The worst part about undergoing my 12-week diet wasn’t having to give up red meat, cheese, alcohol, or staying out past dark—it was the idea of reverting back to my old soft self after the program ended. I don’t, and never did, have the illusion of keeping chiseled abs year-round for the rest of my life, but I think bloating back up again would be disgraceful. Since my diet concluded, I’ve adopted a more moderate plan to stay relatively lean while adding more muscle.
My training schedule hasn’t changed much. The good habits I developed over the 12-week transformation have taken hold to the point that I feel like a slacker if I miss more than a workout or two. I still lift three days a week, sprint once or twice, and jump rope. The lifting follows the same basic principles—one big barbell exercise done for low reps with heavy weights, followed by a few assistance exercises that train the muscles used on that lift and the ones that complement them (such as back work following chest moves). Now that I’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to sprinting, I’ve been pushing myself on a steeper hill. I’ve also gotten a thicker jump rope—the weighted speed rope from lifelineusa.com—for a greater challenge.
My diet is a relief compared to how I was eating for the transformation, but it’s still structured. I chow on whole foods almost exclusively (I do down the occasional protein shake for convenience), with high-carb days consisting mostly of sweet potatoes, fruit, and brown rice, and low-carb ones comprising meat and vegetables. To gradually put on more muscle, I’m having three to four high-carb days a week, and two or three low-carb days, which is basically the reverse of what I did to lose weight. (For a precise plan on how to do this, check out Shleby Starnes’ Macronutrient Guidebook, available at troponinnutrition.com.) Having to count calories and grams for 12 weeks was mentally draining, so I don’t do that anymore. I’m sure I will again when I pick a specific goal and need a more regimented program to get me there, but for now I’m just eating like a semi-normal person. And I like that. I eat as much as I want, keeping in mind to keep the protein up and the carbs higher on some days than others, but I don’t break out a food scale.
So when you think about it, I guess I’ve settled into a routine that most guys should adopt anyway. Plenty of exercise and clean, wholesome food, without stressing over the details. To make a dramatic change in your body in a limited period of time, you have to go to extremes. But to stay healthy, you just have to be sensible.