BlogPhysical ActivityHow to Get Shredded and Stay Lean All Year Round

How to Get Shredded and Stay Lean All Year Round

9 mins read
Mariia Roza
Written by Mariia Roza on January 25, 2022
Davi Santana, M.Sc.
Fact checked by Davi Santana, M.Sc.
The Unimeal team works to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information. All texts are reviewed by a panel of experts and editors and updated according to the latest research. Only evidenced-based and verified sources of leading medical publications and universities get into the article materials.

If you want to get shredded for the summer, now it’s high time to start! And if you’re going to stay in your best shape all year round, you should follow our recommendations.

If you want to get shredded for the summer, now it’s high time to start! And if you’re going to stay in your best shape all year round, you should follow our recommendations.

Get your 100% personalized meal plan by completing our 3-min quiz

Get your 100% personalized meal plan by completing our 3-min quiz

None of the known diets should be followed without considering your unique body needs, preferences, and goals

Start Quiz

Getting shredded means having more muscle mass and less fat tissue so that your muscles are more visible, whether you flex them or not. This process might take you a bit more dedication and time than just losing weight or building muscle. 

The first problem with getting a shredded look is that you have to lower your body fat percentage when it’s already normal to low. The second quite challenging task is to burn fat without losing muscle mass. Let’s see how you can tackle both problems and achieve your body goals by following our step-by-step guide. 

A fabulous body starts in your head

Before we continue, there is one thing you have to understand. Probably, you will never have the same body as your favorite fitness influencer. Why so?

  • Most fitness influencers earn money by being in the best shape and posting their most attractive photos. They know how the light and angles work and post only the most flattering pictures.
  • They flex before they take a picture.
  • They take a picture after a gym session when their muscles are “pumped”. 
  • They get ready for photoshoots by doing some extreme stuff like eliminating water, carbs, and salt from their diet several days before the shoot.
  • Most of these influencers have fantastic genetics. Girls naturally have hourglass figures, and guys have broad shoulders and narrow hips. And no exercises or diet plans can give you curves where you’ve never had them or make your bones wider.
  • Sometimes, fitness influencers edit their photos and videos, and what’s also essential is that…
  • … they are rarely happy with their bodies. These confessions are not that common, but you will find fitness bloggers who confirm that they rarely felt secure in their bodies when everyone around saw them as “perfect”. 

Set achievable goals

We mean, even these influencers don’t look like their pictures. And this leads us to the first piece of advice: Have realistic expectations.

Another thing you have to accept is that most actors and bodybuilders who look amazing on the screen or the stage are like that only during the shooting or a week before the competition. And they sacrificed a lot to look that lean.

These are some of the questions you can ask yourself before you start your journey to the perfect shredded body:

  • Why do you need this? If it’s only about your ego and being likable, you might start lacking motivation at some point. 
  • Are you ready to sacrifice some of your habits to get that body? 
  • Do you understand that you will have to change some things in your lifestyle forever if you want to stay shredded all year round?

All these questions don’t mean that getting a shredded look is impossible or severely hard! We just want to say that if you’re not a professional bodybuilder aiming to get Mr. Olympia, or an actor who wants to play in the next Baywatch, maybe you can focus on getting the achievable and sustainable level of leanness? 

There is no need to have the one-digit body fat percentage to look amazing at the beach. 

Use the body fat percentage as a scale for your success

Below you will see a graphic description of what different body fat percentages look like in men and women. As a rule, men are considered shredded when their body fat percentage is below 15. For women, it’s higher. Most women with a body fat percentage below 20 will look shredded.

Female body fat % comparisons | Shutterstock
Female body fat % comparisons | Shutterstock
Male body fat % comparisons | Shutterstock
Male body fat % comparisons | Shutterstock

This difference is explained by the fact that the essential body fat in men is about 2-5%, and in women, it’s 10 to 13%. Women need more fat to stay healthy, and their bodies are more reluctant to lower their fat percentage.

Make a plan

For most people, it’s enough to go to the gym three to four times a week to look toned. However, you might need more endeavors to keep the muscle mass or even increase your muscle definition while you’re at a calorie deficit. Keep in mind that most fitness influencers, bodybuilders, and actors who got through a body transformation for a “shredded role” work out almost every day. 

Decide how often you’re ready to work out and plan your gym sessions.

If you want to get leaner fast, you should add cardio activity to your schedule. It can be brisk walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, and other activities that burn many calories per session.

Cardio sessions will help you burn calories faster
Cardio sessions will help you burn calories faster

And of course, you will have to cut your calories. Your organism is not very comfortable in the lowest body fat percentage rate, so it will surely resist your diet by elevating your hunger hormone levels and making you extremely hungry. 

To prevent this from happening, don’t cut your calories too severely. Don’t decrease your calorie intake to the level when you can’t sustain it for long.

The diet plays a tremendous role in achieving a lean, shredded body. So, let’s see what you should do in the kitchen to see the results in the mirror.

