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Paul Swainson

When 36 year-old Paul Swainson - the head of Personal Training school Future Fit - got in touch with us to say he was about to undergo an intense 12 week transformation with the intention of using Muscle Food goodies to help him achieve his goal – we knew this was a story we simply had to track.

After all, Paul has worked in the fitness industry helping individuals realise their own fitness ambitions for years!

But with 12 week transformations becoming increasingly popular as a great way to fix your fitness problems in three months or less – Paul wanted to see what all the fuss was about and to determine if what you do in those 12 weeks is actually sustainable post goal victory.

So, he hired a PT, overhauled his diet and hit the gym like never before… and the results are truly something else…

Now that Project Paul has ended, we took the opportunity to chat with Paul to find out what he learnt about himself, if he was surprised by the results, if he believed 12 week transformation were really all they’re cracked up to be AND why would someone with a wealth of PT knowhow need to hire a PT!

Here’s his story…

Paul - Before & After
Vital Statisics Before After Change
Height 5ft 8in - -
Weight 12st 9lb (82kg) 11st 5lb (73kg) -1st 4lb (9kg)
Body Fat Approx. 14-15% 7-8% -7%
Skinfold Before After Change
Bicep 2mm 1.5mm -0.5mm
Tricep 2mm 1.5mm -0.5mm
Suprailiac 9mm 3mm -6mm
Abdomen 10mm 6mm -4mm
Thigh 5mm 3mm -2mm
Circumferences Before After Change
Chest 102cm 99cm -3cm
Abdomen 88cm 81cm -7cm
Waist 87cm 80cm -7cm
Arm 32cm 31cm -1cm
Thigh 57cm 55cm -2cm
Paul Grey image

Training Plan

Monday: Wednesday: Friday

Whole Body - 7 exercise's with first 6 performed as supersets.

  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Close Grip Bench Press
  • 4 sets of 8-10 reps - Stiff-Legged Deadlift
  • 4 sets of 8-10 reps - Neutral Grip Pull Up
  • 4 sets of 10-12 reps - Back Extensions
  • 4 sets of 10-12 reps - Dumbbell Row
  • 3 sets of 30 seconds- Pallof Iso Hold

Upper body - 5 exercises with first 4 performed as supersets.

  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Chin Up
  • 4 sets of 8-12 reps - Dips
  • 4 sets of 8-12 reps - Low Cable Row
  • Seated Face Pull

Lower body with some postural work - 7 exercises with first 6 performed as supersets

  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Rack Pull
  • 5 sets of 5 reps - Thoracic spine mobility drill
  • 4 sets of 6-10 reps - Lying Leg Curl
  • 4 sets of 6-10 reps - Barbell Glute Hip Thrust
  • 4 sets of 20 - Alternate Front Lunges
  • 4 sets of 20 - Glute Frog Pumps
  • 4 sets of 12-15 - Prone Trap raises

Meal Plan

Interview with Paul Swainson

Hi Paul, thank you for taking the time to chat with us, before we get into the nitty gritty details of your transformation could you tell us a bit more about you…

I actually work in the fitness industry training personal trainers for the Future Fit School of PT who have recently partnered with Muscle Food. I am married with a 1 year old little boy and another baby due in a couple of months so family life is about to get more hectic!

So in July [2015] you got in touch with Muscle Food to tell us that you would soon be kicking of a 12 week transformation challenge. Why did you feel the need to go through a transformation?

Having only ever trained for sports performance, general health and enjoyment, I was intrigued to know what my aesthetic potential was - how much fat could I lose and how much muscle could I gain to improve my body shape?

Ordinarily I'd have planned out a long term programme to maximise my potential but with another baby on the way I knew I had a limited time frame so it made sense to tie things in with an investigation into transformation projects.

Transformations are a common occurrence in the fitness world and I wanted to see what they were all about. As a trainer myself I was used to working with clients over the longer term to see sustainable results so I was intrigued as to what could realistically be achieved in a relatively short time frame.

I consider myself to be pretty healthy as you'd expect (although even I was surprised at how much internal body fat I was clearly carrying given the amount I lost). So in the main this was about seeing how much of a visible change was possible in 12 weeks.

How long were you training for before you began to notice a change?

I was already training regularly so expected changes to be quite slow. However the changes to my nutrition had a dramatic effect. I actually noticed a visible reduction in body fat within a couple of weeks.

We’ve closely followed your progress during this time through your blog Project Paul, and one thing really struck us from the beginning – you’re a personal trainer with over 12 years’ experience, so why did you hire a personal trainer?!

Paul after transformation

This was a common question from my friends and family. As an experienced fitness professional it would be easy to assume I don’t need help when it comes to exercise and healthy nutrition, but there are two very good reasons why I worked with a PT myself:

1. As all fit pros should be, I’m well aware I don’t know everything there is to know about the human body and how it works, and there will always be someone I can learn from - simply getting someone else’s perspective is in itself invaluable.

