This page was updated on April 21, 2011.
No, I was pretty fit for most of my life. I swam competitively from the age of 9 until I was 17. In high school I was a very dedicated athlete. I was the only freshman on varsity, I lettered all 4 years, and I was state-ranked by my sophomore year. I worked out twice a day, about 4 hours (+/-) per day, 6 days a week for many years.
After high school I did something very stupid. I started smoking. I didn’t really work out much after high school, but I stayed very thin. Too thin, in fact. When I was 22 years old I weighed just 147 pounds, and had lost most of my muscle due to my very poor eating habits (I would routinely skip breakfast and lunch and then eat a small dinner at 6:00 PM).
By 1994 I had stopped exercising completely, started eating a lot of junk food, and continued to smoke like a fiend (2-3 packs a day while sitting in front of a computer 16 hours a day). By late 2000, I decided that I had to quit smoking, so on October 31st of 2000 I smoked my last cigarette. My iron will / stubbornness kicked in, and I quit on the first try cold turkey with no “stop smoking” aids. The problem was, I started eating–A LOT. Already slightly overweight, over the next 2 years I gained an additional 30+ pounds.
Towards the later half of 2002, I started really feeling bad. I was experiencing chest pains, heart burn and acid reflux. Despite the fact that I’d stopped smoking over 2 years ago, I still became winded when walking more than a few dozen feet. I was wheezing constantly and my coughing was still horrible. To make matters worse, I was extremely pale, I’d lost all my self-confidence and had become very fat. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling complete and total disgust at myself for what I’d done to my body and spirit through neglect. The night before I started my program I weighed almost 220 pounds and truly felt as if I could die at any moment.
Absolutely correct. I did not eat enough when I started my program, and it probably hurt my progress somewhat. I have since learned better and have adjusted my daily caloric intake accordingly. The temptation to under-eat just so you can see the scale move down faster is pure folly. Remember, you want to lose fat, NOT muscle! Under-eating is a sure-fire way to catabolize muscle. Be patient, eat right, lift weights and do cardio. The fat will come off.
Anyone who wants to lose fat should start by eating at a minimum about 10 times their body weight in calories each day. For most people losing 1-2 pounds of fat per week is about right. Keep in mind that those calories can’t come from just any foods–they must come from wholesome foods, and you must get a good balance of macronutrients. All your hard work in the gym won’t amount to much without a good diet to fuel your body.
I used to aim for a 40/40/20 diet, which simply means I tried to get 40% of my calories from protein, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fats, with a focus on unsaturated fats, which are fats rich in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). There are two kinds of EFAs: omega-3 (linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid). These EFAs are found in foods such as salmon and olive oil.
Over time I’ve changed those macronutrient percentages around quite a bit. “40/40/20″ is not a hard and fast rule, but it’s not a bad place to start.
Please be aware that the above diet contains too much protein unless you are following a good weight training program. You also should not eat that much protein if you have any history of kidney problems. IF IN DOUBT ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR.
Anyway, the idea is to divide these calories up and eat 5-6 meals a day. This is very important. Eating every two to three hours will help keep you feeling full, provide your body with a steady stream of nutrients, and will keep your metabolism elevated.
Many people have had great success using “keto” diets. I did quite a bit of research on keto-style diets and decided they were not a good match for me. Personally I don’t think putting your body in a state of ketosis is a very healthy thing to do. My goal was to change my eating and exercise habits permanently, so a keto diet didn’t seem like a very good solution for my particular goals.
I do mention from time-to-time the relative gains that I make with my lifts — I can see where that data would be useful to others — but the actual amount of weight I’m lifting is useless information to everyone but me.
Up until September 2, 2003 my weight training equipment consisted of a cheap bench with butterfly and leg attachments, a barbell and a complete set of hex dumbbells (5-70 pounds in 5-pound increments). My indoor cardio equipment is a stationary recumbent bike, and I also do a lot of mountain biking. Since September 3, 2003 I have upgraded my equipment and completely remodeled my home gym a couple of times. You can read all about it and check out “before” and “after” pictures here.
For most of my cutting and bulking phases over the years I’ve elected to forgo any dietary indulgences for the entire length of my the program. That means no cheat meals, junk food or alcohol. While this sort of “all or nothing” approach is not for everyone, I enjoy the challenge.
As of August 20, 2004 I was able to lift once again and gained about 40 pounds by the time my bulk ended on January 1, 2004. I reached my goal of 16″ arms (I hit 16.25 inches, cold/flexed) and my goal of a 42″ chest (I hit 43 inches, cold). By any measure, it was a very successful bulk.
Since my 2004 bulk, I’ve successfully cut and bulked several times, and I have packed on quite a bit of muscle.
