This Skinny Guy Bulked up and Sculpted a Six-Pack in 7 Months
When Matthew McGaha stepped on the scale, he saw he weighed just 143 pounds. Growing up, the 24 year-old electrical engineer from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, had always been the skinny kid. He’d recently had abdominal surgery brought on by a Crohn’s disease flare-up, but he hadn’t weighed so little since sixth grade.
“It didn’t hit home how drastic it was until I saw that number,” he says.
He decided he needed to work toward a healthier weight. A self-described “habitual program hopper,” he’d been working out since high school, but this time he wanted to find one regimen and stick with it.
He settled on AX1 by AthleanX.
Nutrition-wise, getting his weight back meant ditching processed foods and eating nutrient-dense meals. Instead of buying pre-cooked or frozen chicken and pork chops, for example, he’d grill his own; he also swapped out minute rice and oatmeal, replacing them with old-fashioned oats and long-grain jasmine rice.
Bulking up with Crohn’s disease presented some unique challenges for McGaha.
“What most people don’t understand about Crohn’s/IBD is that it’s an invisible illness,” he says, “and you will probably never notice many of the symptoms.” The autoimmune disease left him chronically fatigued; even sitting at a desk all day could wear him out, making it hard to find the energy to work out. During his operation, doctors had removed one-third of his intestine, making his digestion process less efficient. That left him eating 5,000-6,000 calories a day just to stay properly fed.
“The most difficult part of my transformation was definitely the mental aspect,” he says. Dropping so much weight left him feeling self-conscious, picturing other gym goers watching him pressing 25-pound dumbbells and eking out a few pushups. But he stayed motivated by watching his gains in the mirror and reminding himself of the challenges he’d already overcome. His friends and family were a great source of support.
In about seven months, he gained 48 pounds. Before surgery, he’d ranged 185-190 pounds, only to drop to 143 while recovering. But he got it back.
“Reaching my goal weight in that timeframe left me feeling like I could do anything I set my mind to,” he says, “and that I had no limitations.”
Of course, he wasn’t just putting on weight; he was also building muscle. He saw his whole body transform, but especially his chest and arms.
“I was always the skinny kid growing up,” he says, “and finally being able to fill out my shirtsleeves was probably the most satisfying change that I noticed.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to try to add a few inches on my arms, but my main goal is to find a balance so that I can maintain this level of fitness and health indefinitely,” he says.
He’s finding his own path and setting his own goals—and he encourages others to do the same.
“Everyone has a different starting point,” he says, “and everyone will make changes at their own pace.” Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, but figure out what single change you can make for the better.
“If they make one change every day,” he says, “eventually they can be exactly where they want to be, too.”
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