Losing Fat & Building Muscle – My Journey

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There is so much online advice on how to best lose body fat while building muscle simultaneously. All of the different opinions on nutrition and exercise are numerous and can be very confusing to new readers. Over the past year I have immersed myself in these fields with the intent of finding the most optimal plan for MYSELF from various nutrition and fitness experts. I don’t intent to preach and promote my point.  Here, I want to share my own findings in a  bulletproof point style that have worked for me:

Following the pointslisted below I have gone from 68kg (150 lbs) at 14% body fat in March 2012 to 84kg (185 lbs) at 10% body fat in January 2013:

1-Neuer Ordner

Going from meagre midget to a more masculine physique

Goal: Lose fat  & build muscle mass

Project duration:  5 years

  • Getting lean is a matter of losing body fat
  • Losing body fat is primarily a matter of correct nutrition
  • Correct nutrition accounts for roughly 85% of fat loss
  • Fat loss can be maximised with a smart workout routine


  • Reject mainstream nutrition dogma
  • My own diet: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, seeds, raw dairy, 
    • 30% : 30% : %40
  • To lose fat I had to be in a slightly hypocaloric state (i.e. ~200 kcal below baseline daily caloric intake)
  • Carbohydrate intake is adjusted according to level of activity during the day
  • Post-workout: protein & carbohydrates should be slightly higher
  • Fasting a few days per week lasting from last meal at 10 PM the previous day to 12 PM the next day (14 hours no food –> use of coffee to boost fat loss)
  • For breakfast only protein & fat food sources to prevent blood sugar swings
  • After training hard, a lot of carbohydrates + protein (carb sources: white rice, rice noodles, sweet & white potatoes) in the evening hours
  • No carb restriction at night (if trained hard)
  • No need to eat 5 meals a day –> 2 bigger ones are enough + 1 snack (if I am hungry)
  • No processed food –> ALWAYS cooking highest quality ingredients from scratch
  • To gain body mass –> I had to eat more than my body really needs


Modes of exercises:

  • High Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT)
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training)

  • I perform HIRT sessions three times a week for no longer than 30min each
  • I use a mix of free weights, machine equipment and bodyweight (BW) exercises
  • I don’t perform strength conditions and skill conditioning at the same time (strength vs skill)
  • Stick to compound (multi-joint) exercises that stimulate the biggest muscle groups
  • Big, basic exercises first –> some single-joint isolation exercises later to target specific muscles
I choose exercises from the list below:
  • Free weight exercises:
    • Deadlift (Barbell or Trapbar)
    • Incline Bench Press
    • Overhead Press (Military or Push Press with barbell/dumbbell)
    • Squat (Front, Back, Goblet, Bulgarian Split Squat)
    • Optional:
      • Shrugs
      • Chest Cable Fly
      • Hammer Curls
  • BW exercises:
    • Chin Up
    • Dips
    • Push Up
    • Handstand
    • Inverted Row
  • Machine based exercises:
    • Rowing movement
    • Pullover
    • Overhead Press
    • Chest Press
    • Leg Press
    • Heel Raise

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

  • For boost fat loss, I use HIIT 2 times a week on rest days between HIRT
  • I don’t perform steady-state cardio (e.g. long-distance running, indoor cycling etc) –> I walk daily + cycle on my bike to travel to uni & work
  • The below exercises are short, crisp and very intense:
  • Uphill Sprints
    • Risk of injury is lower than with normal sprints
    • Conditioning (=endurance) imrpoves a lot
    • 5-10 min warm-up
    • 1 run at 60 % intensity
    • 1 x 80 % intensity
    • 10 x 95% intensity with 30 sec rest intervals
  • Farmer’s Walk
    • Perfect finishing exercise for a HIRT session –> it just kills you
    • Grab two weight suitcases & walk for as long as you can (for me: 30m)
    • Repeat for 10 cycles with minimal rest
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  • Emanuel Ziegler

    Good Work!

  • Nicolás Sawicki

    That’s quite an amazing transformation! How many exercises do you do per workout? Do you find that working out 3/week is better than the 1-2 times/week people like McGuff recommend? Love your blog, keep up the good work!

