Are Your Physique Goals Worth The Price?

When I was 19 years old, my one fitness goal was to look like a Marvel superhero. My workouts were from muscle and fitness magazine, and my nutrition plan was to eat more. During my summer break from college, I trained six days a week and ate three to four thousand calories a day.   

That September, I returned to college 35 pounds heavier with a newfound passion for fitness. At age 32, sometimes I wonder if I could do that again. It is a bit of a loaded question because I’m not a movie star, physique competitor, model, or athlete whose paycheck depends on how they look or perform. There is a lot that goes into transforming the way you look.

So the better question to ask is, are your physique goals worth the price? 

I wish I could tell you about a top-secret superhero training plan that would cause you to gain muscle and lose fat, but there isn’t one… well, maybe there is. 

If you are new to the gym and have never lifted weights, you might experience a quick increase in muscle and strength, AKA “Newbie Gains .” This is due to the body’s response to a new training stimulus.  

A male might gain 15-25 pounds of muscle in their first year of training, and a female may gain about half of that.

The magical phase of newbie gains will last through your first year of training. That’s why doing something is better than doing nothing. Of course, you can get very specific with your training plan, but your consistency is more important in the beginning.  

Beyond the first year of training, your muscle gain and fat loss rates will vary. Also, as you age, the variation in hormones such as testosterone will affect your ability to gain muscle. Does that mean you can’t gain muscle? No! It just depends on where you are in your journey and your expectations.   

What about newbie gains and fat loss? 

Someone new to weight loss will also find that there can be “newbie losses.” It is vital to understand that it is not a linear progression when it comes to fat loss. If you eat in a calorie surplus to gain muscle realistically, you will gain a little fat. If this sounds like you, then you might be considering body recomposition. 

Body Recomposition – Training to lose body fat while gaining muscle simultaneously.  

Before jumping down the google worm-hole to find a new training plan, let’s consider what you can expect for weekly fat loss and what’s required. Please remember that the only way to lose weight is through a calorie deficit.  

Calorie Deficit – Consuming fewer calories than you burn.   

There are three levels of weekly fat loss: 

Easy: .5 – 1 pound per week. 

Medium: 1-2 pounds per week

Hard: 2-3 pounds per week. 

To put things into perspective, losing 2-3 pounds per week would require about 95% adherence to your plan. The more consistent you are, the quicker you will lose weight and see progress. However, someone can make small changes, lose half a pound a week, and be consistent without extreme lifestyle modifications. One is more sustainable than the other. 😉

Just as a reminder, your weight will fluctuate week to week, and that’s why noticing trends and using weekly averages can be a big help. In the end, your goal is to see a downward trend and make adjustments along the way. 

Creating a more significant calorie deficit is easier when you have more body fat to lose. If you usually eat 4,000 calories a day and start eating balanced plates, you might find you’re eating 3,000-2,500 calories. That deficit can lead to fast weight loss, and like your newbie strength gains, your weight loss will slow down at a certain point. 

The human body is amazing and will adapt to your deficit (hello metabolism). You will eventually burn fewer calories exercising because you become more efficient at the movements.   

Hitting plateaus is normal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop what you are doing, but you should consider the expectations you are setting for yourself.  

Reaching and maintaining 5% body fat is not realistic. Yes, you might have a six-pack and look like Thor, but it comes at a cost. Precision Nutrition has an excellent resource on body fat percentages.   

Most of my clients would be thrilled to be at around 10-12% body fat.  

The full image can be found here.

When some clients start working with me, they want to be closer to 5%. They don’t consider what changes are necessary and what they might sacrifice.  

The full image can be found here

Most celebrities don’t want to undergo the changes required for their movie roles. Also, once you’re over the age of 40, the likely hood of you maintaining hulk size muscle status isn’t feasible without the help of certain substances and fantastic genetics. 😐 

Good one from Ben Carpenter!


It’s your choice, and it’s essential to clarify why you are focused on making any change in the first place. Do you want to be able to pose on social media shirtless, or do you want to be able to go for a walk without getting winded? One goal isn’t better than the other because who am I to judge someone for wanting to make a change in their life. 

Instead of shaming someone for trying to lose weight, what if we looked at answering a few questions.  

  • Why is this important? 

Why is this change necessary? Think about it, and when you have your answer ask yourself why again. Do this a few times, and you might find that your response has nothing to do with getting a six-pack. 

  • Are you aware of what you will give up?

It depends on your starting point, but it requires precision for someone to look like a Marvel superhero. Meals will need to be on point, and tracking your calories will be necessary. You might be the person bringing Tupperware with you to parties or skipping dinners with friends and family. You will need to exercise, not skip sessions, and possibly train for more extended periods. Oh, and don’t forget about sleep because 8-9 hours is required to aid in recovery and muscle growth. 

  • Are you aware of what you will gain? 

Pause and think this one over for a minute or two. What would you gain by trying to make any sort of change? Let’s say, for some reason, you never reach 5% body fat. Does that mean you should regret trying in the first place? 

I would say no because you will learn a ton of information, such as: 

  • What works
  • What doesn’t work 
  • What do you enjoy doing 
  • What you don’t enjoy doing 
  • What you are willing to change 
  • What you are unwilling to change
  • What is sustainable 
  • What is unsustainable 
  • How to ask better questions 
  • What an actual tablespoon of peanut butter looks like (😉 ) 

This information is priceless, especially when you consider yourself someone concerned about their health and fitness. Maybe your value system has changed, and that’s pretty impressive. 

Everyone has their starting point, and for me, it was trying to look like a superhero. So, would I try to gain 35 pounds again? No, because I don’t value that right now. For me waking up and knowing I have enough strength to pick up my wife and son in my arms is more than enough.  

I now realize that strength has more than one definition and doesn’t have one distinct look.    

This is the stuff I help my online coaching clients with, and if you’re tired of guessing and feel a little stuck, click here to book a nutrition strategy call. 

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