Friday, June 28, 2013

5 months to Super Hero

Five months from now I will turn 30. It didn’t really hit me till I turned 29 cause when your 28 you still feel like you are in your 20s primed up ready to go and conquer the world.

I can't really stop getting older but I do have the strength and time right now to do something about my fitness and health. I can't really afford to Who knows, maybe my 60+ year old version will thank me later.

I know fitness is a long term process but for now I would also like to focus on a short term goal. In 5 months I would like to have a stronger version of me, maybe not super hero status, but a better me =).

I have looked into several strength/hypertrophy training programs and basically most common themes are as follows:

  • Plan for a ramp up and overreaching phase followed by a deload week
  • Deload week is usually recommended after 4-5 weeks of pushing yourself to the limit. Some of the veterans in the fitness industry really put an emphasis on this, I think it would be a good idea to heed their advice.
  • Going all out on full body routine can lead to burn out so switching it up to upper/lower split before it happens helps. Once your body starts getting acclimated to upper/lower, it’s time to push yourself once more with full body workouts and the cycle repeats.
  • Performing a lift on different rep ranges(heavy, medium, light) is a must to maximize strength and hypertrophy. You can plan for this on one single workout, one microcycle(one week), or separate each on a different phase(think months).
  • Take care of your joints. It is alright to switch up barbell to dumbbells from time to time once you start noticing join pains. Also, having gymnastic rings helps when doing daily chins and pushups to allow your wrist to rotate and avoid unnecessary stress.

The Plan

First 2 months I’ll be focusing on increasing strength followed by 3-4 weeks focusing on endurance and followed by 4-8 weeks focusing on strength and size. The end goal is to have a good base strength, low body fat and some size on my 30th birthday. This plan is actually from Max Muscle Plan, lame title but actually a good read with science to back it up. Here we go!

Core exercise- deadlifts, squats, bench, weighted chin ups, pendlay rows and overhead press (maybe weighted dips also).

Microcycle Block 1 - Full body routine
Week 1 - Work up to 3 sets of 4-5 rep max on core exercise(Currently here!)
Week 2 - Work up to 3 sets of 2-3 rep max on main lifts
Week 3 - 3 working sets of 5RM, 3RM, and 1M
Week 4 - deload week, light weights, use dumbbell etc

Microcycle Block 2 - Split into upper/lower workouts
To be continued (I’ll make another post when I’m about to start on this phase).

I’ll also be doing sprints 2-3 times a week to keep my conditioning up and also do some good old fashion running around the park when I can. As far as diet goes, I have a pretty good feel now on how much protein, carbs, fat I need on training and non training days. Basically eat enough and don’t eat crap. It’s ok to enjoy life of course but don’t make almost every meal a re-feed/cheat meal.

Here is my starting pic, I can’t wait to revisit this photo 5 months from now and compare how awesome I am them =)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Week 3: Daily push ups, chin ups and laterals.

Push ups, chin ups, and dumbbell lateral raises. That is what I have been doing daily (almost!) for 2 weeks now on top of following the StrongLifts/Starting Strength program. I started with a certain count then I kept adding 1 more rep for each day e.g. 25 chins for day 1, 26 chins for day 2 etc etc. 2 more weeks to go!

Running Total(6/4/2013)

575- chin ups/ring pull ups/parallel grip pull up
894- decline push ups, ring push ups
1007 - lateral raises

I have missed a couple of days so I will try to make up for the days to get a total of 28 days of training. Also I messed up my count on some days so it's not all symmetrical. Apparently I can't do math even with the assistance of a calculator.

I am following Chad Waterbury’s High Frequency Training. The premise is this, if you want to focus ion a specific body part to grow, one thing you won’t do is train it less. If we would pause and observe the world, high frequency training is everywhere. Mountain climbers and mechanics have their forearms, boxers have their shoulders, soccer players have their calves, sprinters have their glutes, swimmers have their lats, skaters have their quads etc etc.

But of course, simply doing more isn't just the answer. Joint health, exercise selection, starting volume, periodization and many others will have to be considered such as following a program and this is where I used Chad's HFT.

