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!

Advertisements

Journal Entry 309 – Returns For Time Invested

I’m still trying to find a workout that provides the best returns for the time invested. I really don’t like going to the gym and feel like I’m wasting my time with ineffective exercises that are barely doing anything in terms of body composition and time spent doing them. Gone are the days when I enjoy spending hours in the gym. My day no longer revolves around my workout, so I really want to create a workout that hits everything I want to be hit and then I want to move on with my day. I literally want to get in and get out. I love the benefits working out provides and I fully plan on working out for the rest of my life, but these benefits can be achieved in about 30 minutes a day.

The best feeling for me in the gym is getting stronger. It’s instant feedback that you are doing something right. I designed a routine and schedule that I think will carry me into greatness at this point in my life.

MC’s Minimalist Routine:

  • Incline DB Bench Press 4 sets of 6-12 reps
  • Chinups 4 sets of AMAP with bodyweight
  • Dips 3 sets of AMAP with bodyweight
  • Isolation of choice 3 sets of 8-15 reps
    • Optional depending on time

This workout will be done Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. It gives me a solid 48 hours between workouts and then I hit it again. I will sub in barbell bench press once a week, but no more due to shoulder issues. My main goal is to get stronger and do more reps on all of these exercises. Don’t let this workout fool you though, it’s not easy. It’s simple on paper, but not easy. This workout can be completed in under 40 minutes, which makes it perfect for me. It also hits every muscle in the upper body. I will also do cardio a few times per week, mainly on the weekends. When Sarah and I move into our house, we are going to buy a treadmill. Once we do this I will likely run every day that I don’t lift.

I’m still playing around with diet, but it is high protein as always. I still backload most of my calories to dinner as well.

Sarah and I have also recently had an offer accepted on a house! We have both the inspection tomorrow and meet with the mortgage office to sign the loan. I have heard signing a loan is a miserable process, unfortunately, but we have to do it at some point.

 

Journal Entry 305 – New Schedule is Coming

Today is the last week of my old schedule. I luckily get Saturday off, so it will be a 3 day week. I’m moving to an 8-5 schedule Monday through Friday. It will be a big change for me as I haven’t been on that schedule for awhile. This also means some change in terms of diet and workout, which I haven’t really figured out yet. I probably won’t figure it out until I actually start and see what I like best. I thought about going to the gym early and knocking it out, but I would likely have to get up before 6AM, which I’m not really sure I want to do. I will most likely just go to the gym on my lunch break around 1-2PM. I may adjust my routine so that I’m benching twice a week and continue with my pushups / chinups and stretching routine. Still hitting 200 pushups / 50 chins and stretching daily.

Not sure what I plan to do for the diet. Based on my schedule, an Intermittent Fasting setup would work really well with my hours. Eat minimal during the day when busy and feast at night. This would also be far easier from a planning and financial standpoint. What I may do is make a protein shake in the morning to drink around mid-morning, then eat a bag of Enlightened Beans or Jerky at work. This provides around 600 calories total during the day, which allows a very large meal every night, while keeping calories in check. This would allow me a couple drinks at night, a very big high protein meal and some protein pudding for dessert.

I got to a new low of 179.4lbs this week. I had a big eating day from Saturday night and all day Sunday and got up to 184lbs. I was down to 182lbs this morning. I expect to go below 179lbs by the end of this week.  For whatever reason, I almost felt hungover after my cheat day even though I didn’t drink. Not a good feeling. It’s probably because I went from pretty low carbs to very high carbs in a day and then back to very low carbs. That’s a pretty large swing that I’m not really used to. Calories were over 3000 for the day. I may try splitting my cheat day up into a big meal on both Saturday and Sunday night versus the whole day. I have a feeling I would not only enjoy this more, but feel much better than slamming calories all day long.

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.

Journal Entry 277

Life:

Another week in the books. The work week went by really quick and still getting used to being off on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Watched Game of Thrones last night and it was one of the best episodes I’ve seen in awhile. Action packed and I like where the plot is headed. Jon Snow is one of the best characters ever made, especially for that show. In one of the darkest shows ever made, Jon Snow seems to be one of the only positive lights left. Another character I like a lot, Daario Naharis, is a no-show this season. He is definitely not dead, so I expect him to make an appearance at some point before the end of the show.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Joe Rogan’s podcast recently. He has very long podcasts that range from 2-3 hours, but he talks to some of the most interesting people in modern society. I learn a ton listening to his podcast. He just hit 1000 episodes this week, which is no small feat. Really look forward to listening to these.

