Talented stars, killer physiques.Read article
When you hear Kyle Brandt describe his recent muscle metamorphosis, you get the sense he’s eager to break down his journey with the same adrenaline-rush intensity he puts into every “Angry Runs” segment he hosts on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
For Brandt, it’s been easier to remain fluent in football cliché than to maintain the endless and sweaty effort and rededication required to go from dreary, 40-something dad bod to regaining the ripped running back frame he sported when he starred in the Princeton backfield more than two decades ago.
But in 2020 he pulled it off: Through a combination of ditching his sugar-infused diet and adding a top-level trainer to his routine, Brandt both burned calories and stayed true to his fitness goals. As the intensity starting increasing, the abs began popping, and the weight started dropping — he lost nearly 20 pounds over the course of 2020.
If reconnecting with his football physique wasn’t motivation enough, seeing his weight dip to under 200 pounds for the first time in years felt like being on the receiving end of a Tom Brady touchdown toss. In his case, it was showing off his physique at the end of the year on social media.
“When people don’t weigh themselves, I’m like, ‘What do you mean!?!’ Brandt says. “It’s like playing a game without keeping score. It’s like watching Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James — they play for the scoreboard. When my scoreboard goes down, it’s like a drug to me.”
Though following a strict weekday routine set the tone for his successful weight-loss efforts, Brandt, who also hosts the new “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt” podcast on Spotify, was able to balance the workout workload with a 48-hour reprieve for both family time — and to let loose a bit.
You can call the weekend Brandt’s version of Victory Formation.
“Friday is my touchdown,” Brandt says. “I drove downfield all week, and finally broke the plane of the end zone. Then I’m drinking two bucket-size martinis and eating whatever I want. That’s heaven to me. Then Sunday morning comes, and I’m right back to the protein bar and start the whole thing over.”
Brandt already had a mini gym in his basement — a Peloton bike, a set of dumbbells, and a collection of classic P90X DVDs. The space now doubles as his podcast studio, where on any episode he quizzes top athletes and celebrities on any number of topics (you can hear Matthew McConaughey recite lines from Dazed and Confused). It also triples as his kids’ toy warehouse. “My basement is like a three-ring circus,” he says.
While the fitness tools were there, time constraints — starting with his pre-sunrise arrival at CBS studios in Manhattan to prepare for GMFB — made motivation nearly extinct. More often than not, his bike would be utilized as an office chair. “If you do it right, it works,” Brandt says. “But I was doing the absolute minimum — I was pedaling for 20 minutes and playing around on my phone. I was mailing it in.”
His “bachelor-style” diet — cereal for dinner and any other sugary concoction — also contributed to the packing on the pounds. And for a while, Brandt wasn’t eager to change. “If someone came to me and asked if I wanted to try an app that could count my calories, I’d be like, HELL NO!” Brandt admits. “I’m not going to be a prisoner to that thing. I work too hard. I’m going to live my life.”
Finally, prior to the start of the 2019 NFL season, Brandt’s weight balloon to 218 pounds, fatigue made any semblance of family social life not so family friendly. He knew it was time to make changes.
“I felt doughy and lethargic,” Brandt admits. “I’d be falling asleep at 8:15 on a Friday night. My wife and I would be watching a movie and I’d be passing out during the opening credits, so she’d be elbowing me.
“I hated how I felt.”
If you’ve watched Brandt’s “Angry Runs” segment on GMFB, Brandt presents an award (called the Angry Scepter) to the most unlikely of runners — from tight ends to quarterbacks — who demonstrated the hardest and “angriest” run of the week.
At the time he was hovering around 220 pounds, Brandt was in desperate need of someone handing him an angry dumbbell — or kettlebell in this case — to get back into game shape. He found his man, New York City-based trainer Jacob Zemer, a no-nonsense strength and conditioning coach who immediately captured Brandt’s attention after he spent years avoiding having to reach out for a trainer.
“Jake had immediate credibility,” Brandt says. “First off, he’s a monster, he looks like Zangief from Street Fighter. Second, I didn’t want a trainer screaming, ‘One more rep!’ to me. Just tell me what I need. That was Jake from Day 1, and the weight started falling off. I got so strong, so fast. It was like being back in college.”
After his first session, a high-intensity mix of moves including farmer’s walks and sled pushes proved just how far Brandt regressed since his running back days. “I couldn’t get through 10 minutes of it,” he says. “I was like, I think this is a huge mistake. I’d rather be back on my Peloton, looking at my phone.”
While Brandt now cycles at home at least four times a week and occasionally breaks out the P90X, it’s the twice-a-week sessions with Zemer that have provided the most benefits. The workouts aren’t getting easier, he admits, but Brandt’s traditional weight room workouts (think squats and Olympic lifts) he performed at age 20, were now replaced with sleds, kettlebells, and Bulgarian split squats. And the results speak for themselves.
“My workouts sound like a Benetton ad,” Brandt says. “Everything comes from a different country. And it’s the moves that I hate doing. But working out like this has been the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Brandt’s TV days date back to the ‘90s, when he was cast as one of America’s first reality TV stars on MTV’s Real World Chicago. He went on to soap opera stardom, playing Peter Kiriakis for three years on the iconic Days of Our Lives.
But when it came to presenting his newly transformed body, Brandt admits to coming down with a case of social media stage fright. He admits posting that shirtless selfie on Instagram was more uncomfortable than an extra set of Bulgarian split squats. But with all the positive feedback generated from his post, he’s accepted the title of fit-after-40 role model. He encourages others who are in the same position he was in more than a year ago to get up and move.
“Is [social media] my style? No,” Brandt says. “I’m not 23 looking for women — I’m usually home watching Peppa Pig with my 4-year-old daughter. But I worked my ass off getting here. It’s not vanity: There are other people out there my age who too want to get their acts together. Maybe they see the post, read this, and start believing that they can do it. You’re not too old.”
Like any Super Bowl champion, the next challenge is maintaining the competitive edge to continue moving forward. Brandt now knows what it’s like to score, in his case, on the scale. Like a classic celebration-less Barry Sanders touchdown, he’s hoping to act as if he’s crossed the goal line many times.
“I got to the end zone, but now do I want to dance and then go to get to the sideline?” Brandt says. “No, I have to stay on the field. So that’s the next stage I have to grapple with — staying there.”