Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Stu: This week I’m excited to welcome Cody Watkins to the podcast. Dubbed the King of Transformation. Cody is a renowned online fitness coach. In 2018, he underwent emergency open heart surgery that was required to escape death. He made an astonishing comeback, winning a bodybuilding competition, just 11 months post-surgery. In this episode, we discussed the subtle art of building lean muscle while losing body fat, the importance of cardio when wanting to lean up and so much more. Over to Cody.
Some questions asked during this episode:
What’s the secret to building lean muscle and losing fat at the same time?
How important is cardio when wanting to lean up?
Should we lift heavy for less reps or lighter for more?
Get more of Cody Watkins:
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The views expressed on this podcast are the personal views of the host and guest speakers and not the views of Bega Cheese Limited or 180 Nutrition Pty Ltd. In addition, the views expressed should not be taken or relied upon as medical advice. Listeners should speak to their doctor to obtain medical advice.
Disclaimer: The transcript below has not been proofread and some words may be mis-transcribed.
Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long-lasting health. Now, I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We are into whole food nutrition, and have a range of superfoods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website that is 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay, back to the show.
This week, I’m excited to welcome Cody Watkins to the podcast. Dubbed the King of Transformation. Cody is a renowned online fitness coach. In 2018, he underwent emergency open heart surgery that was required to escape death. He made an astonishing comeback, winning a bodybuilding competition, just 11 months post-surgery. In this episode, we discussed the subtle art of building lean muscle while losing body fat, the importance of cardio when wanting to lean up and so much more. Over to Cody.
Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Cody Watkins to the podcast. Cody, good morning, good afternoon for you. How are you mate?
I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.
No, I really appreciate your time. Well, looking at your socials and all of your online activities, I know that you’re a very busy man, so we’ll get into the questions in a second. But first up, for all of our listeners that may not be familiar with you or your work, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, please.
Yeah, so I got into fitness pretty early, 15, 16 years old. I think very typical for any male, you’re a little bit softer than you like to be, right? You got to get those abs, get it checked, and I just started, I guess, chasing the dragon, so to speak. So, I just kept pushing the size of limit. I got into powerlifting, got into bodybuilding. I did that obviously along the way. It’s really easy to get into training since that’s all you’re doing. So that’s where I kind of fell into that with my love for that, and then got into coaching, competed for 12 years in bodybuilding. Ended up having a few setbacks along the way that I had to learn to overcome, the biggest being open heart surgery. That was kind of a side blast, I didn’t see that one coming. And yeah, I had a birth effect that I didn’t know about.
I ended up being in stage four heart failure. My heart was like three times the size it should be, and then I got that all patched up. I ended up competing in a bodybuilding show one year later just to see if I could. I wanted to push the limit, but I like to take the reasons or excuses out for when it comes to clients because we’ll build hurdles over things that maybe aren’t. So, I figured if I could push the envelope, it would help me as a coach overall, because it kind of takes that excuse barrier now when it comes to working with people.
Oh, my word. So, tell me, when you had that surgery. And I’m guessing with a character like yourself. You live and breathe for working out, feeling good, moving your body. Were you ever told that you’ve got to take this super, super easy? I wouldn’t recommend that you pick up heavy weights or stretch your heart in any way? Was that on the board of the recommendations?
Absolutely. So, going into it, I didn’t know I had it. I had symptoms of heart failure the whole time, but I thought it was just bodybuilding. It was rough, right? I’m pushing through it, grueling along, probably maybe TMI. But man, I was throwing up probably one to two workouts a month, just thought I was lifting hard, but that was my heart not keeping up, right?
But anyways, when I found out, my heart valve actually ripped. I had birth defect in it. So, they were like, if this would’ve happened while you’re training, you’d be dead. And the day before I was blasting out legs, just crushed. I was six weeks out from a bodybuilding show. So, I had just DEXA scan at like 6% body fat. I’m like, “Easiest contest prep yet. I’m so far ahead of the game. This is great.” And then the next day I was in the hospital dying and had no idea, just side cast.
And so, they told me I could walk but not uphill. I won’t do anything. So, I was still going in person, training my clients at the time. I made them move all the weights. I just was playing a rep counter basically. I had the surgery done and when I got out, I was cautious. I was like, “Hey, what are my limitations?” And they’re like, realistically, with this heart valve, it’s mechanical, so there’s nothing you can really do for it. And I got seven plates and 28 screws in my chest. So, it’s not like I’m coming apart, but I eased back into it pretty gradual. But I still remember I was probably three months getting cleared for lifting and the surgeon was scoping out my social media or someone on his medical team has seen an old clip of me benching like 315, and they called me, I’m in the gym parking lot about ready to go train.
He’s like, “You can’t be lifting that.” Because I was like 60, I was at five months post op, right? And he sees me lifting 300 pounds, which obviously I wasn’t. I was still weak at that point. But man, that was like, “Oh, am I supposed to be doing this? But it was all clear, right?” I ended up reversing my heart failure. My heart shrunk down to normal size. I did that [inaudible 00:05:13] a year later, so it’s all green light on that. I do train a little bit different now. I don’t push failure, Valsalva maneuver as much, spike in the blood pressure. But other than that, it’s pretty much same old, same old.
That’s fantastic. That surely would have to make the ultimate meme on the internet. You push leg day to the next level.
I’m just glad it happened right after leg day, not during.
Oh, my God. So, it’s absolutely amazing to hear that complete reversal really of perhaps what were you told that you shouldn’t do to where you knew that you wanted to be and all of those learnings along the way. So, I’m keen for you then to share a little bit of your insights into, well, bodybuilders and especially competitive, they understand or you understand diet, nutrition and movement and all the recovery protocols probably more than anybody else because you have the ability to understand macros and all of your body metrics in terms of DEXA scan, body fat, muscle mass, bone density, all that kind of stuff.
