Posted by: draknor | May 15, 2012

Health & Fitness Experiments – The Next Level

It’s been two months since I last posted about health & fitness.  I was getting back on track with my weight-lifting & diet.  Well, sort of diet.  To be honest, I haven’t really put much effort into diet since over a year ago, when I got on a low-carb kick.

Well, that’s all about to change. Starting next week, I’m embarking on a crash diet experiment.

I picked up Lyle McDonald’s The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.  It’s definitely not the cheapest diet book out there, but if you spend any time at all on reading Lyle’s articles on his website, you’ll clearly see this guy knows his science.  And as a technical person myself, that’s important to me.  I don’t know want to just know what works — I want to know WHY it works. And WHEN it doesn’t — because nothing works all the time, in every situation.  And Lyle delivers on that.  I get the sense he really tried to keep things simple for this book, but he still packed it full of good wholesome nutritional & biological science.

The diet itself is pretty simple — it’s basically a modified Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) diet. In essence: it’s a severely calorie-restricted diet where you just eat protein, so your body doesn’t break down muscle & organs (like it does in starvation mode).  Lyle’s modifications are pretty simple — in addition to protein, eat fibrous vegetables and take fish oil supplements (for the Omega-3 EFAs).

Since this is an experiment, let’s lay out the parameters:

Goal: Reduce body fat from ~18% to ~12%, while maintaining strength at/near current levels.

Starting point:

  • Body Weight: 198 lbs
  • Body Fat: 18% (using Omron Handheld Fat Loss Monitor)
    • This is approx 36 lbs of fat
  • Strength:
    • Back Squat: Completed 5 sets of 5 reps of 265 lbs
    • This will be my proxy metric for strength
  • Pictures: yet to come…

Desired end state:

  • Body Weight: 184 lbs
  • Body Fat: 12% (using Omron Handheld Fat Loss Monitor)
    • This is approx 22 lbs of fat
  • Strength:
    • Back Squat: 3 sets of 5 reps of 260 lbs
    • I expect some strength loss, but 260 lbs has been a tough point to reach and I want to maintain that level
  • Pictures: I want to see my abs!
  • Experiment Length: until desired body fat % is reached or 6 weeks, whichever comes first

Believe it or not, this is actually critically important to understand!  When I know why I’m doing something, I can dig way deep into my strength & resolve to push through obstacles & accomplish a goal.  When I don’t understand why (or I don’t care about the why), then my resolve is much, much weaker.
Let me be honest — this is probably 60% vanity, 40% the challenge of doing it.  Maybe even 70/30.  I’m pretty healthy overall and have no need for such drastic dietary changes.  But I feel that poke of “challenge!” every time I look in the mirror and see a little pudge around my abdomen.  I want to see what my abs look like, see what my arms & shoulders & chest would look like with a little less fat obscuring the muscles.  I’ve had some great strength & mass gains over the last year since I started weight-lifting, and now I want to show that  visually.  And yes, that’s vain — but it’s more than that.  When I feel good about how I look, when I’m proud of my body & it’s accomplishments, that gives me confidence.  And confidence begets confidence — I take on new challenges, I push myself in new ways, and I accomplish new things.
This will definitely be a challenge for me — I’ve never put a lot of planning into my diet before, and this is going to force me to do that, if I’m to be successful.  There’s not a lot of options on a diet that consists wholly of lean proteins & fibrous vegetables, but that should make it easy (if boring) to plan out & prepare meals in advance.  But that’s the other big part of the reason I’m doing this — just to see if I can. What’s it like to have a boring, repetitive diet for up to 6 weeks?  What’s it like to be on severe calorie restriction (approx 800-1000 calories/day)?  How will that impact me & my life?  Only one way to find out!
But why next week?
Because this coming weekend, I’m running a 20-mile race on Saturday and a 5-mile obstacle course/mud run on Sunday!  The RFL diet is NOT compatible with intense cardio or endurance events 🙂
Speaking of running… I had lunch with a new friend today, Madison SEO guru & technical writer Liz Merfeld, and she asked me if I was a runner.  I always kind of laugh at that question, because I really don’t think of myself as a runner.  Yet the empirical evidence suggests that maybe I am…
  • 4 marathons + 1 ultra-marathon over the last 6 years
  • 2x 20 mile races + 1 half-marathon + 1 quarter-marathon
  • A sprinkling of 5k & 10k races
  • 12 mile runs around Lake Monona, “just for fun”

So why don’t I consider myself a runner?  Because I don’t actually do it that often, and I can’t really say I enjoy it that much!  I put out a goal for myself to run 10 laps around Lake Monona (12 miles) this season (Apr-Oct).  Aside from whichever random races I sign up for (like the two this coming weekend), that’s the only running I’ll do.  I’m not out every day, or even every week, pounding the pavement and racking up miles.  I like the challenge of pushing myself to complete the long distance events, because in the end its really just a big head game (short of any acute injuries, which I’ve been fortunate to avoid).

I was scared to sign up for the 20 mile race this weekened… until I went out and ran my 2nd Lake Monona lap this past Saturday.  I felt good, I pushed through & ran the whole thing in 2 hours, which was right at my 10 min/mile distance pace.  And that’s all I needed — now I feel confident that I’ll survive 20 miles next weekend.  Not so sure about the mud run, since that’s only 5 miles but filled with obstacles, but I’m running it with friends and we’re in it to have fun, not to really compete.  And I think I’ll do that, just fine.

Then I’ll recover with copious amounts of pizza & beer, and then Monday start my crash diet.

What could possibly go wrong? 🙂