A Conversation With
The Most Ripped Man of the Year
Introducing The Most Ripped Man of the Year – Darren McAllan
Hi, I’m Darren McAllan and Tom Venuto invited me to share the motivation, nutrition and training strategies I used to cut down from 9% body fat to 4% body fat and win the Most Ripped Man Award at the recent Burn the Fat, Feed the muscle (BFFM) challenge body transformation contest.
I’m thrilled and honoured to write this for Tom and ALL the BFFM readers!
It’s funny that Tom asked the questions in this order (mindset, nutrition and training) because I believe that was the exact order of importance for me getting into peak shape.
My Motivation / Mindset
The condition I reached in the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle challenge is by far the best shape I’ve ever been in and I put a large part of it down to the mindset I needed to develop. In the beginning of the challenge, I’d say the mindset was as simple as finding a goal that excited me (to win the most ripped man title was my goal right from the start), and then figure out my reasons as to WHY I wanted to win that award.
I don’t believe that motivation is something you wait for, like someone coming along and randomly inspiring you, I believe you must create it yourself, by digging for strong enough reasons.
I knew that I could get into reasonable shape through reasons associated with my ego. Things like: To have an amazing six pack, to have people want what I have, to be the best conditioned guy in the gym, to feel more attractive and so on. But I knew that this would not be enough to get me to push through the final stages of fat loss. If it were that simple, then most people who decide to get ripped would get ripped.
I knew I had to dig deeper for more meaningful reasons.
I tried asking, “What will being ripped mean to me?” “What is most important to me about being ripped?” and so on, but the answers that came back were not emotionally charged enough.
So I changed my approach. I asked, “What’s most important to me in my life”, and without hesitation, the answer that instantly came to my mind was my little girl Sophie. She is by far the most important part of my life.
You might say, “But this has nothing to do with getting ripped, right?” I’m not so sure. I know most people here are wondering, “What diet did you follow... how many grams of protein and carbs were you on?” and so on. Sure, the nutrition was important and I’ll touch on that next. But in my opinion, what it really takes to get ripped is to find your motivation – because this is not an easy goal to achieve!
As I began thinking about it, I realised that it was important for me to be a role model for my little girl, to be a father who sticks to his word, and follows through on his promises. I had to show her (even though she may not fully understand right now), that sometimes things get tough, but you have to hold on to your vision, and press on. That’s when it hit me. I had found MY reason.
I decided to get extremely lean because it was a challenge that would show my daughter that I’m not average, that her Dad can say he’s going to take on a massive challenge and follow through by sticking to his word. This would develop the character needed to be a good role model. By getting ripped, I would ultimately become a better and stronger father figure. Now THAT’S motivation!
From there, I used the “mental training” techniques Tom explains in chapter one of his book to install this new mindset so that it became part of me and not just a wish. The best thing you can do is go buy Burn the Fat, Feed the muscle if you want to know more (and P.S. Tom is not paying me to say this).
It just goes to show, that learning to eat right and train correctly is not only about how you’ll look at the end, but more about who you’ll become in the process - a better father figure, a person who is NOT average, a man who follows through on his word, a good role model, a person with character, or whatever your motivations are. (That’s not to say that you won’t enjoy watching your body transforming too!)
Here is where I may have been a little different compared to many contestants who entered the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle challenge. Most people on Burn the Fat, Feed the muscle are pretty meticulous about counting and crunching numbers ALL the time. But you see, I like my weekends to relax and eat without much thought for calories, portion sizes, macronutrient ratio etc, so I took a mixed approach.
I told myself that I could either do a small deficit, with a small reduction in carbs, and hold that steady (the “linear dieting” approach), and I think that would most likely have produced similar results, especially at the start. Or, I could go more aggressive using Toms “Phase 3 competition diet” from Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle with some really low carb/ low calorie days and then a reefed day...
I used the 2nd strategy, but the way I decided to customize it was to go low from Monday to Friday, then “relax” at the weekend and use Saturday and Sunday as the re-feed to stimulate my metabolism and get a psychological break from the strict low calorie/ low carb days.
