Before and afters are eye-catching, aren’t they.
I’ve always found seeing a body change to be fascinating. When I was younger, say 14-15, it was because I figured it would just lead to more attention from the opposite sex. It does. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized that there’s more.
To the opposite sex. And to the transformation.
Now when I see a pair of nice before and after shots, I wonder if the person changed. Or how much. I wonder if they go through the world with more energy, happiness, and if they feel younger. The health of their mind plays into my thoughts as well.
Most of all, I wonder what’s next. Making serious changes to one’s body takes a certain amount of work ethic, diligence, and consistency. It’s not easy. But the confidence gained will undoubtedly have spillover effects on the rest of that person’s life.
So, I wonder about all those things.
It really isn’t about the abs – even if they do look really good – it’s more about the process and what came from it. There’s something about the self-control and consistency it takes that leads to confidence in general. Fitting into clothes better, feeling tight, and loving what you’re seeing in the mirror doesn’t hurt either, but I think the other changes are bigger.
The fitness industry as a whole knows pictures like these are captivating as well. I don’t even know how the supplement companies would survive selling $50-100 products that do nothing (or next to nothing) without them. Maybe more false claims, cherry-picked data and flashy labels. But I digress. Either way, they will continue to use them and they’ll even doctor them up to look extra special.
These pictures are real. Nothing special done, just a change in pose…nothing wrong with having a little fun. These pictures demonstrate sticking to a plan until the job was done. On their own, they’re a lot of fun to look at, but I want to get into more depth about what it took to make these.
Knowing Felix was comfortable with calorie counting, which is ideal, I gave him calorie and protein numbers to hit on top of his workout plan. In the early going, calories were set around 2000-2200 calories on workout days and 1600-1800 on non-workout days. Protein was set at 200 grams a day or above.
How did I come to those numbers? I multiplied his weight by numbers 8-9 and 10-11. Nothing fancy needed, especially at the starting point. Most people can see weight loss below 13x their bodyweight. We pushed the pace a bit.
I only suggest “pushing the pace” if you’re being managed by a coach. At some point, the process must change and trust me, it’s much better having someone looking over you making that call.
The rate at which Felix lost weight in the early going was very rapid. It was actually upward of 3-3.5 pounds a week in the first month or so. This wasn’t really planned and not necessarily a goal to shoot for – I didn’t have a problem with it because at this stage of the process you aren’t nearly as at much risk of losing muscle.
Although Felix was dieting fairly strictly in the first 9 weeks, he was also doing a lot of moderate intensity cardio (130-150 beats per minute) which added to the weight loss. I mention it downward, but this is something we had to adjust later on.
Please note, cardio was something Felix chose to do on top. It’s not necessary but it did play significantly into his rate of weight loss – probably an extra pound or so a week.
As you can notice here the rate at which weight loss was slowing down. This is completely normal. We also took a 2 week break around this time – dieting is a grind and breaks are beneficial from both a psychological and a physiological standpoint. Patience is a theme across the process, but especially here. Breaks also tend to renew a more rapid rate of progress.
Around the 16 week mark Felix noted he was starting to feel weaker for the first time during the diet. Many would say this is necessary during a diet, but it is not. It`s actually a red flag as it implies muscle is being lost.
Months prior to the pictures taken at 25 weeks we made a mutual decision to make a modification to his cardio. Cardio isn’t necessary at all but Felix preferred it, and as mentioned before, it did have a lot to do with the rapid pace of his weight loss in the opening 4 months. There’s nothing special about cardio, it doesn’t create some sort of special fat loss magic, but it does burn additional calories.
This rate, however, became an issue down the road. You can`t lose 2.5-3.5 pounds a week once you start to get leaner — not naturally anyway. You’ll be losing muscle and you won’t really be getting leaner, just smaller. Felix wanted to keep the cardio in but I gave him a guideline: he would keep it light – his heart rate would stay below 120-125 beats per minute.
Stressful cardio to non-stressful and restorative cardio. Once you start to get lean any intense exercise must also be helping you keep muscle. That is, if the intension is to get leaner. If you want cardio as you get lean, go hard and short, or slow and long. Avoid the in-between stuff.
After we implemented this, Felix started getting stronger again. And leaner.
This is where we cut the weight loss – it was roughly 7.5 months. I`m not crazy about using timelines because, the truth is, your progress or someone else`s, could take less time — or it could take longer.
Could we have gone leaner? Sure. But after about 8 months of a dieting we were more than due to cut it. The plan going forward is slowly normalize eating habits and get off the diet.
And build some muscle. The fun is just beginning.
So how`d he do it
Felix was accountable.
