Your Summer Workout Plan
When working with clients, the overall goal is to help them see the results they’re looking to achieve, while simultaneously helping them to create the habits that will allow them maintain those results. As such, the process can be slow and steady, with the tortoise winning the race.
Sometimes people just want to feel healthier and back that feeling up with having more energy. For the most part, this is where I’m at, and think it’s a great way to see fitness.
Often times though, people not only want to feel healthier and have more energy, but they also want to change the way their body looks. And yes, I know working out doesn’t have to be all about looks, and you should spend the majority of your time working on building sustainable habits, but…
…But sometimes, you just want to look good in a relatively short amount of time, and that requires you take on a different mentality than simply finding things you can maintain forever.
Also, when I’m working with clients, the goal is to train them within “The Gap.” The Gap is where you push past your comfort zone (which is also why so many clients tell me they “hate me”), but not to a point where you hit your “panic zone.” This is where you feel you’ve gone too far and find the workouts too strenuous and therefore, overall, stressful.
The Gap lays in between the comfort and panic zones, in the “Adaptability zone.” This is where you should be in order to adapt. Often times getting here requires doing more than you would do on their own (hence, why it’s past their comfort zones), but allows you to trust that you can do more than you thought possible, without being completely overwhelming.
With that said, there is a vast difference between helping someone develop habits you can retain for a lifetime, and the types of habits and workouts that you take on when you’re trying to Transform your Body.
Transforming Your Body vs Building Sustainable Habits
The habits that go into transforming your body are not bad or wrong, but they are more intense – in the workouts, the consistency needed, and the way you eat. These habits are not meant to be sustainable.
With that said, the unofficial start to summer kicks off with Memorial Day, in just 9 weeks.
Therefore, if you want to see a drastic change in the way your body looks within the next 9 weeks (or 12 if you’re aiming for a mid-June body reveal on the beach), then you will have to be willing to do things that you wouldn’t normally do in order to transform your body.
If you want to get Transform Your Body for the summer, then today will be the first in 4 emails that will give you a plan to follow.
Your Summer Workout Plan
Your Summer Workout Plan consists of 4 steps to help you reveal the body lying dormant under your “winter food-loving” stores. Those 4 steps are:
1. Developing a Calloused Mindset: Using both the Warrior and Wizard
2. Becoming a Master at Essential Lifestyle Habits (Walking a minimum of 10-12k steps per day, sleeping an average of 8+ hours per night, limiting alcohol to 2 drinks per week)
3. Completing Four, Real Strength Training Routines per Week
4. Limiting Your Total Calories (a lot less than would be normally advised)
I’ll be going through all of the first of these over the next couple of days. The rest of this email though is the most important step: Having a Calloused Mindset, because if you don’t have this and if you can’t do the lifestyle habits (tomorrow’s email) then telling you what to do in terms of workouts or calories will be a waste of time.
Your Summer Workout Plan, Step 1:
Developing a Calloused Mindset
There are times when you should forgive yourself for a slip-up (most of the time, actually) and there are times when you should listen to your body if you’re tired (again, most of the time), but there are also times when you fucking learn that the things you have been telling yourself is bullshit and that you can and will do better.
Neither mindset is wrong, but there is a time and place to justify shortcomings on your word, and a time to hold yourself to a higher standard.
In the past, I’ve talked about how we all have two egos. I’ve called them the Raging Child (the masculine form of the ego) and the Logical Whisperer (the feminine form of the ego).
Your egos see the suffering, the things that tell you you’re not good enough and uses that against you to stay the same.
For example, when you don’t get what you want, you can get mad easily and act like a Raging Child. If you want cake, but “can’t” because you’re on a diet, then you get mad and might say, “Fuck this diet,” because your Raging Child takes over. On the other hand, after you’ve had the cake, your Logical Whisperer might take over and say something akin to, “I told you this diet would be too hard. You should just give it up and try something new.”
Unfortunately, that something new never happens and you’ve given up. The logical whisperer “makes sense” but it’s all meant to keep you where you’re currently at. It sees suffering and as such, you give up, without really giving your goals, your desire for being better, a fair shot.
A step above suffering though, is where you Find your Power.
Here, the masculine form of power is the Warrior Mindset. This is where you determine to fight your demons. Where you go to slay the dragon and “destroy the enemy” which is usually the weakness and the mentality that allows us to go back on our word.
This can be a very powerful form of energy, especially in moments of temptation, where “the Warrior” takes the reigns to overcome the temptation. This mindset is the more recognized form of energy when making changes, but it is not the more powerful form.
The more powerful form, the feminine form of power, is the Wizard Mindset. Here, you create something out of nothing, or you change something from one form to another.The alchemist that turns ordinary metal to gold is a Wizard. The person who can turn ordinary ingredients into a delicious meal is a Wizard.
