I was just a typical overweight weightlifter. I have been lifting weights since 2013 with the primary goal to gain strength and size. The problem is that I never paid attention to my diet and I was eating a lot.
From 184 lbs in the year 2013, I started gaining weight uncontrollably due to a bad lifestyle of eating so much carbs, constant work stress, and alcohol consumption. I came in to a point that I could not move properly anymore. I eventually made it to an obese weight of 222 lbs and unfortunately at that point I could not swim properly due to my big gut.
I was strong in lifts but couldn't run long/fast enough. I suffer from constant shortness of breath even in steady state cardio because I was too fat. I could not do a single pull-up because I was too heavy. I could not adjust my diet, and I looked like a walking ball.
I ate more than 5,000 calories a day and I always failed to reduce my unhealthy food consumption. I wanted to make myself more physically and visibly fit so I could better take care of my family.
So I decided to make a long term plan to better myself with proper nutrition. I considered using new exercises that were once too complex for me. The question was how. I kept asking myself if I could do it. I was really not sure how to start. But I knew if I didn't find a way, sooner or later bad things would happen to my health which could debilitate me in the long run.
I didn't want to end up permanently obese. I wanted to improve while I'm still in my late 30s. But I didn't want to stop my weightlifting either. Since heavy weightlifting naturally requires lots of food before and after training, and we don't really care how we look aesthetically as long as we are big and strong. I had to change my perspective about that, fast.
Please Detail Your Turning Point
I truly got sick of what I see in the mirror every morning. I would not like to fall into depression again, nor give up permanently. Sometime around December, 2014, I made the plan to lose weight after studying various weight loss methods.
I thought to myself that I had been successful many times in my different fields of work. I already accomplished seemingly impossible tasks and projects in my professional career over the years. So why not apply the same principles and dedication i have at work to transform my own body? I have my own gym anyway.
I got some advice and methods from various gym trainers, but I was still unconvinced. I know my own body and I know I wouldn't get fit using conventional methods in the gym, the basic cardio, and with their diet suggestions. So I took a couple of programs and merged them; complex enough to physically drain the fat (and life) out of me. This is when my "nightmarish journey to fitness" started.
What Were Your Major Struggles or Challenges
- Integration of Intermittent fasting. Working out on an empty stomach immediately after 16 hours of no food, consistently on a daily basis for the entire year program.
- Caloric deficit diet. Below 2,000 calories for extreme fat loss.
- No cheat meals for the entire program year. I had to so I can ensure results by the end of the year.
- A gallon of water a day. You will pee every 20-30 minutes but it will boost the effect of your fat loss program. Best done as soon as you wake up, for 12 hours. Do not try this during night time or you will mess up your sleep.
- Daily high volume lifting. I do not like running and cardio. Instead I decided to change my lifts from supersets to giant sets on a regular basis. It was purely experimental but I got hooked on the idea and made it part of the program.
- Enduring muscle soreness from neck to calves, everyday. It's a 2 times a day, six days a week program. I had to get used to it(and i did after 5 months) but I also lost muscle in the process. Which is okay, my main focus was fat loss anyway. I kept telling myself that I can rebuild my muscles through clean bulking next year, if I survive this novel program I made.
I started my fat loss program exactly Monday, January 5, 2015. I reduced my usual heavy weights to optimal weights, to the point I can do 20 reps near failure on the first set. The volume weightlifting in the morning usually lasts 1 to 1 1/2 hours, with HIIT cardio in the evening which last around 30-40 minutes.
There will be a month that I will shift it as early as 5:00 AM when I feel like getting comfortable with the volume, just to shock my body further. My day lifts consists of different body parts per day of the week. The schedules were fixed as follows:
- January 4 to December 26. 2015: AM/PM complex weightlifting + evening HIIT training
- January 4 to March 7, 2015: Transition period for calorie reduction
- March 8 to December 26, 2015: Application of 16 hours Intermittent fasting and full caloric deficit diet
- Monday: Chest - Side Delts - Triceps
- Tuesday: Back - Rear Delts - Biceps
- Wednesday: Legs - Abs - CrossFit Training
- Thursday: Shoulder Day
- Friday: Arms - Forearms
- Saturday: Legs and Abs - CrossFit Training
- Sunday: Active rest
As mid-year went by, I became strong enough to do 8 exercises with 5 giant sets each exercise and a strict rep range of 50 reps each set. And, I would complete it with rest times ranging from 10 seconds to no more than one minute. And to burn myself out, i made sure I can do no less than 300 combined reps during my nightly HIIT sessions three hours before I go to sleep.
I would total no less than 900 reps a day, even reaching 1,300 rep max per day combined as I progressed halfway my one year plan.
Detail Your Diet/Eating Plan During Your Transformation
It took me a month to adapt with the brutal physical regimen that I imposed upon myself. But the worst part of my journey was the diet. It brought me to very dark places, especially when i integrated 16 hours Intermittent Fasting, which began March 8, 2015.
During the periods of January to end of February, I measured my food and decreased the amount of carbs slightly. From 5000 calories, I slowly reduced my total daily food intake down to only 2000 calories a day on the second month. I only ate meat, vegetables, and occasional bread after workout.
Included in the reduction (and eventual elimination) are:
- Junk foods
- Processed foods
- Soft drinks
- Fruit juices
- Refined sugar
- Preserved foods
- Candies and other sweet foods
- 60% Protein
- 25% Fats-Fiber
- 15% Carbs
Detail Your Supplement Plan During Your Transformation
I have used thermogenic fat burners, l-carnitine, fish oil, CLA, vitamin D, and whey protein during the full course of my fat loss program.
What Was Your Major Accomplishment, or Major Milestones?
