Body transformations: the truth
Advertising loves the word transformation. It’s evocative and inspiring: it makes you think of fresh new pages, leaves turned over and new possibilities.
If you search fitness articles, websites and YouTube channels a large emphasis is placed on this word. It’s a hook, along with the well-worn before and after photos.
Sometimes even I can’t resist clicking on some articles and videos that scream about dramatic transformations- “See how I turned my life around by losing 50 lbs!”, “How I transformed myself into a bench press machine in 10 weeks!”
The articles are usually accompanied by a before and after shot, or a progression of photos showing how the person dropped fat and gained muscle over a pretty rapid time period, while in the process getting strong/confident etc.
This is often used as a segway into advertising a supplement or product that the transformee has been using to get the results, along with nutrition advice and possibly training routines and tips.
It often sounds and looks amazing: after all, who wouldn’t want to be able to gain muscle and drop bodyfat at the same time? Or ‘transform’ their bodies in a few short weeks?
Even if it’s not designed to sell product transformations are often undertaken by those wanting you to follow them and subscribe to their training methods or to cement their positions as motivational figures and increase their public profiles.
After all, you want to take advice from someone who has done it, and who looks the part.
But can you actually transform yourself?
Obviously, you CAN make dramatic changes to your body. If it wasn’t possible then what would be the point of all this training?
The problem is most of these transformation adverts don’t give a realistic timescale or set expectations unnaturally high.
When it comes to making ‘dramatic’ body composition changes, be it adding muscle or losing fat, or performance goals like wanting to be stronger or run for longer the most rewarding time is right after you start.
If you take a completely untrained person and apply even relatively minor changes in their activity levels and nutrition you can get a great initial reaction: they’ll lose weight or put on muscle quite quickly.
This is because as a ‘newbie’ your body is receptive to the new stimulus. In the lifting world these are known as ‘newbie gains’ – the one and only period of your lifting career where you’ll literally be able to see differences in your numbers and in the mirror week to week.
Unfortunately the honeymoon can’t last forever, and the more your body gets trained, the smaller and smaller your gains will become until after a few years you’ll be busting your ass to move yourself forward by a centimetre.
Note how I said YEARS. Newbie gains are great, but you still have to put in the work week in week out for at least a year to see them.
Similarly, once you pass this year 1 threshold of being an untrained body the time for dramatic ‘transformative’ jumps in progress are over.
As I mentioned in a previous post, you should be suspicious of any trained individual who makes rapid and large leaps in progress.
They’ll tell you it’s down to a ‘revolutionary’ new regime or supplement. In the case of pro sports an often rolled out explanation for explosions in performance from hitherto also-rans is usually packaged in the form of “s/he had an undiagnosed nutrition intolerance that was holding them back which has now been rectified”.
The truth of the matter is that even in your first year of training, the one time you can get anything like ‘transformative’ effects the process is played out over the course of a year, not weeks or months.
Highly tuned athlete’s who are genuinely natural should be fighting hard for every 0.1% increase in performance: improvements of whole percentage points when you’ve already been wringing the potential out of your body for years is just not possible without changing some biological fundamentals i.e. your body chemistry.
Once you get serious about training in any form and do so for more than a year dramatic bumps in performance simply don’t happen naturally.
This is the practical reality: I’m not going to even go into the fact that most before and after transformation adverts are less to do with actual training and results and more to do with photoshop, judicious use of lighting and camera angles.
Body transformations can happen, but to do them sustainably and properly they require dedication and consistency spread over a long period of time.
There’s also no secret to how to do it. Kindof boringly it’s pretty much the old equation of you get out what you put in.
Let me reiterate: there is no supplement or routine out there that is going to get you results faster than the tried and tested ways of just doing the basics well and consistently, whilst either maintaining a low-calorie deficit to lose weight or a slight surplus to gain.
Amazingly short body transformations or dramatic changes are a confidence trick to make you believe in the seller so they can get you to follow their method or buy their products.
The one and only effective way of making huge leaps in physical performance in a short time is drugs.
It would be great if someone really did have a way of naturally getting rapid, solid results. They’d be able to transform the industry, and suddenly there’d be a lot of people walking around fit and healthy, instead of the constant rise in obesity rates.
Some of the body transformations you see might be pretty convincing. But more often than not if you look a little closer you’ll see how results have been manipulated or the seller isn’t telling the whole truth.
Whether it’s as subtle as photoshop and camera tricks to lying about taking PEDs you can be sure that anyone claiming or advertising a change too good to be true is using one or both techniques.
As always, don’t get drawn in. Learn to train against yourself only, with the knowledge that consistent dedication is the only way you can reap the rewards and get the performance goals you want.
I truly admire those who manage to steadily apply themselves to get into shape after being overweight or extremely unfit. Rather than credit this sort of genuine transformation to wonder routines or supplements it’s worth remembering that lasting change is only achieved through steady and consistent long-term effort.
Above all, remember it’s good to dream big, but it’s equally important to know and be realistic in what you can achieve.
- Gaining muscle while losing fat at the same time is not possible naturally.
- Unless you have been training at a very low intensity (i.e. you’re not really pushing your potential) large leaps in performance once you have been training for a few years is not possible.
- You can’t lose a lot of bodyfat and keep your strength levels
- It takes months and years of consistency to ‘transform’ yourself, be it body composition or performance.
- There are no such things as shortcuts to results!
Like I said, if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone be in shape?