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How To Have Abs Without Sacrificing Muscle!

Get Ripped & Stay Big At The Same Time!

Posted by TimeIsMuscle - November 3rd, 2016

The classic saying is that “Abs are made in the kitchen”, and it couldn’t be more true. Throughout my life I have always kept fit and focused on building my muscles, but there no matter how many crunches I did, I couldn’t get the shredded abs I so longed for. So one day I made a decision to address this issue and finally get those solid six pack abs.

My Experience

I admit I initially lacked the intelligence when it came to dieting. My previous attempts were not planned well enough and this subsequently led to frustration and inevitably failure. The timescale you’re working with will determine how intense you’re training needs to be and how carefully your diet must be planned. I gave myself just six weeks.

This was mainly because I was not planning to compete so therefore my focus, my training and diet needn’t be too rigorous, as I was already in pretty good shape. I constructed a strict low Carb diet that after six weeks gave me the most ripped abs I had ever had. However, my body fat levels were 5% and despite my shredded physique, my muscles looked somewhat deflated.

Most people in the bodybuilding/physique industry will of course be familiar with this experience, especially those that compete in competitions frequently throughout the year. However, to the average person who doesn’t train religiously and has an alternative lifestyle the information I have is gold.

What I Did Wrong

Looking back, I feel I lost more muscle mass than I would have liked during my first cut. This was a result of intense cardio and muscular endurance workouts in conjunction with the overuse of a low carb diet. I ignored carb cycling, and instead my low carb diet depleted my glycogen stores, causing a catabolic effect in my body. In the end, I stayed on a low carb diet for too long. I also realized that it’s not just about what you eat and how you eat, but also the timing.

My Diet & Exercise Frequency Tips

When it comes to sorting out your diet in order to get your abs showing, it’s really very simple. First, don’t fill your diet with foods that are high in carbs and sugars. Eating too much of these will undo all the hard work you do in the gym.

Second is to do cardiovascular and muscular endurance based exercise regularly, ideally 3-6 times per week. Obviously the more work you do, the better your results will be. To give you a more comprehensive understanding of a low carb/high protein diet, just take a look at the dietary guidelines below that I follow when I am in my cutting phase.

Eat 5 - 6 small meals to keep your blood-sugar levels steady, and drink 3 - 4 litres of water a day.

Take in 25g of protein per meal from lean red meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, milk or pulses. Your body uses 20% to 30% more energy to digest protein than it does for carbohydrates.

Do not go without food for more than three hours, otherwise the body will suppress its calorie-burning capacity.

If you’re going to snack during the night, do your best to keep it clean. E.g. nuts, carrots or a low calorie replacement shake.

Foods I Recommend

  • Five portions of fruit & vegetables daily.
  • A high-carb breakfast every morning as early as possible – porridge or scrambled/poached eggs on wholemeal toast.
  • Nuts, seeds and dried fruit are great for snacking on throughout the day.
  • Get enough healthy fats each week: oily fish, mixed nuts and seeds.
  • Brown rice/lots of greens: broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans and cabbage.
  • Protein shakes an hour before training and immediately after.
  • Plain meats and fish.
  • Beans, lentils, oats, brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal and rye breads, green tea.
  • Low-fat cheese and plain yogurt.
  • Jalapeño, Habanera and Cayenne peppers.
  • Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes.

Foods I Do NOT Recommend

  • Sauces: use extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, wine vinegars or reduced-salt soy sauce to flavour your food.
  • Alcohol: in particular beer, Guinness and wine. Vodka, lime and soda is a good alternative, but not to fuel lost weekends or all-nighters.
  • Crisps, sweets, chocolate and jam.
  • Deep-fried anything.
  • Takeaways and soft drinks.
  • Complex carbs in the evening

My Typical Low Carb Day (EXAMPLE)

  • 5-6am: Fasted cardio/Abs
  • 6-7am: Oatmeal porridge with water or scrambled/poached eggs on wholemeal toast and a cup of green tea.
  • 8-9am: Rice cakes with banana and peanut butter or protein & carb shake.
  • 10am – 12pm: Protein shake
  • 2pm: Sweet potato with tuna salad (Use virgin olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, wine vinegars or reduced-salt soy sauce) to flavour food.
  • 3-4pm: Protein Shake.
  • 5-6pm: Weight training.
  • 7-8pm: Fish (kippers, salmon or tuna steak) and use virgin olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, wine vinegars or reduced-salt soy sauce to flavour food.

