Last week, I got hit with a Facebook memory that made me stop in puzzlement.
Here it is.
This is me, 8 years ago, at the Final Four in Houston, Texas.
I remember this version of myself. At least I thought I did.
I was big and strong. I could deadlift 600+ pounds, and bench 395.
I took up a lot of space, and had 19" arms.
I've always thought of my current self as a shell of this younger, bigger, and stronger version. I always viewed these days as my peak.
Clearly, I've been hopelessly romantic.
Let's be honest. I was chubby. My wife told me not to refer to myself as fat, since I wasn't THAT fat, and it may piss some people off.
She's right, but let's call a spade a spade. I was in terrible condition.
And the craziest part is, I had no idea. In fact, I didn't realize I was that chubby until I got slapped in the face with that Facebook memory.
So, How Did I Get Chubby?
I was a skinny kid, hell bent on reversing that.
Getting bigger and stronger was my mission. And I was very successful.
I went from a 165 lbs bone rack to 230 lbs of lean muscle.
But that wasn't enough. I wanted more.
I pushed my body weight up to 240 lbs, and my strength continued to climb. I wasn't as lean as I once was, but I was in decent shape.
Drunk off big weights and sheer size, I pushed it further, until we arrive at the photo above. A sloppy, unhealthy 255 lbs.
Yeah, I was strong. Strong as hell. But it was at the expense of my physical condition. And let me tell you, that IS NOT a good trade.
How Did I Reverse the Damage?
When I stumbled upon that photo, I posted it to my Twitter and IG as a #ThrowBack, and I've since had a few people ask me how I got myself back into shape.
For reference, here's a more current version of myself:
The answer to those questions is, I don't know, I haven't thought about it. I didn't realize I was in such terrible shape, so I wasn't aware I had revered so much damage.
So I gave it some thought, and came up with some thoughts in hind sight.
Fire Fighting Academy
The photo of chubby Mitch was taken a week before I started fire fighting academy. And let me tell you, there was no room for excessive body weight there.
My training up to that point had consisted mainly of heavy weights for very few reps. I would take a deep breath, move some massive weight around a few times, and put it back down.
Fire academy forced me to do more physically demanding work. Work that required me to sustain effort for longer periods of time, breathe heavy, and basically commanded I be in better physical condition.
The takeaway: Do more physically demanding work. Lift weights, but don't limit yourself to short, heavy sets. Extend the time you spend doing hard work. Things like supersets, higher reps, and classic bodybuilding techniques will exhaust your muscles (and their glycogen stores).
These are all good things.
Clean Bill of Health
Before fire academy, I had high blood pressure and a fast heart rate. I chalked it up to genetics (lol).
But when I returned, I was a lean, muscular, 210 lbs. Smaller than I like to be, but the numbers didn't lie. My blood pressure was normalized, and my heart rate was low.
This made me rethink my Sheer-size-over-everything approach. I realized that, while building muscle and strength is crucial, it should never come at the expense of a lean, healthy body.
The takeaway: you'll always do what you value most. If you value a lean, healthy body, you'll shift your life to match that value. For me, the way I ate and trained transformed completely, in order to line up with my new values.
I'm the Example
I train people to be lean, strong, healthy, and athletic. I've been doing it for 14 years, and thanks to a genuine curiosity and passion for training, I've become quite good at it (this is not a toot of my own horn, this is 100% luck of the draw).
Because of that, I feel a personal responsibility to be the example. There's no room for excessive body fat for the sake of a few extra pounds on the barbell.
Of course, building strength and lean muscle is a crucial aspect of the process. But it should never come at the expense of my (and your) physical condition and health. That is always priority #1.
And if I'm going to take you from where you are now to a leaner, stronger, healthier version, I need to be right there with you.
So without even realizing it, my training clients keep me focused and in check.
The takeaway: Whether you've realized this or not, you're also an example to someone. You may not know who, but trust me, you are. Be whatever you want that example to be.
So, that's it my friend.
A Facebook memory, turned introspection, turned a renewed dedication to my physical condition and example.
