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 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.

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.

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

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.

My Vaio is Here!

I haven’t posted in a while. Don’t really have a good reason. I suppose I’ve been a bit more busy, but that’s little excuse. Yesterday, my new laptop arrived. I’ve posted a mini-review on one of my other blogs (http://weethomas.wordpress.com) which I’ve decided to start using primary for tech related stuff. Not that I won’t bring it up here from time to time, but that isn’t the main thrust here.

Regarding my workout/diet plan, my focus has shifted to a mixture of strength training and cardio. I was doing some reading on calculating body fat (I wanted alternative methods to my scale’s bio-impedance analysis) and found that unless 100% of the weight I’d lost between now and my goal was fat, I’d still not be at the bodyfat percentage that I want. What I would be is a smaller guy, having lost some fat but also muscle and other mass. Anyway, I’ve found that my best bet may be an exchange of muscle for fat. The strength training and cardio will help ensure that most of the net weight I lose is fat or I replace fat weight for muscle. Either way, my real target – decreasing my bodyfat percentage will be achieved. Losing weight was just how I’d initially expected to accomplish this.

Schoolwise, I need to get on the ball. I’m in the process of scheduling my proposal exam and augmenting my existing proposal document. I think if I can double the size, I will allay the fears of everyone who made their decision based on its heft. Still, this requires actually sitting down and working, though now that I have a laptop, I think this is more likely. While I feel fine coding and running simulations on my desktop in the lab, I’m still very much a person who likes working on his own machine. Despite my insistence that I’m trying to move away from bringing work home. If that was the case, I could have saved $1000 and bought a cheaper, not so powerful, and perhaps .25lbs heavier laptop.