Powerlifter Steve Shaw Loses 104 Pounds
Powerlifter Steve Shaw Loses 104 Pounds
Transformation Stats
Before
After
April, 2013
July, 2014
346lbs
242lbs
Age: 45
Age: 46

Eating a Ton, Lifting a Ton

I was always active. Fitness, sports and muscle building have been my passion since the age of 13. In 2007, after over 20 years of dedicating myself to the muscle building process, I was introduced to the sport of powerlifting by a friend at work.

At this time I weighed 240lbs. I was out of shape and hadn't lifted for several years due to the demands of my job in healthcare.

Between 2007 and 2014 I trained solely for strength. I quickly learned that food had a huge impact on my ability to add strength. The more I ate the stronger I became.

By November, 2013, I was up to a hefty 308lbs. It was then, after coaching my daughter at her 3rd UPA powerlifting meet, that I decided to "go for it." My plan was to eat as much as I could and try to reach a level very few powerlifters in the history of the sport have ever attained - a 2,000 pound raw total. (And get it done at the ripe old age of 45)

By April, 2014, my training was going extremely well. One week out from the biggest powerlifting meet of my life I weighed 346 pounds and my lifts were on track to hit:
  • Bench Press - 450lbs
  • Squat - 700lbs
  • Deadlift - 800lbs
Then my life completely fell apart.

Powerlifter Steve Shaw
When you're dead you have a 3-lift total of zero. Understanding this reality, I took action and completely turned my life around.

Diabetes and Fatty Liver Disease

I was sitting in a Pizza Hut, gorging myself on slice after slice of pizza, when all hell broke loose. I stood up to pay the bill and suddenly every muscle in my body cramped. I was experiencing charlie horses from my neck to my calves, and they didn't rescind. For a week these cramps remained. I could barely walk and couldn't train at all.

During the next 7 days I took nearly every mineral and anti-cramping supplement on the market. Nothing helped. I showed up for the meet and couldn't even hit my squat opener of 600lbs. I attempted it a second time before pulling out of the meet.

A week later, after talking to a friend who was diabetic, I found out the cause of the cramping. I had fatty liver disease caused by Type-II diabetes. Fatty liver disease was preventing my liver from properly processing minerals, and as a result my entire body become one huge (and permanent) muscle cramp.

As I thought about this condition I realized that my heart was a muscle as well, and that I was lucky to be alive. My heart could have easily cramped and/or seized, and that would have been the end of that.

When you're dead you have a 3-lift total of zero. Understanding this reality, I took action and completely turned my life around.

Steve Shaw Transformation
I lost strength. But I feel great, look great and still out-perform 99% of the young lifters who are trying to hammer out gains at commercial gyms.

Dropping the Carbs, Eating Whole Foods

It was at this point in my life that I completely changed the way I approached eating. I learned how to cook and balance flavors, and to fight diabetes I made the switch to a very low-carb lifestyle.

I dropped 99% of all processed foods from my diet, including sugar, flour, rice, pasta, bread and all other non-fruit/veggie carb sources. I also avoided peas, corn and beans.

My diet consisted primarily of meat, veggies and fats. I ate this way for 16 straight months, rarely straying. During this time I lost 104 pounds effortlessly. I never had to count calories, and I never had to starve myself or go to bed hungry. Simply cleaning up my diet and eating to satiety allowed the fat to fall off.

Eating this way, it didn't take long to almost completely cure my diabetes. My cramping disappeared within a week, and after 2 weeks I was no longer experiencing blood sugar issues.

I still have to be careful not to overdo things. When I have a binge weekend and eat carbs, say around the holidays or my birthday, my blood sugar levels jump all over the place. I allow myself a maximum of 100 calories from sugar, rice, flour or bread per day, but try to avoid them completely.

Going "Bodybuilder" and Adding Volume to My Workouts

My training completely changed during this 16 month transformation period. I began adding more daily volume, including sets and reps, and got back to my roots - muscle building. I would train anywhere from 3 to 5 days per week using mostly upper/lower splits or body part splits.

