Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I've been working with an individual who is in the middle of his weight loss journey. He has managed to lose about 40 pounds but still has at least that much to go and has hit a plateau. I asked him if he was logging everything that crossed his lips, explaining that most often eating plans don't work because the user is doing something wrong. He assured me that he was. So we bumped up his calories. Still no progress.
Than last week he called and said that he was looking at the back of his jar of olive oil and was stunned to see that it had 120 calories per Tablespoon. Turns out he had not been logging the points from his oils and condiments, thinking there were such small amounts that it wouldn't make any difference in his weight loss. I explained that these calories can add up very quickly and indeed stall well-intended weight loss efforts.
He said something that I was, quite frankly, relieved to hear. And that was; "I think that when I had more weight to lose I could get away with making mistakes like this, but now that I've lost some weight I have to be more diligent."
EVERYONE who is trying to lose weight should account for everything that crosses their lips, but it's especially important for people who have been on the weight loss journey a while. And when you get down very close to goal (within about 10 pounds or so) it is particularly important to be fastidious about logging virtually everything you eat and watch your macronutrient ratio. (I like 40% of calories from each carbs and protein and 20% from fats, as I blogged about in my "Moving Past a Weight Loss Plateau" blog a couple of months ago.)
Also, little things like the sugars in ketchup, eating bites off of your kids plates, and eating starchy snacks before bed (this can do a real number on your insulin levels, causing you to store fat instead of burning it while you sleep) can make the difference between losing weight or not.
So if the scale isn't moving-
1- Go back to the basics and re-read the ground rules of the program you are on.
2- Recommit to the plan in it's purest, un-you-if-ied form.
3- Measure everything- Portions tend to grow with time when you are eyeballing them.
4- Drink plenty of water each day. (I'm talking a gallon or more- no kidding!)
5- Most importantly, investigate the calories of EVERYTHING you eat, and log them.
Most times I am less likely to eat a handful of BBQ chips if I know I have to write it down and account for the calories and macronutrients.
It's the little things, I've found, that can make or break weight-loss success.
Monday, April 11, 2011
A common and often disappointing issue that competitors who have just been through a cutting diet experience is gaining most, if not all, of the weight that they lost through 12-16 weeks of grueling training and restrictive eating back within a few days after their show. I did a cutting diet of my own recently and managed to keep all but 3 pounds of the weight I lost off. Want to know my secret? Here it is:
Ease back into normal eating!
First of all, pay attention to when you are full. Most competitors have been eating such little bits of food leading up to the competition, with portions getting smaller and smaller as they get closer to the finish date, that their appetites have shrunk considerably. If you eat past when you are comfortably full because suddenly you have access to all the food your little heart desires, you are setting yourself up for bloat and the dreaded "carb spillage". If you don't do anything else in this blog, do this!
If you dehydrated (I wouldn't recommend it: it's a practice that is becoming less and less used, but some still do), don't slam back a gallon of water as soon as you are done with your show or photo shoot or whatever it was you were leaning-in for. After the shoot/photos, just drink to satisfy thirst. No pushing water like you did pre-contest. The next day, go up to 8 cups or so. The day after that, 12. You don't want to stay dehydrated, but I've found that if I flood my body with water after dehydrating it seems to hang on to every single drop for fear it won't see water again for a while. So give it time to readjust to being hydrated.
One aside- please don't think the instructions here will have you maintaining your dehydrated weight. I'd suspect you'll be able to stay very close to where you were before you dehydrated, but to stay at your dehydrated weight right after a show is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy.
If you sodium depleted (almost everyone does), ease back into sodium, as well. This is not the time to have six pieces of pizza and movie theatre popcorn! The day before and morning of my shoot I eliminated all salt possible in my foods. After the shoot we went out to Jimmy Johns for a sandwich. I got a six-inch Baja, and I am certain the lunch meat and condiments had plenty of sodium. But the rest of the day I took it easy on sodium . I didn't avoid it, but I didn't salt my foods and tried to make choices that were relatively low in salt.
Same goes for carbs. Yeah, I know you want to grab the donuts and whatever else crap they have backstage after the shoot, but if you give your carb depleted body a ton of 'em at once it's gonna hang on to those suckers for dear life, PLUS the accompanying water (3g for every g of carbs) that comes along with it. The next morning you're going to feel like you are 4 months pregnant! Like I said, I had my Jimmy Johns sandwich, but then the rest of the day I pretty much avoided carbs, except for the ones in produce. So pick one thing that will feel special to eat higher in carbs, but then go back to fairly low carbs for the rest of the day. The next day, ease carbs into two meals, then next three, etc.