I hope you found some useful pieces in here, and as always, if you have questions, never hesitate to shoot me an email.
So much has happened since we've last talked. One of which was a Gillette commercial that took the internet by storm.
If you haven't seen it yet, you aren't missing much.
Picture scene after scene of kids getting bullied, men objectifying women, slobs sitting on the couch (objectifying women), and dumb-looking guys repeating the same script like mindless drones.
Basically, super flattering to men.
If you know me, even a little bit, you know I think this is trash. For many reasons.
The main one being, I'm not a fan of blaming an entire group for the actions of some. And this ad (and the whole toxic masculinity crusade in general) conflates individual douchebag behaviors with an entire gender.
Miss me with that.
I mean, picture a women's razor blade commercial flipping through scenes of women lying to their husbands about the kid being his so he raises it his whole life, gossiping endlessly at the nail salon, or falsely accusing a man of sexual assault just to ruin his life.
Then at the end it says, "C'mon ladies. Pull it together. We believe you can be better."
That would be BANANAS. First, because although we can acknowledge that some people do do these things, the vast majority of people don't.
Second, thanks for the moral pep talk, razor company. But we already know right from wrong.
Third, anyone who acts this way isn't going to change their ways because of a terribly written internet commercial.
Women, as a whole, don't need or deserve that. And neither do men.
Now, there was one scene in that commercial that didn't seem to belong. At least not to me.
It was a backyard BBQ, and dad was grilling while a few other men stood around him.
Off to the side, a play fight cracks off between two 7 year old kids. It didn't look too serious, although they were pretty into it.
Well, the message that Gillette was sending here was a "real man" breaks that fight up. A toxic male lets them scrap.
And that didn't sit right with me.
LET ME SHARE A STORY WITH YOU
ONCE, WHEN I WAS 6 YEARS OLD, MY UNCLE TOOK ME TO THE PLAYGROUND. WHILE I WAS PLAYING, ANOTHER KID AROUND THE SAME AGE CAME UP AND STARTED PUSHING AND PUNCHING ME (DON'T WORRY....KIDS THAT AGE DON'T KNOW HOW TO THROW A SOLID PUNCH).
ME, BEING A SHY KID AND EASILY BULLIED, WANTED TO TURTLE AND LET THE PROBLEM GO AWAY.
MY UNCLE, WHO'S BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK A FEW MORE TIMES THAN I HAD, YELLED OUT, "HIT HIM BACK!"
SO, I FOLLOWED INSTRUCTIONS AND RETURNED FIRE.
I TOOK A FEW MORE MITTENS TO THE FACE, DELIVERED A FEW OF MY OWN, AND THEN THE SITUATION FIZZLED OUT.
AND I LEARNED SOMETHING.
I LEARNED THAT PROBLEMS ARE BETTER MET HEAD ON. TURTLING SOLVES NOTHING. IT ALSO REINFORCES A VICTIM MENTALITY. AND A VICTIM MENTALITY IS NOT SOMETHING THAT WILL SERVE YOU WELL IN LIFE.
I ALSO LEARNED THAT IT'S BETTER TO BE STRONG THAN IT IS TO BE WEAK. PHYSICALLY, SURE. BUT ALSO IN ANY OTHER WAY YOU CAN MEASURE STRENGTH.
SURE, IT'S BETTER TO BE KIND AND STRONG. OR KIND AND SMART AND STRONG. OR BETTER YET, KIND AND WISE AND SMART AND STRONG.
BUT WITHOUT QUESTION, IT'S BETTER TO BE STRONG THAN WEAK.
LASTLY, I BUILT CONFIDENCE. I HANDLED THAT SITUATION, AND I DIDN'T NEED TO RELY ON AN AUTHORITY FIGURE TO SAVE ME.
VALUABLE LESSONS INDEED. THE TYPE THAT WILL SHAPE YOUR LIFE.
THIS WOULDN'T BE MY LAST ENCOUNTER WITH A BULLY.
A COUPLE YEARS LATER, I WAS BEING TERRORIZED BY A KID EVERY DAY ON THE BUS, AND I DID NOTHING ABOUT IT.
