Investment Phase Deep Dive, Part Three: How To Embrace the Fluff

Investment Phase Deep Dive, Part Three: How To Embrace the Fluff

Control is a running theme through the transformation journey. One of the hallmarks of success for the investment phase is gaining control of your mind and body. Objectively, the best measure for this is the ability to maintain control of your bodyweight, whether it’s in an upward, maintained or downward trajectory. Control is key here after what may have been years of yo-yo’ing, quick fixes and spinning your wheels.

This control theme is the same across the investment continuum; whether you’re after a total lifestyle solution (as covered in part two) or if you find yourself on further on the right, which is what we’ll be diving into on this piece: how to embrace the fluff.

The Additional Layer 

An important point to mention is that no matter where you are on the continuum, all the parts on rules, health standards, and a trial and error mentality, still apply. Everything you’re doing with your lifestyle solution applies – just because you’re going to intentionally increase your bodyweight and embrace the fluff to build muscle doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to slack.

That’s where most go wrong, and it’s separates this journey with the typical ‘bulking programs’ available. In the latter, there’s no underpinning or foundation of a new overall behaviour, mindset and identity being built. There’s no rule development or consideration for a solid foundation of a healthy lifestyle – it’s simply a ‘eat big, lift big and get big’ mentality. That’s action with no introspection. It’s why so many who are on a quest to build muscle struggle mentally, as it never addresses root cause problems of why, what and how. When you’re investing to upgrade your physique during this journey, you’re transforming inside and out.

The only difference between embracing the fluff and focusing purely on a lifestyle solution is that the latter will focus on maintaining bodyweight year round, while the former will intentionally drive it up under control. Both constitute staying in shape for life, which isn’t about staying lean year round – it’s about knowing you’re in control of the outcome your body presents.

Progressive Overload – Finding the Edges 

A performance and strength focus should be present in each. Training is always a must in some form, but if you want to build serious muscle through embracing the fluff, progressive resistance training is a non-negotiable. You need to be focused on getting significantly stronger on a few core lifts over time.

Remember the saying: if after 12 month you’re lifting the same weights as now, it’s likely you’ll look exactly the same too.

What this does is instil a progressive mindset into your life. Training is one of life’s greatest metaphors. If you have specific performance targets to reach in your core lifts, you’ll need to have your lifestyle solution locked down. Healthy habits become a must, as you can’t stay out drinking till 3am and eating junk food if you want to progress on your squat the next week! This progressive mindset, and anchoring it into your training transcends – it keeps you focused in all areas of your life, leading to better productivity at work, a stronger presence with family, and a deeper why behind your why for this journey.

Knowing you have performance goals forces you to find the edges. No one wants to turn up to their training and simply maintain or find themselves in stagnation. By staying accountable to progressive overload, you’ll be forced to dial in your sleep, manage your stress, organise your time, eat quality food, and stay hydrated. All your rules can come together easily when training becomes a love and priority. You begin to crave the void – the moment everything goes black and you’re at one with yourself. It’s a form of meditation. Cultivating this and leaning into this void is something every investor should strive for.

What Exactly Does Embracing The Fluff Mean For Your Body?

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t a nice way of saying you plan to just get fatter. That’s always the immediate connotation. The reality is, there’s a range to approach it with, and it can be anywhere from 0.5 to 2% bodyweight increases per month. This will cover anyone who’s ‘in the middle’ of the continuum after a ‘slow lean gain’, all the way to those who are on the right with an aggressive approach.

Where you take your stance from middle to far right will depend on your background history, your struggles before the journey and how much muscle mass you want to build. If you’ve reached a physical checkpoint and not happy with the physique underneath, chances are you’ll need to be aggressive. Building muscle takes lots of time, calories and strength development. It’s why the focus for those who are going to aggressively build should be on PRs on the plate and PRs on the bar!

The reason why embracing the fluff is necessary to drastically change your physique is because for the most part, a ‘slow lean gain’ will warrant changes so minimal you won’t notice. It’s great for those who are happy with their physique for the most part, and want to focus on relative strength, skill and continue the love for training. But otherwise, you just need the extra bodyweight leverage in order to build the strength necessary to step into new territory. The strongest indicator of muscle mass is strength in the gym. If you’re getting stronger, chances are you’re building muscle, so long as you’ve got the calories to support. Weight moves weight, so to continue getting stronger, strategically adding bodyweight and embracing the fluff works to facilitate this. Of course, there’s always a law of diminishing returns, which is why the range is capped at 2%, as any higher and you’ll just get sloppy.