Also, don't introduce a whole bunch of foods that your body has not been used to eating all at once. The sandwich had white bread, salty processed turkey meat, mayonnaise (yeah, I got the mayo!), pickles, and sprouts. Oh, and I split a package of BBQ Chips with my daughter. My body hadn't experienced foods like this in weeks. I figured that was enough "new" for one day. The rest of the day I didn't eat the exact same foods at the same times of the day I had through the cutting diet, but I DID eat pretty much the same TYPES of foods. (Snack was peanuts and dinner was an omelet with a side of fruit.)
I know it's hard to exercise restraint when you have felt deprived (and are just plain old hungry) after weeks of limited, repetitive, low carb, and dull food choices. But likely there is nothing you are going to eat today that won't be there tomorrow. So if you want to try and keep yourself fairly lean, pick one special meal to have that day, and keep it close to the vest the rest of the day.
And if you did pig out, take heart: I read somewhere that if you go back high carb/salt eating after a big gain following leaning in it takes the body about 2-3 weeks, but you CAN get most of the water weight back off. Of course, if you got extremely lean a little weight gain afterwards is to be expected and healthy, but you don't have to stay swelled up like a dead armadillo in the Alabama heat.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
I promised another Sparker that I would post about how I exercised during the 12-week Transformation Challenge with my gym. I feel an obligation, however, to point out that my changes came mainly from how I ate, not how I worked out. As I have said a ba-zillion times before, you can put on all the beautiful muscle in the world, but if it is covered by fat, no one is going to see it. AND, I might add, if you aren't eating right you aren't going to put on muscle that is as plentiful OR as beautiful.
Before I started the Challenge I was doing three sets of 15 reps per body part, for the most part. To elicit maximum growth and change during the 12 weeks I knew changing things up was going to be key.
Before lifting I always did/do 5-10 minutes of moderate paced cardio to warm up my muscles. Often I follow these few minutes of cardio with light stretching to further warm and lube everything up.
I followed every lifting session with thorough stretching, often my 15-minute stretch routine.
The first four weeks:
- The first set for a body part was about 12-15 reps with a moderate weight, just to make sure blood was pumping to the area. Then is was time to get down to business.....
- Three exercises per body part, three sets of 8-10 per exercise, aiming to max out by the last rep of the last two sets. This is a good range for building muscle, and I was still in building phase.
----------The exception to this was light leg day, where all sets were 15 reps. I felt two heavy days was risking injury. This doesn't mean it was easy, though. After the first set I still tried to make the weights heavy enough that I maxed at 15 reps. "Light" day is a harder workout than "heavy" day, and "light" day leaves me sorer after.
PLEASE NOTE!!!!!!: I do NOT recommend that beginners start out with trying to max out their weights! You have to condition yourself into this kind of intensity.
- My split was something ike this:
Mon- Light Thighs (2 exercises multi-joint, 3 ham/glute specific, 2 quad specific, 1 inner-thigh for a physical therapy reason), Cardio
Tues- Chest (5 exercises- needed to build)), Tri's (2 exercises- already built), Abs (3 exercises)
Weds- Back (3 exercises), Bi's (3 exercises), Calves (2 exercises- they already got hit pretty good with legs), Cardio
Thurs- Abs (5 exercises- mainly weighted), Cardio
Friday- Heavy Legs (2-3 multi-joint, 2-3 each quads and hams, 1 inner thigh), Delts (4-5 exercises- can always use wider shoulders!) Didn't do cardio this day-Longer lifting day and there was nothing left in me after heavy legs!
- Short rests between sets- Just long enough to feel the muscle normalize somewhat, then on to the next set.
- For cardio I did either 25 minutes of HIIT cardio (20 minutes HIIT with a 5-minute cool down), or 40 minutes of steady-state.
- I went to my favorite workout style, which is modified pyramids, doing reps of 12-8-4-12, aiming to max out on all but the first set, then immediately (no rest) switch to another exercise for the same body part and crank out 12-more reps, maxed. If I chose my weight wrong and couldn't get 12 out, or could get more reps out, I rested a few seconds, adjusted the weights, and did another set of 12.
-I kept the same split, for the most part, but added an abs session at home on Saturdays, usually Kari Anderson's "Curl" DVD.
-During this time my (former) nutritionist had me doing tons of cardio (I believe I was up to about 10 hours a week) on very low carbs. Because of this, I was compromised muscularly with so little glycogen in my cells and pulled a muscle in my scapula that put me out of commission for a week at week 7. That is why I only did this split for 3 weeks instead of the intended 4. When I was ready to go back to the gym I came in with phase 3, which was......