MY PARENTS SAT ME DOWN AND SAID, NEXT TIME IT HAPPENS, GO TELL A TEACHER.
THEN, MY DAD ASKED ME TO HELP HIM WITH SOMETHING OUTSIDE.
AS WE GOT TO THE BACKYARD, HE SAID,
"OK...NOW PUT YOUR HANDS UP. LIKE THIS."
THAT WAS THE DAY MY DAD TAUGHT ME HOW TO THROW A TASTY 2-PIECE COMBO. EXTRA CRISPY.
THE NEXT DAY, MY BULLY TOOK MY HAT OFF MY HEAD AND REFUSED TO GIVE IT BACK. BUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS, I STOOD UP FOR MYSELF BY USING MY BRAND NEW SKILL SET.
ACTUALLY, WE BECAME FRIENDS AFTER THAT, AND HAD SOME GOOD LAUGHS OVER IT.
ONCE AGAIN, MY VICTIM MENTALITY WAS STARVED. MY CONFIDENCE GREW. AND I UNDERSTOOD A LITTLE BETTER THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND MEETING CHALLENGES HEAD ON.
FAST FORWARD TO A COUPLE YEARS AGO
A MESSAGE SCORCHED ACROSS THE INTERNET. AND I LIKED IT. IT MADE SENSE.
MEN NEED TO TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS MORE.
THEY NEED TO BECOME VULNERABLE.
THEY NEED TO OPEN UP.
I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, AND IT SEEMED RIGHT. MEN DON'T TEND TO DO THAT VERY MUCH, DO THEY? IT CAN'T BE GOOD TO BOTTLE STUFF UP LIKE THAT.
SO NOT ONLY DID I BUY IN. I DOVE IN HEAD FIRST.
I MADE VULNERABILITY MY WHOLE THING. TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS. FOCUSING ON FEELINGS. OPENING UP AND LETTING IT ALL OUT.
SO VULNERABLE, AND SO FASHIONABLE AT THE SAME TIME.
CAN YOU GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?
SOME OF YOU CAN.
SHIT GOT WORSE. WAY WORSE.
I BECAME MORE DEPRESSED, MORE SAD, MORE DARK AND HOPELESS THAN I'D BEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
I DIDN'T SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATE SUICIDE, BUT I LET THE IDEA DANCE IN MY MIND A LITTLE.
(SOME MIGHT SAY SHARING THIS REQUIRES SOME LEVEL OF VULNERABILITY. AND THAT'S TRUE. THOUGH I'M NOT AGAINST VULNERABILITY IN GENERAL. BUT VULNERABILITY IN THE FORM OF SHARING AND FOCUSING ON SHITTY FEELINGS SHOULD NOT BE FORCED ON PEOPLE.)
I SHARE THESE STORIES WITH YOU TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I'M NOT SOME OUTSIDER LOOKING IN WITH AN OPINION. I'VE PLAYED BOTH GAMES, AND I KNOW WHICH ONE WORKED BEST FOR ME.
AND FROM WHAT I'VE OBSERVED, THIS WHOLE 'FEELINGS' GAME ISN'T PLAYING OUT SO WELL FOR A LOT OF OTHERS EITHER.
SO, IF TALKING MORE ABOUT OUR FEELINGS ISN'T THE SOLUTION, WHAT IS?
LET ME RUN IT BACK TO A FEW PARAGRAPHS AGO...
...IT'S BETTER TO BE STRONG THAN IT IS TO BE WEAK.
WHICH MEANS, IT'S BETTER TO PICK UP A HEAVY LOAD THAN IT IS TO CURL UP BY THE WOOD STOVE LIKE A BEATEN DOG.
DOES THAT MEAN MEN DON'T NEED AN EMOTIONAL OUTLET? ABSOLUTELY NOT. EVERYONE NEEDS AN OUTLET.
JUST DON'T EXPECT EVERYONE'S OUTLET TO LOOK THE SAME.
