Guide to Getting Ripped in Four Easy Steps

By: Brooks Finnegan

Magazine Summer 1997

Brooks Finnegan is author of The Supplement God internet column on The Bigboys Weight Training. It is one of the best sources for hardcore bodybuilding information on the web (next to Bodybuilding World).

The body, a very carefully calibrated piece of anatomical machinery, rarely wants to change it’s status quo. It would be happier maintaining homeostasis (a state of physiological balance.) Every fluid, hormone, and secretion has a specific and definitive reason for existence; therefore, in order to tip the scale in a direction which is catabolic to fat and anabolic towards skeletal muscle, certain requirements must be met. Before I explain a sure-fire way to get ripped, it’s important for every bodybuilder to understand why this process is so hard.

First, it is exact calorie modification which will determine whether you lose weight or gain it. A severely reduced-calorie diet acts as a type of stress. If the body is not constantly meeting its demand for calories, metabolism (the ratio between anabolism and catabolism) will slow down in a defensive reaction. The result leaves the dieter in worse shape than before!

Shane Smith ripped posing

When we eat more food than is required by our body to maintain its homeostasis (also called the BMR or basal-metabolic-rate), the extra calories are stored on our body as fat. Gender plays a large role in determining where this fat is deposited. Females usually have a larger proportion of fat on their thighs, hips, and buttocks; while males will have fat deposited in their abdomen and chest area. This phenomenon wasn’t really understood until the discovery of receptors.

Receptors are similar to locks in that they require keys to be opened or activated. Hormones such as testosterone, DHT (responsible for balding and prostate enlargement), estradiol, estrogen, and DHEA are examples of receptor keys. The hormone norepinephrine is a precursor to the infamous rush of adrenaline. Norepinephrine has an extensive keychain. It’s two most famous keys are for alpha and beta receptors, the latter being one of the most powerful fat burners known.

Every bodypart has a certain combination of receptors with the exact number dictated by genetics. It is now understood that a high number of alpha receptors are located in the thighs, hips, and buttocks of women and the chest and abdomen of men. The body has a hard time burning fat in those areas which have a high affinity for alpha receptors. The only possible prevention for storing fat in these areas is blocking stored bodyfat by dietary, supplementation, and training manipulations. For specifics I recommend talking to Roger and Sandy Riedinger at the Beverly International Nutrition Center as they can modify your diet based on your specific goals and your current body composition.

With so much going on in our bodies, how do we change the homeostasis? Though no perfect routine or regimen will get everyone ripped all of the time, there are four specifics everyone can do to help the process along.

Low Carb/High Fat/High Protein Diet

Nutritionists hate the word low carbohydrate diet as it invokes the images of hindered performance. In terms of body-building though, there is no diet on earth that will alter the fat:muscle ratio in the body better than a low-carb/high fat/high protein diet.

When carbohydrates are reduced severely, stored liver and muscle glycogen is used as energy. Once these reserves decrease, the body taps stored bodyfat for energy. By limiting carbohydrates while increasing protein, you control the hormone insulin. Insulin is an antilipolytic hormone; it slows and even prevents fat-burning.

Low-carb diets also control hunger. Whenever insulin is controlled or suppressed, the appetite is one of the first major indicators. Rats injected with insulin will eat until their stomachs explode while rats injected with a drug that blocks the release of insulin will refuse to eat and starve to death. For specifics of dieting the low carb way, a great place to start is Dr. Mauro Dipasquale’s book The Anabolic Diet, Jay Robb’s, The Fatburning Diet or Dan Duchaine’s book Bodyopus.

Circuit Training

A switch in weight training to more high volume routine (more reps and sets) will not only help maintain lean muscle tissue but will also burn glycogen at a considerable rate. During pre-contest, it’s almost impossible to build muscle on a negative calorie expenditure. Therefore, weight training takes on a whole new definition. Pick big lifts like squat, bench, military press, etc. and do 3-5 cycles of circuit training resting 4 minutes between circuit (no rest between sets during the circuit and never take your sets to failure). You will be amazed how effective this method is for getting ripped.


Some low carb supporters believe aerobics are not necessary when on this type of diet. After talking to countless bodybuilders about getting ripped, the general consensus is 30-40 minutes of aerobics/cardio in the morning is just not enough pre-contest; I always recommend 1.5 hours split into 2 sessions (one before breakfast and another in the evening). The morning aerobics is the key since this is your most depleted time of the day – your body prefers to burn fat at this time.


Ephedrine is a beta-adrenergic agonist that effects the CNS (central nervous system) through the release of epinephrine and the attachment to beta 1 and 2 receptors (if we find a true beta-3, we will in essence cure obesity). It has long been regarded as a fairly potent thermogenic (fat burning) compound alone, but was found to be extremely effective when combined with caffeine. Caffeine is widely known as a thermogenic which directly effects lipolysis (the breakdown of fatty acid), When the two are taken together, their thermogenic qualities are additive: one plus one equals two; however, when they are taken in a specific ratio of 1:10 ephedrine/caffeine, the results are supra-additve: one plus one equals three. When aspirin is added, the stack becomes even more potent.

Other than burning fat, the ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin stack has also been shown to have nutrient partitioning effects. In other words, it spares lean muscle while dieting, a problem that plagues most dieters who don’t exercise regularly. In animals fed the stack in the ratios above, the same growth was obtained on a 20% lower energy intake but gained 10% more muscle and 30% less fat than the control animals. In humans, the ephedrine/caffeine stack (this study was done with-out aspirin) was found to be as effective as dexfenfluramine (a prescription fat-loss drug) over a 15-week period.

It should be stated clearly that ephedrine is a CNS and will give some users side-effects such as dizziness, headaches, jitters, and insomnia; however, many studies have shown these side-effects only in a small slice of the participating subjects. Most if not all of the side-effects usually subside after a few days. Since some people will inevitably react harshly to the stack, there is something we can take to reduce the side-effects of ephedrine while enhancing the thermogenic effect.

The amino acid tyrosine is a primary constituent and building block for the production of epinephrine in the body. It has also been shown to increase the effects of ephedrine up to 50%. Therefore, logically, one could cut the ephedrine dosage in half and substitute l-tyrosine and still get the same effects. Since tyrosine is a fairly safe amino, the side effects of the E/C/A stack would be reduced for those susceptible to CNS stimulating agents.

I recommend the stack taken in this combination: 25mg ephedrine/250mg caffeine/81mg baby aspirin 30-45 minutes 3 times a day before meals. Roger and Sandy always recommend the addition of l-carnitine (Lean Out, Energy Reserve, or Cut Back) to the ECA stack to ensure that the transport system for burning fatty acids is at maximum efficiency. Make sure to cycle the stack in a 3 week on, 2 week off kind of deal since your beta receptors will slowly shut down with continued use. This stack becomes essential during pre-contest as it helps preserve lean tissue, raises core body temperature which in turn burns calories, and is surprisingly safe for a CNS stimulator.


The low-carb diet is an excellent approach to contest preparation. It suppresses the appetite, promotes fat-burning, and works in almost everyone who tries it. With the combination of calories at 90% of BMR on a low-carb diet, an added thermogenic, split aerobic sessions, and circuit training, anyone can get ripped.. the key is consistency.

Summer 1997

» David Payne
No Payne No Gain
Getting fit on the World Wide Web. I get a plug in this article "Thanks Dave"

» Sandy Dickerson: Overall Women’s Winner
Interview, diet and pictures of the Female Bodybuilder Champ

© Beverly InternationalBack to top