In real life, ideas are the most powerful form of alchemy. We turn green pieces of paper into nearly everything that makes the world go round (better known as money). In this country, we have turned ideas from a couple of hundred years ago (the Constitution) into wars and a common way of identifying as being “American.”
Ideas help us to create plans and strategies, to learn from our mistakes, and most importantly, it tells us what we’re fighting for.
Therefore, if you choose to take your Power, then you need both the Warrior and the Wizard within you, fighting for the same cause. If you can do that, you will be much more powerful overall and will have a chance to overcome your weaker egos who want to keep you in suffering. .
The way to look at it is always this:
Where is Your Locus of Control?
If you blame your actions on something outside of yourself, then you are using your egos to justify your behavior. For example:
“My son was up late, so I skipped the gym today.”
“Someone brought in a cake to work. They always do that and I couldn’t resist.”
“It wasn’t my fault.I had plans to go to the gym after work, but we went out to happy hour and I might have drank a little too much.”
Now, I’m not saying any of these reasons are invalid, but I am saying that you are putting your locus of control outside of yourself. Something happened “out there,” that caused you to take an action. Whenever you consistently do this, you lose your power and are much more likely to stay “in suffering.”
On the other hand, when you place the locus of control in your own hands, despite what happens outside of you, you regain “Power” and are able to overcome obstacles. For example:
“My son was up late, and I was exhausted this morning, so I did a 15-minute workout at night.”
“Someone brought in a cake to work. They always do that, so I literally had one bite, but didn’t have any carbs at dinner and instead loaded up on vegetables.”
“I had plans to go to the gym after work, but we went out to happy hour for my co-worker’s last day. But I only had one drink in 4 hours and went to the gym the next morning to make up the workout.”
Life will always present challenges. Always.
Where you put your control – Out There vs Within Yourself – is the difference between seeing the results you want, versus spinning your wheels and making very slow progress.
The Calloused Mindset then is one where you have the mentality that you can do what you set your mind to. You believe what you’re doing is worth it and you understand your Why.
You don’t allow weaker mindsets, such as when you’re tired or hungry to take power over you. You recognize that there will be times:
When you really don’t want to workout or eat healthy
When you just want to have “a couple of drinks,” or
When you don’t want “to think about everything I eat, all the time”
You understand that those thoughts will occur, but you don’t allow them to derail your progress, because you are in control.
You can also see those thoughts for what they are: Your egos trying to keep you exactly where you’re at.
So when you’re hungry, and you hear that voice, you can tell it to fuck off (warrior mindset) or pre-plan that fatigue in and have a back-up plan (wizard mindset).
When you’re tired and still sore from your last workout, and you hear that voice telling you to skip today, you can pull your ass off the couch, get to the gym, and give it all you have (warrior mindset) or make plans to workout with someone so that you can’t cancel (wizard mindset).
When you’re not seeing results “fast enough” and think it’s all a waste and it “doesn’t work for me,” you can counter that thought process by simply asking yourself, “What’s the alternative? To give up and stay exactly where you’re at. Is that what you really want?”
So the most important aspect of a change, of a transformation is simply this:
You need to callous your mind to do things your body physically doesn’t want to do.
You will be hungry. You can learn to live with the hunger and if you’re a true warrior, you come to see it as a challenge as to how hungry you can be, while still controlling yourself for your next meal.
And if you’re a true Wizard, then you’ve made meals to help you to stay on track for when that hunger strikes and you need something that helps fill you up, while still tasting delicious.
You will be tired. You can learn to live with the physical fatigue that is going to happen in the gym, and if you’re a true warrior, you see it as something that if you can go harder (without hurting yourself), then you know that you can overcome the next challenge, and the one after that, and the one after that.
And if you’re a true wizard, then you have a gameplan for that workout session. You know what needs to get accomplished. You know that when you’re tired, you’re only really getting started and you can keep going.
You might not see the results you want, or at least as fast as you want. And when that happens, you know that if you’re a true warrior, then the only thing to do is to continue the war, because losing a battle doesn’t mean the war is over. The war is only over when you quit. And hopefully, you never quit.
And if you’re a true wizard you have Your Why readily available to help you double down the next time you have the doubt where you want to give up. Because losing a battle, although never fun, gives you an opportunity to learn what you can do better next time, and that is the true power of the Wizard.
If you think you can take on that calloused mindset and overcome the challenges that are sure to lie ahead, then be ready for the next installment, where I talk about getting your lifestyle habits right and why that’s so important.
If, on the other hand, having a calloused mindset seems too hard for you, then you can disregard the rest of this post.
