I worked my ass off to lose 10% body fat. My weight dropped to 175 lbs but at 6’4” tall, that was too thin. So my next challenge was to gain lean mass and get that weight up to 185 lbs (and ideally closer to 195 lbs).
I was working out hard, eating right and staying active, but just could not put on lean mass and break that 175 lb barrier. I had been sticking to a Paleo-like diet for over 1.5 years (which my wife kindly supported me through) when I came across a post by Tim Ferriss called The Diet of UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre: How He Transformed Himself. It documents how St-Pierre gained 12 lbs of lean mass in eight weeks.
I had never heard of the three body types:
- Ectomorph – Thin build, challenging to put on weight (muscle or fat); Example: long-distance runner.
- Mesomorph – Muscular build, can lose or gain muscle easily (fat gain minimal); Example: sprinter or gymnast.
- Endomorph – Large build, easy to put on weight (both good and bad); Example: shotputter or football lineman.
I didn’t realize I was an Ectomorph and I needed to be eating healthy carbs. No wonder I wasn’t gaining any mass!
Bam. I’ve gone from 175.9 lbs to 184.6 lbs in just 28 days, while simultaneously decreasing my body fat % from 13.7 to 13.6%. That’s a gain of 8.7 lbs of lean mass.
Why didn’t I do this sooner?
I’m kicking myself for not taking control of this earlier in my life. I had this capability my whole life and I didn’t understand how my body worked and how to affect it. I lived a lot of years not feeling happy with my body which seems stupid now.
Regardless, now that I’m in control of my body I’m gaining a huge amount of confidence and enjoyment out of the process. It’s actually fun, which is still shocking to me.
The tool I use to measure my body fat percentage is a BodyMetrix Personal.
Here is where I’ve started with StrongLifts and where I’m currently at:
- Squat: Started at 75 lbs, now at 160 lbs
- Overhead Press: Started at 45 lbs, now at 85 lbs
- Deadlift: Started at 95 lbs, now at 175 lbs
- Bench Press: Started at 65 lbs, now at 105 lbs
- Barbell Row: Started at 65 lbs, now at 105 lbs
I spent my entire high school, college and post-college years being slightly ashamed of my body. I finally decided enough was enough and I was going to do something about it.
In this post I’ll walk you through how I lost 10% body fat and gained lean mass. All while raising kids (1 year and 3 year old), raising a Seed Round of funding and launching Treehouse. I hope to demonstrate that it’s possible to get healthy, even if you’re super busy.
Just a bit of legal-crap-talk: I’m not a doctor or a licensed fitness professional. Don’t take what I say here and blindly do it. Talk to your doctor and fitness professional first. OK. Proceed!
A brief history …
In high school, I was too skinny (6’4” and 145 lbs). No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain weight.
In college, I finally put on a bit of weight, but in all the wrong places. There was no way I was taking off my shirt in front of the ladies. I just didn’t feel confident.
Post-college got worse. I spent all my working hours sat in front of a computer and then when I got home I had crap food and worked late on my laptop.
Once I got married, I continued to gain fat in the wrong places as I let the stress of parenthood and running a company get to me.
Time to Change …
I finally decided that it was ridiculous that I couldn’t stick with a fitness regime. I had joined a gym a couple times only to get discouraged and quit. The primary problem was that I never saw results.
The timing was terrible as we were right in the middle of raising our Seed Round of investment for Treehouse and in the hectic almost-ready-to-launch phase of development. On top of that, I had two small (but wonderful) kids to help raise. It was hectic.
Then one day I saw an ad for a gym called Team Breakthrough (I don’t have any financial involvement with them). They had photos of guys who had transformed their bodies and I decided if it worked for them, it might work for me. They advertised a 12-week transformation program - guaranteed results.
I set up my first training session and got ready for the pain.
The major draw back of this gym is that it was expensive. Each session was between £40 - £50 and I agreed to do three a week. This cost a total of £540 per month, but it was a three month program, so I believed that I could push hard, invest the money in myself and cut my losses if I didn’t see any results.
I sold a couple things put together the £1,620 and I kept the cash in an envelope. After each session at the gym, I paid my trainer in cash from the envelope. It made it very concrete: I was paying a lot of my hard-earned cash for each session. I better make it worth it.
Within two weeks I saw a loss of 2% body fat - it was insane. Now I know that this is the key to sticking with a fitness program: seeing results quickly.
