It’s fun! It’s not particularly difficult. It does take some
time, commitment, and occasional mild discomfort. It is infinitely worth your trouble. The
reward is maximum health (abs are a fun bonus.)
Before we go any further: I don’t want your money and have
nothing to sell you. Please, just be healthy and happy. That is all I want from you!
Here is what I did in the last 17 weeks:
I have to catch a plane. Supposing I did want to get ripped, can you give me the
In order of priority:
1. Stop eating fake
foods. Eat nothing but real human foods, the kind your ancestors ate. In an urban environment,
that means you have to buy and prepare most, if not all, of your own food from basic ingredients. You must
also locate a supply of clean water, neither unfiltered tap water nor water in plastic bottles, and drink throughout the day.
This is probably the most awkward step but is also the most important. Sorry about that.
2. Start focusing on the foods that are especially nutritious for you. I do
well with berries, bison, and healthy milk products. Wild salmon in particular is like a magical healing
potion to me. But I’m a cold-weather person with upper-latitude lactose-tolerant DNA, so my experience
is no substitute for your experiments. Whatever you do, get plenty of healthy animal and/or coconut fat.
If you’re very overweight, eliminate starches and limit fruit while still eating your fill of healthy fat.
3. Increase your strength with free weights: barbells or dumbbells. Squat, deadlift,
and some kind of press should account for 80% of your focus. Starting Strength is an excellent beginner’s resource. The book is worth the money, but you can get started with the
free FAQ instead, or the YouTube channel.
4. By the time you achieve beginning strength standards (EMI Level 1 perhaps), which may take several months, you will already have drastically transformed your body. You
will then be ready to take things even further by controlling your food intake.
5. Establish your macronutrient targets for training days and rest days. Hit them with the
same menu every day using the most nutritious foods possible. If you are getting full-spectrum nutrition,
this will not be very difficult, though it will feel weird for the first week or so.
6. Enter a powerlifting meet.
Step 6 is not mandatory but is strongly encouraged.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Buy and prepare all my own food from ingredients?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Look, I know how grim that can sound.
I lived on a steady diet of fake food my entire life until age 33. That got me the body you see
in these before pictures. It also got the developed world an obesity epidemic.
The stark-raving, in-your-face,
skull-palming truth is that food is THE decisive factor in improving health. If you never went past step
1 in the list above, you would already achieve a near miraculous transformation. It only takes about a
month. Here, look at these primal success stories. They are what first convinced me to eat only real food. Most shocking of all, it wasn’t
long until I didn’t even want fake food anymore! Real food is actually more satisfying!
Your tastes are just as trainable as the rest of your body. Understand that if I could do it, you
I’ve vastly oversimplified nutrition for the sake of brevity. Marksdailyapple.com is an excellent way to study what we know about the subject (less than people think) in detailed, practical terms.
There’s useful stuff about exercise and lifestyle there, too. Frankly this article is kind
Come on. You seriously ingested nothing but primal food?
Well, actually no. Primal eating is not about re-enacting
the Stone Age, that’s ridiculous and impossible. It’s about understanding how our bodies evolved so that we can
make the most of our opportunities here and now. Humans are all about exploiting new environments.
my ancestors were alive today, there are many things they would thrive on that weren’t around back then.
Such as casein, the slow-digesting milk protein. (Proteinfactory.com has the best I’ve found;
its Heliogen Casein is grass-fed and contains nothing other than sunflower lecithin.)
I also load up before my workouts
with BCAAs and L-Tyrosine. The one thing I consume that is clearly NOT primal is 1MR by BPI Sports. This witch’s brew contains caffeine, various herbs (my favorite is a catecholamine reuptake inhibitor), B-vitamins, and... artificial colors, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Sadly there is no unsweetened,
uncolored version. But I make no apologies because it lights me on fire! And I can cycle off it any
time I want.
Now that we’ve established you’re a high-functioning drug addict
going to paleo hell, give me the details of your diet and training.
This is my third time losing significant weight. I wrote all about the second time last year. (The first time is discussed here in a fan letter to Mark Sisson.)