Your Summer Workout Plan, Step 2: Mastering Your Lifestyle
Many people think that in order to see results they have to kick their ass with cardio. The truth is, the longer you kick your ass with cardio, the LESS likely you will lose more weight (this study showed that 30 minutes of cardio was just as good as 60 minutes). This means, for some, the harder and longer you do cardio (this study showed that after 18 months of marathon training, women saw NO changes to their body composition), especially if you’re overweight, the more likely you will overeat or decrease your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) movements.
So that hard cardio session can be for shit, if you eat more calories the rest of the time. Plus it’s hard and mentally exhausting.
This means that you need to control the lifestyle habits that will help you continue burning calories effectively and giving you the energy to actually workout hard with the strength workouts. If you stay in a caloric deficit, while focusing your workouts on higher intensity strength workouts, you will help to keep/gain muscle, while exclusively burning fat from a caloric reduction (this is better known as “toning up”).
With that said, if you don’t do the three lifestyle habits below, you will be fighting an uphill battle the whole time you’re trying to transform your body. If that’s the case, then don’t try to transform your body within a specific time-frame, and just try to create lifestyle habits instead.
Master 3 Lifestyle Habits
1 – Sleep and Recovery from your workouts
If you don’t think sleep is important to transform your body, then let me try to convince you:
Sleep will help you burn more calories from the above mentioned NEAT.
Sleep will help the calories you consume go to your muscles, as opposed to your body fat.
Sleep will help give you the willpower to choose healthy foods and stay on your diet when you’re hungry.
Sleep will help give you the energy to workout hard in the gym, even if you don’t feel like being there.
Sleep will help you limit alcohol intake.
Sleep will help you recover faster from your workouts.
Oh, and sleep will help with your sex drive, both increasing desire and satisfaction from sex.
I can not stress this enough, but sleep is super important if you want to make a quicker body transformation.
2 – Walk at least 10-12k steps per day
We all sit too much. I stand for a living and I still sit on my ass too much. The only way to counter our culture of sitting is to actively do something about it. It doesn’t have to be super intense, but it does have to be consistent. Ten to twelve thousand steps isn’t a ton, but it is enough to counteract the negative effects of sitting too much. Every day is the key here. If you can’t walk every day, then you should start there with what you need to do to start losing weight.
Walking has been shown to be the exercise most often used by those who have lost over 30 pounds and kept it off for years. Most people who have lost that much weight and kept it off, average 60 minutes, each and every day of walking.
3 – Limiting alcohol to 2 drinks per week
If there’s one recommendation I get the most shit from people (not only clients, but also friends and family), it’s decreasing your alcohol intake.
The Warrior in me, especially around friends and family when they complain, sounds something like this: “Are you fucking serious? Are you an alcoholic? Are you that fucking dependent on alcohol? This is your one and only life. You get to choose what you put in YOUR body. It’s fucking 8 weeks. Just do it.”
But the Wizard in me, says, “Aren’t you tired of feeling hungover? Do you want to know how it feels to feel fucking amazing, every day of the week, because you’re not drinking? It’s fucking glorious. Try it out, just for 8 weeks and see if you can feel fucking amazing because you gave up a substance your body sees as a poison and that you overpay to consume. Give up alcohol because you want to add to your life. If you want to feel fucking amazing, try it out. What do you have to lose?”
They are saying the same thing, but at the end of the day, this is a choice you have to make, for whatever reason you want. Just know that you might need both the wizard and warrior mindset with this change.
The Wizard has the mindset will give you the why you’re making the change: To feel fucking amazing and if you’re truly going to get into this mindset, you get others to do it with you.
But with that said, you might also need the warrior mindset to fight the battles when you’re out with friends.
They say: “Oh, just have a couple. It’s not a big deal. Everything in moderation, right?”
You say:“No thanks. I’ll just have a seltzer with lime.”
They say: “Why are you so anal? You’re no fun.”
You say: “I think you’re a good friend too.” 😉
The point being, it’s usually those closest to us, who try to peer pressure us into drinking more often than not.
These 3 lifestyle habits shouldn’t be that hard, but they are often the hardest things to do consistently. Maybe for a couple of days, or even a week, you’re good. But for 2 months straight, that’s “intense,” yet if you can’t do these 3 habits, I don’t think you should continue to try and transform your body within the next 8 to 12 weeks.
To Sum Up
1. Average 8 hours of sleep when transforming your body (or really aiming for 8 hours per night)
2. Being proactively active with walking at least 10-12k steps per day, and
3. Limit alcohol to 2 drinks per week
If you’re able to do those 3 lifestyle Habits then we can start to talk about the workouts, which will be in the next email.
If you’re not willing to do those 3 Lifestyle Habits though (or can’t because of extenuating circumstances – aka, getting more sleep is impossible), then I would simply focus on changing your lifestyle and don’t worry about “transforming your body” in the next 8 to 12 weeks.
