Name: John Bartlett
Original Beginning Weight: 240 lbs.
Beginning Body Fat: 42%
Waist Size: 42 inches
* From 2000 to the summer of 2004 I was at my heaviest, weighing 240 pounds, and carrying about 42% of my weight in body fat. I lost a bit of weight prior to this "Before" photo on the left.
Why I Got Started
From as young as I can remember, I was involved in sports and lead an active life. But by the time I got into my mid-30s, I got focused on my career and my social lifestyle of dining out and drinking every night. I had no time for exercise and, quite honestly, didn't think too much about it.
I spent a lot of time traveling and enjoying foods and cultures of other countries. I moved to Europe for a while where my social life became my most important priority. Below are a couple of photos taken in 2001; one taken in Rome in March and the other taken in Cairo in August (check out the belly).
Prior to jet setting around the world, I met my future wife, Lisa. We met in the late 1990s when I was still in pretty good shape but didn't start dating until I moved back to the USA. In 2002, we built a house in the Phoenix area and moved in together.
I was about 240 pounds at that time and I started to feel self-conscience about my obesity. It was warm all year around and we had a beautiful swimming pool. We entertained all the time and I was constantly embarrassed in a bathing suit.
In 2003, we got married. In the summer of 2004, Lisa and I decided to adopt a child. We were still living in Phoenix but we felt it would be best to move to a smaller community to raise our future child. We bought a house, on a quiet cul-de-sac, in the small town of Sedona, Arizona where we now live.
When we moved, I was still 240 pounds. Sedona is 4500 feet above sea level and I immediately felt the altitude. I, literally, became out of breath running from one end of the house to the other to answer the phone.
Sedona is a community where most people enjoy outdoor activities. There are more than 100 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails in town. Sedona has the reputation of having some of the best mountain biking trails in the country. Knowing this, I immediately went to all three bike shops in town and got as much information as possible about mountain biking and the differences in bikes. Within a few days, I bought 2 new mountain bikes; one for my wife, Lisa, and one for me.
Click To Enlarge.
Photo With Dennis Green, The Coach Of The Arizona Cardinals In The Summer Of 2004. I Weighed About 240 lbs.
We joined a local mountain biking group and participated in a few rides. Each time I rode, I hit the wall hard. People twice my age rode by me like I was standing still. I rode as often as I could throughout the rest of 2004. I fell several times and had to give up riding a few weeks at a time to let various injuries heal.
By the beginning of 2005, the adoption process was moving along quite nicely. We expected to travel for our overseas adoption sometime in the spring or summer of 2005. I wanted to be able to run around and participate in all the activities our son will be involved in. By this time, my blood pressure was high and medication was not controlling it.
I wanted to be around for my son and to see him grow up. I certainly didn't want to die of heart disease and have my wife stuck raising a child by herself. I also wanted to be able to do active things with my son. Besides, what kind of a role model would I be as an obese parent?
My father died of a heart attack and I do not want to follow that path. His death was caused, in great part, by not taking care of himself until he was in his 60s. He abused his body until then.
When he was 60, doctor's orders forced him to begin eating right and working out regularly - by then it was too late. He passed away after having a heart attack 5 days after his 65th birthday. I was following right along in his footsteps. I had to make some changes and fast.
I had other problems, besides the high blood pressure, too. There are too many to list but they include chronic back pain, sciatica and severe insulin resistance. If I didn't do something soon, I'd become diabetic like my father.
A sore throat forced me to see a doctor. He determined that I needed to have my tonsils removed. In early January, 2005, I had the surgery. They almost cancelled it when they checked my vital signs prior to the surgery. My blood pressure was 180 over something and my resting pulse was just under 100 beats per minute.
I convinced the doctor that I was fine and just felt a bit nervous due to the upcoming surgery. He operated. I had complications and extensive bleeding that they could not stop. This was supposed to be an outpatient operation but I ended up spending some time in the hospital.
When I got out, I knew I really had to make some changes - and fast. I joined the local gym and began working out. I mountain biked alone, at my own pace - and did it more often. By May 2005, I had dropped my weight down to 210 pounds but I was still grotesquely obese.
From the beginning of 2005 on, I became obsessed with health and fitness. I read everything I could get my hands on; book after book, article after article. I read hundreds of books and thousands of articles. Bodybuilding.com was set to my home page (press CNTL+B to bookmark Bodybulding.com!). I read every single new article that was published on their site.
How I Got Committed to My Goals
I decided that I needed a deadline. I chose to do the body-for-life 12-week Challenge. I designed my training program, cardio program, nutrition program and took my before photos. This was it. This time I was going to do it. I had my motivation and a picture of our baby we are adopting.
Actually, I had many pictures. Some on the refrigerator; some in the bedroom; some in my office; some in my car; some with me at all times in my wallet. Whenever I felt weak I'd glance at the pictures and visualize both scenarios; fat me and in-shape me. I'd use the pictures to motivate myself to get off the couch and go to the gym even when I was exhausted.
