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The 4-Week Lean Muscle Diet

Posted on: Apr 4, 2014 3:47 PM

Featured story April 4, 2014


The 4-Week Lean Muscle Diet

Get lean in four weeks without starving yourself in your quest for a six-pack.

By Chris Aceto

Make no mistake, it’s by no means coincidence that the first three letters of the word “diet” indicate just how miserable the process can be. Constantly being hungry, having to forgo satisfying carbs in favor of vegetables, eating smaller portions of bland-tasting foods. Yet to get really lean - the kind of shape that’ll have you eagerly pulling off your T-shirt - doesn’t have to mean total self-sacrifice for the sake of a six-pack. Tailoring the right nutrition plan, will have you muscular and ripped in as few as four weeks.

Remember this: You don’t have to be in a calorie deficit all the time to drop bodyfat. That’s right. In fact, moving from a deficit - when calories are restricted - to a diet in which calories are slightly above deficit levels can yield greater muscle definition.

How so? First, remaining on a low-calorie diet can backfire. The body adapts to calorie restrictions - eating less - by slowing its calorie-burning engine called metabolism. Second, low-calorie diets sometimes compromise anabolism, or your ability to maintain muscle mass.

Therefore, the ideal nutrition plan encompasses both attributes: lower-calorie dieting coupled with a very brief period when you’re allowed to eat! Hey, getting cut just became a bit easier - and more pleasant.

Here are the highlights of the four-week diet plan:

  • To create a deficit, or a shortfall in total calories, you’ll follow a low-fat, lower-carb diet for your first three training days. We’ll call this Diet A.
  • On days you don’t train with weights and are burning fewer total calories, you’ll bring calories even lower by further reducing carbohydrates. This meal plan will be called Diet B.
  • Every fourth training day, you’ll reverse the process and increase your carb intake. This higher-carbohydrate and -calorie meal plan will be Diet C. Diet C will give your body the fuel it needs to sidestep a metabolic slowdown associated with dieting. And, it will provide your muscle with much-needed energy to help maintain mass. That’s what we’re looking for in creating a cut-up and defined look - to promote a steady drop in bodyfat levels while maintaining hard-earned muscle.

No Need to Count

Put the calculator away. To get ripped, you don’t need to add up the calories in each and every morsel of food that goes into your mouth. Instead, you simply need to get a handle on portion control. Doing so is easy, especially when you get the hang of it. First, this diet is extremely low in fat; no butter, no oils, no nuts or fatty cuts of meat, so there’s not much to count in this department.

Determining your carbohydrate intake is straightforward: You’ll eat carb foods with:

  • Only 1 meal on Diet B, the off-training day
  • 3 meals on training days using Diet A
  • All 5 meals on the fourth training day using Diet C

Keep in mind, a “serving” yields about 40-50 grams of carbohydrates, so the three meals with carbs using Diet A (meals 1-3) would provide roughly 150 grams of carbs.

Protein is the nutrient that offers muscle support. Not only does it help build mass, but it also helps preserve muscle tissue when calories from carbohydrates and fat are really low. For this reason, you’ll keep protein at a minimum of 200 grams a day - 40 grams at each of your five daily meals. Again, you don’t have to actually count the grams of protein you eat every day, just follow the menus outlined and you’ll hit the mark.

Give it four weeks and not only will you have severely cleaned up your eating but you’ll be leaner and have more energy than if you followed another diet. You know, the ones in which you feel like you’re about to die. 

Mapping Your Meal Plans

Use this chart to compute meal plans and number of carb meals.

Day            Bodyparts Trained                     Meal Plan             # of Carb Meals
1 Chest, shoulders, triceps A 3
2 Back, biceps A 3
3 none B 1
4 Chest, shoulders, triceps A 3
5 Legs, biceps C 5
6 none B 1
7 none B 1
8 Chest, shoulders, triceps A 3
9 Back, biceps A 3
10 none B 1
11 Chest, shoulders, triceps A 3
12 Legs, biceps C 5
13 none B 1
14 none B 1

Fine-Tuning Your Diet

By following the simple meal plans, the typical 180-pound male can shed fat, maintain his mass and keep his metabolic rate from stalling. That said, we realize that no single nutrition strategy, no matter how well-planned and -devised, fits every 180-pounder, let alone someone who weighs more, say, 220 pounds. People are different and respond slightly differently to the very same diet plans. With that in mind, here are some key points to consider to better customize the plan to every stubborn twist and turn your body may put up.

  1. After two weeks, if you fail to harden up at a reasonable pace or fail to lose 1-2 pounds each week, follow Diet A for four training days rather than three.
  2. After two weeks, if your energy levels are declining in the gym, include two consecutive Diet C days. Thus, you’d remain on Diet A for three days, followed by two days of Diet C.
  3. If your muscles are excessively sore, you need more protein. Add a sixth meal to each day comprising a protein shake yielding 40-50 grams of protein.

Carb Foods

Taking each food listed below individually, here’s what one serving of 40-50 grams of carbohydrate looks like:

  1. 7 rice cakes
  2. 1 medium cantaloupe (about 5 inches diameter)
  3. 2 packets instant Cream of Wheat cereal
  4. 2 cups cooked oatmeal
  5. 2 small apples
  6. 1 rounded cup pasta
  7. 1 medium potato or yam, about the size of your fist
  8. 2 small potatoes (about half the size of a tennis ball)
  9. 1 rounded cup rice
  10. 1 small bagel
  11. 1 heaping cup shredded prepared hash browns (cook with cooking spray)
  12. 2 English muffin halves with low-sugar jam
  13. 2 small bananas
  14. 3 large slices whole-grain bread
  15. 1 12-inch pita bread

Protein Foods

Taking each food listed below individually, here’s what roughly 40 grams of protein amounts to:

  1. 10 large egg whites with 1 slice low-fat cheese
  2. 5-inch hamburger patty, extra lean
  3. 1 medium chicken breast, about 6x3-inches
  4. 1 turkey breast, about twice the size of a cell phone
  5. 2 scoops whey protein powder
  6. 6 pieces round steak (about the size of a quarter and 3⁄4-inch thick)
  7. 6 slices deli-style roast beef
  8. 6 slices deli-style turkey breast
  9. 1 rounded cup fat-free cottage cheese

Free Foods!

These foods can be considered “free” because they yield so few calories that you’d have to eat mounds of each to add any significant caloric value to your diet. These low-cal veggies are great to use on both Diet A and Diet B.

  1. celery
  2. eggplant
  3. lettuce
  4. wax beans
  5. onions
  6. green beans
  7. cabbage
  8. asparagus
  9. spinach
  10. okra
  11. broccoli
  12. water chestnuts
  13. zucchini
  14. summer squash


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