I ended up a bit scrawny and starved at the end of the last
diet. So this time I set some new goals:
1) Deliberately gain a lot of
weight to build muscle
2) Drop the weight over four months to get under 165 pounds for a powerlifting meet
3) End up leaner than ever before
4) Sustain the leanness for a reasonable period of time without bingeing my face off
Why and how did you deliberately gain weight?
a strategy called “bulking and cutting”: they gain lots of muscle and fat, then diet off the fat while preserving
the muscle. Here’s a look at how the pros do it.
However, they are just exploiting a universal human adaptation. Humans are meant
to gain and lose fat. We are the greatest masters of adaptation of the animal kingdom, and energy
storage is among our primary talents. Apex predators fast and gorge. Fluctuations in the food supply defined human evolution. Our ancestors were obliged to “bulk
and cut” on at least three different time scales:
Diurnally, as we attended to our chores in the morning, then ate later in the day and rested
with light eating and activity on some days, and heavy eating and activity (hunting) on others
with months of abundance followed by months of restriction Beyond
mere caloric balance, these cycles also included fluctuating levels of different nutrients – micros and macros, even
alcohol. For countless generations, natural selection shaped human biology to dance to these rhythms.
Therefore, to live according to our innermost nature, we must bulk as well as cut. We should
not stay fat forever, nor should we stay lean forever. Constant adaptation is the defining human experience!
That’s deep, man. But you didn’t
tell me how you made yourself fat.
In a word, milk.
My role model Richard Nikoley originally inspired me to start lifting (in particular, via this article, and this video). It is no exaggeration to say that heavy lifting made me a man, in a very real hormonal sense.
Earlier this year Richard
experimented with a milk-only fat-loss diet. Inspired again, I employed a similar, more popular strategy for weight gain:
One gallon of milk a day. Raw, full-fat milk from the Jerseys at Clover Farms. Plus whatever else I wanted within reasonable paleo bounds.
When I was finally 16 weeks
out from my meet, I had achieved 192 pounds. Goal #1 achieved. I was fat and healthy
(fat and unhealthy looks like this on me) but was, nonetheless, rather too fat. The milk produced steroidal strength gains but at significant cost.
None of my clothes fit. My energy levels were dragging. The milk was crowding
all the real food out of my diet and I was started to get malnourished.
Worst of all, I had zero appetite for
food. Eating held no joy. It felt like going blind. In fact, I may
never enjoy milk again.
After eight weeks of that, dieting came as a huge relief. Immediately
I felt better. After a couple of days of eating less (and much healthier) my energy levels shot through
So how was the fat-loss diet different this time?
Having no appetite
at all was actually a tremendous advantage. My body was in such an overfed state (maxed-out leptin, etc.) that the fat came flying off. I literally couldn’t finish my meals for the first two weeks
because I was so stuffed on the contents of my own adipose.
This taught me that hunger on a
diet is the enemy. Last time I thought that if you felt body-hunger (distinct from habit-hunger,
or peckishness, or bored-or-dehydrated-hunger), that meant your diet was working. Wrong! It
means your diet is failing! Body-hunger means your hormones are crashing. You’ve
overdone it and fallen into a cycle of misery, plateaus, emaciation – and ultimately post-starvation hyperphagia (“bingeing
your face off”).
But if you’re not really hungry, the fat flies off. Therefore,
precede caloric restriction with a high-fat diet, then defend your hormones with heavy protein intake.
fat-loss macros this time:
Training day: 220g protein, 40g fat, 225g non-fiber carbohydrate
Rest day: 220g
protein, 75g fat, 25g non-fiber carbohydrate
In terms of food choices, this was almost identical to the
last diet. The only changes were to drop a bag of blueberries at lunch on training days and replace it
with an extra ¼ cup maple syrup in the Shredula (huge gustatory and carb-backloading win). I also added 48g casein to the Shredula on training days (making it essentially a thick chocolate
tapioca maple mousse) and used 48g casein as a chocolate dip for the dessert strawberries on rest days. Net
increase of 40g protein both days.
The high-fat start, slight carb-timing change, and increased protein were
decisive. Hunger was never more than a subtle distraction throughout the diet, and then only towards the
end. Muscle retention was also much better. Being leaner at 160.6 than last year at
155 (visible linea alba below the navel) meant an additional 6-10 pounds of lean mass, which is apparent from the pictures
and favorable for a drug-free man of my age and training experience. Goal #3 achieved. I did not
change my macros at all until week 14, when I gradually added carbs because I had achieved my weight goal and wanted to build
some strength for the meet. Goal #2 achieved.
