Health

Strength Training Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds and Transform My Body in 6 Months

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Allan Bugay, 47, from New South Wales, Australia, shares his weight loss journey with Men’s Health.

Over time, I started noticing that my jeans and work suit felt tighter and tying my shoe laces was becoming increasingly challenging. After seeing a few recent photos of myself, I couldn’t believe how out of shape I had become.

I’d worked out before, having previously learned the basics of lifting from a strength coach and done HIIT sessions at OrangeTheory, but that all stopped when classes were cancelled due to Covid. When things started to reopen, I found it challenging to get back into it as I had lost a lot of fitness and got frustrated with myself.

I weighed 216 pounds (approximately 98 kgs) at my heaviest. Typically I’d be eating food whenever I could get it, which meant hotel buffet breakfasts, eating at airport lounges and cafes, and lots of takeaway food.I had stopped focusing on my health as a result of stress at work: in addition to gaining weight, this manifested in constant tension headaches, bouts of falling over randomly, and I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. I knew I had to make a change, so I signed up for the transformation program at Ultimate Performance in Sydney.

My coach outlined a nutrition plan for me and it provided me with the structure that I had been missing. We focused on ensuring I was getting enough protein, and because our goal was to drop weight, we initially limited my carbohydrate intake and managed the amount of fat I was consuming. My meals consisted of a protein source such as chicken, fish or steak and to increase the volume of my food, I’d add non-starchy vegetables or I’d make a salad and use low carb dressing. Initially it was tricky to get enough protein so I’d consume a protein drink in the morning and in the afternoon, would have a protein bar with my coffee.

We trained 3 times a week for 45 minutes each session. Our sessions were whole body weight training, with a focus on learning the correct technique while still challenging my body to ensure I was breaking out into a very generous sweat. We went back into lockdown shortly after I began, and my first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to maintain my training—but I had already started to see results and I didn’t want to stop. That’s when my coach jumped in with a plan for how we’d continue. We hustled: found a park, I bought a barbell and some weight plates and I got a short term rental car so I could transport all that equipment. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but I had found something that I was beginning to enjoy and I had some success with it so there was no way I was going to let the lockdown get in the way of that. When you want a goal badly enough, you find a way to make it happen.

At first I found most of the exercises tough – pushups, split squats, burpees, and I didn’t even dream of pullups at that point because they seemed so out of reach (pun intended). I never thought I’d be able to complete one bodyweight pull up and it was one of the goals I set for myself. We used rings that we hung from a tree and I’d use my legs to help pull myself up. Eventually I took less weight on my legs and more on my upper body. It took us approximately 2 months to get there, and on my 47th birthday, I got my first pullup: it was one of the best birthday presents I could have wished for!

weight loss

My trainer Liz was great at mythbusting my preconceived views of weight loss and resistance training. I told her I like learning new things so she would often share articles with me on nutrition and training that would give me a fresh perspective. Towards the end of my transformation we started working on specific exercises, namely squats and deadlifts. I had told Liz that I “hated” squats but it turns out I just wasn’t doing them properly. Liz ensured I understood the correct mechanics of performing a squat and gave me lots of cues and feedback to help me with learning how to do them properly. And it turns out that I actually love squats… I have just competed in my first powerlifting meet, where I squatted a PR of 265 pounds!

I lost a total of 51 pounds in 6 months. When people see me these days, they are blown away with how much weight I’ve lost, but they have it a little mixed up because it’s not about what I have lost but about what I have gained: confidence. And with that confidence comes self-belief, better health and above all else, genuine happiness! I used to feel like I need to apologise for my existence, which is really sad, but the physical strength I have gained from training has translated to being strong both socially and professionally.

My blood pressure back to healthy levels, no more random bouts of falling over and no sign of fatty liver disease! I also recognised that my previous work situation was contributing to my stress and poor health, so I left that job and now work with a brilliant team for one of Australia’s most loved brands. I am more present in the time I spend with family and friends.

weight loss

After the weight loss transformation, my next goal was to build strength. My coach suggested that we aim to participate in a Novice Powerlifting meet to give me something tangible to work towards. I was apprehensive at first but looking back on it now, I can see how having a always goal surpasses motivation. We worked hard for 2.5 months to prepare. While I was nervous about entering the meet, all those nerves were put to rest as soon as I complete my first lift. I could not have asked for a better intro the world of powerlifting, everyone was so supportive and so encouraging. Now I know why this sport can be so addictive and I am thinking about doing another meet.

My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to lose weight is to invest in a good coach. And take your time to find a good one: ask lots of questions, observe, listen and if it doesn’t feel right, keep searching. Your health is too important to be working with someone that does not have the tools and skills to support you. And once you have found a good coach, be coachable! They can only advise and guide you on what you need to do. They cannot do the work for you. It’ll be scary at first, but that fear pales into comparison when you’re faced with a life of poor health and stress.

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