And there’s so much information out there about choose this diet and that diet. You want to get ripped, you want to get six-pack. But ultimately, it seems to me like the weight trainers, the body lifters, the power, the competitive powerlifters, they are the scientists in this area because you’ve got it down pat and you’ve had it down pat for many, many years. Even the guys in the ’70s knew more than a lot of us do today.
So, tell us a little bit about if you can open up on that secret, which is everybody’s nemesis, building lean muscle, but losing fat at the same time. How do we do it?
So, this is probably the trickiest part of the equation because on paper, in order to build muscle, we have to have that calorie surplus. In order to lose fat, you have to have that calorie deficit. So, you can do it at once. I’ll side quest and say it’s not my top recommendation because it is a slower process. It’ll keep you looking better the entire time. But if you focus on leaning down and then building, you’ll do it in probably a third to half of the time as far as an overall process to goal, but you can do it. But this one comes more down to nutrient timing. So, you have to be a little bit more specific with your spikes of surplus. So not to get too deep in the weeds, but you got to figure when you’re increasing calorie expenditure around the workout time, that’s when you need the surplus.
So, the body goes, oh, cool, I’m not starving. I need to put on muscle. Because from the body standpoint, it only cares about survival and excess muscle is not good for survival. It burns calories or rest. So, when that expenditure goes up, you have to spike it. So, this is where a pre and post-workout, carbohydrate timing usually works out well. So, you can increase the surplus and then all the other parts of the day usually bring those back a little bit. So, you’re trying to tap into that stored body fat for fuel while general activity and stuff is there.
And obviously, each person, you’d have to play with the numbers a little bit from that sweet spot, but that’s realistically where I see the best results on recomp and it’s not a huge deficit. So, if you do figure out where your maintenance is, it’s usually only going like 200, 250 under it. The further you crank the fat loss, the less you crank the muscle build, so there’s a tight rope to walk between both.
And I would imagine then that you would have to be very, very focused on tracking and understanding exactly what you are pulling in terms of macros and being able to understand what those foods are doing for you, working out your BMR and then your surplus or deficit, however that works.
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And I think the easiest way to do that, if I was going to give the simplest pointer, I think people get online, they punch in formulas, they go for that stuff way too quick. So, if your weight’s been pretty consistent, cool, you’re at your maintenance right now. So, all you have to do, if you’re a beginner starting out and you’re not really wanting to play with the scale too much, it’s more like, “I want to tone up, maybe put on some muscle, loose some fat,” log your food out honestly for 2, 3, 4, 5 days, just get a calorie number to it. Don’t change anything. If you were going to order a large pizza that night, put it in. It doesn’t matter.
Get an average to where your numbers are. Now you know your average calorie burn. Then, if we take that protein number, now let’s go up to a gram per pound of lean. Even if you keep your calories exactly the same, increased protein because most people are going to be lower at that, you are going to get in a thermogenesis effect from the protein to where you’re actually at a deficit after you do that. So that should be enough to actually instill the recomp to actually happen without really changing the calorie number at that point, just switching a couple of the macros around.
Yeah, right. And that protein intake, obviously very important. Would you be consuming your protein intake based upon your current weight or your goal?
So, I like to eat for the goal, not eat for where you’re currently at. So same thing because this is where it gets started. I’ll work with some larger individuals. We’ll get people that are four or 500 pounds, that’ll come in as well, and that 500 pound person doesn’t need 500 grams of protein. That’s a little human hiding in there. So, we got aim for the target, right? And so, that would be eat for the body you want, not the body you have, and that’s what’s going to drive that pull and get it there.
Got it. And what’s your carbohydrate of choice? Because you mentioned just about adjusting with carbs and things like that. Are we talking, does it matter? Can we eat fruit, rice, potatoes or does it really not matter?
On a base level if you’re newer to it, I wouldn’t go into the weeds with it. Just count the carbs, get the numbers to it. The more technical you get, the more advanced you get. The more advanced your physique gets, the more specifics will come into play. So, if you’re an elite bodybuilder, single digit body fat, 200 plus pounds, it’s going to take a lot more to move the needle than somebody coming in like 160 pounds just getting into fitness. So, these people have a lot more leeway, so don’t go too in the weeds with it. But the carbs of choice, I like a starch, so it digests for a while. I’m not a fan of simple sugars other than around the workouts because they’re so quick to burn, they give that insulin spike and then you get that crash so you feel rather lethargic after a while.
The other ones don’t digest quite as quickly, so you get a little bit more sustained approach to it. Fruit, I’m not a fan of it if people are going to lean down, and not that fruit’s bad, but nobody eats an apple and gets full, nobody eats a banana and gets full. So, there are food that doesn’t have a lot of volume to it, which if you’re someone that’s, let’s just say metabolically impaired, it’s not your ideal choice for carbohydrates just from the satiety standpoint. Now, there is interesting data on fructose and sleep. So, if we were going to time that fructose before bed, it actually can help you sustain a longer period of sleep, which is kind of a cool little side benefit of it.
It’s funny you should say that. So, I have fruit after my evening meal because it helps sleep.
And it just works. It really works
Where a lot of people get it. So, if you have one of those continuous glucose monitors, you’ll see it. But a lot of people that wake up at that 3:00 AM time, like the witching hour, that’s your blood sugar dipping and your body’s pumping out adrenaline to get that back up because you’re just going too low. And so, if you’ve ever had those moments where you’re like 3:00 AM on the button and you’re waking up heart’s racing and all that, that’s exactly what happens. So, fructose replenishes liver glycogen, so store carbohydrates in the liver, so that’s what sustains your blood glucose throughout the day.
So, if you’re a guy who’s training pretty intense, if you’re depleting glycogen, the liver taps out too. So, if you don’t have enough sugar in there, there’s nothing to balance you out when your overall blood sugar dips. So, if you did do a bigger evening meal and you got that insulin spike and then the drop, all you’re going to get is a hot button, wake up at 3:00 AM with no sustainability when it comes to that.
