STEP 1: WORK YOUR WAY UP TO EIGHT MEALS A DAY
Don't begin a get-lean diet by completely overhauling your nutrition habits overnight. Instead of diving into the deep end right away and drowning in the monotonous and difficult aspects of a full-on competition-style diet, start by adding just one or two meals to your daily total. If you're eating four right now, bump that to five. If you are eating five, increase it to six.
If you tell somebody who is eating three or four times a day to eat seven to ten times, they'll do it for a week and it won't work. The goal is to eat eight times a day or so, but don't just jump to eight if you are not close to that. The key is to have smaller meals but to eat more of them.
Think of your body as a furnace. Put in just enough fuel to keep it stoked, and you'll expend calories throughout the day, your metabolism will remain ramped up, and you'll be on your way to getting ripped. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. You need your metabolism to cruise, and the only way to do that is by eating frequent meals. If you cut down on the frequency of your meals, that slows down your metabolism.
STEP 2: REDO YOUR RATIOS
Everybody always says, a calorie is a calorie, but that may not be entirely true. Protein has a thermal effect because the body burns calories just to digest protein unlike fat, which gets stored real quickly if you take in too much. Try crafting a plan in which you're getting roughly 55% of your total calories from carbohydrates, 40% from protein and 5% from fat. When choosing carbs, avoid those that rate high on the glycemic index and in turn raise your blood-sugar levels. When your insulin levels spike, you essentially can't burn fat because your body is in a state of storage. Stay away from quick-acting carbs unless you're getting them immediately after you work out.
In terms of total caloric intake, start at 15 calories per pound of bodyweight per day and, if you need to, adjust that up or down 200 calories each week until you reach a point where you're losing weight. A general rule of thumb is that you don't want to lose more than a pound to a pound and a half per week. Anything more than that and you start tapping into muscle. Get a baseline diet going for about three weeks, and monitor your weight and the scale. Adjust from there, up or down, depending on your progress.
STEP 3: CUT THE CRAP
Some things should be avoided at all costs.
At the top of the list, of course, is alcohol. The other main things are high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fats and trans fats. It seems like most food manufacturers are getting better at omitting those from their products, though.
I target breads and pasta as carb sources of which to steer clear. Literally, when I am dieting, my only two carb sources are oatmeal and brown rice. For variety, choose red potatoes or sweet potatoes.
STEP 4: COOL OFF
Since you'll be eating so frequently, its important to not get caught without the most vital component of the plan food. If you are working an eight-hour shift, you'll likely need to bring three or four meals to your workplace. The best way to do that (other than alienating your coworkers by shoving an entire refrigerator shelf of their food into a trash can to make room for your supply) is to pack your meals in a cooler.
If you're in a pinch and faced with skipping a meal, stop in at a nearby convenience store. Beef jerky is quick and convenient. They also sell tuna in shelf-stable pouches that is good on crackers.
STEP 5: KNOW THERE'S A LEARNING CURVE
News flash: everybody is different, and everybody's body is different. We can give you a guideline, but finding out what works and what doesn't work to fit your specific goals and needs is ultimately up to you. Plateaus are going to happen, it's the nature of the game – don't get discouraged if your progress slows down as you move further along on your diet.
Try using the first four weeks as a period to find out what your baseline calories are. After that, adjust your diet accordingly, and the changes should be visible.
The beginning is always the most dramatic, but as time goes by and you get leaner, make improvements, and get tougher. Sometimes its just a matter of patience, waiting for your body to change. This can take three weeks or longer doing the exact same program before you see additional results.