Weekend Update: Lots of DOMS

So, there is a points challenge going on in the weight loss group on fitocracy. To help boost my numbers, after my normal Friday workout later that night, I also did a lot more upper body work at home (I’m still working on a good set of challenging lower body home exercises). Anyway, about 18 hours later, delayed onset muscle soreness set in and has been going strong since.

Anyway, it is update time. Strength-wise, I’ll be using what I hit in my RPT style workouts. I mention this because my bench and deadlift numbers will be less than what I achieved in the powerlifting meet. I think my nervous twitching (and performance) that day were probably aided by adrenaline from being excited and butterflies, etc. Though, I’ve also been a lot more sore for the past week, especially my lower back so it could be that once I’m “fully” recovered, we’ll see a jump in my lifts that takes me past my meet performance.

I’m writing this post before uploading my bi-weekly video, so I’ll update it later once that is ready. Strength stats will be from two weeks ago to now.

  • Bench press: 195×2 -> 205×1
  • Squat:             290×2 -> 305×2
  • Deadlift:         375×1 -> 405×1
  • Chinup:          +50×5 -> +50×7

Composition-wise, I’ve gained some weight. Could be just muscle, but the bodyfat analyzer on my scale says my bodyfat is up from about 19.8% to 20.2%. I got the digital bodyfat caliper that I ordered. According to it (and my inexperienced measurements, though I did watch videos and repeat them about 20 times), my bodyfat is between 8% and 11%. Though that seems like an underestimate based on my abs and legs – I’d expect more definition were I actually at those numbers. While my scale is likely higher than my actual bodyfat as well, I’ll continue using it for tracking purposes though I’ve started logging both anyway.

Along with my caliper is a retractable type tape measure. This will help me get slightly more accurate readings for my different measurements (it seems like either I’ve been slightly under reading my waist/belly measurements or that’s where some of my weight gain went to this week).

So, to switch things up over the next two weeks, I’m going to stay at the same point macronutrient-wise and workout-wise, but now add 15 minutes of sprints to the end of my workout. If in fact, my bodyfat is closer to 11% than it is 19%, it could be why making forward progress from this point has been tough. From what I’ve read, you really need to be strict and consistent to get bodyfat down from around 12% to single digits. So, I’ll give this two weeks, then depending on how that goes, may need to rework my macronutrient calculations or shift focus from strength building to pure weight loss (At this point, even if every lb of weight lost is 50% muscle, I’d still see a pretty nice change definition and bodyfat wise. I just want to forestall having to go that route to drop fat then work rebuilding the muscle).


Weekend Update Anew

So I’ve put up a new video which pretty much details my progress though I’ll summarize a bit here.

As I mentioned, I’ll be updating my macronutrient values to reflect the updated activity multiplier. After some thought, I’ve decided to use an activity multiplier of 1.375 instead of 1.5. Also, I’m using Andy Morgan’s cut ratio of +10/-35 for my training day / rest day split though one way to update this in the future is to switch to a more drastic level of -10/-30 which is actually closer to what I was doing but gives me more calories on my rest days while maintaining almost the same weekly deficit. My goal is by this Saturday (the powerlifting meet) to be deadlifting 400lbs, squatting 300lbs, and benching 200lbs. I’m pretty confident that all of those targets are reachable.

Strength recap, numbers are two weeks ago -> last week -> now:

  • Bench press: 185×5 -> 190×2 -> 195×2
  • Squat: 275×3 -> 275×5 -> 290×2
  • Deadlift: 340×2 -> 340×4 -> 375×1
  • Chinup: +30×7 -> +40×7 -> +50×5

I’m pretty happy with the strength increase though I’d really like to see renewed fat loss. I’m going to try my updated macros for two weeks. If it goes well, then I can stick with it through the rest of March. Otherwise, I’ll need to start figuring out ways to tip the scales back towards burning fat (I’m thinking of starting EC supplementation – but will hold off on this till after the powerlifting meet).

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.

Starting The Lean Gains Approach

So this week, I’ve started the leangains approach to dieting and exercise. Really, it’s not so much dieting as it is changing the time periods where I eat my normal food amounts. Though in my case, I am eating around 1000 calories a day, so I specifically am on a diet. The exercise approach calls for low volume high intensity compound exercises. The diet approach calls for a 16/8 intermittent fasting method of eating where one eats during an 8 hour window, then does not for the next 16 hours. There are a few other odds and ends to the lean gains approach which I only realized yesterday that I’ve been leaving out. Specifically, my fasted workout pre-workout supplementation. So, I will have that fixed by my next workout tomorrow.

One thing that stands out from lean gains, which I’ve already started doing, is setting goals and tracking one’s progress in the gym. I’ve changed my primary routines to squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. I may add in weighted chin ups later to my gym workout, for now I just do the chins at home. Aside from the bench press, I hadn’t done any of the others in the gym until either this week, or shortly before the Christmas break. And even the bench press, until this week, the last time I’d done any non-machine presses was over a year ago. Despite all that, while I’m going to log my starting weights at each exercise starting with this week, I think for the purposes of monitoring my progress, I will consider my true start to be my current levels at the end of this week.

Why you may ask? Well, since I’ve not done squats or deadlifts, my initial results at those workouts will be much lower than my actual strength. So using the results from my first exercise would portray a much larger than actual increase in strength. In my first go at deadlifts, I went from 135lb sets to 195lb. I will likely increase by another 20-40lbs tomorrow. So even choosing 195lbs as my starting best would still skew the numbers too much.

My current plan is to stay on lean gains through the end of February, then make a decision on continuing for another two months (before then deciding on continuing for the rest of the year). My first checkpoint will be at the end of January. I’ll evaluate where I am strength, weight, and fat-wise, and decide whether I want to try to drastically increase my fat loss at the potential cost of strength or continue at my current pace through February. Strength-wise, assuming that I’m able to increase, not just maintain strength, I actually expect to reach (or exceed) 280lbs on squats and deadlifts and 230lbs on the bench press. Then if I continue through April,  325lbs on squats and deadlifts and 265lbs on the bench press. My stretch goal by the end of the year is 400lbs on squats and deadlifts and 325lbs on the bench press. Writing it all down seems ridiculous now, pretty much doubling my current strength on all those items, but those are my goals and I’m going to stick to them.

Beyond strength goals, I want to be at 10% bodyfat by the end of April and 5-8 by the end of the year. Aesthetically, I want nice 6-pack abs while not being ridiculously skinny. I expect it will be tough, until I start seeing results, I’m going to be too obsessed over whether things are working, what I’m eating, if I’m pushing myself enough in the gym, not to mention dealing with stress from school and life. I’ve also wondered if this is a backup plan for my sanity – having something else to succeed at so if things go bad with school, I’m not a complete failure at life. So, no pressure me. . . no pressure.