Deep ThoughtsNutritionStrength TrainingTraining

Getting Healthy, Staying Fit, and Using Data to Create Habits that Last a Lifetime (Part 2)

Daren Rocks Beach
Read Time - 11 minutes

Hello and welcome to part 2 of 3 in this written series on the above (the title is too long to write again). If you’ve missed the previous post I highly suggest visiting part 1 to get familiar with a few things and fully maximize your benefits from reading this.


  1. Again, while I am an expert on myself in the health, fitness and nutrition realm, I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet. Consult with a medical professional about whatever you want to do.
  2. Generic Disclaimer — Individual Results May Vary. Hi. I am Daren Lake, and I am not you. How awesome, right?! I am also a particular type of person, with specific genes, certain body type and a specific health & fitness background that is most likely different than yours. I came to this ever-evolving conclusion through my discovery process (research, information from experts around me, & my experience/testing). A healthy version of you might be someone else’s unhealthy version of them. Please don’t compare.
  3. Consistency, quality, discipline, and timing are the most critical behavioural attributes you can use to your advantage. If you can get it 50% right for one year, that’s always going to beat getting it 100% right for one week.
  4. I’ve put together a free and simple Data Tracking Analysis Form that you can use to help your journey.

The Practical Tactical Method

Remember this statement. Systems and habits trump logic and motivation.

Why you may ask? Because the details don’t matter in the beginning. Find out what you want — pick a number like an ideal weight, body fat percentage, or race in a specific time frame and base your goal/objective on something important to you. Then research it from a few different places, talk to some experts or people you know that have done it, identify significant themes, and get started.

You can figure out the details later after you get into a groove. Again, systems and habits will trump your feelings and motivation. Life happens and will always get in the way of your “healthy & fit” routine. If you have created a lasting habit, it takes a lot less energy to get back on the train than it does to start over again.

Expectation Management: The more strict and focused you are to a rigid system, the better and faster results you will see. If you are in this for the long haul and don’t like too much change too quickly, then your results may not happen as soon as other people. That is okay, but please as a musician that I know (me) once said, “Manage your expectations!”

How I Am Staying Healthy

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

©Aristotle

There are a lot of ways to get healthy. It’s hard to know which thing is the most effective without a scientific approach of trial and error. A few things may work for some people, and they think their way is the only way for any success.

The funny thing is that something being healthy is relative. A bottle of cola can slowly kill you over time. That same cola can quickly save your life if you haven’t eaten anything for weeks. I’ll focus the below on how I became healthy based on my main objectives through fat loss and maintaining it through muscle gain.

Rapid Fat Loss “Kick Start” Period (Phase 1 — Maintenance)

I was 7–10kg (15–24 lb) over my ideal weight, so I did a hard kick start into the initial rapid fat loss stage. I suggest you consider the same approach if you want to get the “health rocket” into orbit and then let momentum guide the “wellness spaceship” to planet fit. It’s not the easiest, but you see the most amount of gains in the shortest time. Depending on your objectives, how committed you are, and how your body adapts, you can expect this to be about 2–8 weeks. (I highly recommend reading this book for more info by super talented author, Matt Fitzgerald)

It became easier as my body adapted and I was motivated when I saw gains. I would try not to let this period discourage you and start off very slow with minimal changes that last over long periods of time. One thing on its own does nothing as it’s the sum of the parts that does everything.

Nutrition & Diet for Fat Loss

I’m sure this focus is where I received more than half of my body composition and performance gains. I recommend you also focus your work in this area for the most significant return on investment.

I focused on clean eating which involved avoiding;

  • All Sugars (White, Brown, Coconut, Honey, Agave Nectar, Sugar-Free Sweeteners, etc.)
  • Simple carbs/white stuff (bread, flour, rice, potatoes, corn, etc.),
  • Processed packaged foods (All natural, no sugar added, canned and frozen veggies are okay)

The foods I focused on eating were complex carbs/brown/colorful stuff like;

  • Vegetables — Lots of them and as many colors as possible
  • All of the beans and legumes
  • Nuts/seeds (If I weren’t allergic to tree nuts, I would eat almonds all of the time. Instead I stuck to seeds)
  • Brown and Black Rice
  • Quinoa — Dark or Tri-Color
  • Whole Oats — Steel or Rolled (Stay away from quick oats as they are “simple white carb”)
  • Rye Bread or Spelt (I’m personally not a bread/wheat/oats guy, but they are fine)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Fruit is okay but in moderation, especially during the rapid fat loss period. Fruit, while healthy, still has a lot of sugar (fructose) packed in per serving. If you aren’t very active, most people’s bodies, tend to store sugar as fat.
  • Scientifically proven supplements
  • Anecdotally non scientifically proven supplements (Tread with caution)

Cheat days worked well for me in moderation (every 7–14 days).

