27 Aug Raj Shah Case Study: How Raj Built His Physique To Achieve More In 5 Months Than 15 Years
“The fact remains that I achieved results in 5 months which I had been trying to get for the last 15 years”.
There are few moments at RNT more satisfying than hearing that your coaching has been responsible for fast tracking 15 years of attempts into 5 months. The ability to cut through the noise and provide a personalised blueprint to your long-term physical success is what we specialise in, and Raj experienced this to a whole new level.
As a father of two young girls (aged 1 and 3) in his mid 30s working a highly stressful and busy job, he was in a tricky position many can relate to. He was skipping more gym sessions than he’d like to have, turning to convenience food out of ease, and was quickly developing the dreaded ‘dad bod’.
In his own words, “Most guys my age who have a busy job and two young kids are not active; I didn’t want to let myself go, get lazy as hell, balloon in weight, and before you know it, I’d be 40!”
He was trying though. After his eldest was born back in 2016, he realised when taking family photographs that his goal was not to look chubby in pictures when looking back on them in 15 years. So he began to coax himself into the gym and make some progress where he could.
However, what he struggled with was knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to work ‘smart’ in the context of his life juggling being an active (sleep deprived!) father and his busy job. Education was the limiting factor, and he’d had enough of spinning his wheels.
It was time for Raj to go to the next level. He wanted to upgrade his physique, health and overall well-being, and like any successful transformation, he needed to go through the RNT Journey.
In this case study today, we’re going to walk you through the first four phases of Raj’s transformation so far, with a particular focus on the experiences leading up to his photoshoot, and how well he’s consolidated thereafter to set himself up for success in the current Investment phase he’s in.
Raj’s Comments – I had made the conscious effort to start hitting the gym in a bid to drop some weight before my eldest was born back in early 2016 and the goals here were purely physical. However, when our second child was born in 2018, and work was not going to slow down, I realised that I could potentially fall into the same trappings my father did when he was my age; my father in his late 30s, amidst successfully setting up various businesses, accelerated the onset of type 2 diabetes through his hectic work schedule, irregular eating patterns, poor choices on nutrition as well as being significantly predisposed through genetics. By his mid-40s, he became insulin-dependent and I began to stare down the barrel as to what my health could be like in 10 years to come. Ultimately, I wanted to set the best example to my two girls in how best to lead a healthy lifestyle and to put myself in the best possible condition to ensure that I would always be there for them. This formed a real powerful ‘why’ for me, which went way past any ‘physical’ objectives I had initially outlined.
Prior to starting with RNT, Raj was doing the following:
Training – Raj was training inconsistently with an aim to train 3 or 4 days a week, where he’d train each body part once a week.
Cardio – None.
Diet – Raj wasn’t tracking his calories, and would often overeat when sleep deprived. A typical day was the following:
Breakfast: 1 Krisproll with butter, 2 spoons yogurt, handful of granola, expresso
Lunch: ½ chicken from Nando’s / Falafel wrap / chicken & bacon wrap
Dinner: Indian curry / sausages & mash / veg noodles
Where he was really going wrong was in between at work, where he continuously felt the need to eat chocolate and biscuits with a cup of tea. His energy was inconsistent, and his normal meals weren’t structured in a way to avoid the snacking that many can fall into the trap of, especially when your hunger signals aren’t normalised in a sleep deprived state.
Starting Bodyweight – 70.9kg
Starting Waist Measure – 85cm
Raj’s Comments: Looking back at my diet pre-RNT, I thought I was making healthy choices with my meals but failed to realise how I was utterly failing to keep it in line with any form of a calorie-deficit when I would reach for the biscuit tin or chocolates at work! I had a complete lack of understanding with regards to what my macronutrient set-up should be and tried to convince myself that I could always out cheat any poor choices I was making with my diet through added intensity in the gym or going for a run.
Training – To begin with, we started with a four day split alternating between chest/back/delts and legs/arms, on a heavy/light method where he’d spend two days in a 5-8 rep range, and two days in a higher 8-15 bracket. The goal as always was progressive overload with perfect form and ruthlessly consistent weekly execution.
Diet – His macros to begin with were as follows:
Here’s the meal plan we started off phase one with.
