Modern Gospel: Fitness Info We can Live Without

Read time: 2 minutes

A butterfly flaps its wings in Toledo and creates a hurricane in China. It’s a theoretical concept that describes a causal effect within a nonlinear system, like that of the weather.

The same effect can be seen in the popular media system — from magazines of the past to the internet of today.

Schwarzenegger’s chugging of milk became the Weider’s supplement spark, a dietary concept that spread through the bodybuilding subculture and eventually pervaded into today’s popular culture of health and fitness enthusiasts:

Ya need to consume massive protein and carbs after your workouts, for hope of building a little muscle on that pathetic pile of shit you call a body.

It’s the gospel driveled by The Church of Bodybuilding Supplement — or for short, The Church of B.S.

The Church of B.S. makes its home in a multi-billion-dollar industry, preaching that an ounce of muscle is built on a tub of protein. The Church of B.S. elaborates on this further with quazi-scientific minutia such as when, why and how much protein and carbs you must consume.

Of course, as living, breathing, and functioning organisms that like to boink and reproduce, we do require a sufficient intake of protein and other macro- and micro-nutrients. That much we learned from a textbook in high school biology. Unfortunately, The Church of B.S. pushes for excess, a profitable exaggeration beyond normal biology. (But then a textbook doesn’t seek to sell us a cement bag of Mega Mass 2000.)

The sweaty flapping of the “Schwarzenegger Wing” has created an industrial hurricane that dispenses a modern gospel of strict exercise routines and rigid eating rules — a doctrine having its utility in perhaps the obsessive subculture of bodybuilding freaks, meatheads and the boyz and girlz of Jersey Shore, but it’s excessive for the rest of us average folks whose only hangup is whether our hair-gel or spray is making us look a bit too much like The Situation or Snookie. (If in doubt, leave your oversized sunglasses at home.)

Hardcore muscleheadz with your neck originating from your inner-ear canals, exit stage left with your doctrine tucked under your pec. Your sport requires impressive work, no doubt, but it’s not the feature of TLS.

The rest of us who merely want a healthy, sharp-looking, muscularly defined body, let’s abandon the convoluted and overzealous discussion of meaningless gospel, and let’s start doing the work.

  • Lift things
  • Sweat a little
  • Don’t overeat
  • Go live life

After each workout, don’t go into a head-spin about whether we should eat this or that. Eat if we want. Don’t if we don’t. Going for several hours without a post-workout meal will not make or break us, as normal, non-obsessive healthy people merely in search of a fabulous physique.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we’re not competitive bodybuilders (like the monsters hired by supplement companies to promote their protein powders, in between abuses of Dianabols and at the completion of a Winstrol cycle), then rest assured our muscle manufacturing process is turned on by the strength training stimulus itself, and that favorable protein turnover lasts for up to two days.

Relax. For us, there’s no such thing as a post-workout eating window (unless we’re planning on doing another workout in 3 hours). A study, among others, suggests that protein synthesis does not indicate actual muscle growth.  Here’s a statement from the abstract:

Ingestion of only small amounts of amino acids, combined with carbohydrates, can transiently increase muscle protein anabolism, but it has yet to be determined if these transient responses translate into an appreciable increase in muscle mass over a prolonged training period.

Note also, that it doesn’t say you must consume a buffet banquet of grass-fed Wagyu or a cement bag of protein powder, either. Quite the opposite: “… only a small amount of amino acid… can transiently increase muscle protein anabolism…”

But that’s a mute point, given the closing remark: “…but it has yet to be determined if these transient responses translate into an appreciable increase in muscle mass…”

Keep it simple. Don’t obsess. Lift, sweat, and eat a little; and then go live a lot.

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40 Responses to Modern Gospel: Fitness Info We can Live Without

  1. Al says:

    I think the last sentence in this post is the only thing you need to put under the “Becoming Lean” link. Thanks for reminding all of us how simple this stuff can be (only if we let it be easy).

  2. Daniel says:

    Johnny, there’s something that still I can’t figure out.

    It seems that all people who workout are people who love to exercise, who lose to change their body, who love the feeling of getting stronger and transforming their body.

