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Back in college, I remember having conversations with some of my meathead buddies about what our ideal body was. It usually went a little like this:
Andy (me): “Hey guys if you could have one body, would you be Brad Pitt in Fight Club, Gerard Butler in 300, or Tom Hardy in Warrior?”
Paul: “Well, seeing how Tyler Durden hasn’t eaten a carb since ‘Nam, I’m going to go with my man Leonidas.
Ethan: “Admirable choice, but come on Durden is the ALPHA if I’ve ever seen one. I’m buying the abs with the power. After all, you’re not you’re fucking muscles.”
Andy: “Tom Hardy. Traps, ‘nough said.”
I’ve had this conversation probably way more often than I’m proud to admit. We’re all about a bit vain sometimes. After all, you’re the one reading an article about looking better naked you vain bastard.
Anyways, my point is that we all, whether we have consciously discussed it or not, have a picture of what our ideal body image is. Whether your subconscious aligns with the three choices above or you are more a Fat Bastard in Austin Powers type of person, the answer is irrelevant. I’m not going to give you some cliché garbage about chasing your own best body because that’s honestly not how any of us approach looking better naked. We all have an ideal we are chasing, whether or not it’s healthy psychologically.
That’s why I started to write this series. I want to help all of you look better naked and feel comfortable within your own skin. When you look better, you feel better. It’s science. Whether through intermittent fasting, meditation, or even how to drink alcohol with an ab-centric mentality, each of these tools was designed to get you closer to you goal. However, looking back, I suppose subconsciously I wrote these pieces under the assumption that you were close to reaching your desired destination. Sure, each of the tools I laid out will work regardless of your situation, but they formed better pieces to a puzzle that was almost completed.
What if you’re not close to reaching your body composition goals? Maybe, you are one hundred pieces deep into a 5,000 piece puzzle. The journey has just begun for you and instead of worrying about striations in your glutes, all you want to do is feel healthy again in the hopes of building an impressive body as an indirect result of creating a healthy lifestyle.
Where should you start? Let’s begin
Lesson #1 Avoid Crazy Intense Crash Diets
Going on Amazon and searching for the latest diet best seller is not the answer you’re looking for. Sure, reading all the fantastic reviews and starting something new will give you that oh so addicting dopamine rush that we’re all addicted too. Initially, you will make all the crazy sacrifices that the author espouses because he or she promises you will lose 17 lbs in 6 hours.
You will lose weight. Guaranteed.
And then the novelty effect will wear off. You won’t be excited anymore to eat 500 calories a day and the realization that this protocol is absolutely miserable will set it. Adherence to the diet will slack and because the sacrifices were so extreme you will probably put the weight back and then some.
Avoid novelty seeking.
Lesson #2 Build Successful Habits Slowly
I’m not ashamed to admit that I stole this concept from Precision Nutrition because I think it’s absolutely brilliant and the key to sustainable body transformations.
Where do most diets fail?
They throw the kitchen sink on you and don’t teach you how to build any habits. When I used to get a new client, I used to give them a checklist of about 15-20 different things that they would have to implement in order to lose weight. Sure, some were successful because they could handle the information overload but so often many would fail and adherence to my coaching would be lackluster.
I failed because I never taught them how to build habits. I tried to change their body without first transforming their lifestyle.
So much of what we do everyday is habit based.
Who do you think will maintain a healthier body: the individual who wakes up in the morning, meditates, and then makes a spinach omelet or the individual who packs a heater and goes to Dunkin’ for coffee and donuts to start their day. Both are habits. Both will lead to far different health and body composition results over a long period of time.
I suggest you focus on building one habit at a time until it becomes second nature. Once it becomes second nature, add another. For some it may take a few days, others a month but you must begin any body transformation with successfully altering your habits.
Start with ones that will take the least psychological resistance for the most physiological benefit. Thanks John Berardi.
Here are some that I suggest you can begin to implement:
Habit #1 Start each morning with a tall glass of water with either Athletic Greens or Amazing Greens, healthy serving of Fish Oil, and a probiotic.
Habit #2 Eat real food 90% of the time. It’s nearly impossible to overeat on real food.
Habit #3 Intermittent Fasting is great, but start your morning with some derivative of a spinach omelet
Habit #4 Having a healthy serving of animal protein at every meal (40 grams for guys, 30 grams for girls)
Habit #5 Veggies are your new best friend. Have them at every meal
Habit #6 Earn your starchy carbs. Keep them limited to post training
These aren’t revolutionary concepts in the world of nutrition and body recomposition but if you begin implementing them one at time, you will see immediate improvements in not only your health but your physique as well.
