Guys, especially once they hit their 30s, tend to face a greater battle when trying to really get stronger. Unsurprisingly, this is also when most guys, if they’re not already fathers, become dads. Welcome to the Dad Bod era.
Era is a bit of a stretch. I see this lasting about as long as an ill-advised fashion trend, like those 5 minutes when Kriss-Kross convinced teenaged mall rats to wear their pants backwards.
For those who don’t know, a “Dad Bod” describes a guy whose body isn’t fat or thin, but somewhere in-between. Physically he’s just like, you know, whatever.
You might assume that I would rail against this movement, say that it’s lame or weak or unmanly.
On the contrary. I think it’s fine. Provided it’s how you want to be.
Where I do take issue with stuff like Dad Bod is when it’s used as an excuse. Which is where I’m going with this post.
Maybe I know dudes too well, but I’d wager some of these guys pounding back the beer and rubbing their bellies secretly wished they looked better. Like an overweight woman with terrible eating habits pontificating online how she “loves ma curves.”
Fact is, most of these “dads” are probably failed gym rats.
Guys that hit the gym and maybe even followed a program or two. But when the beginner gains petered out or it came time to commit to the hard part – the diet – they hit the great wall of mediocrity. And along came the Dad Bod movement to make quitting not only acceptable, but also cool.
At least for now.
I’m not here to judge or call people out. I know how hard changing your body is. I’m here to help.
So the rest of this blog is dedicated to those Dad Bods: those who tried and failed to be something more before giving up to join a group they’d rather not be members of.
Now there are a million things you can do to look better. But some are way more important than others.
And context is everything. A middle-aged woman with PCOS has different needs than a 25-year old guy with arms like a coat hanger.
Sure there’s considerable overlap, but nothing is “one size fits all.” Still, you’d be amazed at how many people will argue this. God bless them.
Let’s get started.
A 30-Something dude who wants to dump his dad bod should start with these 5 things
If you can do nothing else consistently, just do this.
Don’t worry, there will always be more stuff to do. But it’s always best to do just a few things really well before taking on more.
#1. Keep a timed food log
The most powerful diet tool at your disposal is a 99-cent notebook. Sure, there are cool apps like MyFitnessPal and MyMacros and they all work. But they’re all variations of one crucial truth – the first step in changing your body is becoming aware of what you’re eating.
Because it’s always the stuff you aren’t even aware of that does the most “damage.”
A handful of trail mix here, some M&Ms there. I call it “subliminal snacking” and the shit adds up. For that reason, I like people to also note when they reach for these things.
Some guys report subliminal snacking late in the day, when they’re stressed out and want to wind down. Others like to at 4pm. Or when they’re bored. Or on the phone. And show me a guy who doesn’t sneak down junk when with his buddies.
Then there are weak sisters (like yours truly) who are seemingly incapable of resisting junk food after 10pm.
So over-the-top rules like “no junk in the house” or “no calories after 10” are effective for me. I can’t make a lousy choice when there’s no lousy choice to make.
And remember, I’m supposed to be good at this shit. But it’s still hard. So don’t beat yourself up. Just learn to “work” with your body.
It starts with becoming aware.
#2. Don’t drink calories
Until you’re within striking distance of your physique goal, you should not consume calories in liquid form.
I was going to say “no liquid carbs,” to allow for the occasional protein shake. But since people still put hundreds of calories of fat in their coffee and pound back the Jumba Juice it’s easier just to say “drink no calories, porky.”
For a dude this is such a no-brainer. A guy should love to eat. It’s what we do. So dumping the shitty workout drinks or fruity Frappucinos “frees up” hundreds of extra calories a day to eat meat and vegetables. Stuff that actually contributes to a healthy, muscular body.
#2B. Don’t drink beer
Beer pisses me off. It tastes great but it’s a calorie bomb. Which is why it’s frustrating.
I know many fit people who drink. Most only occasionally, some more frequently. But very few will have more than the “odd” beer. Even in the off-season, if they care about how they look. Especially as you get older.
Maybe it’s the hops or the phytoestrogens? Guys who drink a lot of beer do tend to get man-boobs. Still, I think it’s just too easy to drink.
Get in shape. Then switch to vodka.
#3. Train for hypertrophy – and train hard
A good hypertrophy program performed with serious effort will kick your ass and burn a ton of calories. It also cranks up protein synthesis and stimulates hormones like testosterone, GH, and IGF-1, so you don’t have to rush to the gym bathroom post workout and inject all that shit yourself. That was a joke.
The sad thing is that nobody seems to know how to train hard anymore.
It doesn’t mean going “heavy” or having the reps super high or non-existent rest intervals. It just means having focused effort and purpose. 100% mental engagement – no smart phones, no shit shooting.
The best thing is, hard training is wonderfully self-limiting. Which makes it great for busy people. You can’t train hard longer than an hour – if you can, I’m sorry, you weren’t training hard.
While in Kansas City recently my friend Ethan Benda put me through a 40-minute arm workout (yes, arms). There’s no way I could’ve done even 5 more minutes. And my arms were sore for a week afterwards. That’s training.
#4. Count protein
Dad Bods must count just one thing – how much protein they eat. I don’t care about calories, carbs, fat, RDA, or whether a caveman could’ve found it at the local 7-11. Just count protein.
Now, make it the goal to eat your bodyweight in grams of protein every day, preferably a bit more. So if Mr. Dad Bod weighs 180 pounds, he should eat 200 grams of protein a day. Spread it across three meals a day. Or 4. Or whatever. Just more than one.
That’s it for now. Count nothing else.
Combine this with hard training and even the softest Dad Bod will lose fat and build muscle. I guarantee it. Because you will naturally eat less junk and have more stable energy levels.
Protein is magic.
#5. Look around
The quickest way to advance your position is to be merciless with whom you spend your time with.
If your “inner circle” consists of skinny fat douchebags who eat garbage and chase drunk college girls then you have a pretty good idea why your life is the way it is. Or where it’s headed.
On the other hand, if you consistently find that you’re the dumbest guy in the room, or the poorest, or have the smallest arms – congratulations. Now you’re in good company. Cause now you can grow.
So my advice to Dad Bod is to starts hanging out with people with higher personal standards. That doesn’t mean having the most money or being the most successful, and certainly not the ability to “pull the most tail.” But having the most character.
And you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat their body. Almost as much as how they treat other people.
Look, working out isn’t for everyone. Nor is being big or strong or buff required to be a healthy, contributing member of society.
So if Dad Bod would rather do something else with his time (and his body) I say have at it.
But the key word is “do.” As in actually do something that you feel passionate about.
I don’t care what – write, teach, travel, invent a better mousetrap (please, not another fitness app), make birdhouses, become a kickboxer, help others (that one’s always good).
Just don’t waste the incredible gift you’ve been given – a healthy, functional, capable mind and body.
There’s nothing cool or manly, or certainly Dad-like, about that.
Bryan Krahn is a fitness writer, online coach, editor, and speaker. When not behind a computer working on fitnessy things, he’s usually in the gym or in the dojo training Krav Maga. Want to train with Bryan? Check out his website below.