minimalism

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 303 – Minimalist

Time to return to my minimalist roots for awhile.

Workout

My routine is back to a super minimalist template and will be a 4 day Push / Pull routine as shown below:

  • Day 1 – Push
    • Barbell bench 4×6-8 reps
    • Dips 4 x AMRAP
    • Cable Crunch 4×8 reps
  • Day 2 – Pull
    • Chinups 4×6-8 reps
    • DB Curl 4×8 reps
    • Ab Machine 4×8 reps
  • Day 3 – Cardio
    • 30-40 minutes of Cardio
  • Day 4 – Push
    • Incline Dumbbell bench 4×10-12 reps
    • Dips 4 x AMAP
    • Cable Crunch 4×8 reps
  • Day 5 – Pull
    • Db Rows 4×10-12 reps
    • Chinups 4x AMRAP
    • Cable Crunch 4×8
  • Day 6
    • Cardio 30-40 minutes
  • Day 7
    • Cardio 30-40 minutes

I love it so far. I wanted to do full body but quickly realized that there was no way I could possibly finish that on my lunch breaks. The above is actually really intense despite the lowish volume. I want to hit the abs with heavy weights and more frequency. You will not find any isolation in this routine because it doesn’t really fit well into a time saving minimalist routine. I also do at least 100 pushups a day and have for some time now.

Diet

I have decided to go pretty close to a PSMF diet until the wedding with a few occasional cheat meals. I’m trying to get down to about 175lbs and stand at 182lbs currently. My calories are actually much higher than a normal PSMF, but the point is basically to eat protein and veggies only. Carbs and fats are incidentals. I estimate with my current deficit I should net about 1lb to 1 1/2 lbs per week. Since my protein is high and I’m lifting regularly to retain my strength, I’m expecting this to be pure fat.

I may eat some carbs at night (prob not many though) and have an occasional cheat meal (probably once a week) just for a little variation, but I plan to stick to this pretty rigidly for the time being. Of all the diets I have done when I eat nothing but lean protein and veggies and keep carbs and fats low, the fat always comes off.

Journal Entry 291 – Star Wars / Busy Weekend

Very busy weekend for Sarah and I this past weekend. We had a party at a co-workers house on Friday night, I worked all day Saturday then went to see Star Wars on Saturday night. Sunday we went to my parent’s house and all day Monday we went to the Williamsburg Outlets to do most of Christmas shopping. Today I had to go to the doctor, workout and ran to the grocery store. This weekend literally felt like a blink of an eye. That being said it was a really fun weekend and everything turned out good in the end.

I literally consumed probably 4500 calories easy on Friday night at that party. My co-worker made some awesome food that was hard to resist. I also consumed a decent amount of alcohol. 😉

Star Wars was a really awesome movie. I give it 8 out of 10. It also had one of the most awesome scenes I have seen, which definitely boosted the rating. There were some things that I found kind of annoying and a major plot twist that I really didn’t like. It was still very enjoyable.

Sarah and I went to Williamsburg to shop at the outlet malls. I ended up getting some clothes and a new travel bag. I literally use my travel bag every single day. Got a good deal on a Swiss Gear travel bag for $60. I’m a minimalist so it can be very difficult to shop for me or even surprise me. Mainly because I don’t like a lot of crap, so sometimes what people think of as a surprise is to me a useless item that I will likely not use haha. I’m a simple man. Sarah didn’t find much, unfortunately.

As for training and diet it has been very sporadic. My training is more or less on par with where it has been. Could probably clean up the diet a bit to be honest. Just more protein and less fat and processed carbs.

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.

