Weekend Update 2: A day late. . .

So, last week I departed from my 1000 calorie a day diet and switched to following Andy Morgan’s macros for a cut that he describes on his site. So far, things are going well. My strength is up, and I finally broke through my 185lb bench press plateau. My wake-up energy levels are up, I seem to get out of bed faster now without hitting snooze. While I’m sure this was definitely nutrition related, I will admit that there were other things going on in my life whose stress could have affected my waking energy levels as well.

Weight-wise, I’m at the same point. Part of the reason is that this week, due to various social events, I’ve actually went over my macros (though only on workout days) – pretty much every single workout day. So slightly disappointing, but still amazing when you think about it. See, I went from eating around 1000 calories per day to a diet which averages to 1750 calories per day, had several days where I exceeded that average by a lot (Saturday was a 5000 calorie day) and despite all that, did not actually gain weight.

This week should be much more low key, so I’m looking forward to seeing the scale move down and cutting more fat. Anyway, let’s look at my strength change just over the past week alone:

  • Bench press: 185 x 5 -> 190 x 2
  • Squat: 275 x 3 -> 275 x 5
  • Deadlift: 340 x 2 -> 350 x 4

The squat and bench press gains as written don’t tell the complete story. So I do a version of reverse pyramid training on my three main lifts (Which are the ones that I list for benchmarks {though I sometimes also list weighted chin ups for those who are looking at the strength goals listed by Martin on leangains, but I don’t do those as often as the big three}). Anyway, for example, I would aim for the following on squats: 275 x 5, 270 x 5, and 265 x 5. If I can achieve (rep-wise) sets of at least 4-5-3, 4-3-5, or 5-3-3 or better, then I move up the weight by 5lbs on the next day I do that exercise. I’d been stuck at 275lbs on my squat for over a week and only this week did well enough so that I’ll be moving up to 280lbs tomorrow. The same thing applies to the bench, I’d been stuck at 185 for almost two months and now only finally did well enough to move that up.

My deadlift has always been my strongest and continues to improve in leaps and bounds compared to my other lifts. One thing that I’m pretty proud of is being close to reaching specific strength benchmarks. So, for the purposes of talking about this, I’ll recap my current strength levels including weighted chin ups:

  • Weight 194lbs
  • Bench press: 190 x 2
  • Squat: 275 x 5
  • Deadlift: 350 x 4
  • Chin up: +40lbs x 7

So, copied from Martin’s leangains site are the following strength benchmarks:

Strength Goals: Intermediate

Bench press: body weight x 1.2

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.2 or 8 reps with body weight.

Squat: body weight x 1.6

Deadlift: body weight x 2

These numbers are for a raw (no straps, belt or knee wraps) single repetition.

The progress towards the intermediate strength goals should be fairly linear, meaning that there should be no plateaus that cannot be solved in an uncomplicated manner. By “consistent” training I do not mean never missing a training day, nor do I consider taking 2-3 months off from training consistent.

By “decent training routine”, I mean “not doing blatantly stupid shit” (training 5-6 days/week, 20-25 sets for chest and arms, etc.). I do not mean optimal and flawless.

Strength Goals: Advanced 

Under the exact same conditions as the previous example, 3 out of 4 of the following goals should be reached within five years, along with all of the strength goals listed under “intermediate”:

Bench press: body weight x 1.5

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight.

Squat: body weight x 2

Deadlift: body weight x 2.5

Strength Goals: Highly Advanced 

Under the exact same conditions, all of the following goals should be reached within ten years. Alternatively, 3 out of 4 should be reached, and one should be “Elite”:

Bench press: body weight x 1.5, or x 1.8 (elite)

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight, or x 1.8 / 20 reps (elite)

Squat: body weight x 2, or x 2.4 (elite)

Deadlift: body weight x 2.5, or x 3 (elite)

“Elite” denotes one lift that is often ahead of the others. For example, people who are natural pullers (long arms) may very well hit a 3 x body weight deadlift before a 1.5 x body weight bench, and vice versa for the presser (short arms, stocky and barrel-chested) benching 1.8 x body weight but not being able to pull 2.5 x body weight in the deadlift.

Excluding the bench press, I feel I’m within a few weeks of meeting all the Intermediate goals (I already meet the chin up one). If I can maintain my strength with slight improvements, excluding the bench press I would meet (or exceed) all the Advanced goals after losing 14lbs (bodyweight of 180lbs). I feel fully capable of being at this point by the end of April and cautiously optimistic that my bench would catch up within 4 months.

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Weekend Update

I’m going to have to wait until Tuesday to get a phone that I’ve been waiting for since last week Wednesday. I won the auction for my very own Samsung Galaxy Note last week but for some reason, paypal would not allow me to make an instant payment. I thought it was because there were some uncleared items in my account. However, even after they posted on that Friday, I still was not given the option for an instant payment. So I went ahead with an e-check which was scheduled to clear this Wednesday. I’d assumed the seller would ship on Wednesday, however it would appear that he did not. Despite messages from myself, paypal, and ebay, he did not ship until today, when I sent yet another message asking for a tracking number.

Moving to other things, I’ve been on my 1000 calories a day diet since the start of February and I may have reached a plateau with my weight loss. My strength gains have also started to slow down and the slowdown seem more limited by my nutrition than other factors. Working with formulas suggested by Andy Morgan here which follows Martin Berkhan’s leangains protocol , I’ve decided to end my 1000 calories per day diet two weeks early and switch to a protocol that attempts to satisfy the macronutrient requirements for Andy’s cutting formula. Based on my body composition at the beginning of March (and change from this Sunday), I will decide whether to continue it through March or make adjustments as needed.

