Andre Rush, also known as the Ripped Chef, doesn’t blend easily into a crowd. A military veteran who has worked as a White House chef though four presidential administrations, Rush first captured our attention in 2018, when a photo of him working at the White House went viral. Everyone wanted to know: Who was the chef with the huge biceps?
Rush, who tips the scales at 285 pounds, does in fact have huge biceps—24-inch ones—big enough that he has to slit the sleeves of his chef’s uniform to make it fit. It’s these biceps that have given him the reputation as the “strongest chef in the military” (and earned him the nickname “Tiny”).
Rush’s impressive guns were developed thanks to a lifelong fitness habit that includes regular weight training, not to mention stunts like doing 2,222 pushups a day to raise awareness about military service and suicide prevention.
All of this working out is in addition to a long, successful career spent in the military, where he’s had to juggle his fitness and nutrition with a busy schedule that has taken him around the world, and seen him cooking in just about every environment imaginable.
Since gaining notoriety, Rush has branched out into a number of new ventures, including signing a deal for a television show, Chef in the City, as well as speaking at a number of events. Here at Lifehacker, we wanted to know how he manages to juggle his intense fitness and nutrition goals with a busy work schedule. As it turns out, consistency (as well as a love of flavorful food) is key.
Juggling work and fitness is a lifelong venture
Rush’s credits his ability to balance work and fitness to his Mississippi upbringing, where his father put him to work as soon as he could walk. “That was the norm for the South back then,” Rush said.
As a high school student, Rush also played football and ran track, which is when his lifelong fitness habit was established and he first honed his ability to juggle workouts with a busy work schedule. However, he did have to be flexible in his training, as he didn’t always have access to the equipment he needed, and his schedule didn’t always leave him time to use the school gym. As for joining a gym? “The YMCA cost money,” Rush said.
Rush realizes that everyone is different, and that people will have a different range of goals. His advice is to think of fitness as a lifelong pursuit rather than a means to an end, one in which it’s important to focus on the fundamentals, to show up everyday, and to be ready to work hard at. “This is a journey,” Rush said.
Enjoy your food
Given that he’s a chef, it would be pretty suspicious if Rush was content to eat meal after meal of dry, unseasoned chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. Food is meant to taste good, even if it’s also serving another goal.
“I hate bland food,” Rush said. “I hate it when you can’t taste and enjoy and be satisfied by your food.” As a chef, Rush has developed a number of strategies to meet his nutritional needs without resorting to the boring food he often encounters at bodybuilding events.
For protein, Rush alternates between chicken, fish, and beef. Although beef has a bad reputation among the health conscious, he notes he goes for the lean cuts. “Eat in moderation,” he said. To mix things up and add flavor, he suggests getting creative in your use of herbs and spices.
One of Rush’s most recent projects a collaboration with Southern Comfort on Trail ReMix, a sweet and salty trail mix made with booze-infused jerky, in order to raise the bar for high-protein snacking. In addition to containing a high amount of protein, “it’s got the carbohydrates I need,” Rush said. “It tastes really good.”
Fitness requires listening to your body
Rush realizes that what works for him won’t always work for others. “You need to listen to your body,” Rush said. “Understanding the fundamentals and being knowledgeable is more important than anything.”
From an early age, Rush has always made it a point to listen to what his body is telling him, whether it’s that he needs to tweak his nutrition or change up his fitness routine. He credits this awareness as an essential part of attaining his fitness goals.
He always urges people starting up a new fitness program to first get checked out by their doctor, which includes getting bloodwork done. Then, once they’ve incorporated this information into their fitness plan, it’s important to focus on being consistent and working hard, while being mindful of what your body needs.