From geek to fit: How I got ripped abs in 3 months

There was a time when I read about fitness and nutrition websites for hours. I tried to work out and follow exactly what I read online, but I came nowhere close to getting the six-pack abs.

I almost gave up on the idea—until a friend who challenged me to a bet said:

“If you don’t have abs by the end of March, you’re going to join and sing in my church choir.”

She was (and still is) a devout believer. I’m a devout non-believer. This is a bet I couldn’t lose—going to church and singing in a choir? I would do anything just to avoid that.

So my journey to six-pack abs began.

If trying things on my own didn’t work out, then I just had to reach out to someone who knows. I called Kesung, a trainer, model, and TV personnel, and since I’ve known him he is shirtless on Halloween every year.

I was skinny-fat. I’ve accumulated fat around my belly but my arms, shoulders, and legs remained skinny.

I lifted some weights and Kesung told me I wasn’t targetting any muscle. I thought I knew what I was doing but the thing is, I wasn’t. A trainer telling you exactly what you’re doing wrong is worth a lot more than hours of reading.

I tried air squats but couldn’t do a rep without losing my balance. I was so uncoordinated.

But I learned.

After a little over three months of training with a coach, my body weight changed from 76 kg (167 lb) to 65 kg (143lb) and body fat percentage 25% to 11%.

Here are the current benefits of being lean:

  • I feel a lot more confident. I do a lot less self-loathing.
  • I fall asleep faster, within 30 minutes of laying in bed. It used to take a lot longer.
  • I have more energy in the morning. I rarely feel groggy.
  • I rarely get the mid-day fatigue (and so I don’t need coffee as much).
  • I lost sugar cravings. I feel calm, collected, and more in control of myself.
  • People around me say I look happier and more energetic. It feels nice to know that people are noticing my changes.

So here’s how I did it.

Workout Routine

Month 1~2:

  • Hit the gym 4 to 5 times a week, targeting different muscle groups each day – shoulders, chest, arms, legs or back.
  • Abs almost every day.
  • Spent 90 to 120 minutes in the gym each day.

Month 3:

  • Hit the gym 5 to 6 times a week.
  • Abs almost every day.
  • Did cardio (HIT training) after each workout.

Diet

Month 1~2:

  • Lots of eggs, chicken breast and veggies.
  • No strict dietary restriction. Refrained from junk food and sweets.
  • Red meat after the workout.

Month 3:

  • Lots of eggs, chicken breast and veggies.
  • Red meat after the workout.
  • Smoked salmon before bed.
  • Coconut oil in the morning.
  • Started the carb-cycling diet. One to two sweet potatoes before and after each workout. Added a half bowl of oatmeal in the morning on leg/back days (high carb days).
  • Completely cut other carbs—rice, noodles, bread, fruits, juice, soda, fast food, milk, cheese, sweets, etc.
  • One cheat hour a week on leg or back day after the workout.

A week before the photo shoot:

  • Drank 10 liters of water and ate lots of asparaguses for 4 days. Naturally, I had to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes.
  • Complete dehydration—drinking no water for 2 days.
  • Ate a bag of gummy bears and a chunk of peanut butter before the photo shoot to get pumped up.

Breakdown by each week

Day 1:

  • I pick up some weights and start doing reps. I do not feel any pain even after 20 reps. I wonder what I’m doing wrong. I see my trainer lifting weights three times as heavy as mine. He sweats, grunts, and his veins are showing after just a few reps.
  • I attempt air squats, lose balance and tumble. People at the gym patiently coach me and show me how to do the pelvic exercise.

Week 1~3:

  • I find the appropriate amount of weight, and start to feel the strain in my muscle after 8 to 12 reps.
  • I start to understand the muscle group I’m targeting. I become more in tune with my body and start to discover muscle groups I never knew existed.
  • I notice my brain requiring more oxygen as I push myself harder.
  • I eat and sleep a lot to recoup energy.
  • My trainer says this is a phase to increase metabolism.

Week 4~9:

  • I notice my brain telling my body to finish the set, because the brain needs more oxygen—but that does not mean I have reached muscle fatigue. I push myself and focus on exhausting the muscle and doing the reps until failure. My brain feels very uncomfortable.   
  • My body adapts to the intensity of workout. My body requires less sleep.
  • I have more energy throughout the day.

Week 10:

  • I start the carb cycle diet. Goodbye rice, bread, noodles and fruits. I also do cardio (HIT training) right after each workout.
  • I am low in energy from not having enough carbs to fuel.

Week 11~12:

  • The body gets used to the carb cycle diet and I feel more energetic. My trainer says that’s because my body is absorbing nutrients faster because I’m eating clean.
  • Completely lost cravings for junk food and sweets.
  • Abs start to show.
  • Lost 8 kg.

Week 13:

  • Cut the carb completely except for the legs/back days.
  • Low in energy.
  • Drink close to 10 liters of water a day and ate lots of asparaguses.

Last 2 days:

  • Dehydration period. Stopped drinking water.
  • Could not push myself at all during the circuit training.
  • Mind is sharp, but body felt weak.

The day of photo shoot:

  • I stuffed gummy bears and peanut butter in my mouth while pumping muscle.
  • I put more peanut butter in my mouth than I could chew. So I downed the remaining peanut butter with water. Not recommended.

Takeaways

  • Have a specific goal. When you know what your end result looks like, you will take action accordingly.
  • I’m more motivated to avoid a consequence. I made the right kind of bet to keep myself going.
  • Trust the process, and results will come. I followed my trainer’s instruction to the tee.
  • Action first, attitude later. There will be days when you do not feel like pushing hard. Hit the gym anyway and start moving your body. When your behavior changes, so will your attitude.
  • Be consistent. Granted, not every day will be a perfect day. Still, show up and put in the time to do the work.
  • Keep your psychology in check and avoid the negative chatter inside your head.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Concentrate on the set you’re doing right now. Worry about other stuff later.
  • If you want to improve your life, start with fitness. It’s the fastest way to gain self-confidence. Changes are immediate and measurable. When you go through the process and succeed in your fitness goals, it’ll give you the confidence to succeed in other areas of your life.
  • Cyprien May 5, 2016 @ 16:21

    I admire the effort you did, it’s incredible for me! Can you tell me also which exercises you did? Why did you eat peanut butter before the photo?
    I guess that if someone asked me to choose between church and getting abs, I would probably have been motivated too, haha

    • Josh May 5, 2016 @ 22:18

      Thanks for the reply! Having peanut butter and gummy bears before the photo helps you get the sudden pump in your muscles. Here’s the basic workout plan, but what’s more important is that you actually put in the time and focus on the muscle group you’re targeting, and lift with the right posture! My notes on Evernote.

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