When it comes to losing weight, you can find plenty of complicated programs that involve long, intense workouts and strict calorie-counting diet plans. But my guest today takes an approach to fat loss that’s awesomely simple, and even more effective because of that fact.
His name is Dan John and he’s a strength coach, a competitive thrower and weightlifter, and the author of many books about health and fitness, including Fat Loss Happens on Monday. Today on the show, Dan talks about the importance of not only picking a specific number where you want your weight to be, but enriching that goal so that it lights up multiple parts of your brain. We then discuss how and how often to measure your weight, how to deal with setbacks as you shed the pounds, and Dan’s uncomplicated approach to eating. Dan also explains why he recommends drinking hot water with lemon, practicing intermittent fasting, and working out in a fasted state. We go over the “Easy Strength” exercise program he suggests for fat loss, and why these short weightlifting sessions are always followed by a walk. We end our conversation with how to break through a weight loss plateau by doing something called “reverse rucking.”
Resources Related to the Podcast
- Our previous episodes with Dan John:
- AoM Article: 6 Ways to Measure Your Body Fat
- MyoTape Body Measuring Tape
- Clarence Bass
- AoM podcast #581 on tiny habits with BJ Fogg
- Rusty Moore’s Fat Loss Boost
- AoM Article: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
- Pavel Tsatsouline
- AoM article and podcast about intermittent fasting
- AoM Article: The Spiritual Disciplines — Fasting
- 5:2 fasting
- AoM Article: Cardio for the Man Who Hates Cardio — The Benefits of Rucking
Connect With Dan John
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Read the Transcript!
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. And when it comes to losing weight, you can find plenty of complicated programs that involve long intense workouts and strict calorie-counting diet plans. But my guest today takes an approach to fat loss that’s awesomely simple, and even more effective because of that fact. His name is Dan John, he’s a strength coach, a competitive thrower and weightlifter, and the author of many books about health and fitness, including Fat Loss Starts on Monday. Today on the show, Dan talks about the importance of not only picking a specific number of where you want your weight to be, but enriching that goal so that it lights up multiple parts of your brain. We then discuss how and how often to measure your weight, how to deal with the setbacks as you shed the pounds and Dan’s uncomplicated approach to eating. Dan also explains why he recommends drinking hot water with lemon, practicing intermittent fasting and working out in a fasted state. We then go over the easy strength exercise program he suggests for fat loss and why these short weightlifting sessions always are followed by a walk. And we end our conversation with how to break through a weight loss plateau by doing something called ‘Reverse rucking’. After the show’s over, check at our show notes at aom.is/fatloss.
Alright, Dan John, welcome back to the show.
Dan John: Hey, well, thanks so much. I… Like I’ve told you before, I love your site, my friend Gabriel Klausmo uses your site with his students, because he thinks that there’s some gaps in modern education. Which I agree with and, man, I watch us drop some things out of teaching, it was like, “Okay, great. I get… We’re reacting, we’re… ” But there were some things or some fundamentals that I still think we need to deal with.
Brett McKay: Oh wow. I’m glad, thanks so much. I’m glad that the site’s been useful for you and for folks you know. I wanted to bring you back on the podcast, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. We had you on last year to talk about benchmarks, physical benchmarks, every man should strive for. I wanted to bring you back, ’cause it’s a new year and I know a lot of men who are listening are setting goals, and one of the goals some of these guys are probably setting is to lose some weight this year. And a lot of these guys who are making this goal have likely had this goal in years past, but they’ve failed. I’m curious, in your experience as a coach and working with people trying to… With body composition, body fat, losing body fat. What’s the thing that holds people back from losing weight? What do you even see, are the most common roadblocks?
Dan John: Well, first off, I have to take a shout out to both Earl Nightingale and Derek Severs for this little tool I use, it’s called… It’s called The Two Number Goal Sheet. And the idea is very simple, is you find two numbers that are important to you. Now, let’s just focus on… Let’s just focus on what you’re asking now. I use a physical goal, which is… For this year will be body weight and like a financial goal. But it can be… It could be anything. I think a number helps because it’s so clear-cut, like if you have this vague… If I was to say to you, “Hey, I wanna lose a few pounds.” Well, that just floats off… Of course, I can say that. I pushed air past my vocal cords, I didn’t say anything. So I have a goal this year, in fact, it’s coming up the date that it’s due, is gonna be February 12th. I wanna get down to 211 pounds, which is 96 kilos. So at the start of last year, I weighed 251, so it’s gonna be a 40-pound body weight loss in a year and a month.
Well, why? Well, because this will be the 65th time that I have gone around the sun, okay? And when you turn 65 as a weightlifter, you move into the 65 to 69-year-old weight class and division. So what does 211 mean to me? It doesn’t mean anything except it’s 96 kilos, and that’s the class, I have to weigh under that. Okay, good, we’ll just stop with that for a second. Well, let’s think about that. Am I healthier? Health is… I use Matthew Tone’s definition, “The optimal interplay of the human organs.” Will I be healthier at 211 versus 251? Is that 40 pounds at age 65, will that loss make me healthier? Well, I know from blood tests and, [chuckle] well, blood tests and blood pressure and all the other stuff, I am healthier… Right now I weight about 221. I am healthier at 221 than I am at 251. I have a new grandson this year, Leo. [chuckle] People in my family don’t live very long, so, will my longevity improve at 211 versus 251? Well, I can think, “Well, yeah. Logically, I think so.” I don’t smoke, I wear seat belts. I see the doctor every year, I do the stuff you’re supposed to do.