Lesson #3 Prioritize nutrition
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Some wicked shamt dude (Einstein)
Bro-science will tell you that losing weight and subsequently fat is 94.3% nutrition and 5.7% training and 100% whether or not you’re ingesting the latest supplements proven to magically eradicate any fat cells forever and always. Despite the hyperbolic ads, the last statement is unfortunately false. The first notion by our broscientist, however, has some significant backing by science.
The exact numbers are neither able to be calculated nor are they relevant. What is important to note is that what you put in your body will 100% determine what you look like over the long-term. You could have a reverse pyramid training program designed from the man, the myth, the legend Martin Berkhan himself but if he forgets to attach his IF macro prescription, chances are you’re going to look exactly the same.
Dominating our nutrition is all about signaling to your body exactly what you want it to accomplish.
You see, your body is stupid. It’s an incredible survival machine that performs these outrageous unconscious homeostatic regulatory operations but it’s dumb as rocks at the same time.
It has no idea that you passed on the chocolate cake last night because you want to lose some of your spare tire. All it remembers is the pizza you housed right before you went all “Holier than Thou” on the chocolate cake and decided to abstain. What resulted was that your fat cells hypertrophied a bit while you slept like a baby from your sugar induced coma. Bastards.
For reasons I’ve discussed ad nauseam in my past blog posts (you should read them), your body doesn’t want to give up body fat. It doesn’t make evolutionary sense and quite frankly it won’t until you provide it with adequate reasoning (and appropriate stimuli) to facilitate such processes to occur.
You got to keep insulin low for long periods of time. More important than that is you have to maintain a caloric deficit. Just like your boss doesn’t care if you work 17 hours a week or 40 as long as his bottom line is green, your body doesn’t care if you ate organic, grass-fed, hormone-free, anti-biotic free, pesticide-free (is this obnoxious yet?) and you bought your beef from a hipster in Harvard Square. Surplus calories = weight gain, whether or not it’s the healthiest food ever created.
Want to build muscle?
Well, first make sure, your insulin actually cares about what you have to say before you try the latest bulking diet you get from your buddy. If you’re skinny fat, insulin cares for what you want as much as that hot girl in high school you were in love with who smiled at you because she felt bad.
Slowly warm insulin up to you. Buy her flowers. Tell her the guy she’s dating (fat) is an asshole and should break up with him immediately. You could even profess your love for insulin and tell her exactly what you want (which is to get her sensitive to you).
This is terrible dating advice by the way so forget about the girl you’re in love and simply focus on your less than ideal fat deposits for the time being.
How do you accomplish this?
Obviously get her to breakup with the asshole and start to submit to your wishes is step one. You do this by getting lean first and then trying to build the house when you already have a solid foundation. By getting lean, you give yourself the opportunity to make the same transformation Ryan Reynolds did in Just Friends. Insulin starts to recognize that you want to build muscle and boomshacalocka you take down your great white buffalo and start to build some pecs and fill out that reverse v-neck because you were able to partition nutrients into your muscles. Being able to tell insulin what to do allows you to lose fat, gain muscle, and build the body you desire. She’s gotta love you first though.
I wish I had some magic formula to jumpstart this whole process. The truth is the basics win.
Steve Jobs said, “Stay simple, stay stupid.” If that mindset could build my iPhone 17, it can certainly help you accomplish your body composition goals.
John Berardi has made a gazillion dollars teaching people how to do the basics very well. Stick to my nutrition habits above until you stop seeing progress. (Hint: you won’t ever stop). When you’re better than the 99% and want to join the elite, then complicating has it’s time and place.
Lesson #4 Kill Program ADD
I love me some dopamine.
You see, I’m still a professional pitcher working to make my dream come alive and make it to The Show. The difference between getting to the top echelon in anything and not making is so small that I look for any advantage or new tweak I can to propel me forward. Usually, this has something to do with mechanics and my ability to throw the ball where I want to better. Every time I struggle I look to find something new to help me improve. And you know what, once I convince my warped mind (you have to be mentally deranged to play baseball for a living) that it’s going to work, I’m walking on cloud 9. Why? Because my dopamine receptors just got high.
It’s a terrible approach and it’s exactly the opposite of what I should be doing with my mechanics and you with your training program. Trust me, I understand the mental challenges of sticking with one thing for an extended period of time. It’s monotonous and requires exertion of extreme mental energy to see it through.
