Most people, men in particular, underestimate how much body fat they carry and overestimate how much muscle they have. It’s an assumption that sweeps across most of the male population, as attachment to scale numbers, clothing sizes and a warped sense of what’s ‘normal’ means many men will sacrifice their true goal of sporting an athletic, lean physique, in exchange for being a puffed up ‘big guy’.
If you’re a guy reading this, you’re probably nodding your head. You remember that time you wanted to hit a certain scale weight during a ‘bulking’ phase, or the time you refused to ‘cut’ below a specific number (it’s usually 60, 70 or 80!). Ah, the male ego… In the context of physique building, there’s nothing more detrimental to your progress. If you’re trying to build size, you’ll kid yourself as to how much body fat you carry as you continue to climb up the scales and the clothing size racks. If you’re trying to get lean, you think anything below insert rounded number is ‘skinny’, and that you have enough muscle to end up at a higher bodyweight.
The truth is, we’re all human, and we’re all very similar. That means the body transformation journey we go on is very predictable, and it’s why articles such as ‘How Heavy Will You Be When Lean’ cause such an eye opening stir among many men!
Kunaal was no different. As a young man pre-university, Kunaal was 58kg at almost 6 feet tall, and was desperate to build muscle and size onto his frame. What started as a necessity turned into a passion and enduring love that initially gave him good results in the first five years, but then took him down the typical male path of incessant ‘bulking’ for 12 years.
He followed multiple approaches, program hopped and he confused the scale weight for muscle size as he escalated all the way up to between 95 and 100kg, where he stayed for a decade. He was big in size and was following the male pretence and façade of appearing ‘huge’ in a T-shirt, with no regards to body composition, and stuck in the imagination that all the size was pure muscle.
What he really wanted was different. He wanted to have the perfect balance between muscle mass and condition and sport a physique that represented this year round. His decade plus long ‘bulk’ phase had actually turned into a ‘diminishing returns phase’; something which is very common for many men who commit to unwisely self-monitored Investment Phases.
“As a stereotypical ectomorphic vegetarian of Indian ethnicity, I was barely 58kg at nearly 6’0 and 17 years old. I took up weight training/bodybuilding with a goal to put on some muscle on my scrawny frame and developed an enduring love for it (to the point I even founded a gym in my city of Nairobi, Kenya). During the first 5 years I made steady, albeit slow progress then I got overly impatient and bulked up too fast to 95kg – adding disproportionately more fat than muscle in the process. At the time I didn’t realise this and was actually rather pleased with my progress but such is the beauty of hindsight. After pretty much wasting the subsequent decade due to lack of real structure and consistency in my nutrition and training and a few prolonged hiatuses from lifting ranging from 6-18 months each, I decided to take decisive action and truly committed to finally get lean for the first time since my novice lifting days and achieve a longstanding goal.”
Everything changed when Kunaal stumbled across RNT Fitness.
Kunaal embraced the free case studies, articles, podcasts and overall content and decided to use the information and his experience to create his own plans. There was a problem though – he lacked the accountability and structured guidance of RNT’s transformation blueprint!
“I decided to try and lose some weight on my own for the first 3-6 months of 2018 using the free and consistently high quality content shared on the RNT website and Instagram pages and sign up thereafter. Alas, this never happened as I had no real accountability to anyone. I would lose a few kg but proceed to put it back on in a few weeks. I finally bit the bullet and decided to sign up in late May (after 6 months of hesitation!), and then I started in late July after returning several kilos heavier from an indulgent holiday in South East Asia.”
It was time for Kunaal to achieve a 17 year long goal.
“Lifelong even! I dreamed about looking like that since my childhood watching cartoons and superheroes and later Stallone (Rambo), Arnie and a host of others from boxers, WWE stars to All Blacks rugby stars.”
Prior to starting with RNT, Kunaal was doing the following:
Training – He was training 4-5 days a week for 2-3 hours focusing on one body part per week, with no real structure or set plan. Kunaal had also injured his ACL (a ligament in his knee) while playing football a few months prior which meant he wasn’t able to train legs at all for a while either.