I think that weighing 211 will help with my staying around for Leo and my other grandchildren, Danny and Josephine. Well, will I be fitter at 211 versus 251? Well, fitness is ability to do a task, so I still… Everyone still ask me to move couches and refrigerators. And… But I think I’ll be fitter at 211, and then finally in when it comes to performance, I think I have a better chance of being an American record holder, maybe a world record holder at 96 kilos versus heavier than that. And then the final thing, and you can take this however you wanna take it. Art De Vany, a few years ago, said that vanity after certain years is a great reason to work out. Now, vanity comes from the old Latin, it means empty, but actually, at my age, 65, vanity is probably not a bad fifth reason to do something. Please listen to what I try to say then. It’s not just stepping on a scale and weighing 211, which is great, but there’s meat behind that goal for me. There’s my grandchildren showed up in this conversation, my overall health showed up, my weight lifting showed up. I look better, to me that’s what you need when you look at a fitness goal, it needs to have… Brett, it needs to have… It has to be full. It has to be ripe. It has to be…
Brett McKay: Rich. It has to be rich.
Dan John: Juicy, rich, yeah. You’re with me. If you’re gonna have a dessert… You say like you’re trying to lose weight, and someone says, “Do you want a bowl of vanilla ice cream?” Well, okay, that’s a lot better than a, I don’t know, something… “Would you like a mint?” “Okay. No, no, I’m on a diet.” “Bowl of vanilla ice cream?” “No.” “I spent… This is my grandmother’s recipe. I spent six weeks putting this together and I’m just gonna light the match and flame it off. And would you like some of that dessert?” “Well, yeah, that’s… ” Do you see how that… That’s a little bit richer of a story than a bowl of vanilla. So for me, I think what happens with most people’s goals, is that they have very vanilla goals. They have these vague numbers out there. They have this, “Here… Yeah, I wanna lose a few pounds. I’d like to spend more time with my kid or kids. I’d like to… ” Do you see how blah, that all was?
Brett McKay: Right.
Dan John: But when I talk about stepping on the scale at the weightlifting meet under 211 pounds, under 96 K, and then stepping on the platform not long after that and snatching and clean jerking. That just kind of makes me excited. And that’s I think the key.
Brett McKay: Okay. So yeah, a lot of people just give up on their goals because there’s really nothing there to it. If it’s just a number, that’s not gonna be too motivating.
Dan John: Yeah, you need to have… Every goal you set has to enrich kind of several areas of your life. Has to light up your brain in different places. I gotta tell you, if I was a performer, one of the things I would try to do is, for example, maybe sprinkle the audience… This time of year, I put those cinnamon pinecones in front of a… I have this electric fan heater in the house. And I like to put those cinnamon pinecones downstream of the heater blower, so it makes the whole house smell like cinnamon. And if I was a performer, I would always be blowing cinnamon into my audience. Besides just me being on stage with my guitar singing love ballads from the 1950s, I would try to have something else going on. I would try to… Light up every sense I can. Light up every part of the brain that I could. Well I feel the same way about goal setting. You gotta make it. You gotta be able to taste it, smell it, see it, hear it. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. And so when you’re measuring this, so you set this goal, you wanna lose body fat. The scale is gonna play a role, but do you have any other ways you measure fat loss that you like to use?
Dan John: Yeah. Right here on my desk as I’m sitting here, I have two things called tape measures. I suggest you measure… Now, it’s difficult because you’re waistline… Anybody who’s ever measured their waistline will tell you. Your waistline, not the measurement, but where you put your tape changes a little bit every day. I think measuring your waistline every day is a really good little thing. And if it… And the other thing I’d recommend, Brett, is this, use a centimeter ruler. And the reason is, if you go from 39 and 15th, 16th down to 39, and I don’t know three 8, that doesn’t mean much. But if you go from 104 centimeters to 99, that just… We humans, for whatever reason, that’s like, “Wow, that’s a big change.” And if you can go… So I’m a big fan of measuring your waistline in centimeters.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. Alright, so measuring we are gonna use a scale. We’re gonna use a measuring tape. I like MyoTape, that’s the one that I use. It’s like 5 bucks on Amazon. Really easy to use.
Dan John: And if Brett, if I can add one more. We used to call them movement buddies or bragging buddies. If you have somebody in your life that you can trust, I would move outside of people in your home, but somebody that will give you feedback on how you look and how you’re doing. A bragging buddy. Someone you could talk to on a weekly basis. These are the good things going on in my life, and it’s more than a therapist. It’s… In fact, in the old Irish the word is “Anam Cara”, ain’t that a beautiful word, “soul friend”. Someone you can just say… Who will look at you and say, “You look good. You look happy.” And be, “Oh, thank you so much.” And the thing about a soul friend is you both… You have to listen to each other, which is a difficult thing sometimes.
Brett McKay: How frequently do you recommend people measuring themselves for the… When they’re gauging their fat loss?
Dan John: Well, guys like Clarence Bass say every day you should weigh in and do the tape measure. If you already keep a journal, if you already have a notebook that you keep the information in, I would say daily. If you’re new to it, maybe you might wanna have an event, you know like… And boy, some people disagree with me here, but the Monday morning weigh in. Every Monday morning you make, well, if you don’t have… It could be Saturday, it doesn’t matter. But one day a week you pick to do the weigh-in and the measurement, and sort of make it a big deal to yourself.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. Preferably, I like the once a week. I do mine on Friday morning.
Dan John: Okay.
Brett McKay: ‘Cause I feel like with the Monday morning, the problem I’ve had there is that I’ll have like a big Sunday night dinner at my in-laws place, and that just throws everything off ’cause I’m kind of bloated. I’m retaining water ’cause I ate some rolls and some cheese cake, or whatever. And so I’m just gonna be heavier. I’m gonna look heavier, I’m gonna weigh heavier. But then the next day, if I weighed myself on Tuesday, I would be back to normal. So I time my weigh-ins on when I think this is like a normal day, it’s not like right after I had a big meal. And that seemed to work for me.
Dan John: Yeah, and if you are someone who lifts weights three days a week, maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday. If you wanna do something like that where you have just a day where it’s quiet, and you… So your work out for that day would be the weigh-in and the tape measure.
Brett McKay: Let’s talk about this. What’s a reasonable fat loss goal for people? So you, you’ve lost almost 40 pounds in 13 months, 14 months. For a lot of people, what do you think is a reasonable goal? If there’s someone who’s losing… Who needs to lose 25 to 50 pounds, how long should they expect that to take?
