Journal Entry 318 – Just Keep Getting Stronger / Diet Philosophy Update / This is a Long One

Recently, I have been getting stronger on one of the most minimalist lifting routines known to mankind. After looking at my workout logs today, I have increased my bench press from 185lbs for around 6-8 reps to 225lbs for 6-8 reps. This increase of 40lbs has been done over the course of around 2 months. When people ask me how I am getting so much stronger, I tell them my routine and they act very surprised when they hear it. “Wait, you’re benching 3 times a week?” “You’re lifting every day?” “That’s all the volume, you’re doing?” “Where is legs?” Name a comment and I have heard it. At this point in my life, I do not care about looking like a bodybuilder and honestly except for a few points in my life never really wanted to. I like to look muscular don’t get me wrong, but looking muscular and strong and looking like a bodybuilder are two different things.

Bodybuilding is incredibly boring and monotonous. I just have no interest in it anymore, but I still love lifting and increasing my strength. It’s very rewarding to go into the gym and continually get stronger. Also, if you don’t go to the gym at all, please don’t ask me why I don’t train legs. I have my reasons. But if you don’t exercise or lift at all, then you don’t have a leg day either. So you really have no room to talk or criticise what I am doing.

Anyway, I love the results I have been getting recently. Simplifying the complex is always something I take great joy in. The only thing I have not been getting stronger on is chin-ups. So, just like the bench press, I’m going to start doing them every day. Here is my routine at the moment:

  • Day 1
    • Barbell Bench press 3 sets of 6-8 reps (Current 225lbs)
    • Chinups 3 sets of max reps
    • Cable Crunches (Heavy) 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Day 2
    • Dumbbell Incline Bench 30 deg 3 sets of 6-8 reps (Current 90lbs DBs each)
    • Chinups 3 sets of max reps
    • Cable Crunches 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Day 3  (Or off if I feel like I need a break – usually don’t take an off day)
    • Dips or Pushups 3 sets of max reps
    • Chins 3 sets of max reps
    • Cable Crunches 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Repeat
  • Weekend Routine
    • Pushups 5 sets of max reps
    • Chinups 5 sets of max reps
    • Prisoner Squats 5 sets of 25 reps (See I do train legs)
  • Weekend Alternative (If I feel like I need to take the day off)
    • Cardio for 30 minutes (usually once a week)
    • OR
    • Yardwork

Pretty simple. The daily volume is low for sure. But the weekly volume actually adds up. Day 3 acts almost as a rest day for me from heavy lifting. I think the biggest reason why this works though is the increased frequency and lower volume per day. I’m never overly sore with this routine and soreness is highly overrated. If you want to get good at something, would you do it every day or only once or twice a week? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Diet Update

Just like lifting, I have tried a lot of different diet schemes over the years. This blog is proof of that. I have found certain things that seem to work for me no matter what. My diet is probably more organized than most, but far from perfect. I had a consult with Menno Henselmans not too long ago and he subtly insulted my diet at the time. It kind of p*ssed me off, because I thought it was pretty good, but apparently not up to his standards. At this point in time, I could care less what an expert thinks of my diet. If you study nutrition long enough, you will notice that there are plenty of nutrition experts that are saying polar opposite things in terms of what they think is healthy and optimal. I’m smart enough in this area to form my own opinions, just like I did with my lifting routine. Once I finally stopped listening to other people or “experts” and designed my own routine based on my goals, I actually started to get results.

My current diet is as follows most of the time:

  • Go to work
  • 2-3 12oz Coffee’s with Cream and Splenda
  • Protein Shake – 25 grams of protein
  • Gym – 2 Hardboiled Eggs with pink salt before lifting
  • Protein Shake – 25 grams of protein
  • Get off work
  • Dinner – 3/4 pound of meat (usually 93/7) and 2 servings of vegetables with cheese and some kind of sauce
  • Dessert – Protein Pudding or Protein Shake with Berries

There are a few points I want to bring up here.