Couple thoughts on HFT

  • Instead of picking focusing on 3 body parts, I should have chosen 2 as recommended. I guess that’s why they call it hindsight.
  • For joint health and extra points for coolness, I bought gymnastic rings to use for the push ups and chin ups. The wrist pain that I was having from doing daily push ups after the first week have been lessened to the point that I don’t even notice them anymore. Also using rings on pull ups there is less stress on my wrist as I can freely rotate them.
  • Stretching the wrist, shoulders, forearms and chest everyday seems to be mandatory or else I’ll feel like shit.
  • Currently at week 3 and my arms are … I can’t even describe. They’re hurting during the first few reps but I just push through it and it seems the pain goes away after a set or two.
  • Most of my lifts on my main workout has stalled except deadlift. Actually my last OHP workout is chugging along nicely after my deload. Bench, Pendlay Row and Squat are still in the same range.
  • I had to up my calories as there are times I feel I am out of energy. I also noticed that I tend to take more naps and go to bed early. Push ups, chin ups and lateral raises might not sound too much but do it everyday and add one rep each everyday on top of your main workout and it’s going to be a bitch. Plus, who doesn't like more ice cream and pizza?


One could say that I would have been more productive if I just focus on lifting and getting those numbers up by getting more rests .... BUT ... that would have been true if my only goal was to get those numbers up. If you haven't read my last post on goals, please read it. 

The important thing is be honest with yourself and set goals accordingly. Beginners, like me, tend ti get hung up on either pure strength or "functional" training that they lose sight of what their goals are. Most people just want to look awesome and also do awesome stuff with their new self. I wanted to incorporate more bodyweight training. I have always been interested in ring training. Next up will be focusing on hand stand push ups, but let's take one step at a time.

I'm travelling next week, so I’m not sure how the 4th week of HFT will go. I can either stop at 3 weeks then restart after 2 weeks or continue this program while staying at a Hotel.  I want to bring my gymnastic rings but we will see =). Next post will be the results on this little experiment of mine and what strength/hypertrophy program I am looking at after following a linear strength periodization. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 24, 2013

3rd Month Progress Fat to Fit Dad

It’s been about 6 weeks since phase 2 of my fat to fit dad experiment and I have learned some great lessons along the way that I hope share with you today such as being honest with yourself etc… but first let’s look at the results!

There were setbacks such as my son getting sick for a week then I get sick for a week and then followed by a neck and shoulder pains uggghhh. Having said that, I was still able to get some gains in the last 6 weeks and I am going to extend this cycle for another 3 weeks to make up for the weeks that I was sick.

Starting Stats
Weight: 148
Waist: 32”, Navel 33.75”
Squat 225 lb x 5
Bench press 135 lb x 5
OHP 80 lb x 5
Deadlift 185 lb x 5
Dips: 12-12-10 (body weight only)
Chin ups 5 - 4 - 3

Results  after 6-7 weeks
Weight: 147
Waist: 30.75”, Navel 32.75”
Squat - 255 lb x 4
Bench press - 155 lb x 4
OHP - 85 lb x 5 ( I know yuck)
Deadlift - 215 x 3 reps
Dips: Weighted 35lbs - 8 - 8 -10
Chin ups: 9- 6- 5

I only lost one lb! This would have really sucked up all my motivation but good thing I was also measuring my waist at the navel and on the true waist (pelvic) and I have improved my strength to weight ratio. I removed the body fat as I felt it was inaccurate sometimes jumping +/- 2 points which is not right.

Progress so Far …

Original Goal: Weight Loss
End Goal: Gain Strength. Result: Same weight, less fat, more muscles, more strength, win?

Some observations:
  • Man boobs …. I don’t even ...
  • You could see I was trying to flex really hard on the 3rd picture(look at the neck) while I was more relaxed on the last one.
  • Although my waist seems the same on the last two pictures, my pants are actually falling off since last week, I guess my body reduces body fat on my glutes first lol.
  • Muscles looked more dense on the last picture, possible from the heavy sets I usually do 3-6 reps.

Lesson Learned # 1

Be honest with yourself. Know your goal!

There came a point where I had to choose what I want to focus on. Lifting heavy with enough volume and trying to set new personal records  is tough to pull off while restricting calories, at best I would get marginal results in both strength and fat loss.

I had to be honest with myself and asked the following questions:

  • Do I really want to lose weight that bad to the point of sacrificing strength gains?
  • Do I really need to lose weight right meow? Why am I in a rush?
  • What do I really want to focus on strength or weight loss?

I decided to choose increasing my strength as my priority so I slowly started upping my calories and man I felt some weight taken off my shoulders. I didn't go wild on my food intake, I just wasn't worried if I went over my calorie requirements for that day.

