How I Gained 20 Lbs of Muscle In a Year (for chronic pain)
- So... Whew! I don't know exactly where this video is going, but I'll tell you where I'm starting. I woke up feeling like absolute garbage today. It's 12:18, and it has taken me all morning with stretching, and heat therapy, and slow moving to just try and feel like a human.
Just everything pops. (body popping) Oh yeah, right there. (arms popping) There it is. I live with something called Ankylosing Spondylitis. I made content about it in the past, but basically my body is very stiff.
It's like an arthritic condition. If I didn't treat it, all my bones would fuse together. So I'm on medicine that is in theory preventing the progression of the disease. I do yoga all the time.
I stretch, I have a million little doodads and devices that are supposed to help me cope with pain. But still, no matter what I do, I'm just always in pain. I feel like I'm not making progress. In fact, I feel like I'm slowly slipping backwards.
(deep exhale) Somewhere between three and 5 a.m., I know I'm gonna wake up in pain. I used to just try and roll over, and go back to sleep.
But then I'd basically be waking up every 15, 20 minutes for the next three hours, four hours, until it's time to get out of bed. Sometimes all I can do is just sit and drink my tea, and stare. So my mornings are really slow. I'm not able to do as many things during the day, because I'm just spending so much of my time recovering from the night before, and then preparing for the day ahead.
So I'm fed up, and I've decided that it is time to play offense. For this video, I'm going to change my life. I am going to completely change my diet. I am going to completely change my exercise routine. And over the next couple of months, years, I don't know how long this is gonna take, I'm gonna try to add mass and muscle to this frail, adorable body you see before you.
I'm gonna try and gain 20 pounds of muscle. (dramatic music) - [Zack] Hey Justin, how's it going? - [Justin] Hi Zack, how's it going? - [Zack] Come on in. (zipper hissing) - How are you? How's your neck? How's your mid-back? - [Zack] It's been a bad two weeks. It's like when I get out of bed in the middle of night, it's like, I'm like here. And then I just kind of wait until I can get down to there.
So this is a move we call pushing on my spine. - [Justin] Yeah, I'm kind of assessing and mobilizing each segment of your spine on top of each other, and making sure they glide on top of each other, as best as they can. - I've said this in the past, and I haven't actually done it, this has to become a full-time job. Because if I don't take care of this, I won't be able to do anything else.
I don't know how I'm going have a family with this. I don't know. Like, I can't carry a fu(censored beeping) kid.
I can't do that. So I feel like, here we go again. The work that I need to do now, is to ensure myself a happy future.
(censored beeping) a, man. Whew. All right. - In order to prevent bone on bone contact, which is what arthritis is, you want to surround the joint with as much natural muscle that moves well, and naturally supports your joint.
I would still like to see more muscle on you, which is why I think, we both agree that you could definitely be doing more in terms of like heavier resistance. - Right now I weight 130 pounds. That's fine, I get to shop in the kid's section sometimes.
But I have been working out so much. Like I will work out three times a week, and I am gaining nothing. It's just kind of starting to piss me off. So I found this guy, Jon. He is vegan bodybuilder who has the same disease as me. And so reached out to him.
Holy God, that water bottle. One gallon a day. It's got inspiration quotes, so you stay on track. AS is not easy, it beats you down, my attitude was making it worse. Kind of like a "Woe is me," attitude for a very, very long time.
When I was early 20s, when I went to my first rheumatologist, they were like, "Hey man, "you gotta change basically everything you're doing, "or you might be in a wheelchair by the time you're 40." - So yours was that bad, that they thought you weren't gonna be able to walk? - They thought that I was basically gonna fuse. I was sitting at home hunched over, playing video games, and just feeling sorry for myself.
And I was like, "I don't know what to do." - He was living with excruciating pain. And he said, "No! (censored beeping) that!" You totally what? You changed your diet, you changed your fitness routine? - Oh yeah. - What did you do? - I built a team, I got a physiotherapist, massage therapist, I got a trainer to learn the basics of working out. I wasn't vegan yet, I was still eating meat and dairy, but it was holding me back. - There's a lot of antidotal research about the connection between diet change and inflammatory pain.
- Dairy and meat are super inflammatory. The fact of the matter is you need protein, carbs, and it doesn't have to from meat. When I switched to plant based in 2018, until now, my total weight gain was in upwards of 70, 80 pounds. - You gained 70 pounds eating vegan? I don't know that we'll have the same experience, but with him, I see this glimmer of hope.
- What are we gonna be doing together? - I wanna be aggressive with your symptoms. I'm making you a four day workout plan, and we can go up or down from there. - I have this resistance band system, where it goes in the door. Oh yeah, by the way, I exercise in my underwear. Surprise.
- We basically want two things to happen. We want to add strength, and then we want blood flow as often as we can. And those are both happening from resistance training. - Working out with these resistance bands, it's not like weight, quote/unquote. But it's hard. Phew! I gotta get this down.
