Photo Update 11/15/10

Read time: 90 seconds

Spent a lazy Sunday with the wife and dog on the beach in Half Moon Bay, Ca. (Yes, I was doing intermittent fasting, too. No obsession about eating and just enjoying the day.)

Yes, it’s 70 degrees and November, and apologies to those whose weather does not allow a good doze of vitamin D on the skin. (There’s always the pill.)

Many of you remember that, at the beginning of this year, I set a goal of losing some muscle bulk to achieve a more streamlined physique. By the look of these photos and the positive comments from my wife and friends (and some strangers), I’ve achieved that goal.

I feel much better, lighter and quicker, and my energy is nearly limitless.

The streamlining of my muscle morphology occurred as a result of purposeful reduction in heavy strength training. I use heavy resistance maybe once a week and with very little total volume, opting instead for brief, intense metabolic training using mostly bodyweight, kettlebells, medicine balls, and some lighter dumbbells. And even this is done only twice a week, 15 to 25 minutes each time.

My muscle is not bigger because of the absence of high stressor (heavy weight); it’s not smaller because there’s just enough stressor. It’s as simple as this: you build what you need, and you lose what you don’t.

It feels great to not be so damn obsessive with exercise, yet still achieving and maintaining a physique with which I can feel comfortable taking off the shirt in the middle of November.

Some of you may wonder why I want less muscle mass. It’s a personal choice, and I feel lighter and healthier at my current body weight. Also, I can wear fashionable clothes designed with fitted cut, which sometimes make me look better than how I actually look. 🙂

Nothing feels more rewarding than sliding into clothes that fit right.

This physical condition is so simple to achieve — through intermittent fasting and non-obsessive exercise — that I feel terribly guilty. (Well, no, I don’t feel guilty at all.) I can tell you, though, as a person who at one point weighed 205 lbs., this feels fantastic.

Intermittent fasting, it’s liberating.

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58 Responses to Photo Update 11/15/10

  1. Russ says:

    Half Moon Bay is a beautiful place – it’s time for me to go back!

    Yes, it certainly feels like a ‘weight’ has been lifted when you really simplify training.

    Though I still enjoy pulling and pushing heavy things and carrying a bit more muscle around than you – even that can still be done much simpler, and with much less time invested than most realize and/or practice.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Russ,

      I agree. Many of my male readers still enjoy lifting heavy and carrying more muscle mass, while others like to have a lean physique with “just enough” — neither is ever a bad goal, just preference. And yes, either goal can be achieved in a much simpler process than a trip through the interweb would have us think.


  2. James says:

    Phenomenal. Looking super lean. I am very envious of your physique. Hopefully I’ll get there some day. Keep up the good work and the great posts – love reading your content.

    • Johnny says:


      Keep the perspective always — that this is a long-term lifestyle. You’ll get there.

      Eat less. Move more.


  3. Sean says:

    The new photos are great. How much do you weight now?

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks, Sean. I think I weigh about 147. (I’m a hair under 5’8″.)

      With my my low-stress/low-effort dietary intake and exercise regimen, my body weight has stabilized where it is for the past half a year.


  4. Bangkok Jay says:

    Congrats on attaining your goal in such an elegantly simple manner. You’re a great inspiration to us all. You keep making me set new 5lb or 10lb incremental goals, knowing that it IS possible just staying on this path. Thanks.

    PS I preferred the beefier you personally, but have greater admiration for your self-discipline and faith in achieving your goals.

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks, Jay. You’ve been a committed reader and I know that you’ll continue to make small victories.

      Also, maybe in the future I’ll get back to lifting heavier and put effort back into building more muscle mass. But for now, I really enjoy the minimal time I spend in the gym and maintaining a lean physique.


  5. Lillea says:

    You look great! Thank you for posting the pictures. It’s the kind of look I prefer for men, and most of my female friends are of the same opinion!

    • Johnny says:

      Thank you, Lillea. What I really enjoy is the continuous mental clarity and stamina (possibly as a result of a continuous supply of energy/ketone bodies from greater fat metabolism) that intermittent fasting produces — I no longer say dumb things and put my foot in my mouth in front of women.