Dan John: See… Well, here we run into it, don’t we. I mean seriously, this is where we went into it. When I work with people, one of the things that comes up a lot Brett, is that it took the person 40 years to put this weight on, but they wanna lose that weight in two weeks. And that’s just not reasonable. When I’m in Europe, most of the people that I trust will tell me about a kilo a month, which is only 2.2 pounds. That’s only half a pound a week, and that’s not very noticeable. And most people… If I put you on a weight-loss program, a fat loss program, and you lost two pounds a month, I gotta tell you, next new years, it’s gonna be very noticeable for you. But what happens is, is people don’t want that. When I… My first month, now with a fat loss client… And I kind of insist on being paid upfront. Is the first month is that… The first month, you have to drink two glasses of water a day, and that’s it. And of course, I become your accountability-buddy, and at 9 o’clock or 8 o’clock, whatever time I call you up, and the joke is always this; I call you up and the phone goes, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, because that’s when you’re drinking that second glass of water.
And month two, we just find a parking space that’s as far away from your office or whatever that we can find, and I tell everybody that you work with, if you’re not… If you don’t park there, you’re to call me and I’m gonna fire you as a client. Now people say, “Now, that makes no sense.” No, no, it does. Because one of the things we need to establish first in a fat lost protocol is building up the practice of habits. And I really like the work of BJ Fogg. So the letter B, the letter J F-O-G-G. He’s a Stanford psychologist, and he believes in something called tiny habits. So you actually make… When you’re trying to do a life change, you don’t say, “I’m gonna… This year, I’m gonna lose 100 pounds, I’m gonna get a Doctorate in two different fields and I’m gonna fly to the moon.” No, you say, “I’m gonna floss one tooth every day for the first month.” Well, one tooth? Well, that’s actually a standard start, because it’s so small and so believable. There’s more to it than just this… That you start to have this… The snowball effect, this little habit builds to a bigger one, to a bigger one, to a bigger one.
My best client I’ve ever had, we did the one year thing, and the first month, was the glass of water thing. At the end… Now, this is unusual. This is off the charts. At the end of the year, he had lost 100 pounds of body weight and ran a half marathon. 100 pounds. Let me say that again, he lost a 100 pounds in a year. But what happened was, was once he got the momentum of the habits, everything just started to come into play. And he was shocked. He began to look at of the things he was doing in his life, and was like… There was just so many obvious things for him. But once he got into the habit of doing things, he really started getting momentum. To me, fat loss is just like an athletic career, maybe you’re going in different directions, but once you get the momentum, things just start to almost appear to you. Like if I was to train you as a, Brett, as discus thrower, you might say, “I’ve never even heard of what the discus is” But all of a sudden, you’ll be online and all of a sudden these things will just… You’ll be… Open a book and you’ll see a discus thrower in there.
For example, when I read the Odyssey. Ulysses is a discus thrower. There’s a very famous story in The Odyssey where he wins the discus competition. I see that because I’m a discus thrower. So when you’re trying to lose fat and you start to get those habits, the snowball begins to grow. All of a sudden you see these little things in your life that you used to do… Remember, you are the sum of your habits, as you sit in this chair, as we speak. What you look like, what you have as income, what you have as… In your social and your family life, it’s all the accumulation of the habits you’ve had since really you started having your own free will. Basically when you started walking for yourself.
Brett McKay: Okay, so it sounds like rather than just focusing on the number you wanna get to, just focus on the process, you focus on those habits, and as you do that, things are gonna start to gel, things are gonna start to click for you.
Dan John: Yeah. Well see, one of my habits is to weigh in every day. But I don’t even… I don’t even think about it like that anymore, to be honest with you, I don’t think about it as [chuckle].. Isn’t that interesting. So I do the waistline every day now, and I do the weigh in every day, but I didn’t for a long time. But once I started seeing that body weight accelerate down, boy, I gotta tell you. From 251 to 231, it wasn’t very exciting. But when I got to 224, which is the 102 kilo weight class, and I lifted in three meets as a 102… Four meets. And then all of a sudden I was down to 218, it was like, “Man, let’s just drop down to 211.” And I started weighing in every day because it was kind of exciting.
Brett McKay: So you’ve had some serious momentum this year with your own fat loss. Did you ever meet any like plateaus or roadblocks along the way? Where you’re like, “Ah man, it’s not budging anymore.”
Dan John: Yeah, here in Utah, it’s called the winter. [laughter] Winter’s tough. All of a sudden, you just… Last night at 11 o’clock I was, I was shoveling. And then this morning at 6 o’clock, I was shoveling. And when I went outside to work out at 9:30 today, I didn’t wanna go back out in the cold, and I just wanted to… I really just wanted to put a blanket on and eat something that would make me happy and… Yeah. So yeah, so the big road blocks for me tend to be winter, thanksgiving, Christmas. The same road blocks all of us have. I don’t know how much of your audience is American, but basically, once ball season comes around, I tend to sit around a lot and watch college football. And then while I’m sitting around, my choices for [chuckle].. My choices for beverages go south, my choices for… All of a sudden I find myself eating… The other day I was eating pretzels and I kinda just caught myself like, “Why am I eating pretzels?” I just… It’s not a food I eat, and yet I was eating it. And I think… I hope you’re following along here, Brett, because we all have the same ebbs and flows. What’s nice about where I’m at now, is the next day I actually spent some time… We’re only doing audio here, but right now I’m picking up this little… It’s a little notebook I have it’s called “Memo book, 60 sheets”.
And every day I write in a few ideas about how I can get my body weight down to 211. Well, after this college football ball game incident, I decided that next week, I’m gonna start… I’m gonna do once again, Rusty Morris fat loss boost. I’ve done it once before. It’s just two weeks, but basically, it’s chicken and vegetables everyday. That’s what you eat for two weeks. Now, I eat vegetable soups, I eat big salads, I… This isn’t for everybody. But I decided that ’cause I really want to weigh 211 at this weightlifting meet, that when we get back from the Rose Ball, I am gonna take care of business in two weeks. What’s nice is it… It’s almost… It’ll be what, almost a full month after the pretzel incident. Okay. I hope you’re following here. I gave myself permission to make a mistake and then I came up with a plan, and I think that’s important. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m eating pretzels and drinking this thing I shouldn’t be drinking, Oh, forget it, I’m just gonna wait until the next decade to get in shape.” Address the issue, look at it, come up with a positive plan and reboot.
