Craig Leonard

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Building A Better Body Is Simple (But It’s Not Easy)

Craig Leonard December 12, 2013
Build A Better Body

I’m not sure why it is, but people seem to be predisposed to over-complicating and over-analyzing everything.

I once had an argument, albeit a cordial one, with someone over whether eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was better when taking a bite with the peanut butter on top and the jelly on bottom or vice versa.

We then proceeded to take the time to test this empirically, with each of us taking bites under each condition and then coming to opposite conclusions.

I can’t help but draw the analogy of how many people over-complicate the process of building a better body – stressing over every possible minutia – only to look back and realize how much time and effort they ultimately wasted.

They spend their entire weekend researching whether intermittent fasting or frequent eating is better for fat loss, finding calculators to determine their personal metabolic rate, deciding whether carbs are good or evil and going over their budget with a fine tooth comb, squeezing out every last dime to see how much they can afford to spend on supplementation, before proceeding to spend hours mulling over which supplements they’ll invest in.

The end result: They do nothing but confuse themselves to the point of being paralyzed from taking action due to information overload.

I’m going to say something that’s going to rub some people the wrong way, but I ask you to hear me out before passing judgment…

Building a better body is simple.

That said, sifting through all the misinformation and confusion is anything but simple (believe me, I’ve been there). In contrast, the process of building a better body really is a simple process when you get down to the nuts and bolts of what it takes to induce a positive change to the composition of the body.

Now, understand that I’m not saying that building a better body is easy, because it’s not. In fact, it’s hard.

It takes a level of dedication and consistency only a small percentage of men and women are truly willing to exhibit, leading to the vast majority of the population being less than satisfied with their physique, and people like me being in business. 😉

I’m going to take away all the complication and show you just how easy simple improving your body really is.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. – Albert Einstein

Building a better body, in its most basic form, comes down to nothing more than the consistent application of just 3 factors.

Factor 1: Logging Your Nutrition

Building A Better Body - Nutrition Tracking

I’ll bet you’re already tempted to curse me, aren’t you?

“Darn you, Craig… I thought you said building a better body was simple?!?”

Look, logging your nutrition can be inconvenient, yes. But it is anything but difficult.

Write down everything you eat in a composition notebook, get a smartphone app (I recommend My Fitness Pal) or create a spreadsheet you use to track the foods you eat.

For those of you considering taking the easy way out and simply relying on portion control, let me say this: If you have a considerable amount of fat to lose, yes, you can probably get away with just limiting your portions.

For a little while, that is.

At some point, though, this isn’t going to be good enough any longer and your results are going to plateau.

The reason tracking what you eat is so imperative is that it gives you a baseline to compare against. When your fat loss stops you’ll know exactly how many calories you were consuming on average and can then make a slight reduction to start seeing results once again.

It will also hold you accountable. It’s a lot harder to justify a cheat meal when you can quantify how much it will cause you to deviate from your planned nutritional intake.

And be sure you’re tracking more than just your calories because your macronutrient profile (carbs, proteins and fats) is always important.

Macronutrient manipulation is beyond the scope of this article as it isn’t required to build a better body. However, your macronutrient profile will become increasingly important to monitor and manipulate as you get closer to your goal weight, especially when pursuing an impressively lean physique.

Learning what the foods you’re eating are made up of is an educational exercise I believe everyone should go through. After doing so, I promise you will never look at the food you consume the same way again and making better food choices will be an inevitable result.

Although it takes effort, tracking your nutrition isn’t difficult. More importantly, it gives you absolute control over your results, which makes it well worth it.

And it really isn’t all that time consuming. I just logged my chicken breast and broccoli lunch into my food log spreadsheet and it literally took me two minutes.

Factor 2: Tracking Your Results

Build A Better Body - Track Your Results

Okay. So you’re eating clean, avoiding foods containing artificial sweeteners and HFCS, and logging every single calorie – solid and liquid – that enters your mouth.

But why go through all the hassle of tracking your diet in first place? To make sure you’re feeding your body in a manner that’s conducive to the results you hope to achieve, right?

While we have a hard time admitting it, personal trainers, nutritionists and dieticians can’t tell you exactly what your maintenance level of nutrition is. We might employ some fancy formula that looks really impressive, but all it is is a tool we’re using to give us a best guess for a nutritional starting point.

That’s it.

You don’t want to starve your body and be hungry all the time when losing fat. And you don’t want to eat excessively and add more fat to your body than muscle when gaining size is the goal.

As a general rule, you want to be within 250-500 calories of maintenance per day (below maintenance by this amount for fat loss and above it for muscle gain).

Skinny hardgainers and obese individuals are exceptions to this rule. They can get away with more dramatic excess and deficits, respectively.

So how do you determine your maintenance level of nutrition? It’s simple, actually.

Once you’re tracking your food you know the number of calories you’re eating in a given week. You simply take a couple of quick bodily measurements at the beginning of the week and then take the same measurements 7 days later.