      • Lillea says:

        What a great, novel endorsement for intermittent fasting. Single guys should stop buying pick-up guides and try intermittent fasting instead.

  6. KevinT says:

    Awesome photos Johnny! To me, you’ve achieved the look of effortless health. (Looks like all 3 of you have that effortless physique actually.)

    What’s your dog’s name? My wife and I are eventually going to get a boxer or bulldog … and I really like ones colored like yours with the white & “tiger” striping.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Our boxer’s name is Java and she just turned 5. We avoid overfeeding her and she stays pretty lean, has boundless energy, and seems very healthy. What’s interesting is that, because of her conservative feeding (we rarely give her snacks or scraps off the table), she never begs for food and couldn’t care less when we eat.

      Yes, we love her brindle color, too. If you and your wife are planning children, we definitely recommend a boxer; this breed is excellent with kids.


  7. Gordo says:

    One thing that doesn’t seem to get mentinoed a lot in the fasting/paleo/blog community is existing muscle mass.

    Johnny, if you hadn’t had the years of heavy weight training do you feel that your body would be where you like it? Adding in the fasting and living a more paleo oriented lifestyle seems to lean most people out, but you and Keith Norris are 2 bloggers that have/had some serious muscle BEFORE turning to fasting.

    I see many people who say they want your/Martin berkham/Keith Norris body, but can you say that it is actually acheivable without training the way you did for years prior? Just something I don’t see mentioned much. Loving the look by the way! And of course, keep up the awesome posts!


    • Gordo,

      Probably the best predictor of super-leanness is genetics. Meaning, there are plenty of people out there who if they replicated what Johnny did exactly would still not have the same physique.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Gordo,

      I look at muscle mass in simple terms. From the last time I reviewed the literature, to get more muscle growth do two things:

      1. Lift progressively more weight
      2. Subject the muscle to local metabolic fatigue (like getting “the burn”)

      Whether this is done before one adopts IF or during, it shouldn’t be a big issue. I personally know two friends (who also read this blog) that started first with intermittent fasting and then started training to increase muscle mass. They successfully increased muscle mass while staying lean, and both look incredible.

      So, intermittent fasting is mostly independent of muscle mass (even though there’s evidence that IF may enhance muscle hypertrophy and prevent muscle waste).

      The purpose of intermittent fasting, aside from the health benefit, is to help induce a caloric deficit in order to lose fat. So, regardless of whether one starts out with a lot of muscle mass or with little muscle mass, intermittent fasting helps with making a person lean. Muscle building or muscle losing is a separate process — and can be done before, during, or after.

      Hope this helps.


  8. Harris says:

    Johny Thanks for all your great work!!! I have been recently been reading an article on how Matthew McConaughey trains,so I would like to ask what do you think of this type of training.It is really simple,fun and you get to spend more time outside the gym.Lastly do you think it is effective in building muscle mass or only if you want to loose fat.
    Here’s the link
    I’m looking forward to your answer!!

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Harris,

      I like the routine that McConaughey uses a lot… first read about it several years ago.

      To build appreciable muscle, lifting heavy weight is the optimal choice. Having said that:


      F is force; m is mass; a is acceleration.

      If mass is greater, then acceleration is typically small. If mass is small, then acceleration can typically be greater.

      In heavy weight training, mass is greater and acceleration is smaller.

      In body weight training, mass is smaller acceleration is greater.

      In the end, force (f) is the product of mass and acceleration, where mass and acceleration are the variables that can be manipulated. When you exercise, therefore, you’re not weight training or resistance training, but “force training.”


      Having said that, heavy weight training (as oppose to high acceleration training) offers a load curve through a greater distance in the range of motion, whereas high acceleration training (as oppose to heavy weight training) is a load curve that’s more phasic bursts through a shorter distance in the range of motion.

      In other words, in body-weight training at high speed, the greatest contraction happens quickly and briefly through a small distance to get the limb moving. In weight training, the weight itself demands high contraction through a greater distance.

      Both training methods will produce muscles to differing degrees, but if you want huge mass, then heavy weight training is the better choice.

