First, The Bad News:

If you don't ingrain these 4 things into your mind and implement them, it is going to be very difficult if not impossible to have the body of your dreams.

The Good News:

It's easier to do things the way I am describing them below than the way you are currently doing things, plus you get results you'll love!

Read until the end and there are a set of questions you can ask yourself that will allow you to check in if you share these commonalities with how lean people behave.

1.They Eat Big, BIG Meals From Time To Time

Call it a “junk day” like what Arnold Schwarzenneger and Franco Columbo used to call it when they would eat everything they wanted each week on Sundays, call it a cheat meal, refeed meal or an overfeed meal, there is nothing new about this.

While there is nothing new about the refeed meal itself, the work of Scott Abel, John Keifer (who I believe was inspired by Scott Abel) in recent years, and a few others has really brought the idea of the refeed meal more mainstream. Weight watchers even implemented a “cheat day” into their system in recent years totally making this mainstream. However the people at weight watchers don't have the necessary perspective to properly teach refeeding.

Professional eaters that are shredded do Big, BIG meal 3-4 times per month. Physique and bikini competitors have been doing it for years. There have been books with various methods of doing this for years and somehow people are still missing the boat on this one. Operating at a calorie deficit promotes greater insulin and leptin sensitivity, increases fat burning, enhances immune function and overall gives you better energy. This sets you up to be in a state of depletion to where you earn your refeed. Don't go into a deficit of too much more than 500 calories per day. I aim for 300-500 deficit each day below resting metabolic rate. I don't worry about whether its a training day or not. Then I refeed roughly once a week. There's an art and a science to this but what you are essentially doing by being in a caloric deficit each day is depleting the muscle cells of intramuscular triglycerides (IMTG), and glycogen, while simultaneously mobilizing fatty acids from fat cells and burning them which causes your fat cells to shrink.

Over time if you are always in a caloric deficit hunger will be off the charts and metabolism will down regulate if you don't refeed. Leptin is the master fat burning hormone and is also a satiety hormone. A caloric deficit will cause leptin levels to increase for a time which will make you ravenously hungry. This is a good sign that you are burning fat but because leptin in synthesized in fat cells, as you shrink your fat cells, you produce less leptin, and periodic refeed meals boost leptin levels back up.

During refeeds, the goal is, in addition to increasing leptin levels, to replenish IMTG, glycogen, minerals and water. Replenishing all of these increases the sarcoplasm in your muscle cells and makes the muscle look more full. Doing one enormous stuff-yourself-to-the-brim meal per week CANNOT hurt you if you go into this meal in a depleted enough state. People think all of the carbs are going to cause them to gain weight and anyone who feels this way does not understand how carbs are used by the body. First of all, when you stuff yourself, not all of the carbs are going to make it to the bloodstream because some of them are going into the stool, a higher percentage of carbs go to the toilet if it's a refeed meal because you are hopefully stuffing yourself.  But the ones that make it to your bloodstream first replenish muscle and liver glycogen, and then any additional carbs that are not immediately burnt for energy once glycogen stores are replenished get stored as fat. In the world of bodybuilding the slang term for this is spillover. So the key is to go into the meal in a depleted state.

 

Some people say don't over due it. But I've been coaching competitive clients for years, i'm a professional physique competitor myself, and I will tell you right now that the clients who embrace this and eat the biggest on their refeeds, get leaner, have better diet adherence and are happier people. The ones who eat like rabbits tend to be softer, have lower adherence levels to their diet and always feel deprived, coupled with not ever having the body they really want AND feeling deprived of the food they really want. THIS is an example of why you HAVE to have your cake and eat it too. There are still trainers who bock at this and will panic when their clients ask them about this, and that's because they are scared that their clients are going to lose all of their hard earned results from calorie deprivation. I say, they should be scared that the fat will come back if they don't perscribe big, BIG refeed meals. Because without refeeds, sustainability is tough. And sustainability is a prerequisite. Here's what funny about trainers who are against refeeds…fellas…do you think your clients don't do it anyway? Trust me they are, but not in an optimal way to improve body composition. And also trust me on this, diet adherence goes up when you implement refeeds. Implement these refeeds and the level of honesty and trust between you and your client will increase as well.