Diet:

Been eating a lot of carbs recently, especially yesterday. Sarah and I went to IHOP and got some chocolate chip pancakes, which were on point. Had some Auntie Annes pretzels for lunch with some rice cakes and for dinner had some shrimp lo mein with a ton of other appetizer type foods. Finished with some ice cream and some Cinnabon bites from Taco Bell. Holy hell these Cinnabon bites were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday night we went to Cheesecake Factory and I got a couple of the light flatbreads, which were average at best. The bread before the meal was really good though.

Friday night we got a Mediterranean pizza from Belmont, which was good but had no sauce.

We also got Plaza Azteca on Wednesday as a team and everyone got 2 beef tacos with 2 to-go containers full of rice and beans.

So, in summary, a ton of carbs this week. I think I averaged over 300grams a day with 100 grams of protein and fat fluctuated up and down the moderate range.

Workouts:

Moved up to the 35s on Chinups for 8, 8, 6 reps. Bench is still on par with where it was in the past. My gym is starting to get really packed at almost all times of the day. Even when I go around 8pm at night, there is still a decent amount of people there. Saturday is always packed unless you go around 5-6pm.

Other than that been doing tennis once a week and I’ve done cardio 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes.

 

Journal Entry 273 – New Laptop

Workouts:

I seem to be stuck on chinups at the moment, but they seem to be one of the only things not going up. My back accessory movements are still trending upward as well as biceps. Bench is still going up and has felt really good recently. Incline DB press is up to the 75s for 3 sets of 12, 9, 6 reps and BB bench press is at 200lbs for 8, 7, 6 reps.  Dips are at around 15-20 reps per set for 3 sets. I’m hoping to get 20 reps on all 3 sets soon. I have also replaced my skullcrushers with cable flys on both Push days. I can assure you this workout may not look special on paper, but it makes your chest sore for 3 days:

  • Barbell bench 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Dips 3 sets of Max reps
  • Cable Flys 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Eating:

Calories 2100 / Protein 131 / Carbs 252 / Fat 65 / Fiber 40. I went back to

I went to Mezeh this Friday, which is basically a Mediterranean style Chipotle. It was very good. I got a salad bowl the guy packed it with meat and tons of toppings. Chickpea salad, croutons, olives, feta cheese, pickled vegetables, marinated vegetables, hummus and some other things. It was awesome, but also a little more expensive than Chipotle. I still got my favorite Chipotle though on Thursday and Panda Express on Tuesday. Chipotle > Mezeh > Panda Express.

I got a whopping 5 hours of sleep on Friday night into Saturday morning and have no clue why. I was also ravenous the entire day, so we went to Bertucci’s for lunch and I got a calzone with two rolls and salad for lunch. Food also tasted better than normal too, which was nice, but I guess I needed it. I ended up with roughly 3000 calories.

Life:

I finally got a new laptop after weeks of looking. I’d almost consider myself an expert on computers and laptops at this point. I got a Lenovo Legion from Costco. It is stacked in almost every way. Technically considered a “gaming laptop” this thing is a powerhouse and is lighting fast. I can boot up my computer in 5 seconds and web browsing and multitasking are seamless. My old games can be played on max settings with no lag during play. It also has as hybrid drive, which basically means it has a solid state drive (SSD) and a hard drive (HD). SSD’s are LIGHTING FAST in almost every way. This computer has a 256GB SSD and a 2 TB HD. 2 TB (terabytes) are massive and each TB is 1000GB. This is far more space than most people will ever need. The beauty of a hybrid drive is all things you want to be done quickly, like your operating system, you put on the SSD. All of the massive things like PC games or stuff you rarely use, but want to keep around you put on the HD. The two negative things of this thing so far is that the battery life is mediocre at best at an average of 3-4 hours. Not a huge deal, because I’m standing or sitting right next to an outlet 95% of the time. But in terms of other laptops, this could be better. Also, the mouse on the trackpad blows. It is really bad. But again I use an external mouse 95% of the time, so again these were two cons that weren’t going to let me not get this beast of a computer. Costco also has a 2-year warranty and a 90-day return policy, where you get a full refund. So basically if you hate it for whatever reason, you can quite literally rent it and return it for a full refund. Hell yeah, much greater respect for Costco after that policy. Good luck getting that anywhere. All that included for $999 is an awesome deal, especially considering I saw this exact laptop on other sites for $1300 and that is without a warranty, sales tax or shipping. 🙂

Sarah and I are going to Charlottesville, Virginia next weekend for a mini vacation before she starts her full-time job at Capital One. For the first 3 months, she can not take time off without making it up so we are trying to get in something before that happens. Also, going to Chicago at the end of July, but that is technically only a weekend trip, so except for a couple hours, we don’t need to take any time off.