Boy, they’re going to be so many people that absolutely resonate with that because I think at the moment we are very, the low carbohydrate movements, whole low-carb keto, intermittent fasting, it’s a big movement right now and very probably not the best approach then if we want to put on muscle mass.
No. And this is my side quest on things, and this is a knock on the fitness industry in general, a lot of people when they’re looking at bigger influencers and stuff like that, what maintenance takes and what getting their takes are miles apart. So, for me to maintain a 10% body fat physique, 240 pounds. I can eat fast food five to six times a week and do this. It is not challenging whatsoever. Getting here, way more difficult. Now sometime, you’re going to see a lot of your favorite people, six-pack abs, shredded to the bone and they’re like, “I do intermittent fasting.” I’ve competed in bodybuilding with some of these guys and I’ll tell you 10 years ago they weren’t doing it.
It sounds good now and they may do it very well now to maintain it, but they would’ve never got to that body in my opinion in the first place by following that protocol, somebody who’s obviously above maximum level of muscle, not like a shredded individual, but when we’re talking like a 200-pound male who’s pretty lean, he didn’t get there by restricting eating hours. You have to have a good amount of food going in order to grow like that.
The internet I think can be an interesting beast in terms of the messages that you see and how perhaps that plays into a part of the truth. I remember, there was a movie that came out a few years back about plant-based diets on Netflix and I think Arnold Schwarzenegger was on there and he was talking about now he’s an advocate for plant-based diet and of course people look back at what he was and think, “Oh my word, look at you, you’re a beast of a man.” I don’t think he got there with what he’s doing right now. It probably wasn’t a plant-based approach that took him to his greatest achievements, that’s for sure.
Exactly. Well and on the flip side, right, because I own that DEXA scan business for almost four years, so I’ve scanned thousands of people personally as far as body cuts go, and every individual that we would have come in there that was fasting, they lost a massive amount of muscle. And I’m not saying that there’s not some people that can thrive with it, so it’s not a knock. I just got to go off the information that I’ve personally seen and so I’ll leave them unnamed. But there was two individuals and they did a week long fast just for religious purposes, they want to see, but we scanned them before and after just to see what the composition came from. So, one of the guys lost 16 pounds in the week, 13 pounds of it was muscle, so three pounds of fat.
Oh wow, okay.
The other guy lost 17 pounds and 15 pounds of it was muscle.
Two pounds. Now, granted glycogen refill when they’re done and stuff, but I got to go off the numbers. So basically, what that tells me is extended periods of fasting annihilate the lean tissue, which then impairs the metabolism. So, if you go back up to your old levels of eating now that if it was maintenance before and it’s now a surplus and now it’s going to start to stick. And so, from a sustainability standpoint, it’s not my favorite approach because the hardest thing we do is when we restrict eating windows, we restrict the ability to get enough protein in. And so, I’m not of the thought process that, okay, you’re X big, you can only absorb X amount of protein, but I am of the thought process that me or you is not digesting 100 grams of protein and is eating very well for a muscle building purpose.
No, no, exactly right. Preference on protein, I mean there are so many different sources. Of course, now we’ve got powders and shakes and bars versus we’ve got whole food versions and junk food versions too. What do you think on that?
So, this one here, I like to go personally with what digests well for the person and works well. And so chronic use can sometimes lead to allergies. So, I used to drink a gallon of egg whites a day. That was my prime source of protein, super easy, but guess what? My only food allergy is now.
So, I do the same thing now way, knock on wood, it hasn’t done me dirty. So, I do about five or six meals a day just with whey protein shakes. I only do two solid meals a day. It works better for my schedule. If you’ve been like me and you’ve been shackled to your bodybuilding restrictions for 17 years, I’m kind of sick of eating by this point. So, if I could just drink my food and get on with my day, it’s way more convenient for me. So, I knock out those two meals, lunch and dinner, everything else is in liquid form and it makes my day go way more smooth.
Yeah, fantastic. No, that is great advice. So, for our listeners then, they want to lean up and there is lots of conflicting advice. Some people say, well, you know what, let’s just get on the runner or do your steps, get that cardio going, like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. But conversely, perhaps if you’re just going to focus on that, you are, as you mentioned before, going to start to lose your lean muscle. When you lose lean muscle, metabolism will change in some way, shape or form. And ultimately, when people think about leaning up, they would often look to perhaps people that they’d see in the media as, “I want to look like that.” And I’m imagining that those people will be doing a lot of resistance training and perhaps not as much cardio as they think. So, what’s your take then on cardio as an effective tool for leaning up?
So, it’s effective when you hit a point that it’s necessary. So, your main movers when it comes to leaning out, nutrition, resistance training, and then cardio/activity. Now obviously, you want the hormones to be primed, the body primed, all that stuff, but that’s kind of intermittent with all those. As far as the movers that you have more of a direct control over, that’s it. So, I would put the emphasis on nutrition before I ever put somebody on emphasis on the StairMaster. Because what’s going to end up happening, is if you’re a tiny person, you can get on that stairs and mash an hour out and hate your life and I can burn more calories sitting in this chair talking to you. And so, we want to maximize the burden, not only when we’re expending effort to it, but when we’re doing nothing at all.
And so, if we can ramp that metabolism up through obviously the right nutrition strategies, but increasing the lean tissue and hanging onto as much of that through the resistance training, this whole process becomes night and day difference as far as ease.
So, you mentioned a phrase and holding onto this lean tissue, and again, so many different strategies and I don’t know whether you’ve read the book, The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris.
Oh, Tim Ferris, yeah.
Yeah, Tim Ferris, right. So, he had, I think it was Occam’s protocol in there, but he essentially said his case study wanted to pack on a whole heap of muscle and he did it in one weight training session a month.
