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 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 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 295 – Scale Is Moving / New Food Finds

I was able to get the scale down to about 179.4 lbs on Sunday morning. This is my lowest in awhile and it felt good too. My diet has been mostly protein with lowish carbs and moderate fat. My routine was 2 days of cardio and 4 days of lifting last week. This week I plan on doing 3 lifting days (full body) and 3 cardio days with one day off. I kept it pretty low cal 10x bodyweight the whole week and then had a bigger eating day on Sunday at my parent’s house. Ate a lot of salty shrimp, Tzataki sauce with some pita bread and ton of fiber from veggies which if eaten in excess can cause you to retain a lot of water. (The fiber basically attracts water in the stomach.) I went back up to 183lbs, but still a 4lbs difference than last week. I expect to hit a new low this week.

I strained my lower abdominal last Friday doing heavy bench press followed by heavy chinups. I’m assuming the chinups are the reason I strained my abs, but luckily the pain went away in about 3 days. The pain was pretty intense at times though almost stabbing. That being said my strength was better than ever on these exercises even after losing about 7lbs of total weight over the week.

Some interesting high protein food finds I have found recently:

  • Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps 
    • Low calorie / High protein chips
  • Enlightened Roasted Broad Beans 
    • All flavors are good. Whole bag is 300 calories and 21 grams of protein.
  • Ole Wellness Wraps
    • These have a very doughy taste and are a really big size for the negligible 50 calories they have. Be careful with the fiber though, it can add up quickly if you are eating a lot of other fibrous foods.
  • Tyson Chicken Strips
    • I have a weird relationship with cooking raw meat recently. I always dry it out because I’m afraid of undercooking it and really don’t like the taste anymore. This avoids this by being pre-cooked and taste phenomenal every time. The whole bag is like $6.
  • P28 Bread
    • Speciality bread from Vitamin Shoppe. $8.50 a loaf so not cheap, but tastes very good and you only need one slice. It also has 14 grams of protein per slice.
  • Turkey Bacon
    • Nuff said. You can find this anywhere and its high protein and way less fat than most bacon. It also tastes really good in my opinion.
  • Costco Steak Jerky
    • High Protein / low carb and very low fat.
  • Quest bars
    • I have recently found myself eating these a lot again. If found on sale its no big deal, but I really dont buy them anymore if they are full price.
    • Also of all of the new Quest products to come out, its original bars are still by far the best.

I’ve also been eating a lot of egg whites. Very cheap protein source and I usually hardboil 18 at a time and snack on them all day when I get hungry. My grocery bill has also gone down after eating this way. Tend to buy less junk and more filling food.

Journal Entry 294 – Getting Organized

Missed last week’s blog post because I went to Chicago with Sarah to see my niece. She cried a lot when she first saw me haha. Sarah didn’t have better luck though. Abby is very attached to her mom at the moment, but I’m sure the next time I see here that will be a little different. I also realized when I was holding her, that I have zero experience with children. I mean I have been around infants before, but never taking care of them. I held Abby and fed her a couple times, but I let Rebecca do most of the work haha. She has way more experience than I do. The rest of the trip was pretty relaxed for the most part. My brother cooked a lot of food and we didn’t go out much except to the gym.

I have really been in a rut with Gold’s Gym recently.  It has been beyond packed no matter what time you go. I also feel like I have been rushing my workouts since I go on my lunch break and haven’t really been engaged in my workouts recently. My strength is good, but the enjoyment is not. I’ve decided to try and cut out Gold’s for a couple of weeks and see what happens. The only thing I’m worried about is losing bench press strength because I do not have access to a heavy bench anywhere else.

I decided to workout Sunday through Thursday and take Friday and Saturday off.

  • Weekend
  • Sunday – Push – High Reps
  • Monday – Pull – High Reps
  • Tuesday – Cardio
  • Workweek
  • Wednesday – Push – High Reps
  • Thursday – Pull – High Reps
  • Friday – Off
  • Saturday – Off

The only other variation I may make is to change to 3 full body days and 2 cardio days, but the schedule would look largely the same. This routine is challenging though as I’m taking almost every set to failure. This is pretty easy to do with high reps without burning out. I feel good after my workouts and my pump is so intense it almost hurts. That being said I’m not overly sore after my workouts. To me, this is an enjoyable form of training though because it is so different than what I was doing before. I’m not rushed with these workouts because I’m not “on the clock” like I was with the other ones.

As for diet, I’m sticking with the high protein / low-mod carb / low-mod fat diet. This is by far the easiest way to control calories, look the best, feel the best and control my cravings. I can pretty much eat whatever on this plan within reason since it allows for both carbs and fats instead of going high carb -low fat vs keto. For example, if I want pizza or wings for dinner then I simply eat high protein, low fat, low carb all day and then eat whatever for dinner. This automatically balances out macros. I really don’t have a calorie goal at the moment. I’m just kind of eating based on what I feel like I need. Some days are much higher than others and that tends to be what works best for me. Also, some days can be way higher in carbs or fats, but the theme is that protein is there.