Your Summer Workout Plan, Step 3: Four Real Strength Training Workouts per Week
Often times, people tell me that they “strength train,” but then go on to tell me that they use 5 lb or 8 lb weights, or they do machines with a very low weight.
People often confuse strength training with training with weights. They are not the same thing.
Strength training means one thing: You’re trying to get stronger.
So what does that mean for you?
It means depending on where you’re at, strength training can mean doing body weight squats (just your body squatting up and down), whereas for others, that exercise would almost be laughable.
That’s why making a blanket workout for a group of people is almost an exercise in futility. With that said, I’m still going to attempt it.
1A. Bilateral Quad Movement (Think squats, hack squats, leg presses) – Do one warm-up set, and 3 to 8 sets of 5 to 10 reps
1B. Vertical Pull Movement (Think Chin-up, Pull-ups, Lat Pulldowns, etc) – Do one warm-up set, and 3 to 8 sets of 6 to 12 reps
A. The amount of sets is determined by where you’re currently at and how much time you have. If you’re a beginner, do less sets. If you have less time, actually do more sets. You want to focus on the most bang for your buck exercises if you’re running low on time. Note, on this note: This is only true if it’s a one-time thing where you’re short on time. If, on the other hand, you’re perpetually short on time, then do a lower number of sets.
B. You always want the higher number of reps at the beginning, but you don’t want to sacrifice form to get the reps. Get your ego out of the equation so you stay healthy. Being hurt will not help you make a transformation.
C. The last set can be higher rep, all-out set.
D. If you’re crazy, which is always a good time, do the warm-up set, three sets of heavy reps of 5 reps, and then do 3 to 5 sets of 20+ reps at a relatively heavy weight. If you want to get strong and see results quickly, that’s how you will do it. You will hate it and it will burn and it will suck, but if you can learn to love the burn, you’ll see results quicker than any other method that you can come up with – point blank.
2A. Single-Leg Quad Movement (Think Walking Lunges, Split Squats, Step-ups, etc). Aim for 8 to 20 reps per leg
2B. Horizontal Pull Movement (Think TRX Rows, Cable Rows, Bent-over Rows, Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows, etc). Aim for 8 to 20 reps
3A. Single-joint exercise (Think bicep curls or tricep pressdowns or cable crossovers or reverse flyes or any other single joint movement) – 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 20+ reps
3B. Single-joint exercise or ab exercise – 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 20+ reps
*Please note, the rep ranges for day 2 and 3, are the same rep ranges, with the same notes above applying to these days
1A. Horizontal Push Movement (Think chest press, low incline chest press, with dumbbells, barbells, etc)
1B. Horizontal Pull Movement (Think Bent over rows, Cable Rows, etc)
2A. Combination Movement (Think Squat Press, Single Arm Clean and Press, Squat Rows, Step-ups with a shoulder press, walking lunges with shoulder press, hollow hold press, etc)
2B. Assistance Exercise (Think side band walking, hamstring curls, band pull aparts, etc).
You can either do a dumbbell circuit or the prescribed exercises.
For example, a dumbbell circuit can be:
A – Dumbbell Front Squat
B – Standing Shoulder Press
C – Bent Over Rows
D – Dumbbell Deadlifts
E – Renegade Rows
F – Push-ups
The key with a dumbbell circuit is that you never put the dumbbells down and you do it with no rest in between the movements, while using relatively lighter weights. This doesn’t mean to use light weights.
3A. Vertical Push Movement (Think Shoulder press, with barbell or dumbbell, single arm, or both)
3B. Single-Joint Exercise (anything from lateral raises to tricep pressdowns, to bicep curls, etc)
And if you have time, you can do a longer circuit or do a new two-exercise circuit.
Either 3C or 4A. Other single-joint exercise or a carry (Farmer’s walks, suitcase carry, waiter’s walk, reverse flyes, etc)
3D or 4B. An Ab exercise
1A. Bilateral Hip Movement (Think Deadlift variations, High pulls, hip thrusts, etc).
1B. Bilateral Horizontal Push Movement (Think chest press, low incline chest press, with dumbbells, barbells, etc)
Note, again: If you’re crazy, do the warm-up set, three sets of heavy reps of 5 reps, and then do 3 to 5 sets of 20+ reps at a relatively heavy weight. If you want to get strong and see results quickly, that’s how you will do it. You will hate it and it will burn and it will suck, but if you can learn to love the burn, you’ll see results quicker than any other method that you can come up with.
