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This page was updated on January 29, 2015.

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.

Aside from a few cups of black coffee, I drink nothing but water all day. I love it and it’s great for me. I drink about 1.5 gallons of water a day.

A good night’s sleep is very important. I try to get 8 hours of sleep every night.

Check out my training page for detailed and up-to-date information.

No, I workout at home. My job as a Network Administrator keeps me on call pretty much 24/7, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home. My responsibilities require that at any given time I’m able to get to my computers at a moment’s notice, so going to a gym on a daily basis is not practical for me. I also find that it’s much easier for me to stay motivated because all of my exercise equipment is in my house, challenging me to a workout every time I walk by my gym.

Both free weights and machines are beneficial. While the core of my workouts continue to be free weights, I also incorporate machine and cable work. If I could only choose one, I’d go with free weights.

What I lift is relevant only to me, so I don’t see any purpose in posting how much I lift. I’m not trying to stroke my ego or become involved in a “pissing match” with anyone. The purpose of this web site is to provide motivation, inspiration and (hopefully) sound advice based on my personal experiences and research.

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.

You can’t spot-reduce your fat. Our bodies simply don’t work that way, so put the notion of targeted fat loss out of your head. The only way to reduce the fat around your mid-section (or anywhere else) is to reduce your overall body fat levels. It’s also very important to do everything you can to preserve your existing lean muscle mass while dieting. This is accomplished by creating a mild caloric deficit (eating slightly less calories than your body requires), consuming a wholesome, well-balanced diet and weight training. Cardio-vascular workouts can also be a very helpful part of your overall fat loss program, however a proper diet and resistance training should be your top priorities. If you’re interested in learning more, I covered the subject of obtaining “six pack” abs in this article.

I have not noticed any stretch marks at all, except a little bit on the back of my thighs. They are not noticeable, so I don’t worry about them. I do have a little loose skin around my lower/mid abs. It should tighten up on its own over time.

I was a vegetarian for a little over 10 years. I started eating seafood again in late 2002, and I began incorporating meat back in to my diet April of 2003. Chicken breasts and lean steak (such as eye of round) are a large part of my current diet. I feel that animal-based protein sources have played an important role in my ability to attain a lean, muscular physique.

I reached my initial fat loss goals and ended my first fat loss program on June 17, 2003. I celebrated on June 21, 2003 with my first real “cheat” meal in almost 6 months. I did not eat any cheat meals during my entire “2003” fat loss program. Because I’m very active, my body fat percentage is very low and I eat clean, healthy foods almost exclusively, I feel comfortable eating foods that I normally would not eat on occasion. These “cheat foods” are in the form of single meals (I don’t enjoy gorging on junk food for an entire day).

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.

In late 2003 I injured my shoulder. I was unable to do any real upper body workouts from late 2003 until July 2004. I gained quite a lot of muscle in my legs during this time, but my upper body lost a lot of strength and size. Being unable to lift, adding any mass was obviously impossible. It was very frustrating.

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.

The official diagnosis was Chronic Tendonitis and Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. When I was a competitive swimmer in high school, there was a lot of repetitive overhead motion involved. I was a swimmer for many, many years and would often train for more than 4 hours per day, 6 days per week. My troubles started then, and my recent heavy weight lifting activities combined with age caused the problem to re-surface and worsen.

Believe me, I wanted to. However doing so would have been very foolish. Shoulder problems can take a long, long time to heal, and ignoring the problem and “toughing it out” will only make the problem worse.

It was a long and frustrating eight months. The first few weeks I just rested my shoulder and didn’t do any upper body workouts. I figured that I had just strained something in my shoulder and would be as good as new with a few weeks of rest. Unfortunately rest wasn’t enough – not even close.

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.

It was bound to happen to me eventually – inguinal hernias are often congenital. My dad had an inguinal hernia on both sides, and he never lifted anything heavier than a beer. Heavy weight training may have caused it to happen a little sooner, but it would have happened eventually even if I had continued to live a sedentary lifestyle. Being in good shape allowed for a very quick recovery – my surgeon was impressed!

Thank you. I’ll let you in on a little secret: most of us who train with weights on a regular basis do it because it’s a wonderful, healthy activity with countless positive benefits. It’s a far more productive and fulfilling way to spend your time than, say, sitting down to write a hateful email to someone you don’t even know.

No. I made a commitment to myself (and to all of you), and I will do everything in my power to continue to live up to it.

I’m stubborn as hell when I want to be. Mind over matter. This blog entry might be of interest.

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.

For photo editing and organizing I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 and Adobe Photoshop CS5.

My pictures were taken in an extra room that sees very little traffic. The camera was placed on a tripod and the legs of the tripod are placed on tape marks I had on the floor. I also had tape marks where I stood. The primary light source is never moved, and there is very little ambient light in the room.

