Weight Loss

Weight loss update: June 2018

I made some changes to the way I’d been managing my deficits at the end of May. I struggled a lot with staying on-point when it came to my deficit and I figured that as I’m getting to a fairly low body fat percentage it would help to incorporate more days at maintenance calories. So June was my first month working with calorie and to some degree carb cycling. It was an interesting and pretty successful month.

I switched the body fat calculator I’d been using because I found another one that allows me to input decimals. The one thing I disliked about the old one (http://fitness.bizcalcs.com/Calculator.asp?Calc=Body-Fat-Navy) is that I couldn’t input decimals so I had to round to the nearest whole centimeter, something that could have a big effect on the formula. The new one (https://www.omnicalculator.com/fitness/navy-body-fat) is better because I can use decimals, but I do have to calculate out the body fat in kg based on the body fat percentage number I get from the calculator. They also have about a 3% error margin, but I rely on that if they are wrong, they are wrong consistently so that I’m tracking the trend correctly.

In June I lost a total of 1.25 kg (2.75 lbs), this is lower than what the deficit predicted but I did manage to maintain the planned deficit for the month after I started calorie-cycling. It was much easier to stick with 3 – 4 days of steep deficits when I knew I would be eating a day at maintenance calories in a few days. I also did a week at maintenance towards the end of the month just to give myself a break.

June Weight Loss Statistics

As you can see from the table, my weight is off by about 200 grams (0.9 lbs), my last 6-day running average came in at 79.4 kg (175 lbs), vs. the predicted 79.58 based on the running deficit. My planned deficit for June was a daily average of 576 calories, and I managed 476 including the week of maintenance calories I threw in towards the end of the month after running a deficit for 6 weeks.

I ended June a little higher on body fat than planned (15% vs. 14.6%), owing to being about a 100 calories over what I estimated at the end of May. One of the funnier things that I’ve noticed since going back in a deficit is that I just cannot handle the level of deficit over time that I could when I was at a higher body fat level. My lifts have more or less stagnated in the gym, and I struggle getting the same number of reps that I did during my month at maintenance. It’s pretty incredible what difference an extra 500 calories every day does to how you perform in the gym.

I spent a lot of time researching getting from 15 – 10% body fat this month, and there seems to be a consensus that the leaner you get, the less hard you have to diet to maintain lean mass and performance. I’ve generally tried to put the days with the steepest deficit on off-days, my maintenence day on leg-day because it’s my heaviest workout, and stagger it a bit to avoid getting more than 2 days in a row with high deficits.

The July Plan

The calorie cycling has made the diet a lot easier to stick with, so I’m going to continue doing it for July. I’ve planned for a 500 calorie deficit (average) for the month, before having an 11 day break while I’m on vacation from the end of July until August 13th. So far, for the first 4 days of the month I’m a little over planned (511 deficit vs. 500 planned). If I get in a little over or under that’s manageable, and I figure that once I get back from vacation I’ll need to do another 3 – 4 weeks of dieting to reach 10% on the calculator.

I’ve discovered that I have a very typical male body fat distribution and hold most of my body fat in the trunk, and especially the stomach area. This means that my arms and legs are getting very lean. I’m getting muscle separation in my shoulders, quads, hamstrings and calves, but I’m still holding a good bit of subcutaneous fat in my stomach/love handle region that I’ve started to notice thinning out as I’ve gotten below 20% body fat, and faster since I’ve reach 15%.

It’s going to be very interesting to see the change in the progress pictures that I take on July 31st and compare them to June 30th, to see how much of a difference the planned loss of about 2 kg (4.5 lbs) has on the stubborn areas on my body.

 

Advertisements

Weight loss update: May 2018

May was another month that was filled with struggling when it came to keeping my planned deficit. I did hit my goal weight of 77 kg (169 lbs) halfway into the month, and I had another disappointment. Despite my total weight loss being up to 75 kg (165 lbs), from my all time highest weight, I’m still holding on to some stubborn fat. Once I hit my 77 kg (169 lbs) goal, I took 2 weeks off dieting at maintenance calories while trying to determine what I wanted to do next.

I’m at a point in my weight loss now, that according to the Navy Body Fat Calculator I’m at 16% body fat, which could be up to 19% due to the margin of error in the calculator. That puts my lean mass between 64 kg (141 lb) and 67 kg (147 lbs), something that isn’t far off  the Boer and James equations for lean mass in untrained people, considering I have been training with weights for over a year.