    • Stephan R

      Thanks for dropping in and your kind words.

      Actually, my workout philosophy is evolving constantly and I am on a journey myself when it comes to my physical transformation.

      That said, however, I can share some of the lessons I have learned since I started in March 2012.

      I started out using McGuff`s BBS Big 5 Workout as a template to which I added some additional exercises such as pullover, leg extension, curls, chins, dips chest fly – each exercise done on MedX machine exclusively. Didnt use any free weights at the time. Following this protocol for a good half year I made great gains working out no more than 2 times per week.

      Later in 2012, I got access to student house gym key and I gradually started incorporating free weight exercises – in particular I got enamored with the deadlift (both barbell and trapbar). From then on I alternated between MedX machine workouts and free weights workout which amounted to roughly 3 times per week, usually in the evening.

      My access to MedX machines will expire in 2 weeks so I will have free weights only. And that is absolutely not a problem.

      I will say this: BBS is a great starting point as its focus is mainly on big compound movements that engage much of the musculature. Applying the same principle with free weights is paramount.

      I currently focus on the deadlift, front squat, incline DB press, barbell rows, chins, shoulder presses and will throw in assistance exercises for isolated muscles at the end of each workout (i.e. curls, pushdown, lateral raises). Always try to get better with the big main movements first before you do assistance.

      Before you start, define what your goal is first. If you want to feel better in general and have max outcome with minimal time investment: BBS is great.

      If your goal is to put on some mass bodybuilding style: increase the volume, slightly decrease the intensity and train CONSISTENTLY 3-4 times a week focusing on ONE big movement + assistance each workout.

      Train consistenly for 2 years, eat well, sleep a lot, and if you are a human being: you will see great results. You will stagnate at some point using the same protcol, that`s where you start looking at has worked best for your body and start refining your training phisophy.

      Good luck!

      • John

        That is an outstanding amount of mass for that time span. What is your height?

        • Stephan R

          I am 185 cm or 6 ft 1.

          • John

            Your training protocols are very similar to what Jason Ferruggia preaches. I’m fan of the guy and use some of his workouts myself, but to be completely frank, they aren’t working so well to me (gained 15 lbs or so in the first six months, and then the scale simply stopped moving for a couple of months now).

            Maybe it has to do with resting. I think I need to sleep better, eat slightly more and schedule massages more frequently. I’m also an student and sometimes exams and shit leaves me so fucking stressed by the end of the day. Have you noticed key points on your journey that made your gains skyrocket? I’m in a plateau right now and ran out of ideas to test.

            Also, did you take supplements?

          • Stephan R

            Train + Eat + Sleep = that’s the equation you need to follow

            If any of these three varibles is lagging behind, you will notice in terms of lacking results.

            Jason Ferruggia has some excellent advice. He provides a template but you need to work out the nitty gritty details yourself that work specifically for you.

            Take more days off in between workouts – and sleep and destroy a lot of food on these days. Find your sweet spot for carb tolarence. You should come back stronger after fixing your sleep and diet.

            My weight has been plateauing for the last 6 months but the quality of lean mass and strength has improved after adding in the gymnastics ring workouts.

            Give me some more details on yourself to make a better judgement.

          • John

            I’ve been lifting for 6 months now, following Jason’s workout template (big lifts, 5-8 rep range, 15-20 sets per workout max) and gained 10 lbs (not 15, my mistake) in four months, and then the scale stopped moving.

            I don’t take supplements. I workout 4 times a week, but been thinking about 3 day a week. I don’t foam roll, but will start next week. I have problem with eating super quality, organic food, it simply doesn’t fit in my schedule. I eat potatoes as much as I can, eat white rice as much as I can, but without a controlled diet, I’m unable to force feed myself for longs periods of time. I find difficult to time meals, tracks cals, etc but keep in mind that I have to EAT. Not with much success, apparently.

          • Stephan R

            10 lbs still isnt bad for 4 months. Ok, it could have been more considering it’s your first 6 months of lifting but then again you are putting in the hard work but not allowing your body to supercompensate enough. The gain of lean mass happens linerarly only up until some point.