And albeit, it was the mother of all weight training sessions and he trained all body parts and he went gangbusters and then focused just on gorging himself with food. What do you think the minimum effective dose is to put on and keep lean muscle mass?
So, keeping one to two times every week to two weeks, keeping maintenance is beyond easy. Growing it becomes a bit of a challenge, right? So, this is where it is a tight rope. So, the best thing I’ve ever heard for it is you force the body and it reacts, you coax it and it responds. I mean if we try to force a bunch of muscle on, there’s usually a bit of side effects with it and by side effects it can be obviously XX fat gain or a surplus. This is kind of the nemesis you’ll see in bodybuilding. Just speaking from personal experience, the quicker you push that muscle gain, the more you’re likely to blow that waist out. So, if you want to keep that nice petite waste, try to put on 20, 30 pounds of muscle in year, it doesn’t present a bit of a problem. I used to have a little girl wasp waist back in the day, it was beautiful and it don’t suck it as tight as it used to. I just poke it out.
So, first off is like the rate you want to put it on, but when it comes to putting on lean tissue, you have to have the right environment for it and everyone will be a little bit individual with it. So, you play the cards off what you’re dealt. So, if you’re a guy right now, you come to me, you’re training three times a week, I’m probably not going to get away with two times a week to get that muscle growth we want because your body’s accustomed to a certain level of stimulus. Likewise, if somebody comes to me not working out at all, they’ll grow like a weed on one or two times a week weight training because it’s so new.
And then it’s a matter of getting that proper periodization of training in there, making sure we’re actually progressing the workouts, which is an area a lot of people don’t put enough emphasis on. They get up there, they do the work, but they don’t track metrics. They have no idea what weight they’re moving, no idea what reps are doing, and they don’t beat anything. So, if you want to make the best progress in a shorter period of time, find the days that fit your schedule the best. If you can keep four, cool, maximize that and then make sure that you are putting that effort in. So, track the weights you’re moving, track the reps and try to make consistent progress. And if you’re noticing the weights and reps increase, the only two things that can happen is you increase muscle size to do so or you make your CNS more efficient. So, your nervous system to move more weight, either one of them has a greater potential for you to put on muscle overall.
Brilliant. So next question then, which feeds into that, lifting heavy for less or lighter for more? Is there…
Yeah, and I know I get this question, so my answer would be heavier for more.
Lighter is, so I think the fallacy we get into is three to five reps for strength, five to eight reps for mass, and then eight to 12 reps for endurance. When really if we look at the body from an energy standpoint, you have the ATP-PC phase, the glycolic phase, and then you have cardio aerobic phase. So, we’re take that one out and we have one that’s dependent on carbs, which is a little bit higher reps, and we have one that’s been on creatine and ATP, that’s the lower rep range, but both of those ranges build muscle. So, if you’re someone on a ketogenic or a lower carb approach, you’re probably not going to be able to run those reps as high as someone who has carbs present because you don’t have that sort of glycogen. So that’s the first thing I would look at. Make sure that training matches the diet protocols you’re on so you can really maximize it.
Second thing you’d want to do is the intensity of it will be a way bigger factor than the rep range itself. So, if you go up there and provided we’re counting more than three, we want to do a few of them, but if we go up there and we’re doing six reps, super intense, you’re barely getting it up, that’s going to be a lot more effective than doing 12 reps where you’re having a conversation with your workout partner, right?
So, we want a certain level of intensity to it, but regardless, it’s intensity and progression. So, this is where I would still fall back on the reps will not matter as much, as long as you’re tracking and making progress over time. If you do six reps over time, you do 12 reps over time, as long as that weight is increasing for what you do over a three, six, eight-month period, you’re probably going to notice an increase in lean tissue to some extent. From that point, I would always evaluate which works better for you if you’ve done both. Personally, that sweet spot I find is that six to 10 range.
So basically, when you can get a weight for 10, try to go for the heavier weight for at least six, build that six or up to 10, you leapfrog up and you do that until you can’t or when the body’s getting used to it, you’re not getting as sore, recovery’s getting easier, then you flip the workout. So, it’s a whole new environment, a whole new stimulus. And now, we repeat the cycle and do it all over again.
Perfect. And would you be pushing to absolute failure on that last two reps?
No. This is the balance of training, right? So, for the most part, no. The further you push that actual failure, like muscle and nervous system failure, the more likely your recovery is going to go down the tank. So, if you’re someone who’s only training two to three days a week, you can maximize that a little bit better. But if you’re a guy going up there four or five, six days a week, you can’t annihilate it every day or your nervous system’s going to go on the toilet. So, what you want to do is you want to find that balance. So, I do one to two reps in reserve. So, if I think I can get 10, I stop at eight or nine and it leaves me a little bit where I can finish the rest of workout.
Now, if you’re someone who’s shorter on time, you could reduce the volume, how many sets and reps you’re doing and crank the intensity, which would be more like what Tim Ferriss was doing or old school, Dorian Yates, but that takes a different caliber of person to do. So, if you’re someone who could push that limit mentally, hey, more power too, you’re right. You might be able to get away to trade less. I like that balance of where it’s still kind of fun. I don’t feel like I’m having to pep talk myself into every set I’m going into.
Yeah, no, that does make sense. And in order then to maximize I guess the inputs that you are allowing your body to have during that period of time, we have things like pre-workouts, we’ve got creatine and then post-workout consumption of protein shake or small meal or something like that. Creatine has been around since day dot, it’s so well studied. At one time it was thought to be, “Well be very careful, you’ve got to cycle it because it’s dangerous on the kidneys.” And now, well actually it’s really protective even for the brain. Everybody seems to be pushing that right now.
Where do you sit on the supplement stance and how do you use those supplements to compliment what you’re doing?
Yeah, I would 100% say everyone should be taking it, right?