  • Notice the carbs are very low. You do NOT need carbs to grow muscle or strength. It is a huge myth. You want a workout secret weapon: SODIUM. Sodium and carbs have VERY similar functions in the body. The reason many people complain of lifting on low carb diets is because sodium gets flushed out with the lower insulin levels. The solution would be to eat a lot more salt. This way you can maintain and get stronger on your lifts and get cut at the same time.
  • The calories in this diet are not high. It provides me with enough protein and fat, but very little carbs. This is because during the week I want to use some of my body fat as fuel source. If you eat too much this is impossible. Excess carbs also obscure definition and make me feel and look bloated.
  • The above is what I consider a Control Day. This day is meant to be consistent and lower calorie in order to keep losing fat. I like to maintain lower body fat, so these days are essential. I have about 3-4 of these lower calorie days each week.
  • Here are some tips that I have always found incredibly useful through my years of dieting:
    • Drink caffeine throughout the day. It increases drive, focus, boosts your metabolic rate and accelerates fat burning. It is also one hell of a pre-workout. (Note – I’m referring to coffee. Not the BS supplements that GNC sells.)
    • Undereat during the day. Undereating shuttles more fuel to your brain and greatly assists you with a cognitively demanding job. Too much food can not only leave you feeling bloated, but mess up your mental focus.
    • Eat a big meal at night. You can’t have a fast without the feast. The feast will replenish you for the day to come and will help you sleep better. Try sleeping on an empty stomach and see how well that works out for you. (Not good.)
    • Eat a higher protein diet. Enough said.
    • Animal foods are  > (greater than)  plant foods. Due to the way humans digest food, animal based foods can result in much better assimilation of nutrients and relieve digestive issues fairly quickly versus if you eat too many plants/grains/carbs. Not that you should be a carnivore, but the diet can be a godsend for some people.
    • Save carbs for dinner. This plays into the factors I talked about above, but I feel like most people should eat under 150g of carbs a day. If you eat zero carbs during the day, you can still smash some Mellow Mushrooom Pizza at night and be under your 150g mark.
    • Have at least 3 Control days in your week. I explained these above, but the benefits of these are immense. By going low calorie during your week, especially 3 times a week, your diet will automatically include healthier foods and you really can start to make a dent into your fat stores on a weekly basis, without sacrificing too much else the rest of the week.
    • Too much fiber is bad. Besides from the obvious reason of being overly bloated and gassy, too much fiber can bind to important nutrients and render them useless. Some is good more is not better. Yes, this includes my beloved Quest Bars, which I have cut down to once a week.
    • Never take a food you love out of your diet. There is a time and a place for everything. Anytime a person goes on a diet, where they completely exclude something, 99% of the time, they are a ticking time bomb until they give into that craving. If I tell you that you can’t eat pizza ever again, you will dream about pizza until the day you finally eat it again. This again plays into the beauty of Control Days and also undereating during the day. You still have 4 days a week where you can pretty much eat whatever at dinner and since you underate during the day, you have a pretty large amount of food and calories you can play around with. That is winning in my book.
    • I personally think alcohol once or twice a week is great for a human when consumed responsibly. Alcohol directly influences GABA in the brain and can “take the edge off” and help you relax. After a hard week of working this can be a godsend for people. Alcohol is obviously a social drink, so best consumed with friends, which can relax you ever more.

This post was way longer than I was expecting, but I had a lot I wanted to say!

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Journal Entry 296 – Too Much Fiber

So I’ve been hitting a calorie deficit for about 2-3 weeks without really cheating in awhile. I’d have a day where I would eat more, but not really a cheat day. Yesterday I decided to have a large cheat meal of whatever I wanted. I decided on Cheese Fries from Kickback Jacks along with a Chicken Ceasar Salad and some wings. I woke up this morning looking much fuller than I have in awhile. I actually look like I lift again! It’s amazing what flat looking muscles can do to your physique and mind when cutting. Not fun.