I went to my doctor where X-Rays were taken. The X-rays didn’t show any bone problems, so I was given a series of cortisone treatments and started taking an anti-inflammatory drug called Naproxen. After a few months of this with no improvement, I was sent to have an MRI and then to an Orthopedic doctor for further evaluation and treatment. My orthopedic doctor administered much more aggressive cortisone shots, and upped the amount of Naproxen I was taking. This helped a little, but I was still in pain and unable to lift. As a last ditch effort before surgery, I started physical therapy sessions. I went to physical therapy 2 times every week for a couple of months. I did the exercises at home 2 or 3 times per day, every day. There was more improvement, but I still had pain in my shoulder anytime I used it – stuff like washing the car and yard work really bothered it.
Frustrated, I was ready to go under the knife but I was not scheduled to go back to my orthopedic doctor for a few more weeks. During those weeks, I continued to do the shoulder exercises I had learned while in physical therapy. In July 2004, my shoulder was feeling pretty good, so I decided to try an upper body workout with relatively light weights. My shoulder hurt a little, but nothing like before. Over the next few weeks I continued to do upper body workouts while slowly increasing the amount of weight I was using. After a few weeks I realized that my shoulder was holding up and decided to start bulking on August 20, 2004. My shoulder is not 100% pain free, but it’s also not getting any worse. I will eventually require surgery to fully correct the problem.
Up until March 29, 2004 I was using a Fuji FinePix 1400 Zoom digital camera (1.3 MP).
On March 29, 2004 I began using a Fuji S7000 digital camera (6.6 MP).
When the S7000 died in 2007 I bought a Canon Powershot A560 (7.1 MP).
As of April 2011 I’m using a Canon 60D (18.1 MP) DSLR. I have a few lenses. My general purpose “walk around” lens is the Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM IF, and I also have a 50mm fast prime lens that is an amazing bang for the buck, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II.
Here is a list of the supplements I’m currently taking:
- Protein powder. I’ve used all kinds of protein powders, but I’m currently using AtLarge Nutrition’s Nitrean. I supplement with protein powder because it’s a perfect way to get high-quality protein quickly absorbed into my body after my workouts. AtLarge’s Nitrean is a very high quality blend of whey (isolates, concentrate and hydrolyzed), casein and egg proteins.
- Multi-Vitamins. A good multi is important, especially for athletes. Currently I’m using Universal’s “Animal Pak”. I also like the AST Multi-Pro 32X multi-vitamin.
I also use a few all-natural products to aid with post-workout recovery and maintain my lean muscle mass: L-Glutamine, Creatine monohydrate, Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Up until February 10, 2004, the answer to the above question was an unqualified “no”; I never had any affiliation whatsoever with any of the companies or web sites that I linked to. I mentioned the brand names of the products that I use because I’m asked about them constantly. In February 2004 I added my first sponsor to this site. Since that time, I’ve added several more carefully selected sponsors.
Unlike some other sites, I actually use, endorse and believe in the products offered by our sponsors. I also chose to pay for the products I use, and I only accept sponsors that offer products and services that I believe to be the best in the business. You can order from our sponsors and be sure you are getting the best possible quality at the lowest possible prices.
Obviously the Earth is flat. That picture was taken in March (2003), which is spring time in Orlando. I simply bruised my arm while doing some yard work. I assure you, I don’t use any drugs.
For the first 8 or 9 months of my transformation, I checked my body fat percentage 3 different ways, then I averaged the results. This is how I did it for the first 9 months:
First, I bought a Taylor BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) body fat scale. They are not very expensive, and can be found at retailers such as target. Most BIA scales tend to read a bit high when measuring body fat (especially when measuring athletic individuals), but they are good for tracking relative changes.
I also used a set of 3-point digital body fat calipers which I purchased for about 30 bucks.
Once I had the results from all three of those methods, I just added them up and divided by 3, then I rounded the result to the nearest whole number.
After the first 8 or 9 months I started using the 3-point calipers exclusively until March 2007.
As of March 8, 2007, I stopped using the 3-point caliper test. As it turns out, I was actually at a considerably higher body fat percentage than was being reported. I am now using a quality digital caliper to perform a 7-point skinfold test. The caliper I’m using is the FatTrack PRO Digital Body Fat Caliper (unfortunately it’s no longer available). It uses the Jackson-Pollock formula for determining body fat through skin fold tests, and seems to be quite accurate. The caliper can also be used in manual mode to do 9-point skinfold tests, but the 7-point test produces the same result for me.
I like all kinds of music, but when I work out nothing beats Enya or Yanni!
Just kidding. I like aggressive music when I lift. Stuff like Hatebreed, Fear Factory, Shadow’s Fall, Unearth, Diecast, God Forbid, Stampin’ Ground, Dry Kill Logic…
When I do cardio and abs I like a good solid beat, so I listen stuff like Crystal Method.