So you want to get lean, build muscle, and finish an Ironman?

Korean pop star Rain on Ninja Assassin

Me too, but it’s not going to happen. You know why? Because you’re giving your body mixed signals. One day you’re telling it to grow strong, which pretty much equals putting on weight (yeah yeah I know you can increase strength without mass gains due to e.g. nerve conditioning but for the sake of argument let’s forget about that for a moment, ok?), then you go underfed and “cut” some body fat on a marathon treadmill session while also catabolizing the muscle you were trying so hard to build. A week from that and we see you in your skin-tight shorts, riding a bicycle on an 80km escape from family life.

And then you wonder why you’re not getting results.

Your body is pretty amazing at adapting to the stress you put it under, but you need some consistency if you want to make significant changes. Want to look like Brad Pitt on Fight Club (or Rain in Ninja Assassin which has replaced Brad as the “gold standard” – at least in my books)? Then your training and diet should consist of things that enable efficient burning of fat while also preserving lean muscle.

And if you start crying over not making any personal records on deadlift or squat, it’s time for a reminder: what was it that you set out to do again? If you want to lift more you’re certainly not going to do that with a protocol that emphasizes fat loss. You’re lucky to maintain your strength at its current level.

The next time you go to a gym, a run, swimming, yoga, or whatever it is that you’re doing, ask what your goal really is, and is your current way of training actually aligned to that goal?

Or maybe you don’t have a goal. In that case make one for yourself. And track your progress. It will make working out immensely more motivating. Trust me.

Just be sure not to sweat over things that are not related to reaching your goal. Instead, focus on stuff that matters. If you want to lose weight you need to concentrate on weight, fat %, waist circumference etc. All else is secondary. Sure, it is nice to notice that you’re able to run faster or lift more, but it shouldn’t matter. Neither should possible losses in strength. Not until you’ve reached your goal.


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