Posted by: draknor | July 21, 2011

Diet & Fitness: The Beginning

I’d like to make Wednesday blog posts focused on health, diet, exercise, and overall general fitness. So with that in mind, my inaugural post today will be on my current status and diet goals.

In any journey, it is critically important to know three things:

  1. Where you are starting from
  2. Where you are going
  3. How to measure your progress

Where I’m Starting From


When considering health & fitness, there are a huge number of metrics you can use.  The more you measure at the start, the more ways you have to gauge progress and determine if you are on track, need to make adjustments, or have reached your goals.  So I’m going to lay it all out for you — this is my starting point (as of July 16, 2011):

  • Body Weight: 185 lbs
  • Body Fat (*):
  • Body Measurements (bottom to top; divide by 2.54 to get inches)
    • Calves (relaxed): 39 cm
    • Thighs (relaxed): 61.5 cm
    • Butt/pubic bone (widest point): 101.5 cm
    • Waist: 86.5 cm
    • Navel (belly at natural position): 88 cm
    • Chest (under arm pits, arms down, relaxed): 95 cm
    • Chest (under arm pits, arms down, flexed): 106 cm
    • Biceps (flexed): 34 cm
    • Neck (relaxed): 40 cm
  • Body Physique: photos link
  • Health Stats (from May, 2011):
    • Cholesterol (total): 164
    • HDL: 52
    • LDL: 100
    • Triglycerides: 58
    • Glucose (fasting): 81
    • Blood pressure (July 20): 128/83
    • TSH (**) (July 1): 5.55

(*) Body Fat:  There are no cheap, efficient ways to accurately measure body fat %.  I’ve been using multiple methods, and based on my estimation, the online calculator is probably closest to my “real” body fat % (based on my physique and comparing to other’s photos: example 1, example 2, example 3).

(**) TSH: This is “thyroid stimulating hormone”. In May 2011 I was diagnosed with hypothryoidism, meaning my thyroid is not as responsive to TSH as it should be.  Your thyroid is responsible for a lot of core body functions, including metabolism.  I’m currently taking synthetic thyroid hormone and working with my doctor to figure out the right dosage to get my TSH test down to 1-2.

Where I’m Going

Selecting specific goals is critical to success — you can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where “there” is!  And you need to define your goals in terms of the measurements you can make, otherwise, again, how will you know if you are successful?

The biggest, and most obvious goal, is weight.  Really, though, its not weight but body composition that I’m after.  I’m generally happy with my body weight, but not my body composition.  At my current weight of 185 lbs and (assuming) 18% body fat, my lean body mass is 152 lbs.  My desired body composition is 10% fat, so I don’t add any muscle, that means my desired body weight is 169 lbs.  (In the future I’ll be laying out a workout plan that will hopefully prove that assumption false, and then I’ll have to rework these numbers).

So my first goal is to lose 16 lbs of fat, to reach a total body weight 169 lbs @ 10% fat.  I’ll use the same methods I used above to [attempt to] calculate my body fat, but another indication I will use is simply the mirror.  The 10% pictures from example 2 & example 3 are a good visual representation of what I want to see in the mirror — defnition in my abs, no more “love handles” bulging out over my waistband, and nice, clean muscle separation.

For body measurements, I’d like my waist to drop to 81 cm / 32″ (based on this chart of ideal height-to-waist ratios).  At this point I have no goals for the rest of my measurements.

For health stats, I want my HDL > 60, my glucose to remain stable around 81, and my blood pressure to be around 110/70 (in the normal range). And, as noted above, I’m working with my doctor to adjust the dosage of synthetic thyroid hormone to get my TSH result to be 1-2.

How to Get There

This is really the biggest piece of the puzzle, although if you don’t setup your specific goals and recognize where are you starting from you’ll likely just go around in circles. This post and plan are going to focus on diet alone.  Later I’ll be setting up an exercise / workout plan, but the single biggest contributing factor in your body weight, composition, and health is your diet.

There’s so many resources out there I’ve been reading through and trying to make heads or tails of — its mind-boggingly!  But here are the key principles that I’m starting to adopt based on everything I’ve been reading:

  • You need to get a lot of protein in your diet, especially for building muscle. 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is commonly recommended, so my goal will be to consumer 185 grams of protein per day. (Some even suggest 1.5 g/lb of body weight, which would be 280g of protein!)
  • Whole, unprocessed foods are the best and should be primary in the diet.  That means lots of veggies, good meats, eggs, etc. Focus on nutritionally-dense foods — foods with lots of nutritional value relative to the calories.  (Sorry, doughnuts!)
  • Chew your calories, don’t drink them.
  • Artificial sweeteners (esp aspartame) may hamper weight loss (there’s some evidence to indicate it promotes an insulin-response, even though it has no nutritional calories), so keep the diet drinks to a minimum, and only with meals. Water, tea, and coffee will be the primary beverages.
  • Calories count — can’t eat too many, but can’t eat too few.  More info below.
  • The body works in rhythms, so get into patterns of eating (approx same meal times).

Those are the general principles I’m working under.  Now to translate those into some specifics:

  • Calories:
    • My basal metabolic rate is 1900 calories/day — that’s what my body burns just staying alive.
    • My daily caloric needs are approx  2600 calories/day, depending on what activity level I use
    • Fat is generally regarded as being 3500 calories/lb, so over time I need to build up a caloric deficit (what I eat vs what I burn) of 3500 calories to burn 1 lb of fat.
    • To lose 1.5 lbs/week (ideal case), I’d have to consume on average 1850 calories/day.
    • My target will be 2000 calories/day, averaged over the week
  • Timing:
    • I’m going to practice a method called “intermittent fasting” as described on leangains.com. The idea here is to fast for 16 hours a day, and only eat during an 8-hour period (such as from noon to 8pm).
    • I will still aim to consume 3 meals/day (within those 8 hours) — typically noon, 4pm, 7pm.
    • Workout days (3/week) should be higher in calories consumed (2600 calories), to give my body the nutrients it needs to rebuild & grow. Rest days will be correspondingly lighter (1500 calories).
  •  Macronutrients — daily minimums
    • Protein: as stated above, 185 g = 740 calories
    • Fat:  25% = 55g  = 500 calories
    • Carbohydrates:  50g = 200 calories
      • Workout days should have at least 120g (480 calories) carbs
    • Rest of caloric needs to be divided as needed, giving preference to protein & fat on rest days

And that’s it — that’s my starting plan!  There’s two more pieces to add to this. First is that I will need to find come up with meal plans & ideas to fit my macronutrient profile — first & foremost will be to up my protein, since I’m currently probably only ~100g of protein a day.  I’ll be sure to post in the future on how I’m meeting my new goal.

And the second component is review & reassessment.  I’m making an assumption that two weeks is enough time for the body to readjust to a new diet & eating rhythms, so every two weeks I’ll want to reassess how well I’m adhering to my plan, how I’m feeling, and how well it appears to be working.  And perhaps take new photos & measurements every 4-6 weeks to help gauge progress.

Expectations

If I want to lose 16 lbs at 1.5 lbs / week, I’m looking at 12+ weeks to get there (likely longer, assuming fat loss slows down as body fat percentage drops), which puts me into mid-October (at best). That gives me a sense of the timeline I’m looking at.

The biggest challenge will be consuming enough protein — I need to nearly double what I’m eating now, and I already have [some] meat with every meal!

At this point I’m not putting any restrictions on specific foods, although I will generally follow the guidelines I set out above.

Stay tuned on Wednesdays for more on my health & fitness progress!

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