The Complete Fat Loss Plan for Former Athletes

How to Get Lean and Athletic Again

Are you an ex-athlete who’s put on some fat and struggling with your workouts and recovery? This is the diet and training plan for you.

If you’re a former athlete looking to drop body fat, you may be frustrated, especially if you’re over 30.

  • The workouts that always worked well for you before now leave you beat up and run down.
  • The diet plans that always got you shredded before now lead to stress, frustration, and little to no visible changes in body composition.

Despite feeling like you know what to do, your current plan just isn’t cutting it. After all, once you’ve been strong, lean, and athletic, anything less than your peak condition feels like a letdown.

So how can you get strong, lean, and athletic again? The key is synergy. Synergy is the balance between your training, nutrition, and lifestyle.

As you get older, stress increases in every area of life. You have more personal and professional responsibilities, and sleep becomes harder to come by and even more valuable.

If your stress outpaces your ability to recover from training, you’re digging a recovery hole with your workouts. So, the key to losing fat and looking great naked again comes down to a new approach, one that balances training, nutrition, and lifestyle.

How to Work Out: Heavy-Light Training

Former athletes want to look great and perform well. The battle now? Managing cumulative fatigue and joint stress. To get the best of all worlds, “heavy-light” training – via Olympic sprint coach Charlie Francis – is the way to go. His high-low principle is a novel progression strategy that’ll keep you progressing without burning out.

Heavy-light training is also known as “intensive-extensive” or “high-low” training. It bases workouts on the neurological demand of training and places the highest-demand work on nonconsecutive days.

The “heavy” or intensive days are when you do exercises that are more demanding on the central nervous system. Think sprints, heavy lifts, and explosive training.

The “light” or extensive training days are based on a higher volume and less weight – more of a bodybuilding or metabolic stress focus.

By adjusting intensity, you manage joint and systemic fatigue while maximizing training economy. The result is increased protein synthesis while adding enough variation to allow muscles to recover and mitigate overuse injuries, which leads to more muscle growth and better gym performance.

You’ll lift four times per week with two Zone 2 cardio days.

Here’s the split:

  • Monday: Intensive – Compound Lifts
  • Tuesday: Extensive – Back and Biceps
  • Wednesday: Zone-2 Cardio

Zone-2 cardio is just moderate-intensity work. Use the talk test: You should be breathing harder but not so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation. You’ll be doing 30 minutes of this type of training. Do cycling, slow jogging, fast walking, elliptical, or whatever you hate least.

  • Thursday: Intensive – Compounds Lifts
  • Friday: Extensive – Chest and Triceps
  • Saturday: Zone-2 Cardio
  • Sunday: Off

You can also do this workout with three training days and two cardio days. Just rotate through the same order of workouts with Zone-2 cardio between lifting days and taking the weekends off.

The Workouts

Here’s a quick review of some of the exercises in this plan:

Monday: Intensive

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A. Box Jump 3 5 1 min.
B. Front Squat 4 5-7 2 min.
C. 75-Degree Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 5-7 2 min.
D. Chin-Up 4 5-7 2 min.
E. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 4 10-12 1 min.

Note: For the lifts, do 1-2 warm-up sets. Increase load each set to 1 top-end set.

Tuesday: Extensive, Back and Biceps

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1. Cable Face Pull with External Rotation 4 12 15 sec.
A2. Cable Straight-Arm Pulldown 4 12 45 sec.
B. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row 5 8-10/side 1 min.
C. One-Arm Dumbbell Row 4 8 90 sec.
D. Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 10 1 min.
E. Dumbbell Hammer Curl 3 8-10 1 min.

Wednesday: Zone 2 Cardio

  • 30 minutes

Thursday: Intensive

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1. Overhead Medicine Ball Slam 3 8 45 sec.
A2. Push-Up Plank 3 8 45 sec.
B. Trap Bar Deadlift 4 5 3 min.
C. Barbell Bench Press* 5 5,4,3,2,1 2 min.
D. Pendlay Row 4 6 90 sec.
E. Machine Leg Curl 4 10-12 1 min.

