- Lifestyle Lean is a look that says “Yea I workout and look good naked, but I can also party”
- Dropping calories really low and tons of cardio aren’t needed to lose weight
- Relying on willpower is for fools, improve your habits, environment and systems if you want to succeed
As I write this I just did my first professional photo shoot for the site.
Instead of pics I pulled off Facebook of me doing a Tough Mudder, I actually hired someone to take some pics of me.
Now I know not everyone desires to do a fitness photoshoot, which is completely fine. To be perfectly honest I never did either.
But the process and principles I’m going to outline is applicable to anyone that wants to achieve the look I did which I like to call Lifestyle Lean.
Most of my online clients want to be lean, strong, have good annual checkups and to be able to enjoy the finer things in life like alcohol and sweets.
This is Lifestyle Lean.
This process I’m going to outline hits on all of that. So without further ado here’s how I got lifestyle lean and have your own transformation like this:
I had been “dieting” to get ready for a summer of doing nothing (thanks Covid)…well let’s be honest, I was growing a rather dashing moustache too which should not be undersold.
I put dieting in quotes because I wasn’t giving it my all. I was barely half assing it.
I was snacking a lot.
I wasn’t moving a lot in the course of the day.
My calorie and macros tracking was off by 300 calories at best.
Really I was just saying I was dieting to make me feel like I was doing something productive.
Looking to get better as a coach and to push myself to a new level, I hired Jeremiah Bair because 1) I knew he was an amazing coach, 2) he has a love of Taylor Swift like I do.
On our initial call he suggested a photoshoot to jazz up the site. This was important because it gave me a deadline and a light at the end of the tunnel which helps motivation a ton.
We started off with my current calories and macros I had been using because it seemed good for a guy my size.
So this is what my calories and macros looked like
We went with a 6:1 schedule for eating for compliance. Having one day to look forward to is a great adherence tool and something I implement a lot with my online coaching clients. There isn’t much benefit when it comes to fat loss but the mental aspect absolutely cannot be ignored. Those days were like holidays each week.
I averaged about 2155 calories per day which is about 12 calories per pound. Usually 10-12 is a good estimation to base calories when dieting, always starting at the higher end to allow for adjustments if needed. Starting lower might seem like you’ll make faster progress, which initially it might. The downside is you’ll plateau and you’ll have to either drop calories to an amount that makes it really hard to hit consistently or you’ll have to be more active.
Protein was set a little more than 1g/lb to help with satiation and preserve muscle. Carbs were moderate so I could recover from workouts, and have energy. Fat was low because outside of helping hormone production they aren’t really used for much.
Goal #1 was to tighten MFP up.
That meant tracking all the snacking, sauces, and little bites. It also meant using my food scale for everything.
So instead of using generic terms like “1 large apple” weigh it out and put that into MFP. Because how big is 1 large apple? Fuck if I know.
Generic terms leave lots of room for error and hidden calories.
So rather than using cups, different sizes or whatever else, I used my food scale.
And that folks is the biggest change I made for the first 9 weeks. I shit you not from Week 1-9 calories and cardio stayed the same with the exception of my one diet break in week 6 (which I’ll get to).
In Week 10 we dropped carbs slightly, and in turn calories, slightly because weight loss was slowing down.
And we rode that wave of progress into the shoot in Week 16.
So in 16 weeks there were 2 different nutritional adjustments.
Like I mentioned, the two biggest things I did were get more accurate with my tracking and stop snacking.
Getting lean doesn’t mean you have to drastically cut calories or do a ton of cardio (besides hitting 10k steps daily, I didn’t do any cardio), it could be as simple as cleaning up your tracking.
Don’t overlook simplicity.
During the whole process we were measuring biofeedback, basically how my body reacts and feels.
So everyday I was tracking Hours of Sleep, Hunger, Training Performance, and Recovery Ability. I do the same with my clients.
When you diet the goal is to stay in a calorie deficit.
