Nature Doesn’t Care if You’re Ripped

…Nonetheless, today begins a push for the final phase of my journey which began about a month and a half shy of three years ago. At 49 and formerly fat, I don’t think nature, evolution or even my body gives a damn about being ripped and having visible abs. At my current body composition, I could remain this way — 175-180, back-&-forth — for the rest of my life and all would be fine. I’d be happy.

But I’ve come this far, so why not take it all the way? If, upon arrival I don’t feel as well as I think I should, then I can always pack on a few pounds if needed. But I want to give it a real good shot.

Having done so much self-experimentation along the way, I probably could go the rest of the way just doing the same sorts of things like upping the fasting (my IF is quite varied, now…nothing like the formal 24-30 hour fasts I did to get from 235 down to 180), going VLC, and so on.

Instead, I’ve decided to enlist the private and personal assistance of a professional I trust to take me the distance. Having used a personal trainer — who believes in the paleo approach to diet and exercise — from the outset has been a tremendous part of my overall success in staying mostly on course throughout. I believe using competent professionals is an excellent strategy to keep yourself on track and to get the results you seek. So, where you find a seemingly insurmountable barrier that might ultimately lead to giving up, the pro will have the experience to know what to do, reduce your anxiety and keep you moving forward.

…And so of course you want to know whose help have I enlisted. I’m not going to reveal who, yet, and please don’t start a guessing game in comments, either. You also want to know, roughly, what I’ll be up to. Not going to tell you that, either.

I will be posting updates on the progress, but you’ll just have to wait for the appointed time when all will be revealed.

In the meantime, here was breakfast (at 12:45pm) this morning. A frittata cooked in the oven in butter with La Cense uncured grassfed beef frankfurter, diced red & yellow bell pepper, and a bit of grated New Zealand grassfed sharp cheddar.


It’s garnished with full fat greek yogurt and on the side, full fat cottage cheese heavily sprinkled with finely ground black pepper. Of course, this portion size was for the photo. I ate the whole panful.


Now it’s off to the store to get the necessary ingredients for tonight’s steak tartare.


  1. Skyler Tanner on April 11, 2010 at 15:40


    As a professional, I find the value of other professionals for program development/guidance to be highly underrated. It can be very difficult to follow your own advice: you know all the ins and outs of how you arrived at that conclusion. Having someone to be accountable to, and to let them do the programming, is sometimes what it takes to get to your “final” destination. Looking forward to the finish!

    This is also timely; I’m setting up a 6 week push before a sabbatical in Central America. Gotta be ripped for lounging on the beach!


  2. san fran J on April 11, 2010 at 15:49

    richard, you got the right attitude man. this whole lifeway that you have chosen has taught you to push past limitations. I commend your ambition to striving past limitiations.

  3. LeonRover on April 11, 2010 at 15:51

    I laughed when I read your comment that the plate portions were just for artistic composition, but that you ate the panfull. I know you enjoyed it.

    Moi aussi!

    BTW how do you tartare your ground filet?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 11, 2010 at 17:49


      Pretty standard French method: dijon, cornichon, capers, shallot, egg yolk, salt, pepper, and a bit of EVOO. I save 1/3 of the capers to go on top, also the egg yolk. Also, I prefer my filet chopped, not hache, even though I have a grinder.

      • LeonRover on April 12, 2010 at 06:51

        Thank you.

        And also for later detailed post above.

  4. Zune on April 11, 2010 at 16:44

    Only one person comes to mind…and if it’s the one I’m thinking of you made a wise choice. Success is more or less inevitable now. Good luck!

  5. applesauce on April 11, 2010 at 17:26

    Talk to A. Scott Connelly about your plans, read his stuff, watch his videos, etc.

  6. Jim on April 11, 2010 at 17:27

    I won’t join in the guessing game – but that frittata looks GREAT.

  7. Lute Nikoley on April 11, 2010 at 17:33

    I don’t know about you, but for me 12:45 pm is not in the morning. so what was it am aor pm?

