The 5 Pound Rule – Staying Lean For a Lifetime

I have a rule that I follow that allows me to stay lean year round without getting too obsessed with food and counting calories.

You see, I like to drink beer and eat tasty foods, but I also like to have visible abs and a lean youthful appearance. I will talk about a simple and realistic approach to insure that you never have to worry about racing to get in shape for the summer ever again.
carribean beach vacation
[With the increase in beach pictures, you can probably tell that I’m dying for a tropical vacation. People who live in the upper latitudes like me can probably relate. This picture just sums it up perfectly. Suntanning and swimming. My idea of an ideal vacation.]

So What is The 5 Pound Rule?

It is simply this…never allow yourself to get over 5 pounds over your “ideal weight”. When I talk about ideal weight, I’m not talking about the weight you are at when you have busted butt in the gym for 3 months straight and have dropped every last ounce of fat (this is more of a “event weight” which I will talk about later).

Your ideal weight is a realistic weight where you look great in and out of clothes. You aren’t chubby – you lean and toned, but maybe not a ripped as many movie stars get for their special roles.

Your Ideal Weight Depends Upon a Few Factors

To be honest, your ideal weight is defined by you. What weight does it take for you to be comfortable in a swimsuit? What is the weight where clothes fit really well? What weight does your face take on an attractive appearance? There isn’t a “weight calculator” or formula that will figure out this number for you.

For me, my ideal weight is 190…someone else my same height my look better at 200. You may have to experiment a bit to find out your ideal weight.

Find Out Your Ideal Weight and Stay Within 5 Pounds

Do what it takes to stay within 5 pounds of that weight year round. Once you are 5 pounds over that ideal weight mark, tighten up your diet and do what it takes to work back down to your ideal weight.

As long as you follow this rule you will look great year round. It is as simple as it gets.

This Allows a Lot of Flexibility to Eating and Exercise

This is a way of life for me. I can eat those bar nachos and drink beer on occasion and easily stay within that 5 pound zone. If for some reason I go from 190, up to 195 then I tighten up my diet and increase my activity levels…until I get close to 190 again.

I know that people like to get really complex with measuring body fat percentage, but once you know the weight that you feel is the best or you…then you don’t really need to complicate things.

“Event Weight” is Typically 5 Pounds Less Than Ideal Weight

Certainly 5 pounds is just a bit of an estimate, but if you go about 5 pounds lower than your ideal weight…you will reach what I call “event weight”.

I called this event weight, because this is the weight to reach for vacations, weddings, photo shoots, etc. I wouldn’t call it ideal, because it isn’t a realistic condition to hold year round. It is fun to push your body to the limits now and then, but attempting to do this year round is bordering on obsession.

Eating Healthy is The Goal the Majority of the Time

Even if you could stay lean on a junk food diet, that isn’t the goal. Ideally you want to eat a diet that is largely based on vegetables and healthy whole foods. If 75% of your meals are healthy and full of great nutrients, then you are on the right track.

If You Have More Than 10 Pounds to Lose…

If you have a lot of weight to lose, I would recommend that you work hard and allow yourself to be a bit “imbalanced” for a short period of time.

Seriously, just do what it takes to get down to your ideal weight and then make the point of never having to lose a lot of weight again. Once you reach your ideal weight, then use this more balanced approach and live a little.

Note: I was compelled to write this post, because I don’t want people to get too obsessed with fitness.

As long as you stay within a 5 pound range and not let things get out of hand, you can live a well balanced life and stay extremely fit for the rest of your life.

48 thoughts on “The 5 Pound Rule – Staying Lean For a Lifetime”

  1. Good Day Rusty

    First of all I would like to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing all of your knowledge with us and making it easier for most people to understand the truth about health and fitness. Anyways Im 21 and 5’9 165lbs…I work for Goodlife Fitness where I am a “Fitness Trainer” and absolutly love it. I am in the best shape of my life but like anyone else want to continue to improve . I know most people dont suggest this but I am trying to get bigger while lowering my body fat %. Im from Ontario, Canada and want to look ripped for the beach(approx 3 months) while keeping size. Right now I work out my chest and back Monday and Thursday, my biceps/triceps and shoulders Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesdays I just focus on my core and some cardio. Also in between most sets I do core workouts. After each workout I do a 3 min warm up (5.5mph) than I do 15 min HIIT (1min-7.5mph jog and than 1 min- 10.5mph sprints) than cooldown obviously. I was just wondering what you think about if I try a fat burner such as Hydroxycut or something like it. My BF% fluctuates between 12-14% and I want it down to under 10 in 3 months. Also I eat healthy other than I treat myself to a case of beer a week lol. I know this is long but I wouldnt have taken the time to write this to you if I didnt respect your opinion. Thanks again for everything!

  2. Hi Rusty,

    I’m 5’7″, 128 pounds and my suit is about 36 inch (shoulder size). I’m naturally a small guy and a hard-gainer. What do you think my ideal weight should be? I read that you are somewhere around 6’3″ and so you would look great lean or even with bigger muscles. For me, I’m not sure if I should put on more weight and get bigger or stay lean, because for someone small like me, putting too much muscles won’t look good, it makes me look too brawny.
    Tom Cruise is about 5’7″ and i’m not sure how much he weighs, but he looks pretty fit. Any advice?

    Thanks so much!

  3. Fitness-siren–I checked out your website and the online program you’re using–thanks. Rusty thanks for your suggestions. They are much appreciated.

  4. I want to thank you for creating this website, great info. Do you take any creatine? I have heard good things about this supplement. Can this stuff be taken everyday if so how much??

  5. Rusty

    I have 10 pounds or so of body fat I’m looking to lose.

    Do I go with “Warp Speed Fat Loss” or “Eat Stop Eat?”

    I read “Warp Speed Fat Loss” and loved how every single meal for the month is listed for you. All you have to do is find your weight and follow the meals.

    Keep up the good work on this site.

  6. Good post. I follow a similar rule myself which allows me to stay in decent shape in the off season (winter) and then really tone up for the summer season.

  7. Alright guys…I’ll try to respond to as many of these comments as possible.


    You don’t necessarily have to wait 5 minutes. You could do low intensity at a slow walk for 5 minutes instead. You could do cardio every day for the last 2 weeks, but no more than 5-6 days per week leading up to that point.


    I appreciate the compliment. I really enjoy Brad’s advice at Eat Stop Eat…he is a guy who lives while being lean and healthy. There are a few guys who comment on my site that have outstanding blogs as well, so make sure you explore those sites as well.


    Great job buddy. I like the term “Eternal Leaness”.


    That is right, you are just north of me in Vancouver Canada if I remember correctly. Great city!


    Thanks for the great testimonial. It is too bad your trainer isn’t interested in what you do outside of the gym, because that is the big difference maker. As far as strength training goes. Just do Back and Chest exercises on one day and Shoulders and Arms the next. Do each workout twice per week for 4 total workouts (each workout is only 20-30 minutes). Keep it simple…2 or 3 exercises per body part, 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps per set, and don’t lift to failure. Basically tense the muscles hard and go slow when you are lifting. Use the weight as a way to generate strong contractions in the muscle, because that is what causes true muscle tone. Once you 30 minute session is done, nail out some HIIT. This will work well, just continue doing the other things you mentioned.


    I eat at restaurants, and enjoy great food with friends and family…but like you, I eat really well when I’m eating alone. It is a great strategy to stay lean while enjoying social events.


    You could easily drop 4 pounds in two weeks. The thing is you can diet HARD in the short term and experience amazing results. The best approach I know is eating nothing but chicken breasts, salad and rice vinegar dressing for two weeks. It is the most bland and rough diet you will ever experience and it only works short term, but you will drop stubborn weight like crazy. Stay away from diet pills.


    That is awesome! Being healthy, more energy, and looking better. There isn’t a downside to this lifestyle!


    You know I never really obsess about muscle. I just feel that each individual has an amount of muscle that is “natural” for their body. Someone like Matthew McConaughey or Laird Hamilton have more muscle than Brad Pitt or David Beckham, but they all look great. My body likes to be around 185-190 when lean, Will Smith who is the same height is about 5-10 pounds heavier. You do make a great point for people who want to carry a bit more muscle, but I suggest people avoid excess muscle in the first place.


    The cool thing about being within 5 poounds is that you are never more than a month away from getting in amazing shape.


    Thanks for assisting me with the comments. Great advice! The last thing I want is for people to get obsessed. I’m obsessed with setting up my next beach vacation:) Can’t wait!


    I love the term “peace point”…this is exacly what I was talking about.


    Yeah…the mirror is a great tool as well. The longer people do this, the less they really need tools. I like to weight myself because it just takes a few seconds and is dead simple.


    Good point. There are a few great courses out there. Pretty much can’t go wrong with any thing by Brad Pilon, Lyle McDonald, or Craig Ballantyne. I try to keep promotions to a minimum on this site, but reference a few online product I personally use now and then.

    The Spaniard,

    I hope things go better for you. I sense the stress and frustration, just reading your post. I love the comments you provide on this site and consider you a friend. I’m wishing that things look up as far as reducing stress goes. The economy is really tight in the US as well. Just a rough spot that will eventaully improve.


    Competitve swimmers actually have a tougher time getting lean than many other athletes. There have been a few studies investigating this, but really no clear answer why this is the case. You probably don’t need to do low carb cycles, maybe experiment with reducing your calories a bit each day. It sounds too simple to work, but less eating in general will probably do the trick.


    Thanks for the compliment. My goal with this site was to make it feel nothing like a Fitness Mag. Fitness magazines are mainly just articles supporting the supplements that they sell. They are a vehicle to sell supplements. They used to be so much better, but my guess is that they are dying for subscribers so have to “milk” the most out of each reader.


    When I was younger it would fluctuate more. Now that I have gained my ideal amount of muscle and eat decently well year round, it doesn’t fluctuate much at all.


    You can get ripped from hardcore HIIT on a stationary bike. It gives you a very different feeling and in some ways is more painful as far as the burn you feel in your legs. Before treadmills were so prevalent, I got great results from using a stationary bike.


    I do my best to answer as many questions as possible. I probably get to about 1/2 of them these days. At some point it will only be 1/4…but I will keep plugging away and helping as many people as humanly possible. It is very fun and rewarding for me.


    Type in the term “planks” into my search bar in the upper right hand corner of my site. A bunch of articles will come up and give you different strategies to do this exercise. This is exaclty what you need to get that sexy female flat toned stomach. I agree with you for not trying to get a six pack if you are a woman. Too much tone in that area can look masculine.


    Never heard of the pullup rule. Sounds like a solid strategy, expecially for athletic performance. I always think strength-to-weight ratio is more impressive than just going for maximum strength and putting on 30-40 pounds in the process.

    Lyle McDonald and Brad Pilon are the two guys I go to and trust about nutrition. Their products are a cut above many other courses online because they state their case with scientific studies. Both are WAY ahead of the curve in the Fitness Nutrition industry. You really can’t go wrong with anything they produce.


    I haven’t done much with the rowing machine, but I have friends who enjoy it. As far as stair climbers go, there are 2 types. The regular stair climber and the StepMill. The regular stair climber isn’t that great, but the StepMill is amazing (and brutal). The StepMill is like an escaltor with real stairs and will make you breath and sweat like crazy. In my opinion this could be one of the best cardio machines in the gym. If you don’t have access to a StepMill and want to go low impact, then opt for the stationary bike. Pick the “old school” upright bike, not the one where you are laying back.

    Solid comments and questions…I appreciate it!


  8. Hey Rusty, what about rowing machines for a good low impact cardio workout……….have you ever used a rower? Also, what do you think of stairclimbers for good cardio?
    Just curious, I’m trying to think of new ways to go about my cardio routine that would be low impact……….getting old sucks.

  9. Hey you mentioned lyle do you ever. Have you ever tried his flexible dieting or refeed methods. I bought the book and I heard he knows alot anbout nutrition

  10. Hey Rusty,
    This was a great post. Sticking to this rule definitely allows you to enjoy yourself a little more. Also, once you’ve been fit for a while and you’re self-aware about your body, that 5 pound cushion is just enough that you know you can get right back on the horse and lose it if you need to. Another great thing I picked up from Steve Maxwell about knowing how to stay in your ideal range is pullups [really any bodyweight exercise works but pullups are probably the best]. Unlike weights, bodyweight exercises assess how fit you are because your weight is factored in. So, if you can do 10 pullups normally, but you’ve been a bit lazy and can only do 6 or 7 now, you know you’re nearing your upper limit weightwise. On the other hand, if you’re hammering out 12 or 13 pullups, you’re likely close to your “event weight”. This method is also good because it completely takes out the scale, and its completely based on what you see in the mirror and how you feel.