Everyone Should Do It Once 

Everyone should embrace the fluff in some form at least once. That means intentionally accepting even 0.5% bodyweight increase in the knowledge it will fuel your performance to be stronger, build more muscle and cultivate that progressive mindset.

This includes women too. If you want to be more toned, which is simply another word for having more muscle, this period can be tremendously productive for you. Let’s say you’re 50kg and you went for a 0.5% increase per month, in line with your performance goals. That’s 1.5kg in 6 months, or 3kg in 12 months gained in total control – of which a nice chunk will be muscle mass, especially if it’s your first time doing this. You’ll be tons stronger, and likely look so much healthier and toned for it too. If you were to add a 6-8 week ‘tidy up’ after this 12 month progression, you’ll see why too.

There’s very few scenarios as to why embracing the fluff in some form doesn’t work. Especially when you include the lower end ‘mid ground’ into the mix of 0.5% a mix. The strength and mindset benefit here go beyond anything on the scale, and you’ll find your focus on the scale drifts anyway.

After you’ve done it once for a good amount of time (18+ months for best gains before any ‘pulling back’), you can shift your stance more to the left and focus on developing the lifestyle solution to stay in shape year round. Chances are though, once you see how powerful the fluff is, you’ll find yourself repeating various cycles of it at different % points.

If you’re someone who’s spent two years on the far right aiming for 2% a month, your next cycle may be 0.5-1%. As you move up the levels in the journey, you’ll find yourself moving more to the middle as your body is where you want to be, and you’re happy to accept slower further development in exchange. To show this in a real life scenario, let’s discuss AV’s example.

AV’s Experience 

“I started this journey over ten years ago as a skinny fat kid with ‘moobs and a pot belly’. In the past decade, I’ve taken on every stance on the continuum, but I credit a lot of my success with spending lengthy periods embracing the fluff.

This success isn’t tied to physical success, though I wouldn’t have the muscle mass or physique I have now without it, but instead, I’m referring to the success of having a consistent set of 3Ss, rules and control over my body.

I always say, you have to take yourself to the extreme to take others to the extreme, and since I transformed out of the 58kg skinny fat kid, I’ve moved between a range of 70-72kg of being totally ‘shredded’ all the way up to 90kg, where I was embracing the fluff to the absolute max.

I remember in my few stints at 90kg, I’d often get asked if I even trained, or ‘what happened?’. I always found it strange as these were the periods I’d be most focused on my performance goals. I was intentionally pounding 4000+ calories daily in an effort to get as strong as I could, as I knew this would lead to more muscle, even if I couldn’t see it.

Lo and behold, each time I’d ‘tidy up’, I’d reveal a much improved physique. What each time taught me more though was the ability to feel comfortable across the entire continuum. The lifestyle solution was always locked in, my rules were the same, my mindset was growth oriented; the only difference was my bodyweight and the ‘physical’ aspect.

When you embrace the fluff intentionally, and with an introspective element, you don’t get the ‘haze’ people get when they lose their way with self-care and fall out of shape. You’re still firing on all cylinders because you’re in control with a growth mindset.

I’m now at a place where I’m happy with my physique. Having made drastic improvements over the past decade, physically I don’t have too much to gain, so I’m happy to stay leaner, accept slower growth and just pour my efforts in my training. I know I could gain faster, but I’m content with the sweet spot I’m in, as the trade off isn’t as high anymore (i.e. bodyweight gain for muscle gain) given my longevity.

Instead, I maintain a range of bodyweight around 81-83kg through my lifestyle rules, and use the physical foundation as a vehicle to drive my highest priority in life forward: RNT. Part of embracing the fluff is finding this sweet spot on the continuum – which is an integral part of finding your long term lifestyle solution. This is often overlooked. When you reach your checkpoint, you might be in the ‘shape of your life’, but it may not be what ‘being in shape for life’ looks like for you.”