  8. Katie on April 11, 2010 at 18:09

    I hope he(whoever he or she is) has you on a lower protein approach. Not that protein prevented you from loosing all the initial weight, but in order to get ripped, insulin has got be as low as possible. I really believe that most people with broken metabolisms (most of us) should cut the protein a bit to loose weight in the first place.
    Loren Cordain’s 30% calories as protein does fine for people who grew up in a low fructose, low 0mega 6, high vitamin environment. I know I didn’t grow up that way.

    • Johnny on April 12, 2010 at 05:45

      Why does insulin have to be as low as possible? Protein raises insulin, some energy goes into fat cells, which can be later used and net balance of fat depends on calories. Why does insulin have to be low, why doesn’t ASP have to be low?

      And the extra protein helps him preserve his lean mass.

      • Katie on April 12, 2010 at 10:11

        I know of no mechanism to reduce ASP outside of caloric restriction (which should come naturally if we simulate a healthy feedback loop by lowering carbs in those with a broken feedback system). ASP is probably linked to the overall caloric state of the organism (even if you down 600g of fat but no protein, you will store some of the extra that you couldn’t bun of through “energy wasting” activity becasue or carbohydrate there is simply no way to handle it all. Messing with ASP could be deadly due to build up of chylomicrons (or is it FFA? …well, I don’t care about the specifics) or amino acids or glucose in the blood. ASP is an evolutionary mechanism that prevents food from killing us. Does that make sense?

        And carbs raise insulin and some energy goes into fat cells, and it can also be used to later for energy. Lowering carbs and lowering insulin results in fat loss, that is just about indisputable.

      • Katie on April 12, 2010 at 10:19


        So, why would protein be different?
        I am not convinced that protein preserves lean mass either. Maybe on a ketogenic diet since gluconeogenesis is needed to supply the brain and RBCs with fuel but 1g of protein/lb of lean body mass does nothing to build or maintain muscle since the extra we ingest everyday is burned as fuel, made into carbs, or stored as fat anyways.
        The body has a natural system already in place to preserve muscle mass, even when fasting for days or weeks. If protein was what controlled much of this system, we probably wouldn’t have done so well hunting 10,ooo years ago.

        Plus, I am not saying to decrease protein to levels that allow muscle wasting (I am not saying there isn’t such a number)… rather just enough to maintain which I believe is much lower than most of you body building gurus think.

      • Johnny on April 13, 2010 at 05:18

        First I’d like to say I’m no expert on this and please correct me if I’m wrong on anything.

        I came across this paper:

        They say ASP is the most potent stimulant of triglyceride synthesis yet described, and that ASP levels increase in response to an oral fat load while they do not change significantly in response to carbohydrate.

        You eat fat or carbs, the appropriate hormones respond and store the calories for future use. Focusing only on insulin and carbs is pointless, because other hormones will do just the same job in response to fat. The key is to figure out why are you eating more than you need.

      • Thomas on April 13, 2010 at 06:53

        The high fat/low carb metabolic advantage theory is quite a controversy-some feel it is very real, some feel it is modest (100-300 calories) and some feel it is ridiculous. I personally don’t know-I think there are too many individual factors other than diet that can congruently affect metabolism that it’s hard to tell. Either way, eating lower carb and thus decreasing insulin does seem to decrease appetite and help eat less calories-this fits well into the “it’s all about the calories” thinking in weight loss. I personally have lost weight using high carb and low carb diets-and yes, I learned to live with a fair amount of hunger with the high carb diet. In the end, calories do count-and the diet that helps you maintain a lower calorie diet over the long term (not just a few days or a week) is the best as long as it supplies adequate nutrition IMO. For what it is worth.

  9. applesauce on April 11, 2010 at 20:45

    Low protein would be exactly what not to do. As calories decrease, protein becomes more important for sparing (or gaining) lbm. 1g/lb of bodyweight is usually close to optimal for maintenance/gaining, but when dieting strictly, 1.5g/lb of bodyweight (or higher) may be needed for best bodycomp results…

    • Katie on April 11, 2010 at 21:18

      I obviously disagree. What is is you are basing your evidence on?

      • applesauce on April 12, 2010 at 13:52

        Studies on dietary protein & resistance training plus the anecdotal evidence of tens of thousands of people over the past 60+ years involved in the sport where optimizing body composition is the goal and main criterion for success: bodybuilding.

