Livin la Vida Extreme Sports addition

Although I’m known at work as a mild-mannered pharmacology nerd with mad computer skillz, my first love is “extreme” sports and physical challenges.  Recently, Jen treated me to two fun physical challenges, flying trapeze and flyboarding.  Here are the videos:

Flyboarding

This was my first time flyboarding. It’s really fun, but has a bit of a learning curve.  This video is the result of a 25 minute session cut down to two and a half minutes.  The key is to somehow lock your ankles and knees but keep your body relaxed.  You can see on my better attempts that my ankles/feet stay in the same position.  On my less stable attempts, you can see how unstable my ankle angle is.  I hear that the second and third time sessions are dramatically easier than the first attempt.  It’ll be fun to do this again.  This was at SoFlo Flyboarding. Kids have to be 80 lbs minimum.  Can’t wait till the kids are little heavier…Jen! Can we feed Logan more?

Flying Trapeze

This was actually my second time doing the trapeze, but the first time was more than two years ago.  This was an Aerial Trapeze Academy Groupon.  With the Groupon, you only get to do the beginner session, which is three practice swings, where you try to get into the knee hang/transfer position.  If you can successfully get into that position, then on the fourth swing, you get to to try for a mid air catch.  They also do birthday parties and private groups.  Kids can do it as young as 4 years old, and they work with autistic kids.  Once you’ve done the beginner session, you can do more advanced stuff.  This is really easy and fun if you have any amount of athleticism/body control.  Highly recommended. PSA: Hanging from the bar with your knees can give you friction burns.  If you have leggings or tights, you should wear them.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Who doesn’t like chicken tortilla soup?  Nobody.  That’s who.  So let’s make some delicious high protein, soup.

Step 1.  Make start with my Taco Shredded Recipe
Step 2. Make the soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 cans green chiles (these or these)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 3 tbsp masa (more for a thicker soup) (Masa is corn flour, NOT corn meal.)
  • 2 ancho chiles (dried poblanos)
  • 2 guajillo chiles
  • 1.5 lbs taco shredded chicken*
  • 1 can corn (Or 2 cups frozen corn)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Cilantro
Note: I usually make it with a pound and a half of taco shredded chicken for Jen and add extra chicken when I serve it for me.  But you could start with more chicken if you like.

Directions:

  1. Sweat onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil (medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent)
  2. Add garlic and sweat another minute or two (don’t let it burn)
  3. Add green chiles and allow the juice to evaporate a bit before doing the next step, or it will clump.
  4. Add masa and stir until evenly coated
  5. Add tomatoes and then pour in chicken stock and being to a boil
  6. Rip up chiles and toss them in (or cut them with scissors)
  7. Add chicken
  8. Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes
  9. Add corn, simmer 10 more minutes
  10. Add lime juice
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro (Nonfat Greek Yogurt works pretty well instead of sour cream if you just have to up your protein)
 And voila!  Or should I say Olé!  Chicken Tortilla Soup fit for a king with macros to boot.

To log it in MyFitnessPal,

1. Create a recipe
2. Log all of the ingredients
3. Measure the total volume of soup in cups or mL or whatever you use.
4. Now when you serve it up, just log the number of cups you dish out.
5. Log extra chicken and garnish separately.
A Fat Loss Year in Review (with before-after photos)

A Fat Loss Year in Review (with before-after photos)

It’s been almost a year exactly since my weight loss journey began (if you start the year from my bout of the flu).  Just a warning.  At the end of this post there will be before and after photos.  If half-naked, middle aged men offend you, don’t scroll down.

The Beginning

I started out the year at 212 pounds give or give a few pounds.

The Flu

I lost 6 pounds on the Flu (no appetite plus fever plus diarrhea will do that to you).  No telling how much of the weight was just water.  But hey it was a start.  I’d better capitalize on it.

Going Keto

I lost 8 more pounds on three weeks of Atkins/Ketogenic diet.  Ketogienic diets cause a fair amount of water loss, so not all of it was fat, but it was fairly effortless.  Ketogenic dieting is pretty brainless.  “How many carbs are in this food.  Okay, I can’t eat it…or I can only eat this much.”