From my experience and research, the slow carb diet was great for me and might be an excellent fit for you as it has a high retention rate and is one of the easier fat loss eating patterns to follow.

I ate similar times of the day, similar things, and slightly smaller portions than I was accustomed to (15–25% less if possible). At times for the first few days I grew hungry, which was normal, but my body adapted to it around day four. You should expect the same if you are doing it correctly. When I got hungry, I took to drinking non-caloric drinks like tea, coffee (both with either coconut cream or no sugar milk alternatives), and sparkling lemon water.

I drank 2–3 litres of water per day, which is especially beneficial if going low carb.

I consumed my last meal 3–4 hours before bed. I even dabbled in a dessert of berries, 85% dark chocolate, and a glass of wine or whiskey 2–3 nights a week. That didn’t seem to do any harm, and it helped my sweet cravings post dinner.

From my understanding, the more extreme diets can work, but they require radical behavioural changes that may not stick after the first few weeks. Most of those diets usually end up getting you into a caloric deficit which is eating fewer calories than you burn. You can get into caloric deficit a lot of different ways. Choose the method that is easiest to stay with.

Calorie counting is hard in the long term for most people but is a great place to start in the beginning if you struggle with overeating and snacking. If you can for the first week or two, count macronutrients via my data tracking analysis (carbs, protein, and healthy fats) and get a shit ton of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from vegetables.

You could stay at this phase for the rest of your and just keep changing up a few things for variety. If you are into pushing yourself, the next phase might be for you.

Portland, Oregon, USA

Nutrition & Diet for Enhanced Body Composition (Phase 2 — Gains)

I could have sat and maintained phase 1 for life and should be mostly healthy but phase 2 is where the bar was raised.

Muscle gain accidentally happened as a byproduct to realizing I flushed out a bunch of muscle with my fat loss. The following is my simple approach to maintaining and slightly increasing muscle mass. There are many ways, this is just one.

After the rapid fat loss period, I increased my complex/whole carb and protein intake to about 1–1.25 times of my body weight in pounds (I weigh 160 pounds; Therefore I aim for 160–200 grams per day).

For protein, I increased intake to one times my body weight in grams per day which was about 70–75 grams. I did reintroduce a few more pieces of fruit per day which was nice because I love apples.

For someone else, it all depends on how your body responds, what you usually eat, how much and what kind of training you’re doing. Carbs are the energy source to help protein do its thing and build/repair muscle. The amount needed may differ from person to person.

Cataract Gorge, Tasmania, Australia

How I Am Staying Fit

Fitness is also relative. At any point in time, I can be “fit” enough to finish a 5k running race without training for three months. In that same fitness, I can be unfit to run a sub-3-hour marathon. That is where setting clear objectives and goals are paramount. I’ll focus the below on training for fat loss and muscle/performance gains.

Exercise Training for Fat Loss (Phase 1 — Maintenance)

Again, I am Daren. Hello! I like to run, cycle, swim and take long walks on the beach during sunsets. That gives me joy. You are not me, which is awesome. You might not like what I do, which is even more awesome!

Activity wise, I advocate you do whatever you like as long as you can get your heart rate up significantly for a short period.

Caution: If you aren’t in shape, please get in shape to get into shape.

If you like running, run 20–30 minutes, a few times a week and see if you can get in some sharp, punchy hills (20–90 seconds at 100% effort). Do you like to dance Zumba with Meghan Trainor? Yeah, sure, why not? You get it.

Be careful not to overdo the training during this rapid fat loss state. As I stated earlier, the evidence is clear that for some people, attempting to regulate the output (calories burned) can get messy and achieving possible fat loss goals may not happen. It is much easier to control input (calories in). My personal experiment of training the same way I had been over the past few years proved this to be #facts.

There is a fine line between too little and too much activity from my understanding, as you can mess up your metabolism and trick your body into storing more fat than it normally would. Oh and the increase in training means you binge eat everything in sight because you burn so many calories. Subtle, sustainable and progressive wins over hard, fast and sudden. Stay here to be healthy and generally fit, move on to see #Gainz!

