How Shyam Went From Chubby City Worker to Photoshoot Lean in 15 Weeks

Shyam has been a client of mine for 7 years now. Over the years, I have coached him through three completely different body transformations and two powerlifting competitions, where he set British powerlifting records in the deadlift (pulling over 3x bodyweight!).

His first transformation starts with him as a beginner who’d never touched weights and ate a vegetarian diet.

His second was done whilst studying at University.

The transformation we’re discussing in this case study focuses on how Shyam carved out time for training while working a busy finance job.

This case study forms an ideal blueprint that can be implemented to achieve similar transformations for all City workers with busy lives who spend the majority of their days at their desks.

This time around he managed to get into the best shape of his life, and in this article we’ll outline everything we did to get him from a chubby City worker to photoshoot lean condition!

Starting Point

Despite training on a regular basis, Shyam’s consistency with his diet had really slipped since working in the City. Drinks, dinners and the City lifestyle had meant body fat was accumulating a little too quickly, even if he was in a ‘muscle-building phase.’

As I’ve outlined in an article on lean gains, I don’t think staying super lean is conducive to maximum muscle growth, but that’s not to say I advocate turning into a sloppy mess either. Unfortunately, that’s what was happening here!

So we decided to realign focus, and get lean again. To make him accountable and increase the pressure, we decided to book in a photoshoot..

Before starting the shoot prep, he was doing the following:

Training – 4 days a week on an upper / lower split

Cardio ­– None

Diet – Eating ‘well’ on and off. No real macros or calories were being tracked, but bodyweight (and fat) was going up!

Starting Bodyweight ­– 74.9kg

It got to the point where I was sick of not having a goal with my training, and I was starting to hate how I was looking in the mirror. I knew I’d slipped up big time, and I felt lethargic and slow all the time. It was time for a change and I wanted a new challenge!”

Initial Changes

To start Shyam off, here’s what we did:

Training – We kept the training the same – 4 days a week on an upper / lower split, training body parts twice a week. It was a little different to our normal set up, in that we didn’t vary rep ranges in the week, instead opting to keep everything in the 8-12 rep range. He’d come off a few phases of low rep work so this was a welcome change.

Diet – Because we had no real macros or calories to base his initial diet off, we decided to start from scratch. Shyam started preparing his meals again instead of buying meals in the City. From our experience, members who prepare their own food always get better results; even if the food they’ve bought ‘fits’ into their macro/calories. Whether it’s the extra control they have, or the discipline/habit formation that comes from it, it works. Shyam would batch cook all his meals for the week on Sunday evening, which he said would take him an hour max.

His starting macros were as follows:

Protein 190g
Fat 80g
Carbs 120g

Since we have worked with Shyam before in the past, we know he worked better off a slightly lower carb and more moderate fat approach.

He also had a meal plan to match these macros. To get him focused right from the start, we wanted to get him back in the habit of eating the right foods consistently.

This was the diet:

Meal 1 4 Whole Eggs, Greens
Meal 2 45g Whey Protein, 20g Nut Butter
Meal 3 180g Chicken, ½ Medium Avocado, 55g Rice, Greens
Meal 4 45g Whey Protein, 20g Nut Butter, 70g Oats
Intraworkout 15g EAA, 25g HBCDs
Meal 5 200g Salmon, 200g White Potato, Greens

Supplements – Here’s what we used to begin with:

**Whey Protein Dymatize ISO-100 As per meal plan**
EAAs AD Aminotaur 1 scoop intra workout
HBCDs AD Raging Full 1 scoop intra workout
Creatine Monohydrate Reflex 5g with any shake
Fish Oil Nordic Oils 3 grams daily
Zinc Garden of Life 1 cap before bed
Magnesium Solgar 2 caps before bed

The zinc + magnesium combination really helps Shyam with his sleep, so we kept these going throughout to optimise sleep quality and recovery. To read more strategies on how to improve your sleep, check out our article on the ‘6 Ways to Sleep Smarter and Faster’.

Cardio – We had time, so we didn’t start with any traditional cardio. Instead Shyam aimed to hit 8,000 steps a day. As he works a sedentary job as most who work in the City, he needed to move in his day-to-day life more!

Week 1 – 73.7kg

1.2kg dropped in the first week – a good start.

No changes to training, diet, supplementation or cardio.

