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 😉

Leangains Update

So, after my Sunday to Sunday tracking of calories consumed, weight, body fat percentage, and body water, here are the results.

I started at 201lbs with about 22% bodyfat (44.22lbs fat) and 51.3% body water (leaving 53.667lbs lean body weight).

I ended at 198.4lbs with about 20.5% bodyfat (40.672lbs fat) and 52.7% body water (leaving 53.1712lbs lean body weight).

Total calorie consumption for the week was 8927 calories. Total fat loss in calories (assuming 3500 calories per lb) is 12418 calories. Given the small change in lean body mass, I decided to exclude it from further calculation. So, adding back the fat loss, my total calories over the 7 days was 21345 calories which comes out to 3049.285 calories per day on average. Keep in mind this is my calorie requirement to NOT GAIN or LOSE weight with my current activity level and exercise routine.

However, this was just one week. So, I really need another week of tracking to get a better idea of how things will go in the long run. Perhaps this was just a really good week. (So far this week, I’ve been eating more) and while the exercise may be the same, I feel I’ve been less active in the other parts of my day.

Still, I’m thinking I can effect 12lbs of fat loss through February with minimal change in lean mass (hopefully actually gain here) and 10lbs of fat loss again with minimal change in lean mass in March. This will leave me (assuming worst case that I lose no fat this week) at about 18lbs of body fat and around 176lbs weight (depending on my water levels and assuming minimal change in lean mass). Putting me at 10.227% bodyfat (my short term – before summer – goal is 10%). If I gain 4lbs of lean mass so 18lbs fat at 180lbs body weight, I’d be exactly at 10%!

So, achieving my goal by the end of March is definitely something within reach. I’m thinking of experimenting with doing cardio on my non-workout days (but still eating approximately the same amount) for the first two weeks of February and seeing how that affects my strength workouts and fat loss. I’d be willing to trade off an extra 2lbs of fat loss a week for up to 0.5lbs of lean muscle loss


So. . . clearly I’ve been angry. And as much as I’ve been angry, I can’t bring myself to hate her. The whole thing was too confusing and the storyline didn’t make sense. Until now. I don’t know if I’m correct, but I’m going to choose to believe that she was telling the truth, both to me and to herself. And if that is the case, the root cause of why this breakup has generated so much emotional turmoil for me is just something pretty simple. I’d almost hit on it before, but I’ve got it now:

We had two different ideas of the kind of relationship that we were in or the place that we were in our relationship. I felt that we were at a point where we were looking to form a long term relationship. That we were no longer necessarily checking whether this person possesses qualities that I’d want in a partner or whether this person has habits, personality, etc that I couldn’t live with, and were at the point where we were looking at things from a “are we compatible enough to make a relationship work”. Meaning do we resolve issues well together, compromise, provide adequate support for each other, etc.

I now think she was still at that prior point, evaluating me for the potential of long term and hadn’t gotten to the point where she would be evaluating our potential for sustaining a long term relationship. So, with that view of the situation, it makes some sense that I would be out of the loop where it comes to the decision making at that point. Effectively, for her, we were still in the dating phase of the relationship. Even though we’d labeled it as boyfriend/girlfriend, the meaning for her was more along the lines of exclusive dating, and not (as it was for me), moving on to the next stage of the relationship process.

So, while I will probably still feel hurt and anger and betrayal for a while, I think I understand. And I have learned. I need to do a much better job at communicating what I think and feel. Communication must extend beyond just using terminology, I need to explain what they mean to me, especially when the terms being used can be very ambiguous.

Blinded by Love

For some reason, I’m only now fully understanding this. I’ve now gained empathy for those in seemingly bad relationships who don’t leave. How?

Well, as I look back on my last relationship, I see the following:

  • I was in a relationship where during the times my partner says things were ok (for her more or less), I had problems. Problems big enough to bring to her that I felt we needed to find some way to fix. And she didn’t actually put forth any effort to help me deal with these things. Despite us being in a relationship. Despite her saying that she cared for me. Despite me bringing things up numerous times.
  • Even though clearly there was an issue with us, she never shared how she really felt with me. I opened up to her about issues I was having in our relationship, she kept hers to herself.
  • When her issues finally crossed whatever threshold necessary to become problematic for her, instead of wanting to talk to me about it, perhaps find some way to work it out, she jumped straight to deciding whether to end the relationship. Even though the issue wasn’t something that is an “automatic relationship ender”.

Now, if someone else were to describe any one of these scenarios in their relationship. My immediate response would be there is something wrong. This relationship isn’t healthy. Yet blinded by love, blinded by feelings for her, I jumped immediately to any excuse or explanation that seemed plausible.

  1. If your partner ignores or marginalizes your relationship issues and doesn’t contribute to finding solutions. You are in an unhealthy relationship.
  2. If your partner does not discuss their issues with you, but instead moves to deciding whether to end things, that implies one (or more) of several things:
  • That they have already had issues with you that they tried to work out, but failed.
  • That the issue is something so bad, you are incredibly lucky that they’re even considering still staying with you (you cheated, domestic violence, etc).
  • They don’t actually care about you or take you seriously, respect you as an adult, respect you as an equal, see you as an equal participant in the relationship.
  • Or it is quite possible that they don’t know what an actual relationship entails or you have stupidly entered into a relationship where they have quite a different definition of what kind of relationship you were in (I thought I was in a long term relationship where we were looking to see how well we fit together, how we deal with issues that come up, how we work together, etc).

