Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle like prior to your transformation?
I have been a competitive athlete my whole life with dreams and aspirations of one day becoming a professional baseball player. At a young age nothing but training and education consumed by daily life. I ate, slept, and dreamt baseball and excelled at it with ease. As I grew my training evolved and my talent, hard work, and dedication awarded me a Division I baseball scholarship.
I thought my dreams were coming true as I left Michigan to travel south to compete against the nation's top talent. That dream came to an abrupt end after multiple shoulder surgeries to my throwing arm. In an instant, I was told in the nicest way possible I was damaged goods and was no longer needed. For the first time in my life I no longer had athletic direction and had nothing to fill that competitive drive that fueled me every day.
I always trained in the weight room, but never at a bodybuilding type level. I soon turned back to the gym in hopes to take out my frustrations and anger. As time progressed I found a new love and a new dream in the weight room. There, I was able to lose myself in the moment and not rely on anyone else. I controlled my own fate in the gym and could not get enough of it.
Instantly I read and researched everything possible. I continually came across the same quote "To get big, eat big" and I took that advice to the next level, and not in a good way. I wanted to get as naturally big as possible, so to transform my frame I force fed 8-10 meals per day, spread out every two hours.
These foods were all healthy, but were consumed in absolute mass quantities. Eating became harder than the workout because I simply hated eating chicken and brown rice multiple times a day. Nothing was measured or weighed out and no cardio was performed to preserve calories. I gave myself a "bulking cut off" point and did not care what I looked like up until that point.
I realize now that what I was doing was completely ridiculous, hence, the giant fat whale you see in my picture. Once I got to that point, it was time to get serious. I wanted to attain that ripped-up, veiny look, and to get there, I knew it would require more dedication and willpower than anything I have ever done before.
What was your low point or turning point?
I would say there were several low points that were quite depressing. I constantly flexed my “abs” in an effort to hide my enormous gut. Simple things like walking up or down stairs would leave my breathless. I could no longer wear any clothing I once fit into before.
The absolute lowest point though was looking at my before pictures after taking them and realizing I was a slob. It did not matter how strong I had gotten, I looked like a fat mess that never even thought about the gym.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
Incorporating the cardio was probably the most difficult. Not too long ago I was a Division I baseball player who was recruited based on his speed. At 225 treadmill walking for 15 minutes was now the hardest thing in the world!
I was also discouraged when I cut down to 180 because I thought that was the weight I would be at to achieve the look I wanted. That was not the case simply because I had more fat to lose.
Please provide a timeline including when you started the transformation, and include major milestones:
- Transformation Start: There were multiple factors that triggered my transformation start. The most important were the simple facts that I could no longer climb stairs without becoming winded, fit into size 36 pants and realizing how fat I had become after looking at my before pictures.
- Milestone: My first milestone was to incorporate steady state cardio into my daily workouts. I wanted to build up my cardiovascular endurance and start to shed some fat. I began my journey with 15 minutes of interval incline treadmill walking at 4.0 mph and max height. I also began getting my nutrition in check. I no longer ate mass quantities, portion control started to emerge.
- Milestone: Each successive week time was added until I reached 30-40 minutes per session.
- Milestone: Pounds dropped by soon I reached a plateau. I was not where I wanted to be so I decided to calculate my exact macronutrient breakdown per BMR and weight lifting sessions. I incorporated the use of a scale and each meal was weighed out.
- Transformation End: To put the finishing touches on and really get cut up I used the help of a book I purchased titled “Better than Steroids”. I followed the advice from Dr. Warren Willey. I followed his food plans and after 12 weeks I finally where I wanted to be; veiny, vascular, and cut up.
Paul's Training Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
I am a huge believer in bringing up the weak points in one's physique and prioritizing specific body parts. I love training back more than any other muscle group and found an old Rich Gaspari back attack workout that specializes in width and thickness that I tweaked with the remaining body parts.
Here's a 4-week sample of a specialization I followed and found most beneficial for bringing up the entirety of my back. I usually stick with a workout for 4 weeks max, because I always like to mix it up and keep my muscles from adapting.
I love being sore and once I stop being sore after completing a workout, it is my body's way of telling me I need a new routine or a change of specific sets/reps or exercises. I often incorporate "advanced techniques" as well to mix things up.
This usually includes drop sets, pyramiding, heavy negatives, rest-pause, and FST-7's.
