Ever wonder how an actor with a big role can lose 30 pounds “overnight”?
What about bodybuilders who get down to 3% body fat? How is that possible when most people struggle to lose a few pounds?
Today we pull back the curtain on the fit life of the rich and famous. Actors, models, athletes, and those who need to make weight for their job have a few tricks up their sleeves.
On this show with celebrity fitness and nutrition coach, Kyle Brown, we’ll peek into the Hollywood and elite training circles to explore doping, water-loading, and how pros really prepare for the camera.
You’re about to learn:
- 5 surprising tricks Kyle uses to get celebrities camera ready
- How to balance work and kids and still make health and fitness a priority
- The ethics of doping
- How to develop habits like Olympic gold medalists
- What it takes to live at low body fat year round
- How to handle cheat meals
- How to lose 23 pounds in 5 days (and why you shouldn’t try it at home)
- And much more…
Disclaimer: Kyle describes advanced tricks used in the world of fitness modeling, bodybuilding, fitness modeling, physique competitons, weigh-ins, and Hollywood to make people appear more fit than they actually are. We also talk about drugs that are often used in the process.
Don’t try this at home. We share this with you so you know what goes on behind the scenes of Hollywood and the Fitness industry. With this show, I try to make the process of body transformation more transparent so we can do better. Be sure to leave a comment to let us know what you think.
KYLE BROWN: FROM BOB SAGET TO BUFF BODYBUILDER
Abel: We’re here with celebrity Fitness & Nutrition Coach, devoted father, and host of “The Empower Hour” on ESPN Radio, Kyle Brown. Over the past 15 years, Kyle has been the go-to resource for Fortune 500 organizations, top CEOs, professional and Olympic athletes, and over 50 of the world’s biggest celebrities.
You’re shredded. You know how to get other people shredded, and I think there’s a threshold that a lot of people never pass, from amateur to elite performance level.
Where does the strength come from to reach that ultimate goal?
I think it has to first come from a place of anger.
The worst fitness clients I’ve ever dealt with are the apathetic. They don’t have power and emotion behind wanting to change. I like strong anger and being able to harness that anger into self love in the form of extreme dedication, motivation, and big picture thinking.
Many people don’t get that lean because they overestimate the short term potential and underestimate the long-term opportunity.
Abel: When you started, what were you angry about?
I actually started lifting weights. I don’t have a fat to fit story. I have a depressed, angry, enraged kid to fit kid story.
I was really skinny. I looked a lot like Bob Saget. I’m 38 now, so this was Full House days. Imagine getting to high school looking like Bob Saget at that time?
I was a hard gainer. It wasn’t about being ripped, but putting on some size and being ripped, which needs to be done separately.
Abel: What did you learn about putting on size as a hard gainer?
Patience is a virtue that’s hard for us A+ personality types.
You have to have it and be super focused on one phase at a time… if you’re not using drugs. If you see someone putting on 40 pounds of muscle with no fat added, and taking fat away, they probably have that little secret sauce they’re using.
I had to say, “Okay, a six pack isn’t going to exist in this moment and I’m going to put on as much size as possible.” That transition happened from college water polo days to competitive bodybuilding. I went from the highest cardio to the lowest cardio. I put on 60 pounds in a school year. People thought I was on drugs.
I went from swimming three hours a day to swimming none. The only cardio I did was walking to the train. It’s a severe level of dedication and extreme end isolation.
Abel: Let’s talk about that.
I’ve had the luxury of working with a lot of olympic gold medalists and top level gold medal athletes, and at the highest level you have to be incredibly selfish.
You’re not going to be a good husband, probably not a good dad, you have to be completely self-absorbed in every facet.
Going through a normal transition program you think: Workout, eat right, take care of the family, work on your job.
When you’re going through a super shredding transition program, your top five priorities are: nutrition, sleep, water intake, working out, then comes job, family, everything else.
This is why I say, “You’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.”
Abel: A lot of people don’t realize that about elite Olympians or celebrities leaning down for a movie: they’re eating out of tupperware, never go out, and if they do they’re eating out of tupperware at the restaurant.
