July 16th, 2014

30 Things I Learned From 30 Years of Bodybuilding

I started training in the early 1980’s and right from the start, I was engrossed with the bodybuilding style of training and eating. I think it’s always valuable to take time for reflection, and realizing this year that I had accumulated 30 years of training experience (including 28 competitions as a natural bodybuilder), I thought you would enjoy a post on my “lessons learned” that might help you in your own fitness endeavors, and hopefully help you shave a few years off your learning curve. I hope you find it helpful (and in parts, entertaining… so don’t take it all too seriously )…

FOCUS is your most valuable discipline today. The internet is pulling our attention in a thousand directions and all it takes is one click.  Experts tell us that it’s literally changing the way our brains are wired, cutting our attention spans and making us more distractible in everything we do. If you spend a lot of time online and feel like you’re becoming more and more ADD, it’s not your imagination. The ability to concentrate has always been a trait of champion bodybuilders, athletes, business achievers and fitness success stories. It’s now more important than ever to train yourself to focus.

Deadlines + motivation + rewards can spark extraordinary efforts and results. If you have true deadline pressure and high levels of motivation plus reward for goal achievement, you can make a fitness transformation so far above the average that people will think you’re taking drugs or photoshopping your pictures. Next to actually getting onstage to compete, the body transformation contest is the best example of this I have ever seen. Seek out these types of challenges and watch your results skyrocket!

Personal responsibility is necessary for personal change. Why do so many weight loss sales pitches start off with, “it’s not your fault?”  It’s because taking responsibility off your shoulders opens the door to selling you a gimmick.  The truth is, you have no power to change until you accept responsibility for where you are today and for your future results.  In fact, if you’re not responsible for all your results, then how do you expect to change anything? Blaming or absolving yourself of responsibility is giving up your power.

It’s more important than ever to embrace evidence-based fitness. There are so many scams online today in weight loss, health and fitness and the internet can deliver them so persuasively and quickly before they come and go, you must learn to demand proof before you buy into anything. Investigate before you invest.  Logic and common sense help, but I’m talking about science; peer reviewed, published research.  And remember what Carl Sagan said:  the more extraordinary the claims, the more extraordinary the evidence must be.

Don’t get so caught up in research papers that you ignore real world results. The greatest philosophy of all: see what the research says. See what the real world says.  Take BOTH into consideration. Bodybuilding is an art and a science, not one or the other. Ultimately the results from your “experiment of one” are what count.  Recent conversation: Reader: “Hey Tom, some of that stuff you bodybuilders are still doing is ‘broscience’ …. Tom: “Thanks for your opinion. Now, let me show you my trophy room.”

The best signature file I’ve seen all year. Scientific literacy is important, but this signature file gave me the best chuckle of the year: “Bro science: a term used by the scientific and pseudo-scientific community to try to discredit people who often have more experience and better results, but may not be able to argue as well about unimportant things on the internet.”

Bodybuilding nutrition and training works. Always did. Always will.  The best looking physiques in the world were built on bodybuilding training – split routines – and bodybuilding nutrition – high protein; more frequent meals, clean eating. Diets and workouts of the day come and go. Bodybuilding nutrition has been here for decades. It worked before I lifted my first weight in 1983, it worked through my prime competition days of the 1990’s and 2000’s, it works in the new millennium and it will continue to work … forever.  Bodybuilding may not be everyone’s goal and it may not fit everyone’s lifestyle, but you can’t say doesn’t work.

Natural bodybuilding and physique sports are overtaking pro (untested) bodybuilding. Open pro bodybuilding will never go backwards in standards and therefore will continue to promote “mass monsters.” Therefore it will never become a mainstream sport. Natural (drug tested) bodybuilding and physique sports on the other hand, are enjoying a huge revival and a burst in popularity and appreciation like never before.

Fitness model and physique divisions are the real deal. I admit it – at first, I rolled my eyes when men’s fitness model and men’s physique (board shorts and all), were added as new divisions alongside bodybuilding. Now, I (gladly) recant.  Many of the bodies in the fitness model and physique divisions are damn impressive. They are serious athletes who work their tails off. Plus the smaller, but ripped and shapely physiques have great appeal to the general public who can’t identify with the massive pro body builders, and this is helping all the physique sports grow.

The best bodies in the world were built with many hours of weekly training. Thinking you can achieve maximum fat loss with minimum work is delusional. Fitness marketers who promise you the greatest results with just minutes of training per day (or week) are BS’ing you.  Of course you can lose weight by training just minutes a day – just cut your food intake low enough so you have a large calorie deficit. But then whatever minimalist training program you followed was almost irrelevant – the diet did it all. So don’t listen to the gurus who blather on about their miraculous “just minutes a day fat loss workouts.” The best bodies in the world were built with many hours of training.

