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 317 – Short One

Another week in the books. No major plateau busting this week other than I’m crunching the most for abs I ever have before. I really do think working abs almost every day has really helped increase my lifts. Still doing very little isolation and sticking to the Push / Pull / Abs everyday setup

Life:

Sarah and I are going to a party tonight with some of my co-workers. Our company has a big release set for Monday, so we figured we would party before the extra stress starts from work. Another Pro Tip: Keep dietary fat low on the days you drink. This greatly reduces the risk of storing fat.

Other than that I’ve been watching the original Berserk show on DVD, that I borrowed from my good friend Cameron. It’s been awesome so far. Very graphic show, but it is anime. It is far from a fairy tale and the theme is very dark. It has very little lighthearted comic relief like a lot of other shows have, but I think this make for a more dramatic and epic show. I’m a huge soundtrack fan, so here is a song from the show: Gut’s Theme.

 

Journal Entry 311 – Putting In Work

Training:

Had a really good week in the gym. I did a 5 day Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull workout setup with cardio on the weekend. Hit my heavy bench press and heavy rows early in the week and finished the week with higher volume and lighter moves. Not sure why, but I was really feeling EZ bar skullcrushers and curls. I got a tremendous pump towards the end of my workout from those.

Overall my strength is still slowly increasing. At this point, I really just want to be consistent with my workouts. It feels like the more I go to the gym the stronger I get, especially with back.

I also did some cardio twice this week of around 30-40 minutes.

Diet:

I have been going pretty low carb recently with good results. My weight was at 185.6lbs at a high early this week (not sure how as this is high for me) and is now around 182.2lbs. I have noticed though that I do look leaner at a heavier weight, which is always a good sign in terms of body composition.

My diet is pretty simple during the week. I have two protein shakes during the day with one being mid-morning and the other in the afternoon when I get back from the gym. I also have some Our Little Rebellion Protein Chips almost every day. This gives me a ton of protein and not a ton of calories. At night I then usually eat a pretty large meal, which is usually low carb, but not always. I then finish the night with another protein shake with berries in it. I really enjoy that protein shake. It tastes better than ice cream to me.

So the above has very consistent elements, but dinner also allows me a lot of flexibility. I can pretty much eat whatever I’m feeling at dinner. It’s almost always a healthy meal, but not always. Eating like this I don’t really feel the need for cheat days, because I can eat whatever I want every day at dinner. I’m pretty busy during the day at work, so I really don’t like messing with meal prep anymore. I enjoy undereating during the day so I can eat a big dinner when I can sit down to enjoy it.

This may seem like common sense, but the more I workout the better I look. Even when I eat healthy and don’t workout I don’t look nearly as good as I do when I do some sort of exercise every day. To me it’s pretty noticeable. It also benefits my mental health and allows me to eat more food as well.

Life:

I had a company function at place called the Circuit Bar in Richmond, Virginia. Very fun place and it had tons of old games and a ton of craft beer that was self-serve. I got the high score in Skee-ball with 320. Also, played some Tekken 3 and Madden. Sarah and I then went out to a place called Dont Look Back after with some friends and played some pool. I was out from 4-12 PM yesterday and worked from 9-2 PM. Busy day, but fun. Only thing that sucks is I really only have one day off of free time to relax.

I watched the NBA finals this year, which is something I almost never do. Not a huge basketball fan anymore, since Kobe Bryant retired. He was always my favorite player. That being said Lebron James is a beast. He carried a very mediocre team to the Finals. I almost felt bad for him.  His team was so bad, he almost had no chance of winning against Golden State. Also, not a big Golden State fan. Draymond Greene is probably the most annoying player I have ever seen and his talent is way smaller than his ego. He is just along for the ride, while Steph Curry and Kevin Durant carry the team. Klay Thompson is also one of the most consistent shooters I have ever seen. I think he gets overshadowed by Curry and Durant and probably by Greene, but only because Greene is an obnoxious loudmouth. Not surprised by the outcome of the NBA Finals, but the Playoffs were enjoyable to watch.

Journal Entry 310 – Grinding

Another week in the books. Last week flew by and I continue to still be very busy at work, which makes the days pass very quickly. Sarah and I have also been very busy with the mortgage/house process.

The early part of the week I hit my 3 workouts fullbody style as outlined in last weeks posts. Not going to lie, was not feeling it. My workouts have been pretty weak recently. My bench press is at best stagnant, but I almost feel like I’m getting weaker and I think benching heavyish 3 times a week is not good for the long-term health of my shoulder. I think I’m going to try a  4 day Push / Pull workout. My pull workouts will be light to moderate with no heavy weights. This will give my front deltoids an extra day of rest.

I have also done cardio twice this weekend and it felt very good! I haven’t done much cardio in recent weeks, but I want to add it back in. I may wake up early on Wednesday or go after work, so that I can have 3 days of cardio and 4 days of lifting.

My diet has been pretty low carb during the week. I plan to increase my carbs, especially at night. I think this will help with my workouts. I also plan to lower my fat and increase calories overall.

I tried a new protein called Syntha 6 – Birthday Cake Remix. I had very high hopes after I tried and returned Designer Grassfed Whey Vanilla Cookies and Cream. The later tasted like dirty chalk. 2 out of 10. 😦 Syntha 6 was much better, but not great. I would go 7 out of 10. Compared to the other one though it tasted heaven sent. I would still say Elite XT is still probably my favorite even though I haven’t bought it in awhile.