Brett McKay: Okay, alright, so yeah, I like that. So first thing, make your goals rich, measure yourself daily or weekly, and then if you have set… Like plan for setbacks. There’s probably gonna be setbacks along the way ’cause we’re human beings.
Dan John: No, there are setbacks.
Brett McKay: Yeah, there are setbacks.
Dan John: There’s weddings, there’ anniversaries, there’s birthdays, there’s… There’s all kinds of things. Here’s one interesting thing I have noticed though. I started telling people… So some of the people I work with go to these all-inclusive vacations now. And one of the things I tell them now is, here’s the weirdest thing, most people come back from all-inclusive vacations lighter. They’re… When they step on the scale after an all-inclusive vacation, they’re lighter, and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy, and go, “No.” First off, you sleep more, finally. You play on the beach, great. When you go to the buffet and it’s all you can eat for whatever reason, people when they’re given all you can eat they relax, they de-stress and they come back lighter. So even when you decide, sometimes… If you actively decide, I’m gonna go on this vacation. I’m gonna go on this vacation in June and I’m gonna have a great time and I’m not gonna worry about my body weight, very often people come back lighter on the scale. So I think we humans have to just acknowledge that there are times to plant and times to sow. There’s time [chuckle].. There’s a time for everything under the sun. And I think the mistake is just saying, “I am overweight, I’m gonna exercise and not eat.” That’s just not a good plan.
Brett McKay: Okay, so you’ve got… Let’s talk about the how of how to lose fat.
Dan John: Sure.
Brett McKay: You’ve got this really surprisingly simple outline for fat loss that you’ve based on your “Easy Strength Program”, and we’ll talk about each of the components of your approach, but it all starts with food. You co-author a book with Josh Hillis, and you guys suggest that when it comes to food, people should focus on three things, quantity, quality, and ratio. Can you walk us through those three components?
Dan John: We’ll make it even simpler for you. This is what I was told at the Olympic training center by the dietician. “I don’t know what the big deal is. Eat protein, eat veggies, drink water.” And I remember looking at her going, “I’m in the wrong career field men.” But it comes down to honestly… My good friend, Pat Flynn, he talks about this first, if you focus on getting enough protein in your diet. I’m gonna up my protein. Because protein has this ability to make you feel full, all the other things seem to work themselves out. I like that kind of approach. My personal approach is, I try to eat eight different vegetables every day.
This is my personal approach, and what you need to do is just have… I worry about… ’cause this is more Josh’s field, and I’m just… I just kneel at his feet. But I think the key is this, pick something like Pat says, “I’m gonna make sure I get my protein every day.” Pat’s a big believer in starting the day with a protein shake. I believe in fasting until I work out. We’re not disagreeing. It’s not an either or its a both, and. For me it’s easy for me to get my protein in. It’s always been easy because I grew up in the 60s with strength and health magazine and protein was like a god, okay. But for me, the vegetables has always been the issue. So for me, by focusing on getting the vegetables in, I take care of the protein just naturally and drink a lot of water. So when it comes to things like quantity, if you have vegetable soup and a big salad at every meal and a protein source. After you have that big bowl of… The vegetable soup that I have, big bowl is 120 calories. The salad that I make probably is negative calories, I don’t, I really… And then there’s this protein.
After you eat that, then feel free to eat anything else to fill you up. Because here’s the thing, you’re satiated, you’re full. Anything you eat after that is something you wanna do to make your taste buds happy and make that infant part of your brain happy. When it comes to quality… I used to make this joke about this diet I had invented where you had to eat everyday, two pounds of salmon, a dozen eggs, a container of cottage cheese, a carton of blueberries. It was a list that they had in men’s health magazine. And I said, after you eat all that, feel free to eat anything else you want. Well, of course, if you could push down two pounds of salmon and 12 eggs every day, you’re not gonna be very hungry. So that’s where the quality side of things comes in. You probably can eat a lot more fried chicken than you can baked salmon. Would you agree with that?
Brett McKay: Yeah, I would agree with that. Or even you can eat more potato chips than you can just like a baked potato.
Dan John: You can eat more calories from potato chips easily, than you could baked potatoes, right. To me, those are the… Cliche time, those are the big rocks of nutrition in my world. If you’re not used to eating a lot of protein, focus on protein sources. If you’re like me and you struggle on the vegetable side, get your vegetables in. And really, I don’t even know why we even talk about this anymore, but drink water and I’m fine with any calorie-free drink you decide to do. Somebody not long ago said something to me, because I… When I go out, I tend to drink diet sodas. And they said, “Aren’t they bad for you?” And I’m like, “Okay. Yeah, okay. They’re… Yeah.” Really? It’s the diet soda. It’s the… On a Friday night, I’m having a diet soda. Yeah, that’s the problem in this… With my body, is that… Yeah, so stop. We’ve gotta draw the line sometimes some place. Everything’s bad for you is gonna make it very difficult for you to move ahead on your fitness and longevity goals.
Brett McKay: We’re gonna take quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. Well, so for those who were just starting out. For you… You’ve been doing this for how many… 40 odd years, 50 years maybe.
Dan John: I have been lifting weights since 1965.
Brett McKay: Okay. So you have a good idea of like okay, this is… This has this amount of protein, it’s probably good, so I’m getting my proteins from this. For those who are just starting out, would it be useful to measure things out, and kind of look at a fitness buddy or whatever, fitness pal?