        Two great sources on this subject from the “studies” side are A. Scott Connelly and Lyle “The Asshole” McDonald. Read their shite.

        There is a reason why, for example, the ultimate crash diet is a PSMF (Protein Sparing Modified Fast), not a Butter Fest…

      • Katie on April 12, 2010 at 20:26

        This is a good link with some protein studies.

        Brad Pilton also has a book out. I don’t buy e-books so I haven’t read it but he recommends much less than the typical body building “experts” (who eat out of Tupperware every 3 hours).

        Also, when I say low-er protein I just mean lower than the average fitness buff thinks is necessary. 1 -1.5g/lb of body weight is way too high.

        And you can gain muscle and loose fat at the same time…

      • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2010 at 20:39


        You’re going to be awfully surprised when I reveal what I’m up to. And I know exactly what I’m doing.

      • applesauce on April 13, 2010 at 11:53

        It’s “lose,” not “loose.”

        The problem with the studies you cite is that they are not real world studies of body composition changes. The goal, after all, is to MAXIMIZE fat loss while MINIMIZING muscle loss (or MAXIMIZING muscle gain, if possible). That’s clearly best done with a relatively high protein intake.

        A good read:

      • Thomas on April 13, 2010 at 12:45

        Wach out for the speling polise!

  10. Robert on April 11, 2010 at 20:48

    Good Luck!
    And also wouldn’t nature actually care from the viewpoints of
    1: its a visible sign of excellent health, and
    2: by being a sign of health is also a strongly aligned with being sexually attractive?

    Seeing as the main drive in evolution has been to breed with someone else healthy and whatnot.

    so it would make sense that on the ideal evolutionary diet, you’d reach an ideal health and an ideally attractive representation of that ideal health…

    just thinking out loud though…

  11. Jesrad on April 12, 2010 at 04:41

    I’m curious as to what exactly a personal trainer would provide you with – this is an honest question, I’m considering doing the same in the near future.

    Skyler mentions how making the client feel accountable to someone helps him or her follow suit on the plan, and that sounds nice. What other benefits are there ?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 13, 2010 at 08:10

      Well, Jesrad, other than the actual training experience, and especially, protecting you from injury (I’ve stayed injury free going on three years), I’ve always said that my trainer represents an appointment to show up for and someone to show off for.

      It’s motivational for me. Keeps me in the game long term. Cost for me is about $4,500 per year. Considering the amounts people pay for many other things over 12 month’s time, I consider it an important part of my budget and there’s other things I’d cut back on first if ever in a pinch.

  12. Thomas on April 12, 2010 at 06:06

    Nature surely doesn’t care about 6 pack abs-this baloney about sexual attraction is superimposing our current (very western) ideas about attraction onto those of the distant past, which is highly unlikely. In fact, a too lean physique in the past may have been a sign of someone not being able to take care of themselves/eat well and thus survive. How could this lean person also provide for someone else? Anyway, when I was about 195 lbs (fat for me), I thought getting down to 170 would be enough to see my abs. Nope! Try about 20 lbs lighter than that-150 lbs.

    The good news (I think) is that I am currently 145 lbs, and getting here has made me very comfortable with eating less. I am currently trying to gain weight and find it difficult eating enough food-it is very mental-I feel like a glutton and don’t like the feeling of fullness. I look too skinny (my neck really thinned out and I look like a giraffe), however, so It’s time to put down some calories with the weight training that I always do. We’ll see how it goes. Good luck on your quest for greater leanness.

    • Alex on April 12, 2010 at 06:40

      My own experience leads me to agree with you. When I eat ad libitum paleo, my weight naturally and effortlessly stays right around 180-182 lbs., with body fat somewhere around 15-17%. On me, that’s a bit of padding around the waist and on the chest., and in paleo times, that would probably indicate ideal nutritional status.

      It is only my modern and western conditioning that makes me want to be leaner. And, to achieve that, I have had to ditch my natural, innate eating pattern and consciously eat less by counting calories. In 5.5 weeks, I’ve lost 10 pounds, some of which is surely muscle mass. I doubt I’ll achieve six-pack abs, but I do like the more slender, less paunchy look.