But after I started tracking my calories, I realized the real reason I was probably losing so much weight is that when you have a hefty soda, junk food, and dessert habit, when you cut out those carbs, you also cut out all that fat too, leading to a massive calorie restriction.  You just don’t realize how few calories you’re eating…or at least I didn’t  I guesstimated that on average I was only eating 1200-1600 calories per day even though I thought I was eating way more.

Kinobody

On February 21, I switched to Kinobody Agressive Fat Loss program.  I had originally just been looking for a workout program when I found the Kinobody youtube channel.  I was convinced to stop doing Keto and start doing Kinobody when Greg said, “Why would you eat almonds when you could eat chocolate?  It has fewer calories and is more satisfying.” SOLD!

I immediately gained 2.5 pounds, which I attribute mainly to increased water retention as I was no longer in ketosis.  I stayed on Aggressive Fat Loss until September 1, when I weighed 166 pounds.  I hadn’t weighed  166 pounds since I worked as a Lifeguard and Beach Attendant in 1995.  Only this time I had better abs.

Bulking up

On September 2, I officially started bulking.  I kicked off the bulk with a two day cruise where I just ate whatever I wanted which happened to include two entrees for dinner every night.  This was the first time I had eaten breakfast since starting Aggressive Fat Loss.  I later estimated that I ate 2000 calories just for breakfast on the cruise.  I gained an impressive 10 pounds on the cruise although a large part of it was water that I lost over the next few days.

I bulked through Christmas ending up at 184 pounds (18 pounds heavier than my lightest on September 1).  I absolutely LOVED the eating, but I didn’t like the look.  Yes, I gained muscle as was the plan, but I also gained fat, and I much preferred having more defined abs.  I could have gained a bit more muscle, but I tweaked my shoulder (while playing, not while lifting) and was unable to push the weight on bench press and overhead press.

The Final Countdown

The Monday after Christmas, I started cutting again.  As of this writing, I am 176 pounds.  I plan on continuing to cut until I have a true six pack.  I guesstimate that if I was able to put on 5 pounds of muscle during the bulk and keep it through my cut, that I will end up around 165 pounds.  If I was able to gain and keep more muscle, it will be little heavier.  From there, I plan to do a series of very lean bulk cycles, gaining no more than 10 pounds over six months and pretty much stay between 165 and 175 for as long as I can.

Some final thoughts

I am incredibly thankful that I found Kinobody.  It works and is very sustainable.  When I started the journey I would have been happy with just losing 10-15 pounds.  I never dreamed that I would end up looking better at 42 than when I did at 22.  And I have Greg to thank for giving me the hope to not only make it a goal but see it through to fruition.

Before and After fat loss

At 42, I had better abs than when I was 22!

But this isn’t just about looks.  I’m much stronger, have better blood pressure, resting heart rate, fasting glucose, and cholesterol levels than before.  I have more energy now and generally feel better.  And most importantly I know I can keep this up for years.  (Note that I mean the lifestyle, not the calorie deficit.  You only need a deficit to lose weight.  After that you can eat more.)

My brother had a lot of success with a ketogenic diet.  I had always had a not-so-secret love affair with low-carb diets, so based on his experience, I did it too.  Despite the initial weight loss, it just wasn’t much fun after a while.  So I left it for Kinobody, which I was able to stick with until my goal.  My brother on the other hand eventually stopped from not being able to sleep well and leg cramps.  According to him, if you google “Atkins le” or “ketogenic le”, Google will suggest leg cramps.

Most people who diet fail to keep the weight off, and I can understand why.  You can’t just go back to whatever you were doing before and expect to keep the weight off.  You have to maintain your lifestyle changes for the weight change to become permanent.  And the beauty of my current diet is that I can truly eat whatever I want within reason.  I can have a large cheat meal or cheat cruise…as long as I adjust my calories before or after.  I can eat dessert every day (much to the chagrin of my wife who thinks treats aren’t treats if you get to eat them every day).