Dan John: Oh, that would be really good if you have… If you have the ability to do that, and keep doing it, that’s money. For most of us, we just use the… I’m looking at the palm of my hand. Make sure you have a palm-sized protein in every meal, and then I would say, and then make it the most… Everything else on the plate is as colorful as it can be. As many vegetables as appropriate. One thing that I have been trying, a friend of mine mentioned this, is eat fruit separately. And so now my snack is an apple. And I’m not a lunatic, gentle listener. I’m just saying, that this one person said to me, “Make fruit, your snacks.” And I don’t really snack very often. I basically eat about two meals a day, but if I do snack, I try to snack on fruit.
Brett McKay: So you eat two meals a day. How much protein do you think you’re getting in those two meals?
Dan John: [laughter] A lot.
Brett McKay: Yeah. What’s the measurement they give you? It’s like one… I mean.8 grams per pound of body weight? So if you’re… If you… Or you can just round that up to like one gram. So if you’re a 200-pound male, you’re looking at close to 200 grams per…
Dan John: 90 grams… Yeah, 90. We… I like the gram to kilos. So if you’re a 200-pound male, you’re basically 90 kilos 91. So that’s 90 grams a day. The protein shakes that I buy at the store here, called… There are 30 grams of protein per container. And oh, okay. So here’s another snack I do, I take the cereal called Fiber One, and I put it in a bowl, and then I take that, I think it’s called… I don’t know the brand name, but it’s 30 grams of protein, and I pour the protein as milk.
Brett McKay: Yeah I’ve done that before.
Dan John: And that’s a nice little snack. And the reason I’ll eat something like that is if I’m trying to push hunger off until… Say like dinner tonight’s at 7:00. I ate brunch at 11:00 and dinner’s at 7:00. Maybe at 3:00 or 4:00 I’ll eat that Fiber One protein drink meal, and the amount of fiber and the protein halts it. It is strange to talk to people about protein because some people are like how do you get enough protein in your diet? And I’ll look at them like, “How do you not?” And then I’ll look at what they eat on a typical day. They’ll start their day with orange juice, two pieces of toast, a bagel, and then it… And I’m always hungry. Well, yeah, you’re hungry ’cause you haven’t eaten any protein and you haven’t had any… And the problem with toast and bagels and stuff like that is, your body really processes them quickly. The glycemic index on them is really high, so you’re always kind of in a starvation mode. If you like Pat Flynn’s approach of starting your day with 30 grams of protein, some people tell me, “Yeah, I weirdly get hungrier starting the day with a protein drink.” And my thought is, “Well, why don’t you eat… Just eat… Then three eggs, is about the same, four eggs, whatever it is.” So yeah, to me, I have a hard time believing you can’t get enough protein in your diet until I talk to people about what they eat, and then it makes more sense.
Brett McKay: Okay. It sounds like, whats interesting here, is you’re not over-thinking this stuff too much, at least the nutrition part. Its just like, get protein and then vegetables.
Dan John: Yeah.
Brett McKay: And that’s it. If you’re doing that, you’re probably doing good.
Dan John: Yeah. [chuckle] Well, that’s what she told me at the Olympic Training Center, eat protein and vegetables, drink water, and then the great line, “I don’t know why people make it such a big deal.”
Brett McKay: On this drinking water, you had this bit I read somewhere. Yeah, you encourage people to drink warm water. What’s going on there?
Dan John: Yeah, okay. [laughter]
Brett McKay: ‘Cause this sounds like… Well, this sounds like… I don’t know, Dan.
Dan John: Okay, okay. Voodoo alert, gentle listener. Alright, but it’s hot water and…
Brett McKay: Okay, hot water.
Dan John: And years ago when I was at dinner with the Pavel. You know Pavel, the kettlebell guy?
Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah.
Dan John: Tsatsouline. Yeah. So we’re sitting around and this is the… We’d had dinner before, and he… And after dinner, he orders the two of us hot water with lemon. And he kinda elbows me and says, “It’s proved to help your digestion.” So after this big dinner, and trust me, when you go out with kettlebell people, your dinner is gonna be meat, okay, it’s gonna be meat. And so I’m just sitting there drinking this hot water with lemon and I’m like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” A couple of years later, my daughter Kelly is telling me about the benefits of drinking hot water. Well, then I had a friend say, “Well, that’s just basic Ayurvedic medicine.” So I went out and I purchased [chuckle] as much as I… Ayurvedic medicine is the traditional medicine of India, and I read the work of John Douillard, he’s over at Life Spa in Denver, and he recommends for fat loss, drinking hot water with lemon. Now, Pavel says it’s good for your digestion, Kelly tells me it’s good for fat loss, and here it is, this other person says it. And so I started doing it. In the afternoons, I have a hot pot, and then I have those bottles of concentrated lemon juice, you know?
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Dan John: And I add it. So as I’m working, I drink it. Here’s what I like best, and here’s what my daughter Kelly told me too. My daughter, Kelly, is my DNA. She is me. And we both have this condition. Are you ready, Brett? That condition there, which is so annoying. I’m the person at the movie going… Once I started drinking hot war with the lemon, it stopped and someone said, “Well, that’s just ’cause it cleans out your mucus.” And I’m like, “Hey, man, as long as I’m not making noise at the movie, I’m happy with that too.” So, okay, whether or not it actually clears out mucus, I don’t know. Whether or not that assists with fat loss, I think it might. It is a bit of a diuretic, as I’ve noticed. My joke is I drink one cup and pee two, but it does seem to do something, and it could be as simple as this. While I’m drinking hot water, I am satisfying my taste buds, my throat, my tummy, and I’m sticking something in my mouth that isn’t caloric and isn’t adding to my body fat density. Or, and then finally let’s go to the… ’cause you always have to go to the extreme, it’s a magical substance that goes into your fat cells and eats them. There, okay. [laughter]
Brett McKay: That’s always a possibility. No, I tried it the other day. I was like… After I read that, I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna try this.” And I’ll… And something I noticed when I was drinking, I got pretty sweaty. I was getting hot…
Dan John: Yeah, me too.