DON'T FORCE MEN TO OPEN UP AND BEAR THEIR SOUL. DON'T TAKE THE STRONG, STOIC TYPE AND TRY AND TURN HIM INTO A CHARACTER FROM A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES.
AND WHETHER YOU'RE A MAN, WOMAN, OR CHILD...
...YOU'RE BETTER OFF MEETING CHALLENGES HEAD ON THAN YOU ARE TURTLING.
...YOU'RE BETTER OFF BEING STRONG THAN YOU ARE BEING WEAK.
...YOU'RE BETTER OFF PICKING UP A HEAVY LOAD THAN YOU ARE WALLOWING IN SELF-PITY.
THIS NARRATIVE IS UNPOPULAR. I REALIZE THAT. BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I'M SHARING IT.
FEEL FREE TO DISAGREE. I RESPECT THAT.
BUT AT LEAST CONSIDER IT.
CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT WHATEVER NARRATIVE THAT'S BEING PUSHED RIGHT NOW....THE ONE ABOUT THE TOXICALLY MASCULINE MALE, AND HIS EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE COUNTERPART, MIGHT BE BULLSHIT.
Let's talk about burning fat and getting lean.
To achieve the lean body everyone wants, it comes down to a few key things, done consistently:
1. Eat in a calorie deficit.
2. Eat plenty of protein.
3. Strength train a few times per week (or more).
Nail these things down for a long enough period of time, and a lean body is inevitable.
The question is, how do you put this into practice?
What can you do daily to make sure you get the results you want?
You're in the right place.
Here are 7 actionable ways to burn more fat and get lean.
1. Track Your Meals
You didn't think you were going to escape this one, did you?
I know many of you see tracking your food as a pain in the ass. But the truth is, it's a short cut, and one we're lucky to have.
Maintaining a calorie deficit is Fat Loss Rule #1. That means, if you're not eating fewer calories than you burn, then you're not going to lose any appreciable amount of body fat.
So if you're going to get lean, you need to know how much food you're eating each day. Tracking your meals in an app like MyFitnessPal (or something like it) not only makes that possible, it makes it easy.
2. Eat Less Often
Grazing between meals kills more people's progress than just about anything else.
More often than not, snacking is just mindless consumption of high-calorie, nutritionally void food.
It also teaches your body to want food more often.
This is a terrible fat loss strategy (in fact, it's the opposite of a fat loss strategy. If your goal is to gain weight, eat more often).
By decreasing how often you eat, you...
If you're currently a snacker, start by eliminating snacks all together, and save those calories for your meals. This is a huge step in the right direction.
If you want to take this another step further, go from 3 meals per day to 2 huge ones (Many of my clients have been using this strategy recently with great success).
Here's how to apply this two-meal strategy:
That's it. Two feasts per day. No snacks.
Now, going from three meals to two isn't necessary, but for many, it's helpful.
The key here is to eliminate the snacks, and stop grazing between meals.
3. Decrease Carbs, Increase Fat
I'm no carb-hater. Far from it. But if fat loss is the goal, there is some value in decreasing carbs and replacing them with fat.
The reason is simple: the combination of protein + fat is incredibly satiating. It keeps you full for longer.
Now, I'm not suggesting you eat fat for the sake of it. There's no need to put butter in your coffee or slam shots of olive oil with your meals.
Simply choose fattier meats like beef, chicken thighs, and whole eggs as the foundation of your meals.
4. Eat More Protein
There are only a few certainties in life.
Death, taxes, and you need to eat more protein.
Especially if your goal is fat loss.
In fact, you need to eat even more protein than the guy or gal who's main goal is to build piles of muscle.
It Helps Maintain Your Muscle
When you're eating in a calorie deficit, your body doesn't care that you're trying to look like you're carved out of marble. All it knows is, there's not enough energy coming in to maintain your body weight.
So, it dips into your fat stores to make up for the lack of food coming in. This is good.
But if you aren't eating enough protein, it will also dip into your hard-earned muscle. This is bad.
Muscle is what gives your body it's shape, and keeps your metabolism roaring. You don't want to give it up so easily.