    But if working out for health and general fitness has to become something universal for all human beings to feel and function better and have less diseases, then this “fitness love” can’t be the only way since not everyone love working out. It’s like washing your teeth, you do it, you enjoy the benefits but it’s not your hobby.

    Unfortunately I have consulted almost 50 more or less experts at this point, asking them what can I do to workout for general health and general fitness for a good but average looking body without extreme flaws like a beer belly or total lack of tone, but without the need to transform myself, build lot of muscles, become super lean or make fitness my hobby.

    But none of them gave me a good answers. The fitness fanatics answer was intense workouts that only someone who loves fitness and wants to be told “I can tell you workout!” would do, the “general health experts” answer was such low intensity stuff that wouldn’t make a difference in how fit you can keep yourself.

    There’s no middle ground.
    Average body to me means a body that looks healthy and fit enough without the extreme flaws of decondition and lack of health (flabby look, total lack of muscle tone, beer belly, saggy chest) and without the extreme traits of someone whose life revolves around fitness (super lean, six pack, big muscles, ultra definition…)

    Sometimes I look at teenagers around 16-17 and notice how fit but average they look, with their natural amount of activity and just few official workouts, the middle grounds between doing nothing, sitting on the sofa and eating chips all day and working out at the gym while taking picture to see how the body is getting ripped.

    Sometimes I image the faces of older people glued to their body and realize that indeed that’s what the body of someone older but who maintain fit could look like.

    Instead as people approach their 20’s they become more and more sedentary and nervous eaters. Then either they become flabby and unfit or they become fitness fanatics and build lot of muscles and get super ripped living a life revolving around fitness. Those who want to be in the middle ground, who want the fit but average body of their teenagers years, will try the fitness fanatic route, will burn out and will become sedentary.

    I still don’t believe that nobody has ever mentioned how to work out just to maintain a decent body: not to become as strong as possible, not to become as lean as possible, not to transform into someone else. Just to avoid letting yourself go and losing the kind of average fitness you have always had since birth.

    Experts say “you should workout” and then send you to routes that are actually about transforming your physique. Since when bodybuilding and athleticism have the prerogative? What if you’re okay with what nature intended for you on a moderately active lifestyle but want to do something to avoid losing what you shouldn’t lose and gaining what you shouldn’t gain?

  3. Marc says:

    “Church of Bs'” that about sums it up.

    I mentioned it in a comment on the previous post.
    I just did a mini reverse traithlon; 5k run, 15k bike ride and 1/4 mile swim.
    The last time I rode a bike was last year when I did the same race and last time I swam a 1/4 mile was last year for the race as well.
    I’m almost 44 and I “competed’ and “hung” with many folks that live and breathe this stuff and believe the church of bs stuff, that you have to put in 40-60 miles a week running and biking. I do some sprints here and there and do maybe one to two work outs a week with weights for no longer then 20 minutes. I was clearly more “solidly built” than most of the folks there. This is not an attempt to toot my own horn…’s simply an indication that the “general advice for fitness” out there is a sham! Trust me! And i’m certainly not some genetic freak. I’m 5’7 and 160 pounds and come from a decidedly un athletic family.
    More to follow….


  4. Stephon says:


    This is the kind of simplicity that I think we all speak about, fitness and looking good without all the hassle and worry about macronutrient timimg yada yada. I am starting to truly believe that even I still have OCD when it comes to fitness and diet.

    When you have a family and want to enjoy meal times and enjoy the foods that everyone else enjoys at the table without worrying too much about the macro composition of the meal it can place strain in the home. My goal is to break free of this kind of complication and concern with a combination of IF and some of the metabolic, and strength training workouts that are discussed here a FEW times a week, and not be afraid to enjoy a glass or two of wine without being soo concerned with rather or not it will affect my fat loss as I have been the last year.

    I think the lean saloon provides just the kind of simplicity that most of us who seek a normal life where we want a nice lean body with a normal amount of muscle, why not achieve this by taking the complication out of the equation?

  5. RezH says:

    To Daniel: It’s not overly complicated. Eat only what your body needs. Watch the bad carbs. Exercise. Two 30-minute strength sessions (bodyweight/weighted) weekly, throw in a third day of sprints or fairly intense cardio. Walk/stay active each day.

    Diet is by far the biggest factor. But you can’t sit on your rear 16 hours a day and hope to look fit.

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks RezH
      But how much can you do in just two 30-minute strength session.
      Both a full-body workout with one exercise per muscle group and 2-3 sets or 2 days split with two exercises per muscle ground and 4-5 sets take at least 50 minutes.

      Should I live certain muscle groups behind?
      Could you post a sample of a 30 minutes strength training that target all major muscles?

      • Ivan says:


        You can easily do a whole-body session in much less than 50 minutes. Essentially, you need an upper body pulling exercise, an upper body pushing exercise and a lower body movement.

        Chinups/pullups OR inverted row OR dumbbell row
        Pushups OR dips OR dumbell floor press
        Squat OR 1-legged deadlift OR kettlebell swing

        Perform each exercise for as many reps as possible (or at least until it feels REALLY heavy) in good form, rest for a minute or so between exercises. Repeat entire circuit (say) 3 times.
        Depending on your strength level (and thus, how many reps you’re capable of), the entire workout should take about 15-20 minutes. Do some arms&abs afterwards, if you feel like it.

      • Daniel says:

        Ivan, so you think I should ditch typical full body routines like:
        bench press 6×3
        lateral raises 6×3
        bicep curls 6×3
        triceps kickbacks 6×3
        military presses 6×3
        one-arm rows 6×3
        romanian deadlifts 6×3
        bulgarian split-squats 6×3
        calf raises 6×3
        bycicle crunches 30×3

  6. Jordan D. says:

    Daniel, I know what you’re saying re: teenagers and a normal, natural look. When I was around 16-17 years old, while on a family vacation, I swam in Walden Pond. My mom took a pic of me when I was getting out of the water, and I remember looking at it later and thinking to myself, “Wow, I look pretty good!”

    I still have that image in my head. That’s what I want to look like. I didn’t work out much (other than climbing trees) and ate whatever I wanted, so obviously that physique was due to my adolescent “hormonal profile” or whatever you want to call it. I know that I couldn’t achieve that look *effortlessly* now that I’m older, but if I was more careful about my diet and worked out regularly (especially the diet part,) I think I could approximate that look at 30 years old.

    I’m not an expert on exercise, so I’ll let others deal with specifics. But I will respond to what you wrote about not wanting to get as strong or as lean as possible, and not wanting to undergo a “transformation.” Those things aren’t easy! You’re not going to get really muscular or really lean by accident. It takes a lot of really hard work.

    If you want moderate results, put in a moderate effort. That’s what I plan on doing. I’m not working out right now, but when I start up again, I’m just going to do exercises like push ups, chin ups, squats, lunges, etc. I’m going to focus primarily on diet and get comfortably lean, and not worry too much about muscle mass. A moderate effort like this isn’t going to make me super muscular or super lean, and it’s not going to burn me out either.

    • Daniel says:

      I’m glad others thought about this and how great a natural body can be and how it should be possible for anyone to have that kind of body, the same most teens have without obsessing about diet and fitness.

      Also another point is that teens are known to skip meals because for them a project, a trip or having fun is more important than eating, they for example on a day at the beach they would easily forget about eating if they are swimming and having fun. It’s actually when people start to tell them that they shouldn’t skip meals that they start to become more food obsessed, letting their life revolve around what’s for lunch or dinner (I know people whose only worries is what they will eat/make for lunch and dinner…) and eating even when they’re not really hungry.

      Do you think circuit training would work as well, rather than old school weightlifting or bodyweight lifting? It fascinated me as it seems to incorporate cardio and strength in the same workout, to be able to keep the workout interesting and also to emulate what natural activities that maintain a body lean would look like (i.e. sport, playing, a day at the beach or swimming pool…)

      • Daniel says:

        Also what you said about focusing on getting lean and not worrying about muscle mass.

