22 Questions about Getting Jacked

Getting jacked? I can already hear the little voice in your head “yeah another article promising great things, but delivering little value.”

Nope, nothing like that. In this article, we’re going to focus on questions and answers. The following 22 questions have been derived based on the feedback I have been getting via email and comments section.

I hope this will provide a nice, concise answer to all your questions about getting jacked. Enjoy!

What does it mean to “get jacked’?

Getting jacked may mean different things to different people. The term is usually used in regards to getting ripped and building lean muscle mass at the same time. If someone says they want to “get ripped” or “get cut” it usually means they want a set of visible six pack abs without any concern for losses in strength and muscle.

On the flip side, if someone says they want to “get big” it usually means they want to gain lean muscle mass without worrying about body fat levels.

“Getting jacked,” usually involves getting both bigger, and getting leaner at the same time.

Is it really possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?

It is clear that fat loss and mass gain are contradictory goals. On one hand, in order to lose weight you must take in less calories than you burn, causing a caloric deficit. To gain muscle, you must create a caloric surplus, or eat more than you burn. With this in mind, how can you possibly gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? The key term here is “at the same time.” The ultimate truth is that no, you can not gain muscle and lose fat “at the same time.”

If you are unable to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, then how do I get jacked?

Over a period of 12 weeks (or so) one can certainly lose fat and gain muscle. The trainee must understand that gaining muscle helps one lose fat, but losing fat does not help one gain muscle. There are many benefits to gaining muscle mass, including an increase in your metabolic rate, and a better hormonal environment conducive to losing fat and maintaining that fat loss. Hence, your best approach is to spend 6 weeks on a muscle building plan, followed by 6 weeks on a fat loss plan.

How many more calories per pound does muscle burn than fat?

Straight fact: a pound of muscle burns 6 calories per day, and a pound of fat burns 2 calories per day. Lets run the numbers a bit: If you weigh 180lbs at 15% bodyfat, then you have 27 pounds of fat, and 153lbs of muscle. Just from muscle and fat mass alone, your total caloric burn per day is 972 calories. Now, of course, there are other things that come into play when it comes to your metabolic rate. We are simply making this comparison to help us put things in perspective. If someone were to gain 3 pounds of muscle, while maintaining the same amount of weight, now they have 156lbs of muscle with 24 pounds of fat. 984 calories per day. A three pound increase in muscle mass, and a three pound fat loss only increases your metabolic rate by 12 calories per day!

If there is such a small increase in daily calories burnt, then how can you say that building muscle first is the way to go?

The other benefit of increasing muscle mass has to do with hormones. Studies have shown that increased skeletal muscle mass greatly improves insulin sensitivity. With every 10% increase in muscle mass, your insulin sensitivity decreases by 10%. What does this mean? When a person is insulin sensitive, they can handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose will turn into fat. In short, putting on lean muscle mass will make it harder for you to gain fat.

What exactly does insulin do?

Insulin, when elevated, pushes nutrients into cells. It stimulates glycogen storage in the liver as well as in skeletal muscle. Insulin also decreases protein breakdown, making it a great hormone for muscle mass. Insulin, however, is also involved in fat storage. When your insulin levels spike, you are sending glycogen to your muscles. However, if your muscles do not need glycogen, it will be stored as fat. Therefore, when you eat a high-carb meal while sedentary, you will most likely gain fat. In addition, carb intake is relative. A lean individual with greater muscle mass will experience less of an insulin spike then someone who is overweight. Therefore, it is best to keep the focus on building lean muscle mass so that you do not have to use extreme low-carb diets into order to lose fat.

If I go on a fat loss diet right after a bulking phase, won’t I lose the muscle I gained?

No. First, we need to get ourselves out of the framework of “bulking” and “cutting.” During your muscle building phase, you are not eating everything in sight. Instead, you are following a clean diet with moderate carbs and high protein. The amount of calories will be based on your base level intake. To figure out your base level, go through a normal day and count how many calories you consume. Analyze your diet, and focus on introducing good, clean carbs, and lean protein into your diet. For example, if you consume 2000 calories during a normal day, then your new diet will be 2000 calories worth of lean protein and clean carbs as opposed to 2000 calories of processed foods.

