week ten wrap up (plateau)

After ten weeks of my twelve week training cycle, I’m looking at a bit of a plateau in the body recomposition, and I’m trying to decide whether I have a stall, a setback, or a normal epicycle in my training. I think only time will tell.

Training: I did hit one new PR this week, taking me closer to one of my two training goals. DL 5 x 340. But it wasn’t like what I want. More on that later. Squatting, all I can say is, it’s been two full training weeks since I switched to the safety squat bar, and I love it. But maybe only because I took weight off the bar. Monday is still my heavy day, and although my workout on Monday the 12th was way below my 5 rep max, it was up 20 lbs over the previous week and my total volume is way up. I’m making progress but not like what I’d like.

Body Recomposition: if there is one, the real plateau is in my body recomposition efforts. Basically, not to crunch too many numbers here, I’m doing somewhere between ‘flat’ and ‘ok.’ I had a decent, low weigh in on Saturday morning of week ten, in fact, the lowest on record. But my average weight for the week was actually up from week nine. Yet… the truth is that my average weight has been in a tight range of 200.2 to 200.8 for a month. In other words, flat. There’s no statistically significant change in my weight over the past month. On the other hand, my average waist measurement is down by 1/2 inch in that same one month period (from 37.55 to 37.05). Which seems great, until you realize that my average skinfold measure is totally flat too, where it’s been stuck at 13 for three weeks. I’ll choose to be encouraged by the low Saturday weigh in and the smaller waist measurement to think that all the numbers are going to improve more soon. Especially if I make an effort to tighten up my eating schedule and my diet. Which I’m going to do. Short time… two weeks to go on my 12 week cycle.

Of course, when 12 weeks are up, it just starts again, with new goals… or maybe with the same goals.

week six wrap

As of Sautrday, Feb. 18 I completed my sixth week of 2012’s first, 12 week training cycle. I can report mixed success for the start of 2012, in spite of injuries, illnesses, set backs, what have you, I have been making tangible progress on my two main areas of concern, training and body recomposition.

Training: I took a pause from doing “work” in week six and tested my one rep in deadlift, squat, and press. I set two new PRs in the two lifts for which I have a concrete goal. I pulled 1 x 375 in the deadlift on Wednesday, a massive +45 lb PR and putting me within 25 lbs of my overall goal of pulling 400 lbs. (Of course, I won’t be satisified until I actually pull 405, “four wheels”). On Friday I pushed 1 x 275 in the squat, only a +5 lb PR over the past 6 weeks but an important step towards a 300 lbs, or 1.5 x B.W. squat. I also came within 5 lbs of my 1 RM in the shoulder press, hitting 1 x 120, not bad considering I took months off of pressing after breaking my arm and that my right shoulder is screwed up (and that I’m a pencil neck geek). The lifts give me an implied “CrossFit Total” of 770. I will re-test during week 12. One concern is, I was feeling so spent by the end of the week (see last post) that I actually was contemplating taking it easy or not training at all during week seven. Between fatigue and right shoulder pain… ugh. But this morning, I feel good enough to think about staying the course.

Body Recomposition: week to week, Saturday of week five I weighed in 1/2 lb less than I did on Saturday of week six, 199 vs. 199.5. But the overall trend is in the right direction. My average weight in week four was 206.1, in week five it was 202.14, and in week six it was 201.64. My average suprailiac skinfold measure in week five was 13, and in week six it was 12. My average waist in week four was 38.09, in week five was 37.66, and in week six was 37.46. I am definitely leaning out. I have benefited greatly from drinking much less (only on Friday and Saturday the last two weeks) and I have seen (especially in week five) how much progress I can make when I am very strict about establishing a “clear” daily fasting window. I am very motivated to be QUITE good during week VII, so, I feel confident about my progress.

Overall:I am close enough to my goal weight of 195 (as of Sunday morning weigh-in, about 7.5 lbs away) that I can start to contemplate reaching the goal well before the 12 week cycle is over (possibly within two weeks) and can, after that point, reframe my goal as maintaining weight while increasing lifting capacity, and seeing measurable improvement in leanness (e.g. decreased umbilical measure and skinfold in mm). I am also up to 91% of my goal squat weight and 93% of my goal deadlift weight. I don’t think the evidence suggests I can reach the goals in the next six weeks, but that’s immaterial (was never part of the plan). I just feel good about the numbers and I am beginning to think about the next set of training goals.

my new year’s resolution: body recomposition

I got six real resolutions, none of which directly impact my training, except that if I can keep them, I’ll be a better athlete and trainee, because I’ll be a better person. Those are between me, my God, and my family.

