Once a semi-professional rugby player, 31-year-old Deon Gouws was no stranger to the gym. However, as a veteran of the hooker position, the teacher had to keep his weight up. That meant big meals and big weightlifting sessions. But when the rugby came to an end, his diet didn’t change. “I kept lifting, but the intensity wasn’t the same,” he admits. “And I continued to eat as I always have.” The result: he started packing on the flab at a rapid rate.
The Wake-up Call
Deon can’t pinpoint a specific moment that he knew he had to turn his life around. “I slowly got to the point where my self-esteem and confidence tanked,” he says. “It got so bad that I didn’t even want to take any photos with my then girlfriend – now wife – and would actively avoid looking in the mirror.”
Using the app MyFitnessPal, Deon began tracking his calories. He tried to limit his carb intake, making sure to scoff the biggest payload of this energy-laden nutrient around his two scheduled workouts for the day.
Tracking food intake has been linked with weight loss success, with a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research revealing that those who consistently logged their calories were more likely to drop fat than the numbers-averse peers. To stay in the green, Deon started prepping meals in advance, spending his Sundays cooking up grub to freeze and feast on for the rest of the week. Research has shown that this approach is associated with better diet quality, diverse food variety and healthier weights*.
Fasted cardio – i.e. burning calories on an empty stomach – and afternoon weight training sessions helped Deon scorch flab. For the former sportsman, getting back to working out wasn’t a challenge: “I have always loved working out, so this was the fun part.” The teacher created his own programmes, tapping into the knowledge he built up while studying sport fitness after school.
This commitment to two sweat sessions every day helped Deon build the body you see here. Recently, he’s discovered CrossFit, a discipline that he says has helped him stay fighting fit (even after becoming a dad). To juggle his new-found responsibilities, he pitches up for 5am CrossFit classes.
Armed with a relentless work ethic, it took Deon just three years to get into the best shape of his life. The biggest perks: “My self-esteem and confidence are through the roof,” he says. “I used to be a very shy person, but that’s changed now.”
“Getting here was a lot of trial and error,” says Deon. “You can’t be scared of setbacks; you’ve get to test what works for you and eventually you’ll find the winning formula.”