From St. Bernard to Greyhound

A few years ago, another coach told me that because of my body type I could never develop a lean aesthetic physique. "Even if you put it on a diet, a St. Bernard remains a St. Bernard!" he said. At the time this didn't upset me because I felt he was right. All my life I've been what could be called "skinny-fat" – small but fat. I come from a family where adiposity is rampant both on my father's and mother's side. I'd never been lean and defined in my life and I pretty much accepted the fact I would never be.

I reasoned that if I couldn't get lean, I'd at least get big and strong. It took a while before I attained a reasonable amount of strength and put a lot of muscle on my frail body, but I got there eventually. Last summer I was in my "biggest" shape, going up to 240 pounds at 5'9". I had a lot of muscle, but zero definition.

Having accepted that I could never be lean, I pretty much allowed myself to eat anything I wanted. Only once in my competitive career did I go on a diet and that was to make weight for an Olympic-lifting competition. I used the Anabolic Diet and did lose a bunch of weight going from 225 down to 187 in two months. However, I didn't have much more definition at 187 than at 225! I lost muscle and obviously performed very badly at the competition. This only reinforced my belief that I had to eat everything in sight to get as strong as possible.

Then last November something happened that basically gave me a good kick in the nutsack. First, I started writing for T-mag, which gave me a lot of exposure (and thus more opportunities for criticism). Then, during a M.Sc. class in biomechanics, we took pictures of ourselves to analyze our posture. At the time I was 230 pounds and felt that I was in the best shape of my life. I truly believed that I was actually quite defined. Let's just say that the picture proved me wrong: I looked like the Michelin Man's fatter brother! This was a shock for me and I immediately asked one of my professors to measure my body-fat percentage. It was a whopping 18%! I'd believed that it was only around 10%! (Amazing how many fat guys believe that, isn't it? )

After my wake-up call, I said to myself, "Christian, you're now going to be in the public eye. How can you expect to convince people to train your way if you look like shit?" Athletes who worked with me respected me because they saw me lift big weights and the training I had them on was producing results. However, T-mag readers who couldn't actually see me lifting would be a hard sell. Face it, image is at least half the work in this business!

So I came to the following conclusion: I'm working for T-mag and my job is to not only know what I'm talking about, but to look like I know what I'm talking about! From then on I took a workman-like approach and embarked on a journey of body recomposition. I went through three different phases in my quest for a better body. I'll touch on them briefly and then I'll give you the precise diet and training programs I used.

Before: 230 pounds, 18% bodyfat.

After: 204 pounds, 5% bodyfat. The pics were taken 14 weeks apart. Oh yeah, and I got a little haircut along the way!

Phase 1 – From Fat Bastard to Not-So-Fat Bastard

The first phase of my body transformation had me on the Fat-Fast diet, which was outlined here in T-mag a while back. Basically, I consumed almost nothing but low-carb protein shakes mixed with healthy fats like flaxseed oil. After fourteen days, I then switched to a regular ketogenic diet. I did it for something like four weeks.

I did lose a lot of fat, but I also lost some muscle in my lower body. This didn't bother me because my legs were always disproportionate compared to the rest of my body. This muscle loss might have been due to the diet or to the fact that I included less lower-body work than usual. (As an Olympic lifter I'd normally squat three to four times per week and work my legs basically every workout.) But I did seem to gain some upper-body size, probably because I hadn't done serious upper-body work for three years.

However, in week six I started to feel weak and small. I thought that this was as far as the ketogenic diet would take me. But I still lost quite a bit of fat. After six weeks I was down to 11-12% body fat at 215 pounds.

Phase 2 – Finally, Abs!

After I realized I was now going downward with the ketogenic diet, I switched to John Berardi's Don't Diet plan. This was a welcome change because I could consume carbs again. (I'm a huge carboholic!) The first week was actually drug-like: I gained three pounds of muscle while losing some fat! This was probably due to the rebound anabolism of reintroducing carbs and proper post-workout nutrition in my regimen.

I followed JB's plan for four weeks, during which I was able to go down to 9% body fat and for the first time in my life I could actually see my abs! This was a great moment as I always thought this wouldn't be possible for me.

But once again, after four to five weeks, I stopped losing fat. This is understandable; 9% body fat at 212 pounds (which I was now at) is far above what the body is used to accepting, at least in my case.

Phase 3 – Peaking

At 9% body fat I was pretty happy with myself. I felt that this was an acceptable physique for a training authority, but part of me just wasn't satisfied! I'd suffered for ten weeks, might as well go all the way!