They can’t color outside the lines and that can be very isolating for people.
I took a digital scale to Thanksgiving dinner and weighed out all my food, even though the competition wasn’t until May. It’s the most extreme level of focus needed to make sure every one of the variables are dialed in.
The only meal I went out to was November 1st for my birthday. It was a Chinese restaurant and I ordered chicken and broccoli cooked in water, no salt and no sauce.
There’s definitely no dating during that time frame.
Abel: Where does that leave you now?
Married, two kids, and 38, but staying pretty lean year round. I stay at about 6%, or if there’s a photoshoot I’ll get around 4%.
I’m so heavy into the natural health world that I do a big natural health version of it—Manipulation of sodium, potassium water and the basic elements of life.
WATER: THE MOST IMPORTANT DIET AID
Abel: People might hear about that stuff, but the idea of manipulating water, sodium, potassium, is alien.
Some people, like you, have been doing this for decades. How does it work?
The first thing I’ll tell you is that people get too hung up on counting calories and macros when using manipulation. To me, those are some of the smaller factors. It’s the little things that are the big things.
It’s the little things that are the big things. @KyleBrownESPN Click To Tweet
What’s the biggest fat-burning supplement on the market? It’s water.
You’re drinking a heavy dose of water. Say I’m doing a photoshoot on a Saturday, starting on Monday I’d drink a tremendous amount of water. A gallon, gallon and a half, two gallons. Plus a decent amount of sodium.
Then I’d really cut back on salt and load up on water, then right at the end cut it down to next to nothing. Water, salt, and carbs are next to nothing. Potassium has to be high, too, so you have to be really careful because it can affect your heart.
By water loading and then depleting, you pee out tremendous amounts of water as if you were still drinking a ton. When you’re really carb depleting, if you have some sort of carb the night before, the sugar will bind to water and drop a ton the night before. You can lose 5 – 7 pounds from the time you go to bed to the time you wake up.
I tell people never to monitor the scale, because most of that is water. @KyleBrownESPN Click To Tweet
Abel: Water is easy to manipulate, but the fat, that’s harder to manipulate. How do you do it?
Persistence, precision, dedication, commitment and staying the course. Don’t look at it as a diet.
Abel: How do you maintain year round? How do you stay 6 – 7 % year round while you have kids and a family?
The biggest thing is having a completely different mindset when it comes to food. Celebrities, pro athletes, they look at food so differently because they have so much on the line.
Abel: For pro athletes and celebs, it’s their job to be lean and fit. But for regular people it’s easy to be like, “Eh, I’m going to have some cookies.” There isn’t immediate accountability. For a lot of people, when they have a cookie, they don’t know what they’re sacrificing.
Unless they’re competing in something, I give everyone an hour to devour.
An hour to go to town and eat whatever they want to be more balanced and human. But if you were trying to lean out, and you had to eat that ice cream or cookie in front of a mirror, you probably wouldn’t do it.
If you don’t have accountability, it’s a heck of a lot harder.
Abel: What are the elites coming to the table with? How do they see their food?
It takes strong emotion to combat temptation. We have strong temptation to eat those foods. But those who care about you most tend to be harmful and feel like they have to self-evaluate if they tell you to stop eating something.
Instead of looking at it as a self-deprivation diet, say, “This is what I can’t eat.” It’s better to get crystal clear about what those foods do to you, then choosing not to eat them. You choose alternatives because you understand how those foods are going to destroy your goals and your happiness.
Abel: What’s on your plate?
It’s not off my kids’ plate, but they do eat pretty clean. My son is a complete Paleo protein kid by choice. You try putting a carb in front of him that’s not a veggie, he pushes it off. He just turned two. If you put protein in front of him he’ll eat it. If you put pizza there, he pushes it away. At restaurants, I order an adult meal and give him a little of mine.
As far as my typical approach to food, I eyeball everything. I choose really colorful vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, paleo-based eating. Not the “Paleo Kidding Yourself” based eating. This food may be paleo but it’s still a dessert.