If your measurements have decreased, you’ve maintained a caloric deficit. If they’ve increased, you’ve maintained an excess in calories. If they’ve stayed the same, you’re at or around your maintenance level of nutrition.

I like to take and track 3 simple measurements:

  1. Body weight
  2. Stomach circumference (at belly button level)
  3. Abdominal skinfold (measured with these calipers; this will give you an approximate body fat % measurement as well)

Information! The minimalist approach that I typically recommend is to only track stomach circumference. This is a perfectly acceptable means of determining whether or not fat loss is taking place and is a much better indicator of fat loss than changes in body weight. The scale can be (and usually is) deceiving when it comes to determining changes to the composition of your body.

If after a full week any of the above variables have moved in the desired direction you’ll want to continue what you’re doing. That is, unless you’ve lost fat but find yourself unbearably hungry.

This may be an indication that your caloric deficit is too extreme, in which case, you’ll want to bump up your calories by 250-500 per day for the next week and see what effect it has on your results.

Likewise, when working on adding mass, if you’re gaining weight but you feel like you’re force-feeding yourself and your body fat is spiking out of control, you’ll want to curb your calories a bit, see what impact it has, and take it from there.

Hopefully you can see why tracking your nutrition and measuring your results is such a powerful combination. It’s an extremely simple yet efficient control system as each one is dependent upon the other.

In other words, it gives you complete control over your results.

Knowing what impact your diet is having on your results allows you to make the changes necessary to ensure your body is constantly improving. Without these measures in place, you’ll be doing what most do: shooting in the dark and hoping for the best.

I think you can guess how that usually ends. It’s about as effective as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest.

Factor 3: Training and Diet Consistency

Build a Better Body - Consistency

Out of the hundreds of people that have invested in my body transformation system only a handful have committed to it long enough to get the fantastic results I promise to everyone that would do so.

This is not unique to my programs, by the way. It’s not that my instructions are unrealistic or so complex that it takes a nuclear physicist to figure them out.

They’re actually very simple and straightforward. It all comes down to willpower.

The sad truth is that 99% of people that initially commit to a gym membership, new diet plan, workout schedule or physique goal, are far too inconsistent to ever get the results they set out to achieve.

The majority of people are as inconsistent as Miley Cyrus’ attempts to keep her tongue from hanging out of her mouth. They will skip one or two workouts every week and cheat on their diets 3 or 4 days out of every 7.

Of course, if you were completely complacent before, this will still be an improvement when going from doing zero physical activity and following a see-food diet. At some point, though, you’re going to have to dial it in for the results to keep coming.

Most anybody can eat clean, hold themselves to a set number of calories and get in a good workout for a single day.

But it’s those who make these disciplines a consistent part of their lifestyle, and can consistently do them 5 or 6 days per week, whose success will be all but guaranteed.

A good target to shoot for is at least four training sessions and no more than 3 cheat meals each week.

Your training sessions should be 30-60 minutes in length and consist of 75% of your time being dedicated to strength training (i.e. lifting weights consisting of sets in the 4-10 rep range and applying progressive overload), with the remaining 25% going to cardio/conditioning activities (interval sprints, jumping rope, jogging, hill sprints, sled pushes, etc.).

And cheat meals aren’t an excuse to stuff yourself silly. Enjoy a cheeseburger, a couple slices of pizza or, my favorite: A bowl of Frosted Flakes.

I said enjoy, not gorge yourself. One epic cheat meal can completely negate your results for a given week. As good as your favorite cheat foods may be, I think you’ll agree that it’s not worth all that.

Being consistent is a simple concept to grasp. It’s the application of consistency that separates the men from the boys.

Simple Enough?

Building A Better Body Is Simple

It might seem like I’m oversimplifying here, but the 3 factors I’ve laid out above are the basis of my brass tacks philosophy of what it truly takes to build a better body at the most fundamental level.

If you can apply these simple (but not easy) concepts on a consistent basis the results will come and will build to a noteworthy transformation on your body before you know it.

It’s almost impossible for this not to be the end result when you’re tracking your nutrition and results, adjusting your diet based on your results, and remaining consistent in the application of these simple but powerful principles.

The other million-and-a-half minute details people over-analyze and stress over are non essential for simply building a better body.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about prepping for a bodybuilding competition and getting shredded here.

That kind of goal takes a more refined approach to both training and nutrition. Although, even for more extreme goals like these, the above 3 factors must still be in place. Though a few additional considerations will need to applied, as well.

I’m talking about taking a body that’s not already near single digit body fat percentages and moving it closer in that direction, while adding a sexy amount of muscle in the process.

Building a better body really is as simple as applying the 3 factors detailed above. But nobody ever said it would be easy.

Photo Credits:
1 Fat to Lean

2 Nutrition Log

3 Calipers and Tape Measure

4 Beach Pushups

5 Calculus Homework

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