You can get 80% of the way there with a fairly modest effort. Why do so some people get results despite what appears to be a sub-optimal program or sub-optimal effort? My theory:  Any halfway decent program and even a modest effort can get you 80% of the way there, especially if you’re a beginner. It doesn’t take a huge time investment, it doesn’t take a complicated training system, and it doesn’t require killing yourself in the gym. It only requires you to get started and be consistent. This explains why you’ll always see success stories from every kind of program and why you see results even from people who work out on minimalist programs. This is good news for most people. But for the competitor and anyone else who wants to achieve as close to 100% of their potential as possible, hard work, details, precision and putting in the hours are absolute musts.

A lot of online health and fitness advice has been getting reduced to the ridiculous. Some internet fitness writers think that bodybuilders are obsessively meticulous and health food enthusiasts are too picky about what they eat. We need to “relax, drink a beer and take a chill pill before we turn into orthorexics,” they chide. “One meal a day or six meals?  No difference, as long as everything is equal at the end of the day. Twinkies or oatmeal? Doesn’t matter, as long as your calories and macros are right, eat what you want.  Alcohol? It’s ok. Drink up, as long as your calories are in check!  Cheat meals? Take more! You guys are too strict!” I agree that there’s virtue in simplicity, and as I mentioned above, just “show up” and you’re 80% of the way there. But lately, some writers – all too often young bloggers with little experience – have reduced it to the ridiculous. News flash for the amateurs: details matter. Discipline matters. To the competitor or advanced trainee, details and discipline are everything and “positive obsession” is the price of winning.

Contrarianism is a current trend in online fitness writing. All you have to do to get attention today is pick a sacred cow and slay it. Readers who are not absolutely certain and steadfast in their current beliefs and personal philosophies will get sucked in like a black hole. (like the first time a high carber heard, “fat doesn’t make you fat, carbs are making you fat” –  it got under your skin didn’t it?) It’s been happening on nearly every topic in fitness. Many online writers are being contrarian “myth busters” just for attention mongering and marketing. There’s always the possibility that the opposite of what we initially believed is true.  In most cases today however, we find out that we were right all along and we abandoned what was already working for us to hop on the latest “against the grain” fad.

Definition of insanity #1: Doing the same thing that’s not working over and over again and expecting a different result.

Definition of insanity #2: Changing something that’s already working for you.

NEVER second guess yourself. It’s understandable to want even better results or faster results. But if it’s not broken don’t try to fix it. If your approach is working, keep doing more of it, no matter what anyone tells you.

Fat burner supplements and diet pills are STILL a waste of money.   Even the stuff that “works” barely works (think 25 to 75 or so extra calories burned per day – in 24 hours –  which usually doesn’t pan out into long term fat loss in pounds, which to me translates to: Doesn’t work). Best “fat burner?” Try working out and eating right!

OF COURSE calories matter! A lot of people still believe “calories don’t count.” They’re still wrong.  Of course there’s more to good nutrition than calories. For health, the quality of your food matters – a lot – and eating healthy food tends to keep calories in check automatically. For body composition, food choices and macronutrient ratios matter too, especially if you swap carbs for protein. That doesn’t change the fact that a calorie deficit has to be there first for weight loss to occur.  Ignore calories at your own peril.

Establishing a daily meal plan and following it consistently is even more important than what time of day or how often you eat. Haphazard eating or just going into your day and eating whatever comes across your path is a recipe for failure.  If you don’t have a consistent meal plan, it’s nearly impossible to troubleshoot fat loss plateaus and you may be causing metabolic dysfunction.

Reduced carb diets are a legitimate approach. Low carb diets shouldn’t be dumped in the fad category. They’re not for everyone, but can work very well for many people. Low-medium carb, high protein diets work exceptionally well for controlling calories, regulating appetite and retaining lean body mass. Keep in mind, there are many different types of low carb diets. Low carb doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating all carbs, nor does it mean eating bacon, sausage and pork rinds. Reducing carbs could be as simple as dropping some white sugar and refined grains and replacing them with some lean protein and healthy fat.

Carbs are not bad or evil. Saying a low carb diet is a viable diet option is not the same as saying carbohydrates are responsible for obesity. If anyone tells you carbs are fattening, beyond the ability of sugar and refined carbs to easily deliver an overload of calories, listen to them at your own peril – they may mean well, but they don’t get it yet.

