The Chipotle Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Abs While Eating Tex-Mex

chipotle bowl, burrito, chips
Laura Murray/Thrillist

You're rarely going to hear "lose weight," "six-pack," and "Chipotle" in the same breath, but this isn't your average weight-loss plan. This "diet" works with other fast-food places, but Chipotle is absurdly convenient (it had nothing to do with this article, by the way).

Aside from being absolutely delicious, Chipotle happens to have one of the best ratios of calories-to-protein among fast-food joints, it's easy to calculate your own custom burrito, and you can eat it repeatedly without too much boredom.

Before you make the joke that everyone is going to make, no, this has nothing to do with contracting E. coli and dropping a bunch of water weight fast. Let's look at the science and how you can eat glorious burritos en route to getting abs.

Wait, how does this actually work?

The science is actually quite simple. When people say "six-pack," they're referring to visible abdominal muscles, or "abs."

Good news -- you don't have to do hours of crunches to build these muscles, because everyone has them naturally. The bad news is that no number of sit-ups will make them visible, because visibility is determined by the layer of fat that exists over your abs.

This means that if your six-pack isn't visible, the primary thing you must do is lose weight. From a physics perspective, weight loss is simple and occurs when you eat fewer calories than you burn. It has nothing to do with lowering carbohydrates (although this may help some people), "fat-blasting workouts," or stocking up on organic food. This is why a properly dedicated and knowledgeable person can lose almost 30lb in two months on an all-Twinkie diet.

However, there's a catch. When you see the number on the scale go down, it doesn't necessarily all come from fat -- the weight you lost may have been glycogen (carbohydrates stored within your muscles), fat, or muscle. To achieve a six-pack, you don't just want to lose weight; you want to lose fat.

In order to do this, you need to consume an adequate amount of protein. A good rule of thumb is to consume the amount of protein in grams as your target body weight. For example, if you want to get to 160lb, you should consume at least 160g of protein per day.

What does your body-fat percentage need to be until you start seeing a six-pack? Well, it varies depending on everything from the amount of muscle mass that you have all the way to your current room lighting. As a rule of thumb, though, men need to be under 10% body fat and women need to be under 20%. Here's how Chipotle can help you get there.

calorie counting app
Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Step 1: Calculate your caloric maintenance

Your "caloric maintenance" is the number of calories you need in order to stay the same weight. You can calculate this in one of two ways.

The most reliable way is to sign up for a nutritional tracker (I recommend MyFitnessPal) and log everything you eat for the next three to five days. It's important not to change your eating habits too much. Remember, you're not trying to lose weight just yet. You're simply finding out how many calories you need in order to stay the same weight. After you've finished a few days of logging, take the average number of calories and consider that your caloric "maintenance."

Step 2: Calculate your daily caloric target

Your daily caloric target is the number of calories you'll need to consume every day. This part is quick and easy.

Once you figure out your caloric maintenance, multiply that number by 0.75. This is how many calories you'll shoot for every day. For example, if you're a woman with a caloric maintenance of 2,000 calories, your daily caloric target is 1,500 calories (2,000 x 0.75).

Chipotle burrito bowl
Laura Murray/Thrillist

Step 3: Calculate your Chipotle burritos and start eating

Now for the fun part. Use Chipotle's online calculator to figure out how to make as many Chipotle burritos as you can using the following rules:

  • You should be +/- 100 calories of your daily caloric target
  • Your minimum daily protein intake should be equal to: (your daily caloric target / 10) - 40g. So if your daily caloric target is 1,500 calories, you'll need to eat at least 110g of protein per day (1,500 / 10 = 150, 40g less than that is 110g).

Start playing around with the calculators. As a start, if you're looking for 150g+ of protein per day and about 2,300 calories, you're looking at two burritos consisting of white rice, black beans, one serving of chicken, one serving of beef, and any salsa or vegetables that you want.

If you're low on protein, select an extra serving of meat... if you can't seem to find more than one meal to fit the rules above, try a burrito bowl instead of a burrito. For more ideas, some people have already built their own custom nutritional information in the MyFitnessPal database.

Now you're all set! If you decide not to eat Chipotle, it's fine -- just stick to your same daily caloric intake and minimum daily protein intake. You should start seeing a steady decline in your weight at the rate of 1-2lb a week. You might get bored of Chipotle before you hit six-pack territory (or not, if you're me), but this method is an excellent way to get started.

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Dick Talens is an entrepreneur, fitness writer, Chipotle lover, and growth hacker (both users and muscles). Follow his gibberish tweets: @DickTalens.