There’s nothing magical about Kinobdy.  All you need are the following components:

  • A solid caloric deficit
  • Adequate protein to maintain muscle mass
  • An eating plan that you enjoy so you can make the process sustainable.
  • Strength workouts to convince your body to hold on to muscle (otherwise you’ll lose quite a bit of muscle along with that fat)

I should also give a shout out to Radu Antoniu, whose videos are some of the most informative, entertaining, and well edited out there in the fitness world.  His program Shred Smart is also worth looking at even though you can learn everything you need to know from this free videos.

Heck you if you want to pay me to hold your hand through the process, I’d be happy to do it.  Just e-mail me at holdmyhand@patheyman.com.

Fear of Bulking and other Diet Superstitions

Fear of Bulking and other Diet Superstitions

Facebook just showed me this photo.  It was from five years ago.  I remember thinking at the time, “Getting a bit tubby there.  You really need to lose weight.”  Apparently I didn’t take that advice for a long time.  Now, as I come to the end of the first phase of my body changing journey, I’d like to reflect back on some lessons that I’ve learned along the way and let you know my plans for the future.  Hopefully you can learn something from my experiences that will make your own journey even easier.

Progress so far

I started this journey around 212 pounds and am, as of this morning, 167.4 pounds (45 pounds for those of you bad at math).  It has taken exactly 7 months and 4 days to get to this point.  Most of my progress was made on the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss (AFL) program.  I have very strictly monitored my caloric intake and tracked my protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake.  I’ve worked out three times a week (45 minute weight workouts) and walked on the off days.  I haven’t done any running or high intensity cardio workout except for recreational (riding a bike with the kids) or situational (sprinting to get out of the rain).

As for the 45 pounds, I’ve actually lost more than 45 pounds of fat, because I’ve added some muscle along the way.  For example, today I did 6 chin ups with 50 pounds attached.  When I started I could barely do four bodyweight chin ups.  For the purposes of this post, I’ll guesstimate five pounds of muscle for a total of 50 pounds of fat gone.

Superstitions

It’s Wednesday night as I type this, and on Friday, my relationship with Aggressive Fat Loss will end.  I am officially going to lean bulk.  This means that I am going to eat in a controlled caloric surplus for the express purpose of gaining muscle.  And that’s where the topic of superstitions comes in.  I don’t mean fear of black cats or bad luck for breaking a mirror.  I’m referring to the psychological term superstition.  It refers to the belief that if success is accompanied by a random event, the person (or animal) will associate the event with success.  (Also works for bad things too.)

This is the product of our own brains working against us.  Our brains are designed to recognize patterns.  We are hard wired to learn from our experiences and continue what has worked in the past.  This is known as heuristics.  Unfortunately, our brains can also recognize patterns even where none exists, and this is especially true when it comes to losing weight.  Losing weight is a very long, intentional process.  Even though it all comes down to a caloric deficit, there are a large number of variables to account for, and the research is often controversial with multiple credible researchers lining up on opposite sides of a given issue.

So when a person successfully loses a lot of weight, they become highly attached to any behavior or action that occurred during the process, even if the action had no or minimal effect on their weight loss.  When I first started AFL, the recommendation in the program is walk 45 – 60 minutes on the days you don’t lift weights.  It just so happens that 3 laps around my neighborhood takes about 55 minutes, so that’s what I did four times a week for several months.  Then, midsummer, I participated in a steps competition at work (team with the most steps after eight weeks wins a Fitbit…most inefficient way in the world to win something if you ask me).  Toward the end of the competition, I was doing 5 laps around the neighborhood.  Even though it was miserable, took too long, and my feet hurt and got blisters, once the competition had ended I was actually afraid to go back to only 3 laps.  “What if my weightloss stalls?  What if the only reason I was losing weight was the extra calories of the extra two laps?”  You get the idea.

What about this bulking thing?

Most people who begin this Kinobody journey by cutting a lot of weight don’t plan to simply get thin.  Once they’ve lost weight, the goal is usually then to gain muscle mass.  The problem is that after months of working hard to lose weight, they become afraid to eat more.  When you’ve deprived yourself for seven, eight, even 24 months to get thin, the last thing in the world you want to do is get fat again.