Well over time this takes a toll on your body since dieting is a stress, your body doesn’t want to lose weight, it wants to stay the same. Training performance goes down, stress and hunger go up and recovery becomes tougher. When you notice these things it’s time for a diet break.
For me the first thing I noticed was I had an extremely short temper. I vividly remember getting so mad at my foam roller during hack squats that I threw it across the garage because it wasn’t perfectly straight as I went down.
The littlest things would set me off and I’m usually a calm guy. I would also have crazy cravings and felt tired all the time.
Week 5 and 15 were the worst. So on Week 6 we took a diet break and increased calories to maintenance.
This was more of a mental break than anything and holy hell was it needed.
Calories were brought up through added carbs.
I was able to relax and recalibrate which made the next 9 weeks a whole lot easier.
Now this isn’t a Girls Gone Wild eat whatever the fuck you want week. It’s a calculated cheat week. A time to incorporate some of the foods you can’t fit in normally. A week to loosen the reigns a little to help you refocus on the next block of time.
This week is also good practice for after the diet when you go back to maintenance because let’s be honest no one wants to diet forever.
DEALING WITH THE HUNGER AND SNACKING
The first two weeks my hunger was through the roof. The only thing I could think about was food and when my next meal was. I talked to Jeremiah about it and he suggested a big ass salad right before the hunger takes over my life.
We feel full on how much space is taken up in our stomachs, not from calories. So to combat this eating high volume, low calorie foods are a godsend and I don’t use that term lightly.
So I started implementing big ass salads with some lean protein. I would grab a week’s worth of prepackaged lettuce and have one bag at lunch.
To put that in size context, the bowl I would use is on the left and a normal sized cereal bowl is on the right. This was my lunch for the rest of the prep.
For the rest of my food I prioritized high volume/ low calorie foods. I’ll get into my exact diet in a bit.
Another thing I was trying to combat is a ferocious snacking habit.
Whenever i was in the kitchen or even walking through I would have to grab little bites or just a handful. Over the course of the day this added up to hundreds of extra calories and why I wasn’t able to lose weight before hiring Jeremiah. Most of the time I grabbed things when I wasn’t hungry.
Most of the time when this happens it’s an oral fixation thing (go ahead add your sucking dick jokes, I had a few I edited out). So gum became a good friend.
I would keep gum in my office so whenever I was going downstair I’d pop a piece and head to the kitchen.
This took the edge off just enough in the beginning to where grabbing something wasn’t automatic. After a few weeks I didn’t need the gum anymore and to this day snacking has been a non-issue.
We also looked at the time of day when the snacking was happening. Most of my snacking happened in the early afternoon time frame, usually between 1-3pm. It was usually a time of low energy so my body’s response was let’s eat. So I started having caffeine around this time either from a Diet Mountain Dew or Greek coffee.
Again, simple solutions.
When it comes to stopping bad habits, relying on will power is a fool’s game. Rig the game so it makes it easy for you to win. Pay attention to time of day, what’s going on around you, the room, or anything else that could be triggering the habit. Then find ways to mitigate that.
The workouts were similar to how I program my online coaching clients workouts (which was also a reason I picked Jeremiah, I knew we programmed workouts similarly).
The focus was to keep strength with heavy compound movements and work to my RIR. This way I could keep the muscle I had built and when we transitioned out of the photoshoot prep I had a good base of strength to start building more muscle.
For cardio, he set a goal of 10k steps per day. For me, that ment 1-2 walks around my neighborhood and normal walking around my house. To this day I haven’t touched a treadmill, elliptical, bike or done anything faster than a brisk walk.
Workouts would follow this setup:
Warmup – Warm muscles perform better and have less injuries.
Explosive Movements – jumps, sprints, plyometrics type exercises. Technique and nervous system response is key here. Keeps sets and reps low.
Heavy Strength Exercises – heavy deadlifts, bench and squats. To get the most out of these your muscles and nervous systems needs to be warmed up and primed.