Reading the great books is one of the greatest disciplines. Shut off the TV and get off the internet for a while and read the great books on self-development. Re-read the classics as often as you can (There’s a reason everyone talks about books like Psycho Cybernetics, Think and Grow Rich, The Strangest Secret and As a Man Thinketh – why not read them and find out). The people who have continued to be readers and not just web surfers are pulling far, far ahead of the pack in every area of their lives – physically, mentally, financially and socially.

People who denounce goal setting, positive thinking and personal development will continue to stunt the growth of themselves and everyone around them. Every year I see people criticizing the personal development disciplines. People who tell you “goal setting doesn’t work” could not be giving worse advice.  Goal setting is the master skill of success. If you don’t do it consciously, your unconscious will set goals by default anyway based on whatever type of thinking and input you feed it. It’s better to be in conscious control of the process. Positive thinking is the precursor to positive action and does a lot more good than pessimism (and makes you a nicer person to be around). Visualization? Scientifically proven and used by every top athlete and business achiever. Sure, there is junk information in the self help field, as there is in every field. But time and efforts spent improving the way you think and the kind of person you are is the best investment you’ll ever make.

Don’t feed the trolls. Intelligent debate on subjects that matter, with people that matter, is one of the highest uses of your time. It advances the knowledge of everyone. On the other hand, there are a lot of ignorant, biased, hostile and downright mean people on the internet. Don’t even reply. Don’t even engage. Haters and trolls aren’t worth one second of your precious time.

Overtraining happens, but it’s probably the least of your worries. I can’t believe how much paranoia I read about how “everyone is overtraining.” Actually most people are undertraining, especially in intensity. More is not always better and simply going to the gym and beating the crap out of yourself every time is not smart training. But your body is capable of far more than you give it credit for and most people have no concept of what hard training is until after they’ve experienced it. So don’t be timid; put your body into high gear, push yourself and see what your body can REALLY do.

Train with a champion at every opportunity you have. Seeing the contrast between the level of a champion’s training and everyone else’s training will astonish you. Every time you get the chance, train with and around people at levels far above yours. If you’re serious about your training, the appreciation of that difference will change your standards forever.

High rep training not only has its place, it can actually create some surprising muscle gains. If you don’t think high reps can put on muscle, when was the last time you tried 20 rep squats (Randall Strossen style) or high rep dumbbell rows (Kroc style)?  I go back to both on a regular basis and every time reap some nice gains and a lot of satisfaction for the achievement.

There’s more than one way to get lean, to build muscle or to get fitter.  Gurus and dogmatic followers of gurus need to get over themselves and their “only way” to get in shape. There’s more than one way to do it. For me it’s bodybuilding. For you it may be something different.  When you find the approach that suits your lifestyle, personality and disposition, it’s a beautiful thing. (Just be SURE you lift some heavy stuff, ok?)

Compliance – your ability to stick with your program – is the most important factor for long term fat loss success. It’s not what program you follow, it’s what makes you follow your program. What makes you follow your program has more to do with mental, emotional and social factors than it does physical factors or what you eat.

Coffee is humankind’s greatest invention. Sip. (But remember, “coffee is only for closers.” Sip).

Train hard and expect success,

Tom Venuto,

Author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle





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70 Responses to “30 Things I Learned From 30 Years of Bodybuilding”

  • Thanks for spilling your thoughts and reflections into this post Tom. I especially enjoyed the signature file 😉

    Thanks for continuing to “Keep it REAL”, and for being genuine in your approach to body sculpting.

    You ROCK bro!

  • Great post Tom, loved the one about fat burning pills, amazing how many pills and miracle potions are advertised year after year. If they actually worked the companies wouldn’t need to keep re-advertising BECAUSE the pills worked, Governments would hand them out on prescription, gymnasiums would go out of business, and we’d all be able to lose weight whilst watching TV!

    Yeah right! What amazes me is the amount of intelligent people that fall for it, bizarre.

    Keep up the great work Tom,

    Kind regards, Paul

  • Grumpypumpkin

    Umm, tea is humankind’s greatest invention! 😀

  • Stacy

    I laughed at the broscience comment. I’m finding more and more that the very people that engage in such accusations are the very people promoting it. Ironic? I think not.

  • Margaret Trissel

    You made me laugh out-loud…”Don’t feed the trolls”! thanks for all your hard work helping us to get it right!

  • Sean

    From a morbidly obese 15 year old, to a fit 22 year old. The last seven and a half years of ‘burning the fat and feeding the muscle’, have flown by.

    Tom, you continue to inspire me each and every day. Your objective, non-dogmatic, no BS approach is enlightening, in a time of misinformation and bandwagon jumpers. Here’s to an even better year, one filled with continued personal growth in the pursuit of personal mastery.

    Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for me (without even knowing 😀 ). I hope to do the same for others in the near future.



