If you’re reading this I assume you have seen the image above already. This is how to transform your body like I did.
Pictured on the left is me in 2015 weighing 106kg/234lbs. On the right is me in 2017 weighing 93kg/205lbs. Do you want to know how I accomplished this transformation? Stay tuned.
Firstly I want to preface this post by stating this is how I got fit. What works for me may not work exactly for you and vice versa.
The methods laid out here are tailored to myself. They may not suit your lifestyle and physiology exactly. And that’s OK. The principles are universal.
They can be adapted and altered to suit your needs. This post is to show you how I did it. The goal is for you to take this and do it for yourself. Goodluck!
Back in 2015 I ballooned to my heaviest weight ever. This was as a result of eating excess junk food and doing minimal exercise. I was spending an increased amount of time in my room studying for important exams.
Back then I believed this to be a valid excuse to become a slob. Of course now I know this to be false. Eating tons of calories with little expenditure is a recipe for disaster. Being in a large calorie surplus will lead to rapid weight gain as a consequence.
“Stress eating” or constantly gorging as a “treat” are unhealthy habits. Sure, if you have an important event approaching -relax the diet and exercise for a brief time. It shouldn’t be a licence to go completely off the dietary rails though.
Nothing dramatic occurred between these two photos. It’s a two year transformation not a two month one after all. This is nothing special. It’s achievable and within the reach of everyone reading this.
These photos were midway through the transformation. It doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is required for long-term body changes.
There was no “secret” workout or diet discovered. What did occur was a commitment to reach a better state of health. This required me to build muscle and (more importantly in my case) lose fat.
Chasing these two goals can dramatically improve your well-being. In the duration between these two photos I went through periods of “cutting” and “bulking”. However the general trend has been downward in terms of body fat.
Another point that needs stated. I had already been weight training for at least two years prior to the photo on the left. As a result I had already gained a respectable amount of muscle mass (under all that fat). Because of this, fat loss proved to produce more dramatic results in my case.
Muscle will enhance a transformation as opposed to someone who has never workout out before. When you have muscle you look better. End of story.
Over this span of time I have practiced different dietary habits. Nothing was followed in a puritan-like manner. There were plenty of missed workouts and junk food laden days. However the good days vastly outnumbered the bad ones.
First and foremost – the single most important factor in weight loss needs stated. To lose fat you must be in a consistent calorie deficit.
There are numerous factors that go into making this possible. But at the end of the day it comes down to :
calories out > calories in = weight loss
To lose fat I was in a calorie deficit. Make sense?
This means you must consume less calories through your food and drink than you burn. It can also be viewed as you must burn more calories than you consume through food and drink.
However way you want to view it – you must be in a calorie deficit. There is no way around this. I don’t care how “healthy” you eat. You can become grossly overweight eating chicken, rice and broccoli. Granted it would be difficult but it can be done. Being in an excessive calorie surplus is how I reached the 2015 state.
Now some will take this and bend it to do their bidding. They will assume they can eat whatever they want providing calories are controlled for. While this may be true it doesn’t mean you should.
You can get “shredded” eating McDonald’s but there is a reason rarely anyone does it.
- It’s not healthy. Eating ultra-processed foods every meal will leave you feeling terrible. It’s bad for digestion, mood and energy levels.
- It increases likelihood of overindulgence. There’s nothing wrong with overindulgence occasionally. But if you aren’t achieving your bodily goals, maybe you need to reevaluate. Like the example I used previously – it’s very hard to overindulge on chicken, rice and broccoli. My third point relates to the first two:
- You will be hungry all the time. If you’re like me and always hungry – a diet like this is risky. When you’re hungry transient motivation will drop and discipline may falter. Sure if you have discipline of steel – all good. But why put yourself under that pressure? The sky isn’t going to fall if you slip-up of course. However if you have a goal – logic would say to progress towards it.
All Good but What is a Calorie?
No, they are not small trolls in your food trying to fatten you. A Calorie is a unit of measurement. More precisely it is the energy required to raised one gram of water by one degree.
