#ProjectPaul is finally at an end. After 12 weeks, here are the before and after photos.
Whilst I expected to lose a significant amount of body fat, as indicated by the big reductions in skinfold measurements and circumferences particularly around my middle, what surprised me the most was the amount of body weight I lost overall – almost a stone and half! I had fully expected to end up around the same weight, if not gain more through adding some lean muscle, yet 73kg is the lightest I’ve ever been as an adult.
Here are the stats for my results:
A few friends and family members who hadn’t seen me for while were actually quite shocked at how different I looked (my dear mum in particular thought I needed a good meal!). However what’s interesting is that, although I’ll hardly be challenging for Mr Universe, as the photos suggest I still appear more ‘muscular’ than before. In the time frame we had it wasn’t realistic to gain a huge amount of lean mass, especially as I’m not a beginner to resistance training so was unlikely to respond as well as someone unused to lifting weights. That’s a real demonstration of how body transformations and indeed the sport of bodybuilding are to some extent about creating an ‘illusion’ of looking bigger than you actually are.
So objectively my body has certainly seem some big composition changes and it’s evidence, in my case at least, that you can achieve significant results in a relatively short period of time.
Am I happy with the progress I’ve made?
This is certainly not the most dramatic or impressive transformation someone’s managed in this time frame (just take a look at IronLife magazine editor Joe Warner’s recent effort under the guidance of Ultimate Performance founder Nick Mitchell), but that was probably inevitable given the limitations I placed on myself – a maximum of 3 training sessions a week, working with my trainer online rather than in person, etc.
With that in mind I think it’s an accurate reflection of what’s possible to achieve in my circumstances.
If you’d told me at the start I’d be 9kg lighter by the end I’d have been a bit put off, and I must admit I wouldn’t want to stay at this weight (I’d need new trousers for a start), yet as I’ve gone through the process and realised what’s necessary to achieve the look in the after photo, I’d have to say I’m pleased with where I’ve got to. Much like the quest for fat loss should not revolve around the number on the scales, neither should the pursuit of muscle gain if it’s for a purely aesthetic goal. It’s also now clear that I have essentially stripped away a lot of fat whilst retaining lean mass (and gaining a small amount). This is what was physiologically possible for me in 12 weeks. The next step is to put weight back on in the form of more muscle, which my body is now more primed to do. This is an important point, as it illustrates the value of not putting a pre-determined time frame on your programme if you don’t need to, as that automatically places a limit on what progress you can make, and instead adjusting things as you go until you reach your desired end result. So although I did what I could in 12 weeks, I haven’t reached my full potential so arguably I could still be a work in progress if I wanted to continue and see where I could get to (more on that below).
What about my health?
Physically, I feel great. My energy levels are regulated, my digestion is better, I handle carbs well rather than feeling bloated and no doubt the extra vegetables and water I’ve been consuming have benefitted me too. Admittedly I started to get a bit hungry in the final few days of reducing calories to strip away some more body fat, but I was hardly malnourished.
Was it all worth it?
That comes down to the difference between training for maximal results in a short time frame, versus a sustainable long-term approach to training and nutrition. As happy as I am with what I achieved, and as valuable as I have found the experience, for me to stay this lean from now on would require more than I’m prepared to give in terms of tracking and controlling my nutrition. On balance I’d rather have a lifestyle that requires fewer compromises than maintain a single-digit body fat percentage and visible abs all year round. Other people may find it easier to do (or at least always be within ‘striking distance’ of their peak physique), and that could be down to genetics, motivation, lifestyle or a combination of them all. And of course there’s the competitive physique athletes and models that go to the extreme levels of conditioning which aren’t sustainable for more than literally the few hours of their contest or photo shoot. They are essentially doing short-term transformations multiple times a year and this illustrates the fact that the physiological and psychological pressures you put yourself under simply can’t be maintained for more than a limited period of time.
The question almost everyone has asked is ‘what will you do now?’ I was looking forward to reaching the end of the programme and eating a few treats (thanks to MuscleFood.com for my goody box!), but I was never going to resort to sitting on the couch and gorging on junk food and takeaways seven days a week given that wasn’t my lifestyle before. Although I won’t be following as strict a regime as I did whilst working with Shaun, I’m keen to take advantage of my body’s readiness to add lean mass so will continue training and gradually increasing my calories for the next few weeks until my second child makes an arrival.
In that sense perhaps #ProjectPaul hasn’t really finished and there’ll be more to update you on before Christmas (just don’t tell my wife…)
Many thanks to David Moffit of Future Earth Photography for the after shots.