  • Todd I. Stark

    Thanks for your insights, Tom. I’m on a lot of mailing lists for physical conditioning and your is one of the most pragmatic and useful. Complex topics aren’t perfectly described by scientific theories, it takes experience and experimentation to apply the ideas effectively because of individual differences in physiology, psychology, and goals, as well as failure of each individual theoretical model to capture the whole situation of training. Typical marketing uses science as a sales tool at least as much as a source of good ideas. You are among the few who treats it more as a source of good ideas and works hard to preserve hard won insights as well as as spreading new findings. Many trainers are too focused on co-marketing their variations of the same program and not enough on learning from real experience and building better programs that make use of solid basics. I appreciate your approach.

  • Karen Crotty

    I completely agree with everything you said, and I am so glad that you said it! I was one of those fitness-ADD-internet “readers” for a couple of years, and all that happened to my body was my weight yo-yo’d. You see the same thing from companies like Beachbody, too (they like to say “lift heavy weight with low reps to lose fat” in Chalean Extreme program…and then they turn around and say “lift light weight with lots of reps to lose fat” in the new Body Pump program…and then they claim you can get “ripped” without weights at all in the Insanity program…so, um, which is it Mr. Huge Marketing Company???) It just confuses sooo many people everyday that nobody really knows what to do, nobody knows who to create their own fitness regimen, and nobody sticks to anything because there’s always something new and “better” coming out every couple of months. But, thanks to you and Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, I have lost nearly 10 pounds already without depriving myself. I have trained hard and often and am loving the results.

  • Well said Mr. Venuto.

    At 18 years of age, I know what I want. I have decided to take my education into my own hands and pursue self directed study with an insatiable hunger. My passions lie in health, fitness, nutrition, business, writing and the psychology behind coaching it all. I seek to learn from the best in our field and have constructed a curriculum that allows me to achieve this. Through books, products, seminars, internships, daily practice and meaningful networking, I believe I can obtain an education on par or superior to the traditional classroom. With the resources available today, there is no excuse to not pursue my passions with full force.

    Dogmatic approaches and closed minded individuals are the downfall of any profession. As I move forward, it becomes increasingly important to learn from the correct sources. My library is growing constantly.

    Mr. Venuto, I regard you as one of the foremost minds in the profession, and would be humbled to meet you.

    Thank you for all of the great content and knowledge that you share. As I embark upon my journey, it is people like you whom I wish to learn from. Do not be surprised if you find a young Canadian guy looking to shake your hand in the near future.

    Thanks again,

    Josh Hamilton

  • I found Mr. Venuto while stuck at home, in bed, recovering from a gym injury (brought on by trying to do something they do on the Biggest Loser show, but that’s another story). I had been confused by the amount of information I had gathered regarding fitness and didn’t know exactly what to do. By reading Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle I finally found a path that gave me the confidence and knowledge to do it right, without any more confusions. I feel now that I “have a friend in the business” and I feel safe and confident. Thank you Tom

  • Thanks so much Tom for these tips. With BFFM in my back pocket, I am sure I will reach new personal goals and continue to have the best body of my life. Didn’t think this was possible 2.5 years ago, but I just keep getting better!

    John Wohlwend

  • Jim

    I really enjoyed this post, Tom. I especially liked “Personal responsibility is necessary for personal change.” If I see one more weight loss sales pitch that says “it’s not your fault,” I think I’m going to go crazy.

    I’m looking forward to finding out more about the latest update of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle and the Burn the Fat meal planning software.

  • Thank you once again for the inspiration & superb motivation. The iron sport and the mutual trust & friendship it provides, holds everything together at all times. Good friends & good health are truly the greatest gifts to us all.

    Let the competitive season BEGIN!


  • Hi Tom!

    As usual, I appreciate your no-nonsense, just the facts style. It seems that the hunt for the “magic pill” and the easy way is overwhelmingly rampant. Very few people are willing to pick up a book, do the research for themselves, or actual put in the work required to transform their physiques and minds. It takes strength of character and an unwavering vision to demand self-discipline and do what it takes, even when the going gets tough.

    The shortcut-seekers love to flaunt their short-term successes and get others on their bandwagons. It’s rare that someone actually has a long term outlook and seeks ways to change for the better on a permanent basis.

    I feel that you gain self-esteem through self-discipline and achieving goals you set for yourself. When you put in the hard work and get the desired outcome, you feel worthy of your achievements.

    You serve an important role in being one of the few who isn’t afraid to tell the truth; that it takes long term commitment, focus, dedication, sacrifice, and constant learning to attain worthwhile results. And, that these results ARE POSSIBLE if you are patient and persistent enough to persevere.

