of carbs during Phase Two and 200 g of carbs during Phase Three, his reload cheat amount will remain 600 g one day a week during the whole program. Being even more depleted during the later phases, this large influx of carbs will help the bodybuilder handle the next week of training and dieting. For more on this, see the “Cheat Sheet Guide.”

Over the next few pages, we break down the three phases in more detail.

CALORIE CONSUMPTION GUIDE

Here is a guide to decreasing your caloric intake during the three diet phases. Find the dietary level that’s right for you, according to your daily maintenance intake (ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 calories). Remember, maintenance is an average based on four or five days of tracking caloric intake prior to starting the 12-Weeks Hard program.

PHASE ONE PHASE TWO PHASE THREE

DAILY MAINTENANCE = 2,000 CALORIES

Calories 1,800 1,600 1,500

Protein (g) 160 180 200

Carbs (g) 250 200 150

DAILY MAINTENANCE = 2,500 CALORIES

Calories 2,250 2,000 1,800

Protein (g) 180 200 220

Carbs (g) 275 225 175

DAILY MAINTENANCE = 3,000 CALORIES

Calories 2,700 2,400 2,100

Protein (g) 200 220 240

Carbs (g) 300 250 200

DAILY MAINTENANCE = 3,500 CALORIES

Calories 3,150 2,800 2,500

Protein (g) 230 265 300

Carbs (g) 350 275 225

DAILY MAINTENANCE = 4,000 CALORIES

Calories 3,600 3,200 2,800

Protein (g) 250 290 330

Carbs (g) 400 325 250

CHEAT SHEET GUIDE

Choose one day a week to dramatically bump up the number of grams of carbs that you’re consuming. Keep your protein count consistent with whichever phase you’re currently in (see the “Calorie Consumption Guide”), but regardless of the phase, you should take in the following amount of carbs.

If you require this number Consume this number

of calories per day of grams of carbs

for weight maintenance on cheat days

2,000 500

2,500 550

3,000 600

3,500 700

4,000 800

NUTRITION PHASE ONE

This should not be a difficult or drastic step to take. Essentially, you’re only cutting your daily caloric intake by about 10%, primarily through a reduction in carbohydrates. A bodybuilder who normally consumes 3,000 calories, for example, should take in about 2,700 a day.

You also want to bump up your protein intake. Normally, you should consume at least a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day, as FLEX recommends. In Phase One, the bodybuilder in our previous example would take in about 200 g of protein per day. Depending on your bodyweight, you’ll probably be moving your protein consumption up a notch (most bodybuilders who weigh at least 200 pounds eat more than 3,000 calories a day for maintenance and growth).

You must increase protein because as your calorie count falls below maintenance, your body is more likely to turn to muscle mass for energy. By providing your body with frequent and plentiful influxes of aminos, you are sending it the message that it does not need to tear down muscle mass. Additional protein will provide your body with the aminos it needs for metabolic processes, sparing your muscle tissue.

To offset that small increase in calories and create a deficit, you need to cut calories from the remainder of your diet. Don’t eliminate fats, but do cut back on saturated fat, instead emphasizing healthy fats from such sources as avocados, flaxseed oil, salmon, olives, nuts and seeds. You need healthy fats at all times because they help with hormone production, enhance immunity and provide a host of other metabolic benefits. When you diet, you need them even more because you are creating a calorie deficit. Emphasize these healthy foods in your meal plans.

Since you’re not cutting that many fats, you’ll need to cut carbohydrates to reduce calories. Carbohydrates can be readily converted to bodyfat, especially when consumed in excess. They also provide plenty of energy, so reducing them can leave a trainer feeling somewhat drained and lethargic. Part of the 12-Weeks Hard program is to make this as painless as possible through small incremental decreases in carbohydrate consumption and then to provide a measure of relief by allowing a once-a-week high-carb day.

