The Truth About Before & After Pictures, Progress And Results

Whenever you see a before and after picture showing someone’s amazing progress, your first thought is almost guaranteed to be “what did this person do to get these awesome results?

  • What workout did they use?
  • What diet were they on?
  • What supplements did they take?
  • What approach did they follow?
  • What methods did they employ?

You want all of those details and specifics, and you want them NOW!

And once you get that info, there’s usually only one thought that will follow: I need to do this too!

Why? Because this clearly worked well for that person, therefore it will work just as well for you. And just like that, you’ve instantly been persuaded to think this is the new best thing that you must start doing.

Now I’ll admit, the logic to this line of thinking is pretty sound. But, there are two major flaws.

Problem #1: Bullshit

For starters, many of the claimed results and before and after pictures for various diet and fitness products/supplements range anywhere from a bit deceptive to complete and utter bullshit.

Stuff like photo retouching, awesome lighting, improved flexing, better posture, better tan, less body hair and so on can make little to no progress look like super impressive progress.

Don’t believe me? Here’s one example of a girl getting great results… in 15 minutes. Here’s an example of a guy losing his gut and getting a 6 pack… in less than an hour.


Add in steroid use, amazing genetics, muscle memory and/or flat out lying about the details, and you can make impossible results look surprisingly possible. And surprisingly easy. And yes, this kind of thing happens all the time.

Hell, I could do an entire article just about the wild and wacky world of before and after pictures. One day, maybe I will. But… not today.

Today I just want to point out what I hope would have been obvious already, and that is that a good number of the amazing transformation pictures you see and stories you hear may not be 100% true and legit. Or even 1% true and legit.

But, let’s ignore all of that for now and move on to what I think is an even bigger problem here.

Problem #2: EVERYTHING WORKS!!!!!

In my opinion, the biggest problem with the mindset of looking at someone else’s impressive progress and thinking “I need to find out what they did so I can start doing it” is the fact that EVERYTHING WORKS!

What I mean is, there are equally impressive before and after transformation pictures for literally every single diet and training method, program, book, supplement or product ever created.


Pick any diet. Pick any workout. Pick any supplement. Pick any product. Pick any method or approach. Now go and look around a little and tell me what you find.

Spoiler alert… they all have amazing testimonials. They all have amazing before and after pictures. They all have amazing success stories and transformations.

Someone… somewhere… is doing amazingly well because of it.

Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar

  1. So when you see someone who got lean as hell using Martin Berkhan’s approach to intermittent fasting, your first thought might be “That’s it, I’m starting IF Leangains-style today!!”
  2. This is great… until tomorrow. You see, tomorrow someone will post their equally impressive progress pictures on some diet forum you read, and they’ll mention that they ate 6 small meals per day. “That’s it” you’ll think, “forget IF… frequent meals is the way to go!”
  3. And then you’ll see someone on the forums showing off the awesome progress they made using Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. “That’s it” you’ll think, “this is the training program I’m going to use!”
  4. But before you get started, you’ll come across an ad for some popular muscle building ebook, and you’ll notice some impressive before/after pictures and testimonials on its sales page. “That’s it” you’ll think, “this is the training program I’m going to use!”
  5. Until someone on Reddit posts their awesome progress pics from using some popular 5×5 program. “That’s it” you’ll think… “5×5 is the way to go.”
  6. At least until you check Facebook and discover that the fat kid you haven’t seen since high school has gotten into great shape as a result of Crossfit style training and a Paleo diet. “That’s it,” you’ll think. “I need to find my nearest Crossfit gym and a list of Paleo-approved foods!”
  7. But then the newest article will show up on your favorite fitness blog detailing some new and interesting higher rep workout program and diet method that the writer has been using over the last few months along with pictures of their progress. Of course, they’ll look absolutely amazing… exactly as lean and muscular as you hope to soon be. “That’s it” you’ll think, “my new training and diet method has been found!”
  8. And then you’ll see the HodgeTwins or Matt Ogus or whoever your favorite YouTube fitness person is put up a new training video that lays out the full details of the new workout program or method they’re using while they tell you all about how well it’s been working for them (all kiiiiinds of gains). You’ll of course be taking notes of those details and specifics so you can put that same program into action yourself and get those same awesome results.
  9. And then you’ll come to this very website and maybe see Bryn’s progress or Tiffany’s progress and think “Wow, I’m going to do what they did!” Or maybe you’ll see my recommendations for the type of diet and workout I’ve seen work best for people with your goals and think “this sounds like exactly what I need to do!”