    Thank you for your continued uplifting, motivating and knowledgeable information.

    • Tom Venuto

      Thanks stef – and credit to you for the 2nd definition of insanity! (and by that definition you are THE most “sane” of them all!)

  • GCP5.3

    Keen insights, written with true care. Wow, I really do appreciate your knowledge and style of communicating it, especially the way you weave stone-cold facts and actual experiences with the emotions and foibles we all share – it makes what you say very real and powerful to me.

    Your first definition of insanity I’ve heard (and avoided) about eleventy million times, so almost glossed-over you second, which for me is a GEM. Good tip man (although I’m struggling with the “never 2nd guess yourself” part). And your advice to back away from the junk on tv/online and read a great book is simple, profound and so valuable for a quality life. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    I have got to stop feeding the trolls in my life. What a great visual reminder of how foolish I’m being with my time & energy. I’ve struggled with that one, and am now convinced that I do it to avoid working on my own damn flaws! Ugh, you mean instead of correcting/convincing ignorant haters, I have to work on myself? But that’s so much harder.

    Lastly, will you allow me to be a member of the much-hated Word Police for just a moment? Coffee and tea (mentioned in Grumpypumpkin’s comment) are discoveries, not inventions. I mean c’mon, do you tell kids that Benjamin Franklin invented electricity? Ha, just a friendly poke.

    Thank you, and I’m believing in you real hard right now.

  • Brian "Gringo" Nordberg

    Thanks for another another wonderful BFFM year. BTW, I really enjoyed the double meaning in “going against the grain.” Best wishes for your continuing success.

  • elle lambert

    Hi Tom,

    You are the north star of bodybuilding & nutrition. It does get confusing, but there is always your great motivation, conviction, and empirically-validated advice to steer by.

    Best wishes,


  • What I like about you Tom is you are well rounded! You don’t just teach great physical skills but you include the self development, the books, the goal setting, while skipping the B.S. You walk the talk! And I wonder how many people really stop and think about the massive amount time, all the research and effort it took for you to assemble and write, then edit, then re-write, over and over, BFFM!!! What a sacrifice for OUR benefit!!! Sure you profit from it, but YOU SHOULD!!

  • Good Brain Dump, Tom! This should be done each year to throw out the info-trash that piles up in our heads.

    Lots of sound advice and solid reasoning. In just 6 months of pursuing the BFFM way I’ve gained a ton of knowledge, lost some belly fat, and am 80% of the way to my goals. I am still tweaking the program and finding out what works best for me to tackle the rest of the challenge.

    I’m glad you mentioned high reps and more intensity. As an over 50 burner, I’m finding that less weight with more reps makes it easier to keep good form over overreaching with heavy lifting that feels uncomfortable and tends to foster injuries. My results may take longer, but my workouts feel more productive.

    I really appreciate the way you kindly debunk all the fitness noise and remain truthful to science and your own integrity.

    Looking forward to another year of learning and burning.

  • Janice

    It’s my first time commenting here and I must say that I’m truly impressed! I’m from the health science profession and have read through lots of literature and journal articles, will be publishing an article soon, but heck… This is good and honest distillation of many articles!

    Thanks so much for the raw honesty and for sharing your wise thoughts and observations! God Bless! =)

  • C. Owens

    I have been trying to work-out and get in shape for a minute but do not have the body i fully desire. I have trainer and his apporach is a little different than what i am hearing from burn the fat. He says supplments are good for you they give you energy and help you burn fat. I have seemed some fat loss and some muscle gains. So how is this program different from p90x or other programs out their, may be Tom or someone else could help me.

    • thanks for your post. some supplements can give you some short term energy, but most of them depend on large doses of caffeine; nothing wrong with that; i like my coffee prior to a workout, but its nothing magical. Some products however use other stimulants and its not a stretch to call it “fake energy” – it would be better to get your nutrition and lifestyle in order to improve your energy. As for supplements helping you burn fat; rest assured the track record of fat burning supplements in the research literature is dismal and if you noticed in my post I said there are some which increase calorie burn (thermogenesis) slightly – thats the catch – they dont work very well – almost never do what the advertisements claim. read this for some perspective: http://www.burnthefat.com/why_I_hate_fat_burner_supplement_companies.html . In any case supplements are in no way mandatory or needed. You can get as lean as you want to be with no supplements whatsoever. Some trainers recommend “fat burner” supplement not because they work well, but because they earn commissions selling them. re: p90x – that is a workout program, Burn the fat is first and foremost a fat loss nutrition program

  • TheresaLynn

    I love you Tom :)You know what I mean!