      Having said that, I have friends who do MOSTLY body weight training (like martial arts, gymnastics, and stuff like McConaughey does) and develop some really beautiful and muscularly lean physiques — the stuff that the majority of the population deem attractive.

      In the end, it’s what you want! Keep it simple: lift progressively heavier weight for muscle mass.

      Hope this helps,

      • Harris says:

        Thanks for all your help!!
        I think I will do the stuff Matthew does for 3 days per week and lift heavy(Deadlift,Overhead Press,Pullups) once a week like you.
        Thanks a lot

  9. Jennifer S says:

    OMG, Johnny. No disrespect to your wife, but you look yummy!

    I started intermittent fasting since reading your post several months back and I’m beginning to see the lines on my stomach coming out and a little baby vein down my biceps. Really totally awesome and totally simple!

    I can’t thank you enough for the motivation you’ve given!!!

  10. Matt Madeiro says:

    Hey, Johnny!

    I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for the wealth of information you’ve been providing. I started Primal Blueprint, dabbled in stricter Paleo, and finally settled on the style of eating and living you advocate: eat when you’re hungry, and make sure it’s real, whole food.

    To say it’s fantastic — and simple! — would be an understatement. 🙂

    And it’s a lifestyle I’m trying to talk about more on my own blog, which is a nice segue into a small request: mind emailing me at the address I provided? I can’t seem to find a way to contact you, but apologies if I just missed it.

    Thanks! For the information, for one, and for these photo updates too. You give me a great goal to work toward.

  11. stephon says:


    You are looking pretty lean these days, and with minimal exercise. I believe I am suffering to from being to obsessive compulsive about exercise. I seem to do about 4-5 days of exercise, and was wondering what you thought about my workout schedule. Monday-metabolic bodyweight/kettlebell conditioning, Tuesday-Strength training, Wed-another metabolic conditioning workout, Thurs-Bodyweight exercises a few sets, Fri-off and on Saturday I may do a 10 min workout in the morning.

    I am beginning to experience drops in energy and at 5’5′ and 146 lbs,not sure if it’s a sign I am doing too much? I practice IF’ing of about 16-20 hrs daily. I wanted to know your opinion on my training schedule and any input you have on how I can maintain my leanness with a schedule that requires fewer workouts.I too just want to look great and be light, oh I forgot to mention that I play basketball once or twice a week.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi stephon,

      Reduce your overall volume of formal exercise. Keep up an active lifestyle (move around a lot through the day). See how you respond to this.

      Remember, a typical session of exercise may burn about 200 to 350 calories, but too much of it can over time disrupt the health of your nervous and endocrine systems.

      It might be worth the experiment: eliminate one or two of those exercise sessions during the week, and drink one or two fewer glasses of wine, or eat one or two fewer pieces of dessert each week. (Or eat a little less of whatever that may be significant in calories.)

      Over a period of a week, you won’t miss this slight reduction in your dietary intake. But the recovery of energy from less physical stress may be worth it.

      Do less. Stress less.


  12. Sean says:


    Do you ever get cold hands or feet when IFing with that lean physique? Mine have been getting icy when I go without food for a while.

    • Johnny says:


      For about the first 6 months, yes. Now not so much. This might be due to the setting point “resetting”? I’m not sure. I’ve heard some people say that it’s due to the blood flow being directed to internal fat mass to metabolize fat; but even that I’m not sure.

      I can tell you, though, that after almost 2 years of daily IF, I no longer experience cold limbs.


  13. Audley says:

    This past weekend, I entered my first powerlifting meet. I was unaware that the masters class did not divide everyone into weight groups. I did IF while training heavy on the 3 lifts, once or twice a week, in fact took a whole week off before the meet. I was at 166, wanted to get under 165, ended up at 162. The result? The bench press did not go well due to prior injuries to the shoulders, only managing 161 pounds. However it was my best squat at 303, and deadlift at 402. Some personal bests at my lightest in years. Johnny your site helped to achive that goal. I plan to do this again, hopefully I can fix the bench press.

    • Johnny says:


      Congrats on your PRs at your lightest body weight in years. Impressive numbers for that body weight.
      I hope you keep it up!