Multi Joint Hypertrophy Exercises – barbell bent over rows, pullups and things like that. Basically, non isolation exercises. Keep these in the 3-4 sets of 8-12 rep range
Isolation Hypertrophy Exercises – biceps curls and cable flyes, and lat raises. These go a little higher in the 3-4 sets of 12-15 rep range.
Cardio/finishers – Pick your poison as far as HIIT or steady state. HIIT I top out at 5-10 mins and steady state about 20 mins. In our case this was omitted for a step target and to not burn me out.
This way your body warms up then you’re able to be your strongest for the big movements and once the muscles start to fatigue you hit’em with some higher rep work and bring it home with some cardio.
Then each 5 week phase we would add more volume to the beginning exercises usually in the form of Down sets.
Down sets would look like this:
Drop the weight from your strength movement and hit RIR target. Simple and effective.
This allows you to stimulate the muscle for strength (the initial set) but also increase volume by dropping weight for the Down Set(s).
During the process there were a few ways we tracked progress.
First, weight. A good average weight loss is ~1% of total bodyweight per week if you’re dieting. So if you’re north of 200 a 1-2lb per week drop is really good progress.
Now sometimes weight seems to stall out for a week, which doesn’t mean you’ve plateaued. If your average weight for the week is within the same pound for 2-3 weeks then you might have a plateau but until that time a 1-2 weeks stall is completely normal.
If your weight does stall ask yourself if you were honest with your tracking or were you taking some liberties? Were your steps way down? Did you have a higher sodium or carb heavy meals this week that would make you retain more water? Are you pushing super hard in the gym where your body is getting inflamed and holding onto more water? Are you sleeping like shit? Are you more stressed than normal? All legit questions that could contribute to a stagnant weight.
Fat gain or a plateau is usually the go-to when weight loss stalls or goes up for a day but in almost all cases it’s water that does this. If this goes on for 2-3 weeks, then it might be time to make an adjustment, but not before then.
Second biofeedback. I talked about this a little bit earlier but tracking things like Hunger, Training Performance and Recovery Ability are good things to track when dieting. They give a good indicator of how your body is dealing with the lack of calories. If hunger is manageable then shoots up or training performance and recovery ability tank is usually a good indicator your body is at it’s limit and it might be time to implement a diet break.
Third measurements. Every week on Monday morning I would take measurements. Seeing inches drop off my waist was incredibly satisfying
For me, my weight never went below 174 so taking measurements was a good way to see if I was still losing inches.
Finally, every 4 weeks we took pics. Since my weight didn’t drop all that much, having a comparison and seeing the visual progress, which to be honest what I was after, was good to see and keep me on track.
MY EXACT NON-OPTIMAL DIET
For the entirety of my photoshoot prep my diet roughly looked like this:
7:30am: 80g of oatmeal with 2 scoops of protein powder
9:30am: 3 eggs sunny side up with a George’s Pita
Noon: 6-8oz of chicken breast with a whole bag of lettuce (~11oz)
3pm: ~100g of banana, 32g of peanut butter, and two pieces of wheat toast
6pm: 4-6oz of ground meat (turkey, beef or chicken) 8-10oz of veggies
On Saturdays things would change slightly due to me getting takeout for dinner. Not sexy, or glamourous but it worked for me.
If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t worry about what other people find “optimal”. It doesn’t mean shit. Everyone has their own optimal and this is mine.
For instance, optimal would be eating before and after a workout and having protein at each meal. I had zero desire to eat at 5am for my 6am workout. Usually I feel like shit when I do.
My 3pm meal is low protein, but I honestly could care less because I really enjoy my peanut butter and banana sandwich. It helped me curb cravings and gave me a treat to look forward to.
The basic principles I followed were:
- Get protein at almost every meal
- Fill up on high volume low calorie fiber rich foods to curb hunger (and make me want to kill someone)
- Find a way to fit in something I enjoy (peanut butter banana sandwich)
And that’s the secret.
If you’re looking to get Lifestyle Lean with a customized workout and nutrition plan, apply for online coaching.