Body Transformation: Christian Leva Drops 78 Pounds

Once the fitness role model in his family, Christian let things slip. Confronted by his father over the state of his health, he adopted a new lifestyle!
Editor's Note: Everyone is different and these results may not be typical for the average person. To achieve these results you need to be willing to put in the work both in the gym and in the kitchen. Use this transformation for motivation for you to make the changes you want!

Before Stats

  • March 2009
  • 35%
  • 250 lbs
  • 5'11"
  • 185 lbs

After Stats

  • June 2011
  • 5%
  • 172 lbs
  • 5'11"
  • 375 lbs

Lifestyle Prior To Change

What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?

In high school and college, I was a star athlete. I played football in college and was a national champion powerlifter. Years after college ended however, so did my athletic build and my dietary discipline. My lifestyle prior to my change was very sedentary. I work in front of a computer all day and at night I would go home and play video games on the sofa or in front of the computer.

Cardio (outside of walking to the fridge and to my car) was nonexistent. To further exasperate the problem, my diet was horrendous. I would eat 2-3 burgers, chickens, burritos, etc. from various fast food restaurants at almost every meal. Breakfast (when I would even eat breakfast) would be fast food tacos or donuts. I would also have 2 or 3 beers a week.

Christian LevaWhat was your low point or turning point?

My low point was when my ex wife and I decided to get a divorce. I was divorced, alone, and in the worst physical and emotional shape of my life. The turning point came when I would visit home and my father who has always been my biggest fan and supporter and someone I admire greatly, sat me down and told me that my health is in jeopardy and he had never seen me so out of shape. He explained how I used to be the “fitness model” of the family. I knew I had to make a change.

Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?

Biggest challenges were the mental challenges. I had been in shape before, I had lifted heavy before, so I knew what my body could do and I knew I had it in me, but still to overcome what had become years of bad habits was tough. I was alone (outside my family) and so I had no other motivators except my own internal motivation. At times it was very difficult to keep the routine and to keep my goals alive.

What was your transformation timeline?

Transformation Start: March 2009. The worst shape I have ever been in. Over 250 pounds, size 38 waist, and well over 30% body fat. My daily meals would include 3-4 McDonald’s chicken sandwiches, soda, and fries. After life changing events in my personal life, I decided it was time to make a change. I started by doing light cardio and my first goal was to improve my eating habits and diet. Weight training was not the focus in the beginning.

Milestone:  June 2010. By June 2010 I had dropped to 215 pounds, size 34 waist, and around 20-25% body fat. I was eating “healthier” with less process foods and no caffeinated drinks. I still had weekly meals were I would eat whatever I wanted including drinking beer. Yet more life changing events happened in my life and I realized that while I had lost weight, I was starting down the same path to being overweight again. I realized that a diet plan was NOT what I needed. I needed a LIFE PLAN. I decided at this point I wasn’t just going to change my eating habits and start working out. I was going to change my entire lifestyle. I set a goal of August 2011 to have a “six pack abs” and a healthy lifestyle.

Milestone: March 2011. By March 2011, I was 205 pounds, size 32 waist, 12-15% body fat, and stronger than I had been in years. My “six pack abs” were starting to show and I was feeling great. My diet and eating habits had vastly improved and I was now eating purely home cooked meals of chicken and salads, steaks, sweet potatoes, and fish. If I did enjoy a meal out, it was always healthy choices. I found myself in a steady routine and my lifestyle had changed. But my personal goal was still not achieved. I knew I could be in even better shape. It was at this point I started researching natural bodybuilding shows and fitness models.

Milestone:  April 2011. In April 2011, I came across a local NGA Mr. California contest. I contact the promoter and after meeting with him, he concluded that I had a shot at the title if I worked hard enough. He even offered to train me for the event. This training included a new set of workouts, new diet, and contest prep routines.

Transformation End: June 2011. I am in the best shape of my life. I am 172 pounds, 5% body fat, and have overcome all my personal bests in my lifting. I recently competed in the NGA Natural Mr. California bodybuilding show and took home 3rd place!

