Extreme dieting is where a bodybuilder tries to get in shape as fast as possible,in the shortest time frame possible.

There is no instance where I recommend extreme dieting. For maximum muscle retention, it's always best to take a patient and longer approach to dieting. It is for this reason that I advocate the 12-14 week contest prep. The longer you take to drop weight, the more body fat you will lose and the more muscle mass you will retain. However, for many reasons, bodybuilders occasionally have to get in shape in a very short period of time. For example, they realize they are "behind" in their prep or they only give themselves 8-9 weeks to diet. If you are extremely fat, absolutely nothing will help get you into great shape in just 6 or 8 weeks. If you are soft and lacking definition, you can get into incredible shape in just 8-9 weeks - if you know what steps to take. In this Rx Muscle installment, I plan to outline the type of diet I have used with clients to help get them into great shape in just 8-9 weeks.

Step 1

The first step is to ramp up fat burning. This can be accomplished by cutting your carbohydrates by 50% along with starting a heavy aerobic plan. When you cut carbs, you help control insulin. For those of you that don't know what insulin can do, it is a hormone that can interfere with fat loss. Cutting down your overall caloric intake is paramount when it comes to fat loss. This is what happens when you reduce your carb intake. In respect to cardio, I would start a client with an hour of low intensity cardio in the morning before eating. Fasted state, low intensity cardio is not so much a major calorie burner as much as it is a tool to "trick" the body to burn fat. When you do cardio for a long duration and keep the intensity down, it coaxes the release enzymes that assist in the breakdown body fat. To summarize, a reduced carb intake in conjunction with fasted state morning cardio will ramp up your fat burning so dramatically that you should be able to see results within 3 days.

Step 2

Remain with step one as long as you continue to see results. For some that could be 6 days and for others it could be 12 days. Everyone is different. If you are seeing results, keep everything the same. If you are no longer seeing results, start adding a very strong thermogenic; caffeine, ephedra and aspirin or something like Nordrenalean. Take it twice a day and double up on your cardio. That means you will now be doing 2 hours a day of cardio. Keep the intensity easy and do an hour before the first meal of the day and another an hour after training. Maintain this protocol for 7-10 days.

Step 3

The problem I have with cardio is that it stops being effective after a while. In this step, I would have the bodybuilder drop out the cardio and limit carb intake to just 50 grams a day on rest days. When you drop carbohydrates dramatically, you give the body a strong stimulus to kick up fat burning. Remember that all diet plans face the challenge of a slowing metabolism. When you cut calories and carbs, the body will eventually react by trying to hold onto its fat stores. To keep the fat burning machine rolling, you have to take the carbs down lower. A side-effect of dropping carbs lower is that it will empty out muscle glycogen reserves. When that happens, fat burning ramps back up. At the same time, you need to take a break from the cardio for 2 reasons. First, as with dieting, the body responds to continuous large cardio sessions by trying to hoard or maintain body fat. Therefore, to get around this problem, you need to take a complete break from cardio. Second, prolonged or continuous cardio starts to wear the body down triggering a mild state of overtraining. With an overtrained body, the internal anabolic hormones (growth hormone, testosterone and thyroid) start to become suppressed, making it hard to retain muscle mass. If you don't ditch the cardio, you'll end up looking flat. I'd suggest most bodybuilders to get off the cardio for 3-4 straight days, then resume it. At this time, go back to an hour a day directly before the first meal of the day. I am well aware there is a study that says empty stomach cardio does not help, but my experience in training top level athletes proves otherwise.

Step 4

This step requires you keep the carbs down to 50 grams for 3 days out of the week. The days to do so should be the rest day, the day following the rest day and any other day of the week. The reason for the reduction is pretty simple, when muscle glycogen stores are extremely low, more fat is burned. While this all seems simple enough, there is a problem that can cause a lot of trouble; Low glycogen stores can kill your ability to train hard which can result in a loss of muscle. Furthermore, if you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will slow. Even worse, low glycogen stores can also cause thyroid levels to fall. Therefore, along with taking the carbs down to 50 grams for 3 days of the week, you have to increase the carbs to 400 to 500 grams on any single training day of the week. The high carb intake actually helps you burn fat! How? It resets thyroid levels to a higher level than constant lower carb dieting. The elevated thyroid advantage translates into great fat loss. The high carb day also boosts glycogen levels back up. If glycogen levels stay low for too long, not only can thyroid levels fall, but anabolic hormones like testosterone fall. Testosterone not only helps build mass, but it burns body fat. Yes, it burns fat. Most people understand testosterone to be a muscle builder, and it is, but it also plays a big role in burning body fat. When you take a high carb day, you keep testosterone from dropping. Higher carbs also keep something called sex hormone binding globulin in check. This hormone can interfere with how much of your own testosterone can make it to muscles. With a high carb day surrounded by low carb days, sex hormone binding globulin levels fall, which allows more testosterone to make its way to your muscles. This helps keep the body "anabolic" which, in turn, supports the metabolism.

Step 5

In some ways, the body is like a race car. When a driver speeds his race car down a track at 130 mph and takes his foot off the gas pedal, the car does not immediately decelerate down to 40 miles per hour. The momentum keeps the car in the 100mph+ range for quite a bit of time. When the driver hits the gas again, the car seems to take right off to 130. A similar effect can be observed during dieting. When you take your foot of the gas, by cutting back on cardio and eating more, the shedding of body fat does not come to a halt. Surprisingly, the body often continues to burn quite a bit of fat even when heavy cardio and extreme low carb dieting is removed from the equation. Think of pulling back on the diet and cardio as the race car driver taking his foot off the gas. When you go back to pushing the low carbs and intense cardio, you often look even better. That's why after 4 weeks of pushing the body, I like to recommend bodybuilders bring the cardio down to as little as 20 minutes a day and avoid low carbs for roughly a week. A one-week break is good for the body and productive for fat loss. When you go right back to the system outlined above - and put your foot back on the gas pedal- you will start seeing tremendous results.