NUTRITION PHASE TWO

As you transition into the second phase, you’ll bump up protein again and further reduce carbohydrates. It’s important to increase water consumption from the outset, but now it’s even more critical. First, consuming large amounts of protein places demands on your body for hydration. Taking in more water will help you meet that need. Second, carbohydrates help drive water into your muscles–it should come as no shock that carbs “hydrate,” thus their name. By reducing them, you are placing additional demands on your body for water.

Our bodybuilder who consumes 3,000 calories a day for maintenance will now be consuming about 220 g of protein daily, which should be significantly more than a gram per pound for the average bodybuilder. Carbs are now reduced to 250 g per day (except for cheat days, when he will still spike them to 600 g).

At this stage, cheat days become even more critical. Since the diet is more severe, reloading will also be more dramatic. You’ll notice that you look fuller and feel better and stronger, especially in the 48 hours after you spike your carbs. Gradually, the effects will taper off as you head toward your next cheat day.

NUTRITION PHASE THREE

This is the most demanding level. At this stage, you are eating a very high protein diet, with as much as 50% of your calories coming from this macronutrient. At the same time, your carbs are down. The bodybuilder who consumes 3,000 calories a day for maintenance is consuming about 200 g of carbs daily, except on cheat days, when he is still taking in 600 g of carbs. At this stage, you will really welcome these carbohydrate bumps. Not only do they add variety to your diet, but they also make you feel better, fuller and stronger.

Again, water is critical. You should drink about a gallon and a half or more of water a day at this point. Take it in consistently throughout the day, and drink plenty before, during and after your workouts.

As you’ll note in the meal plans (see Section Three), we’ve included foods such as avocados, salmon and peanut butter with some meals. These are high in healthy fats and are particularly important during this segment of your diet. They provide satiety and give you energy, so make sure you include them in the recommended quantities.

PERSONALIZE YOUR DIET

Remember that you are an individual and this diet plan is designed to work for the average person. Many dieters following this program will encounter some individual variables–such as losing weight too quickly or too slowly. Use the following tips to help personalize your program so you get the most out of it.

* If you are having success with a certain phase, feel free to maintain it until you begin to notice that you are plateauing. The point is to get your body to shed bodyfat while maintaining muscle mass, not to blindly follow recommendations and charts. For instance, if you’re making great progress in Phase One, you might want to stay on it for a couple more weeks. You may only need to follow the first two phases for six weeks each to achieve your goals.

* If you are losing weight too quickly, you may be losing more muscle mass than you want. A good indication of this is feeling dramatically weaker after three weeks of dieting (or a week or so into the later phases) or noticing a bodyweight drop of more than a couple of pounds a week during Phase One. If either of these is the case, include a second weekly cheat day. Try three diet days followed by one cheat day, then two diet days followed by another cheat day. On one of those cheat days, consume the full amount of carbs. On the other, split the difference between the carb amount called for in your current phase and your full cheat allotment.

* If you aren’t shedding enough bodyfat, your calorie deficit might not be right. You might have calculated your maintenance requirements incorrectly, or you may need to cut total calories more drastically. In each phase, evaluate your situation and decide whether to continue on to the next stage ahead of schedule–if you’re not losing bodyfat in Phase One after a couple of weeks, perhaps you may want to move on to Phase Two more quickly. Similarly, reevaluate yourself in Phase Three–perhaps downshifting calories one more time by another 10% might help. Also consider performing a bit more cardio–adding up to one full session a week through all the phases.

SECTION THREE MEAL PLANS

In this section of the 12-Weeks Hard program, we provide sample meal plans to help you build your own diet. All the meal plans are based on a bodybuilder who consumes 3,000 calories a day. The meal plan for Phase One shows you how to construct a daily menu of 2,700 calories; for Phase Two, we offer a meal plan with about 2,400 calories; and for Phase Three, the meal plan calls for only about 2,100 calories daily.

We recommend that you consume at least 200 grams (g) of protein during the first phase, 220 g in the second and 240 g in the third. However, our meal plans give you more protein than this in certain cases because our protein recommendations are minimums, while our calorie recommendations are maximums. It’s OK to eat more protein daily, as long as you aren’t exceeding your calorie limits.