And to add insult to injury, after us having these discussions where I talk about the issues I’m seeing, trying to propose solutions, solicit solutions, ideas, etc and getting nowhere, she now has her stuff come up. . . and it doesn’t occur to her to talk to me about it.

Its like we were both adrift together at see and I’m panicking, trying to find life vests or rafts to save us, but she thought it wasn’t too bad. But despite my obvious panic and attempts to find something to hold onto, she doesn’t even bother helping me, just sees my panic, and raises me – it is not important. But then, one morning, she realizes that we are really adrift and do need rescue and by some miracle, sights a life raft, jumps into the raft and gets to shore. With no warning or even telling me. Just leaves me to be surprised and caught off guard. And by some miracle, I too make it to shore. And she wonders after all that, why I don’t want to remain friends.

Now that emotions aren’t currently clouding my judgment, there is no way I can be friends with a person who treated me like that. No matter what the reason. It doesn’t matter whether she did it on purpose or by accident. I just can’t. I’m not that forgiving, forgetful, or open hearted.

There is some serious self delusion here. How could she be affectionate and initiate physical contact and intimacy for two months, then not because “she’s not an affectionate person”? Either she is deluding herself on that point, or she was faking it from the beginning. So the best explanation is neither. There is some other reason and she’s just feeding me the line that she thinks (or for some reason really believes) would make me feel best about the relationship ending.

Her feeling she couldn’t make me happy or keep me happy due to differing sex drives is bullshit. Many relationships have mismatched sex drives. That is nothing new, different or special. We knew this ahead of time and we talked about it. And, most importantly, the amount of sex we were having was never that big an issue for me. Yes, I’d brought it up once or twice earlier – though in those cases, I’d explained that what was more important and meant was that I didn’t feel we had been spending enough time together. But in the last 1.5 months of our relationship there is no way sex could have been an issue caused by me.

This is perhaps the single best way to thoroughly vaporize any bridge between a person. Create a situation where when they look back over their entire relationship with you without the filter of what they felt for you, they lose the ability to match your words to your actions. At best that I can make out, I was just a glorified friend. A winter beau . . . or fall beau in this case, since winter isn’t quite yet over. It would seem there was never any intent that this relationship last beyond a few months. Perhaps she even tried to tell me that in the beginning of our relationship – she never intended to date me or give me her number.

For those looking for real life examples of dramatic irony, here is one. So I’ve always tried in various blogs to write on a daily basis. If you go to the first few of this blog, you’ll see I even tried that here. But it has never worked. Then I thought I’d finally hit upon a concept that would work for me. A blog where I could talk about things inspired by my own relationship. Perfect right? I’d never beat a loss for material. So no way I’d fall off from daily writing. Just didn’t occur to me that it would be the relationship that could end thus ending my daily blog. Didn’t last past 19 days. I guess this is also an example of cosmic irony too.

And also, this confirms it, school somehow has a negative effect on my relationships. Every single one has ended within a few weeks of the end of a semester. (Yes, I know this is one of the worst posts grammatically for me. Guess how much of a fuck I give).

At Long Last, Procedure to Quantify my Maintenance Calories

Maintenance calories are the approximate amount of calories you must consume per day on average that with your typical diet (food you eat), exercise, and activity, ensures that you neither gain nor lose weight. I’m taking this definition a bit further to specify that no only is it the level at which you don’t gain or lose weight, it is also the level at which your lean body mass and fat mass does not change. For purposes of my calculations, I assume that body mass is split into one of three categories:

  1. Fat
  2. Water
  3. Lean (everything else)

One issue that I’ve had in the past with diets is that I don’t actually know the value of maintenance calories. Well, over the next couple weeks, all this will change. Starting this past Sunday (January 15), I’ve been keeping what I hope is an accurate account of all the calories I consume. Using my body weight, body fat percentage, and body water percentage prior to eating that Sunday and prior to eating on the upcoming Sunday, I can calculate the change in fat, water, and lean weight.

Starting with total calories consumed over the past week, I then add or subtract amounts based on how the fat and lean mass changed  (here, I assume that all change in lean mass is solely from muscle growth or muscle attrition). For example, let’s say that my calories eaten for the week is 7000 calories. From the calculations, my lean body weight did not change, but I lost 1lb in fat. I would then add 3500 calories to 7000 to account for the fat lost, then divide by 7 to get an approximate maintenance amount. This is the amount of calories had I eaten per day, would have resulted in no change in fat mass or lean mass.

