John Masgalas, 45, shares with Men’s Health the changes that helped him transform his body, achieve his goals, and find a new outlook on life.
For 5 years, I worked out intensely, and was pretty muscular; I tracked my food intake, and loved to run Spartan races. I followed the “gym bro” cycle of bulking up in the winter, and cutting down in the summer. But I could never really cut down enough to even see my abs. The motivation simply wasn’t there. Going into last winter, I decided to start a lean bulk.
This soon turned into allowing myself to eat anything I wanted. My weight kept creeping up until I hit a high of 208 pounds. I’d gained 20 pounds in 5 months—needless to say, it was no longer a lean bulk. In addition, the Spartan races I enjoyed had been canceled due to Covid, and I had no goal to stay lean. I’d still train while working from home during quarantine, but my lifestyle was just less active in general. I felt terrible, cardio-wise. I was still strong in the gym, but would feel sluggish, tired and bloated all day.
While browsing YouTube, I stumbled across a Paul Revelia video where he talked about walking for fat loss, and mentioned Pro Physique’s 90-day transformation challenge. I discussed it with my wife, and told her this would give me a date and solid goal to finally get to where I wanted to be, physically. She said go for it, so I signed up.
Prior to the start date, I set myself a goal weight of 180 pounds. I reasoned this would put me in the ballpark to be a top finisher in the challenge. I also planned out my workouts and cardio, set an initial calorie deficit, and decided to reduce calories as needed. I dropped my daily calories from 3,200 to 2,400, comprising 220 grams protein, 55 grams fat, and 280 grams carbs.
I bought a budget under-desk step machine, which I used for 40 minutes each morning while I worked. The gyms were still closed so I knew I would be working out from home. I started shopping around, and was able to purchase a squat rack, barbell, bench, adjustable dumbbells, and a door pull up bar. I knew this equipment would allow me to get all the required basics in.
My weightlifting routine was a 4 day pull, push, legs, core and abs program that lasted a little over an hour each session. At the end of the fourth day I would repeat, and took no complete rest days. I kept my lifts simple by using basic compound movements that give a lot of bang for your buck (bench press, squat, deadlifts, and rows). I kept my intensity high and used a rep range of 8-12. I made sure my last set of each exercise went to complete failure, and then would drop down the weight and go to failure one more time.
Once my weight loss stalled, I bought a discounted treadmill for my basement gym. I added a 40-minute incline walk each evening after dinner. This kept my weight going down. At this point my activity was high between the two cardio sessions and weightlifting each day. I was losing over 2 pounds per week.
Each time my weight loss stalled, I lowered my calories by 200, keeping my protein and fat the same but dropping my carbs, until I was eventually at 1,700 calories per day. At this point I added a re-feed day once every 10 days. On my re-feed day I ate around 3,500 calories. I noticed this made me gain 3 or 4 pounds for a few days, then would drop my weight quickly to lower than it was prior to my re-feed day.
By the end of the challenge I was able to get down to 177 pounds. I lost 31 pounds, and surpassed my goal weight. I couldn’t believe it!
When I was tired, or felt myself not pushing hard enough, I reminded myself that someone out there feels the same way I do, but is working harder than me right now. I also made sure I took photos along the way to monitor my progress. Sometimes just looking in the mirror doesn’t work. Most importantly, I had tremendous support from my wife throughout the entire process. I could not have done it without her, from her putting up with my grumpiness to encouraging me to keep going, she was great.
This journey has changed my whole life. I have a body that I could only dream of before! I have proved to myself that no matter how hard something is, or how unattainable it may seem, anything is possible with hard work, determination, and consistency. My self-confidence has improved a lot. My energy levels are a lot higher. Running outside for cardio has become enjoyable now I am carrying less weight!
I am definitely not finished yet. Now that Spartan is hosting races again, I have entered three races to earn my Trifecta metal. This has always been a goal of mine. It also gives me reasons to stay fit and lean.I have shifted my workout to include more distance running. My weightlifting is now just 3 times a week, but working on functional movements and heavy weight. Once that is done, I plan to strictly focus on bodybuilding and adding more muscle with the goal of staying lean.
If you’re at the start of your own fitness journey, I would say: don’t just go through the motions. Really push yourself to the point that it is uncomfortable. Learn where this point is, then figure out how to take yourself a step past it; that’s where the real progress begins. And don’t look at what others are doing. Just look at yourself, and try to be a better you. You are only competing against who you were yesterday, for a better you tomorrow.
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