2A. Single-Leg Hip Dominant Exercise (Think Reverse Lunges, Bulgarian Split Squats, Single-leg Hip Thrusts, step-ups pushing through the heel, etc)
2B. Horizontal Pull Movement (Think TRX Rows, Cable Rows, Bent-over Rows, Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows, etc)
3A. Explosive Movement, hip dominant, preferably (think kettlebell swings, KB high pulls, KB jumps, long jumps, etc) 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
3B. Lateral Movement (think Cossack squats, side step-ups or side step-downs, lateral lunge, etc) or Assistance exercise for the bilateral hip movement (hip thrusts, lower ab movements, grip training, etc) 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 20 reps
A lot of these names seem complicated, but the concept is simple.
*Important: Every week, you’re trying to get better. That means you’re either aiming to do more reps using the same weights, or you’re taking less rest in between sets, or you’re adding weight to the bar or using heavier weights, or you’re doing slower reps (think a 3 to 5 second descent as opposed to just letting the weight drop, etc) Every week, for 8 to 12 weeks.
**If you need help coming up with a workout routine for you, please email me for basic workout templates.
A quick note on your workout schedule: It can literally be any order throughout the week.
So your workout schedule can be this:
Monday – Workout 1
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Workout 2
Thursday – Off
Friday – Workout 3
Saturday – Workout 1
Sunday – Off
Or it can be this:
Monday – Workout 1
Tuesday – Workout 2
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Workout 3
Friday – Workout 1
Saturday and Sunday – Off
Or it can be this:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Workout 1
Friday – Workout 2
Saturday – Workout 3
Sunday – Workout 1
Another note on the workouts: They should take about an hour, but if you only have 30 minutes and you know you won’t have time to make up the workout, then you should do 30 minutes. And what if you only have 15 minutes? Then do 15 minutes. Showing up is more important than the time. Show up. You lose every battle, that you don’t show up to.
Now, if you’re willing to do those workouts, and your goal is to lose body fat and look toned as hell, and you’re allowing yourself to have a calloused mind and to take on the lifestyle habits, then the last email in this series will talk about how to eat in order to Transform Your Body.
Questions I’m already hearing:
What if I don’t have 4 days per week to workout? Then do as much as you can in 3 days and add some High intensity interval training to the end of two of your workouts, for at least 5 minutes. If you can’t workout 3 days per week, don’t try to Transform Your Body in a specific time frame.
What if I don’t know how to do those exercises? Do personal training or go with a friend who can help you, or experiment. Don’t go heavy, but watch some videos on the form and then play and tinker the same way you would if you were a kid. Experiment, but stay safe. Tinkering and playing can still an effective strategy, even if it isn’t the most economical in terms of time.
What if I have an injury that limits what I can do? Work around it, unless it’s a severe low back problem. Often times, working out and exercising correctly will help you heal faster and if you only have one good side, strengthening the other side will help you keep the strength you have in the injured limb. There is almost no excuse to not workout. With that said, you should also listen to your doctor and you probably shouldn’t be going as hard as you can while injured.
What if I don’t have a gym membership? Workout at home with body weight. There are ways to make exercises harder with just your body weight, that will make you stronger and still help you to see good results. It will definitely be easier with a gym membership though.
Your Summer Workout Plan, Step 4: Eat Less Calories, Keep Protein High
There are a ton of things to say about calories and I’ve already said a lot of them (will repeat them later), so for now, let’s talk about the mindsets that hold people back when it comes to cutting calories.
- Most people grossly underestimate how many calories they’re eating. This means, for a lot of people, eating healthy and losing weight is going to take a willpower that they didn’t think was possible.
- Most people think eating healthy is the same as cutting calories. That’s just not true. You can eat a shit-ton MORE calories with “healthy foods” if you’re not careful.
- With that said, eating healthy is important for, you know, health. But healthy foods won’t help you lose weight if you’re eating too many calories.
- What works for your best friend, or spouse, or person you hate who you happen to stalk on IG that lost 50 pounds, may not work for you. This means there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to lose fat, when it comes to some habits. The habits that don’t matter are:
- When you decide to eat. You can fast all day and eat ALL of your calories before bed. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could and you could lose fat if your sleep wasn’t disrupted and you didn’t overeat calories in using that technique.
- How often you decide to eat. Want to eat 8 small meals per day? I think you’d be crazy, but you could. You could also eat twice per day or any number of meals in between. It doesn’t matter.
- Whether your meals are full of “healthy foods” or “processed foods.”Obviously it’s easier to eat LESS calories by eating whole foods, but you can eat processed foods. It’s also much harder to get all the micronutrients you need (vitamins and minerals) by eating processed foods, but some processed foods are fortified. Again, to lose fat, all you have to do is be in a consistent caloric deficit.
- You can do low-carb or low-fat or neither. As long as you’re getting enough protein, you will preferentially lose fat. If you choose to be in a caloric deficit with low carbs or low fat, is fine. You can also do a balanced carb/fat intake, as long as you’re in a caloric deficit.