Just honest with yourself. Do you really want to get big bodybuilder style or focus on aesthetics just like Abercrombie models or you don't give a damn about anyone of those and want to be strong as fuck. There is no wrong answer, be honest with yourself and plan accordingly.

I started this journey with vague goal of being fit which shifted to losing weight and again to gaining strength. Once I get a decent strength base I will move onto something else be it focus on aesthetics, bodyweight training, or martial arts.

Lesson Learned #2

When it comes to programs, be like water. Experiment!

Don’t be tied to a program, it’s a means to an end not the end itself. Just like the amount of weight on the bar, it’s a tool. Yes, you have to give most program at least 8-12 weeks to work but as soon as your goals change and it’s not panning out you take what you have learned and move on.

Most of us gets bogged down on the little details of the program. You have to look through the complexity and see the what the program is really about. You need to be able to explain it to someone else in 2 sentences max such as Lift heavy, lift fast, get big or some shit like that. Of course I’m over simplifying but you get my point.

I actually like reading about different programs be it bodybuilding, powerlifting, mma, or any other sport specific training.  There will be commonalities on some programs such as rep range, intensity, volume and frequency etc. Isn't it better to understand why the programs works rather than just copying and pasting it?

You have to learn to study the program being shown.
Who is the main audience of the author? Bodybuilders? MMA fighters? Powerlifters?
What is the end goal of the program?
What are the main principles of this program?
What are the concerns/complaints that are usually brought up by people who are against the principles. Is it valid, or are they just blindly following their own faith on a different program?

If you goal touches qualities of different sports, wouldn't it make sense to study programs and possibly integrate them to your program such as mixing in some hypertrophy work even if your main focus is on lifting? Wouldn't it be more ideal to know why it works and not just blindly following it?

Don’t dismiss a program because it goes against your held beliefs and don’t have an unwavering faith to it either that you are stubborn to adapt. Experiment! Find what works for you.

Lesson Learned #3

Performance First! Your Body Will Follow.

If you focus on performance, your body will naturally adapt to what you are doing and follow. Whether you train to be marathoner or a sprinter, your body will adapt to it. This just makes total sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

Genetics aside, your body’s shape and conditioning is what it is right now because of the environment and consistent stimulus you have exposed it to (or lack thereof). Which is why athletes on a given sport have some commonalities such as boxers having muscular shoulders or why swimmers have well developed lats.

Currently I am focusing my training on performing better on lifts and also have been improving my conditioning by cycling short rest (40-90 sec) with long rests (2-3 min). I've also been slowly adding sprint high intensity interval training, going all out for 15-20 seconds then rest as long as I can right before my heart goes into resting state.

If you are getting depressed because your body is not changing, focus on improving on other aspects if you are doing some sort of training. Give your body a reason to change.

But there was another lessons learned when I finally decided to have weight loss take a back seat on my priority list .…

Lesson Learned #4

Favor increasing Metabolic Capacity when not in a rush for weight loss.

In the last 6 weeks, I have actually upped my calories(my wife can verify this), gained muscle, gained strength, lost fat, with about the same exercise volume/week  and even losing one pound.

If your goal is strength/sports training and lose weight slowly consider not cutting calories at first but gradually increase volume of exercise and maintain needed calories and slowly up the calories, teaching your body to burn calories as they come in.

The advantage of having a large metabolic capacity is this:
When you finally decide to focus on losing weight, you have a lot of room(i.e. calories) to play with.

If you want to lose weight and you have  starting point of a maintenance of 1200 calories and working out 8-10 times a week, where the hell do you go from there?

But if you have more maintenance calories say 1800-2000 you can slowly reduce your calories by 150-200 weekly and adjusting it as necessary without feeling like shit and actually see results.

Jason Ferruggia  even goes on to say that you shouldn't even think about losing weight(ie cut calories) if your metabolism is not functioning properly. You can take your body temperature on certain times of day to easily check this. Dr. Layne Norton has videos on metabolic damage on YouTube, search for biolayne. Rusty from has a series on repairing metabolism.

Of course the really serious metabolic damage doesn't just happen in a 2 week time frame, it actually takes months/years of abuse. But why even go there? If there is a high school reunion or a wedding that you need plan on attending on a short notice, I understand low calorie restriction could be one of your options. But usually those kind of diets are generally not recommended to last more than a 4-6 weeks.

