Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Last Post

Just a short note to say this will be my final post.

There's not much more to say beyond what I said in my final post on Pay Now Live Later, except to add that I've been especially grateful for the advice you have been willing to share and the interest you have taken in my experimentation.

Train hard, rest lots, eat well. Over and out.

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Saturday, 20 November 2010

This Week's Gym and Food

Location: My House and Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date & time: about 7 am - Tuesday & Thursday - 16th & 18th November

Tuesday (30 mins)
  • dumbbell chest - 2 x 10 @ 27.5kg, 9 @27.5kg (took a lot to get that 9th)
  • dumbbell shoulders - 5 x 5 @20kg
  • upright row - 2 x10 @37.5kg, 10 @35kg
  • 3 x 20 ab crunches (1-2 second hold)
BCAA before and after session during the morning.

Cucumber, sardines, tuna & coconutty egg for lunch; slow-cooked chicken bones with veg for dinner

Thursday (20 mins)
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 x 10@38kg
  • weighted chins - 5 @12.5kg, 4 @12.5kg, 4 @5kg, 2 x 4 @bodyweight
  • one-arm dumbbell rows - 3 x 10 @24kg
BCAA before and after during the morning.

Coconutty scrambled egg and cold pork for lunch; tuna steaks, fried sweet potato, steamed broccoli & kale for dinner

I worked pretty hard this week. I had no training partner, so the sessions were pretty bisk. My main goal is to avoid strength loss while I lose a little fat.

This is the second week of fast stripping, which I am trying to achieve via more frequent full day fasting. This week I managed Monday and Wednesday, but was too hungry on Friday and caved into some supermarket chicken and fish, which left my mouth tasting nasty from the added salt and sugar.

I plan to carry on leaning up for another couple of weeks, then (assuming I have trimmed off enough) go back into a gaining phase again. But I will be mixing it up in the following ways:
  • More 24-hour fasts & breakfast on gym days
  • Different exercises (e.g. pistols, hand stand push ups)
  • More rest between sets (perhaps 2 minutes instead of 1)...
  • ...but fewer exercises overall (since I want to keep to 2 x 30 mins per week)
By having breakfast on the gym days I will be able to return to my Paleo roots by not taking branch chain amino acids before and after gym session. But by doing extra 24-hour fasts, I ensure that overall fasting time is the same as Leangains recommends.

My training partner has been talking about trying creatine for a while. I am considering it, if only to shut him up. Again, it would be only on an experimental basis. Perhaps 3 months. I need to do some reading first, to be sure I know the facts.

Either way, nothing's going to happen before Christmas. It will take all my concentration and focus to steer clear of dietary collapse during that time.
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

2 x 320m Intervals & Keto Crab Feast

8am, 14th Nov, at home in Birmingham, UK.

Pulled on my tracksuit, stepped outside into the bracing morning and banged out a couple of mid-distance intervals. 320m, uphill.

Times were 61 seconds and 67 seconds. Couple of minutes rest in between, walking back to the start.

I wore the Five Finger Treks, falling apart, but still clinging on to functional use.

I had a keto crab feast for lunch, and have a couple of steaks lined up for tonight. I did have some branch chain amino acids before the intervals, but nothing else until lunch.

I only did two intervals because I want to recover quickly ahead of a race next weekend. As ever, however, I subconsciously tailored my effort according to the expected number of intervals, and ended up hurting myself too much on the first one. So I deliberately slackened a bit for number two, and escaped without coming too close to leg failure. ... Read more

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Starting to Strip Down: Continued Weights & Keto Week

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date & time: about 7 am - Tuesday & Thursday - 9th & 11th November

Tuesday (30 mins)
  • dumbbell chest - 10 @ 26kg, 10 @28kg, 9@28kg
  • dumbbell shoulders - 3 x 5 @20kg, 4 @20kg, 4@18kg
  • upright row - 10 @37.5kg, 2 x 10 @35kg
  • 3 x 20 ab crunches (1-2 second hold)
BCAA before and after session during the morning.

Sardines & egg for lunch, plaice and duck leftovers with veg for dinner

Thursday (25 mins)
  • weighted chins - 4 x 5 @10kg, 5 @bodyweight
  • one-arm dumbbell rows - 3 x 10 @24kg
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 x 10@36kg
  • 3 mins mobility
BCAA before and after during the morning.