(upbeat music) Gawd! Even without weights, that's so hard. I was trying to work out in the morning, because that's what people do. And so I was starting my day just getting defeated. - And then, as far as nutrition goes, I'm making sure you're getting the right nutrients, and the proper amount of food. - I need to put all of this in my body.
Oh my God. Where's it all gonna go? Really wish I had done my hair for this video. Forgive me for asking this, am I gonna be pooping all the time? There's so much, I'm gonna be eating so much food.
Where's it gonna go? - To your muscles. - Before this, I was eating three meals a day, and then snacking on berries. But I was, I eat till I'm full.
Now I eat past that. I can't eat any more food. As of last week, I am now vegan. For my main protein, I've got three options.
Tempeh, which is what he wants to move me to longterm. Tofu, which is what you might think of. The problem with tofu is, it takes so much. And then, Seitan. Guys (censored beeping), hail Seitan. If you are trying to go vegan, this shit is so delicious.
Jon gave me this app, he loads in my exercises, he loads in my meals. I got four meals a day. My breakfast smoothie, my lunch, my dinner, and then a post-workout smoothie that goes somewhere in the middle. I mean, he's having me at like 2,000 calories a day, which isn't crazy. That's like the standard diet, but I'm doing it all with good food. - That's how we're gonna pack muscle on your frame, and that's how we're gonna make your posture good, and that's how we're gonna slow the symptoms of this disease, of AS.
And I can speak from experience, I haven't had arthritic pain in... Months, and- - That's crazy to me. I truly don't remember a time in my life where a part of my body didn't hurt, and. Sweet, I feel this stuff, but I don't say it out loud that much, even to my family, or to Maggie. Because I guess it's just a, I don't know, when you have the pain, you don't wanna burden other people with it.
(sniffing) - [Maggie] What are you doing? - I am making tofu, and wearing a heat pad, because I had a really bad flare up today. - [Maggie] You look like a super hero. - Thank you. Tofu-man! Oh, my superhero name can be Soy Boy! Finally, the internet trolls are right.
- [Maggie] Oh God. - Shoot tofu at people. Phew! (Maggie chuckling) It really hurts today a lot.
And what sucks, too, is; I didn't get anything done today. I was just in pain. - [Maggie] Yeah, that sucks. - My neck is just so stiff. It honestly feels like I was in a car crash and have whiplash, or something.
I moved, you'll notice. Just mind the boxes. I wasn't working out as much, and also I was moving, I was lifting boxes. And so, it was a lot of disruption to my routine.
And like today is just a wash, I can't do anything. I didn't sleep well, so I can't think. My body hurts, so I'm spending all morning trying to rehab it. If I spend all morning rehabbing it, I won't get anything done. But if I don't rehab it, then I will hurt, and I can't get anything done. On days like that, in moments of like, "Oh, I can't live like this.
"I can't live, I don't wanna live." And I found myself in those places more often then I would care to admit. Of just, "Oh, if this is going to be life, "if this is going to be my future, "then I can't live, it's not even an option." I had to find a way to go from "I can't live like this," to "I'm not gonna live like this."
(lively music) I'm one month in, and I'm not seeing progress. I've lost three pounds. - [Maggie] Well, it's because you're working out, you know? (slapping hand) (censored beeping) (gasping) - I slept like shit last night. My whole body is just tense. Like my sacrum is so tight.
It sucks, because on a morning like this, I don't wanna do anything. The last thing I wanna do is exercise. So today, I'm gonna show you my exercise routine.
I have four days of exercise that I'm supposed to do to try and put on the muscle. I'm just gonna stretch a little before I get started. Normally I'll listen to like a podcast, or some music, while I do this. Ah. You hear those cracks? - [Jack] Yep.
- Yeah, it's Jack's first time, welcome. (Jack chuckling) Welcome to my body. I just kind of made up a little yoga routine of the things that feel good, and help open my body up. (upbeat music) I have this training app I'll show you guys, it has all my workouts. So I'm just gonna start "New Week, New Me."
So back day. I start with three sets of 30 seconds of planks. And I just try and make everything purposeful. (lively bright music) Okay. That's one set down.
Rest for 60. I rest for like two minutes. (chuckling) (tapping fingers) (upbeat music) (aggravated gasping) (censored beeping) (labored breathing) I got a bracelet that says "Joy," on it. It reminds me to be happy.
(upbeat music) All right back to it. (labored breathing) (quirky music) (labored breathing) This next one is like a modified push up. And I don't have an exercise bench. So I use my very expensive CB2 coffee table. I'm just feeling out of breath.
(door clicking shut) So this is the highest resistance. So once I'm past this one, I'm gonna have to start using a machine or something. (upbeat music) (labored breathing) (Zack burping) Sorry, Jack. After doing all that, now I need to do pushups.
(laboring breathing) I'm supposed to do four sets of 15 to 20. I've never hit 15 four times. (lively music) Fuck! (loud gasping) (censored beeping) (tapping floor) Oh well, that was 13. My arms feel so weak right now.