      • Audley says:

        Thanks for the encouragement.
        One of the top lifters at the meet was 72! A masters with a 500+ squat. Amazing. When I told him it was my first contest at 53, he told me lifting was the best exercise and to keep going. Yes sir!

  14. Stephon says:

    Johnny ,

    Thanks for the response, its funny because I usually drink no wine or have no dessert during the week, which is what I am trying to incorporate slightly. I average about 1200 calories a day also a bit more on the weekend. I was just trying to incorporate your style of 3 days of formal exercise .

    I am not currently looking to adding any more muscle, just want to have that effortless lean physique and was thinking that with a combination of calorie/Ifing going to a more ideal schedule as such as yours would be enough. I eat mostly whole foods and may a few cocktails during the weekend. I will attempt to attach a pic of me, so you can get an idea of where I am right now, and give me your opinion.

    • I’d guess your drops in energy are due to not eating sufficiently calorically to power your workouts. You’re better off aiming for 1600-1800 calories per day. That’s my guess anyway.

    • Steven says:

      Someone above said that anyone could do what Johnny does and still not produce the same gains/look. This is true. Everybody is different. One thing to remember though, is to do the exercises, play the games and, engage in the activities that YOU like to do. It seem that in the fitness arena, there are those that promote the notion that you can’t get the results you want if you’re not spending hours a day in the gym. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are those who promote the “effortless” approach to health and longevity. In reality, both are extremes. Extremes will only take you so far until you find your own balance (or burn yourself out). Yes, Johnny’s approach (as is mine and many others here) can basically be described as “effortless” as it pertains to HOW LONG we’re in the gym for and HOW MANY times a week we train. But, it is certainly not “effortless” in regards to intensity. Higher intensity means less frequency and most likely less volume. A marathon runner runs a marathon with a pace at a lot less intensity than a sprinter runs a 100 meters. Hence, it is not possible to run a marathon as fast a sprinter runs a 100m. Too intense! Instead of your gym sessions being less intense “marathon-like” sessions, turn up the intensity. Make your workouts brief, basic and brutal. BRIEF – 30 minutes to an hour (TOPS) in the gym once or twice per week. BASIC – Multi-joint, compound lifts; i.e. presses, squats, deads, KB swings, push-ups, chins, cleans, snatches, sprints). BRUTAL – Heavy and fast; deadlift heavy, squat heavy, press heavy, clean fast, snatch fast and, RUN FAST! These basic types of exercises and the minimum time (both in terms of “in the gym” time and “days of the week” time) are effortless. But the intensity at which these exercises are to be performed should NOT be effortless. Give these brief and basic exercises all of your effort, once or twice a week between 30 minutes to an hour and the rest of the time, as Johnny says, be active and move around a lot and do/play things that you enjoy. Couple this with eating real, whole foods and IFing and I’m sure you’ll look like a million bucks.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Stephon,

      In reading that you’re average intake of 1200 calories, I’d have to say that it’s probably not a sustainable intake on a consistent basis.

      This average amount might work as a temporary intake to lose whatever excess you have, and then returning to the appropriate level.

      This average amount might work also for creating a deficit after (or before) a surplus — like around a Thanksgiving meal.


      • Al says:

        If I want to aim at around 1600 cal per day, I find that I have a hard time reaching that by only eating whole food and fasting (your way). How are you able to eat that amount in that short time frame if you fast an eat whole food most of the time? 1600 is hard for me to consume in 6 to 8 hours feeding window unless I shove quite a bit of meat down my throat. That is why I basically quit eating fruits and veggies, there is just not enough there to reach my supposed calorie goal (even though you said I should have to count calories with tis new lifestyle). Thanks!

      • Johnny says:

        Hi Al,

        It’s not too hard to reach 1600 calories in 6 to 8 hours, no matter what diet you have. You’d be surprised.


  15. Stephon says:


    Here is a photo of me, I hope it actually shows, it’s not the greatest but it is one of the best I have at the time, my daughter took it one afternoon.

    • Johnny says:


      Looks great. Keep sharing photos if you have more. I’m sure they will be a source of inspiration for many readers.


