The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Holy Grail Body Transformation — Book Cover

Concurrent muscle gain and fat loss is the most difficult goal to achieve. That’s why people call it the “Holy Grail”; because it’s so elusive.

Tom Venuto

Who is this book for?

Anyone seeking the most coveted goal of them all: losing fat while gaining muscle. Body recomposition.

What will I learn from it?

You will learn the theory and physiology behind body recomposition strategies and how to apply them in practice. The WHY and the HOW is covered in great detail.

Strong points

  • Begins with an outstanding theoretical introduction to the topic.
  • Tom’s writing is very clean and easy to follow along. He does not get terribly repetitive either, which is a plus (this is otherwise all too common among fitness authors in general).
  • The claims and the discussion regarding realistic expectations in the book are not overblown and features some real world examples. Same goes for Tom’s ad copy. Going by the general standard in the industry, I’d say this is a very honest form of marketing. Look at this quote:

But before you download the program or even read another word, I have to warn you. This not an easy goal to achieve and I have no miracles to offer you inside this new book. This is a serious and very strategic program for committed people who are analytical thinkers and hard workers”. I can personally appreciate that kind of honesty, knowing that body recomposition requires more work than your general “bulk ‘n’ cut”-approach.

  • The calorie and macronutrient-cycling strategies offered in the book are sound and I can definitely see them working in practice.
  • Great value for a very low price-point at the moment (30 bucks until the “real launch” later this fall).
  • I learned something new. More on this in the summary.

Weak points

  • Tom still sticks by his 6-meals-a-day-setup. Since he’s openly admitted that there is no physiological benefit of a higher meal frequency, I have no clue why he would at least not offer the option of fewer and larger meals. Who the hell has time to eat six times a day anyway?
  • This is either a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it, but Tom offers different options with regards to cycling strategies and weight training routines. In my experience it’s a minus. If it’s one thing I’ve learned in my consulting business, it’s to never provide the client with options. I make the decisions. Too many options equals angst and hesitation. I mean this in the context of training and calorie cycling specifically (naturally, food choices can be left to the client).
  • One third of the main book consists of meal plans. Maybe not a bad idea for those with poor imagination but considering this book doesn’t seem to target beginners, it seems like a waste of space. Space that could have been left to more useful stuff.
  • I am in disagreement with Tom’s cardio recommendations and consider them counterproductive. Especially if used in the context mentioned in the book. After weights, or 8 hrs after weights, is about the worst time to do cardio**. The research he cites to claim that moderate amounts of cardio can help muscle growth is also flat out wrong (or cherry-picked). However, to his credit, he does advise against high impact cardio like running.

** This is actually going to be the topic for my next article which I hope to get done next week. Stay tuned for my explanation.

Overall

The only reason I read this book was because Lyle asked my opinion of it. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading and I like Tom, but considering my time is very limited these days I rarely make time for reading anything that isn’t from PubMed. Anyway, Lyle thought it was a decent read, so I had no qualms giving it a read through. If Lyle thinks something is “OK”, it’s generally worth checking out.

And I’m glad I did, because this a very enjoyable book that I have no issues promoting. Like I told Lyle, it’s a good book on it’s own but “compared to the general standard out there it’s even pretty damn good.” I do have my gripes with it but much of it is related to how I personally prefer to do things (with intermittent fasting, training, and so forth).

I particularly liked that Tom managed to simplify a complex topic without dumbing it down too much. By presenting the various “X-Factors” and “X2-Factors” that make body recomposition more or less likely to occur – for example genetics, drugs, training status and body fat percentage – he gives the reader a clear understanding of the variables that determine body recomposition success. Along with his clean writing style and honesty throughout the book, it all goes down easily. Some fitness authors are a pain to read and can’t deliver a coherent message without also endlessly rambling but Tom certainly doesn’t have that problem.

I also picked up a new piece of knowledge, which I thought was fairly interesting (albeit not that surprising). You may have heard of the study where a bunch of overweight women lost a lot of weight (33 lbs) and gained muscle on 800 calories a day. It’s very often cited as an example of “newbie magic”, that initial honeymoon phase of a few months where weight training beginners can lose fat and gain muscle.

What’s not often mentioned is that the subjects muscle mass actually decreased – the muscle growth was localized to the muscle group being trained (in this case the quads).

What we can learn from this is that targeted training for smaller muscle groups that don’t get much, or enough, stimulation from compound movements, such as calves and maybe triceps and hamstrings depending on your leverages, should be part of your training regimen on a diet unless you want to risk muscle loss in those areas. Or conversely, if you want to shape your body type by reducing muscle mass in one area, you can skip targeted training for that muscle group during your diet.

Anecdote: I have personally experienced this phenomenon by neglecting targeted triceps training during my past diets and I definitely saw muscle atrophy of my triceps. Similarly, on my first diet I really got into running and ran a lot in terrain and hills. My calves actually grew from that, while I lost muscle mass overall (my diet and training was also retarded back then).

OK, that pretty much sums it up I guess. “The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program” is a good book by an author that never seems to disappoint.