Cardio – No real consistency outside of the rare LISS session.
Diet – This is where Kunaal really struggled to nail down, and as an ovo-vegetarian, he was typically eating the following:
Breakfast: 1-2 bowls of oats with a protein shake
Lunch: 2 large bowls of lentil curry and rice
Dinner: Pasta / Omelettes/ Lower protein, high carb/fat veggie options and Indian meals.
Snacks: Crisps, Biscuits, Chevdo, Nuts, Fruit
Starting Bodyweight – 100.5kg
Starting Waist Measure – 41 inches
“I had no structured nutrition or training plan, I wasn’t weighing my food, tracking my macros and calories, nor meal prepping, constantly program hopping and with general lack of consistency across the board. I was snacking and bingeing on the wrong food too often, training with too much volume instead of focusing on progressive overload with correct form, rarely doing cardio, and never logged my workouts! Considering all this, it’s hardly surprising I didn’t look the way I wanted to.”
Training – The first port of call was to move Kunaal onto a structured, progressive overload focused plan that also worked around his ACL injury, and allowed him to properly rehabilitate the knee. The real key for Kunaal was to focus on one plan, progress in his key numbers, and stay focused. Nearly two decades of program hopping meant there was a lot of retraining of the brain to be done here!
We began with a three day full body split, as even though he had been training for years and could be considered a somewhat advanced lifter, he needed to go back to basics and focus on being consistent on following and tracking the core variables.
As he was able to do more legs, we moved to do a upper / lower / push / pull split, and this was the split that took him through the latter stages of The Consolidation Phase, and deep into The Investment Phase he’s in now. An integral part of this split was to identify key indicator lifts, and use video feedback to ensure intensity and technique were both dialled in. Many years of training meant many years of bad habits, and also a perceived level of ‘high intensity’ that needed to be reframed in order to build the muscle and physique he wanted.
Diet – His macros to begin with were as follows:
Here’s the meal plan we started off his CTP with:
Breakfast: 5 Eggs, 100g Blueberries & 200g Veggies
Snack: 40g Whey, 40g Oats and 20g Peanut butter
Lunch: 110g Tofu, 35g Rice & 200g Veggies
Snack: 40g Whey protein and 20g Peanut butter
Dinner: 300g Tofu, 50g Rice, 1tsp of olive oil & 200g Veggies
This has remained the ‘base diet’ for Kunaal ever since, as he wanted to eliminate all decisions from his day around food, and make it easy to go into ‘autopilot’ and execute. Especially given the fact he runs an event management company and an artisanal gelato business along with his wife, creating its own set of challenges!
Supplements – The protocol here was very simple, and we stuck to the tried and tested:
– Creatine: 5g each day after workout / any time on non-training days
– A comprehensive multi vitamin
– EAAs: 15g per workout – drink during the workout.
Cardio – During the entire fat loss period, Kunaal implemented the following:
HIIT – 3 x per week after the workout; 10 rounds of 20 seconds on / 40s off on the Airdyne bike.
LISS – 3 x per week on rest days; 20 mins on the X-trainer / Rower or Stairmaster with a heart rate of 130bpm or over throughout.
Following the Blueprint
At the start of every year for over a decade, Kunaal had the same goal: to achieve his ideal physique. But he never pursued it with the level of seriousness, structure and consistency he needed. After biting the bullet and creating high levels of accountability through coaching, Kunaal dropped 50 pounds in bodyweight, 10 inches from his waist and achieved his goal – all in 7 months! Most importantly, he went from struggling with an ACL injury to being the strongest and fittest he’s ever been in his life, with impressive numbers behind him; notably, a 270kg V squat and regularly doing 52kg split squats for 12 reps by month 5!
When discussing what changed, the real game changer for Kunaal was the accountability that is set up within RNT. Having to send pictures, report stats, and not having anywhere to hide meant he was able to master the art of showing up each week while ticking off all the required boxes.