In addition, we also provide you with some calorie- and protein-equivalent food choices to help you add variety to your diet. We’ve given you a day in the life of a bodybuilder, but it’s up to you to mix things up a bit. You’ll get better results from your diet if you eat a range of foods. For instance, we’ve listed “fruit” or “vegetable” as a generic recommendation. Vary your choices from day to day. Eat an apple, a plum, an orange, a peach, then eat another apple later in the week. The same goes for vegetables. Eat broccoli, squash, green beans, cauliflower or a small mixed-greens salad.

Diversity makes it easier to stay on your diet, and it provides your body with a broader range of nutrients. Similarly, make some changes in your protein and carbohydrate foods. Take a look at “Tradeoffs,” our chart on equivalencies, to mix and match to get the most from your meal plans.

Finally, if you fall into a different calorie range, make adaptations to this plan across the board (see the “Calorie Consumption Guide” in Section Two for guidelines). If you eat fewer calories, slightly reduce the quantities of each food until you’re within the range for your appetite. Similarly, adjust up to get into range if you’re a bigger eater. Don’t skip meals. Part of the effectiveness of the diet program is based on consuming numerous meals a day.

SECTION FOUR SUPPLEMENTS

We recommend that you approach your supplementation with the following mindset: Some supplements are standard issue and should be taken on a daily basis, especially when dieting. Others aren’t suitable for everyone, and you should consider whether they’re right for you. Fat burners can be an effective addition to your program, but we recommend that you hold off on them until Phase Two. Doing this will give your body more impetus to shed fat after it adapts to a lower calorie intake. For now, concentrate on the following.

THE BASICS Standard-issue supplements include glutamine, creatine, a multivitamin/multimineral complex, vitamins C and E, calcium, fish oil and ZMA. We’ve also listed whey and casein protein shakes on our supplement guide. These same shakes are also listed on our meal plans. We’ve put them in both places because they straddle the line between food and supplement, but they absolutely must be included in your total calorie count. If you overlook the calories they contribute, you’ll have a more difficult time losing the bodyfat you want to shed. Since they are also supplements, we’ve built them into the supplement schedule to remind you when to take them and to give you additional information on how to integrate them with your other supplements.

Here are descriptions of the standard-issue supplements and what they will do for you. (In the accompanying charts, we show dosages and times to take these compounds.)

Glutamine This is the most abundant amino acid in the body, and supplementing with it helps give your body a break from trying to pull glutamine from endogenous sources, such as your muscle mass. Glutamine provides a host of benefits, including the following.

* It increases the synthesis of muscle protein and decreases muscle-protein breakdown. This is extremely important when calories are tight.

* Glutamine also increases the secretion of growth hormone, which helps with fat burning.

* It raises free testosterone levels, which helps maintain strength while dieting.

* Glutamine increases the synthesis of muscle glycogen, which is important when carbs are limited.

* This amino acid boosts the immune system, which is critical when lowering calories.

Creatine This front-line supplement is an amino acid that can help you improve muscle mass and strength over both the short term and the long term. It’s a great year-round supplement, but it also provides specific advantages when you are shedding bodyfat.

* Creatine is especially important when dieting to help maintain muscle-cell volume and strength.

* Several research studies have suggested that creatine aids in fat loss.

Multivitamin/Multimineral Complex

Vitamins and minerals are crucial for all humans, particularly dieting bodybuilders. Because bodybuilders are typically larger than average, they need more vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. Second, bodybuilders require more nutrients because of the demands of heavy training. This is true at all times, but particularly during a diet. When you cut calories, you also inadvertently reduce the amount of nutrients you’re taking in, so you need a multi to cover your bases.

* A multi provides essential nutrients as you limit calories and food choices, making up for any possible lost micronutrients.

* A multi also provides essential coenzymes for proper metabolism.