Build your new shredded look in your kitchen

If you listen to actors who happened to play superheroes, you will hear a lot about eliminating all the fun and eating only chicken and broccoli. This is the approach some celebrity coaches take to make their clients look astonishing as fast as possible for the big role. 

However, if you want to get shredded and stay there forever, you will have to walk a longer, more balanced road.

Cut your calories

There was a paper telling that you need to create a calorie deficit equal to 3500 calories to burn one pound. (Some researchers believe that this equation is oversimplified and we all have different speeds for weight loss, but the “3500 calories per 1 pound” rule is still quite accurate when we can’t do a more personalized forecast for weight loss).

  • Let’s presume that you’re a man of 180 pounds and 25% body fat. 
  • To get to the 18% level, which is considered pretty lean and will allow you to look shredded, you have to lose about 14 pounds of fat. 
  • If you maintain the 500 calorie-a-day deficit, you will get there in about 14 weeks. 
  • (In reality, this might take you a bit longer as your body is not that speedy in losing fat when its level is already lower than average).

Should you try to cut your calories even more if you want to get results faster? Nope, as in this case, you have much more chances to lose muscles along with fat. You should also remember that men are more prone to lose muscle mass during weight loss than women. 

So, if you want to get shredded and maintain that look for longer, keep a moderate calorie deficit and refrain from crash diets.

Count your macros

You will have to eat at least 0.8 g of protein per one pound of body weight for muscle gain and at least 0.4 g of protein per one pound of body weight if you want to maintain the muscle mass you already have.

If you’re a woman, you will have to add at least 0.5 g of fat per one pound of body weight to keep your hormones, skin, and hair healthy. In men, fat consumption does not correlate that much with health; however, they are also recommended to consume 20-35% of calories from fats daily.

You will also have to eat enough carbs to keep strength during your resistance training. As a rule, athletes count the amount of protein and fats they need to be in the best health and keep gaining muscle, and take the rest of their calories from carbs.

Help yourself with supplements, but be very careful!

Before you start taking supplements, please, consult your doctor! 

Also, opt for sports supplements brands that reveal the content of their products to people. The thing is, supplements are not certified as strictly as drugs and other medicines, and you have to be careful not to buy products with too small an amount of active ingredients or a product with some controversial components that might harm your health.

The most popular supplements for better performance and muscle growth are protein powder, creatine, caffeine, and BCAA. They all showed high levels of safety and some extent of efficiency in recovery or muscle growth.

And again, it’s your doctor who should authorize you to take this or that supplement. Fitness influencers (and, maybe, your coach) is part of the selling machine, and they won’t tell you if you will really benefit from their product or not.

Polish your muscle definition at the gym

You can get toned and lean only with cardio or exercises with your own weight. However, the shredded body results from hard work in the gym, where you can get progressive overload and stimulate muscle growth. 

If you’re already an enthusiastic athlete, keep up with what you’re doing. Maybe, just do more compound movements and pay more attention to your back and lower body (there are large muscles that need more energy to work, so you can burn more calories by training them).

If you’re a newbie gym member, select a program and keep to it. You can get three workouts a week to start with, or check out our 5-day split program to achieve the results faster.

Should I train abs to look shredded?

A six-pack is a pivotal part of the body that shredded guys and girls like showing off. And most lean people who work out can see them too. However, whether you will see well-defined abs or not, is more a question of genetics and luck than the number of crunches you do daily.

For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, being extremely athletic, doesn’t have a six-pack. When bloggers and journalists tried to figure out why, they found out that Johnson’s father had the same abdomen composition and never had a ripped six-pack. And so, neither has The Rock.

If you’re interested, whether you will ever have a six-pack, ask your mom and dad if they had it when they were younger.

And, by the way, talking about crunches… Honestly, it’s better to use the time you would spend on crunches for compound exercises. Most compound movements incorporate your core quite enough to stimulate muscle building in your midsection. 

Also, before starting an ABS program, consult a certified personal trainer to make sure that you will train just the muscles you need. The thing is, most crunches work both on the abdominal rectus muscle and oblique abdominal muscle, which means that by doing them, along with training your abs, you might also stimulate the growth of your side muscles, which can make your waist look wider and your figure less balanced.

Can I get shredded in my legs/thighs/arms?

You might find multiple videos on how to get a flat stomach, thin legs, or slender arms, but the truth is, you cannot lose weight only in a particular part of your body. What is more, if you’re a woman, getting leaner in your lower body might be pretty challenging, as women are naturally predisposed to store fat in their stomach, hips, and thighs. So, you can have a fabulous six-pack but still have quite soft legs with no significant muscle definition. 


Here are some other questions often asked by people who want to get shredded but don’t know where to start:

How long does it take to get shredded?

The time you will need depends on your initial weight and the body fat percentage you want to achieve. If you look at bodybuilders, you will notice that they start their preparation for the competition no less than 16 weeks before the date.

Actors who need to get into shape before the role change their diet and workout routine three to four months before the shooting starts.

If you want to achieve and maintain the new shredded look, it’s better to go slowly and consistently to your goal, so take your time.