Other Stuff

  • Chin ups everyday is OK! Just vary the grip so you spare your joints. Went from 5 chin ups to 9 just by doing chin ups. Don’t go to failure.
  • Currently experimenting with high frequency training. I’m doing chin ups, push ups, and lateral raises everyday. I started with a base # of reps and I just keep adding 1 rep per day. I’ll do this for 28 days. Already seeing some increase width on chest and back after a week.

What’s next for me?

I’ll continue strength training for the next 2-3 weeks and back off for a week. From there, I have to re-evaluate my goals if I want to switch it up a bit and start gaining some mass, not bulk, but just slowly add mass. I’m back to Grad school and work is starting to get hectic so I might have to change the frequency and program to what works for me.

It’s been a fun and interesting 3 month journey. I didn't really knew what I was getting myself into, back then I just wanted to get fit, although I wasn't sure then what that really meant, I just wanted to be a better me both physically and mentally.

On my next posts I plan on laying a plan after following a linear progression(starting strength/stronglifts). I would also like to discuss different training techniques that I have read about and maybe hopefully create some discussion on it. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Round 2 Wk1 of Operation Fat to Fit Dad

Round 1 of Operation Fat to Fit Dad is over and after a week break from strength training and "diet" it is time for Round 2.

If you haven't read my first post on why the hell I am doing this, you can read it here. Also here is my progress pic for Round 1

The 1 Week Break

To sum up my one week break from my initial 6 week strength training and dieting:  AWESOME. I ate a box of large pizza, carrot cake, leftover chocolates from Easter, drank liters of soda, devoured pancakes with a disgusting amount of syrup. I didn't get to eat some cheesecake /sadface as I planned but I'll get on that next time.

I was expecting to gain 1-2 lbs but I actually lost 1 lb of weight. One explanation could be that after 6 weeks of diet, my body was ready for a carb refeed.

Ok enough with that, let's get this operation fat to fit dad Round 2 rolling!

Physique Goals

Starting Stats:
Weight: 148 lbs (average between 3 days)
Waist size (Pelvic): 32", (Navel): 33.75"
Body Fat: 15.6% (I think this is too low to be honest but I'll stick with it to maintain consistent, albeit consistently wrong. Based on the internetz I think I'm close to 18-19%)

Goal in 6 weeks:
Weight: 143-144 lbs
Waist size (Pelvic): 30", (Navel): 30"-31"
Body Fat: 12-13%

The biggest thing for me here is improving my waist to height ratio. Before moving on I want to say that this ratio is not end all be all. You can actually get a good waist to height ratio and still have flabby waist line. Like all else, it is a tool that you can use.

For calculating body fat, I used this. I average it out in 3 days and take the measurement 2 hours after I eat dinner and just before going to bed. I also took the average between the settings of normal and athlete.

6 months - 1 year goal: Basically look good naked.  I want to work on getting a good waist to shoulder ratio(I am all about ratios) but I realize that I need to gain strength and add on lean mass before even thinking about that ratio. I'll be adding 6 week cycles focusing on muscle size later on but for now I just want to be stronger.

Long term goal:  Keep my BMI and waist to height ratio in line. I want to set myself up so when I get to the age of 50-60 I have a lot of room to work with by not changing my lifestyle too much and not worry about obesity related diseases.

Strength Goals

Starting Stats:

Chin ups: 5 - 4 - 3- 3 - 3
Dips: 12 - 12 - 10

Goal in 6 weeks:

Chin ups: 7 - 7 - 7 - 7 -7
Dips: BW + 45 lbs x 12 reps x 3 sets

I used this form for figuring out where I'm at and for calculating 1 rep max and comparing it to strength standards.

The Deadlift goal is going to be tough since I need to add 70lbs in a 6 week time frame. The overhead press is another concern since I really struggled with it stalling left and right. I ordered a pair of 1.25 lb plates and this should help in slowly moving up the weight in both the overhead press and bench press.

6-12 months goal: Reach intermediate level on strength training and go home and tell my wife that I am now a man. I think after a third 6 week cycle, I should be able to get out of beginner phase and transition to an intermediate one. From here, I'll do another intermediate strength cycle followed by a hypertrophy cycle(muscle size!) and then another strength cycle.

