“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” - Bruce Lee
“Because most of what we say and do is not essential. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”” - Marcus Aurelius
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” - Peter Drucker
“The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” - Steven Pressfield
“Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.” - Tony Robbins
I am a self-help junkie.
I have been a self-help junkie since high school and have been a huge fan of personal development for as long as I can remember.
When I was still in middle school, I remember setting goals for myself and as a young testosterone-filled boy, I became waaaay more interested in girls. This resulted in me probably enjoying way too many Hollywood action movies and then learning that the secret to getting more girls was to look like the dudes in the movies.
My logic was simple: I become buff and then more girls will like me.
Well, what does any kid at that age, who has limited resources and no idea what he was doing, actually do to accomplish that?
Sit-ups and push-ups, baby. Right in the floor by my bunk bed.
It’s so weird I remember this so distinctively because it really wasn’t that big of deal now that I think back, but I remember writing out something like “50 push-ups and 100 sit-ups every day” with a Sharpie on a small sheet of torn paper and then placing it in-between the boards that held up my top bunk so that I would see it when I woke up every morning and before I went to bed every night.
How long did I do that? Probably like a week, tops. Haha, but the point being is that I have naturally loved bettering myself since I was super young.
Fast-forward a few years and I came across the king of personal development, Tony Robbins, from one of his YouTube videos. If you know who Tony is, his energizing presence and large physical appearance is nothing short of extraordinary. I was instantly hooked to this guy. I spent hours watching all the videos of his seminars that were available on YouTube.
I remember coming across one of the many quotes of his that have spoken to me over the years, which is likely one of the best productivity and mindset tips I have ever received:
“Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”
While I could make this article hella long by focusing on how to use this quote in all areas of life, I wanted to instead focus on how you can use this in the gym and with your nutrition to your advantage.
If you know how to focus on the key indicators of making progress with diet and exercise, you can spend your time more efficiently and effectively, which means better and quicker results, which means a happier you.
Let’s start with nutrition.
NUTRITION: What matters the most?
One of the most common mistakes I see amongst people who are trying to see better results by paying more attention to their diet is they immediately go into thinking about meal-timing and nutrient timing.
This makes total sense because it sounds sexy (“nutrient partitioning, bro”) and it’s actually not that hard to change.
“Maybe I’ll try 6 meals a day instead of 3.”
"Maybe I’ll only eat carbs at breakfast.”
“Maybe I’ll only eat carbs at night.”
“Maybe I’ll try drinking BCAA’s and carbs during my workouts and then I’ll use this ultra fast-digesting protein hydrolysate powder combined with highly-branched cyclic dextrin within 15 minutes of finishing my workout and see if that works.”
You may be thinking, “Okay, what’s wrong with all of those then?”
My answer would be absolutely nothing.
Let’s use an analogy to explain why this isn’t the best use of your time:
If you asked me how to get from Kentucky to Ohio, I could tell you how to walk there and you’d still get to the same destination...eventually.
Orrrrr I could tell you how to drive there and you could get to the same destination, but you’d arrive a lot happier and faster.
See what I’m saying?
Nutrition will work the same way. There are many cool little tricks and tips you can do to make your results a few percent better, but we want to focus on the majority. The “meat and potatoes”.
Here is an awesome diagram created by the people over at Renaissance Periodization that explains what REALLY matters when it comes to building muscle and losing fat.
As you can see, nutrient/meal timing only accounts for about 10% of your results and calories account for at least HALF of your results.
It makes sense when you think about it:
- If your goal is to lose fat, you need to be eating less food than you are burning or burning more calories than you are eating via a caloric deficit and/or increased physical activity. Just because you only eat carbs (or proteins or fats) at a certain time of the day doesn’t matter if you’re eating too many carbs (or proteins or fats) to begin with.
- If your goal is to gain muscle, you need to be eating more food than you are burning or burning less calories than you are eating via a caloric surplus and/or decreased physical activity. Having that super fancy post-workout shake is okay to consume, but is worthless if you’re not consistently gaining weight and eating enough each day in conjunction with a sufficient training program.