“My entire approach to training and nutrition changed from the start of working with RNT. When shopping, I only bought the foods prescribed to me in the meal plan to ensure adherence, weighed ingredients and meal prepped once or twice a week. Consistently did my cardio something I hadn’t done since I was a beginner and consciously increased my daily activity in the form of steps. My mindset also changed as I had a singular goal in mind which was to get into the best shape of my life – I was aiming for six pack abs and sub 12% body fat.
My training sessions became focused and structured, I took videos of most of my main lifts and sent them for feedback. I worked on improving my form while maintaining/increasing strength on most lifts. I listened to the weekly RNT podcasts while doing my steps and would discuss interesting points with or ask the RNT team questions to clarify my understanding.
For the first 3 months, I actively and consciously avoided eating out socially at all costs and this included 4 consecutive weeks of Indian weddings which typically last 4-5 days at least and involve lunch and dinner everyday! As my knowledge and understanding of nutrition improved, I was able to implement various strategies including buffering to navigate such situations. This approach was crucial when it came to travelling (10 days in total at all-inclusive resorts – first for an AGM, second time while managing a destination wedding).
The final stages of this phase were very challenging as the end seemed in sight yet there was still several weeks and months of work ahead to continue chipping away at body fat to take off the final layer. It was a real test mentally and psychologically to keep pushing. This is where one’s resilience gets tested, navigating the festive season and end of year social events while dieting hard, ability to embrace a certain level of hunger but understanding that it was a temporary measure to achieve a checkpoint on a journey.”
The System Advantage
With Kunaal’s experience in the gym and his raw passion for the process, he was always keen to learn more. In the past, that created a lot of decision fatigue, program hopping and being struck by the idea fairy. With RNT, he was encouraged to ask questions, but at the same time, quickly learnt that keeping things simple and avoiding falling into paralysis by analysis was key. Even us coaches have coaches to stop us falling into the same trap. This area of coaching was invaluable for Kunaal and helped him learn when to go deep on a topic.
Conquering the Gelato
After reaching his first Transformation Checkpoint in 2019, Kunaal moved through a Consolidation phase and went deep into his Investment Phase. It’s wasn’t an easy ride though, especially his Consolidation Phase where the dangers of overeating can be so prevalent.
With Kunaal, his biggest challenge was resisting the constant daily temptation of eating his wife’s gelato – which was home made in his own home! When you’re lean, your hunger hormones aren’t quite in check, and you’re at a level of body fat you’ve never been before, there’s no worse place to be!
A few weeks in, Kunaal felt he was losing control of his food habits after having such clearly defined structure, stability and systems heading into his photoshoot, and thinking he’d ‘arrived’ and ‘made it’. Knowing what he was like, an interesting tactic that worked brilliantly was actually introducing the very food that was the issue into his daily meal plan! Instead of fighting willpower, all decisions were eliminated again as Kunaal had one scoop of gelato every evening factored into his calories and almost instantly, any urges to overeat disappeared. He had gained moderation and while he could easily eat more, he was learning. He used journaling as a tool to describe how much he enjoyed the texture, taste and experience of the food, versus mindlessly eating.
After this mindset shift, his Consolidation Phase turned into Investment and his gelato serving has been a staple every night!
Despite multiple trips abroad and all the challenges of Consolidation, Kunaal braved that roller-coaster rather well. (picture above) He was 5kg up and felt strong and in control.
“Looking back at my transformation journey, the last 10 weeks of the fat loss phase as well as most of the 6 weeks of consolidation, I grappled with intense cravings and got into a vicious and destructive cycle of overeating and restricting! During a week at the Kenyan coast, managing an Indian destination wedding, I succumbed to desserts/sweet treats and it only got worse with time, taking until the end of March to resolve the underlying issues causing this!