It’s necessary, however, to see true progress.
You see, physiologically, again it all comes down to providing your body with adequate stimulus. You have to give your body time to adapt to each subsequent stimulus in order to achieve the desired result.
For example, say you were going to go on a ketogenic diet (not something I recommend with high intensity training but moving on). You’ve heard that it’s absolutely incredible for shedding fat quick and fast. Problem is, after say two weeks, you don’t see the desired result and give it up to try some other magical solution you just read about. Problem is, your body needs time to adjust to a ketogenic diet and to start utilizing ketones to fuel your body. If you transition out of this diet before your body has had a chance to adapt, you’ve actually never even given it a chance to fail.
The same goes with training program hopping. My good buddy Travis wrote a guest post about it here.
Say you start Show and Go by Eric Cressey and don’t feel like superhuman after week 6. I doubt it since I know first hand he’s a Jedi master when it comes to programming but let’s just roll with my thought experiment. Well of course, you haven’t achieved what you want to yet. Show and Go is a 16 week program and he wrote it so you could feel like Hercules after week 16, not 6. There are planned cycles of adaptation throughout the training program. Jump ship early and you will likely miss the super compensation that follows.
Find a training program that works. For a period of time, listen to one person and one person only in the industry and absorb and try everything that person has put out there. Whether that be EC, Jason Ferruggia, Chad Waterbury, Show Me Strength, etc, it doesn’t really matter. All are great options and all will work if you give them a chance to run its course. If you jump from Cressey to Bruno to Romaniello, then you’re probably shit out of luck and you’re only cheating yourself.
Lesson #5 Trust the process
I’m going to be completely honest, building successful healthy habits is not the quickest way to lose fat. Within the past year, a family member, much to my disdain, went to a local weight loss clinic run by a MD and dietician. For the moment, we’ll overlook the fact that most doctors get at most a month of nutrition education in medical school.
What was the brilliant advice she was given? Eat 500 calories a day. I’m not kidding. And you know what, it worked and truth be told she lost fat way faster than if I told said family member to focus on eating a fistful (PN’s term) of protein at each meal. But shitty science only wins in the short term. 500 calories a day is neither responsible advice nor can it be maintained over the long term. Metabolisms crash resulting in rebound weight gains far greater than what was lost initially.
There was no process. The mindset, forced presumably by the clinic’s business model, is a demand of overnight transformation. Damn you evolution for not letting people lose 27 lbs of fat in two weeks.
Overnight transformations don’t happen and if by some Dr. Oz miracle they do, they won’t be maintained.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book “Tipping Point,” often talks about moments where things suddenly explode and grow exponentially. If you look close enough, often times the boom isn’t random, rather set off by a singular or string of events. His tipping point doesn’t just apply to business and making tons of money or starting fashion trends.
There are tipping points in body transformations.
Take our individual who has struggled to lose and keep weight off for years. He finally ditches the old model of crash fad dieting and looks to a more sustainable solution. He starts to buy into the process. What results is that he starts to build successful healthy habits. Sure, at first it’s difficult to incorporate each new behavior and fat loss is slow initially. But then after a few months it all clicks.
These healthy habits suddenly become second nature.
Getting up and having a good breakfast full of healthy fats is no longer a chore. Instead of overloading his carbs throughout the day, he becomes keen on the idea of earning his starchy carbs and training hard to do so. Eventually, what started out as marginal incremental fat loss has turned into a pound a week because suddenly habits turned into behaviors prompting exponential increases in fat loss. The transition from conscious to subconscious incorporation of our healthy habits was the “tipping point” in this body transformation.
The best part in our hypothetical example? When he has finally reached his goal, it will be easily maintained because it was accomplished over a long period of time through creating lasting change in behaviors. He won’t have to consciously try and maintain his success because his success is now a product of who he is and what he does daily as an individual.
It is what happens when the process is trusted over immediate gratification.
Lesson #6 Set a big goal
Big goals require us to take big action.
Who is going to push himself harder to run… the individual whose goal is to run a 3k or the individual whose goal is to eventually run a marathon?
I think the answer is clear cut and obvious.
When the novelty (there I go again with dopamine and novelty) wears off, setting a huge goal will keep you on the path through the monotonous grind that comes with it. If you stay small in your aspirations, blowing off what you have to do becomes a lot easier to justify in your mind.
