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9 Ways to Eat to Look Like a Cover Model

Need to get cover ready? Here's what you have to do.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

When trying to get a cover model physique, things go a notch above just getting lean or a "beach-body physique." Cover models in my opinion are as shredded as you can get without going into the realms of bodybuilding. So it's safe to say the first factor is understanding the feat you're going to take on, and realizing why so few people are really lean year round, if at all.

It's hard! You WILL be dieting for a prolonged period of time; You WILL have to be hungry fairly frequently; You WILL have to give up the "fun" foods (despite what your favorite influencer says); and You WILL have to do lots of cardio and steps. This is not a healthy, long-term way of life. That said, here are 11 ways to look like a cover model.

Consider Your Nutrients

Raw vegetables background. Healthy organic food concept.

When it comes to diet the best approach is to start eating whole foods, plenty of vegetables, stuff that is packed with micronutrients… You will be depleting your body to quite a large extent, so making sure you're getting nutrients in for me is an absolute must. Additionally things like vegetables are key for keeping you mechanically full (volume of food filling you up).

Food swaps become increasingly important, and being smart with the choices you make is vital to the long term approach, for example, when dieting, I get rid of pasta and rice completely… not because they're bad at all, but because something like a potato is far more filling and satiating than rice.

The majority of a photoshoot diet isn't too dissimilar from your regular diet, but the degree to which you need to be accurate becomes so much more important.

Protein is King

Food high in protein close-up

Protein is king to retain muscle mass, and a calorie deficit being held consistently… outside of that everything else of course is important but without these two factors you won't get far. The issue most people face is they set a deficit for X calories when they weigh X Lbs… and overtime as they lose weight they don't adjust the deficit to be appropriate for their new weight. When you weight Y Lbs and you're lighter, you need to be consuming fewer calories than you did when you started.

When it comes to protein you want to ensure you are eating a healthy amount, I generally find that eating just slightly over 1g per lb of bodyweight worked well for me. The majority of the literature we have says you don't need to eat that much, but anecdotally with myself and the majority of clients, when that protein intake is high, it makes things easier too, and minimizes risk of muscle loss.


Vitamins And Food Supplements. Close Up Of Beautiful Woman Opened Mouth Holding Fish Oil Pill In White Teeth. Smiling Girl Holding Capsule With Omega-3 Between Teeth. Healthy Diet Nutrition Concept

 In the scenario of getting very lean you're putting your immune system in a bit of a weaker position, I recommend some vitamin supplements to help through the process (ideally you want to have a blood test done, pre & during your cut, to assess what you need). In general though a multi-vitamin, Omega-3 and Vitamin C are commonly used.



Although a supplement, I have given this it's own place as I truly believe this is really key to helping retain extra muscle mass and get more out of workouts when you are more depleted. Just be careful if you start taking this when you begin cutting down, as it will cause water retention inside the muscles (this is a good thing, this will NOT make you look "watery"), but this will influence scale weight. Ideally get onto this a number of weeks prior to starting.

Sugar-Free Drinks & Sauces


These make the less "fun foods" a bit more fun, and give you something tasty to drink. I am a massive fan of using these during cuts.

Caffeine and Fasting

Closeup image of man and woman clinking white coffee mugs in cafe

Fasting.. is it a magic bullet? Nope, you will lose the same fat as you would do if you didn't fast. However, if you're like me, once you start eating, you're hungry all day. I personally find fasting helps me condense my eating window and enjoy a larger meal in the evening when I'm most hungry. Caffeine first thing (black coffee) can help to blunt hunger signals. Some people however find fasting can actually make them go the wrong way and binge when they do eat. So it's worthwhile trying, but see what works for you!


Couple staying hydrated after workout

You probably aren't drinking enough water as it is, make sure when cutting to keep well hydrated, to feel fuller and sharper.

Learn to Get Comfortable With Hunger

Man eats

You will be hungry at times, it's unavoidable, but nowadays people have an internal panic at the first sign of mild hunger and stuff their faces. Next time you get hungry, take a moment to "send your mind into your belly" and ask yourself "Am I really hungry? Or do I just want some food?" or "Am I THAT hungry right now?" Often the answer is actually yes I'm hungry but I'm not going to keel over and die. Get comfortable with being a little hungry and it makes your journey 10x easier.

Related: 11 Strength-Building Secrets From a Pro Coach

Protein Cakes


Here's a quick recipe that'll add a big dose of protein in minutes: Take 250g of plain or Greek yogurt, 50g protein powder, 70g(ish) of self-raising flour and 1 tsp baking powder. Mix in a bowl to make a sticky dough. Flatten out on baking paper in an air fryer and cook for 8 mins till crispy. Flip, cook for 8 mins (ish) until the other side is crispy. Drizzle 0-Kcal chocolate sauce on top. Thank me later.

You should end up with a doughy, bready, warm gooey, crispy protein cake! If you've done it right, it won't be dry like all the other protein recipes out there.

It's Going to Be Tough

Shot of athlete woman exercising on assault air bike.

It's tough to get this lean and it will test your mentally 100%. You just need to focus on getting that day done. If something messes up you need to adopt a mindset of "okay how do i fix this" I was doing cardio during one of my preps on my bike at home, and the pedal broke. Instead of packing it in for the day, I had another 30 mins to complete, I went straight out on a run to get the session finished. People love to find excuses but you have to get out of that mindset.

Getting cover model lean is also quite a selfish thing to do in some senses. You will have to give up meals out and enjoying food with other people, you absolutely will have to give up booze. It can change your life for the better, but you must be prepared for things to change.

Another trick is buying yourself an exercise bike like I did, you can usually pick them up on Facebook marketplace for £20-30, and use them daily first thing for 20-30 mins with a coffee in the morning, by the time you actually start your day you're miles ahead of where you need to be! Once you're done prepping, you can usually flog them again on the marketplace for the same price. I actually made a profit on one of my ones.

Finally, speak to those around you, let them know you're doing what you're doing and keep them in the loop, things are so much easier when those around you are on your side and not left questioning and frustrated by your strange actions.

Related: Benchmark Your Progress with Our Lean Body Mass Calculator

Don't Stay on a Cover Model Diet Long-Term. It's Not Healthy.

Depressed and sad young woman in kitchen
Shutterstock/Jiri Miklo

Truthfully I actually think a cover model physique isn't the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. It's incredible to see what you can achieve, and I do believe everyone should do it once, but getting THAT lean just isn't sustainable for a happy and healthy life. You're better off getting down to a fairly lean state where you can kind of see abs, but not completely. That way you can actually enjoy your life and eating and social events with people around you and not be meticulously worrying over the kcals in a meal or trying to track calories in a restaurant, or bringing a tupperware of your own food from home.

Sustainability is key when it comes to dieting and being Cheesegrater abs lean year round absolutely is not a healthy or sustainable desire for 95% of the population… those who are, either have extremely high outputs in their jobs or activities, or are using a little somethin' somethin' extra which DEFINITELY isn't good for you.

💪🔥Body Booster: Prioritize nutrient-dense foods like vegetables for fullness and health during dieting. And if you enjoyed this article don't miss 11 Ways Women Can Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Good.

Jack Symons is the founder & head coach of Rival Fitness.

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