Joe Warner's cover model body blog 5

From left, NIck Mitchell, Joe Warner and Charles Poliquin.
(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Joe Warner is the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness magazine. His mission is simple: to get in cover model shape in just 12 weeks. 

On Thursday it was exactly five weeks since I called time on my longest relationship. It started back in 1999, and we’d been inseparable, celebrating the good times and forgetting the bad together. Like any relationship there were many highs and many lows, but it was the one thing I could always rely on. 

I’ve moved through the denial stage now and into the remembering-only-the-good-times bit that follows the end of a long-term liaison. It’s sad, but these things happen, especially if you have just three months to build a brand new body.

“The problem with alcohol is that it contributes empty calories in your diet,” says Nick Mitchell, personal trainer, founder of Ultimate Performance Fitness and my muscle mentor in Operation Cover Model Body. “Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about vodka and soda being very low in calories, but the bigger picture is that alcohol suppresses the production of testosterone – the male sex hormone responsible for building muscle – and increases your levels of oestrogen, the female sex hormone. Too much of this will turn your pecs into moobs and your six-pack into a beer belly.”

Amber warning

A pint of delicious, ice-cold, hit-the-spot amber nectar contains more than 250 calories, which means that five pints – less than a standard session for many – is half the recommended 2,500 calories a man needs each day. Not only that, you try making a sensible food choice afterwards. It’s not going to happen. 

Mitchell did say that I could have a small glass of red wine once a week, but the trouble with one drink is that it makes you want two, then three etc. I can’t see the point of putting myself in the position where I have to say ‘no thanks, not for me’.

“A glass of red wine does provide some health benefits and I have factored this into OCMB,” says Mitchell. “But when you need to be strict on calorie intake it’s still a bit of waste. This is a short-term, highly intensive programme and you need to make every second in the gym, and every calorie you consume, count.”

In the space of a little over a month I have gone from being a vegetarian who loved a drink into a carnivore who avoids it. So I’ve not only gone cold turkey, I’ve started eating it.

I’ve worked at Men’s Fitness magazine for more than four years and have spoken to dozens of models about their training and nutrition. Yes, some are blessed with amazing genetics, although they also train hard and eat smart. But the one thing that has given them a physique that pays the bills is a zero-tolerance attitude to booze. Some of them might cut loose every so often – they’re still human – but they know that too many beers too often will undo all their hard work in the gym and discipline in the kitchen.

As for my training, Mitchell has switched me back to a heavy-weight, low-volume routine, splitting my muscles into three groups: arms and chest, legs, and back and shoulders.

After the previous phase of high-volume training it’s actually quite good to get back under some (relatively) heavy bars. I posted a new one-rep max on the squat – 105kg, which isn’t spectacularly heavy but it came only a few minutes after I did 17 reps at 80kg, so I was pretty chuffed. It’s just a shame I couldn’t toast my success with anything stronger than a Diet Pepsi. Still, there's only seven weeks to go. Good things come to those who wait, right?

Cover model supplements

As part of my cover model transformation challenge, Nick Mitchell is making me take an assortment of supplements. I’ll be explaining the reasons behind a different one each week.

What? UberZinc 2.0

Why? We need zinc for hundreds of essential biological functions, not least for the production of testosterone, but many men have low levels. This product contains two different forms of zinc to aid absorption and use by your body.

Add these foods that contain zinc to your diet

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.