  16. Stephon says:


  17. Johnny says:

    Hi everyone,

    I suppose a clarification of the word “effortless” is beneficial to our discussion here.

    By effortless, I don’t mean physical effort. In the age of specialization and information, people put too much effort on creating a complicated (and often superfluous) health and fitness program.

    My message is that, for general health, fitness, and aesthetics, we can keep the whole thing simple.

    By no means do I support ONLY a low-intensity exercise regimen. Often, positive physiological changes come best through vigorous exercise.

    My message is to back off on the effort of making things more complicated than they need to be.


    • KevinT says:

      When I think effortless … that’s what I’m thinking: uncomplicated & pretty basic/natural.

      Let a whole foods diet do its dirty work naturally and keep exercise dumbed down with a mix of light & hard work a few times during the week.

      Sort of the opposite mentality of being a gym rat, which many programs I’ve had experience with in the past tend to lean towards.

    • Steven says:

      Yep, I agree with this and know that what you mean by saying “effortless” is just keeping things simple. You do a great job of doing that here Johnny. There certainly is “information overload,” not just on the internet but everywhere, as it pertains to health and fitness. Your simplified approach is a breath of fresh air to us all. Keep the info coming and we’ll keep reading! Good stuff as always.

  18. golooraam says:

    Hi Johnny,

    As a person who is slowly peeling the pounds off, what I find is that the more I exercise, my hunger grows even more. If I go 4-5x a week, my strength goes up and I love it, BUT I end up cheating a ton.

    Though I have peeled off 60 lbs slowly over the last 10 years (with another 25 to go), I have decided to keep gym time to no more than 3x a week – this week I am going to try for 2x (although the guilt is killing me)

  19. Stephon says:


    I apologize for the confusion with me using the word “effortless”, what I mean in the sense of not being overly obsessive so to clarify what I usually do is a day of 50-100 burpees alternating with KB swings or Snatches with light weights, a day of strength training mostly with a 20-40lb vest chin ups, dips, one legged squats, handstand push ups and a few sets for arms finishing with planks. Then I do another conditioning day med ball slams alt w/ burpees for 30 secs. The two metabolic days take anywhere from 10-15 mins,and I am resting minimally during that time,adding in basketball and a ten min workout I usually do Saturday.

    Just didn’t want to seem as though I misinterpreted the message you were sending. Oh, by the way I read where you said 1200 calories is not sustainable?, so what do you think would be a more ideal number for me at 5’5′ and about 146 lbs?.


    • Johnny says:

      Hi Stephon,

      No need for apologies! My comment is in general so that the term is not ambiguous to other readers.

      I cannot say for sure what a recommended calorie intake should be for anyone as there are too many variables.

      To keep it simple, gauge your intake with the long-term response of your body (weight and composition) and in long-term energy level. And then make adjustment in eating and in expenditure accordingly.


  20. Danny says:


    I was so tired of needlessly complicated workouts with lot of exercises that I reduced my strength training to the most basic thing possible.

    1) Dumbbell bench press (I don’t have a bench, I use the floor and it helps me to limit how much down I push my elbows which always caused me tendonitis)
    2) Dumbbell single arm roww (using a chair)
    3) Shoulder presses
    4) Dumbbell squats
    5) Dumbbell swings or turkish getups (I don’t have kettlebells)

    That’s it. I removed all direct arm training like pullovers, tricep kickbacks, curls. I removed all variations of the same exercises: inclined presses, lateral raises, lunges, etc. I also removed exercises I considered counterproductive like shrugs and upright rows. That’s what is left.

    What do you think honestly?

    I also do a similar workout using bodyweight exercises only, once or twice a week:

    1) decline pushups
    2) chin-ups
    3) pike pushups
    4) split squats (using a chair)
    5) inverted rows (I actually use my dinner table)
    6) bycicle crunches

    As for losing muscles, more and more people nowadays who used to be bigger want to lose muscles to feel lighter and have a more modern, less intimidating appareance.
    I think one looks younger with a slender figure. Dwayne Johnson lost muscles on purpose for example. I like this comment from Rusty Moore:

    “Feeling strong and light while being extremely defined is just a great feeling. I will never ever go back to that pumped, bulky, and sluggish body I had. I guarantee that you will like the way you look and feel at a lighter weight!