Eating plenty of protein will help you keep it.
It Keeps You Full
No other nutrient is more filling than protein. And as we've seen, staying full and happy is crucial when it comes to getting lean.
This is just a fancy way to say, it burns a lot of calories through digestion.
When you eat food, your body works on processing and digesting it. This burns up some energy. And protein burns more energy than any other nutrient.
On average, 27% of the calories you eat from protein are burned up through the digestion process.
Which means, by choosing to eat more protein, you're burning more calories without any effort.
If you want to read more about thermogenesis, and how you can take advantage of it, check out this post: How to Add a Massive Edge to Your Fat Burning Nutrition
5. Add Cardio, But Not To Much
While cardio is not the foundation of your fat-burning plan, it does make a nice addition.
But don't go overboard here. This isn't a more-is-bettersituation.
Too much cardio, and you'll jack up your cortisol, which kills your muscle gains and makes it harder to recover between workouts. The opposite of what you want.
To get the benefits above, shoot for 2-4 cardio workouts, lasting between 15-45 minutes each.
6. Get Stronger
The most common mistake people make when they decide to get lean: drop the heavy weights, and do more circuits and lighter lifting instead.
This is a huge mistake.
Whether your goal is to get lean or get jacked, you should always be striving to get stronger.
Remember when we talked about how your body doesn't care that you're trying to look like a Greek god(ess)? And if you're eating in a calorie deficit, but aren't eating enough protein, it will use both fat and muscle for fuel?
This is especially true if you aren't lifting heavy enough.
Want to be sure most of the weight you lose is body fat, while maintaining your hard-earned muscle?
Then keep lifting for strength. And keep striving for 1 more rep or 5 more lbs on your main lifts.
7. Embrace Hunger
You've probably noticed that a lot of these strategies are built around keeping hunger to a minimum.
That's because hunger sucks, and living with constant hunger pangs makes this whole thing harder than it needs to be.
The less hunger you have to deal with, the better.
With that said, some hunger is inevitable. It's best to get used to it.
Better yet, embrace it.
Stop seeing it as a bad thing, or a problem that needs to be fixed.
Welcome it with open arms. Understand that it's part of the process of getting lean.
"Thrones are not wattled up to and squatted on with the entitlement of a slob. They are possessed by the lean, the hungry, and those who tread with discipline." -Ivan Throne
Like anything, your attitude towards hunger will dictate your experience with it.
Put your hand up if you're trying to burn fat, but it's not going so well.
Lots of hands. Ok...
Now, put your hand up if your nutrition strategy is to "try and eat better."
*All the same hands go up*
Just what I thought.
If you put your hand up, you're not alone. Most people struggle to get lean. But it's no coincidence that the same people who struggle are also the ones who's entire strategy is to "try and eat better."
The question is, why is simply "eating better" such a poor strategy? I mean, if you eat healthier food, you should lose fat, right?
The problem is, the strategy is so poorly defined, there's no way to measure whether or not you're actually doing it.
What does "eating better" really mean?
How much junk?
What's considered junk?
What foods will you be eating instead?
There are too many questions left unanswered, which means you have too much room to eat whatever you'd like and easily convince yourself that you're "eating better."
What you need is a clearly defined restriction.
It needs to be clearly defined so you know exactly whether or not you're following your strategy.
And it needs to be a restriction because, despite what we all wish were true, in order to lose fat we need to eat fewer calories.
How exactly you achieve this? This is what we're covering today.
Here are 3 clearly defined strategies to take your fat loss to the next level.
At the end of the day, fat loss comes down to energy balance.
Put another way, it's about the calories coming in (via your mouth) vs the calories going out (via exercise, metabolism, and daily life).
To burn fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. How many you should eat depends on the person, but generally speaking, 300-500 below what you'd need to maintain your body weight is a good target.
One of the most effective ways to make sure you're eating the right amount of calories is to track your meals.
Now, I know this sounds like a pain in the ass, but it's actually a short cut. Apps like MyFitnessPal make it fast and easy. And it beats the hell out of the frustration caused by mediocre results.