Similarly, if I’d gained 1lb of fat, but lean mass remained the same (I know mass and weight are not the same, but for the purposes of this discussion, since I’m never leaving earth and therefore under the influence of the same approximate force of gravity, talking about changes in weight relatively speaking is equivalent to talking about changes in mass and it so happens that mass is the vernacular here), then I’d subtract 3500 from the 7000 to account for the fat gain, then divide by 7. So, while 3500 calories per pound of fat is the generally accepted number, I’m going to need to do some research to come up with what I hope is a reasonable estimate of the amount of calories consumed in generating a pound of muscle.

Now, I know some will be quick to point out that in terms of macro nutrients, fat is composed of different things than muscle so the 3500 calories that go into fat will be different from the 3500 calories that go into muscle. Here is the thing, as it turns out, your body will convert anything to fat. So if there is unused energy in the body, regardless of what it was made up of, it will be turned into fat. So whatever isn’t used to keep me alive and build muscle, must necessarily be turned into fat. Now, that’s probably not 100% accurate, but that’s pretty much the big picture everyone follows when it comes to doing these fat gain/loss weight gain/loss calculations. Anyway, as it turns out, regardless of what our bodies actually does with the excess calories, assuming that change in water levels incurs no caloric change and that the conversion factors for calories to pounds of muscle and fat are accurate (or very close), then the calculated maintenance level will be just as accurate (or close).

A quick caveat. Research has shown that your metabolism changes depending on how you eat (or don’t eat) and how much muscle mass you have. So the value I get will be most applicable to when my muscle mass is about the same as it is during the period of data collection and when I’m eating, exercising, sleeping, and at the same activity level as the time of the period of data collection. In other words, if any of the following is different, I can expect that my maintenance calories will need to change to reflect the impact on my metabolism:

  • Statistically significant change in muscle mass
  • Change in eating habit (currently fast 16 hours, eat during an 8 hour window) – even if daily and weekly calories stay the same
  • Statistically significant change in sleep length and/or quality (for example, let’s say I still sleep 8 hours, but only half as much in REM – this is a statistically significant change in sleep that will affect metabolism)
  • Exercise and/or activity level

So all that said, I’m still looking forward to finally quantifying this. Based on my past experience, I expect it to be low (between 800 and 1000 calories per day). The only times in my adult life (only time in my life that I actually kept track of my weight enough to really notice changes like this) that I remember significant weight loss (so loss that couldn’t be simply explained by loss of water – I weigh about 200lbs. So a 1% change in water level is a change of 2lbs. On a hot summer day, I could lose 6 – 8lbs or more simply from water alone and not feel too different health-wise, especially if my activity level dropped near the end of the water loss. Of course, in the process of rehydrating later that day or the next, I’d gain most of that back) are the times where for whatever reason, my calorie consumption was very low (1000 calories would be a big day).

Based on my experience over the past month, I could probably sustain 1000 calories a day over the long term with about 2 days a week that either have un-suppressable craving or just out and consuming more because I want to. By cravings, I’ve not yet found myself to have cravings for anything specific, foodwise or even macro nutrient wise. So my cravings don’t lean towards carbs or protein or fat, just for more food in general.

Anyway, the point of saying this is that at the moment, I just follow a strength training program 3 times a week. Now, I’m actually going to be working out every other day, so every two weeks, I gain a day which I’ll be using to play catchup with either extra work on my form on an exercise or to evaluate my performance on something that isn’t part of my normal weekly routine. But after I reach my current body composition goals, I can add cardio to my off days to help offset those overconsumption days each week.

Though I am considering adding cardio sooner to help accelerate my fat loss (at the expense of muscle gain – I feel that I have an almost acceptable amount of muscle, so actually knowing my maintenance calories would help me dial in cardio especially if I could maintain muscle mass and thus, minimize variation in metabolism as my weight drops). But that decision will come at the end of January after I evaluate how three weeks of the default leangains has specifically affected me.

The Post Workout Meal

I’m still measuring my ketone levels periodically with ketostix, even though I’m now no longer following a low carb diet. What I’ve found is that my levels seem to measure the highest when I take a reading after my workouts. So, this would imply that my body is burning fat for energy at it’s highest during or after my workout. At the same time, the leangains protocol has me eating immediately after workouts. From a naive point of view, I should wait as long as possible after a workout to eat but now that I think about it, post workout, my body could be burning fat for energy, but still take advantage of the nutrients in my meal to rebuild and repair muscle. So delaying that meal may increase (or not at all affect) my fat burn at the cost of impairing muscle growth or repair.

So, I will continue following the leangains protocol. I need to commit to one particular methodology and follow it for several weeks before making too many changes. This is both fair to the protocol and to me, otherwise I’d just be flitting from one thing to another never finding something that works partially because I’m changing what I’m doing so often. My post workout hunger abatement still continues. It’s kind of annoying because this is the meal where I’m to consume the greater part of my calories for the day. Hunger abatement sounds like I’m just less hungry than usual. This is not correct. Post workout, I don’t feel hungry at all.

Still, perhaps there is a way to mix in cardio into my non-workout days where I can increase fat burning but not affect my muscle growth. This will likely lean towards a low intensity long duration exercise, but I will take time to do a lot more reading before tweaking my leangains protocol.