How I trained each day varied based on work demands, but I was killing it in the gym. My conditioning improved dramatically and I felt 1000% better.

Steve Shaw and Pete Rubish
I was never able to fulfill my dream of reaching a 2,000 pound raw total, but I consider that a blessing. My life has never been better, and I learned many important lessons.
Despite the belief that you need quite a few daily grams of carbs to build/maintain muscle, I was able to eat low carb and maintain all of my size. In fact, I look bigger now - at the age of 47 - than at any other period of my life. The body is an amazing machine. It just goes to show that if you work hard in the gym, and your calories, nutrition and grams of protein are in check, your body WILL build muscle.

I lost quite a bit of strength during my transformation but I am still very strong. My 3-lift total is around 1,350 at a bodyweight of 242 pounds. To put this into perspective, the raw world records for the 198 and 220 pound powerlifting classes aren't much over 1,500 pounds. If I decide to push myself for both muscle and strength, I have a shot to creep close to being one of the strongest raw over-50 lifters of all-time.

Not bad.

So yes, I lost strength. But I feel great, look great and still out-perform 99% of the young lifters who are trying to hammer out gains at commercial gyms.

Dat Cardio, Bro?

Did I do cardio during my transformation? Yes. Was I a bonehead during this time, choosing to overdo things? Yes!

At the time I started my weight loss journey I promised my oldest daughter Erin that I would do a mud run with her (Warrior Dash) the following year. Erin had run her first Warrior Dash a few weeks earlier, and loved it.

So I did what every 45 year old, 346 pound powerlifter should never do...I started running. Everything went great for about 6 weeks. I was running 3 to 5 times per week, for 20 minutes at a pop. My times slowly improved and I was highly motivated.

Then, bam. I hurt my right knee. I couldn't walk down stairs, and had likely torn or impinged my meniscus. That put an end to cardio for a while.

Wanting to move and burn calories, but wanting to avoid high impact exercise, I took up hiking. Each weekend I would go on a moderate to extended hike. My conditioning kept improving, and peaked with an 8 mile challenging climb up and down Table Rock Mountain in South Carolina.

Hiking Table Rock Mountain

My Diet & Supplement Plan

My eating plan was certainly not strict Paleo or intermittent fasting. I never had the intention of creating an eating approach that was modeled after either. I just eat in a way that fits my lifestyle.

I like a big nightly meal, and prefer to sip on whey in water or coffee throughout the day. Here is a typical eating schedule:
  • 8am - One scoop of Machine Whey (Cookies & Cream) in water or coffee in 20 ounces of water.
  • 11am - One scoop of Machine Whey (Cookies & Cream) in water or coffee in 20 ounces of water.
  • 2pm - One scoop of Machine Whey (Cookies & Cream) in water or coffee in 20 ounces of water.
  • 4pm - Daily workout
  • 6pm - Big nightly meal
  • 8pm - Small snack. cheese, eggs, etc.
My supplement plan, excluding the use of whey protein powder, went something like this:

Moving Forward - Lighter, Healthier, Enjoying Life

To say that my quality of life is much better now is an understatement. It's no longer a strain to tie my shoes, and I can walk to the mailbox without needing an intra-workout snack (just kidding, kind of).

I feel like a new man. If you would have told me when I was 18 that I would be feeling this good as I approach the age of 50, I would have laughed.

Not many athletes in the history of powerlifting have come close to, or hit a 2,000 pound raw total. While I don't regret making a run at becoming one of the best ever, I do feel blessed that I was able to turn my life around before it was taken from me.

Top-level athletes often reach the pinnacle because of some innate drive to be the best at any cost. This drive can lead you to achieve amazing things, and wow those who follow your progress, but this drive can also be harmful unless you are careful.

I was one of the strongest over-40 men to ever walk the planet. One week before the biggest meet of my life, I was almost reduced to 346 pounds of weak, dead flesh in a coffin.

I was never able to fulfill my dream of reaching a 2,000 pound raw total, but I consider that a blessing. My life has never been better, and I learned many important lessons.

These days I am driven to pursue health, and to be the best man I can be. Each day I am thankful for every breath given to me and try to not take it for granted.