I took front and profile pictures of myself every single day from January 6, 2003 until April 28, 2004. That is 479 days in a row.

I had my hernia surgery on April 28, 2004. After the surgery I physically couldn’t take the pictures while I was recovering. With my streak broken, it seemed like a good time to stop. By that point there was really not much use in continuing with the daily pictures anyway.

No – no more daily pictures. Ever. Sorry. The daily pictures were a great motivational tool and they served their purpose, but that time is past. I can’t even begin to describe what a huge pain it was to take multiple pictures every day for almost 500 days in a row without missing a single one. No matter what was going on in my life I had to take the pictures, crop them, re-size them and get them posted – every single morning without fail. Ugh! I don’t regret doing the daily shots, but I’m very glad that I’m not doing them anymore.

My fitness goals have evolved a lot over the past eight years and have moved more towards athletic performance and away from bodybuilding. Also, after all these years I started getting sick of feeling obligated to take the photos. I still take lots of fitness photos, but the posed monthly progress photos are now part of my past.

Yes. With the exception of the occasional vacation, I’ve updated the page every single day without fail since January 6th, 2003.

I have no plans to stop at this time.

I didn’t take any fat-burning supplements at all for the first year and half of my program. After about a year and a half, I still had a small amount of stubborn fat just below my belly button so I tried a product called “Tight” (an Ephedra-free fat burner) and another product called “Ab-Solved” (a transdermal fat-burner). I don’t think the fat burner did much good, but I did have some very limited, temporary success with the transdermal. Since then I’ve tried a few different fat burners/thermogenics, none of which impressed me.

No, never.

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.
  • Glucosamine/Chrondrotin/MSM for joint support.

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.

Absolutely not. My physique is the result of many years of hard work and dedication to my training and diet–not drugs.

Bruised Arm

Bruised Arm

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.

When I bruised my arm it never even occurred to me that I would one day be accused of using steroids. Look, if I were indeed a steroid user and I wanted to hide that from the rest of the world, don’t you think I would have covered the bruises, or removed them using Photoshop? It’s not hard to do.

My hair is not thinning. I simply have a shorter cut now than I did when I first started my program.

I chose to train naturally. If I did use steroids, I would have absolutely no problem admitting it. If you still don’t believe me and it’s driving you crazy, then I’ll be happy to take a drug test anytime, anywhere. All you have to do is pay for the test, my transportation and my time.

I agree, I look silly. My muscles are tensed, and I stand with my arms puffed out. I stand like that not because I think I’m some badass, or because I have massive lats pushing my arms out; I stand that way so that I can see my lat development, and so I can see my arms better. Keep in mind that the purpose of my pictures is so that I can gauge my progress, not to look good (mission accomplished!) Look around my site and you’ll see plenty of pictures of me not posing. When I’m walking around I never have my arms sticking out like that, I just look like a normal guy who is in shape.

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.

The third way I checked my fat was using Heath Central’s online body fat calculator. You’ll need a good soft tape to take your measurements. You can’t beat the MyoTape.

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.

No. I’m very happily married. I’ve been with Lisa for over 20 years. I can’t imagine life without her.


I use tanning lotion and the Sun. Living in Florida doesn’t hurt, either!

Between 1 million and 2 million hits per day.

It varies a lot. When the site is mentioned by a major news source or goes “viral”, it’s not unusual for me to receive 100+ emails in one day. Under normal circumstances these days I get between 3 and 10 emails per day.

No, not at all! I always love hearing from other people who are into fitness, or who want to get into fitness. It’s very inspiring. Please understand that due to the volume of mail that I receive and the limited amount of free time that I have available to me, I can no longer respond to individual emails. Thanks for understanding.

Please see this blog for a detailed reply.

Sorry, there’s not much I can do about that. I assure you that everything you see on this site is truthful and accurate.

I crop them so they are uniform in appearance, I resize the cropped images to a standard size, I do basic color correction and then I run the “sharpen” filter on them. That’s it.

The pictures are not altered. Around picture #71 the camera was moved to a slightly higher vantage point. Just look at my shoulders, particularly in the side pictures. The current pictures obviously were taken with the camera in a higher position than the earlier pictures. You can also see this by noting the relative position of my knees.

Sorry, your friend is wrong!

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.

Absolutely. I find inspiration in all sorts of places. Most people I’ve come into contact with, either in person or over the Internet, have inspired me in one way or another.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “FAQ”
    • I had a grand total of 4 beers over the course of my initial transformation. These 4 beers were consumed early on in my transformation, and around March of 2003 I made the choice to give up alcohol completely while I was losing fat.

      Since my initial transformation I do drink when I’m maintaining, but I never consume alcohol while actively bulking or cutting.

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