Click here to learn more about the importance of energy balance for fat loss: 7 Nutrition Myths You Need to Know
One more note: If you're going to track calories, you might as well track protein.
Eating enough protein is challenging, but it's an absolute game changer when it comes to transforming your body.
It's going to...
Learn more about how protein will change the entire game here: How to Add a Massive Edge to Your Fat Loss Nutrition.
We went over this strategy a couple posts ago. But I'm mentioning it again because it works and it's worth mentioning again.
Here's a solid intermittent fasting strategy in a nutshell:
So, you eat two meals each day, which means those meals can be huge, while still not over eating.
For example, if your goal is to eat 1600 calorie/ day, each of your meals will be 800 calories. Those are big, satisfying meals, which makes it easier to stay on track.
You also eliminate snacking, which means you eliminate mindless grazing.
And finally, the black coffee in the morning will blunt your appetite, making it easier to push back your first meal by a few hours.
Go Low Carb
I almost hate to include this one.
Not because it's not a viable strategy.
But the last thing I want to do is feed into the idea that carbs are in any way "bad."
But, the fact is, reducing carb intake makes it harder to overeat.
Carbs, particularly processed ones, tend to spark hunger and cravings. By reducing them, and replacing them with fat and protein, blood sugar stabilizes, and so does hunger and cravings along with it.
Do carbs make you fat? No.
More on that here: Why Carbohydrates Aren't as Bad as You Think
But they should be used as a tool. Here are a couple considerations when choosing your carbs:
1) Keep the sources high-quality- Things like fruit, veggies, potatoes/sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and rice are a great way to go.
2) Eat them at the right time- if you're going to eat carbs, eat a good chunk of them in the meal following your workouts, when your body is primed to use them for recovery and muscle-building purposes.
Now, here's the real 'magic' behind eating low carb...
By reducing your carb intake, you eat less junk food and more protein by default. And that is a gigantic step in the right direction.
So, to summarize, carbs aren't bad. But reducing them is a viable fat loss strategy that will work for many.
Now, you can do all of these strategies if you like. Or you can do just one.
What really matters here is, your fat loss strategy moves from...
"I'm just trying to eat better."
To a clearly defined strategy.
This shift will make all the difference.
Lets talk about building some rock hard muscle.
Here's a technique that's an incredibly effective muscle-builder. But before we get to it, it's important I let you know one of the key ingredients to building muscle in the first place.
A muscular physique is one of those things in life that's reserved for a rare few. Simply put, it's not for everyone.
Don't get me wrong. Almost everyone is capable of building it. But the reason so few will is because it requires you to do hard shit.
I don't know if you've noticed, but most people don't like doing hard shit. Which means most people won't build any appreciable muscle
But, this doesn't apply to you, so let's continue.
The method I'm showing you today is called the "350 Method," and it was created by a Coach named Paul Carter (<- link to his Instagram. He's worth a follow).
It's every bit as nasty as it is effective (but we like to do hard shit, so...)
It goes like this:
The "3" in "350" stands for the number of sets you'll do. And the "50" stands for how many reps you're trying to get, total, across all 3 sets.
So, to start out, pick a weight you can get around 20 reps with.
Set 1- do as many reps as you can, likely around 20. Rest 60 secs.
Set 2- Get as many reps as you can, likely 15-20. Rest 60 secs.
Set 3- Get the remainder of the 50 reps, or as close as you possible can.
If you got all 50 reps, increase your weight the following week. If you didn't, stick with that weight and try again next week.
This is a quick and dirty way to spark some solid muscle growth.
When to use it:
This is a great technique to use for your 2nd and/or 3rd exercise of the day. The perfect compliment to your main exercise.
But be warned- it burns. It burns all the way down to your soul.
Oh, and if you're serious about building that killer physique, The Lion of Olympus is the plan that will get you there.
5 months of well planned and engaging workouts, a muscle-building nutrition guide, and the 'Science of Muscle' mini course will have you making the best gains possible.
The Lion of Olympus Training Program
And when you grab your copy, make sure to send me an email and let me know.