Christian Leva

Christian's Training And Cardio Approach

What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?

My focus in the beginning was purely cardio related to lose the weight. I was not interested in heavy weight training as I was naturally stronger than most. I just wanted to lose the body fat. My training was 2-3 cardio sessions a week doing light walking and progressing to jogging and running.

Once some of the weight had been lost, I noticed that my motivation levels were dropping as I started to see more and more results. This may seem odd, but in my mind at the time I convinced myself that I had “reached my goal” and so I stopped. I knew that I had to add what I loved to do in my youth and that was lifting heavy weights. So in June 2011, that’s what I did. I began working out every other day, with a different body part each day. This made my motivation levels spike and working out became fun.

In March 2011, my training splits changed yet again when I started prepping for my bodybuilding contest. I now workout 4 days a week, with 2 cardio sessions a day on the days I do not lift, and 1 cardio session on days that I do. Sunday is an off day with no weights or cardio.

  • Monday - Chest, Abs and Cardio.
  • Tuesday - Cardio only.
  • Wednesday - Legs, Cardio and Abs.
  • Thursday - Cardio only.
  • Friday - Back, Shoulders, Cardio and Abs.
  • Saturday - Ams and Cardio.
  • Sunday - Rest.

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Monday - Chest and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4
Decline Bench Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4
Cable Crossover * 4 15
Pec Dec * 4 15
Chest Dip or Barbell Bench Press * 4 15
Incline Leg Raise ** 4 25
Decline Crunch ** 4 25

Notes: 

* & ** Performed as a circuit.

Wednesday - Legs and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Smith Machine Squat Progressive 15
Single Leg Extension 4 10
Leg Curl or Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 15
Machine Calf Raise 4 25
Ab Workout - Same as Monday    
Friday - back, Shoulders and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down 4 10
Hammer Strength Shoulder Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4
Seated Cable Row * 4 15
Dumbbell Lateral Raise * 4 15
Close Grip Pull Down ** 4 15
Bent Over Reverse Flye ** 4 15
Hyperextension ** 4 25
Ab Workout - Same as Monday    

Notes: 

* & ** Performed as a circuit.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises - Perform 15 reps using 25 pounds and 15 more using 15 pounds. This constitutes "one set".

Saturday - Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Barbell Curl 4 10
Close Grip Barbell Curl * 4 15
EZ Bar Skullcrusher * 4 15
Cable Tricep Extension * 4 15
Reverse Grip Barbell Curl * 4 15

Notes: 

* Performed as a circuit.

Christian LevaMonday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: Elliptical machine 30 minutes - medium to high intensity in the morning.
  • Incline Bench Press: The first set is a warm-up set with no more than half of what my max will be. Currently I warm up with 135 pounds. The next sets are working sets and are done to heavy weight. Each movement is slow and controlled. Bring the bar to your chest slowly and explode upwards. Hold the upward position for a second and then slowly bring the bar down. My weights on this exercise are 185, 225, 275, 315.
  • Decline Bench Press: Done the same way as the incline bench press. My weights on this exercise are 185, 225, 275, 295.
  • Chest Circuit: This is a great circuit that really gives you a good pump. The decline and incline presses above are what build size. This circuit gives definition. Each rep is down slow and controlled and perfect form is a must. Don’t worry about going heavy weight; just get a weight that you can complete the full 15 reps with form.
  • Ab Circuit: I do the same ab workout 3 times a week. Lay on a bench slightly inclined and do leg raises first for 25 reps, hold the legs in the top position with your abs flexed for 2 seconds before lowering them and quickly raising them again. Once done, go directly to inclined crunches. Same procedure, hold the crunch at the top for 2 second before lowering slightly and exploding back up and holding. This workout never gets easier and I always feel the burn every time.

Tuesday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: 2 sessions, morning and evening elliptical machine - 30 Minutes.

