In 2016, I posted my Vision Board on my blog here, which still hangs on my wall. It detailed all the things I wanted to be and achieve. One of my goals was to achieve my dream health and fitness.
And with a jam-packed summer lined up for 2017 including 2 stags in Marbella, 2 destination weddings in Malta and Malaysia, 1 London wedding and a lads holiday in Barcelona too, I had the perfect motivation to get lean and trim.
I have not necessarily been someone that has struggled with weight but my metabolism has been bananas over the last 2 years. In March 2016, I was 27% body fat – by definition that is overweight for men. So I remember the day before I went into the gym, I scoffed downed my last Dairy Milk Easter Egg and then set about on a warpath to change myself – pulling out all the stops and pursuing my goal ruthlessly. The goal was simply to lose fat while putting on muscle.
On 24th May 2017, after around 20 weeks of heavy lifting and dieting over a 1 year period, I hit 7.5% body fat while putting on 7kg+ of lean muscle. I flew off to Marbella the next day and the rest of my summer was history.
Every week or so, I get the odd few people asking how I did it so I thought I would distill my learnings into a series of 10 steps that I hope would benefit others. I’m no fitness guru guy and have no plans to start an instafitness page, but this is what worked for me:
Get a Personal Trainer or Coach
Even the #1 seeded tennis player and world champion boxer will still have a coach to hold them accountable, keep pushing them further and introducing new techniques and skills. Having a PT, especially if you’re fairly new to lifting, is paramount. Not all people are suited for every type of exercise (for example, I only did trap bar deadlifts and pendulum squats as my flexibility is rubbish) and not everyone responds to the same diet in the same way so it’s key to have a PT that knows how to get the most out of your individual body.
Lift Heavy and Often
I did weight training about 4 times a week for an hour each time.
Cardio is secondary in my opinion if you want to lose fat and get a physique. Too much cardio can also cut into your gains if you aren’t careful about your food. Compound lifts (lifts that use a variety of muscle groups) are the best – squats, deadlifts, and barbell bench presses. I aimed to increase the weight every week by about 5kg or so. This is hard when running a calorie deficit as energy will be depleted at times. Lastly, I aimed to train every muscle group twice a week (back, chest, shoulders, arms, legs, abs).
Run a calorie deficit.
I did not get bogged down in calorie counting – as overall macros (Protein/Fats/Carbs) are more important. But the rule of thumb is that you should be taking in less than you are burning. I measured how much I was expending every day on my FitBit. I used to burn around 2,700 calories a day while taking in about 2,000 or so.
Hitting 10,000 steps a day minimum will ensure you can keep burning those additional calories (I aimed for about 11-12,000).
Keeping track of Proteins/Fats/Carbs (Macros)
For protein, aim for 3X your bodyweight in KG in grams. So if you’re 70kg then aim for 200-210g of protein a day. This is important to ensure that while you cut, you aren’t burning your muscle. If you have your protein macros covered, then your body will have no choice but to burn fat for fuel. This is why eating nothing is a bad way to lose weight – as essentially you’ll be depleting your muscle and just be weak!
Spread this out over 4-5 meals a day so about 40g-50g protein per meal. About 100-150g Green veggies are crucial with every meal too to keep you fuelled and healthy. Eating every 3-4 hours is ideal too to keep blood sugar levels stable and not peaking and falling.
Eat Breakfast like a King
Breakfast is still my favourite meal. Initially the idea of having red meat (I had lamb as I don’t eat beef) or dark fish (I stick to salmon fillets) in the morning was crazy but after some time I genuinely looked forward to the filling and satiating feeling. This was coupled with green (cruciferous) vegetables and then sometimes a handful of nuts (almonds/cashews – not peanuts) and about 200g of berries (strawberry/blueberry). The idea is to get healthy fats in the morning (red meat) to get you boosted and burn through the day.
Berries are necessary to replenish liver glycogen which is key when training hard. They also help to satisfy sugar cravings too.
Carbs limited to around workouts and mainly eat them in evening.
Most people put on fat usually because they’re having more carbs than their body needs therefore any excess that is not burned during the day is stored as fat. Most people over consume starchy carbs too.
Carbs are not bad though – they need to be used in the right way and amount. Complex carbs like sweet potato should be eaten before/after workouts. I learned to consume them in the evening to boost the body overnight and give fuel to the muscles that you’ve been working during the day’s exercise. If you’re desperately hoping to burn fat then avoid all carbs on rest days – assess depending on your energy levels.
Cut out all the crap: gluten, wheat, dairy, alcohol, sweets, chocolate.
Perhaps one of the hardest things but the rule of thumb should be that it’s only worth consuming “if it has grown from the ground or used to have a face” – the caveman strategy. There’s not really any need for dairy. Sweets are my vice but luckily I managed to stay off them. Alcohol is perhaps the most difficult – I certainly missed my favourite whisky but it’s a sacrifice. The empty calories in these products are just not worth it for a short meltdown programme. I promised myself I would let myself drink whatever I wanted when I was on that beach!
The 2 things I did have (in copious amounts) were Black Coffee and Green Tea – they both have thermogenic (fat burning) properties (milk is only worth having if it’s plant-based milk). The other thing which I added to my food were spices which have the same effect – great for asians!
I took a range of supplements. Here’s the run down of my daily intake:
3 x Multivitamins (this is to keep general health in check)
3 x Adrenal Replenish (I took these for energy)
4 x Omega3 Fish Oils (we need these but our body doesn’t produce it)
10ml of Vitamin D (Most Brits don’t have enough of this and need it for energy)
5ml of Electrolytes mixed with water (to keep hydrated and fuelled)
IntraMD + scoop of Creatine (This is an intra-workout shake to sip in between sets to help recovery – crucial when training consistently)
10 sprays of Magnesium Oil (I sprayed this on my legs before bed to help sleep and muscle relaxation).
I aimed for about 5 litres of water a day.
I did not take any protein supplements such as shakes or bars as I got enough from food and whey protein is dairy.
HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training will make the difference.
HIIT is crucial to shedding the additional fat and getting your metabolism booming – it is certainly much better than any steady state cardio activity like running on a treadmill for half an hour.
As my pal Akash Vaghela put it, if you don’t find yourself questioning life during it, you’re not doing it right. I’ve never done a HIIT session where I haven’t had to lie down on the floor of the gym for about 10 minutes after and curl up like a baby in agony.
The best type is doing sprints on the prowler. But most gyms don’t have a prowler so I stick to deadmill sprints (20 seconds on, 40 seconds off) for about 10 mins or the same on the rowing machine. This is good to do about 1-2 times a week.
Measure frequently and take photos. Visualise your goal and dream.
I took photos every 2 weeks and measured my weight every other day. My trainer took body calliper measurements every 2 weeks to track body fat. This usually involved taking measurements in about 12 different places from the cheekbone to the back of the hamstring.
Looking at photos are great to see where progress is happening and which parts of the body still need work. Lastly, I spent every night looking at my vision board and visualising my dream physique. If you can go there in the mind, you’ll go there in the body.