"Success leaves clues."

I don't recall where or when I read first read those words, but they are really helpful. They tell me what I need to do in just about any situation to get better.

Analyze success.

Whether it's been somebody's teaching style, writing style, manner of eating, way of lifting weights, or progression of cycling workouts, I've never been able simply to emulate and achieve what I want.

I've always needed to ruminate upon another's success, take one or two elements of it from it, merge it with other elements successful for somebody else, tweak the combination to suit my specific situation, then tweak it again and again, and then I get the outcome I want.

This protracted process is probably why I accomplished an important athletic goal I set for myself to win a season-long competition for cyclists 40 years and older to determine the best all-around rider in Pennsylvania not at age 40 when I had planned for it to happen, but a full four years later.

But your tweaking need not take nearly that much time particularly if you're interested in looking better in a bathing suit. That's because so many people have recently asked for guidance in this matter that this column will do the clue sleuthing for you.

The May issue of John Parrillo's Performance Press devotes its cover story to Crystal Williams, a woman in her mid-40s who made such improvement to her body when she first began training and eating right that she not only cut her body fat percentage in half, but she also placed second in a fitness show in the bikini division.

Over the course of a single year.

At 5-8 and 135 pounds, Williams was not terribly out of shape when she began working out and eating right, and most 46-year-old women would have been more than satisfied with her body, I'm sure. But Williams knew she was adding body fat with each passing year and was amazed at the change in her younger son's body as he began lifting weights, so she contacted a person trainer, determined to see what happened if she fully embraced the fitness lifestyle.

Now, she competes at 118 pounds and 9 percent body fat and on the national level and has her answer.

But couldn't you argue that Crystal Williams is a genetic freak? That her success was one in a million? That you could work out every bit as hard, eat just as well, yet not look nearly as good as she does?

Take my word on it or find the magazine online: she looks better than any 48-year-old has a right to! (If only she didn't live in New Mexico and have a husband.)

Maybe. But only if you don't regularly read John Parrillo's Performance Press.

Every other issue it seems features a story like Williams', most of which follow the same sort of patterns. Those patterns, my friend, can serve as your clues.

Clue number one: All these people who undergo cover-story-type transformations make significant changes to their diet. John Parrillo, for instance, has long been an advocate of eating six to eight times a day. He feels it's the best way to assimilate essential nutrients, refuel the muscles, and keep from adding body fat.

As I page through back issues, most featured in cover stories eat at least six daily meals though a few do reach Parrillo's upper number of eight.

Clue number two: Just as important to the frequency of meals is their composition. Parrillo believes a meal should primarily consist of protein and fibrous carbs, with a modicum of starchy carbs, like those found in oatmeal or baked potatoes. The fat consumed throughout the day occurs naturally in the meats used, like chicken, turkey, fish and lean cuts of red meat and through one supplement Parrillo highly recommends especially for those seeking to add muscle or drop body fat MCT oil.

Clue number three: Those losing weight don't actually diet, per se. Parrillo feels that the metabolism can be built to handle more calories if the calories come in smaller amounts frequently. That's part of his rationale for six to eight daily meals.

Though the article on Williams only cites the foods and not amounts, it appears as if she ingests between 2000 and 2400 calories a day.

Clue number four: All those featured in Parrillo articles, including Williams, work out intensely. Major body transformations do not occur without a major expenditure of energy.

Clue number five: Whether the article is about a male powerlifter or a female fitness competitor, all do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Parrillo has long believed that guys who want to put on great size do so easier if they have increased the mitochondria in their muscles by taxing their aerobic ability with regular 30-to-60 minute sessions on the stationary bike or elliptical.

And the sessions need to be heavy-breathing, sweat-inducing affairs.

Likewise, the female fitness competitors who need to remain lithe still lift weights frequently, intensely, and heavily.

In short, dramatically transforming your body really is possible. One key, however, is determining what specifics will work for your specific body.

That's what I refer to as tweaking. You may have to adjust some of Parrillo's strategies .

I don't follow his no-dairy dietary rule, for example (though all my dairy products are fat free), but I know that his no-fruit rule works for me.