Updated: Jan 9
I want to deadlift 500lbs and I want to gain 8lbs. I know, you hate me for wanting to gain weight, but those are my fitness goals for 2022. I suspect if I can do those two things, I’m going to be pretty satisfied with the way I look and the way I feel.
I know what it takes to get there. I have to eat consistently. I have to keep my joints healthy. I have to recover well. I need accountability and discipline, just like you do.
The truth is, getting in the best shape of your life —improving your health, how you look, and how you feel—is HARD. It takes focused effort every single day. Even the lucky ones, the ones who seem to look their best every single day, have a very disciplined approach. It just might come more naturally, whether that’s because of genetics or a lifelong lifestyle. Just don’t believe that the people who look and perform their best are any more capable than you.
The truth is that if you want to be in the best shape of your life, you absolutely have to have consistency in four areas of your life. Some of these are simple, some are challenging. All are non-negotiable. If you start trying to negotiate, you will fail. You will end up back at square one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Know how many calories you have to eat and hit your macros.
Physically (and probably mentally as well), you are a result of what you eat and how you move. There is no avoiding this truth. I tend to think your nutrition comes first on that list because it affects your energy levels and ability to perform at a high enough level to make progress on your fitness.
Let’s start with this: there are no magical foods or gimmicks that will save you. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re 5’4, 190lbs, eat 3,000 calories a day, and add blueberries, you are still going to be unhappy with how you look. Don’t read simplified, flashy headlines and think you’ve found the key. I’m sorry that I have to be blunt.
I use a few general rules to start with setting up caloric goals.
Weight loss: Current body weight x11
Weight maintenance: Current body weight x14
Weight gain: Current body weight x17
These are general. If you’re following this and not losing weight, adjust your calories by 100 and reassess. If you are losing weight, but want to lose 10lbs total, remember to recalculate the number when you lose the first 5.
Once you understand your general caloric needs, it’s time to consider your macronutrient intake. I’ve seen some amazing results with low-carb diets, but for most of the population, something that is less restrictive and will also accomplish your goals is probably the way to go. I recommend the 50/25/25 method: 50% of your calories come from carbohydrates, while 25% come from fat and 25% come from protein.
The great news is that you can figure out great combinations of foods that add up to roughly those macros, or even complimentary lunches and dinners that add up at the end of the day. Some examples include:
Two eggs, a fruit cup, and potatoes
Greek yogurt and granola
A roast beef sandwich with veggies
Two slices of pizza for lunch along with a dinner such as grilled chicken with roasted veggies and rice. You might even have room for ice cream after. But you won’t know until you know how many calories you’re eating and what your macro breakdown looks like.
I highly recommend the use of an app like MyFitnessPal to get started and learn more. This takes a little effort to set up your favorite meals, but once you understand the make up of your most commonly eaten foods, you won’t need to stress about it anymore. Knowing what to eat and when to eat it will be automatic. You’ll just need the discipline to stay consistent with the foods you like best.
Move fast and move slow.
Take. A. Walk. According to the Harvard Medical School, a brisk walk everyday has a number of benefits: lowering your risk of obesity by 50%, lubricating and strengthening your joints to protect against pain, and boosting your immune function.
Talk about a simple way to look and feel your best. Grab a friend, family member, or your dog and get out to walk as often as you can.
On top of walking, you should sprint. Now, that can mean a lot of different things. You don’t necessarily have to find your local field and start doing 40 yard dashes.
If that means running at a pace slightly above normal for short (10-30 second) durations, that’s great. If you’re healthy, work up to running with all you’ve got for 20-50 yards at a time.
If you have joint issues or are a little bit older or inexperienced, maybe “sprinting” means slamming a medicine ball or some training ropes in 30 second intervals.
Ultimately, sprinting improves your cardiovascular system, burns calories, improves strength and positively affects blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It can also be done in short bursts (5-10 minutes, including rest time), so it saves time for other important parts of your life in the process. All extremely important for being in the best shape of your life.
Get stronger in compound strength movements.
Efficiency is a key to life and compound strength training is the most efficient you can get with your workouts. A compound exercise is a multi-joint exercise that trains multiple muscles at the same time. These include:
“But strength training is hard and intimidating! Do I have to?” Well, yes. Building muscle increases your metabolic rate, which allows you to burn more calories while training, sitting at your desk, or even just sleeping. Studies also show that your metabolic rate is increased up to 72 hours after strength training. This means that you’re burning additional calories hours and days after you’ve stopped working out.
When thinking of a strength training routine, first you’ll need to master the technique. Safety and technique should always come first with strength training, so you may need to hire a trainer or watch many YouTube tutorials.
Then, you’ll want to make steady progress. You might start squatting with a 15lb weight for 10 reps. You’ll want to progress to 20lbs for 8 reps, then 10 reps. Weeks or months later you might make it to 50lbs for 5 reps, then 6 reps after that, and so on. If you are squatting 15lbs for 10 reps for 10 workouts in a row, you aren’t making strength progress or progress on changing your body. Always make progress.
I sometimes hear people mention they want “long, thin muscles like someone who does yoga, not big, bulky muscles like a weight lifter.” This is a loaded statement. You can make a muscle bigger or smaller. You can lose fat or gain fat. How you look is dependent on your strength routine and your caloric intake. It is very difficult to get massive muscles, so unless you decide to dedicate your life to getting huge, you won’t. If you are focused on consistent progress, you will simply look better and you’ll be very happy.
Get 8 hours of sleep every single night
I am not a sleep expert. Personally, I know that I sleep better when I can keep a clear mind, when I’m not on my phone for an hour before bed, when my room is cool and dark, and when I’ve done enough during the day to have me tired at night.
I also know that I perform at my best when I get a consistent 8 hours of sleep. I know this about my clients, too. Science backs this up.
Studies show a lot of things about sleep, like the benefits for your heart, your memory, and your immune system. All things that will keep you performing your best, and achieving the look and feel you want.
Importantly, a lack of sleep can increase production of ghrelin, a hormone that boosts your appetite. It also decreases the production of leptin, a hormone that signals that you’re full. This combination consistently can lead to slow and steady fat gain over time.
Sleep also improves productivity, energy levels, and exercise performance. When’s the last time you felt lethargic and had a great workout?
Putting it all together
What you really need is a plan, and here it is:
Figure out your daily caloric intake using the formula’s above.
Start tracking your food for a minimum of three-five days to see where you may be overeating and to become aware of your macronutrient intake.
Take a walk every single day. Walk as often as possible.
Move fast, for a short period of time, two-three times per week.
Do three compound strength exercises three days per week. You’ll need to do multiple sets of each (Think 3-5.) A great way to do this is to come up with two workout plans and alternate them. That might look like this:
A: Squat, push-ups, rows
B: Deadlift, overhead press, pull-ups
(Exercise selection can vary depending on your health, injury history, and available equipment. If you need help, just ask! EvolveTrainingNJ@gmail.com )
Focus on sleeping 8 hours each night. This might require some math ahead of your bedtime, but it’s non-negotiable!
If you’ve had issues over the years taking control of the way you look and feel, focus on one part of the plan each week. Get comfortable with it, make it a part of your routine, then move on to the next part. If you’ve never been able to achieve your fitness goals, taking 5-6 weeks to create your system is a small amount of time to make massive, lifelong changes!
Comment below if any of these strategies have worked for you in the past, or if you intend to implement one of these starting today!