So, it’s one of those things, it is so widely studied. And on the brain thing, they have it for Alzheimer’s patients getting better memory. And so, if we’ve got something that’s increasing cognitive performance, physical performance, amount of lean tissue you can put on an ear and the only side effect is you have to drink more water, that’s a pretty fair trade to me for an easy gig. So, you can probably get an extra month or two of progress a year just so if you want to take 14 months to get 12 months of progress, don’t take it. If you want to get 12 months of progress at 12 months of progress, throw it in right, five, 10 grams a day, depending on the form, get the water and take up, you’ll be good as good to go.
Males and females, right? And I think a lot of females kind of shy away from it because they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to get bulky,” but you have an eighth the testosterone level as a guy, it’s going to be really hard to get bulky just on creatine. So, you’ll get that one lean muscle toe and you’ll be good.
It’s really hard, isn’t it? Because that is a phrase that we hear so much. “I don’t want to look like a man. I don’t want to get bulky. I don’t want to look like the Hulk.” Boy, oh boy. If you knew how hard I work in the gym and the supplements I take and I can’t get there, good luck. And if you do, I want to know what your secret is and I want some of it.
Well, my wife, she can go up there and work me over on legs. I’ll be crawling out of there, right? She’s like, “I’m a little sore.” She doesn’t bulk up like me, right?
She’s only half my size. So, if it worked that I would love for it to work that good because I wouldn’t have had to work half as hard as I am to get where I’m at right now.
I know, I know. What does rest day look like? There are oftentimes a different perception of what a rest day should be. Some people think there’s absolutely nothing. “I’m just going to hit the couch and watch Netflix and we’re just going to binge-watch.” Whereas other people, they might go into the gym and they do some stretching, some rolling out, they might have a sauna and ice bath, things like that. What do you do for rest day and what do you typically recommend for your clients?
Yeah, so I just think of it like no weight training. It’s very few people I have to throttle back. I got some people that are a little overzealous on activity, so I got to bring them back down because if you’re someone who’s trained five days a week and maybe the weekends are supposed to be off and you’re on some 14, 15-mile hike or something like that, you’re not getting that body any downtime to recover from what you did in the week. So, it’s like a constant beat down. But for most people, if you want to go two to three-mile walk, keep the activity up, sauna, ice bath, feel free to do that. You’re going to be absolutely fine with. Just don’t hit the muscles you already hammered throughout the week, right?
They’ve got plenty of abuse. Let them rest. Let them get to recovery. Focus on your nutrition. Some people get a little head spinning. In that case, if 20 or 30 minutes of cardio would satisfy you from where you get that forward feeling, you feel a little bit better do that before you pick up the weights again, right? You’ve already done the damage, let them recover. You don’t grow while you’re in the gym. You grow after you recover outside the gym.
Yeah. No. Absolutely. That’s perfect. Preferred diet. Now again, we’re in this kind of pool of influence from internet, social media, every diet under the sun, everything from veganism to carnivore, a gazillion diets in between. Do you have a preferred diet? Whether is it whole food? Do you have cheat days? What are your thoughts on that? If somebody is just wanting to become lean, strong, healthy, improved body composition, but they don’t really know how to eat.
So, the first thing I would recommend to anyone is get the protein intake in because protein is going to do a few things where we don’t always have to focus on dieting. So, it increases satiety so much to the point where if you just focus on eating the amount of protein you need and eating it first, you would probably already be in a deficit and losing fat just from the food volume decreasing. The next thing that’s going to do, you need it for lean tissue. So now we’re going to ramp up that metabolism by putting on muscle. The third thing is the digestive energy consumption of protein is 20 to 30%. So, we’re essentially for some people getting StairMaster burning calories just by switching that up. And so, people often favor extreme, keto because you don’t eat carbs, fasting because you don’t eat from here to here, carnivore so you don’t eat vegetables, vegan, you don’t eat meat.
And the problem is every one of those has the key element of failure and that’s restriction. So, restriction leads to rebellion, and I know it doesn’t sound sexy on social media because it’s cool to do the 75-day hard and all these hard programs, but you don’t build sustainability with that. And at the end of the day, the turtle won the race. It wasn’t the hare. If you lose more weight than me in six weeks, that’s great, but if I look better a year later, you didn’t win that race because there’s no end game when it comes to fitness. So, you have to get something that you can sustain.
So, first step would be get the protein and take into a level that’s based on your lean tissue. So, if you’re 150, cool, let’s get 150 grams, 200, 200 grams. Focus on that. If you’re getting the weight loss you need, fantastic. If not, drop some of the carbs or the fat depending on which is easier for you to reduce or give up. So, it still feels like it’s not a punishment to do.
When you said that, it just had a thought popped into my mind. If there’s a delicate balance between macros hitting all of those macros and you are hitting your protein intake, which I think is really important, given the fact that carbohydrates are really demonized in the media at the moment, would it be more preferable to drop the fat because there’s more calories in fat and consume the carbohydrate as opposed to being more in the kind of keto camp and dropping the carbohydrates If body composition is your goal and you want to hit those macros?
Yeah, there’s always a balance to this though, right? So, if we start pulling that fat too low, all hormones are lipid soluble. So, males have a lot more leeway when it comes to this. Now, when you’re working with females, those hormones will go bonkers. So again, I come from the extreme land of bodybuilding. So, if you look at say a natural bodybuilder, they do a show and you look at their blood work when they’re done, they’ll have an amazing physique, shredded, look great, but their testosterone level is like 80.
Yeah, in the tank.