This is why focusing on the "meat and potatoes" of your nutrition plan will give you the best results and be the best use of your time. Those "meat and potatoes" can be summarized in 5 steps.
5 Steps To Taking Control of Your Nutrition
Step 1: Pick a goal
fat loss, body recomposition, or muscle gain (aren’t sure? Read this)
Step 2: Determine your calorie needs
Step 3: Determine your protein needs
0.7 - 1.3g per pound of bodyweight; as a general rule, 1g/lb is usually fine for most individuals no matter which goal you chose, but if you chose fat loss, stay towards the higher end.
Step 4: Measure your progress
using a bodyweight scale, body measurements, pictures every 4 weeks, how do your clothes fit, how do you feel, blood work, etc. Pick at least 1.
Step 5 (MOST IMPORTANT): Consistency is key.
This is YOUR nutrition plan. For steps 1-4, I want you to make your choices based off how realistic it is for you to hit the goal you set for yourself (i.e. if you hate eating protein, stick to the lower end of protein needs in the beginning). If you slip-up, it’s okay! Just get back on track ASAP. Consistency > Perfection
Some of you all may be wondering, “Well, what about meal timing, food quality, and supplements? They matter too!”
Yes, they do.
But don’t try and learn to ride a motorcycle if you haven’t even learned how to ride a bike yet (lots of automotive analogies in this one). In the nutrition diagram above, it shows consistency being responsible for up to 100% of your progress, so doing too much at one time can leave you overwhelmed and keep you from adhering to your plan.
Master these basic steps, first.
Do that for at least 12 weeks, consistently, and I promise you’ll see results. If you need someone who will hold you accountable and guide you to success by using these principles, check out my online coaching page to find out more.
Now that we've covered nutrition, let's waste no time and jump into training guidelines.
TRAINING: What matters the most?
I’m curious if you’ve ever heard of the saying “Getting the body you want is 80% diet and 20% exercise”?
Yeah, that’s bullshit.
It’s 100% diet and 100% exercise.
You can eat vegan, clean, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and low-carb all at the same time, but you will not gain muscle simply by eating healthy.
You can lose weight and lose body fat by eating this way, but if you don’t have the muscle underneath you can end up looking “skinny-fat”.
Or you may look similar to this:
I’m empathetic to the people who may look at those pics and may think, “They don’t look too bad, at least they’re somewhat skinny." You're right! But you can also be unhealthy even though you are not overweight.
So, I think it’s also important to note all of the reasons you should be lifting weights and exercising besides just the obvious aesthetic body appeal:
Maintain functional ability
Increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance
Increase metabolic rate
Improve glucose metabolism
Decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness
Decrease body fat and central adiposity
Improve gastrointestinal transit time
Reduce the risk of diabetes
Reduce the risk of heart disease
Reduce the risk of cancer
Reduce the risk of falls, fractures and disabilities
Decrease cardiovascular demands of exercise
Decrease triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels
Increase HDL cholesterol levels
Increase muscle and connective tissue strength and hypertrophy
Increase mobility and flexibility
Increase joint stability
Improve balance and coordination
Increase brain/cognitive function
Increase confidence, self-esteem, and happiness
Combat depression and anxiety
Combat metabolic syndrome
Combat frailty syndrome
Improve function in people with cancer, dementia, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, post-stroke disability, lupus, asthma, diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autism, bipolar disorder, COPD, epilepsy, low back pain, neck pain, chronic headache, and erectile dysfunction
Increase strength, power, speed, and endurance
Prevent ACL, hamstring strain, lumbar, ankle sprain, and shoulder injuries
Improve quality of life
List adapted from Bret Contreras, PhD, found here.