    GREAT article…

    Your article reminded me…

    There is a woman at work that has lost a significant amount of fat via the use of a personal trainer for a year. She is a teacher, so intelligence is assumed (ha!).

    One day, I listened as she was giving advice to a coworker that knew absolutely nothing about fat loss. I froze dead in my tracks as I heard her say “…and carrots are fattening.” My jaw dropped!

    The misinformation is EVERYWHERE and it’s spewed by seemingly intelligent people with ‘cred’ so to speak. I have never, ever read anything you’ve written that remotely resembled that type of garbage. I want to thank you for that.

    You are a man with integrity, common sense and a knowledge base that I wish I could download into my own brain! Until that technology exists, I will continue to read and follow your words of wisdom 🙂

    Thank you Tom.

  • George Wynns

    Great article, Tom. Very insightful and comprehensive. Thans you.

  • Joanna

    Thank you for constantly sending emails.
    I cannot claim that I have used most of the ideas you propose
    I still have a problem with going to the gym. However,your ideas
    and have touched me and I feel closer to doing sth about my weight
    than ever before. I even managed to visualize myself thin
    for the first time in 20 years. I enrolled to a gym too, but failed
    to do it consistently ,mainly due to a problem I had with a damaged
    achilles tendon. I have been laying low for a while and hope to restart
    as of tomorrow. What I find more challenging though is dieting, I
    know it is the only logical way to lose weight but I have failed to
    start yet.

  • Adrianne

    As always I love reading what data you have to share and appreciate how you back it up with science plus that all important experience.

    Training calling me, along with that coffee

    Ata Marie Peaceful Morning


  • Gregory Carruthers


    I have always found your advice to be the most sound and reliable of the several sources I consulted to try to put together for myself a workable nutrition and exercise program that was both beneficial and enjoyable. Because of information overload from all these sources I am still sorting things out for myself (I am 66 in good health full time career still going but never very physically active and so not sure how to assess all the information for my own situation. After a year of following some nutrition and exercise I (5’8″) have gone from 172 lbs to 158 with still some abdominal fat. I don’t need visible abs, just a firm flat belly). Anyway I just want to say I am going to reread your BFFM program and make its principles the basis of something I can put together for myself. Thank you for all your sound advice.


  • James Caputo


    Your commentary on those who accuse us of engaging in “bro science” is spot on. A few summers ago I was at a party at which there was self-proclaimed “dietitian expert” who had made a small fortune all throughout the North East touting the efficacy of drinking his shakes throughout the day and then having one “sensible meal” at dinner time. This guy talked a big talk, but clearly became intimidated when I put precise questions to him regarding metabolic function, macronutrients, carby cycling, etc. I was the lowly know-nothing personal trainer who keeps his body in single digit body fat 12 months a year and has helped others do likewise – and he was the tubby, flabby expert who swore he knew better. Guess who at the party was more credible on the topic of fat loss?

    Science is important. But at the end of the day, real world results count. Plus, with all due respect to you and everyone else in our profession, it’s not rocket science!

    – Jim

  • kendra

    Thanks alot for this great article. Im doing a cut and reading this helped me to focus more

  • Rocco

    r Tom.

    I was just told yesterday that I have made the best transformation of anyone at our local gym, which has 5000+ members. While this makes me feel great, I am careful to say that I just followed the plan that you layed out for me and that’s my reason for success. Following a proven leader is a formula for success and while I can’t train with you as you suggest we do, I actually do, because it’s your plan and your TNB workout I used. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and I will continue to promote Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle whenever I get a chance!

    Ciao – Rocco

  • Sometimes a little fitness common sense goes a long way. Thanks Tom. I find that people have become more and more dogmatic in the industry in the last couple of years. There are many ways to hit your physique goals in my opinion and it always feels like jumping on the bandwagon when I hear “don’t do this anymore, now do that”.

  • Wow, great stuff. You affirm what we know to be true deep down, and you also give us fresh insight into everyday matters. And, I finally just bought a copy of Psycho-Cybernetics. I’ve wanted to read that for quite some time.


  • Anirban

    Awesome, as always!!!

  • Thank you for the post. I like the part about Personal responsibility. People should know that they are responsible for all that happens to them.

  • Nothing more powerful than the plain truth! Bravo Tom.l Well said and well understood. Thanks for always being the sane voice of reason in the Web.

  • Erin Escobar

    Thanks for the article! Your common sense is so appealing. I really liked reading about how you should train with people that are on a greater level than you. I have been dreading going to workout lately because I am about 50 pounds overweight while most of those people in the class are super fit.
    My negative self-talk has been getting the best of me but I am inspired to go this week!
    Thanks. Erin

  • Tom, great blog post! I do appreciate your no-nonsense approach when it come to health and fitness. There is so much junk out there and its so necessary to hear from someone who has no agenda (other than encouraging us that we CAN achieve our goals!) and who is not afraid to speak out on issues even if its not always popular. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  • Cass

    I read this and am reminded why I have been following you all these years, Tom.

