A popular analogy is to see your body’s ability to recover as a bank account.
In other words, recovery is finite, so every stressor you’re subjected to (both exercise and lifestyle) is like writing a check — you only have so much cash before you’re overdrawn and go bankrupt (or forced to borrow heavily from a shady Russian oligarch named Testosteronovich).
But you have another valuable currency that’s constantly being drained: your ability to focus.
I don’t care how good you say you are at multitasking. You can’t do five things as well as you can do one. And you certainly can’t do 15 things as well.
So when it comes to fat loss, it behooves you to focus on just what really moves the needle, the biggest being controlling calories.
There are plenty of other add-ons and maybe a hack or two, but ANYTHING that distracts you from maintaining a relative calorie deficit is probably not worth doing.
But what about building muscle?
In my experience, building muscle requires a significant shift in focus from fat loss.
Calories are still important of course (building muscle requires a small surplus) but other things should now become top of mind.
This is when you can make significant improvements in your physique — muscle size, strength, “weak points,” even cardiovascular conditioning.
In other words, it’s when you get better.
So training needs to be intense yet intelligent — progressive enough to push past your “comfort zone” (especially if you’ve been training for a while) but not so much that you surpass your ability to recover and adapt.
And recovery encompasses a lot more than just scheduling days off or getting in & out of the gym in an hour — its getting enough sleep, reducing volume/intensity as needed, and managing stress.
Suddenly there’s a lot more to focus on.
During “building phases” (if that word freaks you out then go with “improvement phases”) it’s best to give training progression and recovery much more of your limited attention.
However, freeing up the required “focus cash” should start with pulling back on diet micro-management.
Now this isn’t a cue to quit tracking your food or start eating out of drive-thru windows every day.
It means following a basic, repeatable yet flexible diet “framework” that easily covers your nutritional bases and comfortably places you in a modest calorie surplus — without having to count obsessively.
It also means not stressing out when you’re occasionally “forced” to break away from the plan and eat at a restaurant or enjoy a holiday party like an otherwise normal human being.
Again, it’s not that food quantity or quality doesn’t matter. It’s just shifting the spotlight to other stuff that’s essential for building muscle. Stuff that tends to get glossed over in the depths of restrictive fat-loss dieting.
So start geeking out on your training metrics. Not just the weight you lifted or the number of reps, but how it feels. How YOU feel.
Are you getting through workouts faster? Performing exercises smoother? Getting “skin-tearing pumps?”
These are just few subtle metrics of an effective workout. They ALL matter.
And you’d be surprised at what your body is capable of once you start spending your valuable focus in the right places.