So I hired a secret weapon: a bodybuilding pre-contest guru. I went to Chris Janusz, an up-and-coming contest-preparation star. Janusz has a good track record with bodybuilders and regular Joes, plus he's been a successful amateur bodybuilder himself. We made an appointment and he designed a "pre-contest" routine for me. The plan was for four weeks, but after two weeks I'd reached what I'd call an ideal physique. Nothing freaky, but enough to show that I know what I'm talking about. So after twelve weeks I really did make a fantastic change in my appearance. I continued on Janusz' program for two more weeks and things actually got better!

Now, Janusz is a professional and makes his living helping bodybuilders get ready for competitions, so I can't tell you exactly what kind of diet he designed for me. Basically, he just helped me with the macronutrient breakdown of each individual meal and taught me how that breakdown revolves around my activity patterns.

In the first two weeks I went from 212 pounds with 8-9% body fat to 210 with 7% body fat. After week four I was under 6% which I never dreamed of achieving (a year ago I would have been ecstatic with 10%).

Obviously, my situation was favorable to a complete body transformation:

  • I had the motivation to go all the way. I saw it as part of my job.
  • I had the time. Writing articles and working with athletes gives me a very flexible schedule.
  • I had the resources. Training-wise I had access to myself (I know a thing or two about training) and was helped by two great guys as far as dieting goes. I also had access to all the Biotest supplements I wanted except MAG-10. (Damn Canadian customs!)

So, you could do exactly what I did without getting the same results. However, at each phase I did some things right (and some things wrong) and the breakdown of what I did might give you a few ideas. I'll also talk about what I would do differently if I were to do it again.

The Good

This is probably nothing groundbreaking, but it provides a solid foundation for optimal fat loss. Here's what I learned:

  1. Consuming excess carbs makes it almost impossible to get very lean unless you're some kind of genetic freak. I found that whenever I went above 250 grams of carbs per day (even if they were in the form of low-glycemic/low-insulimic carbs), my progress stopped.
  2. Consuming carbs and fats at the same meal (or less than two hours apart) is the fastest way to add a nice adipose layer to your body. In all three of my transformation phases I avoided fat/carb combos. (This is the gist of the "Don't Diet" approach.) In phase one I avoided carbs altogether and in the other two I consumed either protein/carbs (P + C) or protein/fat (P + F) meals.
  3. For most people, energy system work is required to get extra lean. I did diet several times in my life but could never lose more than five to ten pounds of fat because I avoided energy system work like the plague. After experimenting, I realized that to get extremely lean most individuals will need to run or do other forms of conditioning work. Personally, I relied on interval running and IBUR (Interval Build-Up Running) with an occasional slow-pace cardio session. I started with two energy system sessions per week and went up as high as five weekly sessions, three per week being the most frequent plan during those 14 weeks. (For more info, see my Running Man article.)
  4. When I consume less carbs while still consuming enough to have sufficient fuel reserves (125 to 175 grams per day for me), I have more energy in training and feel less drowsy during the day. When I dropped too low (0 to 100 grams per day), I had some trouble focusing and lacked energy. When I went too high (200 grams plus per day), I was tired and lethargic. Your tolerance levels may be different, but this is what worked for me.
  5. Metabolic Drive® Protein, Crystal Light drink mix, and the George Foreman grill are a dieter's best friends!
  6. High-intensity strength exercises (in the 80-100% range) are better than low intensity strength exercises (in the 50-70% range) while dieting. The higher training load helps you preserve strength and muscle while on a hypocaloric diet much better than super-high volume/low intensity workouts.

We've been brainwashed by the various muscle magazines to believe that you should do high rep training for definition. This is absolutely ridiculous! Sure you use a little more energy, but think about it: the higher the training volume, the more energy you need to recover. The more glycogen you burn while strength training, the more carbs you'll need to recover and progress. When on a hypocaloric diet your body has a lowered anabolic drive, meaning that it can't synthesize as much protein into muscle. A super-high volume of work leads to a lot of microtrauma to the muscle structures; a lot of microtrauma requires a great protein synthesis increase.

So if you use high-volume/low-intensity training while dieting you'll breakdown more muscle and build up less. Not exactly good news! Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of high-rep training is an increase in blood and nutrient flow to the muscles, but if you have a reduced amount of nutrients available in your body, this benefit is pretty much wasted.

The Bad

Now I'll discuss the things I'd do differently if I were to do it all over again. This may help you avoid the same mistakes I made. I do believe that I could've achieved my results even faster had I not made these mistakes.

