Five Strategies for Being Lean Year Round

This week I posted a few physique pictures to illustrate that staying lean is achievable after the age of fifty, and that you don’t have to lose your condition over time.

The number of texts, emails and Whatsapp messages I received expressing they were inspired by the photos of my lean physique touched me. Many asked for my secrets. The truth is, none of my secrets cost anything, nor do they have to do with macros ratios, calories or timing of meals.

The reality is that if your support systems are shit, you will still look and feel like shit. Even if you have a stellar diet customized for you, it won’t do much if you don’t have a support system. 

Here are the paradigms:

Strategy 1 – Sleep is king

Sleep is the most important because it is the most effective regeneration system we have but it is also the most underrated. Not prioritizing my sleep is probably the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life.  For nearly 3 decades I worked 16 to 20 hours a day, and still trained. I was obsessed with being the most successful strength coach in the world. I have made it a practice recently to set an alarm to go to bed… What happened? I am happier, healthier and more effective in all aspects of my life.

Strategy 2 – Apply the 5 x 5 rule

I particularly like that Jim Rohn quote “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. However, it does not stop there. You are the average of your five most common habits, the five most eaten foods, the five most common thoughts, etc. 

Look honestly at your five by five; and determine how you can raise the average. For example, improve the quality of the meats you eat. Simple.

Strategy 3 – Be grateful

I have talked about this multiple times, and yet it is still worth repeating.  Not only do anxiety and depression lead to bad food choices, but they keep you in a negative mindset that affect every aspect of your life. If you are feeling anxious, are you going to choose chocolate chip cookies or broccoli sprouts? A calm mind makes better choices and yes, I believe we can choose how we want to feel.

Taking pen to paper and writing what you are grateful for is most effective as more and more research points to the fact that typing does not do the job.  This does not surprise me as the same is true for note taking in class. People who use handwriting vs. typing retain 2.5 times more information. Get a grateful log and journal every day. 

Strategy 4 – Never eat alone 

(or “eat with people, not screens”). Some of you right now are chomping mindlessly.  Look out the window or at a painting you admire.  Come back later to read these lines. Whenever possible, eat with friends because it improves digestion, and builds relationships. Recently, I had to go home to bury my mother and I took the opportunity of being home to share each meal with old friends and relatives.

Strategy 5 – Make appointments for yourself and keep them.

Being consistent pays off. I travel all over the world, yet I don’t miss workouts. I love teaching in Melbourne, but due to a series of flight delays, I ended landing at 6 PM instead of a 7 AM. My brain felt like it was in a vice grip. I was dead tired. Of course, there was a voice inside my head saying, “Fuck that” so instead of going to bed, I had a high protein meal and walked to the gym that was 20 minutes away. (three minutes for regular people…).  Coincidentally, my good decision to get out and train led to other rewards. At the gym that evening, I met Tony Doherty, who later co-hosted the Arnold Classic in Australia and I was able to host an internship at his Brunswick gym, one of my favorite gyms 

Getting lean and staying lean is so much more than protein/carb/fat ratios and nutrient timing.  For example, being grateful reduces cortisol. Reducing cortisol helps with insulin sensitivity. An insulin sensitive body is more forgiving on the occasional carb splurge. If you take care of your support systems, proper dietary choices are easy to make and you can stay lean at any age.

Stay on target,


Charles R. Poliquin