I wasn’t going to do it. This year I was going to skip what most dudes do every single Spring: get shredded for summer.
During The Great Bulk of 2015, I’d eaten close to 60 pounds of white rice. After the bulk was complete, I came down to maintenance calories, lost a few pounds, and was happy where I was.
At this point, all I wanted to do was lift heavy and set some huge fucking PRs. That all changed when I got word that I would be participating in my first photo shoot in June.
If you’ve listened to the podcast over the last few months you’ve heard me talking about this. If you’ve never heard the podcast, where have you been? Missing out on a ton of awesomeness, obviously.
Don’t worry you can check it out here, you won’t regret it, I promise.
Even though I had decided not to cut for summer, I refused to half ass this photo shoot opportunity. I hate mediocrity. Plus, I would have felt like I was slapping my mentor in the face if I showed up to this half-assed and not looking my best.
Whether it’s with training or nutrition, I love experimenting.
Since I had about 7 weeks to get prepared for this, it gave me a chance to experiment with an aggressive fat loss scheme. Aggressive fat loss plans slash anywhere from 800-1000 calories off your maintenance levels. Your body climbs the turnbuckle and like the Macho Man elbow drops fat into submission.
This is NOT — I can’t express this enough — for diet noobs. You need a few years of dieting experience to do this. (Think of it like Legendary Mode in Halo. It sucks — it will crush you.)
I enjoy experimenting with diet or nutrition because I always discover new aspects about myself or life in general.
Getting photo shoot ready was no different.
Lights. Camera. Action.
This isn’t my first rodeo with getting lean. If you want to get into single digit body fat, it’s going to take more than a few sacrifices.
Especially with macros like mine: 220 grams protein, 140 grams carbs, 53 grams fat. My food choices turned into a giant game of LEGOs.
Goodbye, avocado in my salad. See ya later, bananas in my workout shake. A rib-eye would be nice, right? Or maybe chicken wings? Nope.
Those cuts of meat have too much fat in them.
Are your friends going out? Your wife wants pizza? A co-worker brings in homemade cookies?
And triple fucking no.
When your calories are super low, you’re going to have to say, “no,” a lot.
Water is Your Best Weapon Against Hunger
Mother Nature is crueler than Cersei Lannister.
Wanna know why she’s such a callous demon?
The same part of our brain that tells us we’re hungry is also responsible for sending thirst signals. Which means our brains sends mixed messages.
You think you want a donut, when really, your body is begging for more aqua.
The more drastic your calorie cut, the less likely this will work. But for the most part, drinking more water will help keep hunger at bay.
Water fills up your stomach, sending signals to your brain that it’s full.
Drinking a little more water is better than gorging on ice cream, donuts, or pizza and blowing up our goals like The Great Sept of Baelor.
Everyone Should Get Lean, Once
Bryan Krahn has written about this before here. And Bryan is the Master Roshi of getting jacked and staying lean, so I listen to what he says.
When I say “lean,” I don’t specifically mean that everyone should look like they’re covered in dick skin.
Getting to, or below, 10-12% body fat teaches you a lot of valuable lessons.
Number one: Your eyes gets better
You’ll have a better understanding of serving sizes which make guesstimating your calories while dining out a lot easier.
Number Two: You get better at cooking.
When you get sub 2,000 calories you have to find ways to make food taste great without using butter, olive oil, or bacon grease.
Number Three: It helps you focus on what’s important nutritionally
This means you discover that it’s far better for you to get your calories from whole food sources. Packaged foods typically don’t have enough protein, and for the most part, don’t aid in keeping you satiated.
Get Your Mind Off Food by Doing Stuff
How many times have you ever dieted and the only thing you think about is food? When did those cravings hit you? Sitting at your desk? Watching Netflix or ESPN?
Cravings attack when we’re the most sedentary. To prevent these attacks, go and do stuff.
Walk. Call a friend. Color in an adult coloring book.
Create a podcast, write poetry/short stories, paint,
masturbate then nap, or play your guitar. Do anything that isn’t sitting around and thinking about food.
Hell, even if you’re not dieting this is a good idea.
Move. Do. Create.
Don’t Keep Guilty Pleasures Around (Buy Only What You Need)
Apply this concept to your entire life. If you’re tempted to eat a whole container of peanut butter, don’t buy it.
Ice cream? Skip it.
Or caramel corn rice cakes? God, those are good.
Nope, leave em off the list and stay off the aisle they’re in.
Hold on, let’s go outside the realm of fitness for a second.
Does your TV suck up a ton of your time? Unplug it, put it in the closet and shut the door. Now when you want to watch TV you have to go and dig it out and hook everything back up. Is social media sucking up your time?
Delete all the apps off your phone or download SelfControl on your laptop.
Restricting those items can help free up the most vital resource, time.