        That’s what I thought I’d do many times but people kept saying to me that I can’t lose fat unless I put on muscle mass and they kept telling me horror stories of people thinking they needed to lose more fat to be leaner while they actually just needed more muscles and by keeping trying to lose fat they mostly lose muscles and became flabby and unhealthy.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Circuit training is what I plan on doing. I’m going to do several bodyweight exercises with little rest in between. Like you, I want the strength training + cardio combination. I’ve done it before and it’s very effective for general fitness. Really gets me huffing and puffing! 🙂

        Yeah, I don’t worry about that muscle loss stuff anymore. I’ve gotten better at ignoring all the scaremongering and hysteria on the Internet. Some people are afraid of everything!

        I’ve seen so many people who look great without a large amount of muscle mass. Simply not having excess body fat goes a long way. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a skinny body type anyway, so I doubt that will be a problem for me. Being physically fit should provide enough muscle.

      • yannick says:

        The problem with training either with weights or circuit, body weight exercises you still have to experiment it all and see what works for you.

        For me i love to lift weights, i don’t go heavy anymore i got for forms, slow down my reps and go for the pump. I switch my program here and there, right now am doing a 3 times per week full body workout, yes i still squat, but with perfect forms and around 135 pounds, i go for reps, on the squat its usually 15 reps, that gets you pumping.
        This is an example of the program i am doing now: the / is you can substitute one of the exercises on different days. Each exercises can be done with 3 sets each and 8 repetitions but as i said i don’t do it like that, my legs, and arms are worked with higher reps.

        Bench press/Incline, Decline press
        Military press/ Lateral raise
        Lat Pull down/ Pullups
        Upright row
        Triceps pushdown/Behind the head extensions
        Leg extension/Leg press
        Biceps curl/Concentration curls
        Leg curl/One-legged extensions

        But there are so many others ways to train, you can do body weight exercises and not need any gym equipment or simply buy a kettlebell and have a great workout with that.

        But the most important thing is eating less calories then your body burns, because if this is not done you can lift all the weights you want you will never build the body you want.

  7. dboxing says:


    Many people in France (and most of Northern/Western Europe) fit what you are looking for. Many Americans did until the 1980’s forward. There is plenty of middle ground. Move around, don’t eat more or more often than you need. Don’t over think it. Most people follow “programs”. Programs work, but only if you are consistant. Instead of a program, try living. Living does not equate to indulgence. True living means awareness. When you are aware, things tend to take care of themselves. Johnny has solid advice. Everything in moderation

  8. Jeffrey H says:

    Long time reader, first time poster (I’m sure you have many like me).

    Just want to say how amazing your message has been in the last 2 years, for me and my wife. We’re a couple in our 40s and because of following the stress-free lifestyle you write about, we look better than we did in our 20s. We’ll never be super models or Mr. and Mrs. Olympia, but you cannot know how great we feel when we walk around at the pool with definition in our abs, upper back, and arms, and yet still live our lives as normal as any of our close friends. And, my general doctor told me that my blood work has not been better in the years she’s been seeing me.

    Thank you for keeping things so, so, so simple for us. Are you kidding me? You’ve saved us thousands in superfluous gym membership. We own a couple of rusty dumbbells and (the most prized equipment) a leather medicine ball.

    While our friends remain envious of our hassle-free physique, we remain humbly your fan. Please keep The Lean Saloon going for us real folks!!!

  9. RezH says:

    Daniel, I don’t know what kind of equipment you have, so I can only post the stuff that I do –

    Kettlebells offer the most bang for your buck. Swings are the best KB exercise. Buy a moderately heavy bell, and learn the proper motion (youtube or personal instruction). A 30-minute session of swings mixed in with some overhead presses twice a week will do wonders. Typically, you would do a certain # of swings, rest, go again until time is up. Add the overhead presses to hit the upper body.

    For bodyweight stuff, I like the chinup/dip pairing. Alternate sets of each. Do bodyweight lunges at the end or hold some dumbbells. If you don’t like dips, do pushups with your feet elevated. Easy to find a pullup bar that fits in a door frame (Iron Gym $25 at Walgreens).