I make absolutely no reservations on this one. I very often make mention to any client I take on that the more communication the better. Literally, I tell them to blow up my inbox with questions, updates and videos — if it`s urgent or in the moment, blow it up by text message too.
The clients who consistently take the ball and run with it as far as the check-ins I ask for do amazingly well. They stay accountable.
People constantly ask me about special programs and even special food plans. I also hear from people that tell me they know what to do. I just want to talk about special levels of accountability. That’s the game.
Felix checked in weekly with workout numbers, measurements, weigh-ins and regularly sent pictures that validated the rest of the data. We also talked frequently throughout the week as far as exercise preferences and how he was feeling in general. When changes were needed, I bounced the ideas off of him first.
The idea isn’t that progress tracking must display a perfect result every week or month. It’s the info we get from it that is most important.
Felix counted calories (and protein)
He didn`t count carbs and fats though. Waste of time. Not necessary.
Sometimes people squirm at the thought of calorie counting. It brings up memories of past rigid dieting failures or the idea of bringing food in Tupperware everywhere they go. Rigid dieting is for the last phase of getting into magazine cover model shape or stepping on stage.
Carrying Tupperware around is for nobody.
Let`s get one thing straight: results like these require none of that. And believe it or not, developing calorie counting as a skill is actually what makes flexibility possible. And skill is a key word in this case – it gets easier as you go along. Second nature, even. You also don’t want to be calorie counting forever – but it will teach you a lot.
It`s what makes drinks, social hours, birthday parties and all the other stuff possible without getting in the way of consistent progress.
Felix pursued strength
Everyone’s always looking for the special program but I’ll always say there is none. The guy in the before picture at 205 and the guy in the after at 155 could have been training the exact same way. There is a significant difference between strength training and no strength training, but the difference between the way Felix trained before and the way he was training during this process made no real significant difference to how these pictures turned out.
I’m sure he felt different. And felt better. But that didn’t contribute to the look as much as you may think.
(The food did)
The key is that he pursued strength. For Felix, we focused on the back squat, the conventional deadlift and the bench press as strength markers. He also performed lots of chin ups, rows, a variety of other leg work and assortments of isolation exercises (like bicep curls).
Again, nothing overly special about these specific exercises. He liked them, I liked them, and they worked for his body. There are plenty of other strength lifts and variations of them you can use.
His numbers on the deadlift and squat improved markedly while he held on to strength in the bench press – a lift he was already strong in. To say it more clearly, his bench press strength remained stable despite dropping 50 pounds. That’s pretty awesome.
It is, without question, one of the absolute key principles to getting lean – you must prioritize the maintenance of strength. The only way to do this is to pursue it as it won’t come easy while dieting.
So find some big lifts and work in rep ranges in the 4-8 rep ranges per set and always look to add weight to the bar. You have to signal to the muscle that it must stick around while the body uses fat for fuel. If you’re in a caloric deficit (burning more than you consume in food), your body must find fuel off itself…and you must force it to use fat.
Strength training (and protein) are your best tools.
Felix was consistent. Very consistent.
I said earlier I’m not big on talking about timelines. I think they do more harm than good — they lead to comparison. And fuck that.
There’s a few reasons for this, but one reason is you can’t plan for all the ways your life will get in the way. Especially passed the age of 25, you don’t necessarily just get to waltz to the gym as priority #1 anytime you aren’t in school or working. You have a life…and sometimes it kicks you in the ass.
Doesn’t mean you can’t do anything like this, it means you may need more patience.
That being said, aside from a diet break which we mutually agreed upon there weren’t many hang-ups. Felix got lucky, I’d say — 8 months is plenty of time for sickness, work stress, travel, etc to kick you in the ass and slow the process. But he went pretty free and clear.
This allowed for consistent 3+ lifts a week and consistent adherence to a nutrition plan. I’m also thankful that every Saturday I had his progress report in my inbox to look over. If it didn’t move forward as quickly as normal, we knew why. Most of the time it did.
Felix stayed accountable. This is, to me, the x-factor when it comes processes like this. It’s so important, I’ve now highlighted it twice.
Felix got to work.
My plan in these processes is to take as much of the thinking away for the client so they can just do the work. This involves the training plan, nutrition guidelines, but more importantly, you take away the psychological piece that is more responsible for people quitting, getting impatient, second guessing themselves and altogether quitting.
The client does the work. And Felix sure as hell got to work.
Were there days he didn’t want to train? Most likely. Were there days he didn’t follow the plan as intended? There were and that’s totally expected. Preferred, even.
This guy got to work though, like anyone can, and pushed the process forward consistently until it was done. I just guided the process and made it as easy as I possibly could so he could just go work.
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Thanks for reading. If this article brought up any questions at all, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll always answer.