According to his calculator, my BMR (using an activity multiplier of 1) is about 2008.64 (I round that down to 2000). Using that as my base, I’m on the +10%/-35% split for training and rest days. I’ve also decided (independently of the change in diet) to reduce my training sessions to 3 days a week from every other day as I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. I may increase that based on how my workouts feel between now and March. Planning my meals is going to require a bit more work, since I’m now more focused on hitting macronutrient levels, rather than caloric ones. But I think, after the first week, I’ll have a better intuition or at least preference for where I get my low fat carbs. Picking low fat low carb food is easy – after doing Atkins, you have a pretty good grasp of that.

Anyway, in case I don’t update this blog to coincide with my video tomorrow, here are the stat changes from two weeks ago:

  • Weight: 198.6lbs -> 194lbs
  • Bodyfat: 21% -> 19.8%
  • Bench press: 185 x 5 -> still at 185
  • Squat: 250 x 5 -> 275 x 3
  • Deadlift: 295 x 5 -> 340 x 2

 

Update to My Leangains Progress

Yikes, I haven’t posted  in a while.

So, from my last posts, my plan was to track what I ate and determine my maintenance calories based on how much my lean mass and fat mass changed. That plan quickly was torpedoed. As it turns out, how much I eat, what I eat, and how they are distributed throughout the week all affect my metabolism and body composition. For example, during one week, I ate around 9000 calories and lost approx 5lbs. The following week, I ate around the same amount of calories. . . and gained 5lbs. According to the bodyfat and water numbers, I pretty much just put back on the same fat and lean mass that I lost.

Anyway, I’d decided that for February, to go with a flat 1000 calories per day. No banking calories for another day and to avoid alcohol. Now, I’ve had a few days where I exceeded this and with the combination of alcohol, there was a significant impact to my weight loss results. So lesson, on the day or days that I do have a drink or go over my calorie limits, I can only do one or the other.

Anyway, dietary issues aside, I’ve still been gaining strength. Apparently, for us long limbed guys, it is normal to see such horrendous progress on the bench press. As a comparison to my starting specs in this post, here are my changes:

  • Bench press: 185 x 5   -> still at 185
  • Squat: 210 x 5               -> 270 x 5
  • Deadlift: 245 x 5           -> 325 x 5

So, pretty great gains in just one month. I actually expect to see similar gains within a month’s time. I expect a slight slowdown through the rest of February. But in March, I’m planning to increase my average daily caloric intake to 1200, though I’m thinking 1400 on workout days and 1000 on non-workout days. I expect that would boost my strength gains resulting in the same average progress.

I’ve also started a youtube account and will be posting video every two weeks documenting my progress. The first was put up almost two weeks ago with the second scheduled for this coming Sunday. You can check them out on my channel here.

One thing that has been a slight issue is the fitment of pants. Based on measuring my waist/belly when holding my stomach in. . .(yeah,  still have those fat lbs to lose) it would appear that the smallest my stomach is going to reach is 31 inches. Though before I go out and start buying size 32 pants, I need to wait for my thighs to slim down some more. So, hopefully, by March, I can start wearing pants that fit me.

My Explanation of the Muscle Burns Lots of Calorie Myth

So, on a lot of fitness websites, there is a piece of misinformation out there. It goes something like, 1 pound of muscle burns 35-50 calories per day, so build as much muscle as possible.

Now, while building more muscle is always a good thing, the number of calories you’d burn due to your muscle mass is much smaller. . .like only 10% of that 35-50 number. So where does it come from? Well, I think I’ve got it figured out. You see, we are used to thinking about weight as fat and everything else. We accept that 1lbs of fat will yield 3500 calories. We accept that our bodies need some amount of calories per day.

Let’s take a 200lb man with 20% bodyfat on requires 2000 calories per day. He has 40lbs of fat, and about 100lbs of water in his body leaving the remaining 60lbs to be “lean body mass”. Which many fitness sites call muscle – ignoring that this also includes organs, skin, etc – which all require energy to function. So, simple math says that 60lbs of muscle consumes the 2000 calories which puts us at 2000/60 = 33.33 calories/lb of muscle.

A possible other source of this error is the increased caloric consumption in individuals who have gained muscle mass. Of course, this just shows you that the writers ignored simple physics. If it takes A amount of energy to lift B pounds, if I’m now lifting 2*B pounds, I’d need at least 2A energy. Most people who’ve added muscle are also expending more energy doing the same workouts. . . because they’re using larger weights. So of course they’d require more energy!

Anyway, on a more personal note, last week sucked diet wise. I had a few nights where I did not exercise control over how much I ate or drank. For February, I’m committed to drastic change. Limiting alcohol to one drink per night, 2 nights max per week and calorie-wise, I’m going for 1000 calories per day. At the moment, I’m don’t have any cardio planned for my non-workout days. After two weeks of 1000 calories per day, if I feel I need to take things up a notch, I’ll add the cardio. So far, I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to around 1000 calories. I think the only day this month that may see me deviate from my plan would be Superbowl Sunday. So, depending on how that goes, I may add a couple days of cardio that week to help counteract the effects 😉