THAT’S The Problem

And this cycle will repeat itself over and over on an endless loop of you discovering that someone got positive results using some method or program different from what you’re currently doing, followed by you deciding to start doing that instead.

Or just as bad, trying to combine 50 different methods/programs together into one colossal bad idea.

The point?


Alright, maybe not everything.

But, everything that is even remotely based on a few fundamental principles (caloric deficit for fat loss, progressive overload and a caloric surplus for muscle growth, etc.) and doesn’t completely screw them up WILL WORK!

Damn near every diet, workout and method on the planet fitting the above description will work to some degree. And due to problem #1, even the stuff that doesn’t work will still appear to work just fine anyway.

That’s why you’ll find people making great progress and getting great results doing EVERYTHING. Even the complete opposite of another thing that also works amazingly well.

That’s why for every person transforming their body with intermittent fasting, you’ll probably find many more people doing it eating small frequent meals. For every person building tons of muscle with 5×5, you’ll find many more doing it with 3×10. For every person getting great results from squats and barbell bench pressing, you’ll find someone else getting great results from leg presses and dumbbell pressing.

For every person doing well with low carbs, you’ll find someone doing equally well with high carbs. For every person doing great eating Paleo and doing Crossfit, you’ll find even more doing just as great if not better eating many non-Paleo foods and doing the complete opposite of Crossfit (which I think technically means “training intelligently” …zing!).

For every successful vegan, you’ll find a successful meat eater. For every successful strict dieter who only eats clean and completely avoids supposed “bad” foods, you’ll find a successful flexible dieter who has adopted an IIFYM approach.

And on and on and on.

The point is, as long as a few proven fundamental principles are in place, there’s a TON of different ways for you to put everything together and still get positive results. That’s why you’ll see people making equally amazing progress doing things 1000 different ways.

But That’s Exactly Why NOTHING WORKS!

The thing is, the fact that everything works is precisely what prevents anything from actually working for you.

Instead of putting 100% of your focus and effort into any ONE of these countless things that work, and doing it long enough and consistently enough to actually allow it to work, you’re too busy switching to something that appears “newer” and “better” every time you see someone doing well with it.

Which is what? Every month? Every week? Every day? Every hour?

However often it is, it’s too often. It’s what instantly prevents EVERYTHING that should work from actually working. Time and consistency are ALWAYS the final required components to diet and training effectiveness. Nothing will work without them.

For many people, this is their problem. It’s not that they can’t figure out what works or what needs to be done… it’s that they can’t stick with it long enough to allow it to work.

The fact that we’re all constantly bombarded with new diets and workouts and methods and often the impressive transformations and success stories that come with them makes us want to constantly do/try those things in the hopes that they’ll work better and faster than what we’re already doing.

And while every single one of these things may be capable of working amazingly well, all of that capability instantly goes out the window for you because the required time and consistency just aren’t there.

My Advice

So my advice is simple. Find something that works and do it. As long as it is safe, smart, and based on the few fundamental principles that actually matter… it’s really not even going to matter much what it ends up being. Just find something fitting that description and do it.

And then, while you do it, I want you to ignore what everyone else is doing. Ignore how everyone else is doing it. Ignore their progress and results. It’s meaningless to you.

Instead, focus completely on yourself and YOUR progress and YOUR results and working YOUR ass off at doing that “one thing” you’ve chosen to do to make it all happen… and then KEEP doing that until it DOES happen.

You’ll then become the person with the awesome results that makes other people stop what they’re doing so they can switch to what you’re doing.

Not the other way around.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

73 thoughts on “The Truth About Before & After Pictures, Progress And Results”


  1. Hey Jay,
    Wow this article couldn’t be further from the truth buddy. I can’t tell you how many times I saw a workout in a magazine, and then read something on completely different then what I read earlier. Then I would write up a completely new workout follow that and then something else would come along and I would tear up the old one and follow the new one.. It was an endless cycle of stupidity. Now I have been following the routine on this website “A Workout Routine” for several months now with great results, and my own diet accustomed to my individual goals. And I have never been happier.. Your absolutely right, a person should never base anything off before and after shots, its all good that they changed their bodies, but we can to by following a progressive overload routine. Great article man!

    • I hear ya man. We’ve all been through that same cycle before. The important thing is that you finally broke it, and I’m glad your progress has gone well ever since.

