Interested in shocking your friends the next time you rip your shirt off on your next beach vacation? In this article I will suggest five foods to eliminate from your diet if you want to reveal the final product of extreme muscle definition – eye-popping six pack abs!
In just the past twelve months I have competed in four physique competitions and five photo shoots where I have achieved 4-8% body fat on each occasion so the advice I share is backed up by my personal experiences but these practices are not widely accepted within the fitness industry.
I recognize that my “food elimination list” is considered extreme but keep this in mind that extreme muscle definition is just that, extreme! And the elimination of these foods is temporary – 2-4 weeks max – so don’t freak out and say, “Oh my gosh, how do you live without those foods?” I don’t live without them, I just cut them to create the best “fat burning environment” possible and resort to foods that I consider more superior for combating the final few pounds of fat and providing me energy for my intense training sessions.
The picture above is the morning of my photo shoot with IRONMAN magazine on July 9, 2012, another result of eliminating the foods below. Based on a DEXA scan 1 week prior to this picture at 11.3% bodyfat, I anticipate I’m at least 9% bodyfat in this picture. No lower than 8%. I am 202 pounds. My body always looks harder and tighter when I cut the foods below.
While sustaining a prolonged caloric deficit is the ultimate key to losing weight, selecting the optimal food choices to fill those calories will be the difference between looking hard and muscular or soft and thin.
Every food decision you make will move you closer to your goals or further from your goals and the rate you drop the final few pounds of fat will be directly related to your food choices.
Is it necessary to eliminate these foods? No.
Will eliminating these foods help you arrive to your goals faster? Yes.
Here is my advice on which foods to cut to achieve extreme muscle definition – in no particular order:
Fructose is a sugar that is present in fruit. The body responds to large and frequent portions of fruit by converting it straight into fat. It also modifies the ability of your liver to process glucose, which makes it more challenging to lose fat and keep it off in the future.
A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition examined how the body responded to different types of sugar by administering a breakfast drink to lean and healthy subjects that was either 100 percent glucose, half glucose and half fructose, or 25 percent glucose and 75 percent fructose. After four hours of consuming the drinks that contained fructose, lipogenesis (i.e. producing fat in the body), increased far more in the body compared to ingesting the glucose drink. On top of that, the food subjects ingested at lunch was processed differently. After consuming a normal lunch, triglycerides stayed higher by as much as 30 percent, indicating that the body was no longer in a “fat burning” mode. In short, the carbs ingested at lunch were converted into fat.
I am not anti-fruit. In fact, I love fruit and maintain about 30 grams of berries (the one fruit low in fructose and jammed with antioxidants) in my daily diet until I wish to dip under 10% body fat and get my abs popping. Fruit will simply slow your progress into the six-pack promise land.
Eliminate dairy if you wish to achieve sub 10% body fat if you’re a male and 16% bodyfat if you’re a female. . Milk has a reputation of being a highly insulinotropic (insulin-releasing) food. In a study done in 1996 and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dairy products like ice cream and yogurt had huge insulin responses. If insulin is high in the blood, it can prevent lipolysis (i.e. fat breakdown), and if you’re consuming diary it leads to high insulin levels in the blood that may be blocking fat breakdown that might normally occur.
Is the impact really that big to cut dairy? When striving for maximal muscle definition we need every little bit of help that we can get, which is why my advice is to remove dairy. Although there is no scientific research to support the drawbacks of dairy when cutting, it’s hard to ignore the anecdotal evidence of thousands of physique athletes who report more defined muscle, especially in the abdominal region, when they remove dairy as opposed to keeping it in the diet. As Anthony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.”
Personally, in the past twelve months I’ve noticed more superior abdominal definition with the absence of dairy myself and I’ve found it easier to stay lean without dairy. Perhaps it’s because I avoid the immune and inflammatory response or the water retention that occurs from diary allergies. Or perhaps it’s because most dairy is high in saturated fat, which is not optimal for staying lean. Saturated fat has been shown to lower insulin sensitivity and is more prone to fat storage, so these are more reasons to suggest that dairy is one food group you could live without.
