Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom before we can lift ourselves to new heights. That is exactly what happened to Tawanda Tadzimirwa in 2017.
After a tough year filled with relationship and financial turmoil, Tawanda detoured from his established healthy and active lifestyle by partying more often with friends and indulging in more alcohol and convenience and comfort foods.
“As a highly active individual who played various sports from an early age and hit the gym throughout my ‘varsity days, I had an athletic physique prior to 2017. But overindulging and a lack of exercise started to catch up with me,” he explains.
When he started getting comments from friends and family about his changing physique, Tawanda knew he had to do something.
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A better version
“I acknowledged that I had fallen off the wagon and that my slump was starting to affect every aspect of my life. So, on my birthday in late 2017, I resolved to get my life back on track and become the best version of myself.”
Deeper introspection during his birthday on 17 December helped Tawanda realise that gym and exercise served as his anchor in life.
“I formulated a plan and on 3 January, made a public declaration on social media stating my intention to get myself back in shape.”
He themed his transformation #RoadtoSummer18 and his plan paved the way for one of the best years of his life by creating a launchpad for future opportunities in the health and fitness industry.
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Going to extremes
Tawanda started his journey with a rather extreme approach at first. “I was training up to 13 times a week, performing double sessions from Monday to Saturday, with one session on Sunday as my ‘recovery day’.”
Tawanda dedicated 4 to 5 weekly sessions to leg training to create better symmetry with his upper body.
“I suffered from the typical gym guy syndrome of a big chest and arms and no legs. I worked hard to correct the imbalance in my physique.”
And Tawanda ate whatever he could find to fuel his training and support his growth.
“The ‘dirty bulk’ approach worked initially. I added some serious size, gaining 10 kilos in three months but not all of it was lean muscle.”
From a supplement perspective, Tawanda admits that he didn’t know much and bought products based on clever marketing rather than informed research.
But his approach was ultimately unsustainable.
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Post Training Stress Disorder
“I think I suffer from ‘Post Training Stress Disorder’ after that training phase,” quips Tawanda. With the risk of injury growing ever larger, he decided to change his approach and reduce his training volume.
“I researched intensely, reading whatever I could about training and nutrition to achieve the physique I wanted. I also got insights and tips from a friend’s partner who had successfully transformed his body.”
Tawanda used this information to adapt his approach by cleaning up his diet and changing his workout plan to get leaner.
Tawanda’s workout split
- Monday: Quads, adductors
- Tuesday: Shoulders
- Wednesday: Back
- Thursday: Chest
- Friday: Hamstrings
- Saturday: Full body day (targets multiple muscles including arms to hit 10 sets per group per week in total)
- Sunday: Rest
The right balance
“Once I was more informed, I understood important nutritional elements such as nutrient timing and optimal absorption. I cleaned up my carbs and included more complex options. I also focused on healthier fats and ate mainly lean cuts of meat.”
Tawanda now considers his diet ideally balanced for his goals and his lifestyle.
“Because I don’t compete on stage as a fitness athlete or bodybuilder, I can keep my diet interesting with sauces, which is important to me from a sustainability point of view. While they add extra calories, they keep my meals flavoursome, which adds the enjoyment factor.”
Tawanda says he now eats about 3800 calories a day, spread across 5 to 6 meals.
Tawanda’s daily nutrition plan
- Breakfast: Bacon or chicken livers, 3 whole eggs and 2 egg whites, or 120g oats with whey, honey and blueberries
- Snack: Fruit
- Lunch 1: Veggies (peas, beans, spinach, asparagus, greens, carrots), 180g rice, 120g lean meat.
- Lunch 2: Veggies (peas, beans, spinach, asparagus, greens, carrots), 180g rice, 120g lean meat.
- Dinner: Veggies (peas, beans, spinach, asparagus, greens, carrots), 180g rice, 120g lean meat.