Being able to do gargantuan reps a day, every day, with very strict and short rest times (30-60 seconds range) with full determination to do HIIT cardio 6 hours after. This high volume training greatly improved my stamina and endurance in the long term. And, I accomplished it without any training partners or gym trainers. I can even do CrossFit now and run for 10km without any issues!
I also logged all my macro intakes, including all my daily workoutschedules, reps, rest times, and poundages so I can easily change and rotate exercises whenever I plateau. This allows me to become more efficient by checking my current progress and add more reps and poundages every two months.
Detail Your 3 Biggest Mistakes
I would like to start this one with the worst:
- Not knowing you are already ego-lifting. This is when accidents and injuries happens in my case. There were even times I was not conscious if my form was right, and too stubborn to stop when I had enough. I slipped a disc twice almost halting the program. It was from deadlifting too much weight while focusing too much on quantity and not on quality. After getting help from a local chiropractor I still continued the program fully determined despite the excruciating pain. I did not do deadlifts for a few months, scaled back the weights significantly (especially during back days) and integrated lumbar stretching for two months straight until I could safely deadlift using light barbells and right form. Hopefully I can repeat my PR next year.
- Overdoing intermittent fasting. Unknowingly. This is the first time I tried intermittent fasting. Since I have no issues with discipline I decided to integrate it with the regimen. Part of the plan was to get into shape and lower my weight from 220lbs down to 165 (at the very least). Somehow I overshot my target, unbelievably down to 128 lbs almost three months ahead of my target date! This happened in between September and October 2015. I miscalculated my macro intake when I break my fast after workouts - by not considering the amount of calories I burn on a daily basis! As months went by, I was not aware that I'm burning so much more than I used to. I got so used to the gruelling daily routine and kept adding more sets while carelessly keeping the exact amount of food since June 2015. I did not bother to add additional food to compensate for the huge calories I am burning during my two sessions a day workout. I was losing muscles at that point and I am starting to look like a "cancer patient" under chemotherapy! It freaked me and everybody out. I got weak and it happened very fast. I scaled back my workout volume, reduced my fast to 12 hours and added more protein rich food until I maintained my weight in between 138-142 up to December 26, 2015, which is the last day of my program, but not the last day of my fast. I am still using intermittent fasting (I got used to it) and will continue it until I adopt a new bulk program sometime this coming January of 2016.
- Relying so much on heavy weights. I was too intimidated to understand that I cannot do so many reps and high volume work if I kept using heavy weights near my 1RM. There were times that I almost blacked out during mid-rep (which is dangerous) and I got to a point that I cannot function at work due to tendon pains other than muscle soreness. I kept reminding myself that the goal of my current program is to lose fat and not to build muscle since the diet and fasting won't allow muscle growth. I had different injuries during the first quarter of the year. I learned ever since.
- The importance of mind and muscle connection. Doing more quality reps (like 1-2 second isometric hold and slow negatives) will tax our nervous and cardiovascular system. This helps elevate our heart rate during training (especially during HIIT sessions), making sure the l-carnitine I took can efficiently do its job of transporting fat cells to be used as fuel, since I do not eat carbs, or anything before my first workout of the day.
- Timing of specific foods. I only eat my carbs after my first workout of the day. I do not eat carb-rich foods in any other time. This ensures that my stored fat will be utilized as my energy source during my initial workouts. I also eat selected fruits but never during the night since it contains large amount of sugars. Eat more vegetables to compensate since veggies are also rich in vitamins and fibers, minus the sugar.
- Proper breathing during each rep. I had this habit of holding my breath on the last two reps of my lift, which is typical in weightlifting and powerlifting. It is impossible to do so when you are in a set of more than 20 reps under a workout that will last more than 45 minutes. So I trained myself to breathe properly on each rep, allowing me to do more reps in the process. I've improved ever since.
Some people blame the program for not reaching their goals. I believe all program work if the individual understands the "parameters" for the program to work, and to check their own bodies if the regimen they are interested in matches their target goal.
Sometimes weightlifters themselves (like me during my early years) are the problem. They do not give time to understand the importance of commitment, dedication, and perseverance before they begin. It's never easy.
Commit yourself fully and see to it that you finish whatever program you are in, whatever it takes, even if it takes you years to achieve your goal. It will really cost you blood, sweat and tears. But in the end, you will be very happy you have conquered yourself after completing the program you have adopted.
As for intermittent fasting, I know a lot of people who did not make it. Here's the trick: PATIENCE. There will be insignificant changes on the first three months (this is the period most people quit because they could not see any changes). If you are consistent with your timing and macros, do yourself a favor and wait up to the 4th month.
Your fat loss will not be a slow reduction but rather a fast drop. Imagine for a moment that the body is intelligent and it's constantly resisting your program. On the 5th month your body will give up and will start to give off the fat, very fast. It was so fast for me that i overshot my target.
Again I was super obese from the start. This is based on my close personal observation and actual experience. Take note that other people's experience can be different from mine.
The journey to fitness is never easy. In my case, it was a hell of an experience, literally. Brutal at best, but I am happy I finished it - I lost 84 lbs! Now it's easy to bulk up clean and lean next year.
A lot of people have told me I never could do it and would give up. They were wrong. Now they hate me (you know who you are). More importantly, many of my friends was inspired to get fit when they saw me after a year.
So don't quit. If it takes so long, so what, keep moving. Learn to love what you do if you are really serious, whether it's bodybuilding, weightlifting, CrossFit, etc. Embrace and endure the pain. Pain is necessary for us to grow.
In the end, it is you who will consume it, not the other way around. You are your own enemy. Conquer yourself. Now, imagine the possibilities once you reach that level.