  11. Excellent advice and extremely logical! I absolutely agree that it is illogical to try to maintain what you call ‘event weight’ I’ve tried and you just end up getting upset at yourself. Anyway, i’m trying to lose 2 pounds, down to 108, before spring break but my main concern is that I want definition in my lower back and abs and i’m having trouble getting there. I’ve always had a flat stomach and small waist but I want the long model-esque definition, not the six pack look which I think tends to make the torso look shorter. I find swimming can achieve that look but I do not want the bulky arms of a swimmer… If you have any advice or suggestions I would really appreciate it. Thanks

  12. great post rusty. this is the only website i check out and i think everybody appreciates the work you put into it. answering questions is what seperates you from the rest. keep it up man!

  13. Hey Rusty, great stuff as usual. How goes it? Haven’t left a post in a while…………but it is that time of year for me, time to get lean again! I’m excited.
    Anyways, got a couple quick questions for you. Due to an injury I’m dealing with right now, I cannot run on the treadmill, which is horrible for me because that is my favorite way to get lean and do my HIIT. When healthy I do HIIT 3 days a week always on the treadmill.
    Have you ever had any success getting lean and doing HIIT on something that is low impact? I know I can use the elliptical or the stationery bike………..but is that even effective for getting a great HIIT workout?
    I’m afraid this injury is going to keep me from getting in great shape again as I’m not allowed to play sports or run until I’ve recovered, basically nothing explosive.
    Any advice would be helpful. Thanks Rusty!

  14. Does your weight remain pretty consistent? Sometimes ill get my weight to drop down to 152, but after the weekend it’ll rise to 162. And this cycle will just continue. Am I allowing it to drop too much to see any progress?

  15. To Rusty: I think I’ve read every post from your site, and now i pour through your email… I love every one of them… Thanks so much…

    You are such a a staple in the quest for encouragment and inspiration…

    It’s easy to pick up a fitness mag… but how many talk about the normal people that want to start from imperfection?

    Thanks, look forward to your next post!!,

  16. bryan: you totally just gave me a boost… 10 weeks, 27 pounds… you rock my freind… I just came back from a 2 mile walk/jog… and i feel great… keep going!, Lori

  17. Hello, I just read your post… dreadful… you NEED A NEW trainer!!!!!!!!!!
    I’m no expert on anything (now weighing 250 pounds, and just getting back to making an effort), but i have PAID dearly, and worked with 2 trainers in the past (excellent and informed- both) Although one worked better for me than the other did… you have to jive with your trainer, request different ones untill the lightbulb goes off… each trainer has different tactics, and approaches… and you are PAYING DEARLY FOR THEIR TIME…

    so don’t waist yours or your money either… it sounds like you might need a trainer that also is a dietricain, they are out there, and many for the same price you are paying now…

    ask me how i know… my trainer hooked me up with an 1800 calorie diet… 65% protien 15% fat 20% carbs…

    even showed me when it was best to utalize those cals…


  18. Rusty. Awesome post.
    Somewhat unrelated question:
    I’m a collegiate swimmer who swims 4 hours a day and lifts weights twice a week. It’s hard for me to do lo-carb cycles because I require so many carbs for my aerobic activity.
    However, even with healthy eating and tons of exercise, I still hover around 12-14% bodyfat and I can’t seem to get that ripped look. Additionally, I have no role model because Michael Phelps “eats whatever he wants whenever he wants”

    What is your opinion on the matter? I value it highly.

  19. Rusty – Spot on as usual.

    Spaniard – I was in nearly the same position as you up until about a year ago. No matter what I did I couldn’t lose the weight. A year later and with some good tips from this and other sites I’m at what I would consider my ideal weight. The only thing that changed in the last year was my attitude. After I convinced myself that I could and come hell or high water I was going to get into shape… I started making progress. My point here isn’t to gloat but to tell you that you can… Know that you can and then don’t worry about it, just make it happen…

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