2. In any case, most of the clients I worked with had goals based around moderate levels of fat loss, muscle gain and overall health and fitness improvements. They weren’t looking to get on stage at bodybuilding shows or appear on the cover of magazines, so I don’t class myself as an expert on the requirements for more extreme body composition targets.

Although I wasn't aiming to get to competition level (the chest waxing puts me off for a start), the type of training is similar, and so I needed guidance from someone who really knows their stuff in this area. My trainer Shaun Estrago happens to be a Future Fit graduate so it was good to keep it in the family as it were!

The bottom line is, if you look at any good athlete at any level, they will have a coach, and for good reason. No matter how great you become, you will always be better with direction and advice from an expert. I believe it’s the same in the fitness field - even a PT benefits from having a PT.

What was it like being on the other side of the trainer, trainee relationship?

Very interesting! I learned a lot in terms of understanding what it's like to follow advice you're given and be accountable to someone.

Whilst in one way it was nice to be told exactly what to do, as the lifestyle changes my trainer advised became ever more 'inconvenient' (think 6am high intensity interval training sessions in the local park), the term 'challenge' was increasingly appropriate.

Part of the experiment for me was seeing how the necessary behaviour changes would fit around my family and work commitments.

12 weeks on paper doesn’t seem that long, but when you’re in the process it can feel like a lifetime – how did you maintain your focus and motivation?

I'm motivated to train anyway - I enjoy exercise as you'd expect - but it was still a challenge to keep on top of the nutrition plan for the 3 months. I think having that defined time period means you have a clear end point to focus on which helps, although I'd say that could be a bad thing if it means you then 'fall off the wagon' when you get there.

Fortunately I like training and eating well so I hope to make the most of the progress I've made so far, although it’s nice to be a bit more relaxed about things now and not track and plan so religiously.

Which phase did you find to be the most challenging and why?

Paul during transformation

The last 4 weeks without a doubt. I had to be extremely strict with my diet in terms of planning and tracking everything such as calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat, whilst also reducing the calories down to strip the last bit of body fat away.

As well as being quite disruptive for my wife and little boy (I was constantly prepping food!), that made training harder, recovery took longer and I also needed to introduce high intensity interval training sessions at 6am 2-3 times a week which aren't the most appealing when it's dark and wet outside! That said I did feel energised after them which set me up for the day.

Getting to your nutrition, how did it change during the course of your transformation?

Although I already had a healthy diet some changes were needed to trigger the reduction in body fat and then add some muscle. I cut out starchy carbs completely for the first few weeks which I've never done before, and replaced them with lots of green leafy vegetables.

I did eat plenty of veg before but this has helped me add more variety to my diet. I was also more mindful of including a high quality protein source at each meal (up to 6 a day), so some kind of steak or fish featured at every breakfast much to my little boy's amusement!

You used Muscle Food throughout your journey – which three products could you simply could not get enough of?

Literally, the 2.5kg packs of chicken breast fillets. I was eating chicken around 3 times a week so needed a good supply.

Towards the end of the programme when I needed to limit my fat intake, the tilapia fillets were a handy high-protein option.

Whole Foods

The exotic meats were also great for variety and a regular healthy treat, so the ostrich steaks made a few appearances.

What supplements did you use during your transformation and why?

I took in plenty of omega 3 fish oil as that has numerous benefits including reduced inflammation which made a significant difference to my recovery time from workouts.

I also used whey protein isolate, both immediately after training and also to boost my protein intake when whole food sources weren't enough on some days, for example when I was out for the day.

Other workout nutrition included BCAAs during my session, and creatine straight after with the whey shake.


Top three tips for all those people currently looking to undergo a 12 week transformation?

1. Know what your specific goal is – you can make great progress in 12 weeks but you probably won’t reach your maximum potential in terms of fat loss or muscle gain so think about your expectations from the transformation.

2. Have a plan for what you do afterwards – you stand a better chance of maintaining your results (and improving on them) if you don’t just revert to your old habits straight away. Indeed, if you don’t need to limit yourself to 12 weeks then don’t!

3. Be aware it's all about compromises - the level of results you achieve normally reflect the level of sacrifices you make

How did it change during your transformation?

My abs. Cliché as it is it was good to have some definition there. I was most surprised by how much fat I lost around my mid-section, showing how much internal fat I must have been carrying which illustrates how health and fitness is not just about what's visible.

And the one you would like to improve a little more?

Salmon Fillet

To be honest, as the challenge was simply to see where I could get to in 12 weeks, and I'm not particularly driven by aesthetic goals normally, I'm not too fussed about improving anything.

