In this article, I am going to give you a really practical set of nutrition and training strategies that I personally use to get very lean.
FYI, as of June 2017, I placed 5th in the World as a natural (steroid-free and drug-tested) fitness competitor where my task was to get very lean for the judges. And I am a normal guy with ordinary genetics that used to be out of shape. Read my fitness back story here.
To show you that I was not “born” ripped and that I had the classic skinny-fat body, here is a photo of me in Rio De Janeiro.
You can see that I have a very ordinary body… not the kind of body that most guys are striving to achieve.
Using the strategies I am about to share with you in this article, I transformed into something like this:
I’m doing a silly side pose for the camera… 🙂 But truth be told, it is absolutely achievable and I want to help you by sharing the tools I used.
So in this article, I won’t be trying to sell you $60 meal plans, up-sell you to buy BS supplements that you don’t need, or make outlandish promises most personal trainers make (i.e. lose 60 pounds in 60 days!)
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to immediately:
- Start losing fat at a healthy rate of around 1 pound per week.
- Know how to set up your macros and calories for maximum (and healthy) fat loss.
- Build about 20–25 pounds of muscle in your first year of weight lifting (without steroids!)
- Learn how to use smartphone applications like MyFitnessPal, MyNetDiary, and FitNotes the way I do to get results faster than what you thought possible.
- Learn the most effective and efficient training strategies without wasting hours in the gym.
- Fire your personal trainer (if they aren’t helping you get results!)
If I Had To Start Over
If I had to start my fitness journey over with my current knowledge and experience; this is what I would tell myself. And it is going to be brutal advice.
- Brad, your genetics are NOT screwed up.
- Brad… patience…patience…patience!!!
- Brad, there is no such thing as a “90 day transformation.” It is a process! The end.
- Don’t buy ANY workout magazines. They are ALL bullshit. Yes! Save your money.
- Never touch fat burners or ANY supplement. You…don’t…need…them! Brad, if you care enough about supps then take a look at creatine, protein powder, and maybe carnitine.
- Ignore the advice from most shredded fitness influencers in magazines or Instagram, they are taking lots of drugs to get lean and stay lean! And they all claim they are “natural.” Their workout programs will never get you their results unless you are taking steroids like them!
- You can reach 80% of your muscular genetic potential in the first 12 months of weight lifting with 2–3 bulk/cut cycles.
- Brad, you can get shredded using IIFYM; or flexible dieting, using MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal.
- Anyone that claims they know “the secret, shortcut, or hack” to weight loss/fat loss is full of shit. There are no secrets (weight loss was figured out a long time ago) and there are no short cuts (it still requires work!)
- You don’t need to do juice cleanses, or become Vegan. Neither do you need to give up your favourite food or cut sugar out completely. Anybody that tells you that you need to remove ice cream or chocolate in order to lose weight do not understand the science of a transformation.
I bought into alot of rubbish ideas and I have empathy for anyone reading this that may have bought into the same ideas. After this article, you’ll be alot clearer and you’ll be starting off on the right foot.
Let’s get into it.
My Nutrition Strategy
I usually start with capping my calories at around 2,000 calories per day (male weight loss calorie target.)
If I’m using a smartphone app to track my calories (like MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal,) I first go into the configuration screen and set my daily target calories to 2,000. My aim is to be within 100 calories of my target everyday, even rest days.
Note: Need help configuring MyNetDiary the way I do to achieve fat loss? Check out this beginner tutorial I created for you to watch. Would you rather use MyFitnessPal? Here is a tutorial for you to watch.
I then use the 40–40–20 macro framework for distributing my 2,000 calories into the correct daily amount of protein, carb, and fat (called “macros”)
In other words;
- 40% of 2,000 calories for protein
- 40% of 2,000 calories for carb
- 20% of 2,000 calories for fat
Here is a simple calculator you can use to calculate your own calorie target and macro requirements.
Again, if I’m using MyFitnessPal or MyNetDiary to track my calories and macros, I’ll enter these four numbers into the configuration pages.
Alternatively, which is actually what I prefer, is using a meal planning spreadsheet.
You can download the meal plans I used to get into the best shape of my life, and modify them to suit your eating preferences. Check them out here.
If you are wondering what types of food you need to be eating. It is very straightforward. The way I do it is I get 80% of my 2,000 calories from nutrient dense food and 20% from my favourite indulgences (ice cream, chocolate, etc)
This strategy is called IIFYM or “If It Fits Your Macros” and it is a strategy used by alot of bodybuilders and fitness models. I wrote a very popular article for beginners wanting to learn how to get shredded by eating their favourite foods (including indulges.) Click here to read that article.
Essentially, there is no need to cut out sugar, turn to Paleo, remove complete food groups, and other quackery. The reason why you can lose weight while eating refined sugar, donuts, and cookies is because food types are not the defining factor for weight loss — energy balance is!
Don’t believe me? Listen to my podcast here where I discuss how a nutrition professor lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks by eating Twinkies, Oreos, sugary cereals and other junk food.
My Training Strategy
I commit myself to lift weights 4 to 5 times per week. I used to hate waking up at 5.30 am to lift weights as I found that I didn’t have the energy. So I was an “evening lifter.”
Over the years, that has changed. I have adapted to early morning lifting sessions so for me, whether I lift morning or evening, it doesn’t matter. But I aim for 5 lifting sessions per week, with 1 or 2 days of no-lifting days!
I recommend a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 lifting sessions per week. I also usually have 1 day of complete rest. No weight training and no cardio! Rest!!!