What if I do not gain muscle in the 6 week phase?

I find this difficult to believe, unless you are not eating enough and are not pushing your body hard in the gym. During your bulking phase, you must GRADUALLY increase your caloric intake. For example, if you attempt to go from 2000 calories to 4000 calories as so many trainees attempt, you will end up making yourself sick. Instead, focus on 2000 the first week, then 2500 the following week, etc. If you see you are gaining weight, then keep the pace steady. If you see you are not gaining weight from week to week, then ramp up your calories even more. However, keep in mind that average muscle gain during a 6-week period is usually 2-3 pounds. Read my article about how much muscle one gain gain during a years time to get a better understanding of mass gain in general: How much muscle can you gain?

Can I use a powerlifting program during my mass gain phase?

Yes. This is actually a very smart approach to gaining muscle mass. If you stick to the basics – squats, rows, deadlifts, bench, and military press – then you can pack on muscle and boost your strength in a relatively short period of time. When you switch to a fat loss program, you will find that you can move more weight when performing circuit-style workouts.

Should I do cardio during my mass gain phase?

This is a tough question to address. Cardio during a mass building phase can be highly beneficial. It will help you prevent excess fat gain. In addition, cardio will help keep your heart healthy for when you need to push hard in the gym. However, excessive cardio can be detrimental to weight gain. If you are following a moderate carbohydrate approach, than you will need those carbs for your muscle building workout. The best way to do cardio is after your strength workout. 30 minutes, low intensity, 2-3 days per week is more than enough.

What do I do during my fat loss phase?

During your fat loss phase, you should focus on using bodyweight circuits, interval cardio, and circuit training to burn fat. Your diet will not change much. The only difference will be in your caloric intake. First, seek to limit your intake of sugars. For example, if you are drinking coffee with sugar and milk, switch to simple flavored tea without sugar. Small changes will go a long way.

For more information on how to exercise during a fat loss phase, read this great interview with John Romaniello: John Romaniello Fat Loss Expert

We will discuss diet in the next few questions, and then address questions regarding exercise during a fat loss phase.

What is the problem with extreme low-carb diets?

Low carb diets work by bringing your body to a state of ketosis. This is when your body is burning fat for energy, rather than glycogen. When you achieve this state, your body releases ketones into your bloodstream. There are a host of temporary symptoms which occur when you are in ketosis. You will feel extremely tired, and may experience headaches. In addition you will feel thirsty all the time, have dry mouth, and have ketosis breath (fruit and not pleasant). You will also feel weak, and dizzy, hampering your workouts and daily life. Ketosis works, but it is not a very pleasant way to lose fat.

Here is some more information on low-carb diets: Low Carb Diets

What about a low carb, high fat diet?

A low carb, high fat diet means that you limit carbs, and increase your consumption of good, healthy fats. This diet has become popular in light of the danger surrounding extremely low carb diets. This approach is simple:

First rule: eat a large amount of meat, fish, eggs, and healthy fats while avoiding sugar and starchy foods.
Second rule: eat when you are hungry, and keep eating until you are satisfied.

The good thing about replacing lost calories from carbohydrates with good fat is that you feel more satisfied, and curb the dangers often associated with extremely low carb diets.

What is the difference between water weight loss and real fat loss?

We’ve established the fact that when you go on a low-carb diet, your body becomes depleted of its glycogen stores. That initial depletion is what results in a massive amount of weight loss. The bigger you are, the bigger the initial weight loss is going to be. This is why you shouldn’t even weigh yourself in the first 2 weeks of your diet. In the first week, your only goal should be establish good eating habits. Stay away from the scale.

How much cardio should I do to lose fat?

I would rephrase this question as: how intense should I exercise to lose fat? The answer to that question is: as intense as you can go without experiencing extreme fatigue. I like to use sprinters as an example. My neighbor is a sprinter, and he stays lean 365 days per year. He does not have the best diet (although he doesn’t eat much junk food). He stays lean because he trains at a high intensity level. If you look at any athlete that eats a ton of food, but still stays lean, you notice that it is because of the level of intensity they use when training.

Why is high intensity training superior to low intensity cardio?