      Oh, and I think you meant this article “is the truth” rather than “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Confused me at first. 😉

  2. OMG !! YOUR RIGHT JAY!! hahaha …. yes! the truth is what i meant.. I guess I wasnt quite awake yet when writing that lol !! Thanks again for the great article..keep them coming man…

  3. Great article.Guilty party here. Same BS with gaining 30 lbs in 45 days. Although there is a lot of bologna BS links on Denis Weis’ website read the following quote:
    I wish I could tell you that the 57 Pounds of Muscle Gain displayed in the “After Photo” was accomplished in JUST 1 YEAR but the TRUTH is it took me 12 long years and I was under the guidance of some of the world’s most advanced, and respected, bodybuilding coaches. My muscle gain factor averaged only about 5 pounds a year! Suffice it to say I wasn’t exactly a genetic superior as a bodybuilder.

  4. I use what you’re talking about when I talk about chiropractic as well. Time and consistency. People are always looking for the new thing, etc. What they really need to do is pick something and stick with it. Just do something and do it consistently and you’re good to go. Saying you’re going to work out 3 times a week and just do it, etc. If you miss a week, don’t worry, just get back at it again. It’s when you miss months that you have a problem. I love the way you talk about working out, because it is just so simple and it is the way it works. Thank you.

  5. OMG that’s exactly what I’ve been doing to a certain extent. You see I had been on your muscle building workout for about 5 months or so after purchasing the best workout routines,after making some gains over a few months be it reps or weight I sometimes could not lift as much in the next workout as I had previously. So I am ashamed to say was looking around for the next best thing, even though I new having read all your articles (which are brilliant by the way)that this would not really help and it hasn’t so this article has come just at the right time making me see sense so needless to say as of next week I’ll be back to your routines and counting calories. Thanks Jay you really do know your stuff looking forward to more 🙂

  6. Another excellent article Jay 🙂 still getting fab results from following your workouts & diet recommendations. Love your honest, straightforward advice as always. Thanks again

  7. Your are definitely a good writer. Your article woke me up to getting every thing down in print, my photos, and my videos, plans and diet. So when the next asshole that calls or say I’m a damn liar or full of bullshit, I can post my videos, photos, and exercise/diet routines and write back, “Cram this up your ass motherfuckers” lol I got into a heated argument about body weight vs muscle weight gain. I told the idiots I started at 155lb. and after 2 years I gained 60lb. most of it was 80-90% upper body weight, I neglected to do my legs.HM? Of course they didn’t believe and I had no proof. I even wrote down how I went from doing a 50lb. bench press to 315lb. in 1 year and that I had 18″ upper arms when flexed and a 48″chest. LOL I was banned left and right off those K-forums. They thought I was trolling, a lurker, maybe an ogre. But all was true back doing my military day. Shit there wasn’t much to do any way. Go to gym, watch a movie at night at the Theater, E club drink beer and shot pool all day, go into town and get fucked or get fucked up literally, or stay in the barracks read and listen to music.

    I when start back, It’s going to be a video and audio diary. I’m going to have my proof. Digital camera, camcorder, mini-cam, and eye witnesses. I’m going back to those “You have been Banned” forums under assumed names and write, “Hey you first graders, I think you guys may have graduated and type the worse shit I can write about putting them down. Just my rant. Thanks again Jay for this eye opener.
    It’s a keeper!

    • Quite the rant there dude. But yeah, if you’re gonna say you gained 60lbs in 2 years (with the implication being it was mostly muscle), you’re definitely going to need to provide as much proof as possible for anyone to believe you.

      • Don’t know if it’s true but it is claimed that Steve Reeves gained 30 lbs in just four months and then it took him another year to gain another 10 lbs.
        At a very young age and amazing genetics. 60 lbs of muscles in 2 years is probably doable if you start off at 125 and are under 20 but I highly doubt that anyone over 30 could accomplish the same feat unless GOD was involved.

  8. Great read and so true how we chop and change too frequently our training and nutrition instead of finding what works depending on our body type and becoming consistent to see true results. Chris

  9. I liked all your articles.. You always write the truth.. but who exactly writes these articles… just curious about the writer (New to your website)…

  10. Hats off to you dude!

    That’s why I love reading all your articles. everything’s true, straight-forward, no presumptions, no flattery stuff. looking forward to reading more wake-up calls from you soon.

