Check out free tips on exercise, nutrition and lifestyle to help you start getting back on the fitness track!
"Dad bods" have been all over the news lately. Men who were active in their 20's and had a lean and muscular physique get married and comfortable, maybe have some children, and their bodies change.
Weekends and evenings that were once dedicated to playing sports and staying active have been replaced with Saturday mornings watching cartoons and evenings filled with homework.
The "dad bod" has crept in, and while you love being a dad, you might prefer a fit dad body instead. One with plenty of lean muscle and can still have a couple of beers and enjoy an afternoon making pizza with the kids. So what factors matter when time is at a premium?
Step 1. Nutrition For A Fit Dad Bod
The first thing to know is that creating a fit dad bod will be about getting your calories in check. You don't have to be a qualified nutritionist or follow a ridiculously restrictive meal plan to get into shape. No one wants to be eating chicken and broccoli out of a Tupperware container while the kids break into the candy stash during a movie!
But calories are the currency of energy that your body runs on. If you eat too many calories for your activity level, you'll gain weight. If you eat few calories for your activity level, you'll lose weight. So let's see how you can find the right amount for your unique fitness dad body.
How To Work Out Your Calorie Target
When working out how many calories you need to maintain your body weight, the math is simple. Take your current body weight in pounds, and multiply it by 13 if you currently do no exercise at all, 15 if you are active a few times a week, or 18 if you work a physical job and are very active. That gives you your "maintenance" calories - the number of calories you'll need to eat each day to maintain your current weight.
To lose weight, you'll need to eat fewer calories than that. If the deficit is small, you'll lose weight slowly. If it's a significant deficit, you'll lose weight faster. To burn 1 pound of fat, you need a deficit of 3,500 calories. That's a 500 calorie deficit each day for one week. So that means if you have 10lbs to lose, you can achieve this in 10 weeks with a daily deficit of 500 calories.
A more aggressive deficit will get you to your weight loss goal faster but will feel harder to sustain. Our advice is to be as aggressive as possible without risking being unable to comply with your daily calorie target. If you find yourself going over your calories regularly, you may be aiming for too much of a deficit. As a rule of thumb, a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories a day is deemed safe.
How Do You Know How Many Calories You're Eating?
All the food you eat will have a place in a calorie database. The easiest option, especially for a beginner, is to use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your food. If you like to keep it old school, you could use a notebook and pen, google the food in the quantities you eat it, and keep a running total each day.
You may be surprised at how repetitive our food choices are by nature, so after about a week, you'll likely have a pretty clear idea of how many calories are in the foods you eat. This means tracking your food becomes less labor-intensive than you expect quite quickly.
Some Tips On Tracking
Remember to track the oils you cook with, any sauces you add to your foods, and if you're looking to be accurate - weigh your food on the scale. Some foods lose water during cooking - like meat. Some foods gain water during cooking - like pasta. Weigh your foods before cooking - the nutrition labels give us the calories and macronutrients of the food in their packaged state.
All foods contain macronutrients; protein, fats, and carbs. Protein comes from animals and animal products like eggs. Protein will make you feel full for longer. While you're aggressively cutting calories, it will help you preserve as much muscle mass as possible. Try to consume 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight, but know that 1lb of protein isn't the same as 1lb of meat or fish. You'll have to look that up based on what protein sources you're eating.
You can eat whatever carbs and fats you want from the excess calories. Don't try to make this too complicated. As long as you're under your calorie target, you'll be fine and lose weight.
"I'm Under My Calorie Target, But I'm Not Losing Weight"
One of two things is happening here. Either you're not patient enough, or you aren't in a calorie deficit. You may be forgetting calories from cooking oils, sauces, or calories in what you're drinking. Ditch the alcohol and switch to zero-calorie drinks. You will lose weight on a calorie deficit. It's the law of thermodynamics.
Step 2. Exercise To Combat The Dad Bod
While exercise may once have been physical team sports that left you banged up and aching for days - and loving it - that time may not be realistic now. With evenings and weekends reserved for family, whole days of matches and partying (and recovering all day tomorrow!) may be long gone, especially if you're likely to get woken up early on Sunday morning for playtime! Instead, focusing on finding enjoyable and sustainable training methods that won't leave you too sore to move would be a good start. If these workouts could be done in under an hour, that would be even better.
If you can work with a personal trainer, we recommend starting there. Delegating all the planning and thinking about your training regime to someone committed to getting you incredible results allows you to free your time up for more important things. That way, your fitness dad bod will realize very quickly.
If You Can Only Train Twice A Week
Focusing on whole-body resistance training will be the most effective use of your time. These movements are simple, and there are two exercises suggested for each body part in case one piece of equipment is in use at your gym. Pick one body part and one of the suggested movements and perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps of each. Effective and efficient - no need to train your core separately if you're doing compound lifts.
If You Can Train Three Times A Week
Training three times a week means you can get a little more focused about which body parts you want to focus on. Throw some headphones on, go hard, and try to limit the amount of time you spend resting between sets.
Should You Do Cardio?
Cardiovascular exercise is a way to boost your calorie burn, but it might burn less than you think. You can certainly include some cardio for its benefits on your fitness and health. What type you do doesn't matter - walking, hiking, cycling, swimming. There is no "best" cardio. Do whatever you like and aim for 150 minutes a week.
Step 3. Mindset
Focusing on your mindset might seem a bit "new age" but as a man, it's not just about having a fit dad body. It's also about having a calm, focused mind and a loving heart to be your family's carer. There are many benefits to working on your mindset to harness your masculinity, focus your aggression, and gain insight into your wisdom to pass onto your children.
Many men, including stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, have found massive benefits through keeping a written journal. Even merely having a mindfulness practice of counting your breaths can allow you to reflect for a moment. Some men have found a boost to their resilience through cold exposure training and the Wim Hof method of breathwork.
Having a fit dad bod is about setting a standard that you are happy with and feel confident about. It's about nourishing your body and feeling strong - both physically and mentally. This allows you to be the pillar of strength your family needs to see. You can set an example for your children by prioritizing your health, so you can stay strong to best care for and protect others.