As you can see, there’s tons of reasons to exercise and lift weights besides just wanting to look good. But, let’s be honest, most of us want to exercise to look good naked. My own vanity has been a huge motivator for me and I’m perfectly okay with admitting that because anyone who doesn’t admit that is probably lying. ;)
Whether your motivation to lift weights is vanity or health or both, you still need to understand what will give you the best and quickest results. In order to do that, we need to prioritize on the “meat and potatoes” of training. To help me do this, I wanted to share another awesome diagram with you created by Eric Helms, PhD(c):
You may be looking at this and be wondering, “Okay, cool, but wtf does all that mean?”
I thought you’d never ask, allow me to help (or even better, buy the books here *not an affiliate link*).
5 Steps To Taking Control of Your Training
Step 1: Pick a goal as your main focus (one you enjoy!)
hypertrophy focus (muscle building); strength focus (think powerlifting); sport-specific (these recommendations I will leave out due vast amount of differences)
Step 2: Volume, Intensity, and Frequency (starting recommendations)
Volume: 40-70 reps per muscle group per session
Frequency: Make sure to hit every muscle group 2-3 times per week (be careful of overlap between exercises; i.e. triceps/shoulders being worked when you hit chest).
For strength: 65-75% of your lifting needs to be in the 1-6 rep range.
For hypertrophy: 65-75% of your lifting needs to be in the 6-12 rep range
Step 3: Picking exercises for your goals (starting recommendations)
the majority of your efforts need to be put toward compound exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, rows, pull-ups/chin-ups, overhead press, etc. These will build the most muscle and burn the most calories.
For strength: 50-75% of your lifting needs to incorporate the lifts you are trying to get stronger at (i.e. bench, squat, deadlift). Keep rest periods around 2-4 minutes.
For hypertrophy: 1-2 compound exercises and 1-3 isolation exercises for each muscle group. Keep rest periods around 1-3 minutes.
Step 4: Measure your progress
carry a workout log around with you to make sure you’re progressing each week.
Progress can mean adding more weight than you did the last week, more sets, more reps, better form, slower reps, less rest but same sets/reps, etc.
The number one way to ensure progress in the gym, which will likely mean you’re looking sexier while naked as a by-product, is to get stronger in the gym over time (weeks, months, years).
Step 5 (MOST IMPORTANT): Consistency is key.
Again, pick a training regimen you look forward to doing! You can have the "perfect" training plan, but if you can't stick with it, it's useless to you. If you slip-up, it’s okay! Just get back on track ASAP.
Just like I said with nutrition, master these basics first. You don’t need some complex, advanced training plan to make progress.
But if you need the accountability and want your training program to be made for you according to your goals, check this out.
I made this article out of frustration and empathy for people that want to genuinely live a healthier lifestyle, but are holding themselves back by worrying about things that only make a minor difference.
I made it so people like you can understand exactly what you need to focus on in order to make the best progress when it comes to diet and exercise. There’s so much great information and there’s also soooooo much terrible information about these topics available to you at your fingertips on the Interwebz.
This info I just presented is not sexy and is not anything revolutionary, but it WORKS. Instead of looking for a new diet or exercise regimen every week, put your head down and master these basics for at least 12 weeks and watch the transformation. I give out some of my best information to you all because I know 99% of you won’t do anything about it. I really hope you email me in 12 weeks and prove me wrong.
Now that you have the correct information, the absolute most important part comes up next:
Final Note: If you want my free ebook on "Gaining Lean Mass & Getting Shredded: The Key Points" and want me to send you my best material of each week, click on this little link riiiiiiight HERE. :)
*If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I would love for you to do me a huge favor and share this with just one person who may need to read this. It would mean the world to me. :)*
Wait! Grab your free gift before you go.
Thank you so much for reading. If you've been looking for something new: I’ve created a FREE 30-Day Manual called Ultimate Physique Development that provides a 4-Week Training Plan, Nutrition Resource, & Supplement Guide. Just click the button below, tell me where to send it, and it’ll arrive in a crisp PDF file in about 60 seconds.