If it’s soft and squishy, you’re going to become soft and squishy eating it.
Eat food that looks like you want to look. Avoid foods that look like you don’t want to look. It’s a really easy rule—the more you’re eating soft, squishy, greasy, oily, the more you’re going to look like that food.
Abel: At first, you might get that big salad and you’re like “My jaw hurts right now.” It’s good for us to “process” food in our mouths.
Even if you think about ground beef, that’s been processed. But eating nose-to-tail with low priced cuts of meat, those things are pretty tough, a workout for your mouth, that’s the way humans should be eating.
You’re not getting satisfied when you’re eating those other foods. You can eat those mindlessly and there’s no message being sent to the brain saying, “Hey I’m full, I’m done, I’m satisfied.” But those others, you have to be mindful.
Abel: What about a cheat day or cheat meal?
My typical client at this point in my career is a busy on-the-go individual, from that world and the celebrity world, I see a lot of similarities. Many can get chefs, a lot don’t. A huge difference for them is a cheat meal focused on decadence… they don’t consider it a cheat meal.
Someone like the Rock, he does everything epic and extreme. He’s got an incredible amount of muscle on his body. He could eat a pizza like we eat 2 slices.
Everybody has an x factor—something where they’re like, “I know this isn’t healthy for me, but if I could get a tattoo of nachos I would.”
Or Captain Crunch is nostalgic. I give them permission to, once or twice a week, go to town, as much as you want.
Then I’ll get at text that says, “I feel like death.”
With alcohol, your goal is to lower your tolerance until you’re a cheap date. @KyleBrownESPN Click To Tweet
The better you process your food, the better your organs work. So then when you drink alcohol, your organs are like, “Whoa, what’s that?” And the quicker you get buzzed.
People forget when they drink they’re looking for a sensation. The positives are the stress relief, euphoria, endorphins. If you can get that feeling with one or two drinks, killer. But for some reason we’re programmed for the opposite.
One or two drinks and I’m happy as a clam, but not so wasted that I can’t remember what happened that night.
Abel: There’s a massive difference between one or two glasses of wine once in awhile, and drinking every single night. And then when you’re going out and drinking and having 14 drinks over the weekend, that’s a massive difference when it comes to training and long term goals.
What else are elites focusing on to get to the next level?
When it comes down to exercise, it’s about clarity and focus. When somebody comes into the gym who’s a world class athlete, even if working out on their own, they’re so focused on their mission and objective that their intensity is at a different level.
Jeff Garcia, NFL quarterback, is a long time client and friend. When I first met him at the gym, I saw him working out, I walked up to him and he and I did a workout together. His intensity at age 42 was that of a 20 year old world class athlete. I was trying to go set for set, rep for rep. We finished up the workout, and I said I had to go to the bathroom and went in and puked my guts out. I walked back in and acted like nothing happened. He signed up and started training with me after that.
His intensity, fire and passion, the way he approaches fitness, his whole mindset is “what’s next?” We finish a set and he’s like, “What’s next?” He’s so focused on what he’s doing, the same as a bodybuilder. It’s not about how many sets, how many reps, it’s not about the biomechanics (which are also important), but it’s so much about intensity with that proper form, making sure you go to that level that’s so far beyond where most people are willing to push themselves.
Abel: Are there any unexpected things about elite athletes?
The similarity between elite athletes, actors and people who are fully dialed in, is an unshakeable belief in themselves.
They tend to be very humble and grounded, but have an unshakeable belief in themselves in terms of being able to achieve their goals. No different than anyone else can have if they put in the time. They are so competitive with themselves that they’re like, “I can do better, I can do better.”
Have a clear goal, with a timeline, with a huge positive if you achieve it and a huge negative if you don’t.
HOW A BUSY MOM CAN THINK LIKE AN ELITE PERFORMER
Abel: What do you do if you are, say, a busy mom?
Let’s say a busy mom comes to me and says, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” She comes in, and her enthusiasm is a 4/10. Let’s change that goal from 20 pounds to a visualization. Let’s get some dates of some upcoming events. Let’s say there’s a family vacation in Hawaii. You’re gonna take pictures that end up on social media.