Harold Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Workout and Exercise Training for Muscle and Performance (Phase 2 — Gains)

Just like fat loss, this all depends on what your objectives are and what you enjoy doing. I focused on HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and sustained power/VO2 Max efforts from 1–3 minutes.

Feel free to use google to discover different ways to tax your system and build up an impressive body. I’ve seen that CrossFit/F45 is fantastic for this, but I haven’t done it myself yet. If you do, please feel free to tell me how it goes!

General Strength, Resistance & Flexibility Training for Fat Loss

This is a general starting approach and applies to both fat loss and muscle gain. Either way, you should highly consider this if you haven’t done strength training before. It was a massive part of the “secret sauce” that worked for me, and it gives a big bang for your buck with little input when done correctly.

There are many ways to do this, but I highly recommend it be started during the fat loss stage. In as little as 20–30 minutes, twice a week, I focused on big muscle groups and saw measurable improvements. I made sure I focused on my core for stability during all strength training. Most power comes from the core, glutes, and hips. Your ability to activate and use them properly is the key to long-term health, fitness and executing strength training correctly.

Callisthenics or Weight Room? Your call. Start with no weight, no body resistance only workouts such as; crunches, planks, air squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and more. Look to stick with this for the first 2–6 weeks to get your body in shape to get into shape and to avoid injury.

After that, look to add resistance (weight) to your exercises or change your movements to make it more challenging as your body adapts quickly with no resistance.

When I lost body fat, I also flushed out a lot of muscle with it, so maintaining muscle mass is necessary and can possibly help fend off muscle atrophy/sarcopenia as you get older. The more resistance training you can add the stronger your bones get since they may get weaker as you age.

I’ve heard strong people need to be more flexible and flexible people need to be stronger. A balance between the two is ideal for long term health, the mobility of joints, and arthritis prevention.

I incorporated flexibility, regular daily stretching and saw an increase in recovery time and generally feeling better. Going to my local Ben Liddy – Sydney Running Coach & Physiotherapist for regular maintenance checkups on my has been a game changer. I naturally have extremely tight hips flexors and tendons so I need to stay on this constantly to avoid nags and minor injuries.

Flexibility is also a solid injury prevention strategy if you do more of the intense activities (Running, CrossFit, Basketball, Soccer, etc.). Yoga is excellent for this if you are into it or just deep, long stretching of your legs, hamstrings and IT Bands. I didn’t stretch or foam roll for many years and paid the price with many nagging aches and injuries as I age.

Strength Training & Performance For Muscle Gain

If you want to gain muscle you need to lift heavy weight. This is an obvious DUH! It’s also where I lowered my body fat more and increased lean muscle mass. I just added in one more set per session to all of my full body 30 minute workouts. I tried to be a minimalist and kept it simple so I didn’t need to look up my “program” for the day. I then introduced slight variations every few weeks to provoke muscle confusion and prevent plateauing.

Bench Press, Military Press, Squat, Deadlift, Lunges, Planks, etc. were my workouts of choice and allowed me to focus on big muscle groups. Feel free to do whatever you want on this. The discovery process of experimenting, Google, talking with some expert friends, and a personal trainer are your best tools to find out exactly what works best for you.

Continue on and read part 3 “Using Data to Create Habits that Last a Lifetime” to continue on your journey.


I’ve put together a free and simple Data Tracking Analysis Form that requires a Google account. (You will need a google account to use this) Click the link, save a copy to your google drive, and set a schedule to fill it out each day. That form automagically dumps into a Google spreadsheet for you to look back on periodically. And voila, next stop, GAIN TRAIN! (The form is meant to be edited for your needs, so change as necessary.)

If you want to know more or have any questions, feel free comment below or hit me up at DarenLake.net and say hello.

If you want more in-depth homework on behavioural changes, then James Clear is your guy. He’s the OG with habits and behaviour but presents it in a simple and easy to consume way. Start with this, then read this.

  • Got what you needed? Dope! Thanks for reading, please comment below and share this with someone that would get value out of it!
  • Was it too long? I’m sorry for your time loss. R.I.P. But while you’re grieving, you can furiously type up a hate comment below and send this article on to a friend that might be into “this sorta thing”.
  • Again, if you liked this, please check out my podcast Master of Some, as Phil Cross and I tackle health & fitness and serve it up as a metaphor for life.
  • What have you done that’s worked for you? Feel free to comment below and let me know!

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