I had uncovered my abs for the first time in over a decade and the deluge of compliments as well as sense of accomplishment resulted in complacency setting in and once cravings and old habits were triggered they spiralled out of control. I had to dig deep and introspect to address the issue rather than just doing an extra 15,000 steps for a few days every time to drop the weight gained before the next check-in. Despite being warned about this numerous times, I succumbed to the same thing post shoot and gained a few pounds on the weekend following my shoot.
Eventually, with the support from the team at RNT, I reframed my approach to food, adopted journalling, actively embraced moderation and became a lot more mindful in my approach. This was a significant milestone in my overall relationship with food as I’ve always had a big appetite from my skinny childhood and teenage days which has only increased substantially and culminated into an eating disorder under the pretext of ‘bulking’!”
Investment Phase Update
During his Investment Phase, Kunaal’s goal has been two-fold. Firstly, he wants to build muscle mass, and this time, for it to be built in a productive manner, versus the previous years where he’d go on an almost ‘see food’ diet and end up in ‘perma-bulk’ mode! That means a controlled calorie surplus, structured progressive overload training, and ruthless consistency. Since ending up around the 80kg mark at the end of his diet, Kunaal is now up to around the 88.5kg (averaging just over a kilo a month), with the goal of pushing to no more than 90kg by Christmas, before a quick mini cut to further spark another growth phase.
(This picture above is Kunaal at 88.5kg in his Investment Phase!)
While executing on his muscle building goal, Kunaal continues to really work on leveraging the structure, consistency and skills gained in his physical transformation. The physical transformation continues to act as a vehicle to take his journey of self-mastery further. Through the challenges, insights and battles of the physical transformation, he’s built mental resilience, inspired many around him, and continues to thrive in all domains of his life.
“I still track my food, water and steps daily. I generally eat the same core foods for protein with some changes here and there. As I learnt during The Process Phase and Consolidation Phase, decision fatigue and lack of planning and prepping meals can lead to failure. I have a more positive relationship with food and enjoy eating a variety of locally available fruits (mango, pineapple, avocado) and the odd untracked meal on weekends with family and friends.
I am more attuned to my taste buds now and when eating off-plan, I am a lot more selective, shunning many foods I used to mindlessly eat. After all this hard work and new habit formation, it is expected to be something of a natural progression but remaining accountable to someone remains key. The improved food choices come from better self-awareness and nutritional education gained in the RNT process.
Since the end of my Consolidation Phase, over the course of two trips, I have spent a month travelling away from home (including India, Singapore and Bali – no shortage of good vegetarian food) and managed to maintain my weight using strategies and systems learnt during this journey. This was a big win for me as in the past I could easily gain several pounds just over a weekend!
I have created better structures, systems and strategies around my daily schedule and am approaching business and personal goals with more accountability. The online coaching and structured approach to this lifestyle has enabled me to adopt new habits and practices and transfer these to other fields.”
High Performance for High Performers
His journey so far has given Kunaal a new way of life. His body transformation has pushed him to be a high performer in all aspects. His training has progressed and he’s gotten stronger than ever. His choices in terms of his diet as well as what he chose to invest his time on were refined. He didn’t want to waste his time on superfluous things which took away from what was important.
To continue his commitment to his journey, and set the bar even higher, Kunaal booked in another photoshoot in 2020.
Kunaal’s dedication and passion continues to grow. He has held true to the path he set himself on. He’s continuing with The Investment Phase, and is now focused on the path to building a long-term lifestyle solution. His goal is now about finding that sweet spot of feeling, looking and performing at his best at all times!
Stats & Pictures
Starting Bodyweight: 100.5kg
Leanest Bodyweight: 78.3kg
If we look back to the ‘How Heavy Will You Be Lean’ article mentioned earlier, Kunaal fell into the high end of the range for 6″0 males. This is due to years of training and putting in the work (which did build a good foundation, even if he was using sub-optimal approaches for most of the period.