    You are the master, the real deal, the no b.s. guy in this (getting more insane by the moment) fitness world. The industry is growing, but that also means there are more (sorry!) morons out there than ever, and I like that you addressed a lot of that internet b.s. in this post.

    As always, thanks for keeping it real and reminding all of us bodybuilders/body sculptors that the way we have been doing it is still the way to go! Here’s to “positive obsession”!!!!


  • Joe A


    Leave it you to tell folks the stuff that the rest of the industry doesn’t wan’t to hear. Good bodies take work! And not just in the gym, but in setting goals, planning and cooking meals and avoiding setbacks. The 90:10 principle is very important here, because it is human to have setbacks but you need to know what to do with them. Bill Phillips once pointed out, that most handle setbacks as a way to totally abandon there program…akin to getting a flat tire and getting out of the car an flattening the remaing tires. Goal oriented folks change the tire and proceed to their destination.

    Coupla’ Points…

    “Personal responsibility is necessary for personal change”….while its true that folks want to take personal responsibility out of the equation to sell their “Muscle in a Drum” products….I still believe that many people have metabolic challenges that cannot be discounted. Its what you do with the information that tells who you are.

    As someone with Metabolic Syndrome (documented by a 3 hr glucose tolerance test). I have choices….I can say I was dealt a bad hand and continue the road to full blown Type 2 Diabetes(Guess what its estimated 40% of America has Metabolic Syndrome and only a small percentage knows it!) …or I can say….well I need to work my diet differently(Low GI/GL, less carbs) and train differntly(Cardio in a fasted state is a sure fire way to raise your BS) and more diligently than someone with a healthy metabolism.

    Also “Compliance – your ability to stick with your program – is the most important factor for long term fat loss success.”…This statement impacts several areas….Compliance is not just a mental game….Its a physical one…So as a 51 year old, with a stressful job and 2 children…compliance takes on things like….what do I do/not do to protect my joints?? How do I effectively weave my training/diet into my professional life(not cool to bring a cooler to a business luncheon..LOL!)?? and How do enjoy/participate in family time, while working out and eating clean?? These are challenges of an aging fitness entusiast that generally derail many people!

    And Lastly…

    “Coffee is humankind’s greatest invention” Sip…I Agree!!


  • Peyton

    Thank you for all of your help. I’m a very “fact-oriented” person, making your book simple, easy to understand, and very helpful. I do have one really BIG question though. I use a popular online calorie tracker to track all of my food intake. I work out daily (typically 30 minutes of cardio, 30-45 minutes of weight training). There is a portion on the site that tracks the calories burned through fitness, but I am always hesitant to use it for fear that I will overstate the calories I’ve burned, which should mean I’m consuming far less calories than I am burning. I am not losing weight (or fat) in the amounts that should be expected by a plan that is set up for -1.5lbs/week. Do you have any idea what could be causing this difference in what “should be” versus what “is”? I know that fat loss comes from a calorie deficit, but is it possible that certain people’s bodies react differently to different things – carbs vs protein vs fat? I am beginning to get very frustrated as I am extremely careful about what I put into my body. Any advice you can offer would be extremely helpful.

  • I love a great yera round-up! And I love that not everything was about food and exercise-like reading a book! I love to read! It’s a great way to fall asleep or enjoy your pubic transit commute!

    Also, there are more than one way to get lean! Everyone’s body is different and learning how your body works, knowing yourself is half the battle!

  • 100% agree on the overtrainimg. Great read

  • Tommy NYC

    Well done, Tom. You are absolutely right about many junk self-help programs that are out there. Bottom line, too many people who try to make a living off of others looking for that quick fix. Thanks for the blog it was a very interesting read. Time for my sip of Joe…

  • “Don’t get so caught up in research papers that you ignore real world results.”

    This is so true. People are often so brainwashed they’d rather listen to the hype rather than use their eyes to see actual real-life results!

  • Thanks for the information, enjoyed reading your fat-burning article.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Great tips. I recently decided to lower my carb intake, because my body’s composition. Like you said, there are many ways to get to a lean body. This may not work for others, but it works for me. Thanks for sharing.

  • The big thing I learned was to take things slow. Jumping into a full on diet and workout program after being idle for a long time is not a good idea. If you take it slow and make habit changes gradually you have a better chance of keeping the weight off and the muscle on for good.

