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Published:October 3rd, 2006 07:07 EST
The Keys to Finding Your Physique through Nutrition

The Keys to Finding Your Physique through Nutrition

By John Basedow (Mentor/Fitness Expert)

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you felt you were speaking to a wall?  Well, today I certainly did.  It`s an unbelievably frustrating experience.  I was doing a personal phone consultation with a guy I`ll call Eugene " who said he has read my columns regularly and also has the Fitness Made Simple " video I host.  Eugene, who represents the wall " in this story, started the conversation by saying he was a big fan " and that his current goal is to get as defined as naturally possible.  You know, the ripped sixpack of abs, eye-popping striations, and razor-sharp cuts.  We all dream of them and their images are what fuels our passion to pump iron.  A  lean, muscular physique similar to the ones we see gracing the pages of this magazine is an admirable goal to shoot for.  My frustration, however, grew from how Eugene was attempting to get it. 

To make a long story short, Eugene`s definition-enhancing fitness program consisted of a high carbohydrate diet coupled with long periods of painfully low calorie, near starvation days to help him lose fat, " minimal water intake so he wouldn`t retain water and appear bloated, " and as little fat as possible since, as he told me, eating fat makes you fat, right? "  I think the only way Eugene could have devised a worse nutrition plan would be if he just ate lard straight out of the can for 3 meals a day.  Please keep in mind that I have never recommended any of Eugene`s cutting-up " strategies and, if he had really read the columns he claimed to be such a fan of or if he`d actually put the video in his VCR and pushed play, " he should have known that.  Needless to say, Eugene`s nutrition plan wasn`t producing the results he desired.  What a shock!

Ironically, Eugene`s workout program was remarkably well-constructed.  But since I believe what we eat is most important factor when it comes to seeing the muscle definition we`ve worked so hard to build, proper nutrition has to be the cornerstone of any successful cutting-up program.  When I went over a few meal plan guidelines, which I`ve preached about before and have used to slash my body fat percentages, Eugene acted like he had a revelation and thanked me repeatedly.  I guess you can say something over and over again but that doesn`t necessarily guarantee it gets heard.  Maybe I haven`t put these fat fighting insights into a single, user friendly " format before.  So, as a well-needed aid to all the other Eugenes " out there who are dedicated to redefining their physiques but going about it in all the wrong ways, here`s a brief rundown of some nutritional keys I`ve found necessary for opening up the door to a ripped physique.


Simply put fat gains and losses are mathematical events.  You`re not going to look like a sleekly defined racehorse if you eat like a pig.  It`s important to eat enough good foods to maintain lean muscle mass but not overindulge to the point of increasing fat storage.  Since this line is an easy one to cross I recommend writing down in a small notebook the calorie content and macronutrient breakdown (grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat) of what I`m eating.  This technique also keeps me more focused on my goal. 

When I`m cutting-up for a photo shoot I try to eat my Bodyweight X 10 " in total daily calories.  For example, if I weigh 195 lbs, consuming around 1950-2000 calories a day is a good start to my fat burning program.  Since people differ in metabolic rates and exercise levels you might use this formula to begin with and then, after a couple of weeks, adjust it by 200-300 calories/day depending on your results.  While I`ve been very successful with this practice I don`t advise staying on a low calorie mealplan for an extended period of time because our bodies are smart and they can adjust to the starvation condition " they`re facing by lowering metabolism and catabolizing muscle tissue.  Since muscle burns fat, losing the precious mass we`ve worked so hard to build would be very detrimental to our fat loss efforts.


Unlike Eugene`s string of painfully low calorie days, " which puts the body in a fat storing mode since it has no idea when it will be fed next, eating several small meals every 3 hours keeps our muscles in a fat burning mode since they`re receiving a steady but not excessive flow of nutrients.  This practice also helps increase our energy levels and fight the hungry feeling that often leads to cheating with fat building between meal snacks.  Eating only 2-3 large meals a day like most people do, however, can overwhelm our bodies.  Since they can only use a certain amount of food at a time the remainder will usually be stored as fat.


If you`re trying to keep fat off and muscle on, increasing protein intake is the way to go.  Protein sources, like chicken/turkey breasts, tuna, egg whites, and whey powders, help build muscle and are the least likely macronutrients to be converted to bodyfat since they`re the most metabolically costly for our bodies to process.  Protein has also been shown in scientific studies to be a potent appetite suppressant and it has a mild diuretic effect, causing us to lose some definition-limiting water weight.  To get really ripped on a short term fat burning mealplan I raise my protein intake to around 40% of total daily calories. 

On the flip side of the coin are carbohydrates.  They`re notorious for holding water and can interfere with our bodies ability to tap into bodyfat reserves for energy.  Diets high in simple and highly processed carbs, like Eugene`s, cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin levels that not only decrease fat burning but even promote fat storage.  That`s another reason Eugene has yet to see his abs.  Simple sugars also increase our cravings making it harder for us to stop with just one cookie.  I`m also very careful of fructose (fruit sugar) when cutting-up.  Though fruits may be beneficial health-wise, unlike other sugars, fructose has limited uses in our bodies.  It`s not used to fill muscle glycogen reserves and, once liver glycogen reserves are full, excess fructose can be easily stored as fat.  From my experience, high fructose diets are second only to high saturated fat diets in ruining definition.


While TV and Eugene tell us eating fat makes you fat, " the reality of the situation is that since the fat-free " craze began studies are showing Americans continue to get fatter and fatter.  While limiting fat intake is a good idea, eliminating it totally is not.  Besides being necessary for healthy skin and hair, fat is involved in the production of many hormones, including testosterone.  That`s why it`s almost impossible to build muscle mass when on an extremely low fat diet.  Fat also lowers the glycemic index of many high carb foods so we don`t get that huge fat-producing insulin surge commonly associated with eating fat-free goodies by themselves.  And, most relevant to this article, we need a certain amount of fat to process body fat metabolism.  In other words, eating too little fat makes it harder for us to burn fat.

To stay toned and defined, I eat good fats in moderation "about 15%-20% of my daily calorie intake.  Good fats " include essential fatty acids, like flaxseed oil, and monounsaturated fats, like all-natural peanut butter, olive oil, and avocados.


Drink water "lots of it.  I try to drink a gallon a day with and between my meals.  Muscle is comprised of 70% water.  A high protein diet and intense exercise require more water since these are dehydrating activities.  Water is needed to transport vitamins, minerals, supplements, and even foods throughout our bodies.  If our water intake is too low, muscle fullness decreases and a toxic build-up of ammonia, urea, and other waste products can result.  Contrary to Eugene`s philosophy, restricting water intake can actually lead to more water retention than providing the body with a steady supply.


To prevent unwanted fat storage I eat my biggest meals early in the day when I`m most active.  I particularly limit my carbohydrate foods in later meals.  I`ve found eating too close to bedtime is a good way to lose definition since my body doesn`t burn the same level of calories during the sleeping maintenance mode as it does during the waking hours.


John Basedow hosts the best-selling videos Fitness Made Simple, Awesome Hour Workout, Sixpack Abs, AM/PM Workouts, and the 45Min Fat Burning Workout, which offer time conserving workouts and fat burning nutritional meal plans to build a lean, muscular physique.  To order call 1-800-283-4230 or visit  Make sure to also see John on Myspace at