    Congratulation Johnny, you looke healthier and leaner than ever.
    I hope to have your success with my minimal approch to being fit I learned from you!


  21. Rob says:

    We talked when you posted your endurance post. In May, I was running a near 23 minute 5K. In June, I starting using IF and eating a Paleo-ish Diet. On October 9th, I ran a 21:00 5K. I owe it to the 34 pounds that I lost through IF. I am currently 5’11” and 153 lbs. I have been running since 2006 and I always find it hard to run a sub22 5K. It seems easy now. I ran my last three 5Ks over the past month under 21:20. I owe it to you and Martin Berkhan. I found out about you on Robb Wolf’s podcast from a listener email and then found out about Lean Gains through you. I am praying for a sub20 5K in 2011.
    Thanks, Rob

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Rob,

      My friend Chris from brought to my attention a very recent study on rats that examines IF effects on endurance exercise. Essentially IF increases mitochondrial number (for fat metabolism and energy production), improves efficiency of mitochondrial activity, reduces oxidative damage in muscles (from activity), and improves physical performance.

      Nevertheless, your personal improvement in your 5K running time is darn impressive and offers real-world numbers of the effect of IF on endurance activities. Congratulations!

      I will be writing about the study in a future post.


  22. Rebekah says:


    I recently stumbled upon your blog, much to my luck! I’ve been devouring (pun not intended) your old posts for the past few days. Thank you for being willing to share your knowledge — and your success! And, I have to say, you look amazing. (I mean no disrespect to your wife, though.)

    I do have a specific question for you. Do you think it’s for possible for women to have the same success that you — and from what I’ve read, other male readers — have had with IF? Are all things equal in the world of IF? I started last week, and I’m excited, though a little apprehensive. I know it’s going to take time to lean out. I just wonder: will it work for me, being female?

    I’d love to hear what you have to say!


    • Johnny says:

      Thank you, Rebekah!

      I know some women who have benefited from IF. Studies show women also gain health benefits from IF. There may be psychological differences between the two genders that the emotion itself may need to be considered with an IF approach. Often, it’s just like any method that requires slow progression — like exercise.

      Start slowly, and build up over time. For IF, whether you’re woman or man, start with shorter periods of, say, 12 hours, then build up to 14. Then build up to 16. Then play around with fasting between 15 and 20 hours — more on certain days, less on others.

      The idea is to make it flexible and low stress. The biggest benefit is to go longer between feeding.


    • Stephen says:


      women do have the same success that men do.
      Check this post from Martin Berkhan about this once overweight and flabby women who got lean using IF and won the 2010 NPC National Figure Contest.
      What is amazing is how healthier and not emaciated she looks compared to the majority of figure competitors I have seen.

  23. Stephen says:


    what bodyweight and lighter dumbbells exercises you do as part of your metabolic training?

  24. david says:

    how did you get into IF??..from reading your blog i am truly inspired and as a matter of fact I have been experenting with IF for a what do u think of the eat stop eat method??

    • Johnny says:

      Hi david,

      Some years ago I did a 3-day fast to meet a weight class in an Olympic-style weightlifting meet. I lost the weight I needed to, and still won my class and lifted my PRs in both the snatch and the clean and jerk. Since then, I knew there was something up with short-term fasting. Then I read about it on Mark’s Daily Apple, and then researched the literature. I gave it a try, and haven’t turned back since.

      I like the ESE method by Brad Pilon. I like that IF is flexible, and so once in a while, I’ll include a 24-hour fast — typically after a large intake like birthday parties, holiday meals, etc.


  25. david pugh says:

    how often do you fast within the 24 hr period?

  26. david pugh says:

    Jonnny have you tried the Fast 5??

  27. david pugh says:

    i have to thank you for directing me too Mrk’s daily is really an interesting find so much that i am interrested in going “primal”. what is your take on this way of eating and living?? i am intrigued on doing this.

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