Nathan is probably one of the funniest clients that I’ve had the pleasure of training. He came to the Training Room with a specific goal in mind: lose 24 pounds in three months to reach a body weight of 196 pounds for his wedding in November. That was his main goal; his side goal (although he may contest that his side goal was actually his main goal) was to look like this guy from the movie Fight Club:
No; not Brad Pitt, but the extremely intense guy to the right of him.
During his initial session, I took Nathan through a series of assessments. Being a computer engineer, his job required him to sit at a desk for the majority of the day. Not surprisingly, his flexibility was that of a 2×4. Before every single workout, I had him foam roll and perform various mobility and flexibility drills for at least fifteen minutes to help combat his sedentary lifestyle. Not only would this help him move better during the session, but also reduce the likelihood of developing lower back pain, neck pain, or other ailments down the road.
Before starting at the Training Room, Nathan went from a peak weight of about 232lbs down to about 220 simply by eating better. Check out this scale that recorded and graphed his body weight measurements online since December of ’09:
After hitting a plateau, he enlisted our help and began to lose weight again. The very first thing I had him do was set up a food log and track everything he ate. This not only helps me to get a clearer picture of his diet, but it also serves as an eye-opener to him. All too often, I train clients who say they eat “pretty well” and can’t figure out why they’re not losing weight. Once we start recording their food intake, they realize that their eating habits could be a lot better.
Instead of going all Jillian Michaels on him after reviewing his food log, I had Nathan change just three things:
1) Drink a protein shake for breakfast instead of his usual sugary breakfast smoothie
2) Eat fewer carbohydrates in his meals and more veggies
3) Eat more fish and lean protein sources
After a couple of weeks of implementing these changes into his diet, Nathan noticed that controlling his portions became a lot easier because of the increased protein intake, which led to increased satiety. We then started to incorporate nutrient-dense foods like Greek yogurt along with various fruits and his diet gradually became very well-rounded. Salmon and roasted vegetables became a staple in his diet; I actually think there was a point in time where he ate salmon for dinner five nights in a row (note: I didn’t recommend this but, hey, the result was a four pound weight loss that week). By not completely overhauling his diet right from the get-go, I think the gradual changes really helped Nathan to stick to the game plan and not go crazy.
Nathan trained with me three times a week in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Contrary to popular belief, I did not have him perform steady, long distance cardio. We focused solely on strength training and followed a simple system that I use with all of my beginners called progressive overload. All it means is that with each workout you need to strive to become stronger at your main lifts (squat, deadlift, lunge, chin-up, chest press, etc.). Now, “stronger” could mean more weight or it could mean more repetitions with the same weight. Either way, if you don’t improve in either category you’re just maintaining your results from the previous workout.
Once or twice a week, I’d have Nathan go through some rigorous metabolic work for about 10 minutes at the end of his session. This was generally in the form of bike intervals with various work to rest ratios, and it’s main purpose was to burn as many calories as possible. I prefer the bike to most cardio apparati, because you can work at a high intensity with a low risk of injury. Sure, I could’ve had him lose weight with just cardio and high intensity circuits alone like in the Biggest Loser (kill me now):
But I have no doubt in my mind he would’ve been completely burnt out and would have hit a plateau before he got to his target weight. Purely cardio/metabolic-based workouts do very little in terms of building lean muscle mass, which is crucial in terms of elevating your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn doing absolutely nothing). They are, however, an extremely effective supplement to your fitness regimen if your goal happens to be fat loss.
Not only do I want my clients to lose weight, I also want them to gain lean muscle mass in order to improve their overall body composition. In just three months, Nathan got pretty strong. He went from not being able to do any pushups to doing 15 of them at the end of a workout with a 45 lb. plate on his back:
He also went from not having a prayer to pull himself up to performing 5 neutral grip pull-ups:
The key to Nathan’s success was his dedication and determination. He never missed a workout. He slammed down “not so delicious” protein shakes in the mornings and after his training sessions. He sacrificed some foods he really enjoyed for healthier options. Even if he had some slip-ups at social events, he got right back on track the next day instead of losing control. He went out of his way to make sure he cooked his meals, even though takeout or a Lean Cuisine would have been more convenient. There is very little room for error if you want to knock out 24lbs. in three months. Nathan took off 26.
Before dieting at around 23olbs and ??% body fat:
Before the Training Room at 220lbs and ~26% body fat:
After at 194lbs and 18.9% body fat: