When life gets busy, fitness generally falls low on your priority list, somewhere between scheduling a dental cleaning and deep cleaning your house. Extra hours at work, social events, family commitments, playing the latest video game (Mass Effect: Andromeda, currently)… all of these things can fill your entire schedule before you realize what’s happening.
Next thing you know, an entire week has gone by, and you haven’t even driven past the gym. The week ahead will be even busier, and it’s easy to just give up on a fitness routine, saving it for a more convenient time.
I get it; I really do. I’m not going to be that annoying motivational speaker who tells you to “just make the time if you want it badly enough.”
I know people who work 12 hour days, with a one-hour commute each way, and have other things to do on top of that. Things like eating, sleeping, getting ready for work, spending time with the family, taking the kids to practice… it’s not always realistic to just “make more time.”
The Minimalist Approach to a Lasting Body Transformation
If you do any sort of reading whatsoever on fat loss and exercise, you’ve probably heard a few things that simply aren’t true. There’s a lot of info floating around, and a lot of people who are excellent marketers, with very little fitness knowledge.
Maybe you’ve heard that building a lean, muscular body requires 4-5 days a week in the gym.
Perhaps you’ve read that you need to eat “clean” foods, and your entire diet must consist of egg whites, grilled chicken, salad, green vegetables, and brown rice.
My personal favorite is the claim that you can never enjoy alcohol, pizza, Cinnabon, buffalo wings, or any other delicious foods if you want to get in shape.
While these tips have good intentions and aren’t necessarily “bad” or dangerous, they simply aren’t necessary to get in amazing shape.
If you want to lose body fat, build some lean muscle, and look good naked, all it takes is proper nutrition, and 2-3 short workouts per week.
You’re not going to be competing in the Olympia with this quick schedule, or setting any world strength records. You probably don’t care about that. If your goal is to simply feel better about yourself, and look good underneath your clothes, without becoming a gym-rat or living in the kitchen, this is for you.
Regardless of how busy your schedule is, if you can free up 1-2 hours per week to exercise, and follow a meal plan consistently, you can get in the best shape of your life.
I first heard about Pareto’s Principle from Tim Ferriss. This means you should focus on the 20% of activities that get you 80% of results.
In other words, spend your energy and efforts on whatever has the most impact on moving you closer to your goal, and ignore the small details.
For our purposes, you just need to worry about 3 things
- Proper nutrition (hit your macros)
- 2-3 workouts per week (stimulate your muscles)
- >85% compliance for as long as it takes (don’t stuff your face all weekend)
You don’t need need to worry about supplements, meal timing, fasted cardio, the perfect workout setup, or anything else that would over complicate things.
You just need to get the big things right, most of the time, for as long as it takes.
Training: 2-3 Short Workouts Per Week
Strength training helps you maintain the muscle you have, so you don’t accidentally lose all of your muscle while dieting. It also improves your posture, helps you burn more fat, releases a lot of great hormones into your body, and makes you look more sculpted underneath that fat.
If you only have time for a few short workouts during the week, strength training is far better than cardio.
You’ll burn calories throughout the entire day after your workout, release testosterone, and turn your body into a 24/7 fat-burning machine. With traditional cardio, you’ll stop burning calories once your body cools down, so strength training should be your focus.
The gym is great, but also not necessary. If you have gym access, either a full-sized gym, or a home or office gym, you’re good to go. Even if you don’t, you can still a great workout from the comfort of your home, using bodyweight exercises only.
Try this quick bodyweight circuit if you want a short, highly-effective routine that will stimulate your muscles and elevate your heart rate, increasing your metabolism for hours after you finish. Complete the whole circuit as quickly as you can with good form, rest 2 minutes, and repeat for a total of 3-4 rounds.
- Push-ups x 12 (kneeling is okay)
- Jump squat x 15
- Reverse crunch x 15
- Alternating reverse lunge x 10 per leg
- Mountain climbers x 12 per side
- Glute bridge x 15
Nutrition: Eat to Burn Fat
Nutrition is responsible for 90% of your results. If you don’t have a good meal plan in place, particularly since you won’t be working out too much, you’ll never get the results you want.
On the other hand, even if you completely skip your workouts, and the only exercise you get is walking to and from your car, you can still get in great shape with the proper diet.
Nutrition is everything.
Getting your calories right is the most important thing, and hitting your macros as closely as you can is the second most important thing. Meal timing, supplements, food choices – none of those things have any significant impact on your results.
To lose fat, you need to be eating fewer calories than you’re burning, plain and simple. Assuming you set your calories low enough, and keep them there, you’ll lose fat. It doesn’t matter if those calories come from chicken or In N Out burgers; you can lose fat with the proper food intake.
(Obviously, health matters, but for pure fat loss, you can eat anything and see results).
Not sure how to calculate your macros? Take my free physique transformation email course and I’ll show you exactly how.
I encourage clients to try to eat foods they enjoy on a regular basis, and just make those foods fit into your daily calorie budget. Trying to give up your favorite foods forever is a great way to set yourself up for a massive binge the next time you have a stressful day.
My busiest coaching clients tend to have the most success following a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule. This means all calories are consumed within an 8-10 hour window, and the rest of the time, they are taking in zero calories.
Once you adjust to the schedule, you won’t too hungry during the fasting window, and you get to enjoy 2-3 large meals and go to bed satisfied, rather than eat small, snack-sized meals 6 times a day.
I follow an intermittent fasting schedule when dieting, and most days end up looking something like this. All calories are consumed between 1pm-9pm; outside of that, I drink water, sparkling water, black coffee or americanos (espresso + water), or zero calorie soda. I sip water all day long as well. The portions vary person to person, and you still need to track your calories, but I’m sure you can see how this would be more enjoyable than 6 small, boring meals a day.
8am: Huge glass of water with lemon
9am: Large iced americano
1pm: 4 eggs, ½ cup egg whites, 2-3 slices Ezekiel toast with butter or cream cheese
5pm: Huge bowl of mixed greens, ground turkey with taco seasoning in a tortilla with cheese, sour cream, and salsa.
9pm: Chicken or steak, steamed veggies, rice.
After my last meal, I usually have a few hundred calories leftover. Here’s where I’ll have something I really enjoy: a protein ice cream like Halo Top, a protein waffle or pancake, popcorn, or sometimes a whiskey and diet ginger ale. I go to bed satisfied and full.
Once you know your caloric requirements for fat loss, build your own meal plan with foods you enjoy, that fits your schedule and needs. With careful planning, you can eat your favorite foods in moderation guilt-free, and still make incredible progress.
Consistency: 85-95% Accuracy
Lastly, you just need to be consistent. Transformations take time, so you need to be in this for the long haul.
Every time you blow off your diet and binge eat, or spend a weekend eating tacos and pizza, you’re taking a few big steps back. You need to understand that if you do this, you’re just delaying your results, and you’ll have to diet longer.
Most people can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week; if you’re losing much more than that, you’re probably going too fast. Try to enjoy the process, and learn to love training and eating good food.
If you can’t stick to the plan at least 85-95% of the time, I’d encourage you to try something new. Eat more meals if you’re fasting, or try fasting if you’re currently grazing all day long. Change up your food sources, try carb-cycling: find something you enjoy, and can stick to.
If you’re absolutely miserable during your journey, and you revert to your old ways once you reach your goal, you’re probably going to end up with your old body again. The goal is to make fitness and nutrition lifelong habits, and they need to be viewed as such, not as a short-term fix.
If you want a simple plan to follow, sign up below for my free physique transformation course. I’ll teach you exactly how to calculate your macros, build a meal plan, and get in shape with only 3 short workouts per week.