Brett McKay: Just from drinking hot water, which was interesting, but I liked it. It was a way to drink liquids that was different from just drinking lukewarm tap water, and it was enjoyable, and at the least, it’s helping you get more water, which is essential for health.
Dan John: If all it is is that… Okay, for me. I stopped doing the… Nonsense. It stops it. Maybe it does, maybe it hydrates us up, maybe it raises that basal metabolism up a few drops, okay. Maybe it is… Makes the body have to work a little harder to cool that stuff down. I don’t know. And now I’m just spitballing. [chuckle] Or maybe, which is the only correct answer, is that the hot water and the lemon go out and actively kill fat cells, kind of like Luke Skywalker and Death Stars, okay?
Brett McKay: There you go. It targets it. It’s targeting that area.
Dan John: Yeah, that’s the only logical answer.
Brett McKay: That’s the only logical answer. Occam’s razor.
Dan John: Yeah. Having said it though, and this is so hard to say this without shaking my head which I’m doing. It seems to really work for me. And by the way, gentle listener, how much do I make on telling you to drink hot water with a little hint of lemon in it? I don’t make a nickel. It’s like me telling you to sleep more, drink hot water. I’m not gonna make a billion dollars on this.
Brett McKay: Yeah, so I guess, give it a shot. It might work for you. So, we’ve talked about the nutrition component, and it’s pretty easy. Nothing to… You don’t have to think too hard about it. You’ve mentioned you’re a big fan of intermittent fasting for fat loss. That’s your way to go. Why is that? Why do you think that’s working for you?
Dan John: Well, I’m not proud of what I’m about to say, but I got to the point as an athlete that if I didn’t… If I wasn’t shoveling something down my throat every hour, I felt like I was getting behind the Russians. Okay. I did. And then I just… And I never really learned to discern the difference between craving, mild hunger and starving. And what I learned and it’s… There’s nothing new to it. Every faith tradition has fasting as part of it, every one, every single faith tradition has it. One day I just kinda… I was listening to all these people talking about this stuff, and I’m like… And I started to fast and I realized what a gap there was. Now, I’m not bragging, Brett, but I have tremendous self-discipline, except when it came to fasting. And what I did is I realized this team of horses that was food was just pulling me around, and I had to tame that a little bit, so for me personally, intermittent fasting did first, taught me to deal with what hunger is versus starvation. Okay, that’s just me. And then I started noticing something is in those periods where I’m not constantly shoveling food down, it gave my body a chance to digest. I’m a big believer in the gut biome stuff too, having a healthy colony inside, flora and fauna inside of your gut.
By not constantly shoveling things down there, they had to be a lot more… I enhance them. Fasting enhances the gut biome. And I also began to notice that if I could fast, and so I don’t just react to food anymore. So I have a better skillset to go, “Dan, do you want some banana bread?” Well, no, let me do this first, let me get some… And whatever. I’m gonna eat some kimchi with… I’m gonna have a little salad, a piece of chicken and some kimchi. And then when… Then they say, “Do you want some banana bread? I made it myself.” I’ll look over and go, “You made this yourself?” And I’ll have a reasonable piece of it, enjoy it, smile and be done with it. It’s given me control over my food.
The other thing… Now, I was at a workshop one time and this person who said something I didn’t agree with, said that, “Fasting cardio has no value at all.” And I thought, “I think you’re missing the point.” They were thinking of the body as a machine, which is fine ’cause parts of our body is machine, we are machines in certain places. But I think they missed the point that when you’re doing something like fasted cardio, like in my case, fasted workouts. I can work out really hard in the morning now because I’m not also digesting breakfast because I don’t eat until I’ve got my work and my workout in. So Palo said one time, that what he likes so much about intermittent fasting is how it made you like a hunter. Okay. There’s a word in Hawking, Yarak, Y-A-R-A-K. And it’s that eyes that a raptor has when its looking for food. When I’m fasting and I’ve gotta write something, my eye… I am glued to the screen. When I’m fasting and I go to workout, like today it was cold and I hadn’t had any food and I was shivering, and I was doing my workout, and man, even right now, as I’m explaining to you, Brett, my eyes are like all filled like, “Let’s go take care of this. Let’s go fight this war and… ”
And so that’s why I like it so much. I like what it does for my ability to deal with food first. I like what it does for my work as an author. And then I really like what it does for my focus and my workouts.
Brett McKay: And if interment fasting is something you wanna do, there’s different protocols, there’s different ways to do it.
Dan John: You could certainly… You could do something as simple as fast modified diets, that’s Valter Longo’s work where once a month you take a three or four day period and eat 800 calories a day. You could do the five two where two days a week you fast. Another great one, one day a week, you eat dinner and then you don’t eat until the next dinner. That’s pretty simple, right? Anything you can do to kind of get control of your… Don’t take this wrong, and I’m not against capitalism, but every time I turn on the television set they are selling me… I was just watching I don’t wanna mention the brand, but it’s this fried greasy chicken sandwich. And it’s mouth watering or something like that they said. Well, I watched that and I’ll be like, I can now turn off mentally that commercial. My skill, because I fast, I’m… I built up the muscle of turning off instant gratification. And there’s a few listeners who are probably going, “I think I know what he means.” You’ll be able to slow things down when it comes just shoveling things down your throat.
Brett McKay: And what’s your protocol right now? How long do you fast and when do you break your fast?
Dan John: Yeah, so I basically almost always eat between 5:00 and 6 o’clock at night, dinner. I get up at about, most days, 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. I meditate for 15 minutes, that’s the first thing. And then I go online and I do all my emails. I write whatever I have to write. At about 9 o’clock, I get ready to workout. At 9:30, all these people come over to train with me. We workout to about 10:30, and basically about 11:00 I eat. So I don’t know, what is that? That’s sneaking up on 18 hours, I guess.
Brett McKay: Yeah, okay.
Dan John: But for me, working out in a fasted state is to use the phrase, “Money.”
Brett McKay: Money. It’s money baby. So let’s talk about the exercise program you recommended for fat loss, it’s Easy Strength. Give us a big picture overview of the exercise we’re focusing on here and how many times we’re training a week etcetera.