I will also add here that we all know someone who knows nothing about nutrition and they seem like they can stay lean in spite of how much they eat, but I want you to think about this, it could be partly genetics, but it could also be that they are staying lean not in spite of, but partly because of the big meals they eat. Many times these are perfectly timed refeeds not done strategically, but as a result of biofeedback. See #3.

 

2.They Focus On Weights Over Cardio

We can debate all day about whether steady state cardio is good for fat loss, whether is burns muscle for energy and in turn, decreases resting metabolic rate. But what can't be debated is that even if it doesn't hurt your metabolism, it sure does nothing to BUILD your resting metabolic rate. And we know for a FACT that lifting weights does. We live in a world where it seems like there is never enough time or energy to go around and because of this, your first priority should be to lift weights.

 

The increased lean mass will increase your resting metabolic rate, improve insulin sensitivity and it will also burn a ton of calories in the 2-3 days following training because of something called post exercise lipid utilization. If you get your weight workouts done and you want to do 30-45 minutes of steady cardio afterward, yes afterward go for it, but sip on some branch chain amino acids to protect your lean muscle tissue. Don't do more than 60 mins of cardio even if you are sipping on amino acids. But if you are one of my clients, i'll tell you lift weights with intensity, leave the gym, go live your life, follow your meal plan and save yourself several hours a week. It's one of those counter intuitive things I know, just like bigger refeeds getting you leaner. With the right weight training and diet strategy, those that do less cardio get leaner. I can feel that some people will get hot when they read this but I'm more than happy to provide studies to back all of this up (see “The First Thing You Should Ever Read On Fat Loss“) But instead of making this confusing, even without the studies, when you've competed for as long as I have and coached as many clients as I have you develop a great radar for b.s. Cardio is the road to skinny fat. Yes, I said it. I've been saying it for years and when I first started to talk about it people wanted to crucify me. But now it's getting talked about more and more and in some circles, I know I had something to do with that. Many friends of mine who are experts and coaches will back me up on this and have said “Ya David was one of the first people saying this.” Get off the treadmill. Lift weights to get the lean sculpted body you've always dreamed of.

3.They Listen to Bio Feedback

Bio Feedback means listening to your body. Some people are naturally talented at doing this, others are not, then there's those who are great at biofeedback who also have knowledge and that's a pretty deadly combination. Confession-I attained my pro card and never weighed my macros for a show. Don't try this at home. I have a suspicion that I was always good at this. I also have a suspicion that my battle with cancer made me even better at this. I'd like to say that the chemotherapy gave me some superpowers, but my sense of smell that increased is probably all I got from it. I'm 33 as i'm writing this, and my fitness journey really started the year I became cancer free so i'm 18 years into this journey. Don't think that you have to study this stuff for 18 years before you get good at Bio feedback. I can teach a person in a year to become really great at this. It starts with getting them lean, and having conversations with them as they lean out. Some coaches exclusively email out macros, but my programs also come with mandatory coaching calls because I want people to understand in conversations what's happening with their body. During the process of clients learning from their transformation what is going on with their bodies I am pretty impressed with some of the things that my clients will learn about themselves. Bio feedback starts with awareness, then discussion, then knowledge, then more awareness, more discussion, more knowledge. One of my favorite things to say to a client is “This is a discussion I don't get too have with too many clients” and that means that they are getting to be more of an advanced client. The more advanced they become they more I get to say that. Getting to that level with a client is a lot of fun. 

If you don't think you are great at biofeedback I want to help you change your mind a little bit.

Ever notice that after a workout you have a sugar craving? Following a resistance training workout your body upregulates the production of an enzyme called glycogen synthase which helps your body “synthesize” (make) glycogen. There's no right or wrong on post workout sugar, I can argue for or against it, although its easier to argue for it. But if the craving is strong this might mean that you should put some dextrose, which is a sugar into your protein shake to replenish some glycogen.

