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Why smart guys who know how to work out can still struggle to get in shape

Call it the “Non-Beginner Problem”: You can go to the gym and eat healthy…and still not have the physique you want. Let’s fix that right now.

Empty Weight Room

It Started With a Facebook Message

“I work out a lot, but I still have this layer of fat around my stomach. Can you look at some of my photos? Based on my body type and experience, what do you think I should do?”

That was the last paragraph in a Facebook message I got a few days ago, sent by a guy I met at a fitness seminar. Now, being asked to look at physique photos and give workout or nutrition advice may seem weird, but it actually happens a lot.

These kinds of requests generally come from guys who have some workout experience but are facing one or two uncomfortable things:

1. They’re not being consistent with their training and nutrition and are having a hard time staying on track.

2. They’re not getting the kind of fat loss or muscle growth they think they should be getting based on what they know about working out and eating healthy.

As I scanned through this guy’s photos, I realized he looked like a lot of guys that join our S2B Coaching Program: Not really skinny, not really fat. Just somewhere in between.

Nobody would call him out of shape. But you wouldn’t call him in shape, either.

I could tell he worked out occasionally — I found a photo of him shirtless on the beach with his fiancé, and he looked healthy — but he also had some belly fat and skinny arms. He didn’t have much “noticeable muscle”, which, he told me, made him a little embarrassed.

I went back to my inbox and read his message again from the beginning.

He admitted that when things got busy, it was hard for him to be consistent. He frequently got off track with his nutrition and skipped workouts.

Like a lot of guys, he’d be consistent for a few weeks and feel awesome. But then he’d miss a few workouts, eat crap food, and feel a little depressed because of it.

He told me he was frustrated.

He felt like he should have a better body to show for his knowledge and hard work. He felt like he was missing something important, but just didn’t know what it was.

And he thought that maybe I had the solution for him, one thing that could turn everything around and help him get his sh*t together.

Normally, I’d roll my eyes at the thought of having some kind of magic bullet, one thing I could tell him that would change everything.

But as it turns out, I knew exactly what he needed.

Why I Knew What This Guy Needed

Now before I tell you what I told him, let me tell you why I had the solution to his problem.

Most people who visit don’t know this, but a good chunk of guys who join the S2B Coaching Program aren’t complete beginners.

Instead, they’re “intermediate” or “advanced” guys. They read articles on training and nutrition. They work out. They eat healthy, or at least try to. Most are the go-to “fitness expert” for their family and friends. Some are even personal trainers.

They’re guys who should be in great shape — and maybe at one point, they were in great shape — but are now having a tough time getting back into it and are frustrated with a body that’s not as muscular, lean, or strong as they know it could be.

You see, the coaches and I have helped hundreds of non-beginner guys build muscle and lose fat.

So when I looked at this guy’s photos and heard his back-story, I knew exactly what he was missing, because it’s the same thing most non-beginners are missing.

The “Missing Link” To Building Your Best Body

The one thing most non-beginners are missing isn’t a different workout program, a better nutrition strategy, or a new supplement.

What most guys are missing is being accountable — to someone or something — for their workouts and nutrition.

In other words, accountability keeps you consistent because you have to report back what you’re doing — or not doing — in the gym and in the kitchen to someone else.

In fact, accountability is more important than personal motivation for this simple reason: Not one person always feels motivated to go to the gym or eat healthy.

But if we have someone who’s checking up on us to see how things are going, we’ll likely get our sh*t together so we a) won’t disappoint them or b) won’t feel lazy.

If we’re accountable, we’ll actually do the workouts and eat the food we need to look and feel great. And we do it over and over again, even when the going gets tough.

That’s why you can know exactly what to do. And you can even do it — work out hard, eat good food, get 8 hours of sleep — for short bursts. But you can still end up without the body you want.

If you can’t be consistent, you can’t make progress.

And that’s why accountability – not the perfect training or nutrition program – is the thing that turns everything around for our clients. Heck, maybe it can turn things around for you.

So how do you get accountability?

Let’s get back to the 2 strategies I shared with this guy who asked for my help.

First, commit yourself to something.

If you feel like you’ve bounced back and forth between hardcore training and half-assing it, it’s time to commit yourself to something.

Forget trying a new diet or training program every other week. No one makes progress that way. Instead, lock yourself in to something that will force you to change your habits — while having fun.

One of the easiest ways is to set up a contest with friends. (Who can go the longest without missing a single workout? Who can cook the most meals at home instead of eating out?)

Think about it: What do you think you can you accomplish with just one month of consistent workouts and healthy eating? How about six months?

How about one year?

In S2B, our clients commit to a full year of learning and practicing new workout, nutrition, and lifestyle habits.

They don’t have to be perfect — in fact, we only ask them to stay compliant to the program 80% of the time — but they do have to work their asses off and be accountable to their coach and to the S2B interface, which actually tracks what they do and don’t do.

S2B workout compliance

The S2B interface allows clients to stay consistent — and holds them accountable to their coach.

On the surface, this kind of commitment can seem a bit weird or restrictive. But our clients quickly see why we ask for a full year.

As one of our clients, Justin, told us recently:

“Being in the program for a year turned out to be a blessing because it helped me stay on track and not flip flop. This is the longest I’ve ever been on a program.”

(Justin, by the way, has gained 17 pounds of muscle in S2B so far.)

Next, get some help from at least one other person.

Let me tell you a quick personal story.

There was a time, a few months ago, when I started skipping one or two workouts per week. Why? Because I was too “busy.” (Yep, even I use that excuse sometimes.)

The workouts didn’t matter much in the context of one week — it’s not like I was losing muscle or gaining fat every time I skipped one — but after a month, I’d missed 7 total workouts, nearly half of my gym time. Not good.

And it was showing in the mirror. I looked a little smaller and weaker than I would have liked. Plus I just felt crappy and a little guilty.

I knew I had an accountability problem. No one was checking to see if I was doing my workouts. And because of that, I was slacking.

So the next day I called a personal trainer friend and asked if he had any openings. Even though I know how to work out and eat healthy, I asked if he would write my workouts and train me at his gym a couple times per week.

I made myself accountable to him.

Of course I could still skip my workouts if I wanted. But that would involve actually calling and canceling an appointment with him, something I’d be embarrassed to do.

And here’s the best part: ever since I became accountable to my friend, I haven’t missed a single workout. And I feel incredible.

Nate's new gym

My new gym where I go to meet my friend and have him train me a few times per week.

What can you learn from this?

If you’re struggling to get in shape — or if you have the tendency to get too busy with other stuff and slack on your workouts — the best thing you can do is hire someone to keep you accountable.

It could be a coach you pay money to or a friend who will meet you at the gym, no matter what.

In our coaching program, we keep our clients accountable by regularly emailing, calling, or Skyping them to see how things are going. Plus we can check on their progress whenever we like by simply pulling up their profile page and seeing whether or not they’ve done their workout or followed their nutrition habit.

If they’re on track, we give them a virtual high five. If we notice they’re missing workouts, we talk with them and see how we can help them get back on track.

And all of the guys who join S2B are immediately accountable to every other guy in S2B through our forums.

Do 2 Things: Commit and Become Accountable To Someone

In the end, the message I wanted to communicate to the guy who Facebooked me is this:

“Yeah, it’s completely possible that you can go to the gym and eat healthy and still not have the physique you want.”

“But there’s a simple fix, and it has nothing to do with a new workout or diet plan. All you have to do is commit to something and make yourself accountable to at least one other person.

Of course, if you’re reading this and have some workout and nutrition experience but still don’t have the kind of body you want, we can help.

Every day, through our S2B coaching program, we help guys prioritize their own health and fitness and get in awesome shape.

But whether you choose to do S2B or not, I do encourage you do something — anything — as soon as possible to stay consistent with your training and nutrition.

Because before you know it, an extra 5 pounds of fat could quickly become 10 or 20 pounds. The muscle you’ve worked hard to build can wither away.

But the worst part? You’d have to start all over with the knowledge that you didn’t live up to your potential.

Don’t let that happen.

19 Responses to Why smart guys who know how to work out can still struggle to get in shape

  1. Wow, great article. you hit on so many key points.

  2. James Clough says:

    Hit the nail on the head there, I was doing this without knowing I was doing it, making sure that I always met my friend at the gym to make sure we both trained and pushed each other, much easier when you have similar build/goal.
    I always like getting the new blog emails from you, always fires me up to hit the gym even harder afterwards
    thanks for the inspiration

    • Nate Green says:

      When I look back at all the times where I was really in my best shape, I was always accountable to at least one other person like a workout partner or coach.

      That’s definitely how I feel now, too.


      PS – Thanks for reading!