Breakfast: 3 Whole Eggs, 100g Blueberries, Veggies
Snack: 30g Whey, 30g Oats, 20g Peanut Butter
Lunch: 140g Chicken, 40g Rice, 1tsp E-V Olive Oil, Veggies
Snack: 30g Whey, 30g Oats, 20g Peanut Butter
Dinner: 140g Chicken, 40g Rice, 1tsp E-V Olive Oil, Veggies
Supplements – We kept his supplements very basic, with the following on a daily basis:
Whey Protein – as per meal plan
Vitamin D – 2,000 – 5,000iu
Creatine Monohydrate – 5g a day
We also added in a ZMA product a few weeks in to help with sleep, and later on added caffeine and yohimbine as the grind kicked in!
Cardio – No real traditional cardio, except for 8,000 steps a day.
Phase One: Clean the Palate
Every transformation journey starts off with Cleaning the Palate, where all your focus is on habit formation, creating the right routines, and building the 3S’s into your life: structure, strategy and systems. Every Phase One is different, as it’s so unique to your lifestyle, but it’s critical to get right in order to set the foundation for future progression.
With Raj, he faced two key problems at this stage. The first and most prominent was sleep. When he started his journey in December 2018, his youngest was 4 months old, which meant broken, scattered sleep and spending most of the day running on fumes. This led to mind games over hunger, urges to snack, and an inability to feel like he could fit everything in.
In fact, on one of our client-only webinars in early January 2019, he asked us coaches and fellow parents at RNT for any solutions, and while the prevailing answer was to ‘find a method that works for you’, the real game changer was understanding the body’s signals with hunger and fullness. In a sleep deprived state, your hormones that signal hunger will always rise, and your ability to feel full diminishes. Understanding this on the webinar changed everything for Raj, as he began to approach everything differently, and ignore the early struggles of hunger, snacking and routine management.
Raj’s Comments: I knew, whilst not ideal, that I could function on 4-5 hours of sleep to get through the day and became accustomed to this. However, 6-7 hours of broken sleep, really would screw me up and any parents who have gone through this know how taxing broken, scattered sleep can be. I learnt preparation would be key in nailing my objectives: meal-prep was on point, packing my gym-bag the night before and leaving it by the front door, along with making my gym sessions non-negotiable and placing them at the start of the day. The realisation the RNT coaches gave me on the webinar about how your mind plays tricks on you when you’re tired and coaxes you into making you think your hungry was critical as this stopped me veering off-course and consuming unnecessary calories. I also held onto my ‘why’ here to get me through these tough nights/mornings, constantly reminding myself why I’m on this journey and reassured myself this tough period would pass as my youngest became settled.
Most importantly, I knew if I could nail these tough few months, I could make this a ‘win’ which would drive me on to fight other battles along the way and nail anything else this journey had in store for me.
In the early weeks, I was still not seeing the weight drop as quickly as I would have liked, which was in part to not giving too much attention in hitting my weekly step target. I could not see what impact this could have on my goals and it was tough incorporating 60 mins of walking into my day, particularly on weekdays when I spent most of the day at a desk. After one of my early check-ins, my coach explained its significance and why I needed to get it done within the plan. I began focusing on hitting my daily goal which soon became a habit and most importantly instilled some crucial new habits.
The second problem in Phase One was Raj’s flirtation with MyFitnessPal. After receiving his initial meal plans and following it for a few days, he decided to try an app to track his food, build flexibility and be more ‘on the fly’ with his nutrition.
This was a big mistake. While it’s a suitable option in later phases, or if a very solid nutritional education was in place, it spelled disaster at this stage. With the level he was performing at with work, coupled with sleep deprivation, decision fatigue was high. Adding MyFitnessPal into the mix created a level of overwhelm that made consistency hard to build, and a lack of early progress as expected. Reverting back to the meal plan to focus on building and executing on his 3S’s allowed him to graduate to Phase Two and begin gathering some momentum.
Raj’s Comments: I was trying to run before I could walk with regards to managing MFP and I was not realising how much decision fatigue was screwing up my diet plan until my coach called me out on it. He was right and as soon as I trusted what he laid out for me, coupled with ticking all the boxes with training and diet plan, my 3 S’s started to solidify.
This was a progress selfie picture taken half way through the fat loss process, around 8-9 weeks in!
Phase Two: The Process
The most popular time for anyone to begin a health and fitness journey is always January, straight after the Christmas holidays. For Raj, he decided to begin on the 17th December, a week before the most indulgent period in most people’s calendars! That speaks volumes about his character, his why, and his determination to change.
After working through the early stumbling blocks, he was flying. He was riding the wave of gathered momentum, and beginning to see his body change shape rapidly. In February though, school holidays, work events and general life meant he had a number of trips abroad with family, friends and colleagues that had the potential to spell disaster.