* In general, a multi boosts health by insuring against deficits.

Vitamins C and E These are two of the most important nutrients, and bodybuilders should consume these antioxidants on a daily basis. Often, a bodybuilder’s diet is deficient in the quantity necessary to ensure ideal effectiveness. Supplementation will take care of this problem.

* These supplements provide powerful antioxidants, which help prevent muscle breakdown and blunt excess free radicals that are often produced when raising metabolic rate.

* Vitamin C helps boost the immune system to ward off illness, which is particularly important in dieting phases when the body is stressed.

* Vitamin E helps maintain cell membrane integrity (i.e., it helps keep cells–including muscle cells–healthier).

Calcium This is one of the most essential minerals for bodybuilders. If your multi doesn’t have the full supplemental dosage (1,000 mg), make certain you are getting your daily requirement either through food or additional supplementation. Calcium is important to dieters for the following reasons.

* It enhances muscle contraction and bone density.

* It has been shown to aid in fat loss.

ZMA As with calcium, make sure you’re getting the total necessary dosage of zinc and magnesium each day. Some multis do not provide all you need, and supplementing with ZMA can solve this problem.

* Magnesium and zinc are important for maintaining testosterone and growth-factor levels.

* These minerals also promote better recovery from workouts by enhancing sleep.

* Many athletes are deficient in one or both of these minerals, and dieting is likely to exacerbate the problem. Supplementing will help you overcome it.

Fish Oil Fish oil contains the essential fatty acid omega-3, which is known to provide a number of health and performance benefits.

* It helps prevent muscle breakdown and encourages muscle growth, which is important when reducing calories.

* It helps reduce inflammation; this helps when training intensity is high.

* Healthy fats actually help you lose bodyfat.

* It helps with brain function and mood, which can make or break your diet.

FAT BURNERS Shedding bodyfat is the most challenging aspect of being a bodybuilder. You have to maintain total focus, and your diet, training and supplementation have to be firing on all cylinders. Our 12-Weeks Hard program gives you all the tools you need to do it all. Next month, check back for our fat-burner supplement recommendations.

PHASE ONE SAMPLE MEAL PLAN

Meal one, 8 AM CALORIES PROTEIN CARBS

6 egg whites/1 yolk 160 24 2

Oatmeal, 1 cup (precooked) 300 10 55

Piece of fruit, medium 80 N/A 20

Meal two, 10 AM

Protein shake with carbs 240 20 40

Piece of fruit, small 60 N/A 15

Meal three, 1 PM

Chicken breast, 6 oz 280 32 N/A

Avocado, 1 oz 50 1 2

Brown rice, 1/2 cup (precooked) 300 6 66

Vegetables * 60 3 N/A

Meal four, preworkout, 3:30 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

Meal five, postworkout, 6 PM/7 PM

Immediately postworkout

Whey protein with simple carbs 240 20 40

An hour later

Steak, 6 oz 350 40 N/A

Baked potato, medium 210 5 50

Spinach, 10 oz 40 4 N/A

Meal six, 10 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

Peanut butter, 1 tbsp 100 5 2

TOTALS (approximate) 2,700 230 300

* Although vegetables do contain carbohydrates, don’t count them toward

your total carb count for the day. Because of their high fiber, these

calories are slowly assimilated into your body.

PHASE TWO SAMPLE MEAL PLAN

Meal one, 7 AM CALORIES PROTEIN CARBS

6 egg whites/1 yolk 160 24 2

Oatmeal, 1 cup (precooked) 300 10 55

Piece of fruit, small 60 N/A 15

Meal two, 10 AM

Protein shake with carbs 240 20 40

Meal three, 1 PM

Chicken breast, 8 oz 380 42 2

Brown rice, 1/4 cup (precooked) 150 3 33

Vegetables 60 3 N/A

Meal four, preworkout, 3:30 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

