Making weight, losing fat and a decade of experience...
OK, so it's been ten years since I started getting serious about my health / fitness.
As you will have seen from other posts on the blog, it started as a result of 30 being around the corner and having always felt "skinny-fat" since childhood.
Here's what I've achieved / tried / learned during this time:
- Got a six-pack.
- Lost it many, many times (bulked too quickly).
- Set local powerlifting records.
- Recently, lost some powerlifting records (I still hold the total and deadlift).
- Tried 3 meals a day...
- 6 meals a day (hated it).
- 1 meal a day (loved it and still essentially do this).
- Tried 3 times a week in the gym...
- and every other day...
- and every day.
- Experiment with rep ranges and sets.
- Tried cardio.
- Gave up cardio.
- Got tired.
- Got "depressed" (I use it in the temporary sense, not the medical sense).
- Got happy again.
- Tried high-carb...
- high fat...
- zero carb (no plants - I really missed crunchy, fresh veg!)...
- moderate carb.
- Got a nutrition qualification.
- Largely avoided injury (minor rotator cuff issue from too much benching, not enough rows / pulls).
- Solved a deadlift hip pain problem (pistol squats).
- Solved a recurrent elbow pain (Angles 90 handles for weighted pullups).
- Started wearing a mouthguard (my dentist says my teeth are worn, and the recommendations for mouthguard use include heavy weight training).
- Lost 20lb of fat.
- Built 20lb of muscle.
So with that last couple of points, I've gone full circle - I'm back to my starting weight 10 years ago, but now it's muscle and the abs are showing.
I'm writing this post because I'm back on the dieting bandwagon as I'm (probably) going to go for a new deadlift record, and for that I need to weigh under 59kg (129 lb) on the same morning as the lift.
That means dehydration (like boxers do) is largely out of the question. I need to be as light as possible and as strong as possible, which are somewhat opposing goals.
In order to do this, I need to diet down quite carefully, as too rapid loss will result in muscle and strength loss.
Given that I think I know pretty well what to do, I previously made the mistake of being overconfident and cutting calories drastically, whilst maintaining my daily gym routine.
That lasted about two weeks before I was tired and miserable.
I'm now having a huge amount of success by following what I ought to have known:
- When dieting, the calorie deficit needs to be at an appropriate level. This depends on how much weight you have to lose (or in blunt terms, how fat you are). Given that I'm never more than about 20% BF, my deficits need to be moderate.
- In a calorie deficit, training needs to be changed. Given that there are primarily three variables (intensity, volume, frequency) and one of those (intensity) is the most important for maintaining muscle mass, either frequency or volume (or both) need to be reduced. I'm now going to the gym 4 days/week instead of 7.
- Given my history of dietary experimentation, I should have also known that, for me, an omnivorous diet of moderate carbohydrates is best. However, I also need to get a calorie deficit from somewhere, so I achieve this by having lower calorie days (with very few carbs) on a rest day and slightly higher calories with some carbs (about 100g seems to be perfect for me) on gym days. Food choices are salads, salmon, beef, duck, eggs and potatoes.
- I still, and always will, follow an IF (Intermittent Fasting) eating pattern. For me, this means a protein (whey) shake before the gym (to hit the leucine threshold), dinner around 7:30 pm (after training) and a protein (whey/casein) / egg shake before bed around 9:30-10pm.
- I weigh myself twice per week - once on a Friday evening and again on Saturday morning. If the average of these shows that I've lost ~1 lb (and I'm feeling OK / performance in the gym is OK), then I'll have a "diet break" over the weekend. Note that this is NOT a crazy binge - I still eat pretty healthy things (thin-crust frozen mozzarella pizza with added veg / meat toppings, home-cooked paella / curry / roast, popcorn as a treat etc.)
So far, over the past 6 weeks, I've consistently lost 1l b/week without any of the common side-effects (low mood, performance loss in the gym, hunger). My abs are quite clear, but not six-pack defined (yet).
So at the end of this post, I guess what I'm saying is, even with so much experience, I can still make mistakes and learn from them.
Go out and try different things, see what works for you and learn from your mistakes!