Bodybuilders and fitness models today are more shredded than ever before.
Back in Arnold’s day you could compete in a Mr Universe at 10% body fat and no one would bat an eye. Nowadays, if you compete carrying anything more than 5% body fat, you’ll look tragically out of place.
So how do they do it? How do they get so ripped and attain such low levels of body fat…
5 Secret Protocols Bodybuilders Use to Get Ripped
When you see a fitness model or bodybuilder onstage, they don’t look like that all year round. It’s almost impossible (and unhealthy) to stay at extremely low body fat percentages all year round (<5% BF). However, there’s another protocol they use to look even more shredded than usual…
They will manipulate their water intake to appear more ripped in time for a contest.
By reducing the amount of water that collects outside their muscles, they will appear more toned, with enhanced vascularity and more frequent striations. Instead of looking smooth/bloated/puffy, they will appear dry and grainy.
They do this by increasing their water intake dramatically a week or so out from the competition. They typically will gulp down up to 2 gallons of water a day. This will literally turn their bodies into human water fountains.
As the body becomes concerned with the amount of water being consumed; as a self-defence mechanism, the body will urinate very frequently in a bid to reduce water weight.
Then roughly 24 hours or less before a competition, the competitor will cut all water intake. Consequently, the body will continue flushing out water, resulting in the bodybuilder looking very dry and shredded. After 24 hours, the body detects that the person is no longer drinking large volumes of water, and as a result the body will start to retain fluid again.
Such water manipulation protocols will create an illusion of the person looking much leaner, compared to how they looked a week ago. In reality, their body fat percentage has stayed roughly the same; yet they’ll appear more shredded.
Diuretics are often used by bodybuilders when prepping for a show, to expel even more water and enhance muscle definition. Unfortunately diuretics have lead to many hospitalizations and deaths of athletes, due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Andreas Münzer is one of a number of bodybuilders who died from drugs, with diuretic-use thought to have played a role.
Andreas was known to be one of the most shredded bodybuilders in the history of the sport, taking the art of being ripped to a whole new (uncomfortable) level. Following his death, his electrolytes were found to be out of wack and his potassium levels were abnormally high.
T3 (Triiodothyronine) is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. T3 has a very powerful effect on a person’s metabolism and their ability to burn fat. Simply put, the more free T3 you have, the more fat you’ll burn.
Hypothyroidism is very popular right now with people not able to produce sufficient amounts of this hormone, preventing weight loss. This is particularly prevalent in females.
Many bodybuilders take thyroid medications, such as Cytomel, to take advantage of this fat-burning opportunity; revving up their level of T3 and getting super shredded.
Your body naturally produces about 25mcg of T3 each day, however if your level is considerably less than this, your doctor may prescribe you exogenous T3 (Cytomel). Mr Olympia legend Lee Priest has admitted to taking T3 drugs in the past (1), using 25-50mcg of Cytomel a day leading up to a competition.
The downside to using T3 is it can suppress your natural production of this hormone (like steroids). Thus, users may find it difficult to burn fat AFTER using T3. However, endogenous T3 production should recover after several weeks or months of use.
Low T3 levels are possible long-term, if a bodybuilder abuses T3 or doesn’t take enough time off this medication. In this case, a deficiency in this hormone may blunt fat loss, even if the person eats in a calorie deficit.
Banned fat burners such as ephedra or clenbuterol, are also used by fitness models and bodybuilders to shed fat. These are stimulants which rev up the central nervous system, which in turn spikes a user’s metabolism. Neither of these fat burners are FDA approved, due to them causing severe cardiovascular and psychological effects.
Such side effects include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Fat burners won’t transform a guy at 20% body fat into Frank Zane. But they can help bodybuilders bust through fat loss plateaus when dieting, helping them get extra shredded. Thus, they are often incorporated at the end of a cut, rather than at the beginning.
Natural fat burners, which often contain caffeine replicate the same physiological process as ephedra and clenbuterol, however their effect is a lot more mild. Equally, side effects from natural fat burners are considerably less and thus are safer to take.
Steroids & PED’s
Over 50% of male bodybuilders take steroids to help them get ripped (2). This number would almost certainly be 100%, if just testing elite bodybuilders, competing in competitions such as Mr Olympia and the Arnold Classic.
Steroids bodybuilders use to reduce body fat include: winstrol, anavar, testosterone, trenbolone, halotestin, masteron, primobolan and turinabol.
Today, even women will buy anavar, among other female-friendly steroids, in a bid to tone up and build lean muscle. It isn’t just female bodybuilders using these steroids either, but also Instagram models and women who simply want to look good.
Some of these steroids have diuretic attributes, helping to rid the body of water, as well as fat. They also have anabolic properties, enabling users to retain their muscle tissue and strength levels as they diet down.
Compounds such as anavar also increase glycogen storage inside the muscles, helping to keep the muscles looking full and vascular, even when on low calories. This effect is so extreme, that the pumps on anavar can be unpleasant. This ‘full look’ is seldom seen in natural bodybuilders, often looking depleted and lacking vascularity when cutting aggressively.
Note: This article is NOT to encourage any of our readers to take illegal/dangerous drugs. This article is just for informational purposes, and we’d like to point out there ARE some natural bodybuilders who get ripped from hard training and smart dieting alone.