The problem of, course, is that it’s impossible to build a significant amount of muscle while maintaining a deficit.  Heck, it’s practically impossible to build muscle while eating maintenance calories.  To grow muscle, you really need a surplus.  So the one thing that a person needs to do in order to build muscle is the one thing that person is afraid of—even when they know better.  I’ve seen it dozens of times on the Kinobody Facebook group.  I’ve even experienced it myself even though my plan was always to bulk after losing the weight, and even though I’ve been far more successful losing weight than I ever thought I could be.  After all, my weight trend has been up for the last 15 years.

Casting out fear

So let’s run some numbers and see just how silly it is to be afraid of bulking.  The Kinobbody Greek God program recommends a lean bulk of about 1900 extra calories per week.  On the Facebook group, there is a current controversy over whether beginners and intermediates should follow that recommendation or do a slightly larger bulk of 3500 calorie weekly surplus (500 extra calories per day).  Now if you remember your fat math, one pound of fat is 3500 calories.  So if every single calorie of surplus went into fat, I’d gain one pound of fat per week.  It would take me 50 weeks (an entire year) to gain all that fat back.

Let’s say, just half of the surplus calories get funneled into fat, then in one year, I’d gain 25 pounds of fat.  And if just a quarter of the calories go into fat, then I’d only gain 12.5 pounds of fat in a year’s time.  Now I’m only planning on bulking through March (7 months), so in that time, assuming 25% of the surplus going into fat, I could expect approximately 7.5 pounds of fat.  From my experience with AFL, It should only take about 2 months to lose those 7.5 pounds of extra fat.

So don’t fear the bulk.  Embrace the bulk.  Seven months of eating 3000 calories instead of 1925 calories.  You get to eat that way all through Thanksgiving, Halloween, and New Year!  You even get to eat that way for Valentine’s Day.  If you really want to go to town, save 200 calories each day, and have an extra 1200 calories for an epic 4200 calorie day (a solid Thanksgiving plan).

Don’t cut too long

The decision to stop cutting and start bulking is complicated.  The general recommendation is cut until you’re about 10% body fat, and then bulk until you’re about 15% bodyfat, and then lean down again.  I’m only about 13-14% body fat, and I haven’t quite hit my leanness goals (as defined by waist measurement and having a six pack).  So why am I bulking?  Three reasons.

  • The longer you cut, the harder it becomes.  I’ve been cutting for 7 months now.  At first my daily calories were 2000, and I lost almost 2 pounds a week.  Now my daily calories are 1815, and I lose less than half a pound a week.  As you lose weight, your body doesn’t need as many calories.  That makes it progressively harder to keep losing weight.
  • Cutting is stressful—quite literally.  Your body thinks you’re going to starve to death and tries to mitigate things by losing excess muscle.  So you have to do heavy strength training to convince your body to hold on to muscle and lose fat instead.  This causes your body to be stressed.  Eventually, your body will adjust hormonally to reduce your metabolic rate.  This was the subject of the Biggest Loser Study that I discuss here.
  • Cutting is also stressful mentally.

Bulking gives you a mental break and resets your hormones.  Most importantly it allows you to gain muscle.  At my current weight, I probably would have to lose 7-8 pounds of fat to achieve a 10% bodyfat.  I would look ridiculously skinny at 160 pounds, and it would probably take 3-4 more months.   By lean bulking I’ll add hopefully 10-15 pounds of muscle in the next seven months with only a small amount of fat.  Then when it comes time to lose the fat, I can do so at a higher (more enjoyable) daily calorie intake, and it won’t take as long to lose, so it won’t be as stressful.  So that’s the plan.

I had already been considering pursuing a lean bulk when Greg came out with this video, confirming my decision.

 

Why do you keep emphasizing lean bulk?

A lean bulk is a controlled bulk.  In my case, 500 calories over maintenance, or about 3000 calories per day, while maintaining an appropriate macronutrient balance.  The traditional way of bulking is just eat a lot, which is of course how I got into this problem in the first place.  So don’t just bulk.  Lean bulk!