(Note: when we refer to “Calories” we are actually talking about kilocalories. 1000 calories/cal = 1 kilocalorie/kcal. Don’t let this confuse you though. “Calories” is used for the sake of simplicity.)
If the science doesn’t interest you – no big deal. It is helpful to know the “why” behind the “how” though.
Every single food and drink is given a value in terms of Calories. This is proportional to the energy it contains. For example, a portion of large fries at McDonald’s contains 510 Calories (why do I always talk about McDonald’s?). An apple on the other hand, may contain 100 Calories.
So now we understand the energy entering our body. What about the energy leaving it?
The calories we burn each day can be divided into a few different sections.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogeneis (NEAT)
This is the energy you burn through, you guessed it – non exercise related activities. Things like fidgeting and walking up stairs fall into this category. These may not seem that significant – granted. But small habits can build up to make a big difference.
When trying to lose fat I walk when possible. If I have time and it suits – I’ll walk to class or the gym. The best method is to fit it into your schedule. What sounds better? Walking at the end of the day with no destination in mind or walking to and from work? I know which I would choose. Either is preferable to no walking of course.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
BMR is the energy burned via basic bodily functions required for life. We carry these out every single day unconsciously. They also make up the foundation of our calorie expenditure.
BMR is an estimation of the number of Calories you would burn if at rest all day. Functions such as breathing, sleeping and keeping your heart beating (nice rhyme bro) fall under this category. Energy is used no matter what you do. Weight lifting requires more energy than maintaining body temperature but energy is used regardless.
BMR will vary between individuals. Factors which affect this include gender, bodyweight, age, height, muscle mass and temperature of surrounding environment.
Let me start off by saying exercise is fantastic. It is one of the best activities you can perform for overall well-being. It lowers stress, improves mood and increases your metabolism.
It is a constant in my life in various forms. From walking to weight lifting – it is ever-present. Exercise wasn’t my main source of achieving fat loss however. It had it’s part but it wasn’t the main player. Diet was.
Ever heard of the term “Abs were made in the kitchen”? Well it’s true. Your goal in fat loss should be to make it as effortless as possible. Why create unnecessary hard work for yourself?
Put it this way. Would you rather not eat a muffin (350 calories) or go for a brisk jog for 30 minutes ?(350 calories burned for 70kg/155 lb male). Abstaining from the muffin takes a split second of discipline. The jog on the other hand – thirty minutes of sweat plus warmup/cooldown.
There are people out there who perform both activities. They will eat a muffin followed by a jog to counteract the decision. This is both unhealthy and unproductive.
By doing this you are building a bad relationship with food. You will begin to view exercise as “punishment”. This inevitably creates resentment.
Exercise is a luxury in our modern world. Think about it. People spend their free time exerting themselves for their own personal gain. This was unheard of for most of history. For that we should be grateful.
We shouldn’t hate exercise, but instead appreciate it. Obviously you don’t love exercise when lactic acid kicks in. But you get the point.
Studies have shown individuals will consume more calories post-exercise. This is an instinctive compensatory mechanism. The body wants to maintain homeostasis so long as it can.
The more exercise performed the greater your appetite generally. Also, the more exercise performed the less NEAT you will generate. If you know you are going for a run later you may become more sluggish in response. Individuals who exercise more but struggle to lose weight can become frustrated. These are generally the mechanisms at play.
Perform no exercise and take up the sloth life won’t help either though. Your metabolism will slow and weight loss may come to a halt. It’s about balance. Avoid both of the extremes.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
BMR + NEAT + Exercise makes up the vast majority of your TDEE. This is the total number of Calories required to maintain your current weight.
Your TDEE is an important figure when it comes to pursuing fat loss.It can be utilized as a set point which can be diverged from.
Diet is the Main Player
If you want to know how to transform your body – Diet is the answer. Reel in your eating habits and fat can be lost effortlessly.
