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Weight Loss Experiment 2: Starting Over

October 30, 2012

Hey Folks,

Almost two months have passed since I last posted about my weight loss experiment. Since then I essentially abandoned it – having reached 99kg I plateaued for a while and then kind of lost interest. The last two months have also been quite stressful for me because of work related issues, which have now – hopefully – been resolved. In two months (January 2013) I’ll start on a new job, so that leaves a nice 2 months / 10 weeks window for a round of weight loss experimenting.

For the last two weeks I’ve been watching my food intake more closely again, and I’m now at 98kg. I’ve also intensified my strength training, particularly because I read a couple of books (more on that shortly) about bodyweight training (calisthenics). My goal for the experiment is of course to lose weight (about 5kg, that’s 1 pound per week), but also to gain or at least maintain strength.

This is what I’ll do:

  • I’ll implement one day of fasting per week – that means no caloric intake at all on that day (I’ll drink plenty of non-caloric beverages though). Maybe I’ll have a small snack in the evening and some cream in my coffee in the morning, but that should not amount to more than 200-300 calories.
  • Caloric intake expenditure will be monitored using Fitbit.com (I have an Ultra Tracker), except for lengthy bicycle tours which I will log to Fitbit using the Endomondo app on my smartphone. But since it’s now really cold outside, those tours will be much less frequent than in the summer. My daily commute (via bicycle) will not be logged via Endomondo, for the sake of simplicity – that means that Fitbit will slightly underreport caloric expenditure.
  • On non-fasting days I’ll try to eat about 300 calories below what Fitbit recommends.
  • During the experiment I’ll try to avoid restaurant meals when possible, and opt for alternatives which are easier to assess for caloric content. Starbucks and McDonalds are good solutions (occasionally), since they make the nutritional infos available on their websites.
  • As far as macronutrients are concerned, I’ll try to limit sugar. I won’t try to artificially augment protein, although I’ll be liable to use protein shakes here and there. The literature is all over the place when it comes to protein – many books recommend the “1 gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight” rule, but I never experienced bursts of muscle gain while I was doing that. I think that half of that is fine, too. As far as carbohydrate and fat is concerned: I won’t fret over that.

Strength training

As I said above, I’ve read many books on calisthenics, out of which I would highlight the following:

  • You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren
  • Convict Conditioning and Convict Conditioning 2 by “Paul Wade” (in my humble opinion that character does not exist and was invented to make for an interesting story – but that doesn’t change the quality of the training recommendations). The latter is also endorsed by (and contains training snapshots of) Al Kavadlo, who also has many, many useful tips on bodyweight training, including an ebook.
  • The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline
I liked all of those, but I don’t think that they’re all 100% correct – as a matter of fact they couldn’t, since some of the recommendations are mutually exclusive. But one can try to read between the lines and see patterns, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
So here’s my training regimen:
  • GTG (Grease The Groove): lots of easy sets (2-5 reps) of one-armed pushups and one-legged squats (pistols) throughout the week. Since I can’t do those really tough exercises easily yet, I’m working up to them by elevating my hands for the pushups (I’m currently at waist height) and gradually lowering them, and using boxes for the pistols (currently at about 40cm height).
  • Easy sets of deadlifts with varying weights and 1-3 repetitions. Last weekend I did them with 70kg and got soreness in the lower back – I’ll wait a couple of days and then start again with 60kg. This is inspired by the book Easy Strength (by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John) – they described many routines where even advanced trainees used less than 50% of their 1 RM during training. I’ll simply give this a shot and see how it goes by randomly (and rarely) performing test sets with much heavier weights (for the deadlifts that would be around 120kg for me).
  • Occasional back bridges and hanging (tucked) leg raises
  • Occasional barbell presses
As you can see, I tried to be very general. It’s still a training regimen though and not what Martin Berkhan termed “Fuckarounditis“, since I have identified criteria for progression:
  • Work towards real one-armed pushups and one-legged squats (progress is indicated by lowering hands/boxes)
  • Slowly but steadily increase deadlift training weight
  • Perform back bridges and leg raises more easily (progress from one short back bridge to sets or longer isometric holds, same with leg raises)
  • Increase barbell press weight for a relatively easy set of 5 reps from 50kg to 60kg

Summary

So, this is what I’ll be doing. Since I’ve decided to limit the duration of the experiment to 10 weeks, I’ll try to post regular weekly updates each weekend. By the end of the experiment we shall see whether my targets were realistic or not, and on that basis I can plan the next experiment next year. See you next weekend for the first update on my progress!
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