Weeks 8-12. It was time to go into fat burning mode:
- I started getting 1 hour of cardio first thing in the morning at home on an empty stomach.
- Mondays was a whole-body boot camp class at my gym. Multiple sets with lighter weight.
- Rest of the week I did sets of 20-25, with minimal rest in-between. 2 sets per exercise, I started with 3, but I felt the volume was going to become too much on my joints after my injury, so dropped it to 3 sets. Plus it was taking me too danged long to get out of the gym.
- Minimal rest (20-25 seconds) between sets.
- Roughly the same split Tues-Sat and number of exercises per body part I'd been doing the weeks prior. Leg day was also 20-25 reps, but I added in more glute-specific exercises.
- In addition to 6x/week early AM cardio, I kept up the hour of Wednesday evening cardio and added in 1/2 hour cardio on Tuesday nights while my daughter was at dance. I would have got more cardio in yet during these last weeks, but my shoulder was still not feeling 100% and I didn't want to further injure myself, so I took it a little easier than I would normally at the end of a cut.
My final weigh-in with the gym was Sunday morning at the end of week 12. By my scale I showed an 18 1/2 pound loss, by theirs just over 16. BUT I had gained about 8 pounds in water retention right before the initial weigh-in, so really it was about a 10 pound loss overall. Which isn't bad for 12 weeks. Again, if I'd of been doing it on my own the whole time instead of with help from a nutritionist who's instructions and meal plan actually set me back the first 7 weeks, I believe I could have been down further yet.
But it is what it is. That fact is that I gave it my best effort all along and did the best I could with what was dealt me.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Okay, here it is..... The way I ate to get my size to come down 9 pounds in 5 weeks. (Remember, the first 7 weeks no progress was made with help of a professional, so I "wung it" on my own after that.)
After a good, hard, panicked cry at being solo and a deadline to reach I started reading a lot on cutting diets. It was all pretty confusing and much of it was contradictory. Finally I had enough of the madness and just got out my book The Leanness Lifestyle by David Greenwalt. It's my fitness and nutrition bible! I turned to the section on the last few weeks before a competition and implemented his macro-nutrient suggestions along with a few things I'd learned about leaning in from my own experiences.
I will say this wasn't really a "cutting diet". It was more a weight-loss diet with moderatly low carbs.
Here's what I did:
1. I figured I wanted to eat about 1600 calories a day, This was what I thought would be enough to propel me through my workouts and still leave me at a level where I could lose fat. My BMR is about 1450, so this kept me well away from going into starvation mode, which my body had been on for the past 7 weeks.
2. I chose 150g of carbs because I had learned from my own experience AND from the studies of a good friend who is taking nutritional classes that below about 130 was putting one's body into ketosis. Since I had been below 130 for the entire 7 weeks prior (I had been misinformed by another source that ketosis didn't occur until you were down in the 20's for carbs- me thinks my source was off by about 100grams. Had I realized I was putting myself into ketosis I would never have agreed to be on low carbs for that long), I felt my internal organs needed a break and brought my carbs to 150. This would be 600 calories a day from carbs. (1g carbs=4 cals)
And for the record, I was having typical ketosis symptoms, the biggest of which was very blurry vision. This was so unusual for me that I remarked to my friend, who then had a little red light go off in her head when she read the level for ketosis along with symptoms in her textbook. I'm so glad this happened, or else I'd of kept myself on too-low carbs unwittingly.
2. I made 20% of my calories from fat (320 calories, or about 35g/day. 1g fat=9 calories.)
3. I took the remaining amount of calories (680) and divided them by four to determine my protein. (1g pro=4 cals) This came out to 170g protein, which is pretty much- on track, because cutting diets are typically higher in protein than other nutrients to preserve muscle and promote fat loss.
4. I made all of my foods clean (nothing processed) choices. Everything was as close to the way mother nature made it as possible, except for protein powders.
5. I was already off of dairy, so I kept that out of my diet for the most part. Although David says you don't have to be scared of dairy and doesn't recommend cutting it way back until the last week or so before final pics or competition.
6. I was already off of wheat products, so I kept it that way, also, although David also says that same thing about wheat that he does dairy. He says the idea of wheat increasing estrogens is false, but I didn't see any point in adding something back I was already accustomed to doing without.
7. I continued to drink, at minimum, 1 1/2 gallons (yes, that's 24 cups) of water a day. And yes, I pee a lot. Most people on a cutting diet drink anywhere from a gallon to two gallons a day.