When it comes to fat loss, high intensity cardio elevates your metabolic rate for a full 24 hours after the end of your session. There is very little elevation in your metabolic rate with low intensity cardio. High intensity cardio has also been shown to lower insulin sensitivity, which, as we stated, is very important when trying to transform your body. The biggest drawback to high intensity cardio is that it is not recommended for complete beginners due to its intense nature. Complete beginners will benefit from spending 2-3 months working on building up their cardiovascular endurance and exercise tolerance.

How can I reveal my six pack abs?

You should only be thinking about revealing your abs if you’re already quite lean, at about 12% bodyfat. If you’re at this level, and you’re not seeing a slight visibility of abs, then it’s time you need to put on some lean muscle mass on your abdominals. You can do this by performing compound movements such as front squats, renegade rows, and deadlifts. Check out this guide for more information on how to build a solid six pack: 3 Steps to Six Pack Abs

What are bodyweight circuits?

One of many high intensity options during the fat loss phase are bodyweight circuits. Bodyweight circuits involve performing bodyweight exercises in a circuit fashion. I have published many bodyweight circuits on this website. You can begin by implementing this bodyweight circuit in your regimen: Getting Jacked with Bodyweight Workouts

Should I still lift heavy weights to lose fat?

I believe you should perform resistance training during your fat loss phase, but I do not believe you should be training like a powerlifter. Think about it: you’re following a diet that is lower in calories than what you would normally eat during a mass gain plan. Therefore, you’re going to be a little weak. Instead of worrying about gaining or maintaining strength, lift the most challenging weight you can lift.

What are strength training circuits?

Strength training circuits are when you perform 4 or more resistance exercises back to back with little to no rest in between each exercise. This is different than bodyweight circuits in that you are actually lifting an external implement. I prefer strength training circuits over lifting heavy weights for straight sets. It is recommended that you keep your rep range between 10-20 repetitions. In your first circuit workout, you should also begin with light weights, as this type of routine will be super tough. Check out the following article for a better explanation of circuit training: Circuit Training – Unlimited Benefits!

What are tabata intervals?

Tabata intervals are where you perform an exercise for 20 seconds at a high intensity level, followed by a 10 second rest period. You perform this for a total of 8 intervals, or 4 minutes of exercise. Tabatas work best with bodyweight movements, ballistic kettlebell exercises, and certain cardio movements such as sprints. Tabata intervals are hard. They increase your heart rate, and help you get a great workout in a short period of time. Whether or not tabata intervals are good for fat loss depends on individual body type. Tabata intervals provide the same metabolic boosting benefits as interval cardio. Check out these templates to help you create your own tabata workouts: Tabata Intervals

What is a Kettlebell?

Imagine a bowling ball with a flat bottom and a handle. That is what a Kettlebell is. This implement is Russian in origin, and has become a very popular tool for fat loss. Studies have shown that Kettlebells can burn up to 20 calories per minute. Calories burnt are based upon individual body types, and how hard one pushes themselves during a workout. I have written a great guide on how to use Kettlebells for fat loss and strength:


Getting jacked means you are achieving a physique that is the perfect blend between lean muscle mass and low levels of body fat. The Shah Training recommendation for getting jacked is to go on a 6-week muscle gain phase, followed by a 6-week mass gain phase.

Mass Gain Phase:

Training Recommendations:

Simple, basic muscle building program featuring squats, deadlifts, rows, bench, and military presses.
Perform no more than 30 minutes of cardio, 2-3 times per week.

Nutrition Recommendations:

Follow a moderate carbohydrate, high protein diet.
Start off with a baseline caloric intake. Gradually increase caloric intake each week.

Fat Loss Phase:

Training Recommendations:

Use high intensity cardio rather than steady state cardio.
Training options:
Bodyweight circuits
Strength training circuits
Kettlebell circuits

Nutrition Recommendations:

Follow a moderate carbohydrate, high protein diet.
If you are following a low carbohydrate diet, make sure to replace lost calories with good fats.
Start off with a baseline caloric intake. Gradually decrease caloric intake each week.

I hope this guide has helped you. I had a lot of fun putting it together. Please post your questions and general feedback to the comments section.