There is a tremendous amount of variety in terms of food now. We are no longer limited to a location on the globe when it comes to choices.
With the help of science we have created zero calorie sweeteners and drinks. We also have ultra-dense calorific foods to thank science for as well. I guess it’s a two way street after all.
I have been questioned as to what I ate to get lean. Suggestions such as “Did you just eat tuna all day?” were brought up.
The truth is I didn’t limit myself that much. However creating a low-variety diet can help. It reduces cravings and prevents eating “for the sake of it”.
Put it this way. Choosing between oatmeal and eggs is a whole lot easier than between 20 different cereals at the store. The latter vastly increases the chances of overeating. The former may be boring but it works.
It’s generally recommended to obtain 90% of your diet from “whole foods”. These are essentially single ingredient foods. For example, here are some solid dietary choices:
- Protein – Lean meats (beef, turkey, chicken, fish etc), eggs, whey protein, Yogurt
- Fats – eggs, nuts, fish, Yogurt
- Carbohydrates – lentils, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, fruit, vegetables
Eating mainly whole foods will leave you feeling full. Both in terms of satiation and energy.
Food for Exercise
I will generally try and load my carbohydrates around my workout. This means the bulk of my carbs will be consumed preworkout (on average 2 hours before) and post workout (the first meal after working out).
“Nutrient timing” is more of a minute detail. You want to focus on the 20% of habits that will get you 80% of the results. For body recomposition these are:
- Achieving a Calorie deficit
- Consuming a high protein diet
If you were underweight it would be “Achieving a Calorie surplus“. Protein would still be high regardless. Although it will need to be even higher in a deficit to retain muscle.
This needs to be repeated many times. Without a calorie deficit none of the methods laid out here will work. They may make you healthier but fat loss will not be achieved. This does not mean you can go into a large Calorie deficit without suffering consequences.
Many have tried and failed to do exactly this. There will be negative health consequences to an aggressive deficit. Not to mention you will lose more muscle. That is a tissue hard won. It would be a shame to lose it so needlessly.
An aggressive deficit is only necessary when you need to get extremely lean. For 99% of you that is not an issue.
Let’s discuss number two on our list:
Eating a High Protein Diet
Some things have changed along the way. However eating a high protein diet was not one of them.
This is essential if you want to achieve a lean physique while retaining muscle. Most people are surprised when they hear how much protein one should consume.
However the results speak for themselves. Brad Schoenfeld, PHD otherwise known as “The Hypertrophy Specialist” shared the image below along with the quote:
“If your goal is maximal muscle development, my general recommendation is to stay at the upper threshold of suggested intake (~2.0 g/kg). There is no real downside to doing so for healthy individuals, and the range of responses indicates a potential benefit. This becomes even more important when you’re in a cut phase with calories reduced below maintenance. Therefore it can’t hurt to eat a bit extra to ensure you are obtaining enough.”
This means a 100kg/225lb individual should be consuming at least 160g of protein if they’re serious about making gainz (which I assume you all are). Are you struggling to get enough protein in your diet? Get a quality whey protein powder. This will make hitting your daily goal a lot easier.
If you are just starting out and aren’t up for the task of tracking your protein – no big deal. A good rule of thumb is to try and get a serving of protein at every meal. This should be around a fist/palm size in estimation.
Protein powder is neither a “miracle” or a “curse”. It simply provides a convenient way to get enough protein in your diet. Regardless, you should aim for variety in your diet. Mix it up with some lean meats and don’t forget about fish.
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Don’t know what IF is? It is essentially the practice of decreasing your daily eating window. For example – let’s say you normally eat four small meals a day at 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 10pm. With IF you could instead eat two large meals at 2pm and 8pm. This is just one example. IF can be customized in any way to suit your needs.
This is not something I practice year round. However some do and see great results. I implement IF when I am seeking to lose fat. This was a tactic I used in the run up to the image on the right.