Meal five, postworkout, 6 PM/7 PM

Immediately postworkout

Whey protein with simple carbs 240 20 40

An hour later

Steak, 6 oz 350 40 N/A

Baked potato, medium 210 5 50

Spinach, 10 oz 40 4 N/A

Meal six, 10 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

TOTALS (approximate) 2,400 230 240

PHASE THREE SAMPLE MEAL PLAN

Meal one, 7 AM CALORIES PROTEIN CARBS

8 egg whites/1 yolk 200 30 2

Oatmeal, 1/2 cup (precooked) 150 5 27

Piece of fruit, small 60 N/A 15

Meal two, 10 AM

Turkey, deli sliced, 4 oz 140 30 N/A

1 slice whole-wheat bread 100 3 20

Meal three, 1 PM

Turkey breast, 6 oz 300 45 2

Brown rice, 1/3 cup (precooked) 200 4 43

Vegetables 60 3 N/A

Meal four, preworkout, 3:30 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

Meal five, postworkout, 6 PM/7 PM

Immediately postworkout

Whey protein with simple carbs 240 20 40

An hour later

Broiled tuna, 6 oz 240 40 N/A

Baked potato, medium 210 5 50

Meal six, 10 PM

Casein protein shake 120 30 N/A

TOTALS (approximate) 2,100 250 200

TRADEOFFS

You want to stay on your diet, but you’re getting tired of the same old

food choices. Here are some protein and carbohydrate options to help

you construct more varied meals. Just remember to keep calories in mind

as you trade foods.

PROTEIN FOODS CALORIES PROTEIN (g)

Chicken breast, 4 oz 190 21

Steak, 4 oz 250 31

Extra-lean ground beef, 4 oz 265 21

Tuna, 4 oz 140 30

Pork loin, 4 oz 310 37

Salmon, 4 oz 200 55

Sardines, in oil, drained, 4 oz 240 30

Whitefish, 4 oz 150 21

Turkey breast, 4 oz 190 23

Eggs, 6 egg whites 100 21

Eggs, 2 whole 150 13

Low-fat cottage cheese 100 14

Dry-roasted peanuts, 4 oz 420 17

CARBOHYDRATE FOODS CALORIES CARBS (g)

Brown rice, 1/4 cup (precooked) 150 32

White rice, 1/4 cup (precooked) 150 35

Potato, 4 oz 105 25

Yams, 4 oz 80 19

Oatmeal, 1/2 cup (precooked) 150 27

Pinto beans, 1/4 cup (precooked) 150 27

Black beans, dried, boiled, 4 oz 115 20

Whole-wheat bread, 1 slice 100 20

Whole-wheat pasta, 1 cup 175 37

SUPPLEMENT GUIDE

Early morning 5 g of glutamine immediately after waking

Breakfast Multivitamin/multimineral complex (delivering

100% of the daily value of most

B vitamins, vitamin D, copper, iron and

chromium)

400 IU of vitamin E

500-1,000 mg of vitamin C

1,000 mg of calcium

3-5 g of fish oil

Midmorning Protein shake with carbs (20 g of protein and

40 g of carbs)

30-60 minutes preworkout Casein protein shake (30 g of protein)

5 g of glutamine

Immediately postworkout Whey protein with simple carbs (20 g of

protein and 40 g of carbs)

5 g of glutamine

5 g of creatine

400 IU of vitamin E

500-1,000 mg of vitamin C

1 hour before bedtime Casein protein shake (30 g of protein)

5 g of glutamine

3-5 g of fish oil

1/2 hour before bedtime ZMA (30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium

and 11 mg of vitamin [B.sub.6])

RELATED ARTICLE

HARD EVIDENCE When you commit to the 12-Weeks Hard program, you’re making one of the most important commitments of your life. It takes hard work and discipline, but the results are well worth the effort. Keep focused, and you’ll get harder as the 12 weeks unfold. As further incentive, document your progress and enter our 12-Weeks Hard contest (see following page) and, who knows, you may see your name and image in the pages of FLEX.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS LUND

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