Progress was coming, but his willpower was starting to wane given he was coming up to being around 4-5kg from his first transformation check point. Body fat was lower, temptations were all over, and the routines he spent 6-8 weeks building were being tested.
That’s where Raj clocked a few big wins. The first was a work event abroad which was unlimited gourmet food and the best champagne throughout the week. With his goal in mind, he avoided both.
The second was battling all the social stigmas and comments that were being thrown his way from close family, friends and colleagues who didn’t understand what he was trying to achieve. While he clocked the big win of avoiding temptation, he had to back that up with fighting off the naysayers.
At the start, his tactic was to just ‘say no’ and shrug it off. But after speaking to more members of the RNT Family, he realised the secret here was to explain to these people the why behind his why, and how much this means to him. That’s when everything changed, and he got the support from those closest to him that’s necessary to flip the switch to another level, and go into the Grind period of the Process Phase!
This period of social stigmas, creating lifestyle solutions around all his events, and the mind games behind it all is very well documented in our podcast episode (92) of RNT Fitness Radio with Raj. You can listen to it directly on the website here and below, or on any of your preferred podcast platforms (iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.).
Once Raj had navigated through the challenges of February, another long holiday was coming up in March. We decided to up the ante, create high accountability and set a deadline for this phase now. And the real key here was that we decided to do this before his holiday. This was the email:
“Ok so let’s aim for this:
By 16th March – sub 64kg
Holiday – maintain sub 64kg
Return from holiday and assess situation.
Let’s book the shoot before the holiday, so you’re accountable when away. Otherwise it’ll be a case of ‘let’s see where we’re at’.
Post holiday – 4 week grind (3 plus a ‘peak week) to a shoot on 17/18 April, or around that time of Easter.
Let’s now make the following adjustments:
LISS – up to 45 minutes
Diet – on 3 days a week, drop down to no starchy carbs (just green veggies)”
This selfie was taken just before the above email was sent!
The plan was set, the shoot date was locked in, and it was time to drop the hammer and pull the pin for the final four weeks. What was interesting during this phase was how a few months ago, Raj’s limiting factor was time and energy. Now, his 3S’s were so dialled in that even with two young girls and a busy job, he was able to tick all the necessary boxes.
Raj’s Comments: I had, up until now, all these small wins and built up habits, which had given me the momentum and the confidence to now enter the ‘grind’ and felt again if I could nail this period, I could again tackle anything else further down the line.
I began to wake up at 4-5am on mornings when the kids slept through, opted to go on the treadmill, rather than outdoors, to get my LISS in as I could keep the baby monitor beside me in case my youngest woke up. When I needed to take the train for work, I would walk to and from the local train station from the office rather than park at the station car park, get off a train stop earlier, did a lot of ‘walking calls’ and opted to go for walks post-dinner and binge on the RNT catalogue of podcasts! All these small changes contributed to the calorie-deficit I was building up. My strength sessions were still non-negotiable, still meal-prepped and I had a super-supportive wife who put up with my moods and grumpiness when I was running on near zero-carbs!
This was a picture taken one week before the shoot, just before ‘peak week’! Flat, chiselled, and ready to load up for the shoot!
The day Raj had been working towards for 15 years had arrived 5 months after starting. He’d reached his goal of achieving a photoshoot level, ripped physique, and his confidence was unshakeable.
Raj’s Comments: A couple of weeks before the shoot, I could see the goal in sight and as everything had been so well-planned with my coach, we pretty much coasted into the shoot date without any real panic of trying to crash-diet or drop unwanted weight. Confidence in the gym was sky-high with PTs and colleagues commenting on my leanness and vascularity. My stats on the boditrax machine were outrageous too: my metabolic age was that of a 19 year old, my body fat had dropped to 5.5% and my visceral fat reading was 1cc. This latter reading was a clear demonstration on me achieving my ultimate goal of starving off any potential onset of type-2 diabetes, as my insulin resistance would have now dramatically reduced through the decreased levels of visceral fat I was carrying.
The shoot with Shyam of www.skotvisuals.com was awesome as it really brought home what I had achieved, particularly when he sent through the first edits. Like most others who have done a shoot, the amount of comments from people as to whether the pictures were real and had I been photoshopped in on someone else’s body was insane! This process and the shoot in particular is another win for me, and a reminder which I can keep in the tank for when facing another challenge.