Long term goal: As mentioned before, Strength training is not an end goal. I view fitness as a tool to enjoy life with those who are important to you.  I want to have a good base strength and do other activities such as rock climbing, swimming, martial arts etc. That being said, I would still like to continue lifting weights after getting through the beginner phase maybe add a muscle size cycle there somewhere. When I'm 70 yrs old I would like to be a strong, lean, mean awesome grand pa.


The Diet Structure

I'll still be using LeanGains as I it worked out for my lifestyle and had some pretty good results from it. I used this calculator for my protein/carb/fat goals.

Here is the plan
  • Fast for 14-16 hours, eat around 1-2 pm till 9-10 pm
  • Training days: eat about 148g of protein, 230g of carbs, 34g of fat - about 1840 calories
  • Non training days: eat about 148g of protein, 110g of carbs, 49g of fat - about 1473 calories
  • Sundays eat breakfast with the family as usual
  • 1-2 cheat meals per week. Cheat meals will preferably be set on Training days if not no big deal. 
To monitor my calorie intake I used MyFitnessPal.

The Strength Program

I'll be continuing with my progression with StrongLifts lifting three times a week (MWF) focusing on progressive overloading with these workouts:

Workout A: Squats, Bench, Pendlay Rows, Dips/Weighted Dips
Workout B:  Squats, Overhead Press, Deadlift, Chin ups

For the first week I will reduce all the weights by 10% and focus on form and speed. From there I add weight after each workout until I stall then I deload as necessary.

Training Patch Notes:

1.) Squats will now be 3 sets of 5 reps instead of 5 x 5 AND it will not be first exercise of the day every time. This should address my issue with squats affecting my other lifts and should shorten my time in the gym.

2.) Add extra work for shoulders maybe add Arnold Press to bring OHP up there. Another alternative would be to do seated barbell press, db press, and seated db press.

3.) Really thinking about using Starting Strength's way of increasing of weight and deloading which is keep adding weights till you miss more than 3 reps and do a judgement call if I need a soft deload or an intense deload. Check out details here.

4.) Add more core workout, - I'm thinking planks, reverse crunches etc.

5.) Start sneaking in High Intensity Interval Training with sprints on off days and see how I feel about it. If starts getting in the way of recovery, I'll ditch it and just settle with steady state cardio.

Week 1 Progress

Squats: 205 lbs x 5 reps x 5 sets
Bench: 120 lbs x 5 reps x 5 sets
Pendlay Row: 115 lbs x 5 reps x 5 sets
Chest Dips: 12 - 12 - 12
Comments: Was actually feeling sick in the morning but decided to just go to the gym and see how I felt. I actually felt better after my workout.

Squats: 215 x 5 x 5
Overhead press: 70 x 5 x 5
Deadlift: 175 x 5, 155 x 7, 140 x 9 (pyramid training)
Arnold Press: 25 lb DBs - 10 - 8 - 6
Chin ups: 5 - 5 - 4
Comments: Deadlift at 175 felt heavy even though I have done this lift at 185 and 195. OHP at 70 felt heavy during the last 2 sets. Also focused on speed and form the whole time.

Squats: 225 x 5 x 5
Bench: 135 x 5 x 5
Pendlay Row: 120 x 5 x 5
Dips: BW + 5 lbs - 12 - 12 - 12
Comments: Bar speed of squat was not as fast as I would like, I'll still add weight for the next session IF bar speed is really slow then I'll stick to that weight.

100 burpees: I did it to see how many minutes I can pull it off - 20 minutes
Couple of body weight exercise circuits (Spark circuits from Fitocracy)
Did some yard work but nothing too tough (Can't really afford fines right now)
Hopefully doing these won't hinder my recovery for next week's Monday workout.

W1 Diet thoughts:

  • I am still struggling to meet my minimum protein requirements. Maybe buy more salmon and chicken breast?
  • On non-training days I find myself eating too much of a caloric deficit.
  • I had more carbs than I would have liked on training days (chocolates!). I'll pay special attention to my weight and body fat % this week. 
  • I think 2-3 meal frequency might not work for me once I decide to starting gaining mass as it is tough as it is to consume my daily calories in 2-3 meals, this might change later on. 

Moving Forward

Round 2 Week 1 is in the books and I am really forward to how I will be progressing on my lifts in the next 5 weeks. There is a lot of stuff happening right now at work and at the house so working out is a nice escape where it's just me and the bar or as I would like to call it: MAN VS BAR.

