A Balanced Diet and Simple Workout Plan Helped Me Build Muscle and Get Ripped

If there’s one thing that’s motivated me to become as fit and healthy as possible, it’s my children. I’m the father to two 8-year-old twin girls—having them has been a huge motivator for me to work hard and be an inspiration for them.

My first try at getting healthy was a bit of a misfire. I’m 6’1” and was fairly skinny. After seeing a Netflix documentary about the keto diet, I decided to try it. Keto had me, obviously, completely cutting out carbs. My weight dropped right down to 145 pounds. I felt extremely ill and lethargic, I actually ended up passing out hitting my head on the bathroom sink.

That obviously wasn’t sustainable for me. Instead of keto, I started eating a more balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fats. I tracked my calories to ensure I was eating enough. I stayed in a small calorie surplus and started training hard to try and put on muscle, with the goal of getting back to a healthy weight for my size.

I started with calisthenics and dumbbell exercises in my house, doing pull-ups, press-ups, shoulder presses, and curls three to four times a week. After about a year of that I started to plateau, so I joined a local gym. Free weight exercises helped me get stronger and push through the plateaus.

I started with three full-body days per week. As I started trying to increase volume, I moved onto an upper/lower program. I made a lot of good progress hitting each major muscle twice per week.

I also cleaned up my diet. My approach was 80-20, aiming for 80 percent whole unprocessed foods and then 20 of whatever junk I wanted. That basic guideline made it easy to stay consistent over time. That was a big deal, because diet is such a huge part of staying healthy, but it’s also easy to overthink. With my 80-20 guide, I didn’t have to worry about too many rules or complicated macros.

In six years of following that plan, I added 50 pounds to my frame. I also went from working as a restaurant manager to pursuing a career in physical training, where I got to work alongside a great trainer who taught me a lot about workouts and nutrition. I know I’ve got pretty good genes: I have always had really good muscle symmetry. I could grow my pecs, arms, and shoulders while staying relatively lean. And unlike a lot of people, I’ve never had to alternate between bulking and cutting—I just trained hard over a long time.

I plan to keep pushing on, seeing just how far I can go with muscle and strength. For me, finding a consistent routine I could follow was key. And that’s the advice I’d give to anyone just starting out: Find a style that suits you. You can learn from what other people do, but don’t just copy them, because their approach may not work for you. Ultimately, finding your own path and sticking to it is the best way to reach your own, personal goals. —As told to Jesse Hicks

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