How to stay lean on Halloween? The past 7 days have been rough as hell…
Warning: Controversial, yet crucial blog post coming up. If you’re a student who is tired of inconsistent results, this post should help you out massively. Enjoy!
The way I see it, you have the skinny guys, and then you have the other guys. There are 3 types of skinny guys:
- Lazy, or “I hate food” skinny guys
- Interdependent, “I can’t go to the gym unless someone comes with me” skinny guys, (very common among students). Come on guys, what’s this all about? Interdependence is arguably the hallmark of femininity!
- Genetically unfortunate skinny guys
You can indeed be a nasty cocktail of 2 or 3 of the above (Yikes!).
In terms of other guys, you have:
- Perma-bulk, or “IDGAF” guys
- Lean-bulk, but fail to actually stay lean guys
- Lean year-round guys
For skinny students, the goal is to gain muscle, but this is never achieved (or the progress is unnecessarily slow) due to the above reasons. For other students, the goal is to stay lean, but this is never achieved for the first two guys.
Despite what Perma-Bulkers SAY, some of them would really rather stay lean, but their irrational biological instinct to look bigger than everyone else takes over. They expect to become happier as a result, but it never works out that way. I will explain why shortly.
Some guys genuinely don’t care, however, so I’m here to help the ones who realise that it’s not really what they want.
Solutions for Skinny Students
I’m sorry to have to keep repeating this, but it’s just how things work – If you fall under the “Skinny Student I Hate Food” category, you just have to get more calories in. The key to success here is to do things slowly.
Set this as your primary goal, and get to work. Stop being lazy.
Start eating earlier in the day, snack throughout the day, and get an abundance of sources of liquid calories in your fridge. And no, this doesn’t require supplements. Just common sense and planning.
The “Interdependent Skinny Guys” need to man up. No other answer to that really. Take responsibility for your success. You will never achieve long term success if you are always relying on other people to facilitate your success.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a gym partner, but if they can’t make it for whatever reason, the show goes on. The gains keep coming.
The reality for students is that the university lifestyle is very dynamic and unpredictable. Schedules are always being chopped, changed and moved around. Things get cancelled, re-arranged, people let you down etc. Life is like this anyway, but as a student you will experience all of this to a far greater degree during term time.
With all of this in mind, if you’re missing gym sessions because you’re reliant upon other people (who WILL let you down), you’re screwed.
Another point in relation to other goals/work, whatever, is that if you’re constantly having to fit your schedule in with 2-3 other people, your other goals will suffer. You’re not doing what YOU want to do, when YOU want to do it. By default, other projects will fall behind.
Now, if you’re a “Genetically Unfortunate Skinny Student”, you have my empathy. You are actually very rare. You only fall under this category if you have:
- Been consistently training hard in the gym for over 3 months, preferably without relying on others, AND
- Been consistently eating at a calorie surplus. You know you’ve been eating at a surplus because you’ve been tracking this. You may also have gained a noticeable amount of fat, with very little muscle to show for it.
How do we solve such a conundrum?
For the rare guys who struggle to gain muscle, even when they’ve genuinely been eating at a surplus, it’s because they have a lower response to training than most others.
Therefore, you need to chase your MRV (Max Recoverable level of Volume). Basically, you need to perform more working sets per exercise.
Assuming you’re doing the basics:
- Following a 3-5 day split, and crucially, training each muscle group 2-3 times per week
- Focusing 80% (or more) of your time on the compound movements
- Trying to progress either every workout, or every week, or every 2 weeks, or every month (depending on experience level)
Then you need to increase your total volume. Guys like myself will grow nicely off 1-2 heavy working sets per exercise for example. However YOU need to increase this to potentially 3-4 working sets, focusing on:
- Pull Ups
Not all of them necessarily, but at least 3.
Because you’re chasing your MRV, you can’t afford to be performing much cardio, as you simply won’t recover from both. You will start to regress if you do this.
Solutions for Other Students
Time to address the guys who want to stay lean, above all else.
This is arguably more of a challenge at uni than normal, with all the alcohol, fast-food temptations (thanks to your house/flat mates) and your mum trying to force-feed you whenever you go home, because she thinks this will entice you to stay longer and prevent you from ever leaving her nest again.