  10. Dale says:

    Jordan D –

    Like Johnny, you’re a breath of fresh air. Folks like us who don’t need to set the world on fire are poised to inherit the earth because we’re not sore and broken down and foam-rolling all the time. Pushups, pullups, squats and lunges, done in circuits, are the bomb!

  11. Jordan D. says:

    Thanks, Dale! You’re exactly right, not beating up our bodies in the gym is what it’s all about.

  12. Dale Lynk says:

    Another Dale:
    Also, long time reader – first time poster – what a great site.
    Ever notice the lean – muscular – attractive physiques of male movie stars from the 50 ‘s 60 s’ and 70’s. Most followed simple eating and diet plans to get that look – whole natural food combined with circuit training – ala – Vince Gironda – How I trained the Movie Stars.

  13. yannick says:

    I have long forgotten the bodybuilding magazine and the dreams i had when i was younger of looking like this a part from the supplements there are the drugs involved and all. There is a protein calculator on, check it out for fun and type in your information. I am right now 220 pounds at 5 feet 10 i should be eating close to 4000 calories a day and consuming near 478grams of protein per day.

    If i was dumb enough to believe this and follow that advise, i would have to buy a lot of whey protein tubs per month because it is clearly stated that i can not get this amount from food at the bottom of that page.

    For health reasons i will still take my whey protein isolate shake once a day, i also continue to take creatine and glutamine to fuel my workouts and both supplements are so cheap. All of the supplements mentioned are tried and tested by my sport doctor in many of is personal studies. And no you will not build massive amount of muscles relying on theses alone, but they will help the body in times of healing. I am getting prolotherapy treatments right now. Also i found that my recuperation after a workout is a lot better.

    There are great benefits that cannot be overlooked with cod liver oil, coconut oil, cinnamon extracts and apple cider vinegar and Himalayan sea salt. Almost all of theses can be found at a grocery store or online. Some will help control blood sugar, sea salt as over 80 minerals, apple cider vinegar as been proven to have many benefits as well. Coconut oil are MCT for energy, i find it best when low carbing. And for some weird reason i am not allergic to whole fat milk but to skim milk?

    The bulk of my diet right now is red meat, whole eggs, whole milk . I rely on food more then supplements to supply my body with what it needs.

    I stop taking my daily multi vitamins supplement because all my needs now come from my food, meat as all the iron, b vitamins and more that my body needs, Cod liver oil as the essential fats vitamine A and D. Sea salt as all the minerals.

    I recently got some blood test and everything was in check along with my testosterone, vitamin B12 and cholesterol. Yet another myth about eating the high fat diet exposed.

  14. Dale says:

    How do people all over the planet remain lean and fit without strength training programs and supplements ? 😉

  15. yannick says:

    They keep pushing people to eat more fiber, while almost everyone i know is allergic to gluten. This is yet another amazing topic along the failed vegetarian diet. Side note intermittent fasting will have the same effect as low carbing, on hormones and blood sugar among other things. Also the cod liver oil, cinnamon extract , sea salt and coconut oil can be bought and used for pennies a day. No wonder the medical committee doesn’t want people to know about them, there is no money to make from taking theses cheap foods each day.

  16. Ivan says:


    I’m certainly not saying you SHOULD ditch the full-body routine above; I’m saying that you CAN, if you want a quicker, more efficient training session. In your example, there are 4 isolation exercises, 5 if you count the crunches. At 3 sets of 6 reps and a short resting period between sets and exercises (1 minute, say), that’ll be an extra 15-20 minutes on top of everything else. That’s fine, if you a) got the time, b) enjoy spending that time training, and c) need extra work for shoulders, biceps, triceps and calves. Based on your stated goal, I’m positive you really don’t need any detail work.

    Again, what you need is a big push, a big pull and a compound lower body movement. From your list of exercises, maybe shoulder press, dumbell row, bulgarian split squats.
    Since your goal doesn’t involve getting better at any one exercise, you can even change it up more or less every session if you want – just make sure you push yourself a little outside your comfort zone every time. In this case, don’t expect very much progress as far as load or reps go, but if something feels to easy, increase the weight.
    Pick 3 exercises (push/pull/legs), go at each one ’till you’re starting to feel tired (and then go just a little further), repeat a couple of circuits, done. If you like, finish with some vanity stuff, or do some stability moves like planks etc for a few minutes.