But I’ve got a seventh resolution, that does impact my training. And so I’ll share it here, and hopefully, my efforts to work on it will help others besides myself. Basically, that one has to do with body recomposition.

A short history is in order. December 2008, I was fat, out of shape, and depressed. I got into CrossFit. I went on the Zone diet. I fooled around with Primal and Paleo eating. I kept a detailed calorie and macronutrient counting food journal. And lo, and behold, I dropped the pounds and got leaner, and stronger, than I’d ever been in my life. CrossFit taught me the importance of lifting heavier than I ever thought I could, and it taught me the importance of working harder. But my food journal and Zone/Paleo dieting taught me I could change the composition of my body.

In January 2009, I weighed 215.5 lbs. The first 20 pounds took almost 4 months to lose. The next 20 pounds came off over the next 9 months. I got to a low weight of around 172 in February of 2010. It’s a long story, but by end of summer 2010 I weighed around 180, by choice. Mainly this came about by relaxing my diet and quitting the food journal. I was putting on lean mass and getting stronger, too, so it was all good. My weight was creeping up towards the end of 2010, but in December, after the Carolina Fitness Challenge 2010 (where I placed 5th in the Master’s Division), I still weighed about 180, and was lean, fit and strong.


The next year, 2011, was a year of letting all this go. I let go of MetCons, partly because I fell in love with weightlifting, and partly because I stopped going to CrossFit, and started training like a weightlifter. I briefly returned to tracking my weight in April to May, 2011. By May, I was up to 195. Then I let go of Paleo starting in Summer 2011. And at the end of the summer, I broke my arm, which was a major bummer for my training and especially for my conditioning. By November, I was well up above 200, and spinning out of control. I decided to start measuring my umbilical region and taking a weight measure every single day. But this didn’t really work, as far as a “weight loss” technique. I didn’t restrict myself in any way, and by the end of December, 2011, I was back up to 210, and had put more than an inch on my umbilical measurement over the course of two months.

Time to take action? Hell yes.

I’ll be 43 years old on January 6th. This is the best possible time to halt my recent slide into mindless eating, gain of unwanted adipose tissue, and a less than ideal body composition. This is now.

The Rules of the Resolution

A lot of the 30 lbs I gained in 2011 is lean mass. In fact, I’d estimate at least 50% of it is lean mass. So, since I’d like to keep all of that lean mass, and gain some more, actually, I’m not looking to lose more than 15 lbs. I just want all of that loss to be fat.

I weighed 210 today. My goal weight is 195.

I know some tricks for losing fat while retaining lean mass. Eat plenty of protein, like 1g-2g per pound of lean mass per day (in my case, I’d say, that’s 175g-350g daily). Keep food quality high. Keep the daily eating window relatively short (i.e. intermittent fasting). Take periodic full day fasts. Strive to keep the body in very slight caloric deficit. Periodically “re-feed” (i.e. cheat). Avoid: wheat and grains, alcohol, sugar, most starches. And, to keep your lean mass: lift heavy weights.

To keep making strength gains while losing weight is difficult; some would say, impossible. But I have done it before, mainly because I was so weak to begin with. I am still, in the relative world of strength athletics, quite weak. So maybe I can continue to experience novice-effect like strength gains while getting leaner. Furthermore, another possibility exists, namely that, if I focus on food quality, good eating habits, eat adequate calories to keep my caloric deficit small, eat smart so as to recover well, and prioritize sleep, I should be able to lean out and get stronger.

And of course I’m going to have to start doing my “conditioning” work again.

My personal, prior experience suggests it will take 3 months or so to lose these fifteen pounds. Twelve weeks.

I am going to give it 12 and a half weeks. Starting from right now, in Week 0, which ends on Saturday. Week 1 will begin on Sunday, January 8th. February 5th begins week 5. March 4th begins week 9. Week 12 ends on March 31st.

I am going to practice intermittent fasting during this entire period, with daily feeding periods of 8-10 hours (i.e. 14 to 16 hours of fasting daily). I am going to have full day fasts every other week, on Thursday (fast begins post breakfast) to Friday (first meal is lunch), in weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.

That, rather than strict paleo or primal eating, will be the primary tool. That and daily weigh-ins and umbilical measures.

