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Ask Billy Bean: Wanting a Perfect Body

Welcome to a new edition of's "Ask Billy" column with sports and life advice from Billy Bean, former professional athlete and author of "Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life in and Out of Major League Baseball." Do you have a question for Billy? Send him an email at

Dear Billy,

I have been working out at a gym five times a week with a trainer. Additionally, I run every morning three times a week for about an hour, [and] I play tennis half afternoons a week (usually for about five hours - eight sets of tennis).

I have always wanted arms like tree trunks, a chest that you could crack walnuts on, abs that well ... let's not go there!

I have been taking supplements (I avoid steroids), my diet is good, [and] I cut out the vino (don't drink beer). So my question is—why don't I have a great body?

My trainer says that I have come along way since we started—I have noticed that yes I have improved my fitness level and have some sort of a shape. But after doing this for almost a year—why don't I have the body of a Greek Adonis?

I need your help and advice. Greatly appreciate your assistance.

Cheers mate,

Dear Rob,

First of all, let me say that I think your workout regimen is incredible. If you are able to continue such a diverse, thorough routine, I am sure your body will respond tremendously.

I have met many people in the gym over the years, and your question is a common one. Impatience often creeps in after the first initially quick results, and we all want to be perfect and look like the images we see on TV, the movies, or in sporting events.

Retraining your body is not as easy as it sounds. Almost every athlete starts competing very young (I started at age seven), so by the time we are adults our bodies have become used to the extreme workouts while our metabolisms have learned how to function at a very high rate. You need to think long term. Long-term consistency is the key to doing anything well, and diet and exercise are no exception. For example, I always tell my friends that if you want to run 10 miles a week, it's much better to run two miles five times per week than 10 miles once a week.

It sounds to me like you have high goals, and are probably a perfectionist. You have to remember that you have no control over your genes, and that all people are not the same (thankfully!). So accepting both your strengths and limitations will help you stay strong mentally, and help you also keep a positive attitude.

You have started taking your exercise seriously. Remember that your age and what you eat will have a huge impact on the way your body looks as well. Most fitness experts will tell you that if you are exercising at least three days a week, then it becomes all about your diet. Note that doesn't mean "dieting"; it means what types of food you are eating, how much of those foods, and how often.

My first dietary advice is always the same (and easy to remember): Eat the same things you always do, but drink water instead of everything else. I guarantee you will lose significant weight or your body will become much leaner and your skin will look better than it ever has. The reason your body will respond to replacing other fluids with water is because so much of what people drink has tons of sugar in it. Sugar is the main reason so many people carry excess weight. I believe it is a drug, just like nicotine or alcohol. Keeping your sugar intake to a minimum will help you achieve gains much faster than killing yourself in the gym, on the tennis court, or jogging.

Set small goals in shorter periods of time, and feel really great about reaching them. Expecting to have six percent body fat and a six pack under your shirt immediately is not fair to you, and most likely impossible. It's all about being the best you can be. Your determination is inspiring, and I find myself attracted to people like that.

So share the wealth, stay motivated, and keep it up! We're all in this together.

Billy Bean
Miami Beach