Dan John: Okay, but there’s the million dollar thing at the end of it, okay. So if you can, in your perfect world, if you want… If you wanna do the Dan John method of easy fat loss, if you can come into your workout fasted. That’s… Well, of course, technically, if you’re not shoveling food down your throat right now you’re fasting, technically. But the idea is this, all you’re trying to do is, and this comes from Rusty Moore, is get yourself to free up some free fatty acids. The easiest way I know is Easy Strength, so basically, we’re gonna do a vertical press, an overhead press, dumbbell press, kettlebell press, barbell press. Maybe three sets of three. Some kind of vertical pull, that can do lat pull-downs, chin-ups, pull-ups. Get about a total, If it’s chin-ups or pull-ups, maybe two sets of five, if you can do that, three sets of three or lat pull-downs you might have to do more. Some kind of hinge movement. I love the deadlift family. I love next, the ab wheel.
The ab wheel is one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the world. One set of 10 is all you need because with this program you’re gonna do it three to five times a week, okay. So one set of 10 daily is pretty good. If you know how to kettlebell swing, great. If not, whatever it takes, but if you’re gonna do kettlebell swings it would be about five sets of 15. You’re just trying to get your heart rate up a little, but here’s the key. So, overhead press, three sets of three. Pull ups, three sets of the three. Three sets of three in the dead lift. One set of 10 in the ab wheel. Go out the door and walk for 30-45 minutes. As you’re walking, your body just released a whole bunch of stuff. Your heart rate’s elevated. Once you start walking, your body now has a chance, according to Rusty Moore, and I think he’s right because it’s worked so simply for me. Is now you freed up the free fatty acids, and now as you walk your body is like a Pac Man, “Eat, eat, eat, eat.” Eating those free fatty acids.
Here’s the thing, again, it’s like drinking the hot water, man. Is it 100% true? I don’t know, but it works. So, this short workout, we’re looking at 10-15 minutes in the… Of a workout, and then the half-hour, 45-minute walk has just been the most illuminating change in my career.
Brett McKay: And again, like the nutrition stuff, this is really easy. I think a lot of people think they’re gonna have to spend an hour in the gym. Here it’s 15 minutes, you don’t even need a gym, you just need a kettlebell and a pull-up ball. You’ll be…
Dan John: Yeah. A dumbbell.
Brett McKay: Yeah. A dumbbell and you’re set.
Dan John: And if you can’t find a place to do pull-ups, just do rows or something like that. Just… And no matter what I say, of course, people are gonna throw up, “What about… I don’t have this, I don’t… ” Okay, you can make this work. You can do calisthenics. But the idea, get those calisthenics in, don’t kill yourself and then go for the walk. And yes, it is easy, and I think that’s why it works so well. I honestly think, that most people put themselves in such a state of not just physical exhaustion, but even like… When people think about losing fat, very often, they go to the seven deadly sins and they think it’s sloth or sloth, and gluttony. And so, I’m gonna counter that by eating rabbit food and making myself a physical wreck. And the problem is all that does is hurt your joints, makes you lose lean body mass, you’ll lose lean body mass, but keep the fat ’cause you’re freaking your body out.
What I’m trying to do with the Easy Strength For Fat Loss Protocol, is coach your body and say, “Hey, things are fine, things are… Yeah, we fasted, we had a workout, but now we have a nice meal, here’s some protein, here’s some vegetables. Huh, see things are fine.” And the body looks up to me and says, “Oh, thank you for being so kind, let’s drop some of those fat cells, shall we? Yeah, let’s do that.” And then we send Luke Skywalker in with that hot water with lemon and he’s shooting up. [laughter]
Brett McKay: Alright, so yeah, you’re not putting on a hair shirt to lose weight.
Dan John: No. And you’re not beating yourself. And here’s the funny thing, is that this is a thing that we’ve lost in the fitness industry, is nudging yourself in the fat loss. Could you imagine, I always use… When I talk about weightlifting, I always use the idea of learning how to type. Could you imagine you had someone standing next to you as you were learning to type, screaming in your ear, “It’s all you. Hit that A, hit that A. Yo! With your pinkie, hit that A. Come on man! Go go, go!” What would you… What would it look like on the screen if someone was screaming at you where the letters were? It would look terrible. So how you learn how to type, is you go in everyday and you type, and you make a mistake, you correct it, you make a mistake, you correct it, pretty soon, there’s less mistakes, pretty soon you flow. And one day you end up like where I’m basically at now, where I can type almost as fast as I can think. And it’s not ever because anyone’s ever slapped my face or made me drink an energy drink before I went typing. I just nudged myself daily for a long time, to become a better and better and better typer.
So if you nudge yourself, if you fast, and then you do this gentle, this workout, you push it, there’s nothing with going heavy and getting those loads up. And then you go for a walk, and then you come home and you have protein and veggies and you drink some water, and then later on you have more protein, more veggies and drink some water, maybe later on that day you have more protein, more veggies and drink some water. Your body is not gonna go into this “Oh no.” And if someone does offer you some kind of delightful delight that they worked hard on doing, enjoy it. Just don’t go to the machine and throw some cash in, or use your card and get some 500 calorie candy bar. Pick and choose, be an adult.
Brett McKay: I wanna talk more about this walking. ‘Cause you’re a big proponent of walking. So you’re gonna do your 15-minute workout in the gym, and they’re gonna go for a 30-45 minute walk. But you’ve also thrown in some ways you can make the walk a bit more strenuous, you have his idea of reverse rucking. What’s that?