Had a good weekend though. My brother was in town for a friends wedding and then Sarah and I went to a wine festival yesterday, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Journal Entry 308 – Back To Reality

First week back after the Wedding / Honeymoon. Took me a few days to shake the rust off, but I’m almost back to normal. My body still feels a little bit achy for some reason though. My joints still have some pain and my energy levels are a little low. I have some pain in my back as well near my right shoulder blade. Not sure what it is, but it does feel like it is slowly getting better.

My workouts have been very weak. I did a 4 day Push / Pull this week and my strength and endurance were definitely down. I did cardio yesterday which felt pretty good, but lifting has been a chore this week. My carbs have been pretty low recently and I’ve been eating a ton of protein, but it seems to be negatively impacting my lifts. I plan on adding some carbs and probably eating a larger dinner each night to see if this helps my lifts. I want to get my bench press back to 225lbs.

I had some Pizza Hut on Friday night, because I felt like I needed it. 😉 Sarah and I had a busy day yesterday as well. We went house hunting, went bowling with my team at work and then went to Downtown Richmond to get dinner with some of Sarah’s friends.

I had been slacking on working out for the week leading up the Wedding / Honeymoon. I’m not sure if I got “out of shape” in that small of a period of time, but it sure feels like it. Hoping to shake this feeling soon.

Journal Entry 306 – Almost Wedding Time

The new schedule is in full effect and it’s been pretty busy at work. Along with the new schedule, my wedding is coming up this week, followed by the honeymoon. Soon after we need to move out of the apartment and find a new house! We have a lot on our plates at the moment. Really looking forward to the wedding and honeymoon though. Sarah and I have been together a little over two years at this point and we are very ready to get married.

My routine this week has been simple. No cardio, 4 days of lifting on a Push/Pull split. My calories have been pretty low during the week to cut some fat before the wedding. Scale is down to about 178-179lbs and my pants are definitely fitting looser. My diet has been almost exclusively protein for the past week and half with pretty low carbs and moderate fat. I’m not doing a ton of exercise though, so I really don’t need to eat a ton and I’m also trying to drop fat. That being said my lifts were down a little this week. I’m also pretty stressed at work, because of the greatly increased workload, but that will just take some getting used to. My sleep has been great though. Getting at least 8 hours a night.

I’ve been eating a ton of egg whites recently. In the morning before work, when I get home from work and sometimes after dinner if I’m still hungry. They are basically a perfect food right now though for me, because they are super low calorie and all protein. I also just really like the taste and texture for some reason. I usually eat Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps as well during the day. These are 80 calories per serving (24 chips) 10g protein, 10g carbs (4 fiber) and 2.5g fat. Pretty much epic in terms of macros and you get a lot for the calories. They also taste really good. I also do a protein shake during the day at some point. I have protein powder at my desk, so this is pretty easy to make. Dinner is always a super high protein meal and usually some kind of vegetable. I then follow this with a protein shake before I go to sleep at night.

I never take lunch to work or even breakfast anymore. I really enjoy it. I don’t have to prep anything. All I take with me is coffee. Everything else is either at my desk at work or is a bag of chips, so nothing to prepare. Dinner is the vast majority of my calories and is essentially my only meal except for high protein snacks during the day. It’s been working so I’m sticking with it.

Journal Entry 304 – Return of the Refeed

Missed my post last week since Sarah and I were in Greensboro for the weekend doing some things for the wedding.

Some big schedule changes also happened at work, which will move me back into a much more normal schedule. Looking forward to that so that Sarah and I will have more time together.

My workout schedule has been even more minimalist style than my last post. I have literally been doing 200 pushups and 50 chin-ups a day at least for the last week. I’m only lifting once a week in the gym on Friday, which has been heavy barbell bench press that I then follow with pushups and chin-ups. Pushups and chin-ups are starting to feel extremely easy. I’m doing 30 pushups a set and 10 chin-ups a set. I plan to increase those to 35-40 for pushups and 15 for chins soon.

I really enjoy these two moves. They work every muscle in the upper body and you can literally do them anywhere at any time. (Although this is truer for pushups rather than chin-ups.)

As for my diet, its time for the “Return of the Refeed.” I experienced somewhat of a plateau where I could not drop under 182lbs for 3 days even with my diet and exercise on point. Very frustrating. I refeeded a couple of days ago pretty hardcore. I went 3000+ plus calories with the vast majority of calories coming from carbs. I went up to 187lbs after this day, but have now dropped below 182lbs just two days later. I have written about refeeds before, but have stopped doing them the past couples years for whatever reason. I really do they think hold tremendous benefit to allow yourself to “go to town” one day of the week just to get it out of your system. It also has many physiological and psychological benefits, which I have wrote about in my article How To Do A Carb Refeed.

Most people would benefit from doing this once a week. It’s just far easier to program. If you were going by science every 5th day would probably be optimal. So 4 days of dieting, 1 day off to refeed up to or beyond maintenance calories and repeat. This presents a pain for most people though, because your refeed day constantly changes. No one wants to refeed on a Monday. So I would recommend just doing it Saturday or Sunday (my personal favorite). Give precedence to carbs. I usually go high protein all other days, so I really look forward to eating all of the things I can’t eat on this day. I actually tried to lower protein as much as I could on my last refeed day. I hit around 80 grams of protein / 70 grams of fat / and over 400 carbs.

Also one more point about refeeds. Some people try to lower dietary fat as low as humanly possible on these days. Don’t do this. It makes the day far less fun and satisfying and really lowers your food choices. I’m not saying to go super high in fat, but just allow yourself to hit a normal of fat of around 50-70 grams instead of going like under 30-40 grams like is commonly recommended. Your body can store some dietary fat as muscle, especially if your diet days tend to be low in fat. Even if you store some fat, it’s going to come off easily when you return to your normal diet the next 6 days.