I was really pumped to get back into a higher protein / lower carb way of eating, but realized I was overdoing it on high fiber / low carb food items. This really can wreck your digestion and make you bloated. I always love how Nutritionists latch on to certain ideas like “Fiber is the best thing you can eat” or “It’s almost impossible to get too much fiber, because it’s good for your gut bacteria.” Um yeah, actually it’s extremely easy to get too much fiber and getting too much can literally wreck you. When you add in high fiber tortillas/bread on top of fruits and vegetables and high fiber protein bars (almost all of them in today’s world), then you have just very easily hit well over 50-60 grams. I think I even hit 80 grams one day. I swear it felt like it took me 3 days to clear my bowels and just to feel like I didn’t have a full stomach all the time. After it finally was clear, I decided to go on a very low fiber diet and I felt very good and I looked even better. My stomach was consistently flat all day. I used to wake up with a flat stomach and go to bed looking like buddah. With low fiber, it’s always flat. It’s easy to overlook factors in your diet that you associate with being healthy when in reality they can be a problem. High fiber leads to almost constant distension and a not very aesthetic appearance.

Some foods I have found to be very beneficial to this way of eating AKA non-bloat:

  • Wings
    • I’ve really been into wings recently. A little bit higher fat, but I always save some room for fattier items in my diet.
  • Peanut Butter
    • Doesn’t bloat me at all.
  • Meat
    • Mainly eating Tyson chicken strips, but digests well.
  • Egg Whites
    • Can make you a little gassy, but not overly bloated.
  • Berries
    • Small handful. Berries don’t bloat me like other fruits.
  • Green Vegetables
    • Well cooked and only small amounts at once.

 

Journal Entry 287 – My Birthday & FST-7

I missed my post last week due to my 27th birthday. Sarah took the day off and we hung out and ate a lot of food. I ended up taking a rest day from the gym and we went to Whole Foods for lunch. We split a plate of food from their food bar, which cost about $15 a plate. Good thing we shared. I tried mochi for the first time, which apparently is Japanese ice cream and it did not disappoint. It tasted like a doughnut hole with ice cream in it. After Whole Foods, we went to Vitamin Shoppe and got some Birthday Cake Quest Bars and a Pumpkin Pie Halo Top. Both were as good as they sound. My parents came over after work (this was last Tuesday) and we all drove to Stellas in Richmond. It’s a very authentic Greek place that is pricey, but worth the money. I was so stuffed at the end of the meal, all I wanted to do was lay down ;). We had hummus, tzataki, pita bread, homemade bread, tiropita (one of the best foods ever made), a greek platter, baklava and coffee to end the meal. I ate so much, I think I’m still working off that fat gain haha.

I recently decided on a more organized workout routine. I stumbled upon FST -7 after watching some random documentary on Netflix. It’s a very high volume “Bro Split” that apparently many bodybuilders use to increase their size. The main focus is staying in the hypertrophy range with a mix of compound and isolation movements. The goal is to stretch the fascia tissue of the muscle, which can lead to more growth. So far I have done the Chest and Back workouts and I have been very sore afterward. I took about 4-5 days off before my first serious lifting workout because I wanted to change what I was doing in the gym. Since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I wanted to be fresh when I finally figured it out. These workouts are actually fast enough to complete on my break. This is mainly because your only working one major muscle a day. This is far from a strength program, so I’m interested to see what happens to my current 210lb bench if I lay off of it for awhile. I also plan to do about 30-40 minutes of cardio on my 3 rest days. I haven’t done a bro split in a while, but I think I’m really going to enjoy it as I have in the past. May not be “optimal” but doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, I have stated in my previous article The Bro Split.

Sample Workout:

Chest

  • BB bench press 3×8-12 (normal rest)
  • Machine Flys 3×8-12
  • Incline DB Press 3×8-12
  • Cable Flys 7×12 reps (30 seconds rest)

Current Schedule:

  • Sun – Cardio
  • Mon – Shoulders / Abs
  • Tues- Cardio
  • Wed – Arms
  • Thurs- Cardio
  • Fri – Chest
  • Sat – Back/Traps

My diet has been pretty high protein and low carb following my birthday. My energy has not been fantastic on it, but I was mainly trying to cut some of the bloat, which is basically gone. I plan to move back to a balanced diet to get through these workouts. Trust me if you don’t eat enough going to into these workouts, your intensity will die out somewhere between the end of the second and the beginning of the third exercise. The volume is way higher than I’m used too and the food is needed to not only get through the workout but to recover. It’s a shame I didn’t do one of these workouts on my birthday ;).