The pictures helped turn me away from a piece of french bread and butter for a handful of almonds or a low fat yogurt. They helped keep me focused, no matter what, for 12 consecutive weeks - well, it ended up being 11 straight weeks. We received a call from the adoption agency and had to travel to Kazakhstan before my 12 weeks would be up.
So, I worked out every day. Most of the time I did two 1-hour sessions of cardio a day and 1 hour in the weight room. If I took a day off from the gym, I'd usually do 3 or more hours of cardio. Almost all my cardio was done on my either my mountain bike or road bike.
I have a very demanding job where I work with people in countries around the world. In order to get all my workouts in I started each day at 4:30 a.m. Due to my work schedule my 2nd cardio session was usually done around 3 p.m. in the summer heat which was usually above 100 degrees and as much as 110 degrees. But the heat didn't stop me. I was determined to get this done before we adopted our son.
I kept a perfect diet. I didn't take a cheat day but I did have scheduled re-feed days where I would boost my complex carbs and calories to keep metabolism running at full throttle.
My wife and I spent a couple of months in Kazakhstan. While we were there, I found a gym. The equipment looked like it was pre-WWII. All machines that used to have cables now had ropes in their place. There was only one ancient treadmill and they had one of those vibrating belts that people used in the 1960s.
Food was another problem. It was difficult to get proteins. Chicken breasts couldn't be found and red meat was not to be trusted. Needless to say, I slid backward a bit during the trip.
After returning to the USA, I decided to spend the winter adding some muscle size, hoping to enter my first bodybuilding contest in the spring. I gained some weight. By the end of January if this year, I weighed more than 200 pounds; this time I was carrying more muscle than fat.
Just Like That I'm a Fitness Model
Soon thereafter, I was contacted by Bodybuilding.com. They asked me for original copies of my before photos and each one of my weekly photos including my after photos. I sent them some originals. A month or so after that, they got in touch with me again and asked me to appear in an advertisement they were planning to run in several fitness magazines.
I agreed and they ran the ad in Iron Man Magazine (May 06), Muscle & Fitness (May 06), Men's Workout Best Of 2006, Muscular Development (May 06), Flex Magazine (May 06) and Southern Muscle Magazine (March or April 06). Can you believe it. A year ago I was an obese couch potato and now I was in all these magazines. How cool is that?
My First Bodybuilding Contest
The ad gave me the extra burst of motivation I needed. I began dropping weight in an effort to compete in the Best of the West Championships in Phoenix, Arizona on April 29, 2006. It was a WNBF Pro Qualifier. Through excessive biking, total commitment to the weight room and a near-perfect diet, I was able to drop my body fat to about 8% for the contest.
I weighed in at 174 pounds on the nose. This was the high end of the middleweight class. I entered the middleweight open class and the masters pro-qualifier. Contest day was a pretty good day. Tom Platz was the head judge and I met Jay Cutler between the pre-judging and the night show.
During the night show, the masters class was called out before the middleweight open class. There were 11 of us in the Masters Pro-Qualifier. They started calling names from last place on up. When my name hadn't been called by the time they announced sixth place, I knew I won a trophy - but I never expected what happened next.
They called fifth, fourth, and third - and still I hadn't heard my name. I turned to Ramone, the only other competitor left and I shook his hand, wishing him luck.
When Ramone's name was called next, I was in shock. I won the masters pro-qualifier. I won my WNBF Pro Card on my first time out. It was an awesome feeling. I ended up taking second place in the open middleweight division but, at that point I didn't really care. I was already in the celebration mindset.
How I Did It
I used a carb/calorie cycling diet. I ate low carbs and low calories for 3 days and spent my 4th day re-feeding on a high carb diet. I kept my protein at about 1.5 grams per pound of lean body mass each day. On low days, I ate about 175 grams of carbs and kept my fat intake to about 20 to 25% of my daily calories.
Below is an example of a typical low carb day:
|Time||Food||Calories||Carbohydrate Grams||Protein Grams||Fat Grams|
|5:15 AM||Whey & oatmeal||255||27||29||2.3|
|8:30 AM||Post-Workout Drink & creatine||519||105||37.5||0.5|
|11:00 AM||4 oz. Chicken & asparagus & 1/2 Tbsp EFA||290||8||41.2||12.1|
|2:00 PM||3.5 oz Salmon & spinach salad w/ 1 Tbsp Olive Oil||327||4||26.7||29.5|
|3:45 PM||3 oz Steak, 1/2 slice whole grain bread||255||11||25.7||12|
|7:00 PM||4 oz. Chicken & an apple||268||21.1||35.3||4.7|
Carbs: 177g (37%)
Protein: 220 g (30%)
Fat: 61 g (27%)
On re-feed days, I ate 400-to-450 grams of carbs and kept my fat intake as low as possible. Carbohydrate sources came from mostly starches on re-feed days; rice, potatoes, yams, whole grain breads, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
I ate no fructose at all on re-feed days. Re-feeds are designed to raise leptin levels and boost metabolism. Fructose has little effect on leptin, whereas, other carbs help boost leptin levels back to normal.
