Shyam Kotecha 15 Week Case Study: From Chubby City Worker To Photoshoot Lean!

Shyam Kotecha 15 Week Case Study: From Chubby City Worker To Photoshoot Lean!

Shyam’s been a client of mine for 7 years now. Over the years, I’ve 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 was 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 going to discuss today is our latest one. What’s different now is that he no longer has the luxury of time as a student; instead working a busy finance job in the City, like many of our clients at RNT.

That being said, we managed to get Shyam into the best shape of his life, and in this article we’ll outline everything we did to get him from 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. And 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 with Ben Mark.

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

Shyam’s Comments: 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 – I 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 my normal set up, in that I 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. I told Shyam to start preparing his meals again instead of buying meals in the City. From my experience, clients 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 only take him an hour max.

His starting macros were as follows:

Protein 190g
Fat 80g
Carbs 120g

Working with Shyam in the past meant I knew he worked better off a slightly lower carb and more moderate fat approach.

I also gave him a meal plan to match these macros. To get him focused right from the start, I wanted to take all the thinking out for him and 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, I told Shyam to aim 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.

Shyam’s comments: After being told to do LISS, one of the questions I asked Akash 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. Adam explains why here.

Week 3 – 73.3kg

I started to realise that Shyam is a lot more inactive than I 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 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 Rest day
Protein 190g 190g
Fat 80g 80g
Carbs 120g 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 I added some ab circuits into his programme. The last time he got fairly lean, his abs didn’t appear thick or blocky enough, so we aimed to counteract that this time 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.

I also bumped his cardio 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 Adam and I wrote about last week 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 Rest day
Protein 205g (+15g) 190g
Fat 60g (-20g) 60g (-20g)
Carbs 145g (+25g) 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

I saw Shyam in person this week and after looking at him, realised we needed to step things up a notch. Although he was dropping, we needed more off per week if we wanted to be ready in 9 weeks time.

To do this, I decided to take back 20g of the carbs from last week, and shave another 10g off his rest days too. 

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

I also added in 1 HIIT session now, using my favourite protocol of 20 seconds sprint, 1 minute 40 seconds rest for 8 rounds in total. Shyam chose to do this on an incline treadmill – not my preferred option but he enjoyed this method.

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 now. This week I shaved 5 grams of fat off the 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, I pushed his LISS to 40 minutes daily, and managed to persuade him to shift these sessions to fasted.

I wanted to add AD Shredabull to the mix, and if you’re using this, you’re not doing your cardio at night!

Changes to be implemented: Reduce fat by 5 grams a day, increase LISS to 6×40 min, add 1 cap Shredabull pre cardio.

No changes to training.

Shyam’s comments: 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 to 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 a capsule of Shredabull and do my 40 min LISS session. To combat the hunger I came up with a new routine:

5am Shredabull pre cardio
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 combatting 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)

I 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. I 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 I 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, and told me he’d been 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

I was happy with how things were progressing, and how his physique was starting to look, 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, I told him 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.

I don’t usually like using HIIT this close to a deadline, but because we needed to get 2lbs off a week to get into the right condition, we had no choice!

Shyam’s comments: I asked Akash if it’s worth me pushing my steps to 20K. I noticed he was doing it for his prep, and 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

He 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: 

  Training Diet Cardio
Saturday Upper body workout. Nothing near failure. 80-90% of normal weights 205g PRO, 45g FAT

65g CHO

40 min LISS

18k steps


Sunday Lower body workout. Nothing near failure. 80-90% of normal weights 205g PRO, 45g FAT, 65g CHO 35 min LISS,

16k steps,


Monday Rest day 190g PRO, 45g FAT,

0g CHO

30 min LISS,

14k steps


Tuesday Upper body “pump” workout 180g PRO, 60g FAT, 300g CHO 12k steps,



Wednesday Upper body “pump” workout 180g PRO, 60g FAT, 225g CHO 10k steps, No HIIT


Thursday Rest day 180g PRO, 80g FAT, 120g CHO 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 trigger me to add more, I think it worked out perfectly for his overall look.

These were his final comparison pictures:

Next Plan? Get bigger!

Listen to Shyam’s Podcast:



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 him back in April, he’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.

Using Akash as a coach makes the process very easy. I could email him at any time and I knew he’d respond within a few minutes. If there was an issue, he’d solve it. He had every base covered. If I needed advice, he’d call or Whatsapp me immediately. Truth is, he’s more than a coach.

At the end of the journey, Akash was probably more happy at what we achieved than I was. That sums him up – he lives through his clients, and genuinely cares about what you accomplish together.

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For more examples of our transformations, have a scroll through our growing page of before/afters here.

If you’d like to be our next transformation, check out what we can offer you at our services page, or get in touch here.

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Akash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.