Other Life Stuff:

The Hokies really don’t look great right now. We won on Saturday, but it was not very impressive. Our offense looks very stagnant and predictable. I also have a coworker who is an extreme UVA fan, so I really want the Hokies to dominate them when they play on Friday.

The Giants finally won! It wasn’t a very high scoring game, but the game was actually more entertaining than the score would lead you to believe. Eli led the team to a win in OT. I really hate McAdoo, but he seemed to show a lot of emotion in this one and I’m sure it felt good for him to beat a good team.

I start my Taltz injections today. I really can’t wait. After reading some reviews, the medicine seems to work pretty quickly for the vast majority of people. The only time it doesn’t seem to work is if they have a long history of using other injection type of drugs. It would be really nice to have clear skin again and get rid of this nasty problem.

 

Journal Entry 286

Been sticking with the upper body workout every day.  I like it so far and I actually gained 4 reps on my bench press. I’m at 210lbs for 3 sets of 7, 6, 5 reps. Chins are roughly 50lbs for 6, 5, 4 reps. The rest of my moves are anywhere from 3-4 sets for 10-12 reps at the moment. Light enough to get good form, but heavy enough to really feel the muscle working instead of just going through the motions.

I seemed to be getting more psoriasis flares a few days ago and I have cut a lot of carbs since then. It has had a pretty dramatic short-term effect on my flaring. I read a blog where a lady ate nothing but steak for a month and her psoriasis drastically decreased. I seem to be experiencing something similar. This skin disease is really starting to drive me nuts. I would try anything I can do reduce its symptoms until my medicine arrives.

My meals recently have basically been meat, green veggies and some sauce. I still eat my protein pudding with some low sugar fruit. My goal at the moment is just to keep carbs lower and monitor my skin’s progress. I’m keeping the protein and fat higher to support my workouts.

The Giants have once again eclipsed rock bottom. I really hate the current head coach (Ben McAdoo) and cannot wait until he gets fired as he greatly deserves to be. He even said he doesn’t care about Eli Manning’s current starting streak of around 208 consecutive starts and would consider benching him to win a game. First of all benching Eli is NOT going to help us win a game and no rational human being would think that. Second, you basically just slapped a seasoned veteran across the face by demeaning a very impressive string of starting games. Stop pointing fingers at everyone but yourself and get the hell off my team. Sorry for the rant ;).

 

Journal Entry 285 – Sarah’s Birthday

Workout wise has been a continuation of the winging it high volume approach. As long as I don’t go too heavy it’s been easy to recover from. It’s also been very fun so far.

My diet has only one rule at the moment and that is to hit at least 2200 calories a day and no more than 2600 calories. (I’m currently not doing any formal cardio, expect normal walking around and going to the gym.) I also try to eat the bulk of my calories at night. Other than that it doesn’t have any rules. Honestly, still eating plenty of carbs, but my psoriasis hasn’t been flaring too bad. The biggest factor it seems with psoriasis is when I get hot. No bueno.

Sarah had her 25th birthday this week! I made her some pancakes before I went to work then took off half a day. We hung out the rest of the day and went to Sushi for dinner. I admit I wasn’t a huge sushi fan, but never really gave it a fair chance. It was awesome and may have to get it more often. I ordered sum yum yum sauce on the side and it was a game changer. We went to Publix after and Sarah got carrot cake for dessert and I got some chocolate chip cookie cake. It did not disappoint.