Wednesday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: Elliptical machine 30 minutes - medium to high intensity in the morning.
  • Smith Machine Squats: This is an exercise my trainer came up with and it is the best mass builder there is for legs. You start with a light weight for 15 reps. This is a warm-up. Rest 60-90 seconds, and then go into the next set which should be 2-3 “pins” heavier (this is why it is done on a machine). Pins could be 10-20 pounds difference. Do another set of 15 reps. You keep going down the rack adding heavier and heavier weight until you get to a set where you burn out and cannot complete a full 15 reps. When I train this, I end up doing around 6-7 sets and my final set is with all the weight on the rack there is for about 10-12 reps. Warning… This is really an advanced routine and would not suggest it for those just starting out.
  • Single Leg Extensions: This is another superset. Pick a weight you can complete 10 reps with relative ease, and do 1 leg at a time for 10 reps. At 10, switch to the other leg without stopping, after that leg is done, switch back to the original leg and do another set. You keep switching between legs without rest until you have complete 4 sets. This is where you build definition in your legs.
  • Machine Calf Raises: This exercise is all about range of motion and slow controlled movement. Go all the way down and stand up all the way and hold at the top for a second. Way too often you see people doing this movement as fast as they can do. If you want size and definition in your calves, go slow.
  • Christian Leva

Thursday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: 2 sessions, morning and evening elliptical machine - 30 Minutes.

Friday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: Elliptical machine 30 minutes - medium to high intensity in the morning.
  • Lat Pull Down: This is your mass builder, heavy weight, slow controlled movement.
  • Hammer Strength Shoulder Press: Mass builder for shoulders. First set is a warm-up. My weights currently are 185, 225, 275, 315.
  • Back/Shoulder Circuit: Another great superset. Cable rows to start, again form is crucial on this. Keep the back straight and chest up. Dumbbell shoulder raises/fly are done with a heavy weight first and then immediately followed by a lighter weight. My weights for the shoulder raises are 25 pound dumbbell and 15 pound dumbbell.
  • Back/Shoulder Circuit #2: Superset for the back. Close grip pulldowns are done with a cable row bar so you can have a really close grip. Form is key again, keep the back straight, chest up, and avoid using your shoulders. Reverse fly’s are done on the machine chest fly, except sitting reversed and moving your hands behind you. Hyperextensions are done with no weight for 25 reps, holding at the top for each rep.

Christian LevaSaturday Workout Notes

  • Cardio: Elliptical machine 30 minutes - medium to high intensity in the morning.
  • Wide Grip Curls: Wide grip, focus on curling the wrist to really hit the peak of the bicep.
  • Arm Superset: Amazing superset that will leave you with a great pump. Works every part of the bicep and triceps. Form is yet again crucial and pick a weight you can do all 15 reps on.

Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?

Cardio was outlined above. This is the cardio routine I currently do. During the majority of the transformation, my cardio routine included only 20 minutes in the morning and again in the evening on the treadmill at an incline and a “brisk walk” pace (usually 3-3.5 speed on the machine). This was done 6-7 days a week and was more than enough for heavy weight loss.

Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Form is everything. Don’t be prideful and pick up heavy weight only to have horrible form. If you have horrible form, you are risking injury at worst and at best you’re working muscles you are not intending to work. This is scene the most in arm, back, and shoulder routines.
  2. Cardio is a must. At first I thought I could get away with just doing intense workouts, supersets, and little to no rest and that would be fine for cardio. I found out that cardio not only is a must for weight loss, but it is overall a necessity for a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are already at low body fat % and you’re looking to gain weight or “bulk up”, a simple 20 minute cardio session 3-4 days a week is key to overall cardiovascular health and will actually improve muscle development by increasing oxygen flow throughout the body.
  3. Hidden trick for great forearm definition. You may have notice I do not work my forearms, and my arm routine is relatively light. This is because I discovered a great trick that will help work your arms with every pushing and pulling exercise you do. It’s all about grip strength. Having a death grip or super tight grip on the bar or dumbbell with every exercises helps to engage every muscle fiber in your forearm, bicep and triceps. To prove this, do this little trick right now. Ball up your hand in a fist and squeeze. You can feel every muscle tightening up. Now do this, only squeeze with your pointer finger. You should feel your bicep contracting more than anything else. Now squeeze with your pinky and ring finger, you should feel your triceps contracting. Keep this in mind when you are doing arm routines. If you are working your biceps, focus on tightening your grip with your pointer finger to really isolate the peak of the bicep. Same thing with the pinky and triceps.