This means that I’m at that awkward “skinny fat” area, where I had to decide whether I wanted to bulk (add muscle mass) or cut (lose fat). At this point in my journey, I would actually improve my body composition more by adding 1 kg (2.4 lbs) of muscle, than I would by losing the same amount of fat. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting to throw caution to the wind, stop eating at a deficit and start gaining muscle, but I decided to follow the advice to cut to 10 – 12% body fat, before starting my first lean bulk.

May Weight Loss Statistics

One of the funnier things that happened once I started eating maintenance calories after hitting my goal weight was the rapid regain of about 3 kg (6.6 lbs), that I think was a mixture of water, glycogen and stomach contents. I was using a pretty low carb approach for most of my weight loss, and with low carb diets you lose a lot of weight up-front in water and glycogen, that you regain once you start eating carbs again.

Another interesting thing that happened was that my lean mass increased throughout may from 65.5 kg (144.4 lbs) to 67 kg (147.7 lbs), I’m not sure if this is glycogen related or some strange hyper-compensation from training with weights and adding a lot to my lifts over a year, while being in a calorie deficit. You can see this in the difference between the “Start body fat %” and “End Body fat %”, I started May with 65.5 kg lean mass according to the calculator and started on the first of June with 67 kg.

I actually gained 400 grams (0.8 lbs) from the 1st of May to the 31st of May, but my body composition improved from 17,7% body fat at the beginning of the month to 16.1% at the start of June. As I’m writing this on June 12th, my body fat is still at about the same, but I’m on track (deficit wise) to reach 14.6% body fat by the end of June.

Future Planning

I did make some changes to my planning until my vacation from the 28th of July until the 13th of August. I’ve noticed that the straight deficits I’ve been running over the past couple of months have become more and more difficult to stick with, so I adopted a form of calorie cycling where my goal deficit is 500 a day, but vary it every day. Leg day is usually my hardest workout, so I have an off-day before and after it, on leg day I eat maintenance calories, on the off days, I aim for a 1000 calorie deficit. On my push day (chest, shoulder, triceps) I vary between a 250 and 500 calorie deficit, and on my pull day I vary between a 500 and 750 calorie deficit. This lands me at a theoretical deficit of 578 calories per day on average, but also makes sure that I never have to do more than 4 days of deficits before I get a day at maintenance.

This has been easier to stick with than doing the same deficit every single day. I also cycle carb intake somewhat, keeping it higher on training days and post-workout (200 – 350g of carbs) and lower on off days (under 100g). I decided to do this because I noticed how much my gym performance improved during the two weeks at maintenance during May where I had a higher carb intake. Carbs also have a muscle sparing effect, so hopefully the calorie cycling and increased carb intake will contribute to maintaining lean mass.

I’ve planned for the next 3 months, with a full 2 week diet break during my vacation. This means starting from the 28th of May, I will run the calorie cycling for 10 weeks, then take 2 weeks off, then finish off with another 3 weeks of dieting. Normally, I would have broken this up into 7 weeks of dieting, 2 weeks off, then 6 weeks to finish off, but I didn’t know that I would still be dieting when I planned my vacation.

I’m going to extend my current Push/Pull/Legs program using the 3×12 set/rep scheme with 90 second rest pauses to match the diet plan, I was supposed to start a strength cycle using lower reps at higher intensity (5×5, 2 minute rests) on the first of July, but instead I’m going to keep the 3×12 push/pull/legs until the 1st of August. Then I’ll switch to 6 x 6, at higher intensity until the 1st of September, when I’ll be ready to lean bulk.

3 Simple Things

This morning I was thinking about the different habits I have now compared to the habits I used to have. The idea of a diet is temporary, it’s something we do for a time to get a result. Want to lose 5 lbs? Go on a diet, lose the 5 lbs, then go back to your old habits and gain them back.

It was difficult for me to change my lifestyle, because a lot of my habits, or default behavior if you prefer that were things that made me gain weight. The three habits that I’m going to write about in this post, are 3 easy to do things that most people will be able to do and that will give you more control.

Eliminate Liquid Calories

I used to be a big consumer of soda, I started with a glass or two in the morning, plus maybe an energy drink. I had soda with every meal, and between meals. I pretty much never drank water. This was not only an expensive habit, but on a “good day” I would consume almost 600 calories, and on a bad day up to 1800 calories from just soda.