    Hope this helps – you’ve gotten some really helpful stuff from other posters as well, so you should be all set.

    • Daniel says:

      So strength training 30 minutes twice a week is what you would suggest to a person who wants to be fit and healthy but that kind of “natural” fit that other people see you and say “I see you keep a fit body” rather than “I see you joined a gym” or “I see you’re building muscles”?

      Also, if I do 30 minutes of circuits twice a week, do I need cardio or it’s just included in the circuit?
      And if I just lift weights the old-school way (3×6) 30 minutes twice a week do I still cardio the other days?

      I have this weird build with skinny forearms and lower-legs, bulky upper arms and thighs and belly pot.
      Other times I have tried to lose fat I just turned my body from a bigger apple to a small apple but i had not sign of body composition changed or toning and firming or whatever. I want to try to lose fat while maintaining the muscles I have. In the past I have avoided training with “as many reps as possible” because people said that high reps was just cardio training and cardio without heavy strenght traning just burned the muscles and no fat. Is that BS too?


      • Ivan says:

        Sure, a circuit like this, done 2 times a week, should yield the kind of results your are looking for if you put some effort into it. If you can’t (or won’t) push yourself, you can patly make up for it by training more often – every other day, for instance.
        However, resistance is resistance. The muscles built in a gym are no different than the muscles built by bodyweight exercise or by kettlebells. Genetics and drugs make (top level) body builders; there is no risk of waking up “too big” one morning.

        If you move rapidly between the exercises, there’s a cardio aspect that’ll probably do your heart and lungs good. However, there really is no substitute for simple brisk walking as often as possible; every day if you can. Excellent for cardiac health, and has too many other benefits to list. Walk a lot. Get out of breath, sweat a little. Listen to music or just enjoy the silence. Walk with a likeminded friend, if you got one.
        If you enjoy higher intensity cardio, then do some once or twice a week. Sprints, high rep kettlebell swings, burpees, Johnny’s medicine ball workouts.. They’ll probably help with fat loss, and keep you going stonger, longer. But they’re not necessary to reach your stated goal. Even if you go for this kind of cardio, keep walking. No substitute, remember?

        As for the “as many reps as possible”; this doesn’t necessarily mean high reps. If a weight is heavy enough to limit you to 10 reps, say, then “as many reps as possible” would be 10 reps. That said, high reps have their uses, and some research (as yet unproven) tells us that the number of reps doesn’t really matter, as long as EFFORT is high enough. In other words, do as many (good) reps as possible. Do this every time – even if you can’t manage to beat your record, as long as you put in effort, you’ll see results.
        Muscles don’t really do maintenance; they either shrink or grow. So keep them growing, ever so slightly, and it’ll be just like your “maintain muscle/lose fat”.

        Do this, eat along the lines Johnny shares with us (thanks, Johnny!), and good things will happen.

  17. Dale says:

    For a nice pulling movement: the IronGym pullup apparatus, total cost $29.95
    Or dining room table inverted rows, total coast $0 (unless you break your table)

  18. Dale says:

    I’m of the opinion that ‘cardio’ is a bit of a misnomer. Is there really such a thing as an exercise that isolates the heart and lungs ? What do the heart and lungs do but ‘service’ the muscles ? If you work the muscles do you not work the heart and lungs ?

    Yes, there certainly are health benefits which accrue from activities such as walking, running, swimming, elliptical, etc. However, many of the same benefits are conferred by strength training as well.

    My general recommendation to trainees is to strength training _a little_, increase general activity and eat less. And if they want to ‘get out of breath’ on occasion, they certainly have my blessing. But make no mistake, you can be lean and healthy without ever doing a lick of ‘cardio.’

    • Daniel says:

      But as far as I know strength traning doesn’t increase your vo2 max hence even if once has been lifting heavy for years he/she will still have the same problem of being quickly short of breath or having accelerated heartbeat for just walking 5 minutes and a small pulmunary capacity. So in that sense strength training can’t substitute cardio.