Christian's Diet And Nutrition Approach

Can you provide us with a sample eating plan (please be specific):

My current diet is:

  • Breakfast: 8 egg whites, ½ cup of oatmeal.
  • 3 Hours later Meal #2: 8 oz of tilapia or 6 oz of tuna, 1 medium sweet potato.
  • 3 Hours later Meal #3: Same as meal #2.
  • 3 Hours later Meal #4: 8 oz tilapia or 6 oz of tuna and a large salad with 2 tablespoons of olive oil dressing.
  • 3 hours later Meal #5: Repeat meal #4.

This is what I would call a contest prep diet. The carb source (sweet potato) changes depending on which week I’m on. For a normal diet you can sub in chicken breast, lean steak, or salmon for the tilapia/tuna.

Christian Leva

Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?

Learning out to eat healthy is definitely a learning experience. The biggest mistake I made was cutting out all fat from my diet. It’s easy when you are vastly overweight as I was to think you should cut out all fat from your diet. This is not the case and will actually slow your fat loss. Healthy fats are essential. Currently I am in contest prep and trying to get to 5% body fat, and I still consume on average 50 grams a day of healthy fats. Healthy fats include unsalted almonds, flax seed oil, olive oil, MCT oil, and even peanut butter.

Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Learn what the function of everything you put in your body is. Learn what protein does. Learn what carbs are and the different kinds. Learn the differences between the many fat sources.
  2. Don’t starve yourself! This is crucial. If you goal is fat loss, then simply not eating is NOT going to make you thin. Eating more and more often, is going to ramp up your metabolism and accelerate fat loss (assuming you are eating healthy).
  3. Fiber and simple sugars are your friends. Eating lean and reduced calories can leave you hungry and with cravings. Taking in a lot of fiber and simple sugars (simple sugars come from fruits) will reduce those cravings. Craving chocolate? Try eating a green apple, the sugar content is healthier and might very well satisfy that craving.

Did you allow yourself cheat meals?

For me no. I knew that if I had a cheat meal, it would turn into a cheat day, which would turn into a cheat week. But that’s just myself. I do not see anything wrong with cheat meals and I would encourage everyone to include one a week, just don’t go nuts. Eat a cheat meal, not have a cheat day.

What supplements did you use during your transformation?

Protein powder, glutamine, BCAAs, fish oil, yohimbe, green tea, and a multivitamin.

Advice For Others

What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?

  1. Set an actual date along with an “appointment” to ensure you stay motivated. My date was August 23, 2011. I contacted a local photographer who specialized in fitness model photography and booked a photo shoot with him on August 23, 2011. He thought I was crazy at first booking almost a year in advance, but he gladly accepted when I prepaid him the full amount (non refundable). Now you don’t have to go this extreme, but again I knew myself. My constant motivator is money and I knew a non-refundable appointment would be amble motivation lol.
  2. Keep it Simple. Don’t get bogged down with all the fancy diet, exercise routines, and supplements you find everywhere. Read honest, factual articles (like those found on Muscle and Strength) and know that people have been fit and in shape for generations. Eat healthy, avoid processed food, do some exercise, and you WILL see results.
  3. This is not a body or diet transformation, this is a life transformation. Keep the mindset that you’re not doing a “90 day challenge”; you’re doing a life change.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?