He was now down 10kg in total bodyweight, arguably a lot more in body fat, and his stats were as follows:
Shoot Day Bodyweight: 61.4kg
Shoot Day Waist Circumference: 69cm
These were his comparison pictures in the first 18 weeks:
Phase Three: Consolidation
Now Raj had achieved his first goal of getting the body, the aim now was to effectively maintain his results and prime him for the next phase. It was time for the Consolidation Phase, which spanned a period of 6-8 weeks for Raj. As always, life wasn’t slowing down in any way. Work was picking up, and Easter holidays meant two weeks in Disney Land and Antigua!
Over the course of the Consolidation phase, Raj’s weight came up a few kilos out of his extremely lean photoshoot condition, and into a more ‘lifestyle bodyweight’ whereby he’d look lean on holiday, be strong in the gym, and feel great day to day (versus the ‘grind’ feel of being at shoot weight!). The key here was the manner in which it happened. It wasn’t a binge fest, or anything of the sort. Instead, it was a measured approach to raising calories, reducing activity, and creating a foundation for the Investment phase, which can either be about creating more and more lifestyle solutions to stay lean, or to build muscle. This doesn’t come without its own mind games, as anyone who’s been through a Consolidation phase will know.
Raj’s Comments: Looking back, I didn’t realise how potentially scary hitting Disney and Antigua for a 2 week-break could be 2 weeks after shoot, however, all the habits I had built up, the small wins, and battles I had conquered kept me on track, ensuring that I did not blow all the hard work out the water. I remained accountable to my coach whilst away, checking-in as normal, took travel-bathroom scales with me and still hit the gym hard whilst away. I found a 24-hour gym whilst in Orlando that allowed me to train when the kids were asleep as the hotel gym was too small, and I was comfortably hitting my step target through all the walking in the theme parks.
The RNT podcasts and articles on the consolidation phase also really came in handy as they laid out what was to come. In the run up to the shoot, I had digested this content which helped me to prepare me for what was to come. I would urge anyone who is to enter a consolidation phase to check them out as the advice is invaluable.
There were moments along the way where I thought I could eat more than I was typically used to, which I soon realised was my body not being used to this new-found lifestyle weight and wanted me to shoot back up to my starting weight! Again, I focused on bringing back the habits I used in the fat loss phase, as well as sticking to foods that had served me well when I was dieting down rather than experimenting with new foods and trying to get the macros to work.
Phase Four: Investment
After the photoshoot in April, and spending May and June in the Consolidation phase, Raj shifted gears in July and August to ‘learning how to stay lean’ through lifestyle solutions in the Investment Phase. With a busy summer calendar, his goal was to get through this period unscathed, and in a position to really build muscle.
The absolute worst thing to do when you start a muscle building phase is to have nowhere to grow into, and maintaining a ‘muscle building buffer’ is so critical to allow for the lengthy period of being a surplus.
After much deliberation of where he falls on the Investment continuum (lifestyle vs. muscle builder), Raj decided in mid August to flip the switch, and commit to a 20-24 month phase of ‘bulking’, before entering Phase Five (Reward).
This is the best route for anyone with real physique building aspirations. It’s one thing to get into shape and keep your condition. It’s another to slowly build on your foundation to be able to reveal something even better a couple years down the line. But we’ve noticed time and time again that those who commit long periods to building, male or female, are the ones who look the best over time and are able to enjoy the fruits of their labour later on (versus staying the same with a lack of any real improvement). It’s definitely a long game, but it’s always worth it once you come out the other side!
After much scepticism on visiting the RNT website and social media channels, I decided to take the plunge in signing up. Whilst, the initial weeks were a wake-up call and a steep learning curve as I rewired how to perform in the gym and what to fuel my body, the results slowly started to come. This culminated in a true body transformation in 5 months from signing up
The fact remains that I achieved results in 5 months which I had been trying to get for the last 15 years. RNT truly cut through all the noise and BS out there when it came to executing the goals I wanted. On a personal level, what started out on pure physical goals has turned into a complete mindset change when I now enter the gym, at work, spend time with the family and my outlook on nutrition.
The journey so far has been life-changing and the best thing I have done for my health, especially now with two young girls: the tools I have learnt, and still learning, are now in my armoury in tackling any hurdles or obstacles I come across, as well as setting a great example to my children. It is fair to say that RNT was the missing piece in my health, fitness and wellness program.
To read more case studies like Raj’s, have a read of the different articles here.
For more examples of our transformations, have a scroll through growing page of before/afters here.
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