Like even the idea of just putting my body weight on 'em. (upbeat music) Okay, I can do this. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. (Zack moaning) (lively music) (Zack gasping) I'm so exhausted. Okay. (lively music) (Zack moaning) I just read this again.
The app says "Once you hit 15, pause at the bottom for three seconds. I mean, (censored beeping) out of your mind? (dramatic electronic music) Let's go take my medicine. So today is medicine day. I take one shot of this in my stomach once a week. So I've been pretty convinced for about a year and a half now that this wasn't doing the trick any more. But I was afraid to switch my medicine, because what if it got worse? Grab some fat.
What's cool about this is, you don't actually see the needle. It's in there. (needle snaps) It kind of looks like a super serum, right? like I'm an evil villain, that's about to roar. And then I just do a version of that four times a week. Every week for the rest of my life, I guess.
It's crazy, I've been doing this for five months now. And I just did my weight in, and I have gained almost 10 pounds. And it's crazy, I can actually see a difference, I'm bigger.
Some of it is muscle, some of it, unfortunately is fat, I gotta work a little harder I think on the workouts, but the diet is working, the workouts are working. It's medicine day. I didn't realize it's medicine day.
Normally I'm really in a lot of pain. I think I'm trending in the right direction. I think. And that's a great time to start coasting.
It was like I was traveling, I had weddings, and it was the holidays, no one works out during the holidays. - Yes Zack, way to go! Your workout started today! Yay! - [Zack] So October turns into November, turns into December, maybe I've worked out 10 times in the last three months. It's not great. - C'mon, c'mon! - Luckily the New Year's was coming up. And new year, new me. (medicine thudding) (box rattling) C'mon, last one.
(medicine thudding) This is all of the medicine that I took during the pandemic. And I've got two more of these. I don't know why I've been holding onto my medicine. My medicine stopped working again. While I was taking all of these, I knew that it wasn't working, but I wasn't sure.
I think I was scared that if I did change medicine, maybe I would change to one that was worse. I finally did change my medicine. And the pill that I took was somehow even worse.
Just the worse. So now once again, I'm starting another new medicine, my fifth medicine, but I'm so close to my goal. And starting today, I'm going to be working out four times a week, every week, no matter what. I'm gonna (censored beeping) do this. I'm so close to my goal.
Whether or not it cures my pain, I don't give a (censored beeping). I said I was gonna do this, so I'm gonna do this. Let's go! (dramatic electronic music) So I started this a year ago. I was using just the blue band, which is 20 pounds resistance.
I worked up to the green band, which is 50. Now, I need to use both of them. (energetic electronic music) Whew! (labored breathing) I used to hate that feeling. But now, like I crave it. There's something about, working out is painful, but it's a different kind of pain.
It's like a good pain. And it's a pain that I'm choosing, to then feel good. We're on set today at the "Try Guy's" office. And I did not have time to stretch. So I brought my kettle ball with me.
Something weird is happening, where I now am craving exercise every day. And like today, I don't have time to work out. So I'm here at work prepping for "Guilty Pleasures," and I'm just gonna do push-ups while I watch.
I made this tracker. I just do dates of when I exercise. And I have worked out 12 out of 24 days this calendar year, this month. That's 50%, every other day, I am working out. What is happening to my brain? I want it. I crave exercise now.
Now this is moment that you have been waiting for. After one year of working out, how much weight have a gained? Check me out. (dramatic music) (record scratching) Now, I don't have glistening abs. But after one year, I am officially 20 pounds heavier.
(operatic vocals) And it is at least partially muscle. (Zach chuckling) If you look at my chart, it took awhile to see any progress, but I had to stick with it. This was never about the dramatic physical change. This is about how I feel. It's really hard for me to even think about where I was a year ago.
Until I went back and watched some of this footage. A year ago this time, I was not sleeping. I was waking up at three in the morning, four in the morning, five in the morning, every single day, multiple times. When I woke up, my body was stiff.
I was delirious and tired. I had a severe baseline of pain throughout the day. And I would get just smacked with these crazy flareups. A year later, my neck still (censored beeping) hurts when I wake up, but I slept. I feel pretty good when I wake up.
And I have not had a severe flareup in a while, In a long time. This is not gonna be one of those videos that has like a crazy before and after. And wow! He's everything's different now! Because that's not how it works. I still have pain. I can feel it right now, it's there. It's always there. It's not even close to gone.
There are things that I can't do. But when I think about where I am at now versus where I was at a year ago, this has changed my life entirely. (gentle music) Are your arms tired? - [Maggie] Yeah, this is really heavy. (Zack laughing) Shout out to Maggie on the camera.
(hands smacking) - [Maggie] I haven't seen you naked in a while, and it's impressive. (Zack snapping fingers) - Different. - [Maggie] You really have changed.
- Naked Zack hit different these days. The exciting part? (deep exhale) (smacking tummy) I worked hard for that. We got more work to do. (Zack growling) (lively music) Oh also, (smacking legs) look at those fucking legs? Am I right? (smacking thighs) - [Man] Damn! - I can do this all day.