Some Perma-Bulk Students genuinely don’t care, and just want to get as big as possible. Quite often these are the Rugby or American-Footballers.
But the students who simply want to outlift other guys and gain “Social Accolades” if you like, are mistaken in their pursuit of maximal growth – it isn’t really what they want.
Your biology can be a nuisance when it comes to getting what you really want, and the supplement industry knows this. It plays on your insecurities, and that’s why I hate it so much.
If I was to draw parallels to this phenomenon, it would be similar to the girl who thinks she wants a “24/7 ass-kissing boyfriend” (we all know guys like this) who looks good to her social circle, family and that all-important Instagram page. But, despite the extremely temporary happiness she receives in the form of social validation, she grows to resent the poor sod, losing all respect for him. Arguing, drama and break-ups inevitably follow.
The student who desires social validation from out-lifting/out-sizing others will also only experience temporary happiness. What he really wants is to feel ridiculously confident within his own skin, permanently. Again, if you’re relying upon other people for this, it will be temporary confidence at best.
Are you starting to notice the pattern here with interdependency? It breeds inconsistency. Confident in some situations, but uncertain in others. Successful for a couple of months, unsuccessful for the next five. Nobody really wants this.
The difference between the two states is that one is internal, the other external. Independence is genuine and long-lasting happiness, whilst interdependence is very brief happiness.
So what should these “IDGAF (but I kinda do)” students do?
Both these guys, and the “Lean-Bulkers Who Fail” guys need to copy the “Lean Year-Round” guys. Success here is literally all about diet adherence. This means that you should do whatever allows you to consistently eat the correct amount of food required to gain virtually zero body fat, and still make decent gains.
By definition, if your primary goal is staying lean, it can’t be maximal growth simultaneously. Pick one or the other. If you don’t know which one to choose, you need to dig a little deeper, being honest with yourself about which one will make you truly happier.
Skinny guys will be happier gaining muscle as rapidly as possible. Other guys, it’s likely to be either losing body fat, or minimising body fat gain. Not always, but most of the time.
Now, assuming you want to get leaner, or bulk with minimal body fat gain, the biggest contributors to high levels of diet adherence are:
- Doing more cardio
- Performing IF
- Eating less protein (“WHOA, WTF?”)
Doing more cardio raises the caloric consumption ceiling. It shifts the total amount of calories you can get away with, upwards. This is an absolute god-send if you love food.
More cardio = More food, more freedom and more fun. You feel less deprived and therefore are less likely to fuck up your diet.
Binges occur when deprivation exceeds a certain threshold. All humans are the same, regardless of willpower levels.
You will still mess up your diet occasionally, even with those 3 strategies, so don’t worry about it when it does happen. But the point is they will be less frequent, and less extreme when they do happen.
Because maximal growth is not the goal, you don’t need to perform anywhere near as much volume as you think. As long as there is at least 1 working (hard) set per exercise, you will have enough stimulation to grow, provided sufficient caloric intake. Performing lower weight training volume allows you to get away with a lot more cardio.
Intermittent Fasting provides a structure that allows for a great social life, by shifting calories from earlier in the day to the evening, where most of your social fun as a student will take place. Unless you’re extremely introverted, IF is a complete game-changer for students.
Now for the controversial one – eat less bloody protein! You don’t need as much as the supplement industry says.
The supplement industry has you all completely brainwashed, it’s amazing! It’s almost like the big tyrannical government of fitness, wielding vast power over its’ minions through advertising (brainwashing) tactics. Everyone follows along, nodding their heads like mindless robots.
Protein powder is over-priced food, which should be obvious for intelligent students, but clearly not. Same with weight-gainers. If you want a pre-workout, just get some caffeine pills for £3, but even then, they do nothing, absolutely nothing for long term gains. They just add a little fun.
You don’t need very much of this over-priced food. The only time you need the standardised 1g per pound of bodyweight in protein is when you are already very lean, and trying to get leaner. This simply doesn’t apply to the vast majority of people.
The real magic behind eating less protein is that you can eat more carbs. Carbs make you feel good and prevent feelings of deprivation from rising to excess. Protein only beats carbs in terms of diet adherence is you are genuinely hungry. Most of the time, carbs win.