On average, you will need a month to lose 5% of your body weight. However, this doesn’t equal to 5% of body fat burned. Consider these forecasts to plan your progress.

How to get shredded at home?

Actually, the central part of getting lean happens at your home, particularly in your kitchen. However, it can be more complicated to get shredded. The thing is, all homes are different: Some have their own gym in the basement, and some even don’t have dumbbells. 

The challenging part with building muscle at home is that you need progressive overload. This means that you should increase the weights you’re lifting once in a couple of weeks. If all you have at home is a pair of 2-pound dumbbells, you might need a lot of creativity to develop a workout plan for muscle growth. 

How many calories should I eat to get shredded?

The number of calories you should consume depends on your calorie consumption for weight maintenance. Subtract 10 to 20% from your initial calories to start burning fat but minimize muscle loss.

Don’t decrease your calories by more than 500 calories a day; otherwise, you might face extreme hunger urges, and your results might not be as long-lasting as you would prefer. 

Is there a special diet for getting shredded?

Intermittent fasting advocates state that time-restricted eating systems are efficient in losing fat and keeping muscles. However, there is Array proving that intermittent fasting is more effective in maintaining muscle mass than a low-calorie diet.

The keto diet followers state that high consumption of fat can help grow muscles. In reality, studies show that its effect on protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy is negligible. On the other hand, the ketogenic diet might be more efficient in maintaining muscle mass during weight loss.

If you want to stay lean after losing weight, you can try reverse dieting. It’s a new strategy that offers you to slowly increase your calories after the cutting phase so that you can stimulate your metabolism, eat more food, and don’t gain weight. However, this approach requires more research to prove its efficiency.

What do celebrities do to get lean?

Most actors who happened to play shredded heroes state in their interviews that they were through severe bulking and cutting phases before the shooting. Some refrained from water, carbs, and salt several days before shooting naked scenes, along with everyday training, including cardio sessions and heavy lifting. 

We do not recommend following their paths, as these approaches are not sustainable. Furthermore, if you don’t have a whole team of dietitians and doctors, it can drastically affect your health.

How do you feel about my article?

Unimeal does not diagnose or suggest treatments. Any description of the diet, training plan or supplement should be discussed with your current physician or nutritionist. This article does not address specific conditions and is simply meant to provide general information on healthcare topics. Following any advice is at your own initiative and does not impose any responsibility on the blog authors for your health and safety.



By choosing high-quality sources, we make sure that all articles on the Unimeal blog are reliable and trustworthy. Learn more about our editorial processes.

Tomlinson D. J., Erskine R. M., Morse C. I., et al. (2019, January). Body Fat Percentage, Body Mass Index, Fat Mass Index, and the Ageing Bone: Their Singular and Combined Roles Linked to Physical Activity and Diet. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu11010195
Gallagher D., Heymsfield S. B., Heo M., et al. (2000, September). Healthy Percentage Body Fat Ranges: An Approach for Developing Guidelines Based on Body Mass Index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI:10.1093/ajcn/72.3.694
Leidy H. J., Dougherty K. A., Frye B. R., et al. (2007, February). Twenty-four-hour Ghrelin Is Elevated after Calorie Restriction and Exercise Training in Non-obese Women. Obesity (Silver Spring). DOI:10.1038/oby.2007.542
Gruth E. (2014, September). JAMA Patient Page. Healthy Weight Loss. JAMA. DOI:10.1001/jama.2014.10929
Chow C. C., Hall K. D. (2008, March). The Dynamics of Human Body Weight Change. PLOS Computational Biology. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000045
Millward D. J., Truby H., Fox K. R., et al. (2014, March). Sex Differences in the Composition of Weight Gain and Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults. The British Journal of Nutrition. DOI:10.1017/s0007114513003103
Stokes T., Hector A. J., Morton R. W., et al. (2018, February). Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu10020180
Carbone J. W., Pasiakos S. M. (2019, May). Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu11051136
Liu G. A., Ford N. A., Hu F. B., et al. (2017, August 30). A Healthy Approach to Dietary Fats: Understanding the Science and Taking Action to Reduce Consumer Confusion. Nutrition Journal. DOI:10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
Peterson M. D., Pistilli E., Haff G. G., et al. (2010, November 27). Progression of Volume Load and Muscular Adaptation during Resistance Exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. DOI:10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9
Williamson E., Moore D. R. (2021, June). A Muscle-Centric Perspective on Intermittent Fasting: A Suboptimal Dietary Strategy for Supporting Muscle Protein Remodeling and Muscle Mass? Frontiers in Nutrition. DOI:10.3389/fnut.2021.640621
Paoli A., Cancellara P., Pompei P., et al. (2019, August). Ketogenic Diet and Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Frenemy Relationship? Journal of Human Kinetics. DOI:10.2478/hukin-2019-0071
Trexler E. T., Smith-Ryan A. E., Norton L. E. (2014, February). Metabolic Adaptation to Weight Loss: Implications for the Athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. DOI:10.1186/1550-2783-11-7