Busy with work and kids? The ultimate guide to lifting and eating healthily when life is hectic
As a busy dad, you don’t have a lot of time for working out and eating right.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in shape!
In fact, you can still get in incredible shape, even if you have “no time”.
Trust me, I know.
Here are some of my top tips on how to keep up a strength training routine and healthy diet when life is insanely busy.
Incorporate strength training into your daily routine by doing compound exercises during “break times”
You don’t have to go to the gym to do a workout.
You don’t even have to do your workout all in one go at home.
This is a life saver:
I know you’re busy.
But the reality is you are not at busy 100% of the time.
You have short breaks throughout your day:
- You go to get a glass of water.
- You sit and watch TV in the evening.
- You go to the toilet.
- You spend 5 minutes scrolling your phone.
What you need to do is DO SOMETHING in those little pockets of time.
You can just do ONE hard set of a compound exercise.
- A vertical push (e.g. a standing dumbbell press)
- A vertical pull (pullups, assisted with a band if needed )
- A horizontal push (pushups or a dumbbell bench press)
- A horizontal pull (dumbbell rows, or bodyweight rows)
- A squat (dumbbell goblet squats)
- A hip hinge (dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, or some hip thrusts (on one leg if you need to increase difficulty)
ONE hard set (that goes very close to failure, with good form) will get you a hell of a lot more results than doing nothing.
There is actually evidence showing that the first set is responsible for about 70% of the overall stimulus from multiple set workouts.
Each additional set adds less, with the first set giving you a massively disproportionate amount of the overall results.
If you have time for more, you can do more. But even if you just do one set, it will be worthwhile.
Just make sure that set comes close to failure (you leave fewer than 3 reps in reserve).
You can do bodyweight exercises like pushups, dips, squats, skater squats and lunges.
These exercises have to come close to failure to provide a stimulus.
Once you’re past a certain strength level, having some minimal equipment will really help you to progressively overload and take your results to the next level. This home workout guide will help you too.
Crossgrips (or a pull-up bar), some adjustable dumbbells and some resistance bands would be my top recommendations. A bench too if you have space.
A lot of people say to me that they can’t do pullups at home because they don’t want to damage their doorframe, or they don’t want to fix a pullup bar to their wall or ceiling.
I have the PERFECT solution to that.
I agree that most doorway pullup bars are not good quality, not safe and WILL damage your door frame.
I use these at home.
- The build quality is exceptional.
- They’re small, they fold down flat and are portable (fit EASILY in a carry on or a rucksack with a ton of room to spare).
- They don’t damage door frames and they’ll stand up to years of good use.
- They also double up as pushup handles.
If you want to get some you can get 15% off if you use my affiliate link.
Build a home gym
Yes, I know this isn’t for everyone.
- You need space. A garage, basement or spare room is perfect
- It’s kind of expensive (although not as bad as you might think).
But if you CAN do it, I can’t recommend it enough. You save SO MUCH TIME on commuting, it’s open to you all the time, it’s fully customisable, it’s private and you can use it for snatching 10-20 minute workouts easily.
See this guide to see how you can put together a home gym on a budget and how it’s better value than a commercial gym over the long run (as well as a ton of other benefits).
Find a strength training routine that you can do in 30 minutes or less
Finding a strength training routine that only takes 30 minutes or less? Sounds easy, but hold your horses.
We all want to make the most of our workout time and get the gains we need, but squeezing a strength training program into a short session is no small feat.
You want a training program that makes maximum use if your time and is useful for building or retaining muscle – NOT a routine that just focuses on exhausting you, burning calories or doesn’t challenge you.
With just a bit of planning and prep work it’s completely doable.
You need to select the right exercises that will work as many muscles as possible so you can have the most efficient workouts (hint, these are compound exercises).
Weights must be light enough that you don’t need lots of warmup sets, but heavy enough that pushing yourself close to failure is possible.
There’s no myth here—it is entirely possible to get an effective full-body workout into such a short window (in fact, I have often run programs with workouts of 10-20 minutes – frequency and intensity are key!
You don’t stop brushing your teeth because you’re busy, you shouldn’t stop working out either!
I’ve had periods of life before where fitness had to take a backseat…
When each of my kids were born, for example.
When my son was born, I still worked in an office job with 2 hours of commuting a day and lots of sleepless nights.
I didn’t want to completely stop working out and lose all of my progress, so I had to get creative and fit 20 minute workouts into my lunch breaks.
My results didn’t get any worse.
I managed to hang onto all of my muscle while losing fat to get into the best shape I’ve ever been in, for my first fitness photoshoot.
The program I used is here if you’re interested (60% off with this link)
Make healthy eating easier by meal prepping on the weekends or cooking bigger batches during the week
Eating healthy is often touted as the key to living a healthier lifestyle, but let’s face it – planning healthful meals can be an absolute chore.