Please add a workout that worked best for you:
- Monday - Back Thickness and Biceps
- Tuesday - Shoulders
- Wednesday - Back Width and Triceps
- Thursday - Legs
- Friday - Back Width and Thickness - Supersets
- Saturday - Chest
|Back Thickness and Biceps|
|Deadlift||5||10, 8, 6, 6, 10|
|Bent Over Row||4||8-10|
|Seated Cable Row||4||10-12|
|Spider Curl||3||8 + 4 Partials|
|Standing Concentration Curl||2||12-15|
|Seated Side Lateral||3||10-12|
|Seated Dumbbell Press||4||10-12|
|Reverse Pec Dec Flye||3||10-12|
|Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Flye||7||10-12|
|Prone Incline Dumbbell Shrug||3||8-12|
|Behind the Back Barbell Shrug||3||8-12|
|Back Width and Triceps|
|Wide Grip Pull Up||4||Failure|
|Wide Grip Pull Up Behind the Neck||4||10-12|
|Close Grip Pull Down||4||10-12|
|Straight Arm Pullover||4||10-12|
|Close Grip Bench Press||3||10-12|
|Tricep Extension with Rope||3||10-12|
|Seated French Press||3||8-10|
|Smith Machine Squat||4||10-12|
|Smith Machine Lunge||2||8 per Side|
|Stiff Leg Deadlift||3||10, 8, 8|
|Seated Leg Curl||2||15|
|Back Width and Thickness|
|Wide Grip Lat Pull Down||4||8-10|
|T Bar Row||4||8-10|
|Close Grip Lat Pull Down||4||8-10|
|Seated Cable Row||4||8-10|
|Lat Pull Down Behind the Neck||4||6-8|
|Incline Bench Prone Dumbbell Row||4||6-8|
|Incline Bench Press||4||10-12|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8-10|
|Machine Chest Press||4||10-12|
|Incline Hammer Strength Press||3||12-15|
|Uneven Push Up||3||Failure|
Sunday and Monday off and repeat. If I felt I needed rest in between I would substitute an off day in the middle of the workout week and continue the next day.
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
In the beginning cardio was performed 5 days a week. As a baseline I established a 15 minute mark and progressively increased as time weight on. I eventually would cap it at around 30-40 minutes but would sometimes increase up to 60 minutes on off days.
I used each piece of cardio equipment and found incline treadmill walking to be my favorite. The Stair Gauntlet would be a close second by that would bring on some minor knee pain. I would perform intervals on max height and alternate the speed from 3.5-5.0 mph. You have to make a strong conscious effort to not hang out or you eliminate the full potential to the exercise.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- A food scale is the most important tool in a weight lifter's life
- Find something you love to watch while performing cardio to eliminate boredom. I highly recommend LOST! Time flies when you are not watching the counter on that cardio equipment
- Keeping log books. Track everything you do; weight lifting stats (poundages, weights, sets, reps), cardio schedules, food breakdowns. If something is off you have solid evidence why. Also, by keeping a log book you are always able to beat your last workout in some way or another. Whether that be more weight, increased reps or sets.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
Once I got to where I wanted to look I became almost addicted to it. The lines, the cuts, the veins…everything! I was finally happy with my body and the look I portrayed. Due to this I have stuck to similar training and have made minor changes to increase LEAN mass. Not that fat I was putting on before.
Another addiction is the use of the food scale. To this day, every meal I make and eat is weighed out specifically. Sure there are times when I go out to eat, but I am cringing to not know how many ounces of protein, fat, or carbs are in the meal I eat.
Paul's Diet And Supplement Plan
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
Now my diet is pretty complicated. However, I found it more beneficial than any other fat burner on the market. The information below is found in a book that highlights 12 week nutritional breakdowns. Here is how it starts:
Step 1: Each week is different and adjusts according to your bodyweight at the start of the week. I take into account my BMR through a calculation. Then add the additional calories that I will burn during my workout and combine that with my BMR.
With that number, I have the total number of calories I will need. Then depending on my goal, whether it be to decrease fat, maintain, or increase muscle, total calories are added or subtracted. That's just the first step.
Step 2: Each week consists of a different meal plan with its own guidelines. This way my body does not have time to adapt to a certain routine so it is constantly forced to change. These meal plans consists of Moderate Carb Days (High/low), Keto-runs, Zig-Zag, and Isocaloric. Depending on the meal plan you pick for the week your total macronutrient breakdown changes whether that be increasing your percent of healthy fats, proteins, carbs or decreasing one or the other.
To accomplish this feat I purchased a scale that measures out macronutrients specifically so I would not always have to calculate the count of proteins or fats in a specific food. Below are sample days for each of the meal plays I have completed.
Can you give an example of what your daily meal plan looks like?
Zig Zag high calorie day:
- Meal 1: ¾ cup oatmeal, 1 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, ¾ cup strawberries, 37 g whey protein, 13 g pecans
- Meal 2: ¾ cup oatmeal, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 15.7 g pecans, 4.38 oz chicken
- Meal 3: ¾ cup oatmeal, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 15.7 g pecans, 4.38 oz chicken
- Meal 4: ½ cup oatmeal, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 15.7 g pecans, 4 oz tilapia
- Meal 5: 7.3 oz chicken, mixed greens
- Meal 6: 7.3 oz chicken, mixed greens
Zig Zag even calorie day:
- Meal 1: ½ cup oatmeal, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 cup blueberries, 34.5 g whey protein, 3 egg whites
- Meal 2: ¾ cup oatmeal, 1 oz almonds, 3 egg whites
- Meal 3: ½ cup oatmeal, 4.6 oz chicken, .5 oz pecans
- Meals 4-6: .6 oz pecans, 4.6 oz chicken, mixed greens
Zig Zag low calorie day:
- Meals 1-3: ½ cup oatmeal, .4 oz almonds, 2 egg whites
- Meal 4: .4 oz almonds, 3 egg whites
- Meal 5-6: 2.52 oz chicken, .4 oz almonds
Keto Run days:
- Meal 1: 3.8 oz tilapia, 1.1 oz pecans
- Meal 2: 4 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 1.1 oz pecans
- Meal 3: 4 oz turkey burger, .67 oz almonds
- Meal 4-6: 4 oz chicken, 1.1 oz almonds
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Eyeing out portions is not enough. If you really want to dial it in, you have to use a scale or else you leave a lot up to chance. How is it possible to eye 4 oz chicken? Once you do that, you eliminate guess work and mistakes!
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- A scale is your best friend!
- Always make adjustments to your diet. Keep your metabolism guessing just as you do with your body in regards to the strength training program.
- Keep it simple. The less ingredients the more natural and whole the food is. Even is something is 100% natural or contains whole wheat, look to see what else is in the ingredient list. For example, look at whole wheat pita bread and compare that to brown rice or oatmeal. You will easily see that the pita bread contains 6+ ingredients while brown rice or oatmeal is as natural as you can get.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
One meal a week I would consume a “cheat meal”. This consisted of a meal larger in size and quantity. Instead of eating a schedule 4-5 oz of protein, I would eat 6-8 oz.
The same would go for complex carbs as well. I stayed away from sweets because they contain almost zero nutritional value and knew they contributed in no way to my goal.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Advice For Others
What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Never give up. Even when you think you cannot achieve that look you desire or that last rep, dig deep and push through. That is what separates you from everyone else that settles for mediocre and ends the set before true failure.
- Do not put it off. The longer you wait to begin your transformation the longer you must wait for results. Why start in a “couple days or weeks”? If you want what you desire, start right now! No one but yourself can tell you when to train and eat besides yourself! You are the one to blame for your failures and you are responsible for your success.
- Do only what works for you specifically, everyone's body is 100% different and adapts and grows differently than others. What works for your best friend or a specific routine you read about may or may not work for you. The trick is to make that mind-muscle connection with your body and really tune in to what works best for you and apply it to your workouts.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
My motivation comes from my competitive athletic background. I would like to compete one day and become a true bodybuilder or physique model. Additionally, but examining pictures I am able to work on lagging body parts and make the changes I desire. Arnold and Kai Greene said it best by stating that weight lifting is like sculpting your body. You are the artist, and the work you put everyday gets you closer to that ideal look.
My advice for staying on track absolutely nothing is immediate, and nothing is easy. If you put the time and energy into it, you can accomplish anything. You can either keep your head down and work towards your goal today or look back and regret quitting for the rest of your life. Again, you are the only one to blame for your failures and are solely responsible for your successes.
Your Life Now
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
One word: healthier. I feel great. My knees and joints no longer hurt carrying around all that extra weight. I am finally happy and comfortable with taking off my shirt in front of others. I no longer have to actively work to hide my gut! I feel like I can accomplish anything to be honest, just as long as I put the time and work into it.
Lastly, I finally love eating again and enjoy the meals I eat. When I was force feeding myself I hate the thought of another meal. Now, I look forward and enjoy the taste of everything I consume.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
I hope to one day achieve a physique close to Frank Zane’s. In my mind he had the perfect look, a look I strive for everyday. I also make a conscious effort to always beat my last workout. That in itself is purely motivating.
How Can People Contact You?
How can people contact you?
- Email: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org