Only want to lose five pounds? Sure, “I can eat that large pizza and drink 13 Bud Heavys on a random Tuesday night, I’ll just be better next time.” Contrast that with a soon to be mother who wants to fit into the jeans she haven’t been able to since high school and it’s clear to see whose motivation will inspire long lasting action and eventually sacrifice to reach a goal.
Start big and don’t you dare worry about being realistic. I’ve heard it said one to many times that being realistic is the quickest path to mediocrity. And to quote one of my favorite movies of all time, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, moderation is for cowards.”
Lesson #7 Keep objective measurements to track progress
The truth is that measurements don’t lie.
Sure if you’re big goal is gigantic biceps, it’s ideal that you fill out your youth medium polo a bit better after finishing your 17th drop set of bicep curls with a 301 tempo. But actually measuring them from time to time will give you objective data from which you’ll know if your bicep specialization program is actually working. If they haven’t grown over a period of time, you know you have to change something up.
The same goes for fat loss. Which is a better means of finding out if your changed lifestyle habits are working: Hearing from your friend who is an absolute sweetheart (the kind who would tell you you looked hot after pillaging through a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts after hitting the elliptical for an hour sans shower) you look great these days, or keeping objective body caliper and girth measurements. Sure, getting and then tracking those measurements can be a pain in the ass but wouldn’t you want objective data telling you whether or not what you’re doing is working.
If, for example, the measurements haven’t changed in a few weeks, it could be time to decrease the calories slightly (if you track macros and calories) or really hone in on when you have starchy carbs.
Also, while very subjective, the mirror doesn’t lie. If you look better than you did a month ago, it’s because whatever you are doing is working so don’t change it. If you want to cheat the system, just make sure your girlfriend picks out the mirror you use so always look good with impeccable lighting. Just kidding ladies, I love you 🙂
Lesson #8 Hire a coach
There are people out there (like me) who get people to look better naked for a living. While you can learn just about anything from the internet, you’ll likely suffer from paralysis by analysis and end up having no idea what to do.
It happens to me all the time with subjects I don’t have much firsthand knowledge about. Google is the death of me.
Just the other day, I was about ten hours deep into research that started after simply googling, “How to Get a Smoking Hot Girlfriend?” My brain was awash with conflicting reports. Google told me to be nice but too nice. One guy told me to be a charming asshole. Others told me that if I stare intently, but not creepily, into a girls eyes for 89 seconds straight, she’ll be smitten. If my girlfriend is reading this, know that’s exactly how I won you over.
The point is if you want to make such long-lasting incredible transformations, get off google.
Like I said earlier, before listening to the resident bro-scientist in the gym, find a reputable source and see their training and nutritional philosophies through. What works even better is if you can hire that person to work with you individually. While there are many products out there that work great, they can’t be individually personalized to fit your unique needs. This is where a good coach comes into play.
A good coach can build you a solid nutritional foundation while accounting for the weekly business buffet meeting you have to attend each week. While a good training program can get your strong, they can’t necessarily fix your butt wink at the bottom of your squat while getting you strong simultaneously.
Details matter. Don’t sell yourself short with a cookie cutter program and end up spinning your wheels for years on end. Save yourself time, frustration, and likely money by hiring someone who knows what they’re doing.
Lesson #9 Do it for yourself
At the end of the day, the only person that can usher in lasting transformative change is you.
Despite how well you want to look good for your significant other or impress at work, you should want to make lasting change for yourself first.
Cliché? Sure. Truth? Yes.
Make personal change because you want to enact a new life for yourself. That’s why I love the Scrawny to Brawny program. Sure, on the surface it’s about building muscle and getting jacked but it runs so much deeper than that. With muscle comes confidence and with confidence comes a desire to do big things in the world. Things that wouldn’t be possible if these men had remained scrawny (not in their body type but in their mindset).
Challenge yourself with how much you can improve. You are the hero of your quest. Don’t stop until you reach apotheosis.
Of all the lessons I just laid out, this is far and away the most important one. If you use all my lessons to transform yourself for someone else, when you reach the climax of your journey, you will be left empty and unsatisfied.
Do it for yourself. Be born again and the rest of your life as your own hero awaits you.
Where To Go From Here
Throughout the article, I’ve mentioned a number of great resources that you can use to catapult your on the path to success. Two in particular that I want to highlight are the Precision Nutrition program and Scrawny to Brawny. They just get it. I urge you to check them out and see what they have to offer to your own transformation.
Forgive the self-plug, but a lot of the principles here that I discuss here are what Chad and I are doing with our lifestyle coaching program. We’ve had great results so far and would love for you to join us. Check us out here.
Until next time,