Stir Fry Chicken

Stir Fry Chicken

Here is one of my go to recipes for a high protein, low calorie meal.  One of the most challenging things that a lot of people just starting on higher protein diets face, is that’s actually quite difficult to eat enough protein.  A lot of people end up relying on protein shakes to get enough protein.  Others find themselves choking down dry, tasteless chicken breast.  When I first started the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss Diet, I had to eat 160g of protein, and often found it hard to get enough protein in while enjoying it, until I came up with this solution.

Here’s a recipe that makes a large amount of chicken breast taste amazing and features a large amount of vegetables in an equally satisfying format.  For a little while I was eating this every single day.  The main reason I stopped is that it takes a while to prep, and personally, I like it fresh—not left over.  I still eat this once or twice a week, but I’ve switched to Taco Shredded Chicken for my daily protein intake due to its easier prep.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Chicken breast (variable amounts; depending on what else I’m eating that day, it’s usually 300 – 450 g raw)
  • Coconut oil (1 tsp)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Assorted Vegetables (some common choice for me
    • Onion
    • Bell peppers of various colors
    • Broccoli
    • Zucchini
    • Cucumber
    • Carrots
    • Celery
  • Sauces of choice (some fun choices
    • Teriyaki
    • Soy Sauce (with or without honey)
    • Sriracha
    • Lime juice and lemongrass

Directions

  1. Chop the vegetables and weigh each one (for logging in myfitnesspal).
  2. Cut the chicken into small pieces or strips and season with a small amount of salt
  3. Heat a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat and saute the chicken with as much garlic as you like.
  4. Just before the chicken is completely done, hit it with some sauce.
  5. Put the chicken in a bowl and set aside
  6. Add another 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and saute the vegetables.
  7. When the vegetables are still al dente but almost ready, hit them with some sauce.
  8. Return the chicken to the pan and stir.
  9. Plate and eat.

That’s pretty much it.  You can eat it as is or serve it over rice if you want to up your carb/calorie count.  I usually use about 3/4 cups (cooked) of jasmine rice.  If you want to kick the flavor up a notch, add the rice to veggies.

Chicken Stir Fry for the Whole Family

Chicken Stir Fry for the Whole Family

Macronutrients for this meal.

A typical meal of say 400g of chicken, 150g of zucchini, and 100g of carrots (with the coconut oil) is:

  •  560 calories
  • 97g protein
  • 14g carbs
  • 9g fat

The same meal with 3/4 cups of cooked jasmine rice is

  • 710 calories
  • 100g protein
  • 48g carbs
  • 10g fat

That meal will satisfy you for several hours and set you up very nicely to have a whatever you want for dinner and have 300 caloaries left for dessert.  (Well, that’s what it does for me anyway.)

What if I need to cook for my whole family?

No problem. You do everything the same except that you need to do some 7th grade math (ratios and proportions).  Say that you’re going to cook 800g of chicken for the whole family, and you need to eat 300g of chicken.  That gives you a ratio of 300:800 or 3:8.  You just apply that ratio to each ingredient to log it in myfitnesspal.  To figure out your total serving, when the whole dish is done, weigh the entire amount of food, and apply the same ratio to the total weight.

If that explanation was too difficult, I’ve created a spreadsheet that you can just fill out.  Fill in the total weight for each ingredient, the total weight, and your desired serving of chicken (raw), and it will automagically calculate everything for you.

Six Months and 38 pounds lighter

212 lbs in November 2015 vs 178 lbs in June 2016

212 lbs in November 2015 vs 178 lbs in June 2016

A little less than six months ago, my journey into fatness ended, and I started losing weight.  I’ve chronicled the beginning of my fat loss journey here and how I lost the weight here.  For all but the first three weeks I used the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss program.  Today it’s time to show my progress.  Update: To see how I ended up at the end of the program, see A Fat Loss Year in Review.

For your protection, the photos are blurred.  If you really want to see them, you’ll have to click on them.  I must warn you that the photos below show middle aged man torso and abdomen.  Now it’s quite possible that those photos aren’t me at all, and are just some guy I found on the Kinobody Facebook Group.  But before we get to the photos, let’s have some stats.