When I started my transformation, I made a voice and video recording of myself talking about my current lifestyle and how unhappy I was with what I had become. If I ever feel not motivated to go to the gym, or I start slipping on my diet, I load up that video or listen to the voice recording. I then go to the mirror and look at myself and ask myself, am I done yet? Is this my peak? Is this the best I can do or is there more? Can I do one more rep? Can I be that much more defined? There answer is always yes.

More From Christian Leva

What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?

They say money can buy happiness. While I certainly wouldn’t question that, I’d say being healthy and fit can be even more satisfying! The biggest change I have seen is the increase in energy and my activity level. While I still enjoy video games on the sofa, I also find myself enjoying outdoor activities and sports like I did when I was younger. I’ve never been happier.

What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?

I know that I can be better, stronger, and improve my physique even more. The opportunity to become a fitness model or professional bodybuilder is definitely a motivator as well.

Anything else you would like to share?

Anyone can contact me at anytime via the contact information below or on Facebook. Knowing that I could help someone else achieve their transformation is a very satisfying feeling! I’m more than happy to help, guide, and answer any questions.

How can people contact you?

Christian.Leva@hotmail.com or on Facebook.

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14 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 04/19/2016 - 02:51
saif

very very slow progress

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Posted Fri, 11/16/2012 - 10:20
Rohan R B

Very Inspiring!!

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Posted Sun, 11/11/2012 - 22:09
Tim

Excellent Routine!

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Posted Sat, 10/13/2012 - 16:14
Mike

I do not see any answers from you Christian did you have a relapse?

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Posted Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:05
Frank

Wow - this article really hit me. I was a bloated 188 (5'6) in December 2011, wife of 16 years wouldn't come near me, thought it was the physique, started working out, dropped to a much leaner 155lbs by July 2012, when on my birthday, she asked me for a divorce and then I discovered her new boyfriend from one of her contract jobs. To cope, I've started hitting the gym harder, usually twice a day (lift+cardio) and doubled the weekly cardio(from 3 to 6 days) and focusing on eating clean. It's pure therapy for me. I want definition, size and when the divorce is over, a new girlfriend. It's going to be a great 2013. :-)

Great story Christian - thanks.

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Posted Fri, 05/11/2012 - 13:44
Gia

For the elliptical, i dont have time in the morning, can i do it in the afternoon? And after the workout?

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Posted Wed, 01/18/2012 - 23:10
steve pearson

Been wanting to get around to losing the weight, keep sabotaging and making excuses but after reading this and finding out I have become pre-diabetic, it's time to "change my lifestyle"

Have just gone out and bought some small plastic containers and prepared my mini meals. Told myself this is not a diet but a new way of living, a healthier way. I am 240 pounds and am going to get down to 176 pounds.

You are an inspiration Christian, thanks.

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Posted Sat, 10/29/2011 - 23:49
Larry

Great comeback after a low point in your life which takes courage!!
As others have commented, your story will motivate many who are in a bad situation.

During your transformation you stated that you did the treadmill twice a day for 20 minutes for heavy weight loss.

What did you mean by heavy weight loss?

Thanks!

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Posted Sat, 08/20/2011 - 22:21
Francisco

Great work!!!... I'm going to take your training as example for me!

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Posted Fri, 08/12/2011 - 19:58
Eric

Good man! I started @ 265 25-30% bf in sept 2009, and am currently 200 flat at around 13%. I recently got a huge motivation boost, n ur story helps the motivation to. Trying to get sub 10%bf withought going under 200

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Posted Wed, 08/10/2011 - 03:07
Stephen

Great story! I can really relate to your lowest point in life. Thank you. Very very motivating!!!

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Posted Tue, 08/09/2011 - 15:48
Dan

Great story! Very motivating

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Posted Mon, 08/08/2011 - 17:26
Mike

Really enjoyed this transformation. One of the best so far.

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Posted Sun, 08/07/2011 - 19:14
Albin

This was REALLY inspiring!
I will keep this as my favorites and read it when ever i loose motivation! :)