    • Robert on April 12, 2010 at 08:16

      hmmm maybe so, I was thinking in terms of 2 things , one study i read that found across the globe (different cultures, and different levels of civilization (hunter/gatherer tribes and modern )) that a narrow midsection was universally a sign of health and a strongly attractive signifier (same as symmetrical face, good teeth, other signs of health). But yeah abs=sexy isn’t just a recent western thing its pretty much universal (with some small exceptions, same as any other bell curve). In recorded history, how long has woman’s clothing accentuated a narrow waist? lol

      and the second thing was why we as humans walk upright, and have minimal canines compared to other apes (was on some discovery channel special about that new human ancestor skeleton they found that pre-dates lucy). The logic goes, we don’t have big canines and can walk upright, because the characteristic changed from alpha male (I can fight and beat up the rest of the males in my group) to the best hunter/gatherer (I can bring back the most food the fastest by holding it in my arms). With that change, the one who Hunted/Gathered (males usually) could choose the most attractive female to give the food too, so that’s when the other secondary sexual characteristics became more pronounced (Hips, waist, Breasts in human women are much much more pronounced all the time compared to other species).

      But yeah probably actually ripped compared to just healthy wouldn’t really make much of a difference I don’t think.

  13. Ned Kock on April 12, 2010 at 07:15

    Good luck Richard, just be careful not to overdo.

    If your weight has been stable for a while, that is likely having a stabilizing effect on your hormone mix, and may even improve the thyroid problem you talked about here several times.

    Like Alex (comment above), most bodybuilders lose muscle when they cut, sometimes substantially. The body responds in the same way that is does to starvation, with a particular hormonal mix that is not very natural (a temporary response).

    Bodybuilders then bulk up, gaining some fat in the process, and the cycle starts again.

    Moreover, from your photos it seems pretty clear that your small amount of abdominal fat is subcutaneous, which is the most healthy type.

    With subcutaneous fat the skin folds around the navel, making it look a bit like a mouth. Also, when you lied down your waist circumference is reduced, as the fat shifts.

  14. ChrisG on April 12, 2010 at 11:20

    Best of luck with your new goals, Richard. I’m going to be doing something similar after I get past the tax deadline (curse you, IRS!). I’ve found a small local gym that does both Crossfit and Kung Fu. I can do 2 classes/week of each for $100/mo. That and some weekend hiking in our glorious mountain country of the Pacific NW & I believe I’ll be closing in on my goals by the end of summer.

  15. Steve on April 12, 2010 at 14:15

    this sounds really cool, going for the ripped look, getting cut.

    Don’t leave us hanging though… this is a great topic and I can’t wait to hear the methods used for cutting.

    I’d imagine that following someone like Jay Cutler’s approach, or any pro-bodybuilder for that matter, would be the way to go. These guys have to get cut to make a livin’. They know how to do it.

    Maybe a cyclical ketogenic diet would be best.

    Good luck, man!

  16. Paleo Fear of Potatoes | Free The Animal on April 15, 2010 at 13:16

    […] (last two dinners & yesterday lunch) which, vary somewhat from normal fair because of my "getting ripped" routine. However, I cannot yet divulge any specifics about the program. But I can tell you […]

  17. MichaelSanchez on April 16, 2010 at 06:24


    You look terrific. The only thing necessary is that a person be free of saddlebags, which you are. Having a super shredded 3 % bodyfat is not even healthy, regardless of what some people believe. There is no reserve in those people if they get sick, and they do not live any longer than anyone else. That look is purely aesthetic , nothing more, and in my opinion looks terrible on anyone , especially on women.

    Your advice works. My hunger is quelled, and my workouts health promoting, invigorating, functional and productive. Our disgustingly corrupt health orthodoxy’s advice does not help anyone, and actually makes them fatter. Thank you very much for what you do on this blog. You have helped thousands.

    @applesauce :

    Lyle McDonald is not the obesity expert you make him out to be – far from it. Lyle McDonald has a bunch of opinions. McDonald simply ignores data that the classic caloric hypothesis of obesity cannot explain.

    Richard’s lifestyle is far more healthful than the chronic overtraining, drug using, puffy, inflammatory bodybuilding lifestyle.

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