Most of my meals will be lower carb, paleo-ish, “primal” meals. But if I want some rice or corn or beans or a little alcohol (wine, bourbon, even beer) or some other non-paleo delicacy I am going to permit it. But I will probably not permit myself to have sugar on most days. (We’ll see if this works).

Also, I’m really not that worried about strictly controlling macronutrient ratios. I don’t think the Zone advocates enough protein for weightlifters, for one. And for another, I want to do this without weighing and measuring every meal. To be clear: the “Zone” changed the way I eat forever. Now I always think of each meal in terms of “what’s my protein, what’s my carb, what’s my fat.” That won’t change. But my diet won’t be Zone in the same respect that it won’t be paleo.

Cheating will be on a 3-6-9 plan. If I lose more than 6 pounds in any two week period, or more than 9 pounds in a three week period, then I will permit myself two cheat meals on a single Saturday or Sunday. In other words, if my weigh in on Saturday AM isn’t more than 6 pounds down from two Saturdays prior, or 9 pounds from three Saturdays prior, then I can’t have my “cheat.” That means that my first possible cheat meal is not until Jan 21st, and then only if I’m down to … whatever is six pounds less than what I weigh in this upcoming Saturday.

Every Sunday, on Weeks 1-13, I will post an update on my progress. Look for it.

weigh in and metrics

Obviously, I’ve been getting into trouble with my diet here. Besides increasing about 20 lbs over the past 18 months, in the last month alone I’ve added eight pounds which, the calipers tell me, is mostly fat (and my pants tell me it’s mostly at the midsection). In the same period I’ve made few measurable increases in lean mass (my thighs being the apparent exception). Of course, the calipers are a blunt instrument; but they make it look like I’ve actually lost lean mass. I haven’t… but it’s not a happy trend.

In general I think it is very dangerous for “older athletes” such as myself to mess around with trying to gain weight. Gaining mass as a way to gain strength… that’s a younger man’s game. This is probably especially true for those of us who have been fat in the past.

The fact is I would rather stay leaner and I’m going to do something about that. Starting today.

One other thing occurs to me: it’s dangerous to trust single point “measures” of things like body weight. Today’s weigh-in is doubtless an outlier (I was weighing in at 192 all week long and the past two Sundays as well). I am confident that next Sunday will see me a lot leaner, and my next set of measurements, on June 5th, will document some positive changes.

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
5/8/2011

195.5 lbs

10 mm

15.9%

31.1 lbs

164.4

36 1/2″

14″

22 1/4″

47 1/4″ / 41″
4/10/11

187.5

7mm

11.5%

21.5

165.5

35 7/16

14″

22″

47 1/4″ / 40 7/8″
3/6/2011

186

7+ mm

>11.5+%

>21.4 lbs

<164.6 lbs

34 5/16″

14 1/8″

21 11/16″

47 5/16″ (sh) / 39 3/4″ (ch)
2/20/2011

182.0 lbs

6mm+

11.5%

21 lbs

161 lbs

34 3/8″

13 3/4″ flexed, 12 5/8″ unflexed

21 3/4″

46 3/8″
Feb. 6th, 2011

187.0 lbs

7-8 mm

11.5-13.8%

21.5–25.8 lbs

165.5-161.2 lbs

35 1/2″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

46 1/4″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″

the hectic life (sunday weigh in and check in)

Lately, life has been impossible to “manage,” and it’s all I can do just to keep up a workout schedule alongside the whole “I have a full time job that’s been demanding more lately than it has in years and so does my wife and we have two small children and it’s my four year old’s birthday next week and my parents are staying with us for a couple of weeks and sleeping in my basement while my mother in law still lives nearby and of course I usually shop for all the food cook all the meals and do the financial books around here and speaking of the books we’ve finally realized we have to cut our expenses before we go bankrupt” thing. So, for me, what gives way in this scenario, it turns out, is my trademark scholarly approach to monitoring and planning my fitness and food life. I’ve been slacking off when it comes to the controls I have in place around the use of alcohol and consumption of other non-paleo food items, and I’ve also relaxed my normal strictures about daily fasts, etc. With predictable results: I’m more tired, less energized, less generally pumped (in other words more depressed), recovering harder, feeling and looking a bit dumpier, and in general “a bit off” … at least, “off” of “my game” as I’ve established it over the past couple of years. Worse: I can tell I’m feeling off, but, I have barely enough room to take notice of this, to care, and to try to do something about it.