  19. Dale says:

    Daniel –
    To clarify, I’m not discouraging anyone from working to enhance their work-capacity. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that the average person needs to ratchet up their vo2 max just so they don’t get winded five minutes into a walk. That to me would signal a more fundamental issue. For starters, I might have them walking more!

    Seriously, most of my trainees present a woeful lack of GENERAL activity, never mind strength and all that. No wonder they get tired and feel sluggish. Indeed, when one typical, inactive trainee told me that she ‘feels sluggish’, I politely informed her that she WAS sluggish. 😉

    Also, I can tell you that although I do ‘finishers’ from time to time (sled-dragging, burpees, etc), I still get winded after a heavy set of deadlifts. But I think you’re supposed to be winded after a heavy set of deadlifts!

  20. Matt says:

    Hey guys,

    A lot of great information and discussion in this thread.

    I’d like to share some information, partly in answer to those who are concerned about their choice of exercise programme, and partly in testament to Johnny and proof of how good the information in this blog is.

    For the last 3 weeks I have been unable to exercise due to a minor medical procedure. The only thing I have done is a bit of walking now and again. And even that wasn’t particularly fast/hard because I do it on my lunch break and don’t want to get back to work sweaty in the afternoon.

    Despite going out drinking at the weekends, despite, eating junk food all day on Sunday’s, despite doing no exercise, I look at myself today, and I’m as lean as I was 4 weeks ago when I was training 3x week. This is due to IF, and eating mostly good whole food, with the occasional indulgence.

    I measured my bf% this morning with my cheap-ass accumeasure callipers. Suprailiac was 5mm, which according to the Accumeasure conversion table puts me at 6% bodyfat. I don’t know how accurate that is, but frankly I don’t care, my abs look good.

    Diet loses bodyfat, exercise changes shape. SImple

  21. Daniel says:

    Ivan –

    Finally I’m starting to understand. I have always taken my info from bodybuilding sites and magazines and so no one has ever answered to a simple question like “how many exercises you really need in a strength workout?” or “what muscle groups do I really need to train?”. Because the moment you ask those questions they start saying “what? do you want to become skinny and sissy?! just eat a lot of lift a lot till you puck, period!”

    I think I got it now. What really makes people less attractive and less healthy is bulking, adding muscles over the fat. On bodybuilding sites they promote that kind of look and I have seen over and over lean looking kids bulking up and becoming fat + muscular being told that they were doing a great job and looked a lot better. But to me they actually looked worse, even their facial features were less pleasant after the bulk.

    Following the instructions of these sites and magazines I have tried to build muscles since I was thin but flabby but as I built muscles I saw myself swollen, uglier and felt stiff and less healthy. I thought that was muscles fault and that I needed to keep muscle growth to a minimum. Then I tried asking how can I make my muscular structure firmer without looking like a looked after a bulk but then again I was given no answer or the same “don’t become a sissy skinny-bastard please” tagline.

    After what you have written I think I know the answer to that question and it’s to lift weight while on a slight caloric deficit. I see now that’s how you become firmier without becoming bulkier and how you maintain your natural facial features and a small swaist while also avoding the flabby look of wasted muscles. That’s probably how the teens I was talking about maintain that natural compact and slender physique by using their muscles while also being on a slight caloric deficit or maintenance intake. When those same teens start to follow the bodybuilder advice to bulk eating a lot, they lose that natural physique and become round and swollen, like as if their muscles were filled with air like ballons. Their facial features worsen and they look less healthy but bigger.

    What do you think?

    • Ivan says:


      Sorry for the late reply – I’m on vacation, so the ‘net gets down-prioritized some.

      While I see you point about bodybuilding sites and magazines, I feel that there’s as many ways to bodybuild as there are bodybuilders. Some chose to bulk and deff, some try to bulk cleanly, some permabulk.
      Still, if you’re not interested in becoming a bodybuilder, don’t train and eat like one.

      Teens may be a special case. Remember, they’re still growing, and has a distinct hormonal advantage (apart from skin issues and all the other teenager issues, of course.). However, I don’t really know much about the specifics, so I’ll just say that you may or may not be correct in your assumptions.