We have a date. We have a deadline. Go out that day and buy that bikini. Try it on now, even though you know it’s not going to fit. Try that on and take your before pic in that. Now we have anger and pain with not being at your goal. Every week, take your pic in that bikini or that suit until you get to that point. Now, we have physical realization. This is so much better than looking at the scale.
Now they’re angry, frustrated they haven’t been doing things right, and now they’re clear that they have a date and a time and a goal. If I look good, I’m going to get a ton of compliments and pictures. If I don’t, I’m going to feel frustrated with how I look in front of them.
Abel: That process engages emotions. You can visualize and get a little taste of what it might feel like when you get there.
Say that busy woman gets to that ultimate swimsuit, then what?
Awesome question. Let me tell you how I do that with everyone. I make sure that before they get to that goal, they’ve already established the next goal that gets them fired up.
I’ve noticed that if I push and they’re just doing this for a “healthy lifestyle,” they hit the snooze.
I have a woman who I was getting ready for her daughter’s bat mitzvah. She had never worked out. Eyes are going to be on you, you want to look good to show your ex how you’ve been doing. I’ve got her dialed in, she’s fired up, she’s angry.
But before we get to that goal, I sit with her every workout for the last three weeks asking her what’s next? She lost 25 pounds in six weeks, but what’s next? She decided to do a boudoir photo shoot for her boyfriend. If you get to that point, you give that gift away, you two go on a vacation in Palm Springs or something. To celebrate.
I don’t believe in maintenance. You’re either growing or dying. @KyleBrownESPN Click To Tweet
If you don’t continually set goals that fire you up, all of a sudden things are happening to you and you’ll wake up and look in the mirror and go, “I don’t know how that happened.”
Abel: That can definitely happen. I broke my foot rock climbing a year and half ago. Before that, my workouts were dialed in, but all of a sudden my broken foot prevented almost all of my normal exercises.
One lesson is “Don’t be stupid, don’t get injured – focus on injury prevention as part of your long-term plan.”
Yes, you have to keep pushing yourself, but what are you pushing for?
For people who are trying to be “generally healthy for a lifetime,” what can they do keep their eye on the ball?
I don’t think that pushing so hard is about working yourself into exhaustion or injury. The bigger way of looking at everything is risk vs. reward. I’m 38, I have kids, and the fitness side of my job involves my body being in good shape. The speaking part of my job requires that I stand up and not look like I have injuries.
It’s about working smart vs. working hard.
When you’re 18 ,you’re flying on the basketball court. But when you’re 38 playing, you’re not going to fly down the court for the layup. But you’re going to play some cherry-picking defense.
And I’m still going to look to use the assets I have, muscle up, play it safe so I don’t pull anything. Now for me, if I get on a basketball court, my goal is not to tear anything.
When I’m going in the gym, I look at certain moves and I’m thinking the risk reward—it’s not worth it. What’s the point of doing a powerlifting move if i’m not going to compete in powerlifting? Unless my mechanics are great, I walk in and my back feels great. If I’m feeling injuries, problems, sitting all day long… the last thing I need to do if I’ve been sitting all day and I have 30 minutes is an unwarmed Olympic move.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DOPING
Abel: How prevalent is doping? How many celebs in Hollywood and pro athletes are juicing?
My personal opinion is that when there’s millions of dollars on the line, it’s just a whole other ball game. I don’t make judgments on people for doing that because I haven’t been in those shoes.
Personally, I did drug-free bodybuilding at 170 pounds and 6 ft tall. With the level of dedication and discipline I had, I would have been 250. For what? It’s like a glorified piano recital, big deal.
It’s cool and it’s amazing, but there’s no millions of dollars on the line. I can understand why they make those decisions. And sometimes they’re top down. It’s part of the institution and it’s bigger than anything.
If we went back and saw these skinny little guys from the 50’s competing, it would be boring. It’s kind of like watching an old movie.