  1. You do need some carbs to grow and progress. While I did lose a lot of fat on a ketogenic (no carbs) diet, it probably slowed down my progress and greatly diminished the amount of muscle I could have gained. Now, I did gain some muscle while dieting, which is rare. However, understand that it was because I didn't train my upper body much for three years before starting this program, so my upper body was basically as responsive as a beginner's. I also used my OVT program during the first four weeks. I believe that OVT is the absolute best program to gain size rapidly. I have no doubt that had I included some carbs in my diet I'd have gained even more muscle, and would probably not have lost any lower body size as I did.
  2. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I got great progress from two to three energy-system sessions per week, but when I pushed it to four or five I actually regressed physique-wise. An athlete on a normal diet would probably have been able to handle it without too many problems, but while dieting it was a bit too much for me. I lost strength and size and didn't lose more fat. That's why I believe that two to three hard energy-system sessions per week (and perhaps one slow-pace cardio session on top of that) is ideal for individuals dieting down. More is not always better, especially while dieting.
  3. I regret walking away from the Olympic lifts while dieting. In the last two weeks of my plan I did get back to my Olympic training and had another fat loss spurt along with decent strength and size gains. This intrigued me and after doing some research I learned that the Olympic lifts and their variations are the strength exercises which lead to the greatest energy expenditure per minute of practice. If I were to start my transformation plan again I'd definitely keep using some form of Olympic lifting in my program.
  4. I found that I had my best progress when I used a nutrition journal or food log. I tracked calories, proteins, carbs and fats. When I stopped using the journal I found that I was more prone to cheat and indulge myself in a cheat meal. I find that having to write down what you eat forces you to think about if you really want it. When I got back to my journal it was much easier to control myself. I believe that if I hadn't stopped using a journal, I'd probably have slashed two weeks from my transformation plan.

How I Did It: The Details

Here I'll present the nutritional, training, energy-system and supplement strategies that I used in my "evolution." This isn't really a "how to," just an outline of my plan to give you an idea of how to construct one for yourself.

Phase 1

Nutrition

During this phase I used the Fat Fast diet for two weeks, then a low carb Anabolic/Bodyopus-style diet for four weeks.

Body weight at start of phase: 230 pounds
Body fat percentage: 18%
Lean body mass: 189 pounds

Week Protein/Day Carbs/Day Fat/Day Kcals/Day
1 300 g 0 g 130 g 2370
2 350 g 0 g 120 g 2480
3 350 g 0 g 120 g 2480
4 375g 0 g 120 g 2580
5 375g 0 g / 200 g * 120 g / 20 g * 2580 / 2480 *
6 400 g 0 g / 200 g * 120 g / 20 g * 2680 / 2580 *

* Week / Weekend

Supplements

Along with the supplements below, I also used tons of Metabolic Drive® Protein and Flameout™. However, these are included in the nutrition table since they're just food sources.

Week Supplements Quantity/Day
1 AlphaMale® 4 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle
2-6 AlphaMale® 6 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle

Energy System Work

ESW - the polite word for "cardio"

Week Type of ESW Frequency
1 IBUR 2
2 IBUR 2
3 IBUR 3
4 IBUR 3
5 IBUR + Intervals 3 IBUR + 1
6 IBUR + Intervals 3 IBUR + 2

Training Program

Week Frequency
1 OVT phase 1 (each superset repeated 3 times)
2 OVT phase 1 (each superset repeated 4 times)
3 OVT phase 1 (each superset repeated 5 times)
4 OVT phase 1 (each superset repeated 3 times)
5 Insider contrast training (Big Kahuna)
6 Insider contrast training (Painful extended)

Results at end of Phase One:

Body weight: 215 pounds
Body fat percentage: 11-12%
Lean body mass: 190-192 pounds

Phase 2

Nutrition

During this second phase I used John Berardi's "Don't Diet" plan and ate six meals per day, three meals containing only carbs and proteins with no fat, and three meals containing only proteins and fats with no carbs.

Week Protein/Day Carbs/Day Fat/Day Kcals/Day
1 400 g 150 g 70 g 2830
2 400 g 150 g 70 g 2830
3 425g 1250 g 60 g 2740
4 425g 125g 60 g 2740

Supplements

Again, Metabolic Drive® Protein and Flameout™ are included in the nutrition table.

Week Supplements Quantity/Day
1 AlphaMale® 4 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle
2-4 AlphaMale® 6 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle

Energy System Work

ESW - the polite word for "cardio"

Week Type of ESW Frequency
1 IBUR 2
2 IBUR 2
3 Interval training (60 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2
4 Interval training (60 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2

Training Program

Week Frequency
1 OVT phase 2 (each superset repeated 3 times)
2 OVT phase 2 (each superset repeated 4 times)
3 OVT phase 2 (each superset repeated 5 times)
4 OVT phase 2 (each superset repeated 3 times)

Results at end of Phase Two:

Body weight: 212 pounds
Body fat percentage: 9%
Lean body mass: 193 pounds

Phase 3

Nutrition

Week Protein/Day Carbs/Day Fat/Day Kcals/Day
1 425g 125g 40 g 2560
2 425g 125g 40 g 2560
3 450 g 100 g 50 g 2650
4 450 g 100 g 50 g 2650

Supplements

Again, Metabolic Drive® Protein and Flameout™ are included in the nutrition table.