Yet quantitatively, the effects of all this “slippage” haven’t begun to really take hold. Not so far. Maybe it’s even all in my head for now. If so, the negative impact is no less “real” for being “only mental.” That’s stress for you! Let me substantiate what I am saying (about the slippage not really showing) by posting my most recent body metrics data with recent comparisons.

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
4/10/11

187.5

7mm

11.5%

21.5

165.5

35 7/16

14″

22″

47 1/4″ / 40 7/8″
3/6/2011

186

7+ mm

>11.5+%

>21.4 lbs

<164.6 lbs

34 5/16″

14 1/8″

21 11/16″

47 5/16″ (sh) / 39 3/4″ (ch)
2/20/2011

182.0 lbs

6mm+

11.5%

21 lbs

161 lbs

34 3/8″

13 3/4″ flexed, 12 5/8″ unflexed

21 3/4″

46 3/8″
Feb. 6th, 2011

187.0 lbs

7-8 mm

11.5-13.8%

21.5–25.8 lbs

165.5-161.2 lbs

35 1/2″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

46 1/4″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″

It sure is hard for me to evaluate these numbers. I see two ways to read them. One is to stack them against the past few months and say, yeah, I was leaner back in November, but I’m basically holding steady since February. Another is to point to all the very small increases and decreases and pretend they are meaningful. I show an inch increase in my umbilical region but only a pound and a half increase in weight. So that might be the extra cheese, dairy, sugar, alcohol, grain, etc., I’ve been eating, for sure, or, increased total carb consumption is just leading to extra water retention. If so, it’s not retaining in my biceps, which seem to have shrunk (consistent with my terrible performance, lately, on pull-ups), but might be found in waist and thighs. Yet my suprailiac skinfold remains more or less unchanged, even possibly better. Am I stronger? Yes. I’ve done some things lately that tell me I am. Am I faster? No. I am probably not. Fatter is more like it.

So, I’ll be on the look-out but, until I get through the next four weeks and shift gears into summer, this monkey remains in hell and doesn’t feel like cracking down further on the monkey mind.

weight and body metrics check-in

Sunday morning, dark and early, I took the following measurements:

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
3/6/2011

186

7+ mm

>11.5+%

>21.4 lbs

<164.6 lbs

34 5/16″

14 1/8″

21 11/16″

47 5/16″ (sh) / 39 3/4″ (ch)
2/20/2011

182.0 lbs

6mm+

11.5%

21 lbs

161 lbs

34 3/8″

13 3/4″ flexed, 12 5/8″ unflexed

21 3/4″

46 3/8″
Feb. 6th, 2011

187.0 lbs

7-8 mm

11.5-13.8%

21.5–25.8 lbs

165.5-161.2 lbs

35 1/2″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

46 1/4″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″

back on track (yes it’s that easy)

The data looks good today. And as a result, superficial as it is, I am feeling good!

In the past two weeks I have pulled my eating together, kept my training schedule up, and done well as a consequence. Eating fewer carbs, and returning to a near-IF schedule of eating, means I have lost a lot of water weight and bloating, and some fat too. And I retained or made muscle, I presume, since most of my measures (except flexed bicep) actually improved somewhat, especially the umbilical measure.

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
2/20/2011

182.0 lbs

6mm+

11.5%

21 lbs

161 lbs

34 3/8″

13 3/4″ flexed, 12 5/8″ unflexed

21 3/4″

46 3/8″
Feb. 6th, 2011

187.0 lbs

7-8 mm

11.5-13.8%

21.5–25.8 lbs

165.5-161.2 lbs

35 1/2″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

46 1/4″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″

the measure of a man (me)

My last body composition update was on Dec. 5th, 2010, and prior to that, the last time I posted metrics and measures of my body was on Nov. 21st, 2010.

The data I collected today, compared to the data collected on these dates, could be interpreted as telling the tale of a Christmas and Winter season of serious self-indulgence. Let’s look at the numbers.

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
Feb. 6th, 2011

187.0 lbs

7-8 mm

11.5-13.8%

21.5–25.8 lbs

165.5-161.2 lbs

35 1/2″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

46 1/4″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″

I have laid on more than seven pounds since October (I also weighed in at about 180 in December). Some of this has been lean mass. I am sure of that. But that lean mass hasn’t shown up in my thighs or biceps. It’s possible that one might see little bit of growth in the shoulders, but it could also be just be an error of the tape. The noticeable, real difference is in the measure of my umbilical waist: 1 1/4″ increase. That’s fat! And my skinfold measure has clearly increased. Together, these two data points say one thing: I’ve been getting fatter! Not cool.