Week 2 – 73.6kg

No real drop this week, so we decided to add some LISS (low intensity steady state cardio) on his three rest days from weight training. The aim was to get his heart rate up to around 120-130bpm

Changes to be implemented: 3×30 min LISS on rest days

No changes to training, diet or supplementation.

“After being told to do LISS, one of the questions I asked my coach was “does it matter when I do it?” The answer I was given was while he prefers it fasted, it doesn’t matter too much as long as you get it done. You can learn more about how to plan your cardio here.”

Week 3 – 73.3kg

We realised that Shyam is a lot more inactive than we initially thought. While he was nailing the diet and cardio, he wasn’t getting his steps in, so was essentially only moving for 30-60 minutes a day (either when weight training or during his LISS). Given his training experience and muscle mass, the starting calories should’ve taken a lot more of the initial fluff than it did. So we adapted, and his macros were changed to:

Training day:  
Protein 190g
Fat 80g
Carbs 120g
Rest day:  
Protein 190g
Fat 80g
Carbs 80g (-40g)

This was a simple drop – we just took out the rice from lunchtime on his rest days.

Changes to be implemented: rest day carbs dropped by 40g at lunchtime

No changes to training, cardio or supplementation.

Week 4 – 73.1kg

We kept training at 4 days a week, but at this point some ab circuits were added into his programme. The last time he got fairly lean, his abs weren’t sculpted enough, so we aimed to counteract that by training them a bit more often.

Remember, abs aren’t made in the kitchen for everyone! For many, you need to train them just as hard as all your other body parts. To read more on this subject, read this article here.

His cardio went up to 30 minutes 6 days a week just to increase his energy expenditure a little more. We kept his step target at 8,000 – he was getting better at hitting this by now so it was becoming a reliable measure to track.

Changes to be implemented: add 2-3 ab circuits a week, increase LISS to 6×30 min

No changes to diet or supplementation.

Week 5 – 73kg

With only 1.9kg down in 5 weeks, this was very much a case of the scale not telling the full story, as detailed in this article here.

He was visually leaner, hitting PBs on most lifts in the gym and my thoughts were that he was regaining some lost muscle from his period of inconsistency prior to dieting.

So I decided to make a few changes to fuel this a little more, by bumping his training day protein and carbs up, and lowering his fats across the week.

Training day:  
Protein 205g (+15g)
Fat 60g (-20g)
Carbs 145g (+25g)
Rest day:  
Protein 190g
Fat 60g (-20g)
Carbs 80g

Changes to be implemented: Adjust training days to 205P/60F/145C and rest days to 190P/60F/80C.

No changes to training, cardio or supplementation.

Week 6 – 72.4kg

6 weeks into his training, we realised we needed to step things up a notch. Although he was dropping, we needed more weight off per week if we wanted to be ready in 9 weeks time.

To do this, we removed 20g of the carbs from last week, and shaved another 10g off his rest days too.

**   Training day Rest day**
  Protein 205g 190g
  Fat 60g 60g
  Carbs 125g (-20g) 70g (-10g)

1 HIIT session was added to his routine The workout consisted of 20 seconds sprint, 1 minute 40 seconds rest for 8 rounds in total. (An RNT favourite) Shyam chose to do this on an incline treadmill.

LISS stayed at 6 days a week of 30 minutes, and his step target remained at 8K.

Changes to be implemented: Adjust training days to 205P/60F/125C and rest days to 190P/60F/70C, 1×16 min HIIT session.

No changes to training.

Week 7 – 71.8kg

We were starting to gain some momentum. This week 5 grams of fat off shaved off his diet, and kept the rest the same.

**   Training day Rest day**
  Protein 205g 190g
  Fat 55g (-5g) 55g (-5g)
  Carbs 125g 70g

While the step target remained at 8k steps a day, his LISS went up to 40 minutes daily, and we persuaded him to shift these sessions to fasted.

Changes to be implemented: Reduce fat by 5 grams a day, increase LISS to 6×40 min.

No changes to training.

This was the first week I started to feel hungry, and it was making me a little tired. So I agreed to move my LISS sessions to early morning so :

1) get it out of the way while I have the energy for it

2) shorten my eating window to make meals closer, and reduce hunger. I’d now wake up at 5am, have 500ml of water and do my 40 min LISS session. To combat the hunger I came up with a new routine:”

8:30am Meal 1
10:15am Single espresso
11:15am Meal 2
1pm Meal 3
2:15pm Single espresso
4pm Green tea
5pm Meal 4 pre gym
8:30pm Meal 5

For more tips on combating hunger, read this article here.

