Shane Ekpanyaskun was never really an athlete. At 5’4”, the 40-year-old store manager from Melbourne, Australia, felt like he was always the shortest guy in the gym. But he stayed in shape through high school, running on the cross country team (mandatory for any student not playing other sports), though after high school he started to put on some pounds. He ate McDonald’s while working a job that had him either at a desk, or in a car or plane traveling to see clients. He figured he was out of shape, but figured it was normal for an adult.
He didn’t have a single “light bulb” moment, but there were a few turning points. He wanted to look good for his wedding. He had some health issues that forced him to re-evaluate his nutrition. But the biggest turning point came when his baby son fell and had to go to the hospital. “After the shock wore off,” Ekpanyaskun says, “I made a commitment to myself to get stronger and faster to always have the ability to catch him and keep him safe, as best as I could.”
Just after he turned 40, he started Jeremy Ethier’s Built with Science. He weighed about 165 pounds, with a body fat percentage of 25 percent. He started hitting the gym again after a five-year absence, recognizing that at his age, he needed more time to recover—and had to be more careful about preventing injury in the first place. With a busy schedule, he’d workout early in the morning on weekends, up at four AM and back by seven AM to have breakfast with his family; he alternated between heavy weight workouts (focused on six main lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press, incline dumbbell press, pull-ups, and overhead press) and prehab and mobility work.
The biggest change happened in his diet. He’d been eating “clean”—focusing on food from nature—but he also realized that with his schedule, he was very close to doing 16:8 intermittent fasting (16 hours of fasting, with an eight-hour window for eating). The only thing he had to change was having milk in his morning coffee; that had to go. “Pretty soon a 16:8 fast was a normal everyday thing for me,” he says. “When work got busy, it sometimes became 18:6 or 20:4.”
“I was amazed at the level of energy I had despite not having eaten for up to 20 hours,” he says. He decided to do an experiment: He fasted for 19 hours and then hit the gym. He could do all the lifts at heavy weight, hitting the prescribed reps and feeling like he hadn’t lost any energy. “This experiment really made me question the necessity of the ‘3 meals per day’ protocol that I had grown up with,” he says. After training, of course, he ate like a horse.
In just about ten months, he went from 165 to 121 pounds. His body fat percentage dropped from 25 to 11 percent. “I felt stronger than ever before,” he says. “I felt like I was at my physical peak as a 40 year old.”
Looking back at what worked for him, he says believing in himself and finding small ways to improve every day got him to where he is. “There is no magic that will change you overnight or over a weekend,” he says. But by finding those little improvements every day, you’re always moving forward, getting better. “Have faith in yourself,” he says.