I worked hard to get lean, and a year ago, I weighed about 15 lbs less than I do today. True, today I am stronger, faster, and look better than I did at the start of 2010. But I am also fatter. And fat, my friends, does nothing for your health, for your strength, or your speed.

So. This is my decision: it’s time to reverse the trend of Nov 2010 — Feb 2011.

Numbers don’t lie. I’m going to post all the measures, every two weeks. Until further notice.

body comp update

Body Measurements on Sunday, Dec. 5th, 2010
Weight Observed

Suprailiac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

180.5 lbs

less than 6mm

less than 11.5%

less than 20.75 lbs

more than 159.75 lbs

In the past two weeks, since my last weigh-in, I appear to have lost 3.5 lbs, but I suspect most of this is the loss of water due to a return to a lower total carbohydrate intake. Also, I seriously doubt that I have lost all the lean mass I had apparently gained as of three weeks ago.

To me, what matters are the following observations.

My weight measurements may seem “volatile” lately but my average weight actually remains pretty stable. If you look at the average weight observed in any given calendar month, it gives a more realistic picture of the “changes.” Going into November there was a slight increase in my overall mass (both fat and lean), and since reaching a peak the week before Thanksgiving, I have dropped back down.

Aug: avg. weight 182. Sep: avg. weight 182. Oct: avg. weight 181.75. Nov: avg. weight 186. Dec: avg. weight: 180.5. 3 month moving average: Aug-Oct: 181.9. Sep-Nov: 183.25. Oct-Dec: 182.75.

Week to week, the raw numbers, combined with the (obviously imprecise) body fat % estimates that come from measuring my suprailiac skinfold, might make it seem like I am gaining and losing muscle mass at a kind of ridiculous pace. But that’s likely not very real. My skinfold measure has consistently hovered near 6mm, going above as my weight goes up and below as it goes down, which basically suggests that fat stores and hydration may vary but the underlying muscle mass is either stable or perhaps growing.

The best indicator of that is probably the fact that I have consistently hit new PRs week to week this fall; most recently, gaining three new PRs in the last week alone (Monday, PR in Back Squat; Wednesday, PR in Hang Power Clean; Saturday, PR in 5k run).

Slow and steady progress.

I remain fairly committed to the idea that if my weight remains stable over time (i.e. hovers between 180 and 185) while I make gains in strength and speed (and any other measures of fitness, such as acquisition of new skills or demonstrations of other physical feats), then that means I am either honing the neuromuscular system in a positive way or gaining muscle mass… or both. And that suits me well.

Body Metrics, Month Two

Body Measurements
Date

Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass

Umbilical

Bicep

Thigh

Shoulder/Chest
Oct. 24th, 2010

179.5 lbs

6 mm

11.5%

20.5 lbs

159 lbs

34 1/4″

12 3/8″

21 5/8″

46 3/16″
Nov. 21, 2010

184.0 lbs

(less than) 6 mm

(less than) 11.5%

21.2 lbs

162.8

34 1/4″

14″ (flexed) / 12 1/2″ (unflexed)

21 5/8″

47 1/4″

What a month! At one point (last week) I was up 8.5 lbs from my weight in late October! At the end of the month I am up 4.5 lbs. That’s virtually all lean mass.

I lost about 4 lbs over the past week using calorie restriction in “Zone” fashion (this was no fun, by the way, and only about 80% successful too). That weight loss was primarily fat, I’ll wager. My skinfold measure is definitely down this week from last.

The measurements of my body parts is mixed. My chest and shoulders, would appear to have grown SUBSTANTIALLY, suggesting that new lean mass is primarily distributed in the upper body and relates to the push-ups and pull-ups I’ve been doing. I wasn’t sure whether I measured my biceps flexed or not, etc. That’s why I put both of the numbers in today. (Less dramatic growth seems more likely; i.e. I measured them unflexed last month).

I’m puzzled that my thighs don’t show growth. That’s not what my pants have been telling me! They’ve been feeling more snug. Maybe it’s my butt?

But I’m pleased that my waist remains stable. It looks the same. Maybe slightly more cut in the abs.

Basically, these measuring tools, whether scale, MyoTape, or skinfold calipers, are pretty rough instruments. Let’s look for the trend. Four weeks until the next measure.