  11. Great article, reminds me about an infomercial I watched a few weeks back for “bow flex extreme” endorsed by some pro beach volley ball player. In six weeks he amazingly stacked on 12lbs of muscle from using bow flex extreme. It actually made me wonder if they even legally make such a claim. His after shot simply showed him just a touch leaner nothing more, if even that.

    • Whenever someone is making claims like that in an infomercial, if you look really close at the bottom of your screen in really tiny letters you can barely read, you’ll see some kind of disclaimer explaining that you shouldn’t expect results like this yourself.

      Highly entertaining.

  12. I’ve been following your 4 days per week training (upper bdy, lower bdy, rest, upper bdy, lower bdy) for the past 43-4 monts. I’ve gained some muscles esp chest & back. However my biceps, triceps & forearms progressed very slowly. I even trained my forearm after the lower bdy (same day). Do you have any suggestions /recommendations for me to develop big arms?

      • my weight was rather static around 62-63.5kg with 153cm height. I still have quite a lot fat esp around my abdomen/lower abdomen. My left bicep circumference is ~13.5 inch & my right is ~13 inch. Hope to hear from you soon. Tqvm

        • Pretty much what I figured. You’re not going to grow if your weight is staying exactly the same. This applies to your arms and really ever other body part. A small caloric surplus is a requirement of muscle growth.

          • ok. Tq for your comment. I just afraid that I’m going to have more fatty tissues around my lower abdomen which concerns me most though at the same time I need to grow my arms & shoulders.I think my protein intake is about 1 gm/lb body weight. But I restrict my calories intake as I’m 45 year old now…meaning my metab rate has decreased as compared to younger age. My pant size is 33 inch. When my belly had reduced to 29 inch previously, I ensured no meal to be taken except plain water at least 3 hours prior to my training which included weight training & cardio. However, currently I ensure taking whey protein 1 scoop + 5 tablespoon Oat half hour prior to my training…

          • Tqvm for your reply. In that case, shall I no meal to be taken 3hours preworkoutor may I take 1 scoop of whey protein without adding oat? How about prebed protein meal/supplement…should I skip as well?

  13. Great article! Funny though, how a lot of people still haven’t figured out that constant swapping and changing generally does not provide the desired results, i.e. sustained improvement. Although I love exercising, I’m sure I’d be the first to jump on the “easy does it” bandwagon if only I could convince myself it would actually do me any good and provide the desired results. Until such a time, I’m happy to follow your advice and do things the “hard” way by simply applying the fundamentals: eat the right amount of calories and do the right exercises (and do them right) for what you want to achieve. Oh, and let’s not forget to enjoy it while you’re doing it! – how else are you ever going to stick to it long enough to discover whether it works or not?

    Thanks Jay for confirming what I’d already tentatively decided for myself.

  14. I have a question that’s maybe been answered, but. When you’ve reached your goal of fat loss and increasing weight just isn’t happening, should you just stay there. I mean should i be able to always lift more. I am a petite women weighing around 100 pounds. Any insight works be greatly appreciated. Oh i am in my forties.

    Thank you

    • Is your goal to just maintain your current state? If so, yes… stay where you are and maintain it.

      If your goal is to improve further (gain more strength/muscle), then you should adjust your diet/training to allow for more gradual progression to take place.

  15. Hey jay, just wanted to say thanks for the site and your workout routines. I’ve “converted” several of my friends to them instead of the run of the mill bodybuilding splits and they have been making great progress.The information on the site has been invaluable,so thanks again.

    Plus they way you write is just hilarious sometimes XD

  16. Thank you so much for creating this site and being so straightforward. All of the conflicting advice out there makes my head spin. As a beginner, this has been the only helpful site I have found. Everything else has flashing buttons and banners: “take this challenge!” “buy this or that!!” “find out all of the magic secrets to getting in shape like a pro…” and people like me who don’t really know what to be looking for get sucked into the maze of clicking on links with no real standard we can compare the information to. You just tell it like it is, and I respect you so much for that.

  17. Great points. Similar articles have been written about the photo effects on women’s beauty (i.e., making women look incredible using lighting, makeup, photoshop, etc.). It’s good to see one on fitness.

    As any pro will tell you…you don’t get in shape like a pro in ten weeks. Professional athletes spend multiple hours a day for years preparing for their particular sport.

    I also appreciate that one of the photo links you provided had this to say:

    “Being tricked into eating low-calorie diets and doing endless cardio is a recipe for fat gain, especially in the long term.”