Dan John: Okay. Reverse rucking, okay, yeah, you read my work. “You read my work!” that’s a great line from the movie Patton. Yeah, it’s something I came up with a couple of years ago. So I’d had a lot of success with some clients who were in the mid-300s bodyweight working with me. And honestly, all I try to do, it would be the simple thing, first we’d start off with two glasses of water and then… But once we got them walking, like the one client had, he weighed 350. And boy within… I mean, it seemed like a blink of an eye, he was down to 320, and I’m thinking, “Man, I’m good.” And then he got to about 290 and everything stalled. And then I had noticed that this had happened to somebody else years ago, and then it kind of hit me. If you go for a 20-minute walk weighing 350, you are doing a loaded carry and your body is getting hit hard. But here’s the problem, as you lose weight, as you get lighter and lighter, you become the curse of what fat loss exercise is all about.
Fat loss’ exercise, is about being as inefficient as you can be. So if you’re an outstanding dancer and we take a dance class together, I’m gonna be dying next to you while you just go, step-ball-change, step-ball-change. So as this person went walking at 350, 340, 335, that added load of their own body mass, made walking very inefficient. Once they slid to about 290, they began to become more and more efficient as a walker, so what we began to do then was add a very simple… A school backpack is just fine. And at first, it doesn’t have to be very much weight, you can throw in a single five-pound weight or a single 10-pound weight. Now you got to be careful here, ’cause most people are gonna overdo what I’m about to say.
And as they drop down to 280, maybe you wanna increase that to 15 pounds, 270, 260, maybe go get up to about 30. Once you get around 30-35 pounds, 15 kilos, there is not a lot of value in adding weight to the backpack anymore. Now you’re gonna get people on your show who are military and they’ll say, “Well, I carried a 5000-pound backpack.” Okay, good for you, but for fat loss, when you get to around 30 pounds, you kind of peek out with the rock or the backpacking. So it’s called reverse rucking because you’re adding weight as the person… I’m making an X with my hand. You add weight as the body mass goes down. Once you get to a certain weight, then I would put on ankle weights, ankle weights are great for anybody with all kinds of issues. The ankle weight, makes you improve your gait without even thinking about it, and then after… And I wouldn’t go much over five pound ankle weights. And then I like to put heavy hands, weights in the hands, and I’ve discovered that honestly, three pounds per hand, you get those little dumbbells at Ross Dress For Less, that weigh three pounds, those are perfect for walking.
They are pink, but they’re still perfect for walking. So now, I always tell one of my clients… ‘Cause you see them walking down the street, with a backpack with plate in the back, with bright green ankle weights and pink heavy hands. That’s how you know you got a Dan John person right there, yeah.
Brett McKay: That’s a Dan John. So yeah, the goal here you’re just trying to make the walk a little bit more inefficient, so that you can burn more calories.
Dan John: Exactly, exactly. And here’s the thing, you’re still about that 30-45 minute range. The problem we have when you work with… Building into running, and you can… This isn’t my phrase, but it’s called, the fat jogger syndrome. Where the person runs more and more and more and becomes increasingly fatter as they run. It’s not universal, but it does happen with some people, because they become very efficient at running and they start doing what the runners called garbage miles. I’m a former track coach, so I can use the phrase. It’s just called garbage miles, where you just get out there and it doesn’t really help for body composition.
Brett McKay: Well, Dan, this has been a great conversation. We talked about a lot and it’s pretty simple, I mean, recap, make sure your goals are rich, that your weight loss or fat loss goal is rich. Measure yourself regularly. When you eat, get protein, vegetables, maybe intermittent fast, maybe drink some hot water to get the Luke Skywalker effect. [chuckle] And then the exercise is not hard, 15 minutes in the gym and then walk, and then at some point maybe make your walk a bit more inefficient by adding some weight. Is that it?
Dan John: Yeah. Well, it’s… We’ve been doing this for a while, and I wish I could go back in time. And I wish when I first started coaching in 1979, I was having my people do this ’cause it’s so much better for fat loss and people are happier. The nice thing is, you’re not exhausted from the workout, so you make better choices on your meals. It is… If I beat you to death, if I just beat you down on the workout, Brett, you’re gonna wanna eat stuff that makes you happy. And I want you to eat chicken thighs and a salad and vegetable soup.
Brett McKay: Well, Dan John, where can people go to learn more about your work?
Dan John: Yeah, well… Oh, and by the way, I talked to Brian, he’s extended that discount to your listeners again, okay? And make… If you could put that in the notes, it would mean a lot to me.
Brett McKay: Yeah, we’ll do it.
Dan John: Danjohnuniversity.com. And if you put one word, “artofman” make art of man one word, you get this massive discount. And a whole bunch of your listeners used it last time and we’ve opened it up again for you. So danjohnuniversity.com, and there’s just… I’ve got… There’s probably thousands of pages of downloadable, actually books in some cases, lots of articles and one of the best forms on the internet, very good people, very friendly. And also too, there’s a thing on there called the workout generator, where you can just plug in what equipment you have, how many days a week you wanna workout, you press a button and it gives you your workouts, really for the rest of your life. It’s what I wish I would have had when I first went online in 1998. Brett, it’s just… It just is incredible how it takes… It’s the inside of my mind, but it’s working with what you’re telling us you can do, it’s just… It’s… This to me, was the promise of the internet.
Brett McKay: Well, Dan John, thanks for your time, it’s always a pleasure.
Dan John: And I love your site, I love what you do, you make a difference. And that’s really… It’s the highest praise I can give somebody.
Brett McKay: Well, thank you, sir, I appreciate it.
Dan John: Thank you.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Dan John, he’s the author of several books on health and fitness, including Fat Loss Starts On Monday. Make sure to check out his website, danjohnuniversity.com, and use code “artofman” for a discount on his programs. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/fatloss. And also check out our website, we’ve got lots of articles on habit formation, we did a podcast with BJ Fogg, you can check it out there. We have some more articles there on fat loss, weight loss, getting healthy in the new year. So check it out, artofmanliness.com, show notes, aom.is/fatloss.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast, make sure to check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles, written over the years about pretty much anything you can think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast, you’re gonna do so on Stitcher Premium, head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code “manliness” at check out for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Stitcher it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you, please consider sharing the show with a friend or a family member, who you think would get something out of it. As always thanks you for the continued support. Until next time this is Brett McKay, reminding you to not only listen to the AOM podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.