And six, eight, 10 months later it’s maybe up to three or 400. And so, their composition goes to hell in a hand basket because of the hormone levels at that point. And most of them, because it’s sexy and bodybuilding, right? When you can eat the high carbs and be lean, but they drop the fat so low that it probably is playing a much more significant factor to that. So, I don’t like to demonize one or the other. There’s always a balance to it. And I personally know as soon as I get that fat too low when I’m dieting, energy levels go through the floor, it doesn’t feel good, body feels achy, carbs I can ride it out, but you got to refill it, replenish it at the right times if you’re doing weight training. So that would be like your cheat meals, your carb spikes. And if you get the timing right on those, you actually get a fat loss benefit from them while expediting your progress and fat loss as a whole.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, if you had to then label each macro with a benefit, say protein, muscle, fat, hormones, carbohydrate would be what?
Muscle tissue. So, we got to have that glycogen. We got muscle, muscle is fuel.
Muscle is fuel, right.
So, that’s the spare tank. So, if those carbs get lower, and I’m sure you’ve had gym sessions where you get up there and you’re like, man, I feel good. That first set goes amazing and then you’re like five, six and it just feels like somebody came down and pinned it to your chest. You’re like, “Where did my reps go? I just got 10.” Well, think that if you’re like my folks growing up we had the old school trucks with the two tanks. Well, we went to switch that second tank and it was bone dry, right? So, you have to go to your carb tank and it’s puttering out and that’s because you don’t have any glycogen. So, at the same time, if you carb loaded that day, went to do that same workout the next week, you’d be able to rep those reps out.
And this is where tracking the strength and tracking the reps will give you more data because now you can see, “Man, by Tuesday, I’m just fading on all my sets.” So maybe you’re pushing the diet in too hard, whereas if you did a little bit more carbs the day before or even that pre-workout meal, you could crank the intensity up and it might even speed your fat loss up at that point because you were running in such a deficit prior to.
Okay, and timing for that. I’ve got lots of friends and they like to train fasted. I just don’t. I like to have the biggest breakfast possible and then I’ll get straight into the gym and I feel invincible.
What are your preferences on that and where do you sit on that protein window after exercise? Conventional advice would say you’ve got that 30-minute window, you’ve got to get that protein in. And I’ve read studies that said it just doesn’t matter as long as you’re hitting your protein intake over the 24-hour window. What do you think?
So, I’m more of that thought process. I used to be, and I still do a shake after I work out, right?
I still have it die hard, but it’s not something I’m worried about not putting on muscle is because I have to eat so much food throughout the day, it’s just easier for me to have a shake here than to wait an hour and try to eat down 10, 12 ounces of chicken or something like that. But I don’t like fasted workouts. So usually, if you’re doing a fasted workout, you’re also going up there in a dehydrated state too. So, it’s kind of a double whammy when it comes to it. Because if you’re dehydrated as little as 3%, it can affect performance 10 to 20. So, your training capacity is limited just by fluid. And so maybe you get up and you hydrate, but unless you’re drinking some pink Himalayan sea salt, you don’t have anything to pull that fluid in, so it’s not even highly functional at that point, right?
If anything is diluting your electrolytes, you don’t have anything to pull it in the muscle. So, carbs, I’m a huge fan of at least pre-training, I don’t like going up there with nothing in the tank. If you’re someone who you got to wake up at 4:00 AM, you’re at the gym at 4:30, you’re probably going to lose your lunch if you eat your meal and try to do that. So, what I recommend in these cases, eat like a rice cake or two in the car on your way to the gym. It’s usually light on the gut. It’ll give us enough carbs to at least get some of that workout in. They make powdered carbohydrates, not like a malted dextrin, but like a highly ran cyclic dextrin, something light on the gut that you can actually push in, do 20, 30 grams in a shake or something before you head to the gym.
So now, we’ve got some fuel in the tank to get that performance we need. But if we go up there fasted, we are the fuel. So, if you don’t have enough for chest aid and you’re going there fasted, it’s going to pull something and muscle tissues the easiest thing to oxidize at that point for glucose and it will gobble it right up
Oh, the irony in that, that’s just insane. If I decided that, “You know what? I’m going to work out on a Monday and a Wednesday and a Friday and I might do some light walking on the Tuesday and Thursday and the weekend’s just going to be a rest day or rest days,” would you recommend that I do three full body workouts or should I just work specific muscle groups on those different days?
I would do muscle groups or a hybrid of those. The problem with whole body workouts with a Monday, Wednesday, Friday comes down to that intensity level. So, if we’re looking like a 24 to 48-hour window to recover, unless you’re going up there and doing a 60 to 80% intensity, your legs aren’t going to be recovered from Monday to Wednesday. So, you either have a very light leg version on Wednesday and doing the upper on Monday and Friday, but what will usually benefit you the most would be doing a leg day Monday, upper body on Wednesday, and then you could do a full body on Friday, and now we’re hitting everything twice a week. Upper body usually has a little bit better recovery.
Now, if you’re a guy you probably don’t like two legs twice a week, more like the bro split, like back and shoulders, chest and arms, legs, and maybe a little bit of fluff, pump up stuff at the end and where you get the upper body in a little bit more frequent. But those would be the ways I would split it. I’m not a fan of full bodies usually past the beginner intro or maintenance stage of the game just because when you start splitting up that many body parts and crank it, it is rough. I mean, that’s a lengthy, intense workout. You feel white, everything’s tired. So, I’m not a huge fan of those [inaudible 00:40:08]. The intro phases like week two to four for a client coming in.
Okay. I know many people that don’t really train legs properly in terms of no squats, no deadlifts, no lunges. From your professional opinion, would not training legs to your full capacity impact muscle growth for your upper body?
Yes. So, you would get some downsides to it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m in that camp, legs is my least favorite muscle group. I’m afraid I’m a little top-heavy, but it doesn’t make it any less effective unfortunately. And so, you’re going to get a huge growth hormone spike. That itself is going to get improved muscle gain when it comes to it. But the other thing too, you got to figure from a metabolic standpoint, most people are fighting, putting on too much body fat. They need more metabolism. That’s half your metabolism from muscle right there.