 

 

Journal Entry 253 – The Big Move

Last weekend from about Friday at 3 PM to Sunday 5 PM, Sarah and I moved into a new apartment. If it was just my belongings we would have been done in about half a day ;). But we decided to use the majority of Sarah’s stuff and she had a lot of things that she wanted to bring. I’m very much a minimalist, but not to an extreme. I like to eliminate things or belongings that I feel provide no value to my life. If I feel like something is just in the way, I either give it away or trash it. I convinced Sarah to part with some of her things before we moved. We gave A LOT away to Goodwill and threw away a lot of crap. Nevertheless, it still took the whole weekend to move, but it was worth it. The new place looks very good and has a huge kitchen and bathroom. We got a really good deal on rent and for the area we live in, it doesn’t get much better than what we got.

Luckily after all the chaos that comes with moving and after basically living in two places for the last 6 months, I can finally get some consistency back in my routine. I want this to be a big year for me in terms of progress. My focus will be on lean gaining and really upping my strength and size. I also plan on doing cardio at least 3-4 times a week just stay in shape.

My split will have 2 chest/tri days, 2 back/bi days, 1 shoulders/traps day and 2 days of cardio and some abs. These will likely be longer cardio days. Most days I keep cardio around 30 minutes or so in the morning. My strength has really been going up consistently at the moment and I’m really seeing some size gain improvement all over my upper body. My weight has increased to 182lbs, but I have really increased carbs a lot, so a lot of it is glycogen weight. I have also seen a nice muscular increase in my core. My bodyfat has not decreased, but it’s more or less stationary at the moment.

Diet has been really inconsistent, though, especially last week. Not that it really matters though, because it’s been working for me. My goal at the moment is just to keep protein adequate around 120-200 grams, carbs pretty high at least 200 grams and fat more or less as tag along food of whatever I decide to eat. A prototypical balanced diet. Nothing exciting, but working for me.

 

Journal Entry 178 – Minimalism

Log:

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Week 23

3/14 – 177.6lbs – 2500 calories – 8500 steps – 4.22 miles

3/15 – 176.2lbs – 2300 calories – 10000 steps – 5 miles

3/16 – 176.4lbs – 2000 calories – 12500 steps – 6 miles

3/17 – 176.2lbs – 2400 calories – 11000 steps – 5 miles

3/18 – 177lbs – 2300 calories – 12000 steps – 6 miles

3/19 – 176.2lbs – 2350 calories – 8500 steps – 4 miles

3/20 – 176.6 lbs – 2300 calories – 10400 steps – 5 miles

Average Weight – 176.6lbs Average Calorie Intake – 2300 calories

Training

This was my first full week on my new split. I really enjoyed it and even though each workout was only 5 moves, it took about an hour to complete. I lifted more than I have in a long time on my key exercises.

  • Bench Press – 1st workout – 195×5 reps – 2nd workout 200×5 reps
  • Standing Shoulder Press – 1st workout – 105×4 reps – 2nd workout 105×6 reps
  • Chinups – 1st workout – 35×5 reps – 2nd workout 40×5 reps
  • Hang Cleans – 1st workout 95×6 reps – 2nd workout 110×6 reps
  • BB Squats – 1st workout 235×4 reps
  • DB Lunges – 65s x 5 reps

So 3 different workouts, with each workout focusing on two main moves. I also added an hypertrophy move right after I do the first two main moves. I have this move structured so that you use the same weight each week for 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Once you can do 3 sets of 10 total reps, you can increase the weight. For example, if I’m doing DB rows for 3 sets of 6-10 and I get 3×10,9,8, I would use the same weight next week and aim for 3×10,10,10. If I dont achieve 10 reps on ALL 3 sets then I continue using the same weight until you do.

I really like the simplicity / minimalism of this type of workout. It eliminates the unnecessary exercises that may even be working against you. I also achieve a really good pump since I feel like the quality of my form has improved since I dont feel like I need to save strength for later movements.

Every day this week, except for days I train Push muscles, I have done at least 100 pushups a day. I started with sets of 15 reps, but not I’m knocking out 20 reps a set. As long as I get 100 it doesnt really matter how many sets it takes. I knocked out 40 in a row yesterday and my form has gotten much better overall on pushups then in the past. Its also a really good way to get a good pump.