Ever notice on your refeed days that you sometimes want carbs only, and other times you want fats as well? This might mean that you find yourself ordering a 1 topping pizza instead of a meat lovers because for some reason all that meat is not what you feel like eating. Following a week of a low carb diet, where fats are high, you will probably want things like cookies, cake, breadsticks, pasta and while the meat lovers pizza might still taste good, it won't go down as easy and you won't be feel like eating as much of it. This could very well be that your IMTG are not depleted but glycogen is. I will have clients refeed with no rules, other than don't cheat themselves on carbs, but I will tell them that as they are eating this stuff to think about why they are loving it so much. There are times I choked down fatty meals such as meat lovers pizza on a refeed day when I really should have stuck with more carbs, and the result was that I felt like shit most of the day.

Ever been really thirsty and felt like crap and checked in with yourself and realized you haven't drank water all day? Drink some water! A lot of it! Ever noticed that on a day where you eat a tons of carbs you get really thirsty? Each gram of glucose from the carbs that gets converted to glycogen uptakes 2.7 grams of water with it to replenish glycogen stores. During glycogen synthesis your body will pull water from organs and from extracellular water (you know..that water between your ab muscle and the skin on your stomach that you hate sometimes). There's a lot of things that happen if you don't drink water with your carbs, you could look leaner for a short period of time because you have less extracellular water, you could get anxiety, you could get constipated. Whether you're a physique competitor or not, you've probably experienced these things on some level. Bio feedback is often explainable, but not always.

 

Look, these are simple examples of bio feedback, but the people you know who are always lean get really good at listening to it, and while the above examples are diet related, the same goes for listening to your body when it comes to training. But it all starts with being conscious and asking yourself “How do i feel right now?” then “Why do i feel this way?” It actually gets really fun, the better you get at it.

4.They Don't Look At Being Lean As Mystical

In a world of a new detox diet or supplement every day I am seeing some crazy stuff happening out there in the fitness industry. I'm seeing people with stomach and digestive issues take 5 different things to help stop constipation, on top of the 15 supplements they are already taking and clogging themselves up worse. That's not even science talk. That's just mechanically blocking themselves from being able to have a bowel movement . They are always researching the latest supplement, finding the perfect diet, the perfect workout, the latest podcast, and what they are missing to finally transform their body is that they never went through  period where they have had a coach and took 12 weeks to make their transformation the only think they are thinking about.

 

People that are always lean either got really serious about fitness for a small time period, or maybe they even did a fitness competition. Or maybe they were always lean. It really doesn't matter. While fitness is a lifestyle for them, they can almost always tell you to the day when they did their first protocol to put the finishing touches on and get shredded. To them, they've done it. It's no longer mystical. And if you've never been as lean and fit as you want to be you have to remove the mysticism from all of this one time in your life and it will never be mystical again. This is a self image thing, and you can't outwork your self image, it always wins. Going through the process of getting super shredded or lean is something that will play tricks on your mind if you are not careful. That's why the top IFBB pro's have coaches, so if it is tough on the mind of some of the top competitors in the world who are very smart and great with bio feedback, why are you thinking your mind won't play tricks on you? It's just too easy to justify extra meals, cheat meals, nibbling here and there or just quitting your diet completely if you don't know exactly what to expect with an end date and goal in mind. But regardless you have to remove the mysticism and you can click on this link where I go more into the psychology of “Removing The Mysticism From Physique Transformation.”

Questions to ask yourself:

1.When is the last time you really stuffed yourself? Not had some fruit or a couple pieces of pizza, but stuffed yourself really full. If the answer is more than a couple weeks you probably aren't refeeding optimally even if you think you are. 1 on 1 coaching is the best way to master this, as there is some responsibility that comes with it. If you are at all insensitive to insulin this must be taken into account, but that goes outside the scope of this article.

2. Are you lifting weights with the goals of building muscle tissue? If the answer is “I want to tone, not build” this is a dangerous mentality and from what I've seen means that your intensity in the weightroom is not there, and if you want to change your body, you'll have to change your program and your mindset.

3. Are you confused about conflicting information you read out there in the world? The better you get at understanding bio feedback and the “why” behind it, they better you are at seeing bullshit a mile away from all of these experts who are marketing experts, not fitness experts.

4. Do you constantly question yourself and the material that you read while you are trying to get lean? If so you're allowing mysticism to come into the picture and you need to be able to see a clear path. If you are constantly questionin how this process really works and whether your methods are correct.

 

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