Strength Training Helped This Man Lose 50 Pounds In 6 Months
Allan Bugay, 47, from New South Wales, Australia, shares his weight loss journey with men’s health.
Over time, I began to notice that my jeans and coveralls felt tighter and it became increasingly difficult to tie my shoe laces. After seeing some recent photos of me, I couldn’t believe how out of shape I had become.
I had exercised before, having learned the basics of weightlifting from a strength coach and done HIIT sessions at OrangeTheory, but it all stopped when classes were canceled due to Covid. When things started to reopen I found it hard to get back into it as I had lost a lot of fitness and was frustrated with myself.
I weighed 216 pounds (about 98 kg) at my heaviest. I generally ate food whenever I could get it, which meant hotel buffet breakfasts, meals in airport lounges and cafes, and plenty of takeout. I had stopped focusing on my health due to stress at work: in addition to gaining weight, this manifested in constant tension headaches, random falls and I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. I knew I had to change, so I signed up for the transformation program at Ultimate performance in Sydney.
My coach made me a nutrition plan and it gave me the structure I was missing. We worked to make sure I was getting enough protein, and since our goal was to lose weight, we initially limited my carb intake and managed the amount of fat I ate. My meals consisted of a protein source such as chicken, fish or steak and to bulk up my food I added non-starchy vegetables or made a salad and used a low carb dressing. Initially it was difficult to get enough protein, so I consumed a protein shake in the morning and in the afternoon I took a protein bar with my coffee.
We trained 3 times a week for 45 minutes each session. Our sessions consisted of full body weight training, focusing on learning proper technique while challenging my body to ensure that I was sweating very generously. We went back into lockdown shortly after I started, and my first thought was that I couldn’t sustain my training, but I had already started seeing results and didn’t want to stop. That’s when my coach came in with a plan for how we were going to continue. We scrambled: I found a park, bought a barbell and weight plates, and got a short-term rental car so I could haul all that gear. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but I had found something that I was starting to enjoy and was having some success with it, so there was no way I was letting the lockdown stop me. When you really want a goal, you find a way to achieve it.
At first, I found most of the exercises difficult – push-ups, split squats, burpees, and I didn’t even dream of pull-ups at the time because they seemed so out of reach (pun intended). I never thought I would be able to do a single bodyweight pull-up and that was one of the goals I set for myself. We used rings that we hung on a tree and I used my legs to help me up. Eventually, I gained less weight on my legs and more on my upper body. It took us about 2 months to get there, and on my 47th birthday, I got my first pull-up: it was one of the best birthday presents I could have wished for!
My trainer Liz was great at debunking my preconceptions about weight loss and resistance training. I told her that I love learning new things, so she often shared nutrition and training articles with me that gave 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 turned out I wasn’t doing them right. Liz made sure I understood the proper mechanics of performing a squat and gave me lots of hints and feedback to help me learn how to do them correctly. And it turns out that I love squats…I just entered my first powerlifting competition, 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 by how much weight I’ve lost but they kinda confuse things because it’s not about what I’ve lost it’s about what I’ve got earned: trust. And with that confidence comes self-confidence, better health and above all, true happiness! Before, I felt like I had to apologize for my existence, which is really sad, but the physical strength I gained through training translated into social and professional strength.
My blood pressure is back to healthy levels, no more random drops and no signs of fatty liver disease! I also recognized that my previous work situation contributed to my stress and poor health, so I quit 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 my family and friends.
After the weight loss transformation, my next goal was to build strength. My trainer suggested that we aim to attend a Novice Powerlifting meet to give me something tangible to work on. I was worried at first, but looking back now, I can see how always having a goal trumps motivation. We worked hard for 2.5 months to prepare. While I was nervous about entering the competition, all of those nerves were put to rest as soon as I completed my first lift. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world of powerlifting, everyone was so supportive and encouraging. Now I know why this sport can be so addictive and I’m thinking of doing another competition.
My number one tip for anyone looking to lose weight is to invest in a good trainer. And take your time to find a good one: ask lots of questions, observe, listen and if you don’t like it, keep looking. Your health is too important to work with someone who doesn’t have the tools and skills to support you. And once you’ve found a good coach, be coachable! They can only advise and guide you on what to do. They can’t do the work for you. It will be scary at first, but that fear pales in comparison when you are faced with a life of poor health and stress.
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