 

Journal Entry 280 – Bachelor Party

Life

So today marks the end of my 5-day mini-vacation. I took off Friday and Saturday and my weekend was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. My Bachelor Party was this weekend in Virginia Beach and it was awesome. It was honestly the most fun I have had in a long time. I saw some of my close friends that I have not seen in awhile and the whole thing flew by. I had a rough day on Sunday, but it was well worth it.  We did drink a lot and often. I wish looking back I didn’t drink during the day on Saturday and just waited til night time. Mainly from a recovery standpoint. Other than that the beach was fun, the food was good, the laughs were numerous and memories were made. Virginia Tech also dominated 65-17 in football.

The one negative thing was that I noticed when I got back my rash flared really bad in certain areas after really good improvement before. I didn’t use any of my supplements and it showed. I started pounding my apple cider vinegar and baking soda mix 3 times a day and it’s already much better. I’m sure much healthier eating and not drinking is helping a lot. Keeping my calories up though, because drinking can lower testosterone levels pretty good and lots of food helps bring your hormones back up. It also lowers nutrients and electrolytes a lot as well. I bought some lotions from Vitamin Shoppe for both my rash and psoriasis. Its too early to tell now, but I feel like they are doing a good job in helping clear me up.

As for the Giants, Ben McAdoo is a fat troll and needs to get fired. He’s ruining my team and the end of my favorite player’s career (Eli Manning), by calling horrible plays with the players we have, ignoring the god-awful offensive line as a problem and blaming everyone but himself. I could go on all day about everything I hate about this guy, but he can’t go soon enough.

Workout

I’m doing a shift in my workout. I still plan to bench and do chin-ups heavy twice a week, but I’m doing upper body every day. The first move will be 3 sets of 6-8 reps. Everything else will be 3 sets of 12-15 reps of whatever move I want. This is a welcome change for me as I have done the same workout for several months.

I’m going to keep cardio to a minimum so that it doesn’t interfere with my lifts.

Diet

In accordance with lifting every day, I’m going to shoot for about 2500 calories a day. It will be balanced macros with adequate protein, carbs, and fat.

Journal Entry 276 – Shift Change

Life:

The first week on the new shift. Hasn’t been too bad except for being wired at 12 am when I get off. I drive home and then it takes me a good hour to go to sleep, so not really falling asleep til 1:30 am. I try to get up at around 7:30-8, so been getting around 6 hours of sleep per day. I’ve been a little sluggish in the morning since I’m used to 8 hours, but nothing too bad. Coffee usually wakes me up pretty good. It was also strange going to work on Saturday, but honestly wasn’t bad at all. Our team gets along really well, so it makes the time go by pretty quick.

I traded in my laptop at Costco, for one that looks a lot better in my opinion. Its very similar in stats to the other one but is lighter, better battery and is 2 in 1 touch screen.

I also went through my closet last weekend and cleaned out everything I don’t wear anymore. I’m a minimalist, so this was a very satisfying thing to do. I ended up with 3 bags of Goodwill clothes and I honestly think I came away with more clothes. I rediscovered old clothes that I can still wear but just have forgotten about because they were hidden behind clothes I didn’t wear. I really didn’t think I had 3 bags of clothes to throw away, but I did.

On a random note, Denis Shapovalov an 18-year-old Canadian tennis player, beat my boy Nadal in a match pretty handily.  After seeing the highlights, he looks like he could make a lot of noise soon. He has very impressive power for someone that skinny. He seems to be very likeable though, so interested to see what he does in the future.

Food:

I tried a burrito bowl from Kroger and it was average at best. 6 out of 10. The rice was good, but the beans tasted like they were straight out of the can. Chicken was super dry and the rest of the toppings were decent, but there wasn’t enough flavor. Their guacamole was very good, but it couldn’t save it.

Went back to Mellow Mushroom for the first time in awhile and it did not disappoint. Half bbq chicken, half chicken and veggies. I literally think I could go there and order nothing, but crust though and it would an amazing meal. 😉

I’ve been loosely tracking macros and have averaged around 2100 calories. Been eating twice the amount of carbs as protein and fat is always in the moderate range.

Workouts:

Slowly gaining strength, but lifts are still about the same as they have been. Only did cardio twice this week and played tennis once.