I remember hearing Tom saying that if you’ve depleted your glycogen stores and held a strict calorie deficit for several days, you can create an optimal environment for a large carb re-feed without putting fat on, and possibly even continue losing fat on those days. I have to point out that I don’t think Tom’s favourite approach was the entire week – 5 days - low, because you tend to suffer from losing energy as the week progresses (even more so when your bodyfat gets lower!) The most popular method is the 3 days low followed by the reefed. But I thought using the same principle for 5 days then reefed on the weekend would fit perfect for my lifestyle, so was excited to give it a go. As it turns out, it worked just fine.
I did, however, have to make changes to the nutrition as I got leaner, as my body just couldn’t stay on aggressive carb reduction for more than a few days before NEEDING to be re-fed. (Yes Tom, I know you would love to say, “I told you so” here, ha ha). To cut a long story short, I ended up going with the more frequent refeeds later – after I was seriously dieted down.
What I did was to take the information I had learned from BFFM and from years of of experimenting, while at the same time listening to my body’s needs. And that is right in line with the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle philosophy of using the “feedback loop.” Measure results, listen to your body, and adjust to keep results coming.
One final thing I have to add: I’m not sure if this is an individual thing, or whether it happens to most people when body fat gets extremely low, but almost every evening without fail, in the final 1-2 weeks, I would get an overwhelming feeling to consume food! I’m telling you, this was not just physical hunger, as I had only an hour ago finished a 7 egg veggie omelette. This was more of an “instinct.”
I’m not even sure if this is making sense to you if you’ve never experienced it, but the only way I can describe it is that every cell in my body was screaming out to eat, even though I wasn’t physically hungry. After that started happening, Instead of trying to fight it, I decided to put some damage control in place in the form of simply shifting some of my calories to before bedtime. That sorted it out for me nicely.
If you’re going to pursue getting ripped, know this: when you get super lean, your body is going to fight you every way possible to stop you from getting leaner and trick you to eat more. It seems that this happens on not only the physical, but also the mental level as well, with these weird urges.
This is also where I did things a little different from the past. I had already built up a reasonable amount of muscle, so my main goal for the challenge was to maintain my current lean body mass. I figured the important thing was to keep my weight training in place and not worry about trying to gain any additional muscle. So I decided to do mostly full body workouts. I used all the rep ranges 4-6, 6-12, 15-20 on different days on the week.
I knew I would have most of my energy on the days where my food intake (carbs mostly) was very high, so I’d do my heavy workouts on those days, or the day immediately following. The other rep ranges were done Monday through Friday. Again, this had to change slightly as my diet changed in the final month due to my changing the frequency of the re-feed.
During the first month, I didn’t do much cardio. I only did a little bit of low intensity cardio after lifting, but not too often, as I wanted to start out with as little cardio as possible so I could keep it as a tool for later as I got leaner. The second half of my challenge, I began using more cardio. I mixed both steady state and intervals, depending on my energy levels that day. The final month, I was up to 2 cardio sessions on most days. Some days I’d do intense intervals, some days I would walk on an inclined treadmill. I simply had to listen to my body and blend that with my results.
It’s difficult to explain everything about my training in such a short space, because I used so many different approaches throughout this challenge, I’d probably be better off getting you to read Tom’s book. I think having flexibility in my approach was key to getting as lean as I did because I found that things change when you get leaner and leaner.
Other "getting ripped" advice
If I were to offer any other advice to those reading, what also helped me was to get support and motivation from other members of the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, and “some” of those people around me back home. Some people don’t like to see you change unless they’re on the same journey. But you can use both - the positive support, and the negative feedback -to fuel you.
In my experience, having someone say, “you’re looking too skinny”, “you don’t look healthy”, “when are you going to stop losing weight?” and so on, is just as motivating as someone saying “well done”, “you’re looking great”, “I’m so impressed and proud of what you’re doing”.
If I had only heard or listened to the positives, I might have gotten complacent, but if I only listened to the negatives, I’d have gotten disheartened and possibly doubted myself too much. Having both was like double motivation, so I can even thank those who doubted me because the negativity added fuel to the fire.
Of course, an even bigger thank you goes to those of you who believed in me and supported me. My daughter and the support of my friends at Burn the Fat Inner Circle is what I believe made the biggest difference to me following through, and not giving up. Thank you all!
Bring on the next challenge!!!
A happy dad.
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