I think for my case, having a lot of stuff happening and not spending too much time thinking and reading about fitness and working out is a good thing to avoid burn out in the long run. I should be doing less reading this time since I got most of the basics out of the way. That doesn't mean I won't expand my knowledge, what it means for me is I am now more selective of what I read and what I research on.

That's it for now. If you are still reading this then I would like to thank you for taking an interest of my quest  to becoming a better me. Here's to more strength and less body fat!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

First 6 weeks of Fat to Fit Dad Journey

The Purpose

Why now? Two main reasons.

First, life is short, one moment you are all happy and laughing together the next thing you know someone gets into a fatal accident or gets the news that you(or someone that you care about) has cancer and has a month to live. I've been in those situations, I've lost grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins. I've seen family members in those situation. It is a horrible feeling of helplessness, anger, and sadness. It just f***king sucks.

I was diagnosed with a fatty liver in 2010 and if not taken care of could result in liver cancer. Doctor's orders are eat better and exercise more.  I am almost at the big 3 zero and I feel I need to do something to improve my chances of a healthy life when I'm at my 60s or 70s. Simply put: I don't want to die or have sickness/disease that could have been easily prevented if i just adjusted my lifestyle.

I would like to be there when my son sincerely asks what "true love" is. I would like the pain and struggles that I have experienced to be his gain and learn from it. There are just so many things that I would like to teach and share with him.

The goal is not to make my son's life easier but to make sure he has the right mindset, environment and tools when life takes a crap on him. 

Second, I want to be a good model to my family particularly to my son who is almost 2 and a half.

If I want to show my son the importance of being fit and physically active then it is clear what I must do: I need to be fit, healthy, and strong. No other way around it. 

I started putting a plan together and listing some goals for 2013 around early January. After about 4 weeks of research I finally decided to start my 2013 with a "trial" 6 week experiment.

Below are details of my self experiment to be healthy/fit from February 18th through March 29th:

The Goal

Lose at least 10 lbs. My  BMI(weight to height ratio), wasn't looking too hot. Waist to Height ratio wasn't also looking too good. Waist to Height ratio is a good indicator on how prone you are to certain diseases, this is actually better than BMI in my opinion. I’m not looking to be a fitness model here I just don’t want to die to something later on that I could have prevented because that would really suck.

Gain strength. I want to lift heavy objects and put them down. I want to be strong enough to be able to do other physical activities with relative ease. Also adding lean muscles wouldn't be a bad idea since I get to up my metabolism, burn more calories and eat more food(more cake?!). I plan on translating this strength to other activities. No, not just for sex, although I’m sure the wife will appreciate the gained hip strength and muscle endurance.

Here is a good strength index for beginners that I am trying to aim for by Mid 2013:

Bench  press: bodyweight x 1.2
Squat: bodyweight x 1.6
Deadlift: bodyweight x 2
Chin ups: bodyweight x 8

The Basics

I tried to look for that one magic formula for fitness, fat loss, and muscle gain. That one super plan that will help me get to where I want to be. I ran into a bunch of diets such as paleo, low fat diets, glutten free diet, atkins diet, warrior diet etc. Also run into a good amount of strength training programs. However, after couple weeks of research  I kept coming back to the same basic principles.

  1. Diet plays a huge role in overall fitness. Some say 90% while some say 80%, whatever it is .. it’s a big deal. You can't expect to eat crap and think its sustainable(think 10+ years).
  2. Follow your grandparent’s advice: Limit junk foods and  eat more fruits and vegetables!
  3. Pay attention to your calorie intake. If you want fat loss then eat at a calorie deficit over a period of time. All diets you see on commercials, books, online ads etc who tells you otherwise will trick you on to doing a calorie deficit at the end.
  4. Doing some sort of resistance training will help maintain(or even build) some muscles while
    losing weight. Having more lean muscles will lead to faster metabolism which is good.
  5. For beginners on strength training, progressive overloading is where the magic happens mainly because of a beginner's body to adapt and overcompensate after 24-48 hours of training.

Once I can cover all the basics, I now need a structure for diet and strength training that is both sustainable and one that follows the principles I mentioned above. This means I could pick whatever structure and program I want as long as it makes sense for me, this is especially true for the diet part. If you're like me who has been looking into diets there are so many kinds of diets out there. After all, what good is the best diet in the world if it doesn't work for me?

