My strenous journey to weight gain


Jireh Pristorius doing arms workout in a gym. PHOTO | POOL

Standing at six feet, Jireh Pretorius was skin and bones. He was scrawny and hollow-cheeked. He weighed 60 kilos because he ate very little and never exercised. That was in 2018.

Staring at him now, the photographer/videographer still stands at six feet, but in the six years, he has built his physique similar to the biblical Goliath. His torso is ripped, he has a well-toned upper and lower body and weighs 82 kilos. He says gaining weight and muscle is not as easy as many imagine.

“Gaining (lean) mass is as difficult as trying to lose weight. If you're looking to gain weight, you have to eat so much food but eat clean. And the discipline to eat all that amount of food and exercise is very difficult. It is the same struggle with those losing weight because they struggle to not eat as much as they used to. You have to cut your food consumption by 30 percent during the first two weeks while you keep exercising,” he says.

Besides food, expectation is another challenge if someone is looking to add or shed extra kilos.

“Most people expect it would be easy to gain or lose weight within a short time, perhaps one month of exercising. But even after a month of doing things right, there is always no significant or major improvement and so most of them give up,” he says, adding, "fitness apps and social media posts claiming to be able to help you lose or gain weight in 30 days have had many brainwashed. The truth is it’s impossible to attain this in such a short period."

Jireh used to play hockey but after college, he took a break from exercise.

“I didn’t feel like I wanted to torture my body again, all I wanted was to lazy around and do nothing. Like most guys in their early 20s, you don’t have your priorities set. But I also hated eating. In 2018, I realised I was getting older and wanted something that would give me control of my life. I thought if I could have control over my body first. The gym was a good place to help instil discipline and focus,” the 28-year-old says.

A chiselled physique look was not what he wanted, just to be fit. But as any gymgoer would tell you, when you start interacting with fitness junkies, everything changes.


Jireh Pristorius poses for a photo. PHOTO | POOL

“I realised I could actually gain weight and improve on my physique. 2018 was the most difficult year in my fitness journey. I used to train six days a week and eat four meals a day, which was a hard ask for someone who despised eating. By the end of the year, I gained nine kilos of lean mass. I got more supercharged to keep exercising,” Jireh recalls.

But why was eating troublesome? I prompt.

“It’s the hardest part of any fitness regimen. I began researching protein intake and realised most people fall short of their protein intake which is why they never see meaningful changes, be it trying to gain or lose weight. You are supposed to eat at least 1.5 grammes of protein per body weight. In other words, if you weigh 60 kilos, you need to eat 90 grammes of protein in a day. This is enough to repair your body if you are active,” he explains.

This became the first step in his journey to gaining lean mass. Increasing his protein intake.

“Plus increasing my water intake and fibre foods. These three are key components if you are targeting to gain ‘clean’ mass. Because I exercised six days a day, I would eat 90 to 120 grammes of protein a day and I was able to gain weight and at the same time avoid injuries considering that I was subjecting my body to lots of strenuous activities with only one resting day in a week,” he says.

For his carbohydrates, he would eat 100 to 120 grammes of complex carbohydrates in a day which included arrow roots, brown bread, brown rice, and bananas, among others.

However, even if you get all those elements right, Jireh argues that eating them to the right amount will still prove a challenge.

“You will need to eat at specific times, not just every time your mouth feels like chewing something. Most people don’t know what to eat and when to eat. You see like a baby, they are fed at certain hours not every time, that’s how you need to set your eating clock. If you have three meals a day, you have to purposely eat within the hour. If it is lunch, have it between 1 pm-2pm, if it is supper, eat between 8 pm-9pm or 9 pm to 10 pm,” Jireh insists.

When you structure your meals, he says, your body clock then becomes in tune and can sync properly with your sleeping and workout routine to realise maximum goals.

“Not having a specific time for meals makes it difficult for most people to eat properly. This ends up affecting your hormonal balance.

Your body won’t know when is best to produce energy, to store or when best to dispense it or allow for body recovery,” he says.

All these go in tandem with your sleep.

“Sleeping patterns are also crucial to achieving your goals. Sleep is the best form of body recovery,” he adds.

There are some instances when one has eating routines figured out but still ends up tripping before the set hour.

Jireh says when you feel the pangs of hunger before the eating time, then that simply implies you did not have the required protein or fibre intake in their last meal.

“That’s how one gets tempted to snack before the next meal and that changes everything,” he says.

Ever since he started lifting weights and even after attaining his desired physique Jireh has been doing three meals plus one bonus depending on the level of activities in a day.

“You realise once you have attained your desired body physique, you will still need to maintain it and that means eating almost the same way. For my breakfast, I eat three whole eggs, a few pieces of brown bread and 250ml of whole milk. For lunch, I sometimes eat rice and beans or lentils. Dinner would be one to two chapatis and beans or lentils. Remember portions are always key. Eating huge amounts of ugali and meat is not the same as having huge amounts of meat and ugali,” he says.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.