1) Why did you do this body transformation?
I turned 30! A sudden, painful awareness that I might live my entire life without ever seeing the outline of my abdominals convinced me to find out what I was doing wrong and seek professional help.
Could a beer-drinking, biscuit-scoffing journalist build a body worthy of a Men’s Fitness cover model? To find out, I enlisted the help of Nick Mitchell, the founder of Ultimate Performance Fitness with two personal training gyms in London (upfitness.co.uk), who is one of the mostly highly sought-after body composition experts in the country, if not Europe.
2) Did you achieve your goal?
I did: I shed 8 kg of fat and added 10 kg of muscle in 12 weeks.
But Mitchell’s initial diagnosis wasn’t good. “You have the classic ‘skinny-fat’ ectomorphic body, meaning you don’t have much muscle but a lot of fat, specifically on your belly,” he told me. “It’s the result of genetics, a high-carb, low-protein vegetarian diet, a demanding job, high stress levels and years of endurance training. We need to lose a lot of fat, while also adding a significant amount of new lean tissue to your slow-twitch, marathon-running muscles. It’s not mission impossible, but it’s as close as it gets.”
Sticking to Mitchell’s training, diet (I started eating meat after 21 years as a vegetarian) and supplements plan, my body fat level dropped from 16.5 percent to 5.5 percent as my total weight increased 2 kg to 74.2 kg.
3) What now? Will you continue with the diet, supplement, and training program you used over the past four months or try something new?
My next goal is to be 80 kg at about 10 percent body fat. I think that is a realistic goal for the medium-term. I’m sticking to Mitchell’s intense workouts, so lots of supersets, trisets and drop sets, keeping rest intervals short and working the muscles to fatigue. It’s not always pleasant but it’s highly effective.
4) What was the hardest part of the four months?
Giving up alcohol. It was probably the biggest sacrifice I made. It meant I missed out on a few social occasions – I’m not too good at going to the bar and only having sparkling water – but I got used to avoiding liquor pretty quickly.
5) What did you anticipate would be hard but wasn’t?
Eating meat again. I’d been vegetarian for 21 years but got back into it very quickly. Not only does meat taste delicious, I found that I was more focused, had more energy and started enjoying food again. I ate red meat for breakfast every day of the 12-week challenge.
6) Did you have any concerns going into the body transformation?
Not really, I was eager to get started to see whether I could get the body I had always wanted! I suppose I was a bit nervous at first because I knew that it was going to hurt, but it was all worth it for the end result.
7) Were you training before you started the transformation? How did your workouts change once the transformation started?
I had trained for a good few years, but never effectively. I did a lot of distance running, and what weights I did do focused on the ‘mirror’ muscles, so I did a lot of chest, shoulder and biceps moves, but never any legs.
I didn’t even do compound moves: instead preferring biceps curls. Mitchell taught me that you don’t need to train for long, but you do need to train smart. So we did lots of exercises back-to-back without rest to fire up my metabolism to burn fat, while generating the right hormonal response to also build muscle.
8) Aside from training, how did you change your lifestyle during the transformation?
I was more focused at work. I think because training hard was a real outlet for stress. I could take out any frustrations I had in the weight room and really started to enjoy my sessions with Mitchell. I was tired more, especially in the evenings and first thing upon waking, but I soon got used to it.
9) What is the most important thing you learned in terms of fitness/training from the transformation experience?
I’ve told this to everyone I have spoken to about my challenge, but I wholly believe that anyone can change their physique in the way that I did. All it requires is discipline and dedication in the gym and in the kitchen. If you give 100 percent in the gym – leaving every last effort on the gym floor and holding nothing back – then stick rigidly to your diet plan, I don’t see how you can fail to make huge changes to the way you look without your clothes on.
10) What is the most important thing you learned in general from the experience?
That your mind wants to quit long before your muscles do. It’s amazing how many more reps you can bash out with the right trainer instructing you. There were times I thought I couldn’t do any more, but Mitchell’s wise words – and sometimes heavy slap on the back – inspired me to see how far I could go. Anything is possible with the right attitude. Don’t let you mind make you take the easy way out.
11) You have worked with Charles Poliquin before in the Arm Thrashing workout that is posted on the Men’s Fitness UK site. What sets the Poliquin training method apart from other trainers you have encountered?
I have followed Charles and his methodology since first joining Men’s Fitness magazine back in 2008. What I admire most is his no-nonsense approach. There’s no fads or crazes, just simple advice, clearly and constructively detailed, that if followed to the letter, will lead to some remarkable results. I also admire his never-ending search for the latest information and studies that continue to shape his take on the best and most efficient ways of getting fitter, faster and stronger.
12) What is a potential pitfall that you think the average guy who wants to do a similar transformation might experience?
Don’t overcomplicate things. So many guys are really bad at keeping things simple – they are always questioning their training or diet plan, wondering what needs tweaking.
My advice is this: find a training program that is testing, but achievable, and a sensible diet plan. You won’t go wrong! Remember, it doesn’t matter how hard you work out, you can’t out-train a bad diet.
For more on Nick Mitchell and Ultimate Performance Fitness...