Week Supplements Quantity/Day
1 AlphaMale® 4 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle
2-4 AlphaMale® 6 tablets
  Rez-V™ 3 capsules
  Brain Candy® 1 bottle

Energy System Work

ESW - the polite word for "cardio"

Week Type of ESW Frequency
1 Interval training (60 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2 + 2 low intensity cardio sessions of 30 min.
2 Interval training (60 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2 + 2 low intensity cardio sessions of 30 min.
3 Interval training (45 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2 + 2 low intensity cardio sessions of 30 min.
4 Interval training (45 sec. jog, 30 sec. sprint x 10-15) 2 + 2 low intensity cardio sessions of 30 min.

Training Program

Week Frequency
1 Hypertrophy Specific Training (10 reps phase)
2 Hypertrophy Specific Training (10 reps phase)
3 Olympic lifting program
4 Olympic lifting program

Results at end of Phase Three:

Body weight: 204 pounds
Body fat percentage: 5-6% (even had one 4.6% reading)
Lean body mass: 192-194 pounds

Final Results

To recap, here's my physical transformation in numbers:

Parameter Start End Progress
Body Weight 230 lbs 204 lbs -26 lbs
Body Fat % 18% 5% 13%
Lean Body Mass 189 lbs 194 lbs +5 lbs
Fat Mass 41.4 lbs 10.2 lbs -31.2 lbs

I'd like to say that my body transformation has brought me nothing but positives. I gained the respect of my athletes and of T-mag readers; I'm now much healthier and have more energy; I get a lot more attention from women (if you're into that sort of thing!) and my lifting has actually improved!

A drug-free transformation such as mine is within your reach, too. I always believed (and still believe) that I have about the worst genetics in the world, at least when it comes to getting lean. My whole family has a history of weight problems and I wasn't spared. So if I can get lean, there's no reason why you can't!

Furthermore, with HOT-ROX® now available it will make your task that much easier! I started using it right after my physical transformation plan when it became available and, despite being less strict with my diet and doing less energy system work, I actually got leaner still! In fact, after one week of use I e-mailed Tim Patterson to tell him that I almost felt ashamed of posting my body transformation pictures because after only one week on HOT-ROX I was leaner than ever!

I was also a victim of Canadian customs. As a result, I couldn't receive any MAG-10 or 4-AD-EC. There's no doubt in my mind that my progress would have been much faster and I would have gained much more muscle size if those products had been available to me.

If you decide to embark on this physical transformation journey understand that it will not be easy. There'll be a lot obstacles and setbacks. The real key to a successful body-transformation program isn't the training you do, the supplements you take, or even the food you eat – it starts and ends with dedication and tenacity! If you have that, plus a solid training program and a good diet, there's no way you can fail!

For some it'll take longer than me to achieve good results; for others it'll take much less time. But if you keep at it you'll get results. Hopefully you'll be able to learn from my mistakes and successes and will build that dream body of yours!

Fast Forward: A Postscript

I finished the first part of this article about a month ago. What happened since then? Did I gain all the weight back? Did I revert to my caveman look? Hardly! In fact, despite less than perfect eating habits (which is to be expected after 14 weeks of intense dieting) and reverting back to an Olympic lifting-based routine, I actually managed to lose a bit more body fat while maintaining the same amount of muscle.

According to the calipers I lost another 0.5% body fat. While this is hardly noticeable or significant, it indicates that I haven't gained any of the fat back. Furthermore, my strength is way up. Last week I snatched 130kg and cleaned 170kg, almost doing 180kg. Not bad considering that at my last competition I only managed to clean 150kg while being 20 pounds heavier!

During those four weeks I've been fortunate to put HOT-ROX to the test. I've been more than pleased with the results so far. I obviously didn't have much fat to lose after my initial transformation, but the fact that I didn't regain any body fat despite poor eating habits and drastically reduced energy system work truly speaks volume for the efficacy of this product. There's no doubt in my mind that having had access to this product during my transformation I would've needed at least two to three weeks less time to achieve the same results.

So what does the future hold for me? Well, I'm considering retiring as a strength coach and starting a new career as a porn star or as Vin Diesel's double (as in double the size!) Nah, I'm kidding, I could never leave what I consider a passion more than a job. However, this transformation revived my interest in Olympic lifting competitions. I feel confident that I can now compete in the 85kg class (187 pounds) with proper dehydration and dieting procedures. And considering that I'm stronger than ever before, this could prove to be very interesting!

If you can take only one thing from my article, it should be that dedication and mental toughness are the real keys to body transformation. I'm being honest when I say that there were times where I seriously doubted my own sanity! But in the end, all the effort and all the pain is more than worth it. To be frank, never have I been so impatient for summer to show up!

Final