  • Go-To meals at the moment:
    • Protein Pudding (Long time stable)
      • 55 grams of Elite XT (Mix with small amount of cashew milk)
      • 1/3 cup of berries on top
      • 1/3 TBS of peanut butter on side
    • Asian
      • 4-5oz of Tyson grilled chicken strips
      • 1/2 bag of broccoli
      • 1 Crab rangoon
      • 1 egg roll (Optional)
      • Teriyaki Sauce
    • Eggs (Usually bring this to work)
      • 12 hardboiled eggs (1 yolk, 11 whites)
      • 1 bag of Brussel sprouts
      • 2 Tbs of Bolthouse Ranch
    • Greens
      • 1 bag of Broccoli or Brussel Sprouts
        • Heat up twice as long as recommended. All the water comes out and tastes like its roasted
        • Some type of sauce
    • Berry Milk (Dessert)
      • 1 cup of Cashew Milk
      • Handful of frozen berries
      • 2 Splenda
      • 1 serving of fat/free sugar/free jello mix (Aldi Brand)
      • 2 Tbs of Cocoa powder
    • Lazy Meal
      • 1 can of beef soup (lower calorie brand)
      • 1 can of green beans
      • 1/2 can of white potatoes
      • Mix together
    • Snacks
      • Jerky
      • Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps
      • Pretzel sticks
      • Rice Cakes
      • Mixed Nuts (At work)
      • M & M’s plain
      • Apples
    • Eating Out
      • Chipotle (highly customizable)
      • Mezeh
      • Which Wich
      • Kickback Jacks

This basically sums up my diet at the moment. I usually have a really big cheat day on Sunday in which my weight always spikes. It’s usually pancakes for breakfast, a healthier lunch and a feast at dinner at my parent’s house. I had to eat at least 200 grams of carbs worth of pita bread alone. I also dipped this in a ton of Tzataki sauce. I do feel bloated the next day, but the weight drops off very quickly when I resume my routine.

Journal Entry 289 – Return of Cardio / The End of McAdoo

I decided to take on a December Dedication challenge. This idea was from listening to one of Joe Rogan’s podcasts after he overdid it on his vacation with too much food and drinking. His rules were different than mine, but the idea was great nevertheless. My rules are as follows:

  • Do cardio 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes
  • Eat out only twice a week (max)
  • Cut about 5lbs of fat and decrease waist size
  • Eat at least 5 servings of produce a day (easy for me)

So far it has been great. My diet is as 1500 calories max for 4 to maybe 5 days a week and 2500 calories 2-3 days a week. Based on my maintenance of anywhere from 2500-2700 calories, this is anywhere from 1 lb to 1.5lbs a week of fat loss. I’m trying to take off most of this fat before the Holidays.

I have actually missed cardio. Some days it wasn’t great during the cardio, but after I feel so good and energized. I also sleep very well. My anxiety always decreases as well. The only two days I don’t do cardio is Friday and Saturday due to my schedule. 9AM – 8PM doesn’t allow much time for cardio, so I simply take some rest on those days and just lift on my lunch break instead.

My lifting routine is back to 4 days a week with a Push / Pull setup. Three exercises each day with very little isolation moves. Back to do doing 6-8 reps range and loving it. Don’t need a lot of carbs to power through these.

As for the composition of my diet, its back to a much higher protein diet very similar to the way I ate in the past. It’s the best way to control calories and to be sure you’re not losing muscle on a cut. Carbs are lower, but still there and fat is low. I’m technically only dieting 4-5 days a week and taking a break on two of those. I have seen some nice visual progress already this week.

The eating out part is to break some bad habits. Not that I’m eating out at very bad places, their pretty healthy, but you have no idea how many calories these meals actually have. Your at best just estimating what’s there. Also, it saves a lot of money to reduce eating out a couple times a week.

The Giants finally fired Ben “fat a**” McAdoo and Jerry Reese their GM. I couldn’t agree more since they ruined Eli Manning’s 210 consecutive start streak for a meaningless game that meant nothing to our team. What a fn joke. I don’t want to rant here because it would be a very long post, but seeing these guys fired was like Christmas morning. Reese needed to go as well. He doesn’t know how to build a team and has drafted very poorly for the last few years, save for a few.

Journal Entry 288 – Post-Thanksgiving and Waist Size

Last week Sarah and I went to Greensboro, North Carolina for Thanksgiving. Due to the fact that Sarah and I had to work on Friday, we did Thanksgiving on Wednesday night and came back on Thursday. I’m not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving food, so I don’t have a huge issue with overeating on this holiday. Not sure what it is, but I have extremely good portion control in terms of eating on this day. I didn’t eat a ton of anything, but a little bit of everything. My favorite is probably apple/cranberry crisp, which tastes more like dessert. I don’t ever really eat this with dinner though because I prefer savory/salty foods for dinner. I usually save the crisp for dessert and it is amazing. I drank a decent amount of wine on Thanksgiving as well. I feel like it goes very well with the food.

I also went to a tailor to get fitted for a tux. My waist measured 35 inches was sounded really big to me, considering I wear 32-33in pants. I looked it up and apparently, vanity sizing makes clothes smaller than they actually are. So your waist is always 2 inches bigger than your pants size. Kinda sketched me out though at the time, because I haven’t really noticed any fat gain recently, but usually when your waist size goes up that’s usually a fat gain issue. I don’t feel like I’ve gained fat, but may need to shed a few pounds of goo. I’m currently around 185lbs give or take a few pounds. May need to get the scale around 177-180lbs to get that waist measurement where I want it.

My workouts have been good and I’ve been getting very sore after every session. The only thing is sometimes I run out of energy before the end of my workout. The pump hasn’t been as good as the first time I did the workout. My best pump, strangely enough, has come from this workout I did in the past:

  • BB Bench 3×6 reps
  • Dips 3 x AMAP
  • Skulls 3×10 reps

Pretty simple, but it works.

Diet has been good, but nothing special. Still loosely tracking my intake, but apparently gained a few lbs of non-muscle. May add back in some cardio because I have been doing it maybe once a week. I plan to keep eating a lot of carbs though, because my energy really starts to drop when I take them out. May reduce dietary fat a little because I have been eating a lot more than usual recently. Probably close to around 70 grams a day sometimes more. Some fat is good for energy, but I don’t really need a ton of it. Cutting excess fat vs carbs helps my energy in and out of the gym.