Whether you have a full-time job or are trying to juggle family duties with keeping up with your own responsibilities, it’s no surprise that grocery shopping, meal prepping and cooking don’t always make the list of top priorities.
But luckily for us, times have changed and there are now countless solutions to make eating better easier.
Investing a few hours each weekend into meal prepping can save you time and stress in the future – plus who doesn’t love having meals ready for a few days each week?
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be an arduous process either. You don’t have to get out 21 separate tupperware containers and fill them all with carefully weighed out chicken, broccoli and rice.
If you’re making something that is “batchable” like a chilli, a curry, chicken pasta, a salad, etc. then you should make double, triple or quadruple the amount and set some aside for future meals! Your future self will thank you.
It doesn’t take 4x the effort to make 4x the meals. This blog post will help you.
And definitely use this strategy from my client Chris (which he shared in my Shred in 60 program):
When cooking a chili, a curry or other “batchable” meal, track the calories and macros of the entire batch by using an app like Macro Factor, then weigh the total batch at the end by putting it into a big container on a digital scale.
From this, you can work out the calories and macros per gram or per 100g of the batch.
E.g. if the batch weighs 2400 grams and the entire thing has 160g protein, 60g fat and 80g carbs…
Then one serving of 600g contains 40g protein, 15g fat and 20g carbs.
Macrofactor has a “recipe” feature which will help you to do this easily and allow you to easily calculate the macros for any size serving from the batch, not just “easy numbers” like 25%, 50% etc.
For example, you can serve yourself a few big ladles that happen to weigh 756g. Instead of whipping your calculator out, you just tell Macro Factor the weight of your serving and it figures it out for you.
The answer is 50g protein, 19g fat and 25g carbs, by the way.
Side note: Macro Factor is my preferred app for tracking calories and macros. It is WAY better than My Fitness Pal, not only for the reason that it will adjust your calories and macros as you go based on the speed of your progress to keep you on track (not too fast and not too slow).
If you want to try it for 14 days free, use the code ROBNBF when signing up in the app.
Looking for meal ideas that are healthy, high in protein and fit a calorie budget?
I’ve got over 120 high protein recipes available in this bundle. Use this link for 50% off.
Take advantage of meal delivery services
If tackling meal prep sounds like too much of a hassle after a long day, then why not take advantage of one of the many home delivery services aimed at providing delicious yet nutritious meals right to your door?
No, I’m not talking about Deliveroo or Uber Eats..
I’m talking about meal prep services where you can order high protein, low calorie, nutritious meals and get a load of them delivered at once ready to go in your fridge or freezer!
Many of these will allow you to customise the macronutrient and calorie count of the meal, but even if they don’t, they’re all aimed at those who are looking to keep protein high whilst managing overall calorie count. This can be a great option and it’s something I recommend to some of my online coaching clients.
Ultimately avoiding fast food is essential these days (although if you can make it fit your macros, have at it) – so whichever route you choose, it’s worth exploring ways to put healthy meals on the table quicker and simpler.
Avoid temptation by keeping unhealthy snacks out of the house
If you want to stay on track with your health and fitness goals, you need to manage your home environment.
Unhealthy snacks will definitely put a huge dent in your ambitions to maintain or achieve a lean physique.
To ward off temptation, make sure these foods are not available in your home – stop buying them!
Keep healthy snacks on hand instead! If they’re high protein, even better.
I like to keep boiled eggs in the fridge for this very reason, as well as 0% fat Greek yoghurt or Skyr (chocolate protein powder mixed with this is insanely good!).
In addition, I like to make sure I always have some carrots, peppers and cucumber that can be quickly chopped up to chomp on. These will fill you nicely without costing much from your calorie budget.
Of course, you can still make progress if you eat unhealthy snacks or meals. I even recommend it from time to time to give you a psychological boost.
Cheat meals are ok. They just need to not erase your calorie deficit from the previous week. Make sure it fits into your macros if you’re doing it regularly. If not, make sure it’s very infrequent. Here’s how to minimise the effect of cheat days.
And remember, even if your snacks are healthy, you can still sabotage your goals if you eat too much.
Smoked salmon, avocado, boiled eggs and EVERYTHING else has a caloric value. make sure you track it if you’re eating it, so you can be sure it will fit your macros.
Get the family involved by making healthy eating and exercise a family activity
Making healthy eating and exercise a family activity can really bring the family together—and don’t worry, you won’t have to convince your kids to eat lettuce or make your wife give up her favourite meals!
Cooking meals together is a great way to bond with your kids. I find they’re more likely to eat meals they might normally refuse if they’ve had a hand in the creation!
Working out is something that kids will take an intense interest in too! Don’t make your kids lift weights or let them do anything they’re not ready for, but make an active lifestyle something you do in front of them and I guarantee they’ll want to join in.
If you’re looking to get in better shape and improve your health but you lack time, give these tips a try.
Just remember that any journey begins with a single step… or in this case, maybe just a few small changes to your daily routine.