The below transformation is from 2009. A more up-to-date progress article here
In 2009, the Propane Editors agreed a program for Yusef to hold onto muscle whilst losing fat. Yusef’s initial approach to diet was quite extreme so we took a much more moderate approach, especially with his carb intake. We placed the focus on food choices initially and avoided counting calories, making changes accordingly as Yusef’s body responded. This was crucial to keep the fat loss continuous. We have learned a lot since then, and have settled on a more focused and efficient approach.
The way we planned training was a simple 2 way split focussing on accumulating volume with heavy weights in big lifts and then performing a circuit in order to burn calories and boost EPOC. Low intensity cardio was added as fat loss slowed, but that it, he never spent hours on the treadmill.
The most important factor in Yusef’s progress was his determination and consistency, he could have used the most complicated training plan and diet but he would have seen no results if he’d stopped after 3 days. Yusef had a goal (“hot abalabs”) and he kept going until he got there.
Initial stats: 1st Feb 2009:
Around 18% bodyfat
Dip: BW + 42kg
I am naturally skinny (59kg before I started training). Below – photo at 17 years old, after 1 year of training:
So why did I let myself get to that level of bodyfat? Honestly, I thought it was muscle! You need to carefully monitor yourself, or the fat can creep on. I was always getting comments that I was looking ‘bigger’, which I equated with ‘more muscular’. Not the case. My belly was hard, but I looked pregnant – visceral/intra-abdominal fat.
My diet up to this point had high calories and protein, but a lot of processed food.
My lifts initially took a plunge as I lost the first 4kg. Particularly my squat, dropping 10kg.
There was a lot of experimentation involved in the diet, cardio and HIIT in the first few months. The metabolic circuits were revoltingly hard, and I found that lowering my carbohydrates too much caused me to lose strength from worsened training quality.
Once I increased my carb intake, and took out the high intensity/metabolic circuits is when the fat loss started to speed up. The lesson was to experiment with your own body and observe your own results.
The real spark was once I started walking more. Not depriving myself of carbohydrates or sprinting up hills ad nauseum
Then my strength started to climb back up after the initial hit. My arms even caught up in size.
Training in the 85% 1RM range for triples helped maintain strength without burnout.
The leaner you get, the more you need to take a calculated approach. The first few pounds will come off easily, but you cannot afford to be haphazard with the strategy to get the final few.
I tried 2 fat-loss supplements, Acetyl Carnitine and green tea extract. I found the Carnitine to have no noticeable effect at 3000mg per day, but the green tea both improved the intensity of my workouts and is supported in the data for fat loss.
By June, the lower bodyweight was helping tremendously with gymnastics. Without training it over the period, I could now hold a flag:
My vertical jump improved significantly, and I was able to perform gymnastic skills that seemed impossible at 90kg.
End 1st June 2009:
The most dramatic visual difference for me was in my abdomen, neck and face, whereas for Jonny it was mostly in the lower body. I feel this is because of our hormonal profiles. I was storing a lot of visceral fat. Bulging, bloated belly, but not much to pinch, so I assumed it was muscle. I was very wrong.
Now I don’t look pregnant!
Stats 1st June:
Dip: BW+ 65kg
Fat loss of 13.1kg, and an increase in absolute strength in all of my lifts. I definitely owe this to the careful monitoring and tailored programming that Jonny and Daniel offered combined with my own knowledge.
The lessons I have learned from this:
– Fat loss is NOT something you can ‘wing’. Attempting to ‘recomp’ is a waste of time.
– You may be fatter than you think you are, depending on where you store most of your bodyfat.
– Improving your relative strength will supercharge your athletic performance
– It IS possible to gain a degree of of strength/size while losing fat.
– Being lighter put less strain on my joints and tendons, particularly ankles.