I am currently practicing IF as the time to cut has raised it’s head once again. Like I said in the beginning, IF is not something that works for everybody. However I recommend trying it and observing the results.
IF helps me reach a calorie deficit more easily. This is done via aiding appetite control, not magic. That is all. Read more about IF here.
When I practice IF I usually delay my first meal until 12pm – 1pm. This allows me to enjoy larger meals when I do choose to eat. I will consume a ton of water and one or two cups of coffee before eating my first meal.
This helps with subduing any feelings of hunger in the morning. If you are new to IF the initial first week can be difficult. Ride the storm however and your appetite will come under control.
Do You Need to Count Calories?
I recently read a great analogy while surfing the Instagram seas:
Do I always count Calories? Not every day. But I have in the past before. Days can pass without tracking Calories but I still have a rough idea of how many I’m consuming. This isn’t a superpower. You simply become good at estimating through practice.
You will also begin to memorize the Calorie contents of foods. This is how I could recall the contents of McDonald’s fries so easily…
That’s why for beginners you should probably track your Calories if you aren’t having success. The most popular app used for this is MyFitnessPal. It’s free to download on both apple and android stores. After a while it will become second nature. Like most things, you need to put in the work upfront to reap the rewards later on.
Often times weight can be lost by simply cleaning up your diet. This is especially the case if you have a lot of room for improvement. Swapping water for soda or fruit for chocolate are all simple changes that can help.
A drastic overhaul doesn’t have to be done in one week. You can slowly phase junk food out bit by bit. This makes it less of a “shock” and can aid adherence.
Do You Need to Track Bodyweight?
Measuring your bodyweight is probably the easiest method for tracking fat loss. When we refer to weight loss what we really mean is fat loss. No one wants to lose muscle (at least I think).
You can be assured most of your weight lost is in the form of fat by adhering to these factors:
- Consuming a high protein diet
- Weight training
- Not in too aggressive a deficit
- Getting sufficient sleep.
Sleep is something a lot of people forget. One study showed over a 14 day period of calorie restriction, the proportion of weight lost as fat was reduced by 55% (1.4kg vs 0.6 kg with 8.5 hrs vs 5.5 hrs). It also increased the loss of FFM (Fat-Free body Mass) by 60%. If that’s not an advertisement for making sleep gains, I don’t know what is.
Some muscle loss on a cut is inevitable. It’s expected to lose 25% of muscle gained from the previous bulk on a cut. This is OK. The reason we bulk up is so we can cut down. Minimize muscle loss by adhering to the four points above.
How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
I’m glad you asked that (even if you didn’t I’m still glad). There are a lot of different Calorie calculators out there and some will be more accurate than others. The easiest way imaginable to calculate this figure is as follows:
Multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 13 (to convert from kg multiply by 2.25). For example for a 225lb individual this would equate to (225 x 13 =) 2925 Calories. Now, this isn’t the most accurate figure in the world. But it’s a start.
As mentioned with BMR, there are numerous factors which affect this figure. If you are a young, muscle bound male your figure is likely to be higher than this. If you an older female your figure could be lower.
How do you know if this figure is accurate? Eat at this Calorie Figure for a week. If you don’t lose any weight it is likely too high. Reduce the number by roughly 200 Calories and repeat the procedure for next week.
Losing 0.5-1% of bodyweight a week is a solid guideline to follow. This can be slightly higher if you have a lot of fat to lose. For our 100kg/225lb friend, losing 0.5-1kg/2-4.5lbs a week would follow this rule.
With that said – losing weight too rapidly isn’t good either (for example 2% of your bodyweight a week). If this is the case – increase Calories by roughly 200 and reassess for next week.
Weight loss rarely goes in a straight line. Some weeks may produce drops and other – nothing. As long as the general trend is downwards – all is good.
It usually takes much longer than you think to achieve your goal weight/physique. This is because as we diet in a consistent calorie deficit – weight loss tends to slow.
Implementing “diet breaks” can be helpful to break through plateaus. This is when you take 1-2 weeks and eat at maintenance Calories. Doing so can be helpful for preventing metabolic adaptions and aiding us psychologically.