- Snack: Some form of meat and a protein bar
Cover model status achieved
Tawanda’s refined approach delivered astonishing results. After less than 12 months, he earned himself a spot on one of the world’s most prestigious men’s magazines when Men’s Health South Africa chose to feature him on the cover in December 2018.
“The cover boosted my profile as that image circulated on social and mainstream media,” recalls Tawanda.
He has since secured multiple features across various media platforms, which caught the attention of one of South Africa’s biggest supplement brands, USN.
“USN was always a brand I wanted to use. I constantly heard about the quality of the top-end products in the range but back then, it didn’t make sense for me to pay for the best value. I chose to sacrifice quality for a better price at the time.”
However, Tawanda’s growing popularity in health and fitness circles created an opportunity for a synergistic partnership.
“USN reached out to me. The team liked my persona and my transformation story and felt it was a good fit with the brand’s values. I actually turned down a few other sponsorship offers before that as I was hoping USN would come knocking.”
- Born: Zimbabwe
- Lives: Johannesburg
- Qualifications: B.com Economics and Business Finance. Honours in Corporate Finance and Investments
- Occupation: Enterprise Risk Management & Strategy Analyst, material handling entrepreneur
- Age: 30
- Height: 188cm
- Weight: 109kg
- Sponsors: USN, Lifting Africa Clothing
- IG: @tawanda_nate
Tawanda now incorporates a wide range of USN supplements in his approach.
“Before and sometimes after my morning training, I drink USN Anabolic Carb with 2 scoops of USN Epik Isobolic Whey gH protein.”
Tawanda says he prefers USN Epik Isobolic Whey because it is a whey isolate and, therefore, contains less lactose. It also contains a multi-action enzyme complex to aid digestion. As such, it doesn’t cause any digestive issues due to his lactose intolerance.
Tawanda’s USN supplement stack
- USN Epik Isobolic Whey gH: Support muscle growth and recovery
- USN Testo Methox 17: Boost natural testosterone production
- USN Pure Creatine: Muscle cell volumisation and power
- USN Anabolic Carb: Fuel training and growth
- USN Collagen: Joint support, toning and firming
- USN Switch On: Nootropic for better focus and cognitive function at work
- USN Pure Ashwagandha: Stress support and antioxidant action.
- USN Qhush Super Pump Stim-Free: Muscle pumps without the buzz
Through his role as a brand ambassador and recognised fitness personality, Tawanda now aims to positively inspire people at all levels, across various demographics. In addition, he motivates individuals to challenge themselves into chasing and attaining the best version of themselves.
Based on his experience, Tawanda typically shares the following advice with those he engages with in-person or on social media.
“Invest the time to do your own research to understand how the human body works and what you need and what you don’t. There is so much information out there and misinformed people will often mislead you, often with the best intentions. You need to sharpen and hone your filter to pick through the fluff and find the tips and info that works.”
Tawanda adds that doing the research upfront will help you avoid the trial and error that typically comes with trying to find the ideal approach.
“From a diet perspective, I believe most people discount the importance of the simple truth that weight-loss and fat-loss start with a calorie deficit. The conventional calories-in versus calorie-out theory is underrated advice in my opinion.”
The issue, says Tawanda, is that most people don’t realise how many calories they consume or where they get these calories from outside of their main meals.
From a health perspective, Tawanda advises everyone to go for regular health checks.
“Understand what issues your body has before taking advice about which supplements to use. For example, if you have a heart condition and take stimulant-based pre-workouts you can worsen your health issues.”
When it comes to fitness and training, Tawanda recommends finding a form of exercise or activity that you actually enjoy.
“Success is ultimately about playing the long game. So do something that is sustainable and enjoyable. And don’t rush into competing in something you aren’t ready for. Dial it up gradually to challenge yourself with a safe and sensible progression.”
Lastly, Tawanda says that you should forget about the weight you lift. “Building muscle is about creating tension with sufficient weight and reps, not about the maximum weight you can lift. Rather focus on muscle activation using the compound movements. And never forget leg day!”