    It’s a pet peeve of mine because people seem to think they can lose weight without reducing caloric intake. Or that ten minutes on a treadmill qualifies as “endless cardio.”

  18. I found your site; read it three or more times; really liked it; sent money!
    But here’s my qx. Of course I didn’t think I was a beginner but by your definition I am and I get that. Three weeks into the beginner routine. And of course I’m doing the add-ons you said I couldn’t resist. Three days a week with the triceps/biceps/calf raises/abs.,as you detail.

    Ok, so here’s my question. I done in a half hour! Does that sound right? I might be “cheating” a bit on the rest periods but still.

    If thesis the wrong place to post this, sorry.

    • Glad to hear it!

      As for your question, yup… it’s a low volume 3 day beginner routine focused on 3 compound movements each workout. It shouldn’t take very long to complete at all.

      • I meant to ask: The difference between building muscle vs strength, don’t these go hand in hand? If you build strength don’t you build muscle and if you build muscle doesn’t strenth come with it. Maybe that’s explained later in the guides or I missed it. Can you elaborate or point me to where this is discussed ?

        Thanks again.

  19. Damnnnn!!!I love this website, almost all of your points are accurate, you definitely did plenty of research on fitness dieting,by far this is the best website on fitness I have ever read, well done!!!!!

  20. To this day I am still guilty of this. I’ve heard it referred to as exercise ADD or fitness ADD. I read that once while binging on fitness related material as I do too often. I need to stop reading shit.

  21. ”Instead of putting 100% of your focus and effort into any ONE of these countless things that work, and doing it long enough and consistently enough to actually allow it to work, you’re too busy switching to something that appears “newer” and “better” every time you see someone doing well with it.”

    I must admit I was guilty of doing that! I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  22. Wow so glad to find this site just what I have been looking for.Great wisdom.I have been working out on and off for a few years made some decent gains. But always wanted more than I could produce of muscle.But now I see the light and have so much knowledge from this site I finally won’t be wasting my time any more.Im 50 years old this July and I’m 6′ 205lbs. I have been working out for about 5 or 6 months now I I’m about to start this 3day split now hole body routine.will I still grow even know i will be dropping my intensity back alot and volume I’m previously doing.Thanks Jayson

  23. Hey Jay thanks for this blog I find it so entertaining and very informative.
    My husband is one of the guys you have just mentioned he swaps his workouts every 6 to 8 weeks ,I on the other hand have just started your beginners workout and am loving it.
    We will see who gets the better results ha ha
    One thing I want to ask you is my husband is considering cross fit what are your views on it?
    Personally I think it’s a dangerous way of training but would like to hear from anyone about it.
    Cheers 🙂

  24. Glad I found this website 🙂 I just started working out last month. I’m 15, and was stupidly following a calendar made by a fitness guru, claiming that the workouts are for beginners. I eventually found out it’s not for me – thanks to your site. Fortunately, I still continued to research on workouts suited for me. Now I have a better idea on how to do it properly. Thanks a lot for saving me a years of unsuccessful research. 🙂 I never though I’d found a someone who’d give us the right information… For free I might add. By far the best fitness website I had stumbled upon.

    Once again, HUGE THANKS!!! 🙂

  25. Hi AWR. I have used your muscle building workout routine for a few weeks now, and I have decided to STICK WITH IT no matter what I read or hear. I trust it will work. Whenever people at the gym come up to me and tell me that I should really be doing this, that or the other instead, I just nod my head politely, say: “yeah, really”, look interested in what they are saying – and then completely ignore it afterwards.
    By the way, I have a question regarding the lower body B: Are the split squats meant to be performed right after the squats, or should I put the split squats after leg curls to keep with the alternating exercise concept (i.e. quads, hams, quads)?

    • Ah yes, the polite “you think you know more than me but you actually don’t” nod. A staple of any intelligent person in any public gym.

      It’s meant to come after squats, primarily because they are significantly harder/more taxing than leg curls and the harder/more taxing stuff should typically come before the easier/less taxing stuff.

  26. This is the best article I’ve read about workout programs. I am constantly fooled by the fact that one workout program is better than the other and keep changing my workout routine, swayed by these different styles of training. However, I have come to a conclusion through you that I shall train the same routine with weekly progressive overload for a year or longer and that’s where the real DIFFERENCE will show. Thanks a lot, I’m going to continue a progressive calisthenics routine and stop wasting my time reading the various routines on the internet 🙂

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