By Andre Newcomb
Bodybuilders are, hands down, the world’s greatest dieters. When it comes to getting maximally lean (while retaining muscle mass) competitive bodybuilders are unrivaled. Over the past 50 years elite bodybuilders have perfected the strategies and procedures that enable them to routinely whittle down to sub-5% bodyfat levels, even at the local and regional levels. Look at the physique winners in the sixties. Very few men had the muscle visibility that only comes with a low bodyfat percentile. John Parrillo came onto the scene in the 1970s and made his bones prepping bodybuilders for competition. He was the first to champion the inclusion of aerobics. He was the first to champion the high protein, high calorie, clean calorie diet. His bodybuilders routinely showed up big and shredded. Parrillo created the modern “bodybuilding matrix” that balances training, nutrition and supplementation to arrive at a predetermined physical goal. In the Parrillo approach, there are five component parts that are mixed, matched and monitored: progressive resistance training, fascia stretching, aerobics, nutrition and supplementation. Low body fat is obtained by combining hard, consistent training with the expert use of regular food. The nutrition is augmented with targeted nutritional supplementation and monitored with weekly body composition testing. Intense and consistent cardio exercise is mandatory. Interestingly enough, perhaps counter intuitively, John Parrillo postulates that the best way to get ripped is to first embark on a hi-protein, high-calorie mass-building phase.
Setting the table: I advise those that are new to the Parrillo approach to first begin with a mass-building cycle. There are a lot of good reasons for this: most people that come to us under-eat and under-eat the wrong foods. Clean up the food selections, establish a consistent multiple-meal eating schedule, eat lots of clean calories and only approved bodybuilding foods. Stockpile supplements ahead of time; launch the effort on all fronts. Nutrition is the cornerstone. The training is also critical: to build mass the bodybuilder needs to be lifting 3-5 times a week, pushing up to and past capacity in every session. In the Parrillo approach to resistance training, the bodybuilder uses a lot of different exercises, all rep ranges are practiced with lots of Parrillo “intensity enhancers” i.e. forced reps, drop sets, extended sets, tri-sets, giant sets, etc. Fascia stretching is an integral part of resistance training: between sets a highly intense stretch is performed that targets the just-trained muscle. Cardio is kept up during a mass-building phase in order to keep weight gain lean. The entire mass-building process is monitored on a weekly basis using the Parrillo BodyStat Kit. A nine-point skinfold caliper test reveals changes in body composition. During the mass-building phase the focus is on adding bodyweight without adding an unacceptable amount of body fat. Use a digital bathroom scale and The Parrillo BodyStat method to monitor progress and make progress-stimulating adjustments. Adjustments are also made with the food selections and food volume. Supplements can be introduced or switched out. Clean calories are added until the bodyweight nudges upward. BodyStat makes sure weight gain is lean muscle mass. “Once the trainee new to the Parrillo approach has gone through a mass-building cycle, they now have a much higher caloric ceiling. They are eating clean and training hard. Now we reverse directions.”
Full-steam in reverse: it is smart to embark on lean-out phase when coming off a successful Parrillo mass-building regimen. Why? After completing a mass-building regimen, the athlete has “built the metabolism” and in doing so raised the number of clean calories that can be consumed without getting fat. The elite bodybuilder has a raging metabolism, built by eating multiple meals consisting of nothing but clean calories: lean protein, fiber carbs and natural carbohydrates. The bodybuilder has built muscle and boosted their strength while creating a high-caloric ceiling. A successful lean-out phase requires a revamped approach to resistance training and a real emphasis on cardio. The experienced bodybuilder has a lot of variables to play with in order to keep progress moving. During the process there are a lot of required shifts in emphasis; continual tweaks and adjustments are required to avoid stagnation and inertia. Every week results are monitored and logged. Nutrition, supplementation and cardio are skillfully coordinated. The never-changing goal during a Parrillo lean-out phase is to shed body fat while retaining lean muscle mass. Starvation dieting slams the brakes on the metabolism and causes the human body to “go catabolic.” When starved, the body will eat its own muscle tissue in order to preserve precious body fat, the body’s last line of defense against death by starvation. Those that go on low-calorie diets (usually wasting those precious few calories on high GI carbs that spike insulin) end up cannibalizing muscle. The end result is a scrawny, emaciated body and a tired look. The smart bodybuilder has crested at a 4,000 (or more) calorie ceiling during the mass-building phase. Now they begin to slowly reduce and get ripped, taking in no less than 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day right up to the competition. On the other hand, if a man starts a lean-out phase eating 1,900-calories a day; that is a low ceiling to get beneath.