Starting 6 months later
Weight 212 174
Waist 38 33
Pull ups bodyweight x 4 40 lbs x 6
Dips 10 lbs x 8 70 lbs x 7
Overhead Press 100 lbs x 5 135 lbs x 5
Inclined Bench 155 lbs x 5 175 lbs x 5
Bulgarian Split Squats 80 lbs x 6 150 lbs x 5

6 month Progress Photos

Okay, and without further ado, here are the photos.  The “before” photos are at 197 pounds after losing 15 pounds, so they’re not as dramatic as they might be otherwise.

weight-comparison-01-scanned

Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!

weight-comparison-02-blurred

Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!

weight-comparison-03-blurred

Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!

 

Okay, so there you have it.  Half naked, middle aged man flesh.  I’m currently lighter than I’ve been since 1997, and my waist hasn’t been 33 inches since before then.  So you you might be asking, “what’s next?”  The answer is, I’m going to try and lose another 5 pounds or so until I have a bona fide 6 pack.  Then I’ll transition to the Kinobody Greek God bulking program to gain 10-15 pounds of muscle over the next two years.

Long term, I’ll be doing what fellow Kinobody user, Scott Belott (scroll down to the first testimonial), recommends: I’ll bulk from June through January, so I’ll get to enjoy food at all the major holidays, and then cut the excess fat from February to May to be beachworthy.  (Is that a word?)

If you want to learn more:

Taco Shredded Chicken (now easier)

If you listen to any Hollywood “body transformation” stories, one common theme you’ll hear is people being tired of eating “boiled chicken breast”.  The thing about chicken breast is that it’s very low fat and has no carbs in it, so it’s almost all protein.  The problem is that it doesn’t have much flavor has a tendency to dry out easily.  Even if you’re on a relatively “low” protein diet for a fitness person (0.82 – 1g per pound of bodyweight, at 175 pounds, you’re still eating between 150 to 165 grams of protein daily.

That’s a lot of protein, and chicken breast is one of the easiest ways to get that protein, even if it’s not the most fun.  This particular recipe makes boiled chicken delicious, moist, and easy to eat.  I first learned about it in this particular form Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast, although the basic concept is quite common.  Basically you’re making crockpot chicken breast, and then shredding it.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 pounds chicken breast (if you use more, you’ll probably need more of the other ingredients)
  • One jar of salsa (I usually use Trader Joes green tomatillo salsa, but feel free to experiment)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (if you want to up the ante, add the zest one of them)
  • 1-8 garlic cloves
  • Chili powder to taste (I usually do 2 tablespoons; Jack’s original recipe uses “taco seasoning”) (see instructions below for an easier method than making your own chili powder)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I usually don’t use salt here, and add it to whatever I use the chicken with)

Chili powder the easy way

I used to make my own chili powder Altona Brown style.  Now I just toss the component’s into the crockpot

  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.
  • As a bonus toss in some dried  chile’s like Ancho and guajillo. (I do 2 of each)
  • Optional: cayenne pepper or Chipotle

Instructions:

  1. Turn the crockpot on high.
  2. Dump the jar of salsa, lime juice, garlic cloves, and chili powder into a large crockpot.  Stir together.
  3. Optional: Wait about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is hot
  4. Place your chicken breasts in the crockpot, and make sure they are coated with the mixture.  One easy way to do this is to put them in upside down, and then flip them over.
  5. Cover with lid (very important; crockpots don’t work right if you forget this step)
  6. Wait 4 hours.  Remove Lid.
  7. Remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks.
  8. Dump the rest of the liquid mixture on top of the chicken and mix until even.
  9. Done.  Use as is or refrigerate for future use.

So what are the macros on this thing?

95% of the calories come from the chicken breast, so I completely ignore the calories from the salsa.  A jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde has about 110 calories in it, and you’re spreading it out over 3-4 pounds of chicken, but if you really want to track every calorie, knock yourself out.  To figure out the calories

  1. Weigh the raw chicken.  Let’s say it’s 1560 grams.
  2. Once the chicken is cooked, and you’ve added the liquid back in, weigh it again.  Let’s says it’s 1740 grams.
  3. Divide the raw weight by the cooked weight, and you’ll get a decimal.  In our case 1560/1740 = .8965 or round it to .9.
  4. WRITE DOWN THAT NUMBER!
  5. Now let’s say you want to use 400 grams of chicken breast for a recipe, just divide 400 by the number in step 3.  400/.9 = 444 grams.  That’s how much of our final prepared product you should weight out to get 400 grams.
  6. Log 400 grams of raw chicken breast in MyFitnessPal (or whatever you use.)