      Your point about strength training on a slight caloric deficit is spot on. Lift like you mean it, but avoid the high volume bodypart splits of the bodybuilding world, and use something abbreviated and effective. In addition, for your health, keep active. Again, my preference is walking and hiking.

      In short, train strength a couple times a week, move around constantly, eat well (but not too much).

      • Daniel says:

        Not sure about teens and growth.
        I know theorically grow might continue in one’s 20’s if not more but in real life most people stop growing around 15-16. At least that has been the case with all my classmates, none of them grew an inch after the age of 15. I guessed recently on Rusty Moore blog that he who is 6.4 feet stopped growing in his early teens. I guessed right because he replied that he has been 6.4 feet since the age of 13. I have seen pictures of my father when he was 16 and he was the same he is now, same height, same body shape and same face… now he has just a bit more fat and wrinkles but he doesn’t train or eat correctly either.

  22. I. G. says:

    I am new to this blog and I love the way the information is presented! I am kind of relieved that I do not need to consume large amounts of protein to stay lean (and maybe lose 5 pounds..) for it is always a struggle for me to get in at least 80-100 g/day of protein like everyone wants me make believe I should (let alone 1 g/pound of bodyweight which I am afraid might be unhealthy). I would love to know how much protein is, from your point of view, enough for a female in relation to bodyweight. Another question I would like to ask is if the eating window should be a bit longer for women (10 hours as “Leangains” recommends?) And I would be very happy if you might consider to create a special post for the female readers in case their might be some considerations that somewhat differ from what is ideal for men…Does your girlfriend fast intermittently as well and does she experience amazing results, too?
    Thank you for maintaining this very informative blog!

    • Beth says:

      Hi I.G.,

      I see you haven’t gotten a response and just wanted to post my experience as a female. I was introduced to I.F. through a friend who pointed me to Leangains. I can very easily go 14 hours fasting, and immediately balked at the 10 hour eating window. I have been doing a 16/8 window from the beginning and have had no problem with it. Many days I push the fasting window to 17 or even 18 hours.
      I’ve found that around the 15-16 hour mark is when my hunger just completely diminishes, and that makes it easy to push the envelope a bit and see if I can go even farther. The challenge keeps me motivated! I have been doing I.F. for about 2 months now and have seen nothing but benefits.
      I love the simplicity of Lean Saloon, but currently am still doing more of a Leangains style of training and eating. It’s been working well for me and I’m hesitant to change it up right now. However, I’m having some minor surgery done next month and won’t be able to work out hard for about a month afterwards. During that time, I’m going to relax and do it more the Lean Saloon style, without worrying about pre and post workout meals and heavy lifting. I’m looking forward to it!!

      • Daniel says:

        The pre and post workout thing is more gearerd towards bodybuilders.
        In fact all the testimonials, both males and females, of people in the Leangains site are of people who really want to get ripped or very muscular or compete in bodybuilder contest or figure contests.

        It’s not devoted to the average person who just want to be fit without looking extremely ripped or athletic. That’s the main difference between Leagains and Leansaloon.

        As someone said to me, if you’re not going to compete or don’t want the extreme bodybuilder body then all the details of small muscle groups, drop sets, failure, post workout, BCAA, protein powders, refills… are not relevant.

      • Johnny says:

        And even then.
        I’ve seen many bodybuilding-type physiques built successfully without the same traditional obsession.

        THanks for your comment, Daniel!


  23. Daniel says:

    – Ivan

    About circuit training, do you think that it’s better to stick to lighter weights when doing circuits?
    30 pounds is the weight I can lift for 5-6 times (dumbbells) but it’s pretty hard and the fifth lift is very intense.
    I guess it’s not safe to move from one exercise to another without rest when lifting so heavy, feeling so tired after all the reps of one exercise have been completed. Am I right?

    So what’s the best and safer weight, as a percentage of the weight one can lift in good form for 5 reps, for circuit training like the one you suggested with 3 exercises back to back done as one circuit for 3 times?

  24. Pingback: How soon after working out it is necessary to eat? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

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