- You will have to cut out a lot more calories than you estimate. Seriously. Many people are simply eating too many calories and think they’re cutting a lot more than they are. What you have to cut, and what you have to do, is to always err on the side of eating less if you’re trying to lose fat in a shortened amount of time.
- You will have probably hate it on some level. It will require a lot of mental space to eat less, on a consistent basis, which will…
- Make it feel like you’ve been dieting forever, when really it’s been 3 days or 10 days or even 20 days and you need to do 112 days (16 weeks). It is a process that will take time.
- When you’re done with a transformation, doesn’t mean you throw out everything you’ve been doing. It means you eat at maintenance calories, which may be like a bagel more per day, while continuing the workouts, while continuing the lifestyle habits. Or you can forego the bagel and have more alcohol (6 drinks) per week.
- If you do a transformation correctly, you will maintain MOST of the habits that you’ve been working on for the previous 8 to 16 weeks.
- There is a part of this that sucks….BUT…there is a part of it that is fucking empowering. To know that you can do what you set your mind to and you fucking do it, gives you a power to do that in every other aspect of your life. And you physically see the changes. There are not many other areas of your life where you can see those changes, as dramatically, as quickly, and it can be infectiously great for the mind. So know that sometimes the process itself might suck, you can also see the process as awesome. It’s akin to people who wake up early. They may hate it, but they also like knowing that as others sleep, they are being productive and get a jumpstart on the day.
- Remember, your mindset always will empower you or make you weaker, and you get to choose.
- If you are doing everything here, and not seeing results (and you’ve stuck with it for 8 to 16 weeks), then you might want to get your thyroid checked.
With all of that said, the only thing left to say is this:
Calories. I wrote a shit ton about this at the end of last year, and I would put a link here telling you to go there, to read it, but let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to click on the link, so I’m copying and pasting what I wrote here. I’m plagiarizing what I’ve already wrote:
Quick Note: ALL Calorie Estimations are ESTIMATIONS – Anyone claiming otherwise is bullshitting you. There are a couple of ways that you could estimate how many calories you need in order to maintain your body weight, which we’ll be discussing in a bit.
Once you have that number, then you would simply reduce it by about 200 to 500 calories per day. Cutting your total caloric intake by more than that is hard to maintain and often times, I would not recommend it…BUT…in a timed transformation, I cut the calories, 20% to start and then drop it another 5-10% if that isn’t working.
Baseline Calorie Estimate
- Figure out your baseline needs of calories.
An easy way would be to take your weight and times it by 12. For example, if you have low body fat (think under 21% for women, and 15% for men), then you would take your weight and times it by 12. That would be your baseline. So for a woman who weighs 130 pounds, that would be 1560 calories per day. For a guy who weighs 180 pounds that would be 2160 calories per day.
That would be the amount of calories you should start to aim for (or below) in order to lose fat. If that number seems a bit high, you can drop it a couple hundred more calories. With that said, if you’re already at that low of a body fat and you want to lose more, it’s going to be hard. For the 80% of the population that isn’t within that percent of body fat, or if you don’t know your body fat, then the next alternative would be to figure out your baseline calories in another manner.
- What you would do is go to this website and once you’re there:
A. Put in your weight, age, height, and your current weight.
B. For the goal weight and time, put in one pound less (for example if you weight 200 pounds, put in 199 pounds) and the goal date of exactly one month.
C. From there, choose sedentary as your activity level, even if you work out.
D. That will be a close approximation of how many calories per day your body needs to survive at rest.
The Website again is: Calculate Your Calories
E. Using either methods – using your bodyweight x 12 or the online calculator, you should have two numbers which is your range of calories. For me, I’m 190 pounds, so 190 x 12 = 2280 and using the online calculator, that says 2010 calories per day. That would be my range of calories to maintain my current weight: 2010 – 2280 calories per day.
For some people, who are carrying more fat, the bodyweight x 12 may be too high and you might need to drop it to 11 or even 10 calories to get a range more in line with the online calculator (again, this is all an estimation to start).
2. To Lose Fat, once you have your baseline range, subtract 200 to 500 calories per day, to get how many calories you should be having per day. For me, I would drop it about 200 calories per day, from the average of those two numbers. So the average for me would be 2145 – 200 calories to get 1945 calories. This is a small amount of calories for me, but is still doable.
3. From there, figure out your protein needs. For most people, 150 grams per day should be a goal. If you weigh 120 pounds then aim for 100 to 120 grams. If you weight 130 to 170 pounds, then aim for 150 grams per day. If you weigh 175-200 pounds, then aim for 175 to 200 grams of protein. If you weigh more than 200 pounds and you’re looking to lose fat, keep it at the 175 to 200 grams per day.