Even in pro bodybuilding, if we assume everyone is using drugs because they’re not testing, what makes one guy better than the next? Dedication, discipline.
I’ve seen people who use steroids that have a physique that’s ten times worse than mine with less muscle mass. Because they don’t have the dedication, the discipline, the food knowledge, they haven’t dedicated their life to it.
I’m a Bears fan. In 1985 the Chicago Bears had this giant freak of a man William “The Refrigerator” Perry. He’s kind of small compared to the average NFL player right now.
Were new people born with new genetics, or did the drugs get better, nutrition, training, science? I’m going with B.
Abel: But at the same time, doping leaves us in a lurch. What’s the road to improvement? If I were running track, I’d be bummed out to discover all my competitors were juicing.
One of my friends is Tyree Washington, he’s one of my fit 365 Shake ambassadors, and his group got busted for doping back in the Olympics and they stripped them all of their medals.
Two of the guys were using and two weren’t, he wasn’t. I felt really bad for him. He’s still the world’s fastest man, even without the medal.
I’m for upping the testing. They should do it across the board and watch the evolution of the sports. I’m more worried about busting someone on their character, how they treat women, and how they act as citizens more than I’m worried about their steroid use.
Abel: On one side of this there’s the competition. Sometimes that’s more TV magic than reality.
On the other side, you have the fact that pro athletes and celebs are affecting millions of children looking to them as an example.
A lot of people use steroids for their muscle aches and pain so they can keep their contract. There are so many different variables that to me, the quality and caliber of their character is much more important.
Abel: Where you’re at now, a father just out of your prime physical shape, what does your training look like for next twenty or thirty years?
I set 5 year youthing goals. I’m coming up on 40, and at 35 I was awesome, so I have some work to do.
Human beings, physically, are some of the most pathetic animals on the planet. @KyleBrownESPN Click To Tweet
No claws. Slower than animals that weigh four times as much as us. But we have these brains, so I work on doing things smarter, better. My desire to live balances as a father, businessman, entrepreneur, so I look at everything based on efficiency and knowledge.
My path over the past five years is personal development, so I take those and apply them to fitness and training. I listen to personal development books while I train.
I’ve gotten through 30 books since last August, this year I’m trying to get through 50 really good quality business or personal development books.
Abel: Are you listening at regular speed?
I haven’t tried speeding it up. I’ve noticed myself getting a little more ADD as I get older, so I usually listen to it regular speed, then I’ll back up thirty seconds to catch what I missed.
Abel: What about the idea of a set point when it comes to body fat (or weight)… you’ve helped some people get down to super low body fat. But others say, “well I’m just bigger boned” or “I have a slow metabolism.” What’s the deal with set point?
Everyone can lose weight and lose fat. It’s just about whether or not you have an easier time getting there.
Getting to a certain body fat percentage is not the best decision. I remember getting down to 3%, and I was sitting with my friend and he was like, “Oooh, I bet you’re craving a Snickers.” And I was like, “I’m craving water.” That’s not healthy.
Just get to a point where you feel really happy and confident naked. And honestly, the best way to get there is to start by being really happy and confident naked now… before you even start the journey.
Abel: There’s a difference between getting to where your body wants to be, and pushing too far. I’ve learned that pushing super low is not worth it, to stay at super low body fat year round demands exponentially more sacrifice.
You have to remember your “why.” If you’re like, “I’ve got to get to this… but why?” You’re missing out on the whole point. And everybody’s’ why is to improve the quality of life to be happier.
So do the things that make you happier. You have to benchmark and compare yourself to yourself, and not to anybody else.
WHERE TO FIND KYLE BROWN
Kyle started a company that makes a grass-fed whey protein shake that “tastes so good you’ll feel like you’re cheating on your diet.” You can find that at Fit365.com.
For Kyle’s coaching, blog, and show on ESPN, you can go to www.strive4fitness.com or www.coachkylebrown.com.
Catch Kyle on Twitter @KyleBrownESPN, or on Instagram and Facebook.
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What’d you think of this interview with Kyle? Have you started visualizing your goals yet? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!