That said, I'm looking forward to adding some more lean muscle mass overall and seeing my weight go back up, and if I had to pick anywhere, looking at my after photos I'd say my upper chest is an area I could develop more.

What was the biggest thing you learnt about yourself during this time?

How easy it is for me to get so into the zone you forget the impact it has on those around you. It was interesting to discover how the various nutritional changes affected my body, but I was more surprised at how focused I became and was willing to prioritise the programme.

Although I am motivated to train and eat well (as you'd hope given my job!), part of Project Paul was to see what I could realistically achieve without changing my lifestyle too dramatically, yet I found myself doing things that aren't sustainable for me long-term (in particular meticulously planning and tracking my diet on a daily basis).

Something else I learned was what I already I knew before but really got hammered home: that I'm not motivated to maintain a very lean physique purely for aesthetic purposes - I'm happy for my body to look like a reflection of the training I do for general strength, endurance and health, plus any sporting events I take part in.

That goes back to making sure you know exactly what goals you’re looking for, otherwise the programme won’t work for you in the end.

How has your approach to fitness changed since your 12 transformation ended?

Paul Swainson Transformation

Although I got good results, I think the process confirmed for me that changes to your health, fitness and body shape are ideally best achieved over a longer time frame to avoid mental overload - for most people 6, 8 and 12 week transformations require many changes to your behaviour which may be hard to adhere to.

In many ways my transformation isn't yet 'complete' as I know my body is now primed to put more muscle on effectively. I've continued to train 3 times a week as I did before Project Paul started, although I've shortened the workouts a bit so I'm not spending too long at the gym. I'm certainly a lot more aware of how I'm performing the exercises with a view to gaining muscle as my weight goes back up, for example being very strict with tempo.

I'm also much more naturally conscious of my diet even though I'm not actually tracking it as closely - taking in more carbs on training days for example. So I'm probably enjoying my training a bit more now the pressure of the 12 week deadline is off and I've been more relaxed about everything. So far it's working - I've regained 2-3 kg but my body fat seems to have stayed low.

I think considering yourself as a continual work in progress is a good motivational strategy - fitness and health should be an ongoing journey rather than a destination.

Will you employ these to your future workouts?

I'll certainly keep things up until baby number two arrives! As mentioned I feel as if I can still make some more progress in terms of adding lean mass so will carry on with this bodybuilding style approach to training for a few more weeks.

Do you think Project Paul was a worthwhile experiment?

Definitely. It was an invaluable insight into what it takes to achieve a transformation, obviously from a physiological perspective but more importantly in terms of the mind-set required. Significant changes to your body entail significant changes to your lifestyle which means compromises and sacrifices have to be made to ensure you get the right nutrition, training and recovery necessary for results.


That can impact not just on you (for example having to plan your diet in detail), but also those close to you as without their support and willingness to accommodate your new behaviours it will be incredibly difficult to stick to the programme.

I wouldn't even class what I did as particularly detailed (some people wanting higher level results have long lists of supplements at every meal and weigh all their food with scales) but it still took discipline.

What’s next for you?

As much as I'm proud of what I achieved I'm in no way inclined to seek further physique improvements, drop more body fat or get into competing for example.

However I'll continue to train 3 times a week as I have done for the last couple of years, and will go through a period of 'reverse dieting' to gradually increase my calories so the weight that goes back on is lean mass rather than fat as much as possible.

Then my second child will be born in December [2015] so that's when the real challenge to a healthy lifestyle will begin! As I want to be as involved with my kids as possible it's likely I'll take a break from the gym and do some home workouts where I can.

I won't be worrying too much about planning and tracking my nutrition (especially as I generally have a healthy diet anyway) so it'll be interesting to see what effect those changes have on my body.

Then hopefully next summer it'll be time to think about my next goal which will probably be more performance related.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I'd advise anyone who wants dramatic changes to their health and physique to really consider exactly what you want and how important it is to you. You need to understand the compromises that are necessary and make sure you're willing to make them.


Significant improvements to your body and health are possible and realistic in a matter of weeks without living in the gym and becoming overly obsessive with your nutrition, but they still require a huge amount of consistency, commitment motivation and effort.

How maintainable the improvements are is then a different question and I would also say that if you don't need to restrict yourself to a set time frame (e.g. 12 weeks) then that means you can plan out a programme that moves you towards your goals more effectively and sustainably as you don't have to make such large alterations to your lifestyle all at once.

Read more about Paul’s transformation here: Click Here

For more information about becoming a personal trainer with the Future Fit School of PT, visit Click Here

Muscle Food Final Thoughts

Every transformation story featured on Muscle Food outlines that a good diet and a good workout plan are essential to achieving the results you desire. All transformation stories, exercise routines and diet plans are provided by the customer and have not been checked by a nutritionist or doctor. Results may vary for different individuals.