The more muscle you have, the faster and easier your fat loss, which is a
major reason to build strength before leaning out.
In doing so, I stumbled on
another major insight: Engineer a soft landing for your diet. Think of it like landing
an airplane. You don’t dive towards the ground at two pounds a week and crater the runway.
You slow your descent gradually until you touch down ever so gently at your goal. Then you can walk
away and have a modest lunch in the pilot’s lounge instead of being evacuated by ambulance to Taco Bell.
Indeed, well after the end of the diet, it feels like I could stay this lean indefinitely, no more interested in junk food
now than four months ago. Goal #4 achieved: the best result of all!
|One week of fat-loss consumables (dropped the creatine)
Cool story, bro. What about training?
There were four major improvements:
1) Instead of three bench press work sets, I did 13.
Theory being that the brain just doesn’t know how to press with force unless it’s specifically trained,
and thus technique and neural facilitation are the limiting factors for novices, not lean mass. (Squat
and dead are different because they are similar to everyday motions of standing and picking things up.) I
actually built pressing strength throughout the cut.
2) Eight weeks into the diet, I discovered a technique to provoke adrenaline spikes before lifts. The
method is to induce hypertension via the Valsalva maneuver, then induce orthostatic hypotension. At ideal intensity, the overcompensating action of the baroreflex produces a massive adrenaline dump that can be exploited for lifting. Not only did this dramatically
improve strength on the initial reps, repeated applications also resulted in a noradrenaline-mediated fat-burning state even
more powerful than HIIT. My weight-loss pace doubled in the weeks after discovering this.
Mind you, this is some bleeding-edge stuff (established risks include passing out, seizure, and profound public embarrassment)
so I can’t recommend it to anyone right now, but will continue research and publish later. It seems
that nobody else in the world is talking or writing about anything like this, but please correct me if that’s wrong
as it would be easier not to reinvent the wheel.
3) Fourteen weeks into the diet, I discovered on my latest
reading of Starting Strength that pressing grip is actually different than pulling grip! Mirabile dictu: Holding your bench
or overhead press like a deadlift places the bar off-center of your forearms. Correcting this produced
dramatic improvement in mechanical efficiency. It took me 2.5 years to realize this. Fortunately,
you don’t have to wait that long. I am a particularly slow learner, but regardless of your
experience, remember that you are always one insight away from a decisive improvement to your technique.
4) With the help of the baroreflex maneuver
from step 2, I overcame my irrational fear of deep squats and started going as deep as possible every time instead of just
past parallel. This was at first a bit painful as my hips and knees adjusted to the larger range of motion. But
the salmon healed me up quick as ever, and the improvement in squat strength and mobility was profound. Always
squat as deep as you can with good form. It's vastly more effective than squatting heavy but shallow.
I’m bored, can you tell me a bedtime story?
live in a terrible age, when obesity through malnutrition afflicts hundreds of millions. With no need,
they suffer, die young, or worst of all -- fail to live.
We live in a wonderful
age, when anybody with access to good food, free weights, and the internet can transform their health and physique any way
they wish. No need to pay a brother, endure pain, or worst of all -- do cardio.
What's your problem with cardio, anyway? Maybe I like cardio.
Maybe you should do some cardio.
I exaggerate. There's nothing wrong with any physical activity
you enjoy. But training endurance and strength at the same time sends conflicting signals to your body. Endurance
is mostly a collection of metabolic adaptations that can be trained up in weeks. Strength involves building actual muscle
and bone mass which takes months and years, and this happens much faster when you focus on it exclusively.
enjoy endurance sports, consider squatting yourself some thunder thighs first, and then training them for Boston or whatever.
Can you get me another glass of water?
Remember that the Tea Table of Health is
supported by three legs: Nutrition, Training, and Rest, all holding up the central pillar of For God’s Sake Don’t
Now it’s your turn! Enough reading, go lift something, starting with
your own butt. Bodyweight squats are an excellent start.
Questions or comments?
Email me at this domain.