Week 8 – 71kg

Everything was starting to take shape. I still wanted to keep pushing, and knew we were up against a deadline, so I made a few small dietary changes, shaving some fats and carbs again.

**   Training day Rest day**
  Protein 205g 190g
  Fat 50g (-5g) 50g (-5g)
  Carbs 105g (-15g) 55g (-15g)

We also bumped his HIIT up to 20 minutes, and his overall step target to 10K a day– which became a lot easier since increasing LISS to 40 minutes a day.

Changes to be implemented – Adjust training days to 205P, 50F, 105C and rest days to 190P, 50F, 55C. Add 4 minutes to HIIT and an extra 2K steps.

No changes to training or supplementation.

Week 9 – 70.2kg

Motivation was high now with 6 weeks to go. Shyam’s training was through the roof, and he loved being in the gym at this point. We decided to capitalise on this by bumping him to 5 days a week of training, with the following split:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Chest/Arms Light

Wednesday: Back/Shoulders Light

Thursday: Legs Light

Friday: Off

Saturday: Upper Heavy

Sunday: Legs Heavy

We began varying rep ranges throughout the week, placing his heavy days on the weekend where he had more time and energy.

He said he was up for pushing it on the cardio front now too. So we rolled with it, and we went for 40 minutes LISS daily, and pushed his HIIT sessions to twice a week for 20 minutes.

Shyam was also becoming more active in his daily life: taking stairs instead of escalators, walking while taking calls, getting off earlier at tube stops etc. Naturally, he was doing more steps, averaging 14K a day, which was great!

Changes to be implemented: training days up to 5x a week, LISS 40 min daily, extra 20 min HIIT session.

No changes to diet or supplementation.

Week 10 – 69.5kg

Things were progressing, and his physique was starting to look good, so kept things all the same.

No changes to training, diet, cardio or supplementation.

Week 11– 68.4kg

Another big drop this week, and looking leaner each week at this point. But to be in photoshoot condition, we needed this 2lbs a week, every week. 4 weeks to go, it was time for the #VaghelaGrind.

We dropped carbs on his two rest days (veggies only now), and on training days we removed intra workout carbs, keeping carbs pre and post workout only.

**   Training day x5 Rest day x2**
  Protein 205g 190g
  Fat 45g (-5g) 45g (-5g)
  Carbs 65g (-40g) 0g (-55g)

With cardio, we pushed each LISS session up from 5 minutes to 45 minutes daily, and with this, set his step count target at 15K a day now.

The HIIT remained at twice a week, but up to 24 minutes per session.

Changes to be implemented: Adjust training days to 205P, 45F, 65C and rest days to 190P, 45F, 0C. 5 min extra LISS, 1K extra steps, 4 min extra HIIT.

No changes to training or supplementation.

WEEK 12– 67.2KG

We were rolling and right on track now. This week we made our final cardio change of prep by bumping LISS to 50 minutes a day, and HIIT to 28 minutes twice a week.

Using HIIT this close to a deadline isn’t the preferred way, but because we needed to get 2lbs off a week to get into the right condition, we had no choice!

I asked the RNT team if it was worth pushing my steps to 20K, I recently bought a Fitbit so thought why not?

Changes to be implemented: 5 min extra LISS, 4 min extra HIIT.

No changes to training, diet or supplementation.

Week 13– 66.2kg

Shyam was now right on track, and dialling in nicely.

No changes to training, diet, cardio or supplementation.

Week 14 – 65kg

No changes to training, diet, cardio or supplementation

Week 15 – 63.7kg, Peak Week

We got the final chunk of fat we needed off, so we were ready.

All we did in this final week was deload his training and cardio, and bring his carbs up a little towards the end of the week to help fill him out. He’d been pushing hard on all fronts for 4-6 weeks now without a break, so it was time to give his body a little extra fuel to help bring his A game on shoot day.