Scrambled egg and pilchards for lunch, fried liver & veg for dinner

This was the first week after I ended the Leangains experiment (phase 1). The main objective has been to get into the weight-loss groove whilst continuing to train hard and preserve the hard-earned muscle.

I always find going really low-carb a good way to get started, as well as fasting more often than usual. I am aiming for two 24-hour fasts per week and 16-hour fasts the rest of the time.

I will be trying to stay at the same weights for the 4-week leaning up period. My main index will be dumbbell chest press - will I be able to still do 5 x 5 @32kg next week?
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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Leangains Experiment 12-Week Update

I described my plans for the experiment in a post in August. The experiment ran between 11th August and 4th November - roughly 12 weeks.

My main objective was to see whether the Martin Berkhan's Leangains approach to eating could create favourable strength and size changes after years of little or no progress in the gym - while delivering on its promises to make those gains lean.

Overall, I gained a little over 2% fat and 10lbs and gained 5-10% strength. In the final few weeks, I blew it on the diet front. Here's the detail.

Eating and Fasting Windows

I recorded the times of my meals - the graph shows the fasting window and eating window for each day during the experiment.

Orange = Fasting Window Blue = Eating Window

Note that since the fasting window started the day before, the bars do not always add up to 24 hours. The red line indicates the recommended 8 hour eating window size for Leangains.

I still threw in 24-hour fasts about once a week, and although I said I would never eat breakfast, I did eat it on a few occasions when I had a big race.

Other than these few anomalies, I quite consistently adhered to the 8-hour eating window rule.

Meal Composition

I tweeted all my meals - and from the collected text of those tweets, have produced this word cloud showing the foods I was eating and how often (bigger word = more often.)

The pictures of the 12 weeks of meals can be seen here, in chronological order. For 98% of the time I ate Paleo - meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Most of the 2% was concentrated in the final few weeks - more on that below.

Initially I ate high carb, low fat on gym days. I achieved this with sweet potatoes, bananas and lean meats like venison, chicken breast and tinned tuna. However, after a while, I switched to one day per week because my guts didn't seem to like the high carb.

Ultimately, I lost patience with the low fat concept. Too many of the foods I rely on are high fat and I was finding I often forget which way round I was supposed to be eating. As a leptin booster, eating high carb on one day per week seemed to work, but more often that than was a struggle.

On gym days I took branch chain amino acid supplements on gym days - 10g before the session, then 20g spread through the morning. This is the Leangains recommendation to optimise fasted training. I was pretty rigorous about sticking to this.

One thing not reflected in the meal pictures is my post-dinner snacks, or 'finishers'. This would be some, or all of the following: coconut cream, nuts, cocoa powder, seeds. I reckon this was often a significant amount of calories, and of course never features in the meal photos. However, I DID take it into account when recording fasting and eating windows.

Meal Size and Calories

I did not attempt to measure or record calories. This would have been way too granular and whilst I was willing to make sacrifices (e.g. on workouts below) from my Paleo principles for the experiment, this would have been a step too far. I did make an effort to eat big on gym days, but did this by instinct alone.

I am quite sure that my evening meals were too big and my lunches not big enough. The idea is to load most of the calories closer to the workouts. However, I was at work (where it's harder to eat big) for lunch and at home (where it's easier) for dinner.


The workouts from the experiment can be seen here.

I made a point of not increasing the time I spent on resistance or intense exercise, so that the only variable changing was the diet.

I wanted to keep the training random (i.e. more Paleo) but I ended up switching to a more consistent, traditional, regular weight training routine because I wanted to measure my progress. I actually enjoyed getting back into the weight-training 'groove'.

I trained for 60 minutes per week, in two 30-minute sessions. Push exercises on Tuesday, pull exercises on Thursday. Dumbbell chest press, weighted chin ups, and Romanian deadlift were the 'big' exercises. I did not do squats because their interfere with running and vice-versa.

I always trained at about 7 am.

Strength Gains

I used dumbbell chest press and chin ups as my progress measures.

On chest press, I went from not quite being able to so 5x5 @30kg to being able to do 5x5 @32kg.

On weighted chin ups, I remained almost entirely at the same weight - 3x5 @15kg then 10kg or less for the remaining two sets. However, since my body weight had increased by 10lbs, this is arguably roughly a 5kg increase.