So, it’s one of those things, even if it sucks the train, it’ll mean that cheeseburger don’t stick. So, we can build up that lead tissue and a couple more pieces of pizza a week is not making you gain any on that stomach. I think it’s a fair exchange when it comes to effort. So, suck it up for that one day a week, make them grow, get those glucose sponges developed and then you should be a little bit smoother sailing in the afternoon.
Oh, boy. Yeah, there are very few people that really do revel in leg day if done properly, that’s for sure.
It’s mostly the ladies to. Guys avoid it like the plague. The ladies, they’re like, “I want my glutes looking good.” And they run circles around. Guys on leg day, guys are like, “I want to do a couple sets of squats, leg curls, leg extensions, that’s good.” Arm day they’ll be up there 30 sets cranking it out, right? Everything under the sun.
Yeah, I’m often paled in comparison. There are a number of females in the gym that I go to and boy, they are so fastidious on all of the glute stuff that they do and the legs and the squats and deadlifts and I’m just thinking, “Boy, you’re strong and you’re consistent.” And I’m feeling ashamed.
Well, and a lot of it too, some of the glute motions, like, guys got to choke the ego up because it’s kind of fluffy. You don’t get up there and start doing a barbell hip thrust as a male and feel super confident, right?
You’re like, “This is kind of an awkward lift.” [inaudible 00:42:21] the corner. I think there’s a lot of that. And then anytime you’re going up there, I don’t know, it’s just old school male ego. If you’re up there doing glute kickbacks, it’s a great muscle building exercise for the glute, but if your buddies walk in the gym when you’re doing that, they’re going to be like, “Really? This is what you’re doing up here?”
That’s right. Exactly.
That’s me working out, man. And so that’s usually where it’ll come.
I want to look good in the new gym shocks.
Yeah, exactly right. Well it’s like with me, I’m like, I’ll make sure I have to hit him because my wife’s like, “You don’t have a butt.” I’m like, okay, well…
I’ll prove you wrong.
I’m getting nitpick right here.
I love it. We’re kind of coming up on time, but there’s one question I wanted to ask you and potentially, it’s kind of a silly question, but unconventional tips to shed weight and people have often said, “You’ve got to eat more to lose more,” things like that. Are there anything that perhaps springs to your mind that people wouldn’t necessarily think of a great tactic if they want to lose weight quickly? Because typically you might think, well, I’m just going to pull back my calories and I’m just going to hit the StairMaster while I watch TV or something like that.
I think where most people are going to fail with this is they look for very complicated changes. Because again, everything is sensationalized these days. You got to think of fitness progress, kind of like a bow and arrow. You don’t just push the arrow forward, you’ve got to load it. And so, if I get slower results on the scale, but better results for the long term, I’m going to take that bet every single time. So, the three areas where people should focus before they start doing any crazy diet, any crazy exercise regime, make sure your basics are checked, right? You wouldn’t go out and get in a race car and just start driving it before you made sure there was tires on it. So, let’s make sure we get those. So, get your moving up, certain amount of steps.
So, if you’re only at 4,000, increase it a little bit, five or six. Water intake, make sure you’re checking that box, 96 to 128 ounces, three or four liters for you guys over there. Third, protein intake. So, go for a gram per pound of lean tissue or a gram per pound of body weight if that’s easier for you. If you do those three things, the scale, the mirror, your clothes will do something unless you were doing everything perfect prior to changing those, which is highly unlikely. From there, you can get more advanced, get deeper in. But I’m a bigger fan of doing the least amount of work for the most amount of output. So, if I can get more results for less in, 100% what I’m going to do, if you want to go spend six hours a week in the gym, two hours a day on the stairs and not make any progress, hey, more power to you. I appreciate the ambition. But if I could sit there, drink water, eat protein, and maybe work out once or twice a week and get better progress, I’m going to take that back anytime.
Yeah, I share that sentiment, absolutely. Okay, so final question. Top three tips, and you may have already actually just said that, but could make the biggest impact on our overall health. And it may be things perhaps that you do every day that sit outside of just the training principles. It might be something to do with sleep, something to do with relationships, something to do with alcohol, perhaps, I don’t know.
Oh yeah. Well, I’ll talk up three of these, so I’ll give three. Number one, alcohol will not help you reach your fitness goal. And I won’t get any praise for saying this, right? It’s just the way it is. But alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to burn body fat. So, the problem is if you’re at a body you want to maintain perfect, you can have it in because you’re not trying to lose body fat. But if your goal is to actively lose body fat and you’re throwing in alcohol, you’re pushing pause on the recording, right? You’re stuck. So, we want to make sure you reduce or eliminate that any bit you can. Alcohol also has a tendency to allow people to overeat. So okay, let’s reduce. If you’re going to do it right, instead of cutting out, that’s fine, just you’re kicking the time horizon out. Make sure you’re not intaking excess calories with it.
When people drink, it’s usually like cheesy fries, burger, right? All the bad things come in. The other thing we got to society now, it’s really rich and gut health, but they praise drinking a glass of wine or two at night, which is ironic because if you get a wound, what do you do? You clean it with alcohol to kill the bacteria, yet you drink it down and your gut bacteria is all hanging out there. So, what does alcohol do to gut flora? It doesn’t have it thrive. So, it could do an assortment of negative things from that. So, alcohol won’t be your best friend.
The second when it comes to it, you have to have a proper resistance training plan in play. I would not do cardio before resistance training in any way, shape or form. It just is not going to benefit you from a bone density perspective. Sarcopenia happens. So, muscle loss due to age after age of 30, one to two percent every year. So, if you’re 40 or 50, you lost 10, 15, 20% of your muscle tissue. You got to focus on getting that back so you can age more gracefully. And so, gravity’s not as demanding on you. You find everything else.