The Methods

The Diet Structure:

The first two weeks was all about cutting wheat and sugar from my diet. This worked really well at the beginning. Next, I decided to try out intermittent fasting. I used the 16/8 method, method used by LeanGains. I fast for 16 hours then have an 8 hour feeding window. Basically I skip breakfast to allow my body to gain the benefits from fasting. I would then time my biggest meal after a workout. On training days, I eat more, I eat less otherwise. You can read more about it here.
This diet structure is not the silver bullet. I could have picked a 6 meal a day type of diet structure and still arrive at my goal as long as I stick to the basics and follow through. I chose this mainly because this one fits my lifestyle and would allow me to easily start doing (I don't have time to prepare 6 meals a day). The best diet in the world is the one that you can stick to. If what you have is working for you then don’t fix what ain't broken.

The Strength Program:

It was a toss up between Starting Strength and StrongLifts (you don't have to buy anything or register your email to view the programs). Both uses the basics I mentioned above. I ended up using StrongLifts mainly because I don't know how to properly perform a Barbell Press and Clean and would really like a coach to go through it with me just to be safe.
The goal is to focus on compound lifts(squats, bench, deadlifts, overhead press) and progressively try to add weight. There are two main workout routines:

Workout A - Squats, Bench Press, Pendlay Row
Workout B -Squats, Overhead press, Deadlift

I would lift three times a week and would just alternate between Workouts A and B. I would always try for 5 sets of 5 repetitions, except for Deadlift as it starts with 1 set of 5. If successful then I would add a small weight to the bar next workout. If not, then I would keep trying up to three workouts which is followed by a deload by 10% if still unsuccessful.

After a couple of deloads that means it is time to move on to 3 sets of 5. Rinse, repeat then I would fall into 1 x 5 followed by an intermediate program for that particular lift. Goal is to move all my lifts to an intermediate level. Honestly, I'm actually skipping 1 x 5 just like the Starting Strength model.

The Journey

During the first 2 weeks of my journey, my diet was all about making wiser food selection and limiting processed foods. This week was also awesome because the wife was in on this. She actually lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks just by taking out wheat and only doing bodyweight exercises maybe once or twice a week. Currently, she is stable at her weight for a month now.

On the last 4 weeks I decided to switch it up and try out intermittent fasting as I mentioned above. For the calorie and macronutrient part, first was to find out what is my BMR. On training days, I would go over that amount and eat more carbs and less fats. Non training days means I go below that, eat less carbs and eat more fat. Protein amount should be about the same on either days. Here is a calculator that I used.

The first week of intermittent fasting was tough but it did get easier at the 2nd week mark. It was really tempting to just go on a big calorie deficit(starve myself) on non training days, I got away with it during the first 2 weeks but as soon as the weights started to get relatively heavy, I felt really miserable so I upped my calorie intake and that got me through the rest of the way and I was still able to lose some weight. I like how I could go on a huge meal at night to make sure I hit my calorie target.

For the most part, I didn't feel deprived of food. What I liked about it was I was still able to eat pizza almost every other Friday, frozen yogurt with some sweet toppings every other weekend, chocolate once in awhile, and some carrot cake once in two weeks  while still steadily losing fat. 

Maybe I could have lost more weight but having a cheat day is a good psychology break and even good for your body, search for carb refeeds. On Sundays, I don’t skip breakfast since it’s the only morning that all three of us eat breakfast together. We usually enjoy pancakes, omelets and some hot chocolate.

I am almost 30 and I don’t really want to get injured as I am in this for the long haul. To prevent injuries and make sure I have some sort of idea what I'm doing, I bought Starting Strength book which goes into details on the lifts. I signed up at my local gym and started my workouts. Weeks 1-4 was fairly straight forward and have been able to add weight to the bar consistently.

The last 2 weeks was tough, particularly the squats as I had to increase my rests between sets from 2 minutes to 3 and a half minutes. A modification I did was use Reverse Pyramid Training on Deadlifts as soon as I was at the 180lb+ range. I really struggled with Overhead press so I might add extra shoulder work on the next 6 week cycle.

I also added chin ups and chest dips to my workouts. I am at the point where I can do weighted dips but my chin ups are still weak, currently at 5. Once I get to 8-9 reps of chin ups, I’ll start alternating it with weighted chin ups. 

I actually hurt my right collarbone while doing dips around the 5th week. I got scared that I need to have it x-rayed but I just iced it and stayed away from the dip exercise and just waited about 10 days. At the moment I don’t feel any discomfort but I will continue to monitor it.