AV’s Bodyweight Ranges 

(AV’s height 5’10”)

“We all have ranges of bodyweight that suits our strength and condition. For me, it’s always been the following:

71-73kg – Shredded
73-75kg – Very lean
75-78kg – Beach lean
78-82kg – Average lean
82-84kg – Little fluffy
84-87kg – Fluffy
87-91kg – Very fluffy

Along this continuum, I know my strength will vary, with specific points marking noticeable changes.

Between 71 and 75, it’s all about maintaining whatever I can. There’s no strength gain, and the sub 75kg mark always signifies a drop to a new strength level.

Between 75 and 82 is always very similar in strength, and is a place good strength gains can be made while still staying relatively lean.

Between 82 and 84 I notice a spike in strength from the previous band, and I start getting into bigger numbers.

My best strength gaining range is between 84 and 87, and it’s historically where my best all time absolute strength PRs have been hit. I credit a lot of my muscle mass to staying in this range for a long time chasing numbers.

I’ve also dipped into the 87 and 91 range for long periods, and upon reflection there was definitely a point of diminishing returns. I was certainly getting stronger in this range, but the gains were no different to being 84 to 87. It’s only when I dipped below 84kg did I notice a change.”

How Do You Know When You’re Too Fluffy? 

The most common question in this phase is: how fluffy is too fluffy? There will always be a tipping point where you’ve gone from ‘exploring the fluff continuum’ to just having gone too far. There are usually a few signs to indicate this:

  • No semblance of definition in the abdominals / mid-section
  • No pumps when training
  • Diminished return on strength gains, i.e. increases in bodyweight bringing no further strength gains
  • Poor digestion and constant bloating
  • Increased niggles / joint pain / injuries

If you’re feeling any of these symptoms for a few weeks, you will need to go through a period of tidying up your body composition to stimulate more gains again. This doesn’t need to be long – you can go aggressive for a period of 4 to 8 weeks (depending) to jolt your body into a period of productivity again.

The emphasis on ‘for a few weeks’ was deliberate here, because the tendency is to hit the panic button as soon one of these signs even slightly come in. The idea in this phase, especially for the aggressive builder, is to be in it for as long as you can. Your body likes consistency, and gathers momentum through consistency. So if you’re really going for it, be content with staying in an uncomfortable space for a while – and only pulling back if more than one of these symptoms show for at least a few weeks.

It’s also worth nothing that it takes time for your body to consolidate new muscle tissue, which means if you start pulling back at the first sign of ‘too much fluff’, you’ll run the risk of undoing all of your hard work immediately. Muscle is expensive, and your body will want to get rid of it with any opportunity – which is why a consolidation period is important during investing too!

Patience Is A Virtue 

The investment phase is all about patience. It’s a rewiring of viewing health and fitness as short, 12 to 16 week fixes, and shifting it to an annual cycles of investment. Each cycle is an opportunity to improve, develop and become a new person. It’s the crux of transformation. Embracing the fluff plays a part in this as it keeps you growth oriented on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It’s only worth it if you’re getting significantly stronger, and this requires a progressive mindset that cascades into all areas of life. That’s why the best investors are those that position themselves on their first investment phase at least in the middle, whereby they’ll go for that minimum of 0.5% gain a month. Developing your physique to be stronger and have more muscle (or tone) is a long game. What you learn in the process is ultimate control and being comfortable across different bodyweights – an attribute that plays a big part in our next instalment of this serious: rewiring your behaviour, mindset and identity.

Recommended Client Podcasts 

To hear how some of our long term RNTers have embraced this phase, click below to tune into their specific podcasts:

Episode 50 – How To Invest In Your Ultimate Physique

Episode 137 – Stephen Smyth: Leadership, Management & Productive Investment Phases

Episode 156 – Tom Hollis: Automating Behaviour, Education & Navigating The Investment Phase

Recommended Podcasts 

Episode 80 – Dr Scott Stevenson

Episode 102 – Paul Carter and Scott Stevenson: Maximising Your Muscle

Episode 111 – AV & Mulla: Maximising Your Investment Phase

For More In This Series 

Investment Phase, Part One

Investment Phase, Part Two

Related Articles 

Annual Investment Cycles

Myth of Lean Gains

Realistic Rates Of Muscle Gain

Investment Phase

Why Behind Your Why

Training: The Anchor In Your Day

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Akash Vaghela
akash@rntfitness.co.uk

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.