My Weight Training Formula
The way I have structured my weight training sessions is what has built my physique to where it is today. Remembering that I am not taking steroids, nor have I ever! I’m proud of that…
This is important to understand as there are many bodybuilding programs which are on the market, designed by guys on steroids, that will leave people like you and I over-trained. This means your potential gains will be stunted due to too much training volume and your body’s inability to synthesise (build) muscle.
My weight training program is designed against a push-pull-legs framework. I’ve written a popular article on how beginners can use push-pull-legs to build a great body. Check it out here.
In summary, this is my typical weight training formula;
- 1 hour weight training workouts per session.
- Either chest/triceps, back/biceps, shoulders & abs, legs (see push-pull-legs article for more)
- I do dynamic warm-ups before training a major muscle group (chest, back, legs, shoulders.)
- I’ll usually do no more than 9–12 sets per muscle group to avoid over-training.
For example. On a Chest & Triceps day:
- 3 sets flat bench press (chest)
- 3 sets incline bench press (upper chest)
- 3 sets dips (chest)
- 3 sets tricep pushdowns (triceps)
- 3 sets overhead dumbbell tricep extensions (triceps)
- 3 sets skull crushers (triceps)
I’ll usually do 5 to 7 reps per set and increase the weight by 2.5 kg (or less if this is too much) once I hit 8 reps. By increasing the weight, my rep capability will naturally drop to 5 and I will work my ass off to try and hit 8 reps again. Once I do, weight increases again. Rinse and repeat! This is called progressive overload and is the primary driver of muscle growth! Not BS supplements. No magic tricks or hacks. This is hard science that has been known in the sports science field for decades.
- I’ll rest 2–3 minutes between sets. I’ll usually time it on my stopwatch or wall clock.
- Every weight training session starts with 3 sets of either: Barbell squats (legs day,) bench press (chest,) deadlifting (back,) seated/standing military press (shoulders)
- There are many different exercises you can do, but nothing beats the effectiveness of the above exercises for building a well proportioned body.
What About Cardio?
I used to abuse cardio and wonder why I was a skinny fat guy! Hours of cardio 3–4 times per week which burned off my fat and my muscle.
As a fitness competitor, I only use cardio sparingly and so should you! To give you an idea of how us fitness competitors program our cardio, we’ll dial up or dial down cardio depending on how much fat we need to lose for the stage.
As competitors, cardio is more a fine-tuning tool rather than a dominant aspect of our fat loss efforts. We focus mostly on calorie control, macros, weight lifting, and cardio comes in at a distant last!! Some competitors don’t even do any cardio to get shredded for the stage!
For most of the general population, it is usually reversed! Most people smash cardio, never touch weight training and have no regard to calorie control or macro management. If you follow this approach you’ll be like everyone else….!
My Cardio Guidelines
- Don’t do cardio immediately before a weight training session. Research claims that you’ll reduce your training volume potential by up to 19%. This means less potential muscle growth!
- I personally do weight training in the morning and cardio in the evening. In the past, I used to do cardio in the morning and weight training in the evening. Both approaches are fine.
- On the rare occasion, I am not able to do split sessions like this so I’ll do weight training first followed by cardio.
- Choice A: Low intensity cardio (up to moderate paced walking) for no more than 20–30 minutes per session, 2–4 times per week.
- Choice B: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for 10–15 minutes per session, 2–4 times per week.
- I usually pick either A or B from above and either select boxing or skip rope. You can select the rowing machine, treadmill, or bike. These are my least favourite but I have used all of them in the past.
Here is a video of me doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) using a skip rope. This was part of my preparation for the World Titles.
My Weight Training And Cardio Summary
I’ll do around 5 weight lifting and 2–3 low intensity or HIIT cardio sessions per week.
I might start my day doing a Chest & Triceps session for 1 hour, followed by 30 minutes of kick boxing on the bag. The following day, I might do 1 hour of Legs & Abs followed immediately by a 15 minute HIIT session on the skip rope.
I also track my weight training progress using a smartphone app called FitNotes. If you want to watch a video on how I use it to make sure I am making progress with my weight training, click here to watch it.
What About Workout Supplements?
It is the reason why I wanted to discuss workout supplements last. Quite frankly, you don’t need them! There are a few supplements which can help you achieve results SLIGHTLY faster but all of them are utterly useless if your nutrition and training is not taken care of first.
Here are the following supplements which I commonly use in conjunction with my nutrition and training.
- Protein powder
- Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
- Yohimbine HCL
I can absolutely assure you that if you follow what I’ve laid out in this article. Not only will you start seeing results by the end of this week, but you’ll also save so much time and money.
Seriously… if I can achieve the results I have achieved so far, so can you! And although I don’t know you personally, I feel like you can somehow relate to my story. And now that you have the groundwork that I’ve used to achieve my results, hopefully you can extract some value from this to start seeing results in your own life.
Will you do me a favour? If you seriously start applying what you’ve learned in this article and start getting results, can you please let me know? It will mean alot to me.
Before you go. Make sure you take some time to read my helpful articles below, along with some helpful videos. They all reinforce what I’ve talked about in this article.
Articles You Should Read
- The Ultimate Beginner Guide: Push Pull Legs
- Taking Progress Photos Like A Pro
- Brad’s Pre-workout Protein Guide
- The Best Macronutrient Calculator
- Meal Prep Equipment List
- How To Lose Weight Using IIFYM
Videos You Should Watch
- Taking Perfect Progress Photos
- How To Take Body Measurements
- Beginners Guide To Meal Prep
- MyNetDiary Beginner Tutorial
Do you have any questions?
Let me know in the comments below!