If I was being “healthy” I would drink apple juice or sweet tea instead, but those can have even more calories. Now, I still buy Coca Cola Zero, or Sprite Zero on occasion as a treat, but the majority of what I drink is pure water and coffee.

This little change reduced my caloric intake by enough calories to lose about 0.5 kg/1 lb every week.

Meal Planning

I started meal planning in about March 2016. Before I started planning out my meals, I would have to throw away a lot of food because I bought it and it went bad, but even worse I was at the mercy of “what looks good”. I would go to the grocery store 1 – 3 times a day, buy whatever I wanted at that moment and finish most of it.

This meant that when I was shopping for my breakfast, I would grab whatever smelled the best, usually baked goods and an energy drink. When I was shopping for my lunch I would grab whatever was fast and easy to save time on my lunch break. When I was shopping for my dinner, I would grab whatever took the least possible effort to prepare and tasted the best, so usually a frozen pizza.

Going to the grocery store every day also meant that I had 3 times a day where I could buy candy or chocolate to snack on.

Usually what I do now is set aside 1 hour on Thursday night (I shop Friday after work), and plan the 3 main meals every day until lunch on the coming Friday. I’ll enter them all into My Fitness Pal and adjust them so that I’m on track for my calorie and macro-nutrient targets.

I also make sure to buy some healthier, lower calorie snacks, like yogurt, fruit and carrots, to bridge the gap between the estimated calories in my fitness pal and the actual calories I should eat that day based on the fitbit adjustment.

The 10 Minute Walk

This is a new habit that I used to replace the 3 x 1 – 2 hour brisk walks I used to do for cardio, and that I stole from a bodybuilder named Stan Efferding. After every meal, I get up and do a brisk 10 – 20 minute walk. On most days I used to get 5 – 6000 steps in Fitbit, after using the 10 minute walk, I get around 12.000 and this burns enough calories that I don’t need to set aside the 1 – 2 hours 3 x a week to do cardio.

It’s low impact, easy, and something just about everyone can do regardless of fitness level. It also helps with digestion and insulin sensitivity.

Weight Loss Update: April 2018

April was an interesting month, weight loss wise. I changed my workout program from a full body program highly focused on compound lifts and low reps (5×5 and 3×3) to a push/pull/legs split with more isolation and using a 3×12 rep scheme. I’ve kept some of the heavy load exercises in the program, so I’ll still do heavy deadlifts, squats and bench press every two to three weeks but most of my work is done at around 60% of 1 rep max, instead of 80% or more of 1 rep max. This change in program was due to me getting bored with my full body program after a full 12 months of the same program, but also because I wanted to focus on building more mass over strength.

I also tinkered a bit with my macros. As I said in my March summary, I was on a 30/30/40 macro split (carbs/fat/protein) and tapering my deficit down from 500 to about 350. This was the plan until I experienced some pretty bad gastrointestinal issues about halfway through the month and decided to try changing it up. I’ve always felt the best on fairly low carb macro planning, usually between 20 and 50 grams per day. However, this time I decided to go all out and try zero-carb for the last 10 days on the month.

While I’ve done sub-20 grams of carbs before, also known as “ultra-low carb” I’d never done zero carb before. So, on the 20th of April I embarked on 10 days of nothing but water, coffee, red meat, eggs, butter and a little bit of cheese, with very good results. I’m going to write a dedicated post on it, but in short, my GI issues cleared up in about 3 days, I saw no change in energy levels, and the weight started dropping again. (more…)

Weight Loss Update: March 2018

At this months end of month weight in, I was actually up about 0,5 kg (1,1 lb) from the previous month. This happened because I decided to take a full diet break from March 22nd until April 1st due to Easter. At that point, I had been in a constant deficit since January 1st, for a total of 12 weeks of an average calorie deficit of 776 calories per day, losing a total of 7,3 kg (16 lbs). This was roughly equivalent to 8% of my body weight. In my mid-month summary for March, I talked about how I was beginning to feel ragged, and how maintaining my deficit was becoming more challenging. I had a couple of cheat days where I went over maintenance on the 16th and 17th of March with the expected weight gain from water and glycogen, but come Monday I was back to feeling very ragged and exhausted.

I found an article by Lyle Mcdonald at bodyrecomposition.com where he recommends taking a week or so off every once in a while depending on how much you have left to lose. Both to relax physiologically but also psychologically. I decided to time this with some vacation days I was taking for Easter to see what the effect would be. As expected, this did come with some weight gain from water, glycogen and maybe a bit of excess mass. My body weight went up by 2.5 kg (5 – 6 lbs), but my waist measurement stayed the same.

