I’ve never in my life, ever, had someone tell me, “Oh, you know, I just want to look kind of flabby and soft.” No one has ever stayed up late, dreaming of their future pudgy body. No one has grabbed a roll on their belly and said, “Oh hell yea!”
Despite all of this people are still training and eating as if this is what they want to look like: hours upon hours of cardio, carbs with a side of carbs at every meal and doing their best to tone everything up without ever challenging their body. I think if you take any given person and show them a picture of an athlete, they’ll admit the athlete is in good shape and has a nice body. Yet they never do the things athletes do to get those bodies.
This isn’t to say you need to spend 4 hours a day practicing a sport from the age of 5 to have a body to be proud of; far from it. But if you start to train and eat like an athlete, you’ll tend to start looking like one. So what does this mean for the average person?
Well it comes down to two things mainly: workout intensity and eating for performance.
Let’s tackle the first one: intensity. Most people are so concerned with losing weight that they think more is better. 45 minutes on the treadmill becomes 90 minutes becomes 60 minutes twice a day and so on. Or it might look like 45 minutes of cardio + 15 minutes of abs and maybe some biceps curls. Even people that “know” what to do in a weight room, often times, might do a “good” exercise or two, then spend 5 minutes between sets texting a friend or checking/updating instagram. Or maybe they’ll have a pretty decent routine but blow through it in 20 minutes because the weights they choose weren’t challenging.
Challenge yourself to be an athlete. Our bodies crave intensity and hard work. Pick up heavy weights and then do some sprints and call it a day. A simple 3 day workout might look like
A bench press 4×4
B1 incline bench 3×8
B2 db row 3×8
C battle rope slams 3-6 sets of slams 20 seconds, rest 40 seconds
A squat 4×4
B1 rdl 3×8
B2 hollow body rock 3×30-60 sec
C airdyne sprints 3-6 sets of 30 seconds sprint, rest 90 seconds
A deadlift 4×4
B1 chin-ups 3×8
B2 kb overhead press 3×8
C farmer walks 3-6 sets of 50-100 yard carries
Workouts like this really shouldn’t take much longer than 45 minutes, including a warm up, and the magic with a program this simple is you can focus all of your energy to moving as much weight and going as hard as possible. If you’re getting through workouts like this pretty quickly, you probably need to up the weight. If you’re taking much longer than 45 minutes, you either need to scale the weight back or, more likely, get control of how long it’s taking you between sets.
The key is, you should come in focused and ready to work and not let anything get between you and that goal.
This leads us to the second thing we need to work on: eating for performance. People are so concerned with losing weight that they do their best to endlessly cut calories throughout the day and the week. This really has two deleterious effects.
First, many people subconsciously rebel and go ape shit at happy hour or on the weekends, eating and drinking their face off and are still shocked when the scale hasn’t moved and their clothes still feel kind of snug in the wrong places. You can only eat so many fruit salads for breakfast and Caesar salads for lunch before you want to kill yourself.
Second, if you’re not putting high quality food into your body, your performance will necessarily suffer. Your workouts will start to drag, exercise will become a chore rather than a fun challenge, and being fit will stop being something enjoyable. In short, you need to fuel your body to perform at a high level.
What does this look like? I’m fairly sure most people know the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food. If I had a doughnut and an apple and I asked 100 people which one was healthy, everyone would say the apple, of course. There’s no need to over complicate things: your body needs
protein: steak, chicken, seafood, peas, rice and beans together, tofu, turkey, eggs, greek yogurt
vegetables: spinach, broccoli, green beans, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes
healthy carbs: potatoes, rice, beans, oatmeal, squash, quinoa
healthy fats: avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, full fat greek yogurt
More importantly, your body wants these things in pretty large quantities if you’re trying to follow a workout like the one above. When you eat more food and you follow a pretty intense workout routine, your metabolism will increase to match. People have been so conditioned to eat less and less food that their metabolism slows, they feel like shit, they exercise about as intensely as a slug and then they still eat/drink a bunch of bullshit on the weekends pushing them further from their goals.
Don’t worry about small things like “how often should I eat” or “what should I eat after a workout?” Focus on eating when you’re hungry, preparing as many of your meals as possible, as in chopping and cooking the food yourself, and making healthy choices if you can’t always prepare your meal. You know the bags of chips, the greasy sandwiches from the pizza shop and all the other poor choices you’ve been making, so fix the big problems first. In short, if you have to ask, “Is this healthy/Is this good for me?” you know the answer is probably no.
So challenge yourself. Have your workouts and energy levels been shitty? Maybe it’s time to switch focus to building a high performance body.