Total Dietary Change
The first thing my trainer told me to change was my diet. Before I started, my typical daily meals looked like this:
- Breakfast: Branflakes with milk and small glass of orange juice
- Lunch: Chicken sandwich and a fruit juice
- Dinner: Pasta-type dish with cheese, bottle of beer or glass of wine, yogurt for dessert
- All day: 2-3 coffees
Not that bad right? I didn’t eat a lot of junk food and I didn’t over eat. How could it be that bad?
Turns out it was all the wrong stuff. My trainer advised me to remove the following things from my diet:
- Dairy (Milk, Cheese, etc)
- Fruit juice
- Desserts after dinner
It was similar to a Paleo diet but probably not quite as strict. My new daily diet looked something like this:
- Breakfast: Eggs, smoked salmon and baby spinach
- Snack: Nuts and cold meat cuts
- Lunch: Chicken salad (with a lot of chicken)
- Snack: Celery with Almond butter, cold cut meats, nuts
- Dinner: Chicken, fish or beef, salad and vegetables
- All day: Three litres of water, two coffees (with soy milk)
- Twice a week: Glass of whisky
The hardest thing for me was cutting out desserts and candy. I’m a huge candy fiend. What I did to satiate this was have really nice dark chocolate. When I just felt like I couldn’t resist sugar, I had a couple squares of that.
The 1st key to successfully changing your diet: Total support from your partner. My wife graciously decided to change her entire diet along with me. It was a huge decision for her and I’m so grateful to her. If she wasn’t willing to change, there’s no way this would’ve worked as we would have to cook separate meals, which just wouldn’t happen.
The 2nd key to successfully changing your diet: Use a site like Paleo Plan to give you ideas for food. Going from feel-good foods to Paleo is just too brutal. You’ll hate it. It’s got to taste good or you’ll quit.
The 3rd key to successfully changing your diet: Cheat every week. Every Friday night we’d pig out on pizza, beer, wine and desserts. No holds barred. It was heaven.
The brutal truth is that changing your diet is really hard. It’s hard to buy healthy meals when you’re out and at first, they’re just not going to be as appetizing as your old diet. You just have to keep going and look forward to your cheat meal.
The Work Out
I worked out three times a week for 60 minutes. The gym is a 7 minute drive from my house (I work at home) so it was very easy. A typical week looked like this:
- Monday - Legs: Hack squats, reverse curls, calf raises, dead lifts. This was the worst day. I threw up twice over the 12 week program - both on Mondays.
- Tuesday - Shoulders: Military press, side-arm raises
- Thursday - Chest and Back: Bench press, pull ups, flys, bent-over rows
The key thing is I had a good trainer who knew what he was doing. I didn’t know anything about anything when I started. Now I can walk around a gym and know what I’m doing. It’s great.
Then every three weeks or so, they’d completely change the workout. We did three weeks of brutal ‘strong man’ stuff like pushing sleds, carrying heavy weights around, throwing heavy ropes, etc. I hated it but it was fun to have something new to do.
The key to sticking with your program: Have the same trainer measure you every 2-4 weeks. They have to use the same method to measure the same areas on your body every time. Seeing progress here on each measurement is the absolute key to putting up with the hellish workout program.
As I progressed through the 12 week program the transformation was astonishing. I lost a lot of weight quickly and then slowly built up the muscle. Losing weight happend quickly but building mass was a much slower process.
I got several comments asking me if I was losing too much weight. I probably was at first, but it’s because I wasn’t eating enough. I went back to my trainer and said I really needed to start adding mass now that I’ve leaned up.
From that point forward, he encouraged me to double my portions and add several supplements (all from Phil Richards). These weren’t required but he said they’d speed up the mass gain. Here’s what I used:
- Blood Builder: Eviscerated beef liver. Straight up protein and testosterone
- Anabolic Drive: Post-workout protein drink
- Amino Work Capacity: During-workout amino drink to increase performance during the session
- Goodness Greens: Broccoli, Spinach and Grass to increase your vegetable intake and balance acids
Again, none of these were necessary to see the results I achieved. They just sped things up a bit.
I find that I’ve completely changed my attitude. I now love working out (after it’s over) and I enjoy eating right. There have been huge benefits to feeling confident and happy with my body. It’s amazing. It’s had a concrete positive effect on my mood and outlook.
So, I hope that was helpful. I’d love to hear your comments, stories and thoughts!
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