Calories Per Gram
Protein = 4 Calories per gram
Carbs = 4 Calories per gram
Fat = 9 calories per gram.
One you have your total amount of protein per day, times that by 4 and subtract that from your total calories. What you are left with is the amount of calories left over to split between fat and carbs for the day. The equation looks like this:
Total Calories per day to lose fat – (Protein in grams x 4 calories) = Amount of calories to split between carbs and fat.
The remaining calories can then be split between carbs and fat, however you choose. You can do an even split of the remaining calories, or you can do 50 grams of carbs and the remaining calories from fat, or vice versa.
It really doesn’t matter how you breakdown the remaining calories, as long as you don’t go over your calories and have hit your protein goals.
4. Lost yet? Hopefully Not…
Once you’ve got your total calories and your protein goals, you need to track those calories like a hawk. This is where the trouble starts.
5. Portion sizes, grams, ounces, oh my! A food scale, the cheap one on Amazon for like $12 should become your best friend for the next month, if you’re serious about tracking macros and calories. Because if it isn’t, you’re probably lying to yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. It’s literally everybody. Here look at this picture that shows we all lie to ourselves when we track calories. People in the study were underreporting their calories by over 1,000 calories per day, while saying they were burning more than 250 calories per day. In other words, they were off by 1,300 calories PER DAY:
What that picture shows is that we GROSSLY underestimate how many calories we consume and overestimate how many calories we burn.
And if you think that you’re safe because your Apple Watch or FitBit told you you burned X amount of calories, please note that the BEST model studied overestimated calorie burn by 37% (that was the BEST on the market. The worst overestimated by 81%).
And that’s not all.
6. Calories are all an estimation, because we don’t all burn calories the same. It is messed up, if you think about it. Two people, same height, age, activity level, and weight, can burn a vastly different amount of calories per day. The ranges in an over-feeding study were massive. One person can burn an extra 790 calories per day doing the same exact thing as the person next to them. We all know these people but it’s due to Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT (and probably individual microbiomes – one of the smartest things I’ve ever read on the role of one’s microbiomes). Here’s a picture of that from the same IG account:BDCCarpenter
7. To throw everything I’ve just said into the mix, calorie counts change depending on a shit-ton of factors.
A – How a Food is Cooked. If you ate a rare burger – Good for you, you just saved about 100 calories from that burger. If on the other hand, you had the burger well done, you just added a hundred calories to your meal, although you both ate the same amount (in terms of ounces) of food.
B – The temperature of the food, even if they were cooked the same. If you just ate a baked potato with nothing on it, where as the person next to you ate the same potato cold, you got 50 more calories from that potato as the cool potato has more resistance starch which doesn’t get digested by your body. Same food, cooked the same, and you eat the same amount, but you’ll have different calorie counts.
C – Food Labels Lie. And oh, you think you’re fancy because you ate food and the label said it only has 100 calories. Think again. Calorie counts are averages at best, and that’s if you’re eating the serving size (to the gram), and you have a food calculator and even then, the calories can be grossly under or over-estimated by 25-30% and it’s perfectly fine according to the law. So that “200 calorie snack” that you only have 2 of per day, can actually be 520 calories, not 400…and it’s only worse when you go out to eat and restaurants have calorie counts on their menu.
Which brings me to my final point, just for fat loss or calories: It’s NOT easy to do. Once you’ve mastered it for a bit, and became slightly OCD about it, in terms of how many calories you’re eating, how it affects your weight (beyond water weight), and how your body looks and feels…once you’ve done it for a bit, it almost becomes second nature and you start to recognize how certain portions look and how certain foods and combinations of foods make you feel.
In other words, it’s a pain in the ass to get there, but once you’ve gotten there, it’s a useful skill to naturally have (most ex-bodybuilders and figure athletes, or athletes that have tracked their calories and now say, “I don’t count my calories at all,” are telling you the truth, but are also bullshitting, because they have learned a skill and now do it mostly subconsciously).
So yeah, that’s calorie counting for fat loss.
What and How Should You Be Eating?
Thus far, I’ve talked about calories, but haven’t even mentioned what you should be eating.
Should you have a meal plan?
Should you be eating whole foods?
Should you order from a meal service?
Should you meal prep?
What recipes should you use?
Should you do keto?
Should you do carb-cycling?
The bottom line with this is simple: You’re going to have to find a strategy that works for you.
Some people do well Intermittent Fasting. Others would go insane with it.
Some people do well eating 3 meals per day. Others would get hangry within 2 hours.
Some people do well eating low carbs. Others would feel groggy and have high fluctuations when it comes to their blood sugar.
Some people do well with a very high protein breakfast. Others do well with a higher carb breakfast.
Some people need to meal prep, others find it tedious (most people do really, really well with meal prep though).