Dieting for extended periods of time can be challenging mentally. It’s important to look at things on a macro scale. Revert back to why you started in the first place. Remind yourself of what you wanted to achieve embarking on this journey.
What to Do If You “Cheat”?
First off you should remove the word “cheat” from your vocabulary. At least in this instance anyway. This is food we are talking about not the SATs afterall.
If you made an incorrect eating decision and went over your daily limit – relax. Simply go on your day as usual. Tomorrow? Continue right back where you left off.
These rare “bumps in the road” are entirely normal. In the grand scheme of things they are barely noticeable.
You should still be able to go out with friends and family for a meal. Fat loss isn’t an excuse to become a hermit. Unless you are dieting for a show or photo shoot you can afford the occasional restaurant outing. If you have poor self-discipline – recognize this and put precautions in place.
It’s time to talk some resistance training. Everyone has their preferred exercises for muscle growth and strength. We can argue all day about the superiority of exercises over one another or we can actually take action. I prefer the latter.
The “Big 6” movements are generally regarded as the most effective for producing results. These are the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chinup and row.
All of the “Big 6” are compound movements. This means they stimulate a large amount of muscle groups. Prioritizing compound movements will give you “the most bang for your buck”. It will thus be the most time-efficient method of training.
Your training program should be built around these movements. This list is not completely unalterable or definitive. Yes, dips can be swapped out for bench press or pullups for chinups.
It’s not set in stone, simply a general guide to follow. Two of these movements could be performed per workout. You then have yourself a nice 3 day a week split in the making already.
Add in some accessory movements to finish and you are good to go. After years of training I would recommend prioritzing deltoid (shoulder) work for most people. This is generally an underdeveloped muscle group in most individuals. That or the standards in the fitness industry would have you believe average delts are tiny.
Progressive overload is the key to gaining muscle. This is the gradual increase in tension applied to a muscle over time. Every time you step foot in the gym, you should be seeking to apply this principle. It can be applied mainly by either:
- Increasing the number of reps performed with a given weight or
- Increasing the weight for a given number of reps
- Increasing the number of sets with a given weight at a given number of reps
The first two are the most commonly used. As a beginner you can usually increase the weight lifted continuously week on week. As this becomes more difficult you can then start to increase the reps at a given weight. A simple protocol to follow is to firstly increase the reps, then increase the weight.
All this should be done with keeping in mind the importance of form (technique). If you are increasing the weigh lifted but using sloppy form – it’s no good. You are not working the correct muscles and also increasing your chances of injury.
Either way, having delts that pop is signature of a great physique. Something I am still chasing seemingly. Include side lateral raises and rear delt flys at the end of most workouts when you can.
I know some people will include bicep curls in this regardless of what is said. Knock yourself out.
If you are a beginner who is brand new to weightlifting, check out this program.
A simple program for an experienced lifter could end up looking something like this:
Mon -Bent over row 5×5/3×10
Overhead Press 5×5/3×10
Wed – Chin ups 5×5/3×10
Bench Press 5×5/3×10
Fri – Squats 5×5/3×10
Training is still important even on a cut. It sends signals to help retain muscle. Without it, you risk losing a lot in a deficit. You may feel lower on energy as well. This is normal. Strength loss doesn’t have to occur. Losing fat slowly and training intensely will help prevent this.
Now You Know How to Transform Your Body
So there it is. To truly change your physique two pillars must be addressed:
- Reducing body fat through a calorie deficit
- Building muscle through progressive overload and a calorie surplus
In my case I built muscle first then reduced my bodyfat. Both of these require patience. This is especially true for building muscle. As a natural, it is a long and slow process. Week by week it will be unnoticeable. However look back in yearly blocks and you can see true change.
This is all you need to get started in getting into the best shape of your life. Goodluck and if you have any questions message me. I would love to help and hear how you’re doing.
Thanks for reading,