So how do I use this stuff?

Use it like chicken.  Eat it.  But in case you’re imagination deprived, here’s a couple quick meals:

Shredded Chicken Bowl

This kind of mimics the main ingredients of a Chipotle Burrito bowl (minus the sour cream and corn).  It has a huge amount of protein in it, and when you see this in the bowl, you’re going to think, “there’s no way I’m going to finish all that.”  It’s a great first meal, because it’s high in protein with moderate carbs, and relatively low fat.  It’ll provide a large proportion of your daily protein intake while leaving you tons of calories for the rest of your day.  To reduce the carbs and calories you can leave out either the rice or the tortillas.  If you want to up the fat a bit, use tortilla chips instead of tortillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 937
  • Protein: 114 grams
  • Carbohydrates 82 grams
  • Fat 15 grams

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 3/4 cup of cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup of canned black beans
  • One ounce of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 small corn tortillas

Mix the first four ingredients together.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Eat along with the tortillas.

Shredded Chicken Omelet

This doesn’t really look like an omelet or taste like one, but it has egg in it, so…whatever.  This is kind of the opposite of the recipe above.  It’s got a relatively small amount of protein, almost no carb, and a decent amount of fat.  You could reduce the fat by leaving the butter out, but why would you want to.  It’s a great “small meal”.  You could also leave out the butter and egg and use the mixture to make chicken and cheese quesadillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 456
  • Protein: 49 grams
  • Carbohydrates 2 grams
  • Fat 28 grams

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 10 grams of butter (I prefer Kerry Gold)
  • 2 slices of reduced fat cheese (44 grams; I use Finlandia variety pack from Costco.)
  • 2 eggs

Melt the butter in a pan over medium and cook the chicken until it begins to dry out a bit.  (Personally I hit the chicken with some extra chili powder for extra flavor.)  Place the 2 slices of cheese on top and wait until it melts.  Use a spatula to mix the melted cheese through the chicken.  Scramble two eggs in a glass along with some salt to taste.  Pour the eggs over the chicken and immediately begin stirring the egg throughout the chicken so that’s it’s evenly dispersed.  Turn the heat to low, and once the egg is mostly congealed, form a flat chicken/egg patty and allow to cook for about 30 seconds.  Flip and allow the other side to cook to desired doneness.  Serve.

Alton Brown’s Homemade Chili Powder

This recipe comes from the Good Eats episode “The Big Chili.”  It’s a phenomenally versatile seasoning that can be used for anything from scrambled eggs to tacos to chili.  It uses dried chiles.  In South Florida, Walmart now sells these in bulk.  So I just get six of each chile (double Alton’s original recipe).

Ingredients:

  • 6 Ancho Chiles
  • 6 Guajillo or Cascabel Chiles
  • 6 Arbol or Japones Chiles (these add a bit of heat, so you could use any dried hot chile, such as dried cayenne)
  • 4 tablespoons whole cumin seeds (you can use powder if you can’t find seeds)
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika (this can be hard to find at most stores; I found it at Whole Foods.)

Instructions

  1. Cut the stem end off each of the chiles, Cut a slit in the side and shake or rub the seeds into the trash.  (You might want to wear gloves if you’re processing a very hot chile.)
  2. Cut the chiles into small pieces and place in a heavy skillet over medium heat along with the cumin seeds.  Keep the cumin and chiles moving until they start to smell fragrant.
  3. Remove from the heat and place into a blender.  In my experience when working with this double recipe, it’s better to pulse it a few times, and don’t let it go too long.  Otherwise, the blender base will get hot, and the powder at the bottom will form a a cake that prevents the rest of the mixture from becoming blended.  If you have a Vitamix with the dry blade, that would be ideal.  Be very careful about opening the blender as you’re essentially making pepper spray (albeit a mild one).  Don’t put your face in it.
  4. Once the chiles and cumin are blended to a powder, add the garlic, oregano, and paprika and pulse to mix.

