The Fat Loss and Strength Gain Magic Bullet Problem

So, I received an e-mail the other day from a guy called Pete Anthony. He shared his experience with intermittent fasting and strength training. His article was quite good, so I asked if he wanted to write a guest post for Rough Strength. Here is the result. Enjoy.

Fat loss and muscle gain. When it comes to health & fitness, those are essentially the two things that people want. They are essentially the two ingredients that when combined together yield looking good in the mirror.

The truth is that getting either is really simple. You lose fat by expending more calories than you take in over time. You gain muscle by consistently doing progressive overload, forcing your body to adapt to the recurring stressor.

Despite how bone-headedly simple either of these tasks are, it seems that most people just can’t seem to figure either out. Why? Why are these exceedingly simple tasks so apparently complicated for 9 out of 10 people who want to “get fit?”

We’re smart enough to get PhD’s, split atoms, build silicon microprocessors, and put a man on the moon, yet the vast majority of 1st world individuals can’t figure out how to get at least lean & healthy enough to get their doctors off their ass? What gives?

The purpose of this post is to tackle this big question in an honest way. I’ve amassed 15 years of experience in health & fitness, learned how this seedy industry actually works, and at one point actually had to come back to leanness from corpulence myself. In doing so, I’ve gained some keen insight into this seemingly ridiculous issue of people not being able to figure out either of these simple tasks.

Here’s one thing I’ve realized: people have an inbred desire for a magic bullet short cut. It’s human nature. We’re conversationalists. It’s imbued into our DNA. Think prehistoric times: If a person could figure out away to achieve the same results via expending half the energy, that might have meant the difference between survival + replication or death. It makes sense that effective laziness is an evolutionarily positive trait that was selected for.

Here’s another thing I’ve realized: the health & fitness industry has learned that marketing to emotion is much more effective than marketing to rational logic. And, this strong desire for a magic bullet shortcut is an emotional gold mine.

You see it in other industries too:

  • The “secret” to getting rich online that corporations don’t want you to know about
  • The “secret” to attracting women and getting laid that true players don’t want you to know about
  • The “secret” to gaining 50 pounds of muscle in 3 months that doctors don’t want you to know about

You know what’s funny? A lot of people assume the people responsible for this kind of marketing are truly evil. Maybe some of them are, but the honest truth is that most of them are not. Most of them are pragmatists. They sell what people want to buy, and for most that means a delusional magic bullet solution to their problem. People want to believe in the pixie dust, no matter how ridiculous it might actually sound if a modicum of logical thought was applied to it.

The saying goes “the customer is always right.” Well, if the customers want to buy a fairy tale, then a lot of marketers will shrug, say ok, and sell fairy tales.

Here’s how the tens of thousands of recycled articles of this nature would end:

There’s no shortcut, you need to work hard and be consistent, blah blah blah, diligence and discipline, blah blah blah, insert generic motivational/inspirational quote, good luck.

That cliche advice doesn’t actually help anyone though, so I’m not going to do that. Rather, I’m going to honestly discuss how to shed yourself of “magic bullet syndrome”. [AZ: You still need to work hard though. Do not be delusional]

Step 1. Understanding: There is no magic bullet

It’s tempting to believe in golden goose eggs. I’m guilty of it myself. We all are, to some degree, at some point in our lives. But, we just have to accept that, at least for now, there is no magic bullet for fat loss or strength gain. We also have to understand our inherent desire for a magic bullet to exist. It’s our prehistoric survivalist DNA screaming loudly. Understanding that for what it is helps.

Step 2. Honesty: Embrace the desire for efficacy

Why do you want magic fat loss burning pills? Why do you want a magic routine that can pack on muscles faster than steroids? I’ll tell you why, it’s because you want maximum results with minimal effort. Let me tell you something: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s human nature to want a shortcut, and it’s there for a good reason, as I explained earlier.

The idea that you should endure pain and sacrifice just for it’s own sake is ridiculous sentiment that’s pushed forth by fitness narcissists who want to feel superior to you. Ignore it. It’s a total waste of time. Rather, be honest with yourself about what you actually want.

Is looking good naked all you really want? Well, then why do you think you’re going to stick with that marathon training club, or that overpriced CrossFit gym, or kickboxing yoga class? I don’t think you will for the same reason that I don’t think I would either: none of that shit is actually necessary to look good naked. Here’s what is:

  1. Do just enough resistance training to build decent musculature
  2. Lose enough fat for it to show nicely via eating less food

The way to success is to be shameless about your true desires. That means being honest about what you actually want, no matter how vain or shallow it may be. Then, you start doing what actually matters towards achieving it and stop doing other unnecessary shit that you don’t really need to be doing. Which leads me to…

Step 3. Minimalism: Embrace your inherent laziness and use the minimally effective dose

With my many years of experience in the personal pursuit of health and vanity and in consulting others to do the same, the most important thing I’ve learned is this: You need to figure out how to make achieving your goal as easy as possible.

People always try to pile more onto their already packed plate of life to get what they want. More training, more dietary restriction, more more more. This is the wrong approach. You should be asking yourself “how can I get the same desired results by doing less?”

Minimalism is a beautiful thing. It’s what allowed me to achieve the following look by lifting 2-3 times per week for less than 45 minutes, Doing no cardio, and eating pretty much whatever the hell I wanted to, as long as it wasn’t in blatant excess:

front page pic

Some people might call me lazy or my results subpar. Well, I honestly don’t give a fuck. Because, the only thing that ever matters at the end of the day is what I’ll actually do, not what sounds good to do on paper. If you can get your desired results with less time and effort, you’re more likely to succeed, that’s just basic logic.

Concluding Thoughts:

  1. There’s no magic bullet, but deep down we all pretty much know that already.
  2. There’s nothing wrong with desire for a magic bullet, though.
  3. Get as close to the magic bullet as you can by taking the minimalist approach: how can I get what I want with as little work as possible?

There you have it. Another success story of minimalism, intermittent fasting and simplicity. How many times should you read this stuff to actually use it and take charge of your life?

Play rough!


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10 thoughts on “The Fat Loss and Strength Gain Magic Bullet Problem

  1. Petar

    I don’t want hair on my palms… :(

    Bullshit aside, I completely agree, too much “science” being sold all over the place about the right exercise, right nutrition, right supplements, bulking, cutting, “kettlebells don’t build muscle”, “need a lot of rest time”, “can’t build muscle as a vegetarian”, bla bla, bla bla…

    I’m no Ronnie Coleman (only animal protein, can you believe that??) but it doesn’t take a PhD to know you have to lift heavy, eat solid, do what feels right and you will get places!


  2. Dave R

    I don’t have a problem with surplus weight (or the ethos of hard training) but the article is bang on target. Never looked for a quick route to results because that only comes with consistent commitment to efficient training. Keep putting these up Alex!

  3. Charlie

    I’m 42 , and people sometimes tell me that I am too old to lift heavy. I believe in tried and true compound exercises. Squats, deadlifts, rows, overhead presses, dips etc. These are the same people who belly up to the bar every day after work. I just shrug and continue doing my thing. You’re not too old to lift heavy, you get old by not lifting heavy.

  4. MACE

    Alex, just found your site recently. Been enjoying reading your older posts.

    I agree that good old grit and determination is the way to go. Sure there’s tricks to speed up the results, but at the end of the day you got to put in the man hours to get the results.

    Keep on kickin!


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