I also did some cardio on my non weightlifting days. I did some High intensity Interval training the first few weeks but towards the end, I just dropped it and just went plain old steady state cardio where I just run at the treadmill for a given set amount of time.


Lost 10 lbs? Yup got that. I went from 162 lbs to 149 lbs in 6 weeks. Granted most of the initial weight loss was water weight, but you know what? I’ll take that as a win. My target goal is to be around 11-13% body fat have a frame with relatively good size of lean muscle(read look good naked). This is years worth of right nutrition and training so I’m not gonna sweat it if I don’t hit this mark by this year. 

My pants size before was 32" but now I'm at 30". I didn't measure my waist at the beginning but I measured my Waist at the beginning of week 5 at the navel and ended up with 34.5". At the end of week 6 I measured again and it was 33.7".

Gained strength? Got that too thanks to progressive overloading, right nutrition and proper rests. Below are the progress for my lifts:

I was able to hit the Squat goal of bodyweight x 1.6. My last lift was 225 x 5 x 5. I did do some weightlifting 6 years ago back when I was still in the military but it was only for a couple of months and I didn't really know what the hell was I doing and was just following split body routines from magazines. Oh yeah, that 220 lb lift on March 18 was an accident. I put in two 35 lb plates instead of two 25 lbs. I only noticed it at the 4th set so I just thought I'd finish it.

This one progressed alright. I got stuck on 185 once and twice on 195. On my last workout I was only able to do one rep of 195 lbs. I blame the squat for this. I'll be reducing the volume of squats and I'll also alternate between conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts next time. I would like this lift to at least match my squats. 

 My upper body strength clearly needs work but I think progress was alright since I was able to add weight to the bar consistently. I had to do 135 x 5 x 5 again because I missed it by 1 rep the workout after. 

I actually did Pendlay Rows but for the sake of records and some nice bar graphs, I just kept naming it Barbell row because I made a mistake of naming it that way during the first two weeks. I consider this one as a success, again because I was able to consistently add weight to the bar. 

Ok this one was horrible for me. Really need more work. I think it would also have helped if I just went with the bar at the beginning, I didn't because I felt it was really light and starting at 60 lbs seemed right. I'll do more shoulder work next time. 

A lot of room for improvement for all the lifts but I am really excited to go at this again after my break.

Lessons Learned

What I need to do better:

  • I should have been keeping a log every week. I would like to have more details such as waist size and body fat%, my mood, etc. This blog should help me with that.
  • More attention should be paid to my calorie intake and macronutrient composition

What I did right(mostly):

  • I tracked my progress. I took pictures of myself at Week 0 till Week 6, really awkward at first but this really keeps me motivated. I also tracked my workouts using a couple of apps and Fito for those nice bar graphs.
  • Giving myself some room for a diet break every now and then has actually helped me stick to eating “clean” and limiting junk etc.
  • I joined Fitocracy, an awesome fitness community(it's free). Surrounding yourself with people who have the same goals as you just helps to keep you on track.

What’s Next For Me?

My journey of fat to fit dad has just started. I’ll will be giving my body a full week break from both fasting and strength training. I’ll do some bodyweight training but it’s mainly to keep moving and not setting any new personal records.

The next step would be continue with the beginner strength training program until I no longer make gains every other workout. I will be moving my squat from 5 sets of 5 to 3 sets of 5 as the intensity and volume is starting to affect my other lifts. I’ll be ordering a pair of 1.25 lb olympic plates so I can start micro loading and milk the beginner program for all it’s worth.

After getting out of the beginner phase, I would like to do other activities such as running 5k, swimming, rock climbing and going back and taking some Wing Chun classes because I want to kick some ass Bruce Lee style. I’m also interested in parkour and qualify for a Ninja Warrior show but let’s take things slowly and one at a time =). These are the very same things that I want to expose to my son.

I feel I have a lot more understanding now nutrition wise compare to 2 months ago. There is no One Diet to rule them all but there are basic nutrition principles that I have to follow regardless of what diet plan or structure I end up choosing. This realization makes my diet goals more sustainable and makes it really easy to get back on track when I start to go off course.

I’m glad I didn't wait for the perfect time to start or waited till I have the perfect plan for my fitness goals but rather I just went ahead and started small and went from there. 2013 should be good year