This all translates into roughly a 5-10% gain in strength.

Body Composition

For the first two months, I was gradually gaining weight. The flat line in October is where I went on holiday for two weeks (see The Great Buffet Abuse Tour) and had no access to scales.

Clearly I put on a lot of weight during those fateful two weeks, but it was only during the final days that the wheels fell off and I started eating bad food. The rest of the time, as the meal timing chart shows, I still stuck to the rules. I also continued to train hard in the Vegas gyms.

Overall, between August and November I put on 10 lbs and 2% body fat. My crude calculations suggest that's about 3.5 lbs in fat and 6.5 lbs in other things.

My hydration levels, and water retention levels ought to have been consistent across the two readings, since I had been eating and drinking cleanly and consistently for at least a week before both readings. However, I was under-eating just before the experiment and overeating at the end - so a portion of the non-fat weight gain was extra food in my system. Let's call it 6 lbs of muscle.


I tried to keep the lighting the same and crop the photos to make them equivalent - but it's hard to judge.

Before - 11% fat, 11 stone 6.5

After - 13% fat, 12 stone 3.0

Thoughts and Conclusions

Before and after photos often show people who started out with more body fat and less muscle because they do not regularly lift weights. But I have been training with heavy weights for years and remained relatively lean and muscular; and for a couple of years, I have been fasting regularly and eating mainly Paleo food.

No big surprise then, that the results were not profound. However, I was not looking to this experiment for radical changes. I wanted to see whether:

- BCAA supplementation
- Eating more food close to training sessions and fewer elsewhere
- Carb re-feeding

...could create the tangible gains in strength and size I had failed to see for several years.

The answer: yes.

Three months is a relatively small period, so I think a 5-10% strength gain for someone already regularly training is not bad at all.

But were the gains lean? Again, I think yes. They were not as lean as they could have been, but this was because of my holiday blowout, not the eating method. According to my calculations, perhaps only one third of the weight gain was fat, which would probably have been more like 20% without the binge.

However, there are some caveats.

First, whilst I was trying to keep all variables the same, I did change my workouts. I went from random to consistent. This is probably the most consistently I have done the same weights routine week after week for a number of years.

Second, this is also the longest period for which I have deliberately overeaten calories in a number of years.

Both of these factors alone could have led to the gains. I imagine Martin would argue that this may be true, but would the gains have been lean?

Coincidentally, Richard at Free the Animal has also been experimenting with Leangains, in his case with more of an emphasis on the weight training in this particular report, which includes an interview with Martin.

What Next?

I will continue with the same eating protocol, but reduce calories and go very low carb. I will fast a little more often, and avoid 'finisher' snacks after evening meals.

The objective is to strip back to 11% fat over 4 weeks and see whether I have retained any of the muscle. I will post an update in due course.

I will then, I think, try to hybridise my normal Paleo approach to eating and training with the things I have learned from Leangains. I will post updates as these plans come into focus.

See Also:
My Leangains Experiment
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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Quick Dash up the Wrekin

Yesterday, I ran up the light side of the Wrekin . I didn't time it, but reckon it was 18 mins up, then 13 down. I wore the Five Finger Flow Treks, and where it was not too steep, concentrated on Pose-style running. It's the first hill run since Langdale 4 weeks ago, and just something to keep me in the game ahead of the 8-mile Wrekin Wrecker race in a couple of weeks. I fasted until lunch, when I was celebrating with a family member. This degenerated, later, into non-paleo food. I am fasting today in penance. ... Read more

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Final Leangains Session

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 7.00 am - Thursday- 4th November

Chin Ups (2 x 5 weighted @15kg, 1 x 5 weighted @10kg, 1 x 5 @bodyweight)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @26kg, 24kg, 22kg)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (3 x 10 @36kg)

Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition (based on my Leangains experiment)

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10 BCAA
2 hours after: 10 BCAA

Lunch (12:05pm) - cucumber, 6 eggs, beetroot, avocado, sardines + 2 bananas & an apple

Dinner (7:30) - 2 baked trout, roasted pumpkin, marrow, brussel sprouts, onion and parsnip

That's it - the last official day of the Leangains experiment. Over the weekend I will post my conclusions and some graphs, photos etc. ... Read more