People find the suggestion of eliminating dairy hard to accept or believe but it’s primarily because the dairy industry has spent billions of dollars to market their product and convince you otherwise. Can you say, “Got Milk?” Dairy is a great food group for skinny guys to help in bulking up, but has no place in an extreme cutting diet.
3. Gluten, Wheat & Grains
Take it for what it’s worth but after I cut grains out of my prep for four shows and five photo shoots, I immediately noticed a drop in lower abdominal fat. I suspect this is because grains influence blood sugar levels the same way as plain table sugar.
Giladin family grains such as oats, wheat, and spelt are the most common food allergens. Grains raise insulin dramatically and since it’s a strong allergen, it raises cortisol. The combination of raising both hormones results in central obesity and can be detrimental to achieving maximal muscle definition. For the final few weeks of a cut I will eliminate all grains and stick to sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice as my primary carbohydrate sources.
It’s especially hard for me to cut grains considering I grew up in an Italian family and was practically raised on bread, pasta and Kraft dinner! Most people report instant drops in bloating, fatigue and fat when the eliminate grains. Give it a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
4. Carb Powders/Simple Sugars
He who controls the hormone, insulin, wins! This is the one hormone we have control over and when controlled it can shred up a physique in no time. Managing your insulin makes it far easier to attain and maintain low body fat because insulin is able to increase fat storage and decrease fat loss. You can find an excellent series of experiments published in the Kobe Journal of Medical Sciences revealing how insulin prevents fat loss. The studies give credibility to the power of low-carbohydrate and low glycemic-load diets. If insulin blocks the release of stored fat, it makes little sense to incorporate foods that periodically stimulate the release of high concentrations of insulin.
When maximal muscle definition is the goal, it appears that insulin can severely limit and nearly block fat loss so avoid high-glycemic carb powders like the traditional post workout drinks such as dextrose, Gatorade, maltodextrin, Vitargo, and even fruit juices. Instead, for your post workout meal, combine a fast-digesting protein source with a slow-digesting carbohydrate source like quinoa, brown rice or sweet potatoes for a faster way to achieve maximal muscle definition.
5. Protein Powder
When it comes to extreme muscle definition, protein powder should be removed from your diet if you wish to drop the last 5-10 pounds faster. A recent 2012 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism showed that the specific amino acids in whey protein stimulate beta cells to secrete more insulin than a similar amount of carbohydrate from white bread.
When insulin is present, fat burning comes to a halt. It’s absolutely critical to minimize insulin spikes when trying to drop body fat so you are better off consuming 10-20 grams of Branched Chain Amino Acids in place of your protein shake and then follow up your workout with a fast digesting protein source like white fish, to ensure maximal fat loss.
Eating 4-6 meals a day of primarily whole food is a tough task for many individuals but remember that it’s a temporary method to get you into the six pack abs end zone. Once you achieve your desired level of leanness, it’s okay to put one protein shake back into your diet on a daily basis.
I understand the advice here is considered extreme but the name of the article is “Foods to cut for extreme muscle definition”, not “Foods to cut for mediocre muscle definition.” If I wrote that article, most of the foods above would be acceptable! Unfortunately, calories, carbs, proteins and fats are not created equal and food selection matters and once you take this concept seriously, your body will dramatically transform and your abs will be the talk of your next beach vacation.
Achieving extreme muscle definition is a goal that a very small percentage of the population will ever achieve because they refuse to accept that food selection matters. If you’re willing to sacrifice these foods for a few short weeks I am confident you will achieve extreme muscle definition and reveal the body you desire and deserve. Once you arrive at your goal look you can reintroduce these foods in moderation. Go make it happen and let me know if you have comments or questions below!