(Snacking tips; i.e. almond nuts/blueberries/carrots/protein supplements)
 (Fat burners; green tea/thermogenic supplements)

Please note that my exercise routines for getting shredded every other day would take place normally at between 5.30am – 6am each morning. I would do HIIT fasted cardio/ab training on these days before breakfast. Training at this time helped boost my metabolism significantly for the day and further complimented my strict dietary plan.

What Results Can You Expect?

Following this diet will get you a lean look. If you use this diet please use it with caution and don’t overdo it by practising low carb days for weeks at a time like I initially did. The reason I am pointing this out is because if your objective is to get six pack abs without sacrificing that hard earned muscle, there’s no need to eat as strict as this for such a long time frame. You may consider doing what many bodybuilders do.

I am referring here to carb cycling. Bodybuilders often use carb cycling as a way to retain muscle mass whilst staying relatively lean An example would be four days of low carb, then three days of high carb. This method can help you pack on more muscle and still retain those abs. Remember that high carb days should be the days you do your most intense activity/workouts.

What Exercises Should I Do?

Abdominal exercises are essential alongside your diet if you’re going to achieve awesome results. I highly recommend lower abdominal exercises that engage most/if not the entire abdominal region. Some of my favorites are leg raises, knee raises, reverse crunches, captain’s chair and bicycle kicks.

In addition, running regularly is essential. I do HIIT (High intensity interval training) every other day on the treadmill, alternating from moderate to fast walks and then on to sprints. I perform HIIT Cardio for 20 - 30 minutes and I advise people who are not fond of doing cardio to try this method as it is great for burning fat. I find this method really taps into my fat stores and shreds fat better. I know most bodybuilders who practise this method will agree with me. Often after doing HIIT cardio/ab training, I’ll have my first meal.


I believe if you combine my dietary advice and exercise prescription, you can achieve those well-defined abdominals without over-training and burning precious muscle. The timescale of achieving these results, however, is down to you. This is just one of my training regimes that has worked for me. So if you are looking to get “AB-solutely” shredded abs and maintain your gains, give all of this a try!

Related Videos:

6 Things I Do To Stay Lean All Year! | KEEP YOUR ABS ALL THE TIME! (PART 1)

6 MORE THINGS I Do To Stay Lean All Year Round! BULK UP & KEEP YOUR ABS! (PART 2)

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I can not believe that you work out so much that you're in this fir condition, like thats really great you should honestly consider doing more of it as long as you are healthy and fit for reason here!


nice article

Hey scott why should not taking complex carb in the evening? i heard that eating complex carb in the evening will slowly and continuely provide carbs to feed ur muscle from night until next morning. thats why i take boiled sweet potatoes and 25gr (a piece) of mozzarella cheese and a glass of 250ml milk every night (for a few reason, im 15 and still need height so i do take much calcium and vitamin D food like that)
TimeIsMuscle  Edit  Delete  Close

Hitting Macros is key man so spend more time getting the consistency right with that on a daily basis.

Rikaido  Edit  Delete  Close
Thanks! Although, my calories per day needed to bulk is 3000 calories. yeah but sadly... i can only apply about 2k2 - 2k5 per day, keep losing weight :((
TimeIsMuscle  Edit  Delete  Close

@rikaido Given the information that you have provided you sound like you are applying yourself in the right way training and doing HIIT as frequently as you are doing. An important part of making lean gains as sighted by @scott_herman in the Video above is counting macros.

As long as you keep up the Training/HIIT whilst staying in a calorie surplus you will minimize the amount of Fat you gain during a bulk. In addition I have some more great info you can read in this article I wrote on Lean Gains is it REALLY Possible so be sure to check it out!

I hope this helps 😀


awesome article Jason! I feel like many people do get shredded but lose a lot of muscle in the process!