            Try going a bit higher rep (8-12) for 3 months or so. Also, look up Paul Carter’s „365“ ebook. I wouldnt worry so much about your food not being organic. Organic food doesnt give you muscles. Calories and sleep do – nothing else.

  • Jake

    Did you take supplements? (Whey, creatine, etc)

    • http://www.biohacks.net/ Stephan R

      Creatine doesnt work on me. Just doing an experiment. Update in 2 weeks.

      I did a 1-2 scoops of unflavoured whey concentrate on lifting days. Other than that – REAL FOOD and SLEEP!

      • Jake

        I thought I’d wait for your update, but then again, it could take longer than two weeks due to tight schedule, etc, so I will post before that.

        Aside from supplements, I noticed that you didn’t mention exercises that target specifically the abs. Even with single digit bodyfat percentage, your ab definition seems to be better than someone that would just train their abs indirectly with squats, deads, etc (as one would assume from your post). Long story short: did you follow an ab routine? If yes, could you outline it for us?

        • http://www.biohacks.net/ Stephan R

          Up until the beginning of 2014, I have never followed any ab training routine. IMO, t’s all about body fat and the genetic shape of your abs. You can’t do much on changing the shape of your abs.

          However, as of Jan 2014, I have seriously taken up the challenge of mastering the front and back lever on gymnastic rings. Anybody who has ever tried these knows how challenging they are to the abs. That’s why my abs have gotten thicker since a few weeks.

          I will post pictures around May when getting really shredded. Stay tuned!

          • Jake

            Yup. For instance, my abs are very similar to Lazar Angelov’s abs, which is somewhat uncommon, and that’s not something I can change.

            I’m assuming you are flexing in that after pic, right? If that pic were taken with relaxed, but upright posture, your abs would still be visible? I have 7-8% bf and if I flex, you can see my abs very well, but if I relax, there’s only a slight hint that they’re there.

            Doing crunches and shit like that put a motherfucking load on your spine, so I never did direct ab training. I’d give planks a go, but I’m skeptical that it would help with ab size/definition, because I tried L-sits and dragon flags for a while, but couldn’t see any visible difference. Probably I hadn’t the core strength necessary to successfully activate them. I’m looking for healthy ways to improve my abs size/definition, but don’t have access to gymnastic rings nor other kind of advanced equipment at the time. Do you have any suggestions?

          • http://www.biohacks.net/ Stephan R

            Sure, I am flexing.

            Wouldnt bother about crunches either. Recently, I have incorporated ab rollouts on a wheel – activates your entire core like crazy. You can do them on a wheel, rings, or even the wheels of your office chair. No excuse not to do them.

            Check out Ross Enamait for the rollout videoes. He’s a beast and super creative with building equipment or not using any equipment at all.

            Also, can you REALLY confirm that you’re 7-8 % BF? Not that it’s not sustainable, but I kind of doubt it. :)

          • Jake

            Can’t wait to try those rollouts. I found out that my abs are underdeveloped if compared to the rest of my body. Specially my lower abs, which coupled with seating a few hours a day give me a little bit of anterior pelvic tilt. Those rollouts will target the lower abs as well?

            I will, love that kind of shit.

            I have a DEXA scan scheduled, I’ll update you once I get the results. Last time I checked my BF% was on a doc, made with a fat caliper with medical precision (not that plastic shit you can find on eBay), and got 6.97, but I suspect that percentage was a bit higher at the time and even more by now.

            Man, I was LITERALLY just bones. I’m what you would describe as an ectomorph and I’m quite young, so I’d say that yeah, it’s possible that I have BF% that low. I don’t make effort at all to maintain it, even in super caloric bulk phases (logged, so I’m really eating shitloads).

          • http://www.biohacks.net/ Stephan R

            Keep the DEXA results coming. Love to see them.

            Lower abs will be sore. Very sore. But honestly, nothing seems to improve as much as gymnastics rings.

            Check out Christoper Sommer’s „Building the Gymnastic Body“ – you can find online for free as a PDF. I urge you to start working on some very basic gymnastic movements. hard but very rewarding.