March Weight Loss Statistics

I had a goal of a 750 calorie deficit for March, which I was able to maintain pretty well for the first 22 days of the month, but in the last 9 days, I went over by enough to reduce it down to 467 calories per day. This didn’t change the monthly outcome by much though, my body fat percentage at my end weight for the month came in at 18,5% vs. my estimate of 17,5%. This isn’t as bad as I would expect, and my fitbit estimate based on calories in calories out, is estimating a real weight of 79,7 kg (175 lbs) as opposed to what the scale shows at 82,39 (181 lbs).

I know I tend to gain 2 – 2,5 kg (4,5 – 5,5 lbs) when my glocogen stores are full after a few days at maintenance or surplus, so I’ll see how it changes as my glocogen stores are slowly depleted. I’m actually very late with this update, because truth be told I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to stick with the planned deficits since hitting my original goal weight of 80 kg (176 lbs). This is just do to the fact that apart from a couple of problem areas, I’m getting to be pretty satisfied with how I look. I never intended to get this low in the first place, so being this low was a bit of a surprise for me.

My initial goal weight years ago was to just get down to about 90 kg (200 lbs) so having gone 15 kg (33 lbs) further was a surprise even for me. As I talked about in my February and mid-march updates, I’ve been finding it more difficult to stick with my deficits as of late, especially since I’ve increased my exercise amounts. I’m back to doing cardio 3 – 5 days a week, on top of changing my lifting program to include more volume and more days.

I’ve been on a 30/30/40 split of carbs, fat and protein for the past 2 weeks now and it’s helped with my energy levels. Towards the first of May, I’m going to be slowly tapering off the deficit, while maintaining my macros, to see if I can do a bit of a recomp, I’m at 18% body fat per the end of March measurement, and my goal is in the low teens, meaning I need to lose about 2 – 3 kg (5 – 7 lbs), while maintaining lean mass. One of the interesting things I noticed last month, is that in terms of body composition, adding or losing 1 kg (2 lbs) of lean mass has a bigger effect on my body composition than losing 1 – 2 kg (3 – 5 lbs) of weight. I still have 66 kgs of lean mass at the end of March, so I’ve been able to maintain lean mass the 3 first months of the year.

It’s a bit strange to write this halfway into a month, but my goal for April is to maintain my increased lifting- and cardio program, and slowly taper down the deficit to 250 – 350 for April, and to maintain my current weight in the range between 80 kg (170 lbs) and 83 kg (182 lbs)

Crash Diets

I like the moniker that these diets get, because not only do they tend to crash your weight into the ground, you usually crash and burn when you go on them too. The sales arguments are tempting, “Lose 30 lbs in 30 days”, “Lose 10 lbs in 10 days”, and appeals our urge to fix problems fast. The truth about them is that they are inherently unsustainable and all work off the same principles. As regular readers will know, I track every morsel of food that goes in my mouth, my daily calorie expenditure and my weight every single day. I also do refeeds once in a while, and I’m familiar with the mechanisms that make you drop “5 lbs in 5 days” or the like.

The picture on the left is an excerpt from my January log, right after I came off a 2 week full diet break for Christmas. As you can see, the first of January I weighed in at 89,10 kg (196 lbs), and the morning on the 8th of January I weighed in at 86 kg (189 lbs), this was a loss of 3,1 kg (7 lbs) in 7 days. If I calculate this into calories, it would require a deficit of 24500 calories.

The reality of my 7 lbs in 7 days is simple. Prior to my diet break I weighed in at 84 kg (185 lbs) in a glycogen depleted state, with very little stomach contents, and dehydrated. During Christmas, much like most people do, I ate and drank a large amount of food, filling up my glycogen stores to the max (adding 400 – 600 g of sugar + 1500 – 2000 grams of water). On New Years eve, I had a large turkey dinner with a lot of sodium, a lot of beer, desserts and various other things, that made sure my body was stuffed with glycogen, my stomach contents were full, I was retaining water (from the sodium and alcohol). This pushed my weight up to a peak of 89 kg, when realistically my weight was closer to 87 kg (my 3 day average was 87,5 and 6 day average 86,6).

I didn’t actually eat a calorie surplus of almost 40.000 calories for those 14 days. Meaning an intake of 2500 (my average daily energy expenditure) +2800 per day, making my total calorie intake for 2 weeks an average of 5300 calories per day. I ate a surplus of about 14000 calories, meaning 1000 per day for those 2 weeks. The rest was water and stomach contents. So my massive 5 kg weight gain was 2 kilo (5 lbs) of actual weight, and the rest was just water and stomach contents.

This week was the same case. I decided to have a cheat meal or two during the weekend, where I consumed drastically more calories than I normally do, to the tune of eating 5000 calories on Friday and 3000 calories on Saturday. The first column here is my calories consumed, the second column is my weight. As you can see, i went from 4 days weighing in at a stable 80,2 kg (176,8 lbs) to 83 kg (183 lb) over night.

I do admit that Friday and Saturday had some binge-eating aspects to them. More specifically, I wasn’t planning on eating that full 450g (1 lb) of peanuts and I was planning on a couple of beers, not 8, and the fact that my mother had made cheesecake was completely unplanned. However, I made sure I tracked everything I ate during my cheat, even in an inebriated state. My Fitbit was also in it’s normal position around my left arm, as I used it to raise pint after pint.

This means I have very good data on the entire cheat including calories burned. The first column here are my calories burned from my FITBIT, the second my intake according to My Fitness Pal. Over the course of the weekend, I ate a surplus of 2266 calories on Friday, which was my only calorie surplus that weekend. This would mean a maximum weight gain if it’s all fat of 0,29 kg (0,64 lbs), not a big deal. The weight gain on the other hand, was 2.8 kg (6,17 lbs)

This means that 2,51 kg (5,5 lbs) are unexplained by the food, but they are easily explained by glycogen and carbohydrate. Since my normal diet is lower than 50g of carbs every day, my muscles and liver are completely out of sugar. An adult weighing 70 kg (154 lbs) can store, 100 – 120 grams of glycogen in their liver and roughly 400 grams in their muscles.  This is a total of about 500 grams. Each gram is bound to 3 – 4 grams of water. The total weight of this is 1500 grams to 2000 grams of water plus 500 grams of glycogen, for a total of 2 – 2,5 kg (4,4 – 5,5 lbs) weight gain.

A crash diet works in the same way that my rapid weight loss does. When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, and your carbohydrate intake, your body depletes your glycogen stores and releases the water causing a rapid weight loss. When you start eating normally again, your glycogen stores refill and the water comes back. From this perspective on the 13th, I was at my glycogen depleted weight, the average of the 17th and 18th is my real weight.

Mid-Month Observations

I thought I’d do a quick update for mid-March since I haven’t been posting much.

I’m officially halfway to the end of the final stretch towards my weight-loss goal. I originally planned to run an aggressive calorie deficit for January, February and March, with the awareness that I may have to keep it going until the end of May in the worst case scenario. As of today, I’m down 8,9 kg (19,6 lbs) from my weigh-in on the first of January, and I’ve reached a stable weight of 80,2 kg (177 lbs). If I maintain the same average deficit for the rest of the month (872 calories per day on average), I will reach 78,34 kg (172 lbs) by the end of the month, just 3 lbs shy of my “optimistic goal” of 169 lbs. If I feel lean enough at that point I may go into a maintenance period, if not, I’ll continue dropping weight in April.

I do notice that I’m feeling hungry a lot more, and my focus is almost constantly on food. I’ve been playing with the idea of having a cheat meal or a refeed in the near future to see if that will help make it easier to manage. I’m also considering dropping my deficit down a bit in April, accepting that the last part of this journey will take an extra month or so, to make it a bit more tolerable. I’m not starving by any means, and I was losing weight at much higher rates last year, but I also had a lot more weight to lose at that point. My energy levels are suffering and I’m feeling cold much more than I’m used to, but the exceptionally cold winter we’re having where I live is hardly helping.

It’s just a matter of sticking to it. One of the funnier things nobody tells you about losing a lot of weight, is that your view of yourself doesn’t keep up with the weight-loss. I’m the leanest, strongest and least fat I’ve been in my adult life, and for the first time in 2 decades I have a normal BMI (23.9 today), yet I still feel very much like a fat dude. All the objective data I gather every month helps, so does taking progress pictures, but I expect that it’ll take time for my mind to adjust.

I had a fun experience the other day when I caught my reflection in a storefront and thought “That guy is pretty thin” until I realized that it was my own reflection.