Starting Waist (at umbilical level): 41 inches
Lowest Waist (at umbilical level): 31 inches
I have always been passionate about fitness and sport from a young age having competed in swimming, table tennis, squash, cricket, track and field, football and rugby at various levels from school, provincial and university to national and international. I even founded and ran a gym in Nairobi from mid 2016 to end 2017!
As a stereotypical ectomorphic vegetarian of Indian ethnicity, I was barely 58kg at nearly 6’0 and 17 years old. I took up weight training/bodybuilding with a goal to put on some muscle on my scrawny frame and developed an enduring love for it. During the first 5 years I made steady, albeit slow progress. However, at 23 I got overly impatient and bulked up too fast to 95kg – adding disproportionately more fat than muscle in the process. At the time I didn’t realize this and was actually rather pleased with my progress. After pretty much wasting the subsequent decade due to lack of real structure and consistency in my nutrition and training and a few prolonged hiatuses from lifting ranging from 6-18 months each, I decided to take decisive action and truly commit to finally get lean for the first time since my novice lifting days to achieve a longstanding goal.
I happened to come across an article written by Akash for Testosterone Nation in early January 2018 and was surprised and intrigued to come across another person of Indian origin writing for such a reputed and ‘hardcore’ bodybuilding website. I went on to check out his Instagram page as well as the content on RNT Fitness including client case studies, Akash’s bodybuilding prep, articles on mindset, etc. Coincidentally, I also came across people I was acquainted with who were RNT members (Jas and Sakhi) and after learning about their positive experiences and excellent transformations I knew I had to sign up! The client case study/transformation that really inspired me to sign up was the one on Mitesh, who lost over 30kg in 6 months and got shredded; not to mention very strong! I told myself if he could do it, the least I could do was try.
In retrospect, I realised prior to signing up with RNT, I was spending a lot of time in the gym lifting and feeling sore all the time but was doing way too many things wrong. These included: lack of accountability, no real focus or goals, no structured nutrition or training plan, not weighing my food or meal prepping, constant programme hopping, general lack of consistency across the board, bingeing on food too often, training with too much volume instead of focusing on progressive overload with correct form, rarely doing cardio, not logging my workouts! Considering all this, it’s hardly surprising I didn’t look the way I wanted to.
I decided to try and lose some weight on my own for the first 3-6 months of 2018 using the free and consistently high quality content shared on the RNT website and Instagram pages and sign up thereafter. Alas, this never happened as I had no real accountability to anyone. I would lose a few kgs but proceed to put it back on in a few weeks. I finally bit the bullet and decided to sign up in late May and started in late July after returning several kilos heavier from an indulgent holiday in South East Asia.
I knew I had an uphill task from the outset and this would be the most ambitious fitness goal I had ever set myself – I had pretty much the same goal every year but never really pursued it with the seriousness, structure and consistency it would require. If anything, I was stuck in a prolonged rut and my body fat levels just kept creeping up in recent years.
At over 102kg and easily 30% (if not more) in body fat, I had set myself a goal to get into the best shape of my life. I wanted to get shredded in 6 months and was aiming for below 12% body fat.
Working with RNT Fitness has helped me achieve a longstanding physical goal. In the course of 7 months, I lost 50lbs, 10 inches off my waist, got to single digit body fat and hit PRs on most of my major lifts. I went from not training my legs for 4 months due to an ACL injury to my strongest ever while on a caloric deficit – e.g. 270kg V squat for 10 reps, 52kg dumbbells on split squats for 12 reps. The best part though was not doing any direct ab training for the coveted six pack. I look forward to beating my photoshoot condition next year after adding some more quality muscle to my frame!
I am now working on leveraging the structure, consistency and skills gained into my personal and professional life. It has been a holistic process of self-improvement and I have only just begun as I know I have a lot of potential to improve in all aspects of life.
I would highly recommend RNT Fitness to anyone genuinely committed to changing their body and more significantly, life in a sustainable manner for the long-run.
In fact, so far over a dozen of my family and friends (including my wife who has lost almost 20 lbs) have signed up since seeing my progress/results and are already benefiting from the process.