With that said, there are things I’ve seen work for a majority of people.
How to Find Methods that Work for You
This is where I would start in finding a method that works for you:
1 – Eat a high protein breakfast and break the mold as to how you see breakfast. The most effective breakfast I’ve ever had in controlling my hunger is this: 6 ounces of beef, (two small 3 ounce sliders), wrapped in lacinato kale, and 15 almonds. I rarely eat this, unless I’m trying to lose fat.
Other people have salads with lemon juice and a protein source from tofu to fish or chicken for breakfast. There is no reason to not have an actual heavier meal for breakfast beyond time constraints.
Either way, starting with a high protein breakfast almost always helps control hunger for the rest of the day (eggs and Greek yogurt tend to be the easiest for most people).
2 – Limit carbs or fat. Choose one or the other to limit. It’s easier for me to limit carbs. I know this after lots of experiments, but you might have to find what works for you. I don’t need carbs to concentrate or workout hard. I do need them to sleep though and that’s why I’ll have the majority of my carbs with dinner, to ensure I can get a good night of sleep.
3 – Be Boring as Fuck with Your Food Choices. If there is one strategy that works when you’re in the midst of dieting, is to eat relatively bland foods and be consistent as you can. (see #13 on this list for more on this thought process).
4 – Every 7 to 14 days, eat higher carbs. This will help with a dip in lowering leptin levels (which will help keep your thyroid functioning correctly). On that day, eat less fat, and load up on carbs and while cutting your protein by 20 to 40 grams (and replacing that with carbs). This will help to stave off a slow down in your metabolism and to allow you to feel better in the gym. Just know that although you can eat something high in carbs that you like, most “junk food” is a combination of carbs AND fat, so keep that in mind.
5 – If you’re going to eat relatively low carbs, save your carbs for around your workout (2 hours before or after) or with dinner.
6 – If you’re constantly hungry, look to your stress levels or sleeping habits. If your stress is low and your sleep is good, you may need to switch up something in terms of the carbs/fat ratio, or it may be that you’re not eating enough protein and veggies.
7 – If you’re constantly hungry and you’re eating enough protein, look at your carbs and fat ratio. If you’re eating low carbs, but always hungry, change that up to eat more carbs and less fat. On the other hand, if you’re eating low fat and high carbs, but you’re always hungry, switch it up. There is no universal right or wrong, but what works for you.
8 – You will be hungry. You shouldn’t be ravenously hungry, but there will be times when you will be hungry. This is fine.
9 – Find a food frequency (ie, 3 meals per day, or 3 meals per day and a snack, etc) that you can handle and stick to it as best as you can.
10 – As best as you can, prep your meals beforehand. Finding ways to have food prepped consistently will be your secret weapon with sticking to your eating plan. I don’t think anything works as powerful.
11 – Don’t keep snacks in the house. Don’t have them in the house. If you want a snack, buy a small package of it and only buy it when you want it, not beforehand.
12 – Eat all of your calories. Get rid of dressings, sauces, alcohol, juices, sodas, while limiting protein shakes and kombuchas. You can keep hot sauce, diet/club soda, and mustard though.
13 – You’re Eating for Sustenance, not Taste, but if you can make it taste better, go ahead. Just know that for a Transformation Change, your goal is to eat for survival and to control hunger. If you want to experiment with more delicious foods, now is probably not the chance, but that’s on you.
With that said, your taste buds will probably start to change, and become more sensitive to healthy foods, meaning you’ll find them more appealing. You’ll rely less on overly sweet or salty foods and when you reintroduce them, they’ve lost their appeal, if just a little.
Your Steps to Continue Seeing Progress
- Take Your Weight and a picture, and measurements (around your waist – belly button can be your landmark).
- Start with the calorie counts above. That is your starting point.
- Every week, same day and time of day (for example, Sunday mornings) take your measurements again. If you haven’t seen results, you know you’re eating too many calories to lose weight, even if you’ve been tracking.
- If you haven’t seen results drop calories by another 100-200 calories. Be careful to not go under 1200 calories for women, and 1400 calories for men though. If you haven’t seen results and you’re at that limit, you’re probably underestimating your calorie counts.
- On the other hand, if you saw at least .5 pound drop, then stay there until you stop seeing results.
- If you gained weight, then drop 400 calories (or get better at counting calories – usually this is a skill that takes time and practice)
- Repeat each and every week for the 8 to 12 weeks.
I thought this series would be over by now, but it’s not. I will be giving some sample workout programs and meal plans/breakdowns, based on your weight, in future posts.
At this point, I’ve written close to 8,000 words on this topic and you still might have some questions. You might have a lot of questions. If you do and you’re serious about Transforming Your Body over the next 8 to 12 weeks, please feel free to let me know by emailing me at John@HobokenFitness.com