Rizwan Khan had always tried to get into weightlifting consistently. For most of his life, the 29-year-old banking professional from England hit the gym every now and then, but never felt he had a true understanding of what he was doing. To him, heavier meant better—and as many more experienced lifters realize over time, that’s not actually always the case.
Years of inexperienced workouts combined with a lack of direction in the gym left Khan feeling apathetic. As a result, his weight began to increase steadily, and soon he found that his clothes weren’t fitting the way he’d like. Plus, as a frequent jiu-jitsu practitioner, Khan’s training sessions also began to suffer. He wasn’t able to go for as many rounds as was when he was more fit.
“I was feeling tired,” he says. “I was much more energetic before, and I wanted to feel confident again.” Members of Khan’s family had also dealt with health-related issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and obesity—giving him even more motivation to get serious about self-care.
“As I was approaching my 30s, I wanted to make a change to set my path early for the life I wanted to lead,” he says. “So, I signed up with Ultimate Performance’s Leeds gym.” With the help of his experienced personal trainer, Khan began strength and resistance training three days a week. He also incorporated a few evening Brazilian jiu-jitsu sessions throughout the week. Jiu-jitsu is a grappling-based martial art and is heavily reliant on cardiovascular endurance, anaerobic fitness and muscular endurance.
“This combination complemented each other brilliantly,” he says. “I was really reaping the benefits in both areas continuously.” Khan’s personal trainer, James, proved to be the deciding factor of his transformation. Having such an experienced mentor by his side helped him stay confident and educated every time he hit the gym.
“When I started, I was not confident that any workout or plan would work—or even whether or not I was physically capable of getting my body to that level,” he says. “Most sessions, I would pick his brain in between sets, and try to get as much information as I could as it relates to exercise, diet, mentality, and my approach to training.”
However, as anyone who’s every completed a true weight-loss transformation knows, you can’t out train a bad diet. While Khan’s diet wasn’t necessarily bad before he started his journey, he still found himself indulging on high-carb lunches and dinners—nearly always ending the day with something sweet.
Once he started his journey with UP, he started tracking everything he was eating with the help of his personal trainer. “I began to understand what the nutritional information on a packet meant and what I should be looking for to achieve the goals I wanted,” he says. “This awareness meant that I was now seeking food that was lower calories but had high protein content.”
For some foods, Khan found it easy to swap in healthier alternatives, but for others, he found it harder. For instance, removing carbs like bread and rice was tough for him. His trainer would often reiterate that it was only for a brief period of time to help him achieve his weight loss goals.
This mindset helped Khan avoid developing a toxic relationship with his food and allowed him to still enjoy eating. An average day of eating looked like this:
Breakfast: 4 eggs, with mushrooms and tomatoes in an omelette and a black coffee
Lunch: Chicken breast with salad and a Coke Zero
Dinner: Salmon fillet with salad and a Coke Zero
Snacking: A bowl of 150 grams of 0% fat yogurt with blueberries and/or strawberries
“I learned about the concept of calories in versus calories out which may seem obvious but I was never really taught what that meant in practice,” he says. “James also outlined the importance of calorie control and maximizing protein intake. He set a calorie target and parameters around what I should and should not be eating.”
Khan also had to incorporate daily fasting into his workouts during Ramadan. At first, he found this challenging given his strict, high-protein diet plan; however, his trainer helped him find the right schedule that helped him stay active and fit during the month of fasting and prayer.
“We adapted the dietary needs but remained true to the principles of a protein centered calorie-controlled diet,” he says. “We upped protein intake even further and we incorporated some carbs to help provide energy and sustain me throughout the day.”
In less than six months, Khan was able to lose around 15 pounds and cut his body fat in half from 18.9 percent to 9.1 percent. He also noticed some profound changes in his mental well-being.
“I feel much more confidence in my appearance,” he says. “I feel much more energetic and keen to maintain what I have achieved—getting over that hump is always difficult and now having gotten over it, it feels much more positive.”
When asked about his number one piece of advice for anyone considering starting their own transformation, he says to start by focusing on your eating plan.
“Diet is super important. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what macros are and what they mean for the body, what foods are low calorie, what foods are high calorie. These are the kinds of questions we should know. What we ultimately put into our body is the output we get. You cannot train out a bad diet.”
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