Starting around Christmas I decided I was going to give a try to tracking my calories and doing a round of leangains. The main reason for this was we decided to go on a family cruise April this year and I thought it would be fun to see how ripped I could get by then without losing strength, and maybe gaining some. My starting point was 187# and around 8-9% body fat as measured on a tanita scale at my trainer's gym and all my workouts are tracked so I know if I lose strength. I found the leangains website useful, but I was left to my own devices mostly due to a lack of a book or personal training from the master. I did find a really helpful website at rippedbody for getting started and I pretty much stuck with that.
As of yesterday I an down to 178# and 6.6% on the same tanita scale. This is a bit ahead of schedule as I expected to be around 180# by this point. All lifts are up modestly, no faster or slower progress than before the experiment.
Before starting I calculated my total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) using this calculator. I used the "sedentary" activity setting. The basics below use that number as the basis for daily intake.
Here were the basics, diet-wise:
- I had a daily fast no shorter than 16 hours, what some call intermittent fasting(or IF). I didn't eat a single breakfast the entire time. At least 2 days/wk I went as long as 24 hours, mostly because I was busy at work and with family.
- On workout days I ate to TDEE plus around 5%. I wasn't totally consistent, but this was what I shot for and tracked. On average I suspect I was pretty close to this. I also, as suggested, prioritized carbs on workout days. I added sweet and white potatoes and tried to have a piece of fruit, usually an apple.
- On rest days I ate 25% percent below TDEE, carefully tracked. I did less priority on carbs, but still ate potatoes some days. I was around 50-100g/day of carbs.
- Each day I ate ~1g of protein for each # of body weight. This was particularly challenging to do and I *never* would have hit this mark without tracking. The feedback was crucial.
- All intake was tracked with myfitnesspal. This made it surprisingly easy to do. I also looked at fitday, but found myfitnesspal better. I have an iPhone now and the app for it make it so easy I wonder why I didn't start this sooner.
- Always done fasted around 16-17 hours minimal.
- Usually trained around 1pm, sometimes later.
- 10g of BCAA's most times, but not always. I have no confidence this does anything for me, but it was part of the leangains prescription so I did it.
- Main training was once a week or so High Intensity, Body By Science style with a trainer(HIT). Due to my busy work schedule I wasn't consistent on this. I probably averaged every 10 days due to missing a couple of weeks on business trips.
- I filled in the HIT with another workout per week or so. This was done reverse pyramid style with free weights with usually 3 exercises: a lower body(squat or deadlift), a push(overhead press, chest press, or weighted dip) and a pull(weighted chin up or barbell curls). I was usually good and only did 1 extra time a week, but occasionally did a third. I also did this on days that I missed my HIT workouts.
- I found 1-2 workouts per week total was better for fat loss since it made for 5 rest/2 workout instead of 4 rest/3 workout. Just meant more calorie deficit over the week and thus more fat loss. I also think my strength gains were slightly better due to added recovery.
- Eating only 1-2 meals per day makes tracking really simple. Just less to track and less often.
- While potatoes have carbs, it isn't that much. Eating a white potato, for example, had nowhere near as many carbs as I thought. To get to standard american diet levels would have taken many more or eaten junk, which I won't do.
- Increasing the starch didn't result in a return to my old days of grouchiness around meal times. I was afraid adding tubers would spike blood sugar, have later crashes, and make fasting really hard but it just didn't happen. Fasting was, as always, a snap and I felt wired later into the fast, not sluggish or upset.
- Much to the chagrin of the low carb, high fat crowd, I found many foods I ate regularly to be a complete waste on this. Added fats like butter, bacon drippings, cream, ghee, coconut oil, etc I found I had to avoid, minimize or eliminate. Foods like chicken wings were also a waste. They packed on fat calories without enough protein to get to my targets. When I started I was shocked how much fat I was eating(and how little protein). I started dropping bacon(!), eggs, and beef in favor of fish and chicken.
- Tracking made me eat simpler since it was easier to track. Anything complex, while likely to be also high in food reward, almost always tracked with high fat, high calories, and low protein. Exactly what I didn't want.
- Ground beef(even grass fed/finished) was way too fatty to eat regularly on this plan. Just not enough protein and too much fat to get to my goals for the day. Even eating a steak was usually not a good fit. Fish or chicken were better choices.
- To get to protein target(did I mention that was challenging?) I had to supplement. This meant canned tuna and canned chicken most days and a glass of milk with Whole Foods protein powder occasionally(post workout particularly). I was very rigorous on this and almost always met my daily protein target.
- Eating less often made it a snap to keep calories down. I just don't have the capacity to eat big enough to make up for missing breakfast and lunch. A few 24 hour fasts resulted in a cram fest around 8pm to hit -25% only at protein targets.
- Nuts were a huge surprise although in hindsight they shouldn't have been. Nut butters even worse. Tons of calories. Tons of fat. Almost no protein. A complete waste on this diet. Made me also think that this could be a trip up for those on unmeasured Paleo who never get as lean as they like or didn't lose at all. 1/4 cup(hardly anything!) of macadamia nuts is 240 calories and only 3g of protein. I regularly would eat 3 times that at least! That was a huge wake up call.
- Wine, which I regularly drank, was also out. Lots of empty calories. Another possible "Paleo" trip up. I left this for special days and workout days when I needed the extra calories to hit targets. 2 glasses of red wine amounts to almost 10% of calories with no protein. See ya.
- Dairy was also out. A small amount of cream, butter, and cheese can take you from -25% to full TDEE. I basically eliminated it except for a garnish or for post workout drinks when I needed the calories. Yet another "Paleo" trip up I think many experience.