Centr trainer Ingrid Clay performs an across-body arm stretch while standing outside in a sunny lane
Ingrid Clay

Make your mind your shredding superpower

Ingrid Clay

So you want to burn body fat without losing muscle? We’ve got your training and nutrition covered with Power Shred, but you won’t go the distance if your mindset isn’t right.

Years of bulking and cutting for bodybuilding competitions have taught me that mindset is absolutely key to getting results.

You’re going to need patience, perseverance and a laser focus on your end goal. As I like to say: nothing grows in a comfort zone.

As you begin your Power Shred journey, I’m sharing my top 6 tips to set yourself up for success.

1. Stay positive about food

As an engineer, I take a very science-based approach to nutrition. I once took my meal prep to a friend’s wedding! But I’ve also learned that to maintain a healthy relationship with food – especially during a shred – you need to take a flexible approach and stay positive.

Yes, a small calorie deficit is a key part of getting results. But that doesn’t mean you should label foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or view anything as off-limits.

I know some people like to splurge on their favorite takeout before starting a shred, but I find it can be counterproductive. It’s important to start with a solid routine focused on moderation and a variety of nutrient-dense foods like these high-protein dinners that are fast, nutritious and full of flavor.

Let’s be real: you’re also going to have cravings when you’re eating in a calorie deficit.

Don’t beat yourself up about it. If you’re stress snacking or comfort eating, you need to address the emotional aspects of your cravings in order to find healthy coping mechanisms. It could be journaling or talking to a friend – any relaxing activity that will help distract you from that urge to turn to food for emotional support.

And don’t forget, snacks are an essential part of meeting your calorie needs with Power Shred – so spread them out, mix them up and enjoy them! Good thing Centr has plenty of tasty shake recipes to nail those sugar cravings.

My new fave is the Mango-passion Cheesecake Smoothie. Yes, please.

2. Strap in for ups and downs

It doesn’t matter how dedicated you are – your progress during a shred will not be a straight line.

You need to be mentally prepared for fluctuations in weight and measurements. Instead of only focusing on the scale, track other progress indicators like changes in energy levels, strength gains or how your clothes are fitting.

I also take pictures of my front, back and side every two weeks. They’ll be a better indicator of any inches lost, because photos don’t lie, and sometimes you’ll be burning fat but your weight doesn’t change.

A graph depicting the non-linear progress of weight loss.

Embrace the process rather than fixating on immediate results or numbers. That will help you stay more motivated and any temporary fluctuations or plateaus will be less likely to shake your commitment.

3. Make mindful eating your goal

The mind-body connection isn’t just important for your training. It’s taken me years to get comfortable with my body at whatever stage it’s in, and a big part of that has come from incorporating mindful eating.

How do you eat mindfully? It’s all about staying present and aware when eating meals by:

  • slowing down

  • savoring each bite

  • paying attention to taste and texture

  • noticing when you start to feel full

It's also helpful to put down your phone or turn off the TV – your food should be the focus, not the show you’re watching.

By making an effort to eat mindfully, you set yourself up to make healthier choices, avoid overeating and get more satisfaction from fewer overall calories. It’s also going to lead to a healthier relationship with food – which is our goal here!

An overhead photo of a small square table, set with plates and cutlery in brown paper bags, for two, with two wicker chairs, outside on green lawn.

If you need a little extra help, hit play on Sergio’s Eat More Mindfully meditation.

4. Cut out the comparisons

As a competitive bodybuilder, I really had to fight the temptation to compare myself to others. ‘How did they place higher than me?’ ‘How did they get that definition?’

But I learned early on that everyone's journey is unique, and comparing yourself will only detract from your progress.

Sometimes I have to tell clients to stop showing me Instagram pictures of what they want to look like, and instead focus on bringing out the best of who they are. My advice to you is exactly the same: focus on your growth and celebrate your achievements.

Other people’s success is something you can use as inspiration, but don’t try to measure yourself against it.

5. Create a rock-solid well-being routine

Want to crush your shred? Put your mental well-being first. I like to think my recovery routine is pretty gangster – but the biggest factor is simply REST.

Give yourself time and space. If you’re not listening to your body’s cues and adjusting your routine when needed, you could be heading for burnout.

This is going to be especially important near the end of a shred when your motivation can start to fade. At this point, you’ve got to visualize the results you want to see and draw on your inner strength to push past the final hurdles.

My well-being routine includes a lot of stretching and at least 15 minutes of meditation each day. Yours could look like:

  • practicing self-care

  • setting realistic goals (in other words, not pushing yourself too hard)

  • managing your stress with relaxation techniques
  • seeking support from your friends and family, or a professional if needed

You’ll find encouragement in your fellow gym goers and the Centr community, too.

A close-up photograph of a crescent moon against a dark blue night sky.

Getting quality sleep is the cornerstone of any well-being routine. Learn how to support your body and mind through better sleep with our cheat sheet.

6. Remember: this is not forever

Setbacks are a natural part of any journey, and it's okay to feel discouraged at times. I remember one particular prep phase for a bodybuilding competition where the cardio almost took me out! (It’s okay, we’re friends again now.)

In the end, I took it minute by minute – not even day by day – and that made the road a whole lot easier.

I know when you look ahead at how many weeks you have left it can seem overwhelming, but don’t let a temporary challenge derail your progress or overshadow your goals. Remember, this is just 14 weeks out of your WHOLE life.

So take it in small doses and refocus on your reasons for starting the shred (your ‘why’). With a bit of determination, perseverance and a positive attitude, I know you can overcome any obstacles and emerge stronger on the other side.

And of course, Luke, myself and the entire Centr team are here for you every step of the way.

Want more advice for a successful shred?

Ingrid Clay

Ingrid Clay will get you lifting strong and burning it up with bodyweight in HIIT HIRT Strength workouts. Ingrid is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and plant-based chef who draws on her physics and engineering background to sculpt bodies through exercise and nutrition. She’s also an NPC National qualifier bodybuilder and author of The Science of HIIT.

Ingrid Clay

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