  3. Max McCoy says:

    I must admit, it sounds interesting. And I can almost identify myself to the guy you’re speaking about. I’m not as lean as I’d like to be, although I workout regularly and eat healthy, always fresh foods. I don’t think accountability is my problem. I haven’t skipped any work out since early january. And I don’t feel like i’m getting stronger nor leaner (well my logs don’t really tell it)…I don’t know what my problem is. I’m not out of shape (former swimmer), but not as good as I’d like to be. I stay, I think, around 15% BF. I can’t figure out which of my training (frequency, type… should i do more or less..?) or eating habits go “wrong”, and yeah, it’s frustrating. But in my case, I don’t think accountability is my problem….
    almost got me ;)

    • Nate Green says:

      Hey Max –

      It sounds like you could benefit from a coach who can answer those types of questions for you. As a former swimmer, I’m sure you already know how helpful a coach can be.

      My suggestion would be to find someone — locally or online — to work with who can help troubleshoot your “problem areas” and get you on the right track.

      We’d love to help you out in the S2B Coaching Program.

      But whatever you decide, remember this: Accountability isn’t just for people who skip out on workouts. It’s also for guys who are doing everything right…but still fall just short of getting the kind of body they want.


      • Max McCoy says:


        Thanks for the reply. Yeah I guess I should give it a try. But, where I am actually, it’s kind of a no man’s land, with a small gym and average looking people to be honest. So I haven’t really found someone worth to follow …and via internet, it could be a good idea to give it a try, if I could. I’m a kinesiologist but I have trouble understanding myself it appears. I’ll keep trying figuring out this blind spot…thanks!

  4. Pete Tansley says:

    Great article Nate.

    Accountability is really the key to anything, when you think about it, and you’re article hit the nail on the head.

    Thank you!

  5. Erika L. Kunz says:

    Nate, I love reading your stuff. What about a fitness program geared towards women? I know a lot of the principles would be the same/similar, but the diet & workout advice could be tailored (I cannot eat 4000 calories of anything in a day, seriously) to help us metabolize fat, build muscle and shed a little fat to help us go from skinny and athletic to DAYUM!

    If you ever wanted to implement one of these programs, I’d be happy to be in your test group!

  6. Joseph Flesche says:


    Absolutely the best article that I have read on training/dieting. Hands down!

    The timing for this article is incredible for me too. I just never put it together! Within the past 6 months, I made two connections (one through YouTube – weird right! – and another through a local park that runs a conditioning/boot-camp style class) that both turn out to be the best training connections that I have ever made during the past 10-12 years of lifting. They may not know it, but I am accountable to them and have made the best gains in strength and loss in fat ever for me!

    Thanks Nate for putting it all together for me!

  7. Paulo Branco says:

    This really hit home. The #1 reason I joined S2B coaching program in november was because of accountability, and community support. i was tired of the all too familiar excuses of skipping workout and nutrition habits and looking in the mirror at a medicore body. S2B has taught me to fight through obsticales and “get shit done”…even if you have to be selfish sometimes. So far its paying off. Great article, Great program, designed by great people. Thanks Dudes!

  8. Tomas Malfox says:

    Superb article, as usual;)

    I’m more interested in the S2Bcoaching program =).

  9. Peter Boyle says:

    Dammit yes! There is so much truth in this article. The guy in the article. That’s me. I work out. I try to eat well, but it comes and goes. No-one was there to keep me accountable. Until recently anyway, I asked my trainer to help me out. I hate not meeting someone’s expectation, so when I know that someone is keeping tabs on me I’m more conscious and aware of what I am eating and doing on a day-to-day basis.

    I wrote a blog about coming to this realization.

  10. I have two sons that are just starting this program 1 is 15 6’1 180 lbs he would like to be about 210 by aug. the other is 14 5’10 168lbs but he is diabetic any advice you can offer to them to make this work for them both would be helpful…a concerned mother

  11. Mihir says:

    Hi Nate,
    Should one join S2B or get lean. I wan to gain lean muscle. I signed up for Get lean pre sale but wanna know which is better?

    • Nate Green says:

      Hey Mihir –

      For you, sir, sign up for S2B when we make the program available in May. We’ll take care of you and help you build lean muscle.

  12. Dennis Pace says:

    A great read Nate.
    The S2B program has given me a real destination at the end of a journey and I find that following the plan, and making myself accountable to the program and therefore my efforts to do the best that I can while participating in the program have made a huge difference than say just heading to the gym and working out with no real end goal as I had started doing before signing up.