It’s easy to get caught up in peak week with magic tricks etc., but it almost always goes wrong, as we’ve talked about here. Best is to keep it simple! Here’s what we did to peak for a Friday photoshoot:

** Saturday**
  Training: Upper body workout. Nothing near failure. 80-90% of normal weights
  Diet: 205g PRO, 45g FAT, 65g CHO
  Cardio: 40 min LISS, 18k steps, No HIIT
** Sunday**
  Training: Lower body workout. Nothing near failure. 80-90% of normal weights
  Diet: 205g PRO, 45g FAT, 65g CHO
  Cardio: 35 min LISS, 16k steps, No HIIT
** Monday**
  Training: Rest day
  Diet: 190g PRO, 45g FAT, 0g CHO
  Cardio: 30 min LISS, 14k steps, No HIIT
** Tuesday**
  Training: Upper body “pump” workout
  Diet: 180g PRO, 60g FAT, 300g CHO
  Cardio: 12k steps, No HIIT, No LISS
** Wednesday**
  Training: Upper body “pump” workout
  Diet: 180g PRO, 60g FAT, 225g CHO
  Cardio: 10k steps, No HIIT, No LISS
** Thursday**
  Training: Rest day
  Diet: 180g PRO, 80g FAT, 120g CHO
  Cardio: No set target

Game Day

On the day itself we kept it really simple with some protein and carbs in the first two meals, and a higher fat/carb/sodium combo 2-3 hours before to enhance the pump and vascularity. During the shoot, he sipped on 2 scoops of Raging Full.

5:50am 500ml water
6am 25g whey protein, 40g oats, 500ml water
8:30am 100g chicken, 50g rice, 500ml water
11am 100g chicken, 40g almond butter, 80g rice, soy sauce, water as needed
Lights, Camera, Action  

Final Stats/Pictures:

Bodyweight: 63.1kg

Shyam actually kept dropping towards the end of the week as we added the extra carbs in, and while normally this would result in adding more carbs, it worked out perfectly for his overall look.

These were his final comparison pictures:

High Performance for High Performers

Since this transformation, Shyam’s story has continued to evolve, as his life has taken on a whole new trajectory.

His daily and weekly transformation checklist of training hard, eating well, hydrating, being active and sleeping sufficiently, is now a way of life. His entire behaviour, mindset and identity is now rewired as someone who is a fit and healthy high performer.

His confidence is now sky high. And it’s meant he’s used the physical as the vehicle to try new things in life, explore different avenues, and push himself out of his comfort zone.

Once shy to speak in public, his profession now centres on him pitching to new investor clients on a daily basis. His own physical transformation has led to the birth of - a fitness photography service to capture memories and stories of transformation from everyday people like himself.

His relationships are growing to new heights, and most of all, he’s just living life to the fullest and loving it!

Shyam’s now in the Reward Phase. Everything is intuitive and intrinsic to his lifestyle. It’s the anchor. His motivations to continue have stopped being about just looking good. It’s about enjoying the process.

In fact, training for him is the ultimate form of mindfulness, as he describes on a podcast with us:

“In that one hour, there are no distractions, no Instagram, No WhatsApp - I can focus completely for that one hour. And when I am working on each lift, just before I approach the lift, my mind sharpens, everything goes black and there is nothing else in the room. That for me is such a high, some people meditate or go for unplugged walks, for me this was my avenue to that higher state.”

Never one to settle, in 2020, Shyam booked in yet another photoshoot to see how much he’d improved from 2017, and the results speak for themselves.

“You can never be 100% satisfied with where you are. And I take that as a good thing, it keeps you training, keeps the excitement alive, makes you want to push for a new PB. It’s a life-long journey and I am loving it!”

Here’s what Shyam has to say about his overall experience with RNT Fitness, and training with Akash over the years:

I’ve known Akash for 21 years. I may be biased as I write this, but you will not find anyone as passionate about fitness as him. So I knew when I approached RNT back in April, they’d be hungry for this challenge.

At the outset, I want to stress that I’m very much like your ordinary gym-goer. I’m not blessed with the genetic make-up of a sprinter or a gymnast, but what I do have is the desire, self-belief and mental focus to commit to a body transformation.

Choosing RNT made the process very easy. The support that they provide throughout the journey is invaluable. If there was an issue, RNT would provide an effective solution. The RNT team was probably more happy than I was about what I had managed to achieve. That sums up RNT– they are passionate about bringing results for their members, and genuinely care about what you accomplish together.”

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