I hear the same questions over and over: "How can I look like you? What do I need to do to get abs like yours?" I could spit tips to you all day long, but we all know the real answer is hard work and dedication.
There are a few guiding principles I've followed over the years. I call them "The Laws of Lean." No, they aren't stupid food tricks like "eat more lettuce." They are legit, science-based guidelines that actually work. I call them "laws" because I follow them religiously.
If you make the same commitment to these laws that I have, who knows how far you can go.
Law 1: Know Your Starting Point
When a jet flies from New York to LA, it takes a third of the plane's fuel to reach cruising altitude. Once it is at peak altitude, it takes another third to make the rest of the flight. This same principle applies to someone looking to lose weight. The initial commitment takes a huge amount of effort—it's often the most difficult part of a person's fitness transition.
A newbie won't do the same things as a person who is already comfortable working out and dieting. If you're just starting, your goals might center on just going to the gym three times per week.
A more advanced lifter will probably have more concrete physique or fitness goals. So make sure you focus on your goals and how best to reach them.
Law 2: Do Cardio To Burn Fat
If you're trying to lose body fat, long bouts of high-intensity cardio are not a great method. For energy, your body breaks down carbs first, then muscle, and then body fat. Once your carbs are used up, your body instantly wants to use that hard-earned muscle for energy.
To burn fat, try to stay at 60 percent of your max heart rate. That should be sufficient for fat burn without costing you muscle mass.
Law 3: Control Your Carb Intake
Don't eat carbs before bed. That way your body doesn't go for them while you sleep. Your muscles recover and grow while you're at rest—but they need energy to do it. If you don't eat carbs, your body will use body fat to fuel your recovery.
Law 4: Rest and Recover Enough
We're all busy, but we're tearing down our muscles when we're in the gym or on our feet all day. They need time to recover and rebuild.
So make sure you schedule time to sleep and relax. That way, the next time you go to the gym, you're able to commit max energy, and your muscles are better prepared for battle.
Law 5: Drink Most Of Your Meals
This is where the jaws will drop and the debate will rage. I'm going to say it anyway: Go on a liquid diet. Eat one solid meal in the middle of the day. I do it between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. between my morning and evening workouts.
If you're doing five or six meals per day, your body is using a lot of energy to break down food. Liquids are easier and faster to digest, giving your body more time and energy for growing and recovering. If you're not already eating mostly liquid food, then ease your way into it.
Changing your eating habits overnight and going from one extreme to the other won't be effective.
Law 6: Don't Skip Post-Workout Nutrition
The gym is where we demand the growth. The kitchen is where we provide the supply. This is Body Economics 101. A post-workout meal (preferably liquid) is essential for growth. Your muscles will soak up those nutrients like a sponge.
That 45-minute post-workout window can mean the difference between a good and great physique.
Law 7: Educate Yourself
Study the game before becoming a player. To get the most out of your training and diet, you need to know what works best for you. It's up to you to figure out if you should do supersets or dropsets, whether you should train twice per day, or if your training is supporting your goal.
You might also learn a lot by shutting your mouth and paying attention to what you're doing. In class, do you learn by talking to other students or paying attention to what's being taught? Same rule in the gym: Don't talk between sets. Get in, bust your ass, learn from each workout, and leave so you can focus on recovery.
Law 8: Find Value in Daily Battles
Military forces know that to win the war, they first have to win smaller battles. If your sole focus is a long-term goal or what your body should look like, you'll fail. Instead, find the value in the daily battles. It can be tough laying bricks, but a building doesn't stand unless each brick is in place. Believe you have what it takes to get the job done.
You may not even realize what you've achieved, but if you take a moment to reflect on what you've accomplished, you'll find both short- and long-term success.
Law 9: See Past the Meal
It's right after a workout and you have two meal choices: a cheeseburger or a bland chicken breast. Tempting to grab that burger, right? You could eat it, but how will you feel about it later? That burger might taste good now, but making the chicken choice would have supported your workout and helped you commit to a better nutrition plan.
The trick is to see past the meal and think about what that food is doing to your body. In the nutritional war of life, your choices have enormous consequences.
Law 10: Plan Properly
Busy people don't fail on purpose; they fail because they didn't plan. If you don't plan and prepare your meals ahead of time, pulling into McDonald's becomes the easy way out. If you succumb, you've ruined it. You've cheated.
Every goal needs a concrete plan of action. Put it together and execute—no excuses.
Law 11: Never Say Die
Edison tried and failed 1,093 times before the light bulb lit. Does anyone care how many times he failed? No, they remember that it worked eventually.
Excuses like "I don't have the genetics" are absolute garbage. If you say that, it means you don't believe in yourself. Perseverance has more power than genetics or potential.
Being inspired, looking for motivation, and strengthening your will to succeed—even if you have failed in the past—are as important as the food you put in your mouth.
Law 12: Shortcuts Lead You Nowhere Fast
Bodybuilding mirrors life: Give all you have, put in the necessary work, and your dreams can become a reality. To grow your body, you labor every day to get from A to B. There are no shortcuts.