By focusing on the essentials, I’m hoping to slowly walk my lifts up a good 2.5-5lbs up each workout. By reducing the unnecessary volume and decreasing the days I was lifting from 6 to 4 days, and also hitting each muscle group at least every 4-5 days (except legs), I expect my strength levels to respond favorably. I also noticed increased enjoyment during my lift days, by cutting back to 4 days. I feel refreshed and ready to go instead of the drag type feeling I experience on some days when I try to do 6 days.

Here are goals I hope to achieve by the end of the year:

  • Bench Press 225×5 reps
  • Standing BB Press 125×5 reps
  • Chinups 60×5 reps
  • Hang Cleans 135×5 reps
  • BB Squats 250×5 reps
  • DB Lunges 75×5 reps

Bench Press is the most important to me. I really want to get that going. Also standing BB press as well because usually when that goes up, it means your core is getting much stronger as well. I forgot to mention I do Abs on Leg Days and usually add one move for 3 sets of 6-10 reps at the end of at least one other workout during the week. Usually a heavy cable crunch.

Here are my workout notes starting from last Thursday.

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Nutrition

Nothing special in nutrition this week. Added an extra 200 calories (averaged out over the week) to my baseline to hit around 2300 calories. Average weight stayed about the same.

  • Protein usually around 180-210 grams
  • Fat usually 75-90 grams (usually mid 80’s)
  • Carbs usually 90-150 grams

I also usually carb up on Saturday. I dont really do a carb refeed, but mainly just eat more starches than usual starting at lunch time. Protein is a bit higher than necessary, but again I just like eating a lot of protein with each meal and prefer the taste over carbs. I’m sure some of the excess protein converts to carbs, but it doesnt bother me. I like eating this way and only plan to mess with it if my lifts start to stall. I do think adding an additional 50grams of carbs to workout days is a good idea though. This week I consumed it as oatmeal right before bed, but I may get some roasted potatoes from trader joes and eat it with dinner. I like buying premade potatoes though, because they are a huge pain to fix and cook raw haha. Oatmeal is much easier to prepare than potatoes, because I dont heat it. I use the low sugar instant oats mix it with a little protein powder and almond milk and eat it like that. Tastes incredible.

I also aim to consume at least 3 whole eggs a day. Usually 1 in the morning with my vitamins and 2 in my lunch. My vegetable intake is high as always with lots of broccoli and spinach. My fruit intake is always at least 1 cup of berries a day and sometimes I eat a banana. Been eating a lot of avocado recently too, but these things are a pain. You have to wait until they ripen and then eat them at least within 2 days. So you almost feel forced to eat it or else its going to go bad. I still like cheese and eggs as my main fat sources, because they dont go bad nearly as fast. Also tried some Trader Joe’s Bolognese sauce and it was incredible. Very thick texture and almost tasted like a cream based sauce. It has a higher fat content than most, but less sugar so its fine with me. Been eating Kim-Chi before my vitamins each morning too. Food Lion has a good brand for about $4, which is much less than most places sell it for.

Some Pics from the week:

Shrimp and Vegatbles 1 whole egg 1 crab rangoon

Shrimp and Vegatbles
1 whole egg
1 crab rangoon

Meat and Veggies

Meat and Veggies

Meat and Vegetables with Special K chips

Meat and Vegetables with Special K chips

Dessert Oatmeal 3 low sugar great value packets 3/4 scoop of protein powder - vanilla berries on top

Dessert Oatmeal
3 low sugar great value packets
3/4 scoop of protein powder – vanilla
berries on top

Meat and Veggies 1 whole egg Cheese

Meat and Veggies
1 whole egg
Cheese

2 whole eggs 5.5oz of lean meat 1oz of cheese Veggies

2 whole eggs
5.5oz of lean meat
1oz of cheese
Veggies

Lean meat Turkey Pepperoni 1/2 cup of bolognese sauce Cheese

Lean meat
Turkey Pepperoni
1/2 cup of bolognese sauce
Cheese