* Do 1-2 warm-up sets, then increase load each set to 1 top end set.

Friday: Extensive, Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A. Costal Cable Flye 3 12 45 sec.
B. 15-Degree Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 10,8,6,15 90 sec.
C. One-Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10-12 90 sec.
D1. Behind-the-Back Cable Lateral Raise 4 12 1 min.
D2. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension 4 12 1 min.
E. Push-Up * 100

* 100 in as few sets as possible

Saturday: Zone-2 Cardio

  • 30 minutes


How to Eat

If you’re like most athletes, you still have the mindset of being active enough to get away with a bit more in your diet and still be jacked. Well, Father Time has a different plan for you!

I like to keep fat loss phases short, aggressive, and simple. Here’s what you’re doing to do.

  1. Multiply your body weight in pounds x 10. This is your calories.
  2. Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to support lean tissue maintenance, which preserves metabolic function.
  3. Split the rest of your calories equally between carbs and fats.

Here’s what it looks like for a 220-pound man:

Calories: 220 pounds x 10 = 2200 calories per day

Protein: 220 grams. (220 grams x 4 calories per gram = 880 calories from protein)

Fats and Carbs: First, subtract the calories from protein from your total calorie intake: 2200-880 = 1320 calories remaining. Divide this number by two (splitting carbs and fats evenly) and you have your calories for both carbs and fats:

  • Fats: 660 Calories (660 calories, 9 calories per gram = 73.3g of fat)
  • Carbs: 660 calories (660 calories, 4 calories per gram = 165g of carbs)

So, your daily macros are:

Calories: 2200
Protein: 220 grams
Fat: 73.3 grams
Carbs: 165 grams

If the scale isn’t budging after two weeks, use “bodyweight x 8” and repeat the same process. Don’t go lower than this. If you’re not losing fat now, something bigger is at play. Or you’re not being honest about your dietary intake.


Your Lifestyle

Your stress levels are likely higher now. Proactively control stress with meditation or daily walks. Reduce stressful inputs from the rage-porn police, also known as mainstream media. If you don’t work to reduce stress, you’ll be a cortisol-ridden mess, and nothing will seem to work no matter how hard you try.

Your biggest weapon of all against stress is sleep. Sleep is your superpower and crucial for maintaining every physiological process, from optimal testosterone, growth hormone, and cortisol levels, to insulin sensitivity. If sleep and stress get too high, you simply won’t recover.

While getting 8 hours of sleep is optimal, it’s not always practical. Regardless of what you can prioritize, follow the 10-3-2-1-0 principles.

  • Ten hours before bed, eliminate caffeine. Caffeine has an average half-life of 5 hours – after five hours, half of the caffeine in your system is still present from your 5 PM pre-workout at 10:00 PM. This disrupts sleep quality, compromising recovery. For some people, the half-life of caffeine is as high as 10 hours, so keeping caffeine at a minimum within 10 hours of bedtime is a great way to improve sleep quality.

  • Three hours before bed, curtail alcohol consumption and food. You shouldn’t plow the Moscow Mules on Tuesday regardless, but the longer you separate alcohol consumption from sleep, the better your overall sleep and recovery will be. Eating too close to bed can impair digestion and sleep quality. Besides, do you need to be eating your kid’s cereal before bed?

  • Two hours before bed, stop working. If you’ve struggled with the “mindless monkey” keeping you up all night with work issues, this is why. Decompress by writing everything you need to do tomorrow and leaving your work at work. You’ll decompress with those you care about and sleep better, too.

  • One hour before bed, turn off screens and devices. The blue light emitted from the dopamine dispensers we stare at all day suppresses melatonin secretion, increasing sleep latency (time to fall asleep) and decreasing sleep quality.

Do all this and you should hit snooze zero times in the morning and be ready to attack your workout.



  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2001). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Pharmacology of Caffeine - Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance - NCBI Bookshelf