That’s it.  You’re done.  This stuff is amazing.  And since you’ve been such a good audience, I’m going to give you a couple recipes that use it:

 

My Simple Secret to Doing More Chin ups

My Simple Secret to Doing More Chin ups

In the last few posts,  I’ve talked quite a bit about how I’ve lost weight (31 pounds as of today).  I’ve gone into some detail about the diet, but I haven’t really talked about the workouts much.  There’s a couple reasons, but the main two reasons are 1) workouts are complicated, and 2) 95% of your results will come from your diet.  There’s a reason fitness models say, “abs are created in the kitchen.”

I do plan on writing more about the workout in the future, but for today, I just wanted to give you some tips on how to do more chin ups (or pull ups if you desire).  When I started this journey 14 weeks ago, I could barely do 4 chin ups or 3 pull ups.  This Monday I did 5 chin ups with 40 lbs attached followed by a set of 6 chin ups with 25 pounds attached.  Today (Thursday, I did a set of 13 bodyweight chin ups).

Now I know for some people that may not sound very impressive, but I haven’t been able to do more than 8 pull ups or chin ups since I was 19.  And I certainly wasn’t as explosive as I am today.  So here’s how I did it.  You can use this method with either pull ups (palms away) or chin ups (palms toward you).  Personally I prefer neutral grip chin ups (palms facing each other).  For the rest of this article, I’ll just call them pull ups out of habit.

Some people will tell newbies that they need to be able to do 8 pull ups or 12 pull ups or even 20 pull ups before they start adding weight.  But I prefer to start adding weight as soon as you can do 4-6 pull ups.  I’ve never been good at doing lots of pull ups, and if I had waited until I could do 12 pull ups before adding weight, I’d probably still be doing 5 pounds.  Below is how I did it, and you can too…if you like.

Step 0: Be able to do at least 4 pull ups

If you can’t do at least four pull ups, then that’s your first step.  If you can’t do any pull ups, then follow this below video for a nice progression.  If you can do at least one pull up, then do several sets of as many as you can do with good form at least three days a week.

Step 1: Add 5 lbs

Once you can do a at least 4 good pull ups, it’s time to add some weight.  Get a dip belt.  Attach 5 pounds and do a set.  Wait at least 3 minutes, then do a second set bodyweight pull ups.  On your other two workout days just do one set of bodyweight pull ups.  So to recap: one set of weighted pull ups and 3 sets of bodyweight pull ups per week.

Note: I was doing this while on a fairly aggressive cut of 700-1000 calorie deficit per day.  If you’re eating at maintenance or bulking, you can do three sets on your weighted day or even to two days of weighted pull ups (I’d recommend at least 3 days recovery between weighted sets.)

Step 2: Adding reps

Keep doing the weight you added in Step 1 plus two sets of bodyweight pull ups on other days until you can do 6 weighted pull ups.  Here are some tips:

  • Focus on trying to make your upward movement as explosive as possible.
  • Try to keep your shoulder blades retracted (pull down and toward each other)
  • Don’t reach your neck for the bar.
  • Don’t struggle with half reps.  When you can’t complete the rep with good form, don’t do it at all.  If you really want to do another rep, jump up to the top and do a long negative (slow descent) or get an elastic band and do assisted pull ups.

Step 3: Add 5 more pounds

When you can complete six good, explosive pull ups, it’s time to add 5 more pounds.

  • If you can do 5 or more reps with the higher weight, then add 5 pounds again next week.
  • If you can only four reps with the higher weight, stay at that weight until you can get 6 reps and then add another 5 pounds.
  • If you can’t get four reps with the higher weight, drop the weight by 2.5 pounds the next week.

Keep doing your bodyweight pull ups for the second set and on your other two days.

Step 4: Add weight to your second set

When you get to the point where you’re doing pull ups with 10% of your bodyweight added, you can start adding weight to your second set.  So if you’re 180 pounds, when you get to 20 pounds, add 5 pounds to your 2nd set.  Generally speaking you should be able to get at least one more rep out of your 2nd set with lighter weight than your first heavy set.

Whenever your second set gets 2 good reps higher than your