  • What an awesome post! You said it all and more! I love that you include things like reading in your concepts here. I have been teaching my children that reading serves a huge multitude of purposes–discipline, vocabulary growth, knowledge increase, etc. It has often occurred to me that a person who is disciplined about their reading will likely be disciplined about most things. Thanks for this!

  • mj

    love our posts but is this just a monthly blog? havent seen one since this posted date?

    • Tom Venuto

      HI micheal- no its not just a monthly blog, im just a lousy blogger, LOL! The only place online to get a weekly – or even a daily dose of me is at our inner circle — http://www.burnthefatinnercircle.com — i spend most of my time there and then whatever time i have left over, I make a post when i have something post worthy… i DO still send out an email newsletter approximately once a week… occasionally miss a week but pretty steady there — i think youre alreayd on the “burn the fat weekly ezine list” but if not – the subscribe form is at http://www.burnthefatblog.com Look to the upper right hand corner where it says free newsletter and fat loss mini course. Cheers!

  • Scott

    This is a very comprehensive list! Thanks for sharing, Tom.

  • edith

    It starts by accepting your self the way you are.Then work on it.The drive to be what you want to be is the key.

  • I read your book and found the basics. I have been training consistently since 1997 and by habit I have never begun the slippery slope of “I just don’t feel like lifting today. It won’t make that much of a difference if I skip today or do it later.” I also consider obese people responsible for their condition. That the commercial food industry is also responsible is no excuse.
    Thank you for your work.

  • This was a great afternoon read. Awesome tips, reminders, and just plain fun. “There’s more than one way…” is my favorite tip. Finding something you’ll stick with is key!

  • Tracey Regan

    Thanks Tom,
    brilliant as always. much needed truths here. Appreciate your ability to take the confusion out of everything. Thanks again.

  • Another great article Tom… you just gave me an eloquent response to the scientist’s.. Thank you BrotherInIron.. I am gonna trademark this.. “Bro science: a term used by the scientific and pseudo-scientific community to try to discredit people who often have more experience and better results, but may not be able to argue as well about unimportant things on the internet.”

  • Reeta

    Thank you very much Tom. Its really work. I am very gratefull to you & your website. I had lost 12kg in 6 months to follow your advice.

  • Marie Ko

    Loved this post. I’ve been working seriously for a few months now with a really good trainer. I’ve learned how to push myself beyond what I thought I could do. I have built back some muscle that’s hiding under my skinny-fat self so I’m now looking to really ‘lean up’. Discovered your book The Body Fat Solution and found myself nodding and highlighting your “common sense”. Just bought your Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle book. Implementing it this week. Have set my ’emotional’ goals and my initial 3 month plan.
    “People who denounce goal setting, positive thinking and personal development will continue to stunt the growth of themselves and everyone around them.”

    I’m especially finding the mental training the most helpful advice. Feel that’s the missing piece of the puzzle. I’ve printed cards with my goals on them so I can pull them out when I’m caving into “temptation”.

  • great post Tom.

    I’ve never been much of a fan of doing more than 15 reps because of the theory I’ve read about.

    How many reps/ what exercises/how often would you recommend? I’ve never heard of Crok rows or the squats you mentioned.

    • Tom Venuto

      Dont rest your whole philosophy on theory alone. Training, especially bodybuilding, is a science AND an art. That means combine what the science says and what your results (aka “the real world”) say. if youve never tried it, you should, but not giving up heavier lower rep training – doing BOTH. Actually the science of hypertrophy DOES support this approach. Different people get different mileage. I have met a couple people who absolutely thrive on heavy power style training in the 4-6 rep range and they come away with great size, along with the strength. others do better by adding high reps. i do beleive it has to do with (genetic) fiber type distribution and individual response to the same stimulus can vary . google the kroc rows. interesting enough Kroczalewsi is a powerlifter not a bodybuilder. interesting concept: heavy weight, high reps. not necessarily mutually exclusive, depending on how you look at it.

  • Anastasia

    Great post as usual. I have greatly benefited from your wisdom, Tom!

  • I just started throwing in the occasional high rep day- definitely makes a difference. I can personally couch for half of this- the other half I’m going to start trying. Great advice!


    Tom what kind of diet do you recommend 30 days out for contest prep

  • This is a fantastic article. “You can get 80% of the way there with modest effort” is so true. You don’t have to kill yourself to get a great physique. I am in agreement with all of these and got a chuckle out of a few. 🙂

    Great stuff Tom.


  • Simply put: “BRAVO, TOM, BRAVO!” Great read indeed!



  • Thanks for this great post, evryone wants to be a bodybuilder but it is not easy, if you really want to build muscle then start with basic and most important thing diet.

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