Supplemental tricks of the trade: John Parrillo has decades of hands-on experience preparing bodybuilders for competition. The strategies and tactics he developed created a system, a checklist for oxidizing body fat. One of the bedrock principles Parrillo insists on is that the bodybuilder keep the protein intake high. One way to ensure muscle mass retention in the face of declining calories is to reduce starch carbs while maintaining a high intake of protein. Parrillo recommends 1.5 grams or more of protein per pound bodyweight per day. A 200-pound competitive bodybuilder would ingest 300 grams of protein per day. This would be a bare minimum. Parrillo has taken elite bodybuilders to 400 and 500 grams of protein per day, this to off-set the traumatizing effects of their super-intense weight training and twice a day, sweat-drenched cardio. If the weekly BodyStat body composition reading indicates the bodybuilder is losing body fat and losing muscle, the Parrillo solution would be to keep the training heavy and intense – but kick the lean protein up dramatically. This is in an effort to reverse the detected catabolism. Another of John Parrillo’s favorite contest prep tactics is to keep the lean protein intake high and keep the fiber carb intake high; fiber is calorically insignificant and actually dampens insulin. The bodybuilder now begins a systematic reduction of starchy carbs. However, the Parrillo twist is that as the bodybuilder reduces starch carbs, by say 250 calories per day, John would “add back” the 250 “lost” starch calories with 250-calories of CapTri® C8 MCT. The famed Parrillo MCT oil contains 100 net calories per tablespoon; medium chain triglycerides are impossible to end up as stored body fat. MCTs go to the head of the oxidation line; regardless what food is in the body, MCTs (like alcohol) are always preferentially burned. MCTs also have a stimulating effect on the metabolism. The final trick of the supplemental trade is the mixing and matching of the various “Parrillo Pills” to aid the effort. Mass-builders love Parrillo Liver Amino Formula™ and will take upwards of 100 tabs per day. Shredders love Parrillo’s Advanced Lipotropic Formula™ and Max Endurance Formula™. Both builders and shredders love Muscle Amino Formula™ and 50-50 Plus™, taken after training to accelerate recovery. At Parrillo Performance every product has a purpose and often the supplements have dual uses.
Regular folks can get ripped too: the smart trainee intent on losing body fat (without losing an unacceptable amount of lean muscle) expropriates the broad outlines of the bodybuilding template and adapts them to the reality of their situation. In practical terms this means creating time for training and going to the trouble to establish a multiple meal program and the requisite food shopping and food preparation. It means stockpiling supplements and preparing mentally to stay with the program for two to three months. Establish the following:
- a multiple meal eating schedule
- a progressive resistance training template
- a cardiovascular training schedule
- a time to prepare bodybuilding foods ahead of time
- a stockpile of supplements
- a timeline
- a means of monitoring progress on a weekly basis
Anyone that thinks getting ripped is a casual undertaking is sadly mistaken; getting maximally lean needs to be approached like a military campaign. Before you launch the actual effort, many things need to happen first: the trainee must create a weight training program – how many sessions per week? What exercises and what rep ranges? Are you able to train with partners or are you training alone? Training partners require scheduling and coordination. The trainee needs to devise a cardio training split: are you able to perform the highly desirable “fasted cardio” done upon arising and before eating breakfast? Coming off the sleep-fast, high intensity Parrillo-style cardio forces the body to oxidize body fat at an accelerated rate. Optimally, the trainee hits a fasted cardio session first thing in the morning and, for maximum fat-burning, engages in another shorter cardio session done in the evening. Don’t establish training schedules you cannot adhere to: be realistic. Make time to food shop and prepare a goodly (not all) amount of your bodybuilding foods ahead of time: set aside a few hours each week to grill, roast, sauté or bake chicken, fish, turkey or shellfish. Learn simple vegetable preparation methods: it is easy to sauté fish filets, chicken fingers, beef fillets or shellfish in CapTri® C8 MCT. Bake potatoes, steam rice and store bulk foods in the refrigerator. Each day assemble your Tupperware mini-meals: a portion of protein, a portion of fiber, a portion of starch. These classical Parrillo food meals are augmented with powerful Parrillo supplements. It all fits together like a Swiss watch: the intense training is underpinned by perfect eating. Seven days a week the Parrillo trainee adheres to the program: no off days, no cheat days or falling off the wagon. In order to make it work requires perfection in all aspects: there is no ramp-up, 100% effort in each area from day one onward. Perfect days are strung together without pause for months on end. Those that have the gumption, grit and bulldog tenacity never fail to strip off massive amounts of body fat.
How to get traction: the bad news is that there is no ramp-up with the Parrillo approach: right from day one until the end of the scheduled lean-out phase, the effort is complete: workouts are never missed, meals are never missed, no cheat days or cheat meals. This is tough stuff right out of the gate. The good news is with full-on adherence to the Parrillo approach, the diligent trainee will see tangible results within 7 to 10 days. Nothing makes disciplined adherence easier than seeing real results from your training and eating efforts – better still in a short timeframe. It is easy to stay strict in your eating and training when every single week fat is lost and more and more muscles emerge from under the melting blanket of body fat. Once the body fat starts dissolving, abs appear, pecs under the armpit become distinct, the different heads of the deltoid become visible, the tear-drop thigh muscles start appearing – all of which fires the trainee up to redouble their efforts. Every week without fail those that adhere tightly to the Parrillo protocols make substantive, measurable gains. It is highly recommended to use the Parrillo BodyStat Kit to monitor weekly changes in body composition. Becoming maximally lean requires a multileveled approach that is established and adhered to. Those that get onboard fully and completely will see dramatic results by the end of the first four weeks. By the end of the second four weeks, friends, family and coworkers will begin marveling at your ‘transformation.’ By the end of the third month the diligent trainee will be sporting a single-digit body fat percentile. At Parrillo Performance it is common knowledge that those that conform to the protocols and strategies always undergo mind-blowing physical transformations – it would be impossible not to!