The Ultimate Lean Body Blueprint: Part I

Being a big dude (chubby for most of my life) my whole life, I know how challenging it can be at times when you’re trying to get lean. With the amount of information out there, it can seem overwhelming and damn near impossible to get the lean body you desire. The issue is, most people are going about getting lean the wrong way. They try to throw themselves into a strict nutritional protocol that is super restrictive and purchase the latest and greatest workout plan that guarantees they’ll shed fat in 30 days. This workout plan is just as intense as the nutritional protocol and guess what starts to happen? You lose weight… at first. See what happens is your body adapts… it adapts to the new calorie set point and it adapts (very easily) to the intense workout plan. Then when progress comes to a screeching halt and you have stressed your system to a point where you can’t sleep, have no energy and want to have wings and beer so bad you’re dreaming about them, you fall off the wagon. You go into “fuck it” mode and binge eat and say to yourself, “I just don’t have the genetics” or “I wasn’t disciplined enough”. I’m going to get real with you: this IS NOTthe best approach to getting the lean body you want and IS NOT sustainable. I’m going to take you step by step (in a two-part blog series) on how to get lean if you’re on the “chubby” side and want to be more fit!  BUT all of the things I’m going to mention are what I generally see. EVERYONE is different. Individualized coaching is the key because although I can lay out the steps you need to take in this article, accountability to truly do it is a game changer.

Getting Started – Lifestyle Evaluation

So, you want to begin your journey to becoming a more fit and healthy you… GREAT! This is the start of you truly becoming your best self. Your health is everything… it determines your sleep, your performance at work, your energy, your mood, your sex drive, how you look physically, your confidence… I could keep going but I think you get it. But where do you start? First, we have to take a look at your lifestyle. What is your occupation? Does it require a lot of physical activity, or little to none at all? Is it stressful physically, mentally or both? Stress management is so damn important when it comes to getting leaner. If you’re constantly in a negative state of mind, your hormones will follow suit. When cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) is chronically elevated, it makes it damn near impossible to get lean. Depending on how these questions are answered, will then dictate training schedule, nutritional intake, cardio, mindset practices etc. When we have a general idea of your occupational stressors, we have to next look at your personal life. Are you surrounding yourself with people who are supporting you with the goals you have? This means the people you spend time with in person BUT ALSO the media (social media, podcasts, TV, books etc.) you consume. Sometimes you have to have a reality check. If you’re constantly being drug down by people and media about reaching your fitness goals, you might have to have crucial conversations with people or cut out the certain media that makes you feel like your goals aren’t important. This can be tough, but it’s necessary to evolve and maximize your potential as a human being. Period. If people truly want what is best for you, they will understand that your health goals are important and will support you along the way. Once we’ve addressed these things, it’s time to get our mind right.

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Mindset Is Everything

 There must be a shift in mindset when you set out to go from chubby to lean and fit. The mindset can’t be “get the weight off as fast as possible”. You will fail and fail hard. The mindset has to be “I’m going to start practicing better habits because I want to look better, feel better, perform better and BE HEALTHIER”. Consistency is the big key here. When you can make the shift in mindset to making your physical fitness a part of your everyday lifestyle versus a set amount of time to lose weight, you gain true power over your life. Your mindset is so damn important. You have to believe that you can reach your goals… when you practice positive self-talk (journaling and tracking progress is a major key), your actions tend to follow. You have to realize that if nothing changes, nothing changes. So, challenge yourself first to change your mindset and how you think about health and fitness. You have to want to do it for you, not to impress others. Not to just look good on the beach. But to truly be a better version of you. When I set out for my fitness journey, I did it for one reason: I hated myself. What I looked like. What I felt like… it was all coming from a place of hatred. As time went on, I started realizing some things about my “why”. I had a shift in mindset. That shift went from HATE to LOVE. I realized that I was living a healthy lifestyle because I loved myself enough to do so. What’s cool is that I can share that message with the people reading this. Even if you look at yourself in the mirror and don’t like what you see (like I did for years) know that you have the power to change your body composition and do it because you LOVE yourself enough to look better and most importantly feel better. Now that we have our mind right, it’s time to figure out what our training should look like.

Training (What It Should Look Like)

So now that we have our mindset shifted to consistency, positive self-talk and changing because you love yourself enough to do so, we have to find the right training program for you! The big key is that when our goal is changing body composition (getting leaner) the focus MUST be on strength training. People always get this twisted. “I want to get lean, so I need to just do cardio to tone my muscles.” *Insert facepalm emoji* You can’t tone a muscle. You can either gain lean tissue, lose lean tissue or maintain lean tissue. In our case, we want to increase protein synthesis and speed the metabolism… aka BUILD MUSCLE! Here’s the deal: if you’re a chubby guy and you’re not doing a lot (if any at all) of activity and begin doing any form of exercise, you’ll see fat loss benefits. What’s cool about resistance training is that while you’re still burning calories acutely (in the short term) during your training sessions, you’re also building muscle. When you build muscle, you burn more calories at rest. It becomes much easier to get lean and STAY LEAN for life when we take this approach versus the “beast mode” cardio or circuit training approach. These do burn more calories in the short term, but we want to be lean and healthy for life. Too much cardio-based exercise can actually have the opposite effect on your metabolism and can negatively impact your nervous system, which negatively impacts hormones making it next to impossible to get lean. Check out the blog I wrote about strength training for fat loss HERE. So, should I just skip out on cardio all together? NO!Cardio is very important for overall health and when it is programmed properly, can be a great addition to a strength training program. I’m actually in the works of creating my first training e-book that I’ll sell on my website that breaks down how cardio should be programmed in a 3-day per week strength training program. Until then I’ll make some general suggestions. Your lifestyle will typically dictate the type of program you’re doing. How many days you’re in the gym strength training and how many days you’re doing specific cardio exercise. One of the things I like to tell my clients that are starting out and want to get lean is the 15-minute rule. Dedicate 15 minutes of your day to movement. Make it non-negotiable. Five minutes of mobility practice, and ten minutes of walking every day. This is a great place to start. But what about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)? Again, HIIT is awesome and burns a lot of calories. It’s also great for your metabolism (if it’s don’t properly) because it is short and sweet. We just don’t want to overload your system with a lot of HIIT because it is what it says: HIGH INTENSITY! Too much high intensity exercise is taxing on the nervous system… which when overloaded will result in poor hormonal regulation (I’m saying this again because I’m trying to get my point across). There’re a couple ways that I like to use HIIT:

  1. HIIT Finishers: 5-8 minutes at the end of each workout during the week. Sled pushes all out, assault bike all out, KB swings all out for 20-30 seconds and followed up by a minute and thirty second to two-minute rest. I love this personally because its quick and not too taxing on the nervous system.
  2. One Single HIIT Day: This is where you’re doing HIIT on its own day for 15-20 minutes. How I’d program this is anywhere between 4-10 rounds of 10-25 seconds of all-out effort, every 2-4 minutes. Again, this can be assault bike, sled pushes, KB swings, sprints etc.

The biggest thing we need to realize is that cardio comes AFTER our strength training! Get strong on the big compound movement patterns and build some muscle to set yourself up to be lean for life. There will come a point in time when you don’t have to do much HIIT at all to stay lean and healthy because you’ve built muscle and your metabolism is running like a well-oiled machine! This concludes part one of “The Ultimate Lean Body Blueprint”! Stay tuned next week for part two where we’ll talk about nutritional strategies, building awareness through tracking, supplements the importance of sleep and recovery and MORE!

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