Below is an example of a typical re-feed day:
|Time||Food||Calories||Carbohydrate Grams||Protein Grams||Fat Grams|
|6:15 AM||3 oz. Chicken, 2 servings of oatmeal||440||52||34.4||7|
|9:00 AM||3 oz. Chicken, 2 servings of oatmeal||440||52||34.4||7|
|11:15 AM||3 oz. Chicken & 1 can black beans||490||66.6||47.4||2.1|
|1:30 PM||Post-Workout Drink & Creatine||519||105||37.5||0.5|
|3:00 PM||3 oz. Chicken & 2 servings brown rice||480||70||34.4||5|
|5:30 PM||3 oz. Chicken & 1 can black beans||490||66.6||47.4||2.1|
|8:00 PM||3 oz. Chicken||140||0||26.4||3|
Carbs: 412 g (55%)
Protein: 262 g (35%)
Fat: 27 g (8%)
In the gym, I did a 4-day split routine; 2 days on, 1 day off. Below was a typical day of training right out of my training journal.
Monday (Shoulders & Triceps)
Dumbbell lateral raises using a 3,0,2,1 tempo (triple drop sets):
35 x 12, 30 x 8, 25 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
30 x 12, 25 x 10, 20 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
30 x 10, 25 x 8, 20 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
Bent-over reverse dumbbell flyes using a 3,0,2,1 tempo (triple drop sets):
40 x 12, 30 x 8, 20 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
40 x 12, 30 x 8, 20 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
40 x 10, 30 x 8, 20 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
Front dumbbell raises using a 4,0,1,2 tempo (triple drop sets):
20 x 12, 15 x 8, 10 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
20 x 10, 15 x 8, 10 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
20 x 18, 15 x 6, 10 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
Decline skull crushers using a 4,1,1,0 tempo (triple drop sets):
90 x 12, 70 x 6, 50 x 8 (no rest between weight changes)
90 x 8, 70 x 6, 50 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
Single-arm dumbbell extensions using a 4,0,2,0 tempo (triple drop sets):
30 x 6, 25 x 6, 20 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
25 x 8, 20 x 6, 15 x 6 (no rest between weight changes)
25 x 6, 20 x 5, 15 x 5 (no rest between weight changes)
I usually finished triceps with a couple of sets of parallel dips to failure.
- Tuesday (Back and calves)
- Wednesday (Off)
- Thursday (Legs)
- Friday (Chest & Biceps)
- Saturday (Off)
- Sunday (Start again with Shoulders and Triceps)
I used similar techniques for all gym days but I never did the same exact workout twice. I'd always changed something. Instead of using drop sets, I'd do super sets, pause sets, heavy straight sets, pre-exhaustion sets or any combination. Sometimes I'd just change my tempo but I never repeated the same workout twice.
Once I got my nutrition plan and training program squared away, I just did as much cardio as I had time for. All my cardio was done on either my mountain bike or road bike. I'd often spend more than 2 hours per day doing cardio. The more cardio I did, the more fat came off, so cardio was king.
Below is an actual week of training from my training log. This was a typical week during my initial transformation.
|Monday, July 04, 2005||Road Biking
|Tuesday, July 05, 2005||Road Biking
|Wednesday, April 06, 2005||Road Biking
|Thursday, July 07, 2005||Road Biking
|Friday, July 08, 2005||Road Biking
|Saturday, July 09, 2005||Weights
|Sunday, July 10, 2005||Mountain Biking||2.1||1361|
I used supplements but I didn't rely on them. I relied on proper nutrition, cardio and weight training. However, I did (and do) take some supplements.
Here's What I Take:
- Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
- Casein Protein
- Dextrorotatory Glucose
- Whey Protein Isolate
Well that's it. I don't take any other supplements; not even fat burners. Every fat burner I've tried has given me some sort of an adverse reaction. I've had heartburn, nervousness and problems sleeping. And now that ephedrine is illegal for natural bodybuilding contests, fat burners which don't contain ephedrine are the only option and they don't work as well. Besides, I feel strongly that there is no need whatsoever to waste hard-earned money on something that just isn't needed.
One more thing ... they aren't really supplements but I also use caffeine and diet soda. I consume both caffeine and diet soda all the time but I have special uses for both when I'm trying to drop fat. I consume caffeine, in the form of coffee, first thing in the morning, before cardio, to help with burning fat during cardio. I drink diet soda in the evening to help me deal with cravings and to keep me feeling full.
I now know that anyone can drastically change their physique. It doesn't really matter how out-of-shape you are or how prone to gaining fat you are. It all comes down to how much you want it - and I really wanted it.