Fitness Debugged: A Developer's Diet and Exercise Breakdown

May 23, 2023

I only know 2 things fairly well:

  1. Coding

  2. Getting in shape

I've only shared my advice on #1 thus far and I feel guilty because I know that my "secret" to success as a developer and in life has been my exercise routine and diet.

Shame on me.

Don't worry, this won't become a fitness influencer newsletter and next week we'll be back to hard-hitting topics like front end system design.

Like coding, there is no silver bullet to getting in shape. My goal is to show you a path that has worked for me and help you avoid all the mistakes I've made over the years.

Whether you want to lose weight for the Summer, show your ex what they're missing or just see a picture of me shirtless to laugh at... I got you.

Exercise makes you a better coder.

Since it's likely you're a nerd - you may want to know the scientific benefit of working out:

Regular physical activity improves blood flow to the brain and helps to stimulate chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking. These chemical changes involve the production of more brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is involved in brain cell growth and learning. The result is improved concentration, memory, and mental sharpness, which can all contribute to better coding skills

That's great. I mean who doesn't want more brain power?

I didn't need to know this to understand the benefit personally however. You see, 10 years ago I was about 50 pounds heavier and living a life that can only be described as... criminal 😅.

Think of a low budget music video from a local rapper. Yeah that's kinda what my life was like.

I got sober, learned to code and now I'm an engineering manager.

Easy right?

Not so much.

I had the discipline of a grown toddler. I hadn't held a job in years. I was a smoker during that time too. I ate Jack in the Box everyday. Every. Day. Embarrassing.

Once I quit my vices after an intervention I realized how much time I had on my hands.

What the hell was I going to do?

I started working out just to pass time. I got a small high from running. I like this, I thought. My fitness journey started as a replacement for the high I got from other sources. It was only after a few years of keeping this habit that I noticed just how deeply connected it was to my success as a software developer:

  • I would think of my best ideas while running

  • Coding is stressful - my workout routine always decreased the tension headaches I would get from staring intently at a screen

  • I understood delayed gratification - it takes consistency over months to see results in the gym just like it takes time to progress as a developer

I see working out as my super power and I've been reluctant to share it with you. I was worried you might not "get it" or not care.

If you've read this far I hope I've sold you on the benefits of working out. Now here's the no-fluff steps to tackle your diet and a workout routine to get you started.

Step 1: Get your diet in check

I paid thousands to a personal trainer and read 3 books on diet and exercise to gain this knowledge:

  • Measure what you eat

  • Get enough protein

  • Be in a caloric deficit

Ground breaking, I know.

Here's the issue though; if losing weight was this simple then everyone would have a glistening six pack.

Most people do NOT weight out their food or track calories. Instead they rely on stupid diets that force them not to eat things like carbs or eat during magic windows of time.

It's all about calories in and calories out. Don't over-complicate it.

Calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) using this free calculator.

This is the amount of calories you expend just doing you.

To lose weight you can multiply this amount by 0.8 or 0.85 to understand around how many calories you need to eat daily to lose weight.

Some quick weight math:

There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat.

Eat 3500 calories a week less than you currently do and you will lose about a pound of fat. That's 500 calories less per day. I would consider that an aggressive cut and I suggest working towards a 250 calorie deficit which is sustainable and will net results.

You probably don't even know how much you're eating though.

Don't guess.

I worked out for 5 years straight before I could see a six pack.

What changed?

2 things:

  1. I weighed out my food

  2. I tracked my calories with myFitnessPal

Yes, I still eat cake, bread and tacos. I just make sure I'm hitting my calorie budget and not simply guessing how much rice is in a cup. I weigh out my meat before cooking and eat basically the same stuff everyday.

Here's what my typical day looks like:

  • 2 cups of egg whites with low fat cheese

  • 2 oz of beef jerky

  • 4 chocolate rice cakes

  • 1/4 pound of Ground turkey

  • 2 cups of popcorn

  • 1 protein bar

  • [Whatever the hell else I want to eat]

The last meal of the day I like to have fun with. Depending on how much I have left in my calorie budget, I may eat some marshmallows, ice cream or go out. It's not an every day thing but it gives me flexibility. My staple meals (ground turkey and egg whites) make sure I'm not re-inventing the wheel each day.

Step 2: Steal my workout routine

Before I paid a trainer to help me with my exercise routine, I would hit the gym and head straight to the treadmill. I didn't really know what else to do.

Here's my workout plan that does not require a gym! If you want my gym routine, lemme know and I'll write it up and send it over to you.


  • 5 sets of incline pushups until failure (you can't do anymore)

  • 3 sets of dips until failure

  • 300 pushups (break them up however you want with 30 second rests between sets)

  • 5 sets of diamond pushups until failure

1 min rest period between each set


  • 25 squats for 4 sets

  • 7 sets of 7 jump squats (30 seconds between each set)

  • 4 rounds

    • 25 squats

    • 30 second wall hold

    • 10 lunges each leg

  • 25 squats for 4 sets

1 min rest period between each set


  • 5 sets of wide grip pull ups until failure (most will need to do assisted pull ups to start with or replace with pushups)

  • 5 sets of close grip pull ups until failure

  • 4 sets of lateral raises until failure

  • 3 sets of front raises until failure

  • 5 sets of alternating curls until failure

  • 3 sets of hammer curls until failure

If you're looking at this and thinking 😬 - don't worry. The goal is to get started and do what you can. I couldn't do a single pull up years ago. I couldn't a run a mile without stopping.

The trick is to get started, make it doable and keep it going. I guarantee you will see results.

If you want more help - check out this new program I'm starting here.

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