Now you have free time to doodle, write, go for a walk, start the exercise regimen you’ve been putting off, or call an old friend.
Back to diet and nutrition.
When you plan your meals for the week, only buy what you need — nothing more.
Your fridge will look empty later in the week. But this keeps temptations out of your kitchen and makes dieting a lot easier.
You Don’t Need to Turn Up the Volume
A lot of people make the mistake of increasing their overall work volume during a cut. One, you’re eating less so you’re not going to recover as well and two intensity is far more important than volume.
Lucky for me, my good friend and former podcast guest, Eric Bach, had released The Power Primer 2.0 right before I started training for the photo shoot.
His fat loss program in The Power Primer was the perfect, high-intensity, moderate volume program for an aggressive fat loss experiment like mine.
I had two strength days a week focusing on front squats and deadlifts, while the rest of the workouts employed explosive power movements, compound exercises, or unilateral (one arm/leg) training.
Two days a week were dedicated to sprints—the only cardio I like.
And I never felt like my recovery was hampered and I’m pretty sure my vertical jump increased.
I Look Better Eating Breakfast
For about three years, I was a faithful follower of intermittent fasting.
During The Great Bulk of 2015, I had to stop fasting. Eating 600g of carbs a day isn’t easy and damned near impossible to do while fasting till noon.
Thanks to my increased carb consumption, I fell in love with oatmeal. And I haven’t stopped eating breakfast since.
As opposed to previous cuts where I fasted until noon, I noticed that this year, I looked bigger and more muscular when I didn’t skip breakfast.
I’m sure I could look up some science on this, but the mirror works for me.
Aggressive Fat Loss Strains Social Situations
I’ve said it once before, but I think it bears repeating.
BBQs, happy hours, weddings, retirement parties, these are all areas where food is plentiful and booze is often present.
It’s okay for you to say no during these events.
One important lesson getting lean will teach you is the power of the word “no.”
You don’t need booze to have a good time or get a conversation started.
Contrary to what others say, you can say no to grandma’s cookies.
All Things End
It will be over soon.
The hunger sucks. Workouts feel like hell. But each day is one day closer to the finish.
As much as I hated this at times, my boy Alex Mullen was prepping for a bodybuilding show and was on about 1,500 calories and basically no carbs.
Suck it up buttercup, someone has it worse than you.
I Like Being Lean…..But, Not “That” Lean
For me, I like having veins pop in my arms, shoulder, or turning the right way at an angle to see abs in the mirror.
It reminds me of how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come since 2010.
I grew up the overweight, unconfident, nerd—I wanted to be AC Slater—and now that I’ve shredded away fat, gained muscle, and built a body I’m proud of, fucking-A why would I not take a little pride or vanity in my appearance?
I also want to go out and have a burger covered in cheese, bacon, and slammed between two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns. Friends or family are coming to town? Cool, let’s go out for dinner and drinks. Visiting a new city for the weekend and they claim to have the best ice cream in the state? I gotta try it, right?
I’m not hammering burgers at The Vortex, drinking myself stupid, or pounding ice cream every day or even every week. I try and live by the 80/20 principle, which turns out to be more like 90/10.
Once you begin to see the difference in how you feel eating the right foods and how shitty you feel after a week or weekend of debauchery, trust me, you’ll end up being on point more often than not.
For certain periods or goals, you need to be the hermit who stays at home eating out of Tupperware. Other times, not so much.
I’d rather stay around 10-12% body fat and be able to enjoy a few more guilt-free nights out than to stay “super shredded” all year.
Also, when I get super lean I look ten years older….fuck that.
The After Effects
This the most recent selfie I snapped in the bathroom.
That’s the level of lean I want to maintain. As long as my pants don’t get any tighter, my strength keeps increasing, and my wife doesn’t tell me I look “puffy,” I’m good. While the rest of my fitness friends prepare to go into “bulk season” this fall and winter, I have a new quest: maintenance.
I’m gonna hang out in the middle ground between fat loss and muscle gain for a few months. Change my focus to getting stupidly strong for once—300-pound front squat, I got my eye on you. Oh, yeah and ya know, actually be able to enjoy more whiskey.
Hey Robbie, I was curious as to how much fat did you lose for your cut in those 7 weeks?
After a year of bulking and then doing such a severe cut, I totally understand being in maintenance mode for awhile and enjoying your hard work.
Good job buddy!
Like a doofus, I didn’t weigh myself the morning of the photoshoot. But I was around 168 pounds before I left for NYC—that was 3 days before the shoot. I was about 176-180 when I started. Depending, of course, on water retention or what was still inside my intestines when I weighed.
So in 7 weeks, I lost damn near 10 pounds of fat, if not more.
I wish I had weighed myself that morning, but I was too busy trying to find a sauna to soak out those last few pounds of water.