The third, and I don’t think people put enough focus on this, and this is the mental side of it, and this kind of goes down the hippie road a little bit, right? But it is what it is. I do it right, I don’t have my dreadlocks. It is the way it is. But with people in the mindset, if you don’t control where your mind is looking, it’s going to find negative because that’s what it’s prone to do from a survival mechanism. So, if you go into a weight loss regime, it’s going to find every reason why you shouldn’t do it. Every reason why it’s challenging, every reason why it’s difficult. So, what you have to do is you have to program in the positives.
So then, what it’s going to end up doing is you’ve hammered it with this and it’s going, “Man, he’s really annoying. He’s making me think of 10 positive things with this.” And all day. It’s going to gravitate towards finding that. So, equivalent of if you got up in the morning and stub your toe, the rest of your day would go to the hell in a hand basket, right?
You’re like, “This day sucks. There’s traffic on the way to work.” Whatever it is, right? Versus if you get up and you start that day good, there’s a lot more likely likelihood that it’s going to go a lot better. So, what I find most effective for this is AM, PM one of the other or both, journaling, and it’s like writing down a list of things like you already have them and that you’re appreciative for. So, if you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, “I’m so happy and grateful to be 20 pounds lighter than I started my fitness journey.” And you’re going to be like, “This is baloney. I can’t believe I’m writing this down. I’m lying to myself.” Good. Do that. Because if you do that long enough, the brain’s not going to think of a reason why you can’t do it. It’s going to think of a reason why you should, because it wants to shut you up.
Like, “Dude, he’s so annoying. He writes down every morning, I’m just going to get him there so I can shut him up.” So instead of having a steering contest with the donuts at work, you’re like, “Those don’t help me reach my 20-pound goal.” It’s always on the front of the mind. And that mental shift goes a long way when it comes to it. It’s got to be pen and paper. It can’t be typed. There’s a mechanism to it. Don’t try to meet the brain. It’s a caveman brain. We got to go old school. It doesn’t know what a typewriter is. It doesn’t know what a keyboard is. You got to do some pen and paper type style with it. But if you can do that, switch that focus, it works out really good.
And there’s a study on this, and it’s a mindset matters and you can look it up. I’ll paraphrase the numbers on it a bit, but it’ll be pretty close what is in study. They took 50 house cleaners, maid people out of a hotel. They took half the group and they said, “Hey, what you do if it’s the National Accreditation for Exercise Standard, basically what they did is healthy. They took the other group, they didn’t tell them anything and then they watched them for three months. The group that they told them that the work that they’re doing, dusting and cleaning and all that stuff fits X-ray standard lost like six pounds versus a control group.
The only thing they did different was tell them what they were already doing was healthy, causation or correlation. It’s still data, right?
Whether they are being healthier because they were told they were being healthy or whether they just lost more weight because of that. Whatever it is, I still see they lost more weight than the group that didn’t. So, I’m going to try to shift my brain in a matter that’s going to help me reach my goal rather than hurt me reach my goal.
That’s brilliant. That is brilliant. I think that that is the best answer to that particular question that I’ve ever had. There are so many little gems in there that people can really, especially the alcohol, I’ve never actually pieced those two pieces of information together. You’re cleaning a wound with alcohol because you want to destroy the bacteria and of course we drink it, it’s ethanol.
Yep. Same stuff. Exactly. So, your liver, literally, your body shuts down the ability to burn body fat. It goes, “I have to get this toxin out. Let me get rid of it.” And I come at this, I am sober, so I don’t drink at all. And I think a lot of people, because they may socially drink and stuff like that, they won’t hit it on all those points because they have an emotional attachment to it. And the only thing I’m emotionally attached to is the results. Are you getting what you want? If not, let’s carve out a path that’s there. Personally, I’ve seen way too much destruction from it to think it’s productive.
I’ve had a couple of family members die from it. We had a buddy that was recovering alcoholic live with us, yeah it was a nightmare. He was dead like two weeks after he was out on his own. It’s a rough thing on the extreme. Socially, it’s not going to do much for you. Nobody’s going to have a social drink and killed over the next day, right? So, I’m not saying that, but from results, the benefit perspective, you just got to weigh if it’s bringing you towards or away from your goal and look at it like that.
Fantastic. That is absolutely brilliant. Wow. This has been a fantastic conversation and we have so many gems here that I really cannot wait to share this with our followers. I know that they’re going to get so much value from it. So, what’s next for Cody Watkins? What have you got? I mean, obviously, we’re coming up to the holiday period. Have you got plans for the new year to do anything perhaps that you haven’t told us about at the moment?
Well, I got something that your listeners would probably like. So, I put together some of my best works on this and so this is a whole program system that you can go through. It’ll help you figure out where your macros are at, what you need to do, give you the ideas from that. Got some meal recipes in there too, to give you some ideas on what to eat and it’s packaged altogether. So, all you got to do for that is if you find me on Instagram, Cody Watkins Fitness, just DM me of the word Freedom 22 and I’ll send you the link for that over, hopefully get you some clarity so you can make it through this new year with a little bit more momentum and things like that. So, we can take a little bit of pain out of the process that is often far more painful than it needs to be.
Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. Well, we will pop that link in the show notes as well. So, how can we get more of Cody Watkins? You mentioned your Instagram. Is that the best place for everybody to find you?
Yeah, Instagram will be the best place. I have my Facebook as well. I’m much more active on my personal Facebook than the business one, but it’s Cody Watkins Fitness on Facebook for the business. Cody Watkins Fit for me. I don’t do anything but fitness, so it’s kind of my thing, right? So, it’s absolutely [inaudible 00:53:43].
Absolutely. It’s definitely your thing. Boy, you’ve answered all my questions I have today impeccably and so much more and taught me a lot as well, which is always the objective. I love it. Fantastic. So, Cody, very appreciative of your time. Cannot wait to share all of the information, everything that we’ve spoken about will go in the show notes and really look forward to sharing this with our audience. So, thank you so much mate. It’s been fantastic.
Totally. It’s been fantastic. Thank you.