8. I tapered my carbs down during the day. Breakfast was carb heavy- 3/4 C of dry oatmeal, cooked (that's a huuuuuuuge bowl of oatmeal, BTW), with a tablespoon of peanut butter in it, a piece of fruit, and a whole egg with 3/4 C egg whites. But trust me, I was so hungry that I was able to eat it (you'll see why when you got to what I had for dinner). This was my biggest meal of the day, and my body appreciated it after the carb depletion it had gone through for the 7 weeks prior. After my workout I had 1/2 C of natural unsweetened applesauce with a scoop of protein powder in it and two rice cakes. Lunch was typically 4 ounces chicken breast with quinoa, brown rice, beans, and queso fresco. Afternoon snack was tuna with egg white on a rice cake OR protein powder and a rice cake. Dinner was 5 ounces lean meat or fish with 1 C of steamed non-starchy veggies, a teaspoon of olive oil, and a tiny bit of grated Parmesan. And before bed I have 1 1/2 scoops casein powder. This was pretty much the food I ate, day in and day out, for four weeks. Why? I knew the macronurtients worked for me.
9. For the last week I followed David's suggestions to drop a bit more fat and reduced my calories to about 1450. I knew this was cutting it close to my BMR and I couldn't get away with it for long, but it was crunch time. Of this, I ate about 60% of calories from protein, 30% from carbs, and lowered my fats to about 10% of calories. This was the hardest part to transition, because it meant cutting out the peanut butter, egg yolk, queso with lunch, and oil. Breakfast wasn't as big because oatmeal went down to 1/2 C before cooking, and I lost the piece of fruit. No more rice cakes after workout. Lunch carbs amounts reduced slightly. Dinner couldn't change much more than it already was, except I no longer got the olive oil. I got an extra ounce of meat for both lunch and dinner. Casein powder never did change.
10. The last week I tried to get 2 gallons of water a day, except for the very last day before my final weigh-in, where I only had a single gallon, which was pretty much done by dinner. On the last day I just lightly salted my food. I didn't want to create unnecessary bloat, but I wouldn't say my sodium level was what anyone would call low that day.
The honest truth is that had I dehydrated and carb depleted the day before weigh in I probably could have come in at least 2 pounds lighter. But I was so over extreme measures after all I had been through that I just couldn't bear to do that to my body. The next morning I was thrilled to get on the scale and see a final number of 148.2.
Not bad for a gal who did it on her own, I'd say!
These are changes you can implement any/all of without destroying your health, although I would suggest that unless you are actually on a "cutting" diet or have an intolerance to dairy or wheat that you feel free to implement these foods into your macro nutrients.
I hope this benefits someone!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Today is the day my final pics and measurements in the 12-week challenge with my gym. While it will be a long time before I hear the results of the contest, I wanted to share my own progress pics with my Spark Friends.
When I did a 12-week cutting diet a year ago with a nutritionist, my final pictures were taken dehydrated, and sodium depleted. I felt weak and frail and like a good wind would knock me over. I am none of those in these final pictures. Yesterday I drank well over a gallon of water, got plenty of carbs (and fat and protein), and refused to compromise my health in any way for the end result.
I attempted to work the the nutritionist for the first 7 weeks of this challenge and it simply was not working- I was gaining both scale weight and size. So we parted ways and I managed the last 5 weeks on my own. So virtually all of the weight loss I showed was actually accomplished in 5 weeks, not 12. And I am really proud of what I managed to accomplish by myself!
My weight at the end of the cutting diet last year was 147.8. My weight this morning was 148.2. I have been lifting very heavy for the past year and feel I can safely make a modest assumption that I gained 4 pounds of muscle (In all reality it was probably twice that). At any rate, with four pounds extra muscle on me, it doesn't take a mathematician to be able to deduce that I am leaner this go-round than I was last. Last time I was 10.89% body fat by 7-site calliper test, and doing some quick math that would put me at about 8% body fat right now. This doesn't surprise me, since I came out at 9.93 by 7-site caliper not long ago. Of course, caliper tests can be off by as much as 3%, I think it is, so these numbers are simply a gauge, not a be-all end-all.
I took measurements this morning. My hips are down to about 39 3/4 inches, which is low for me, and my waist was 25 1/4 inches held normally, but I can suck it down to 24, which is both fascinating and weird at the same time! Especially on someone who is 5'9".
In one week I get professional photos taken with Doug Jantz. I won't be dehydrating or carb depleting for those, either. I never want to do that to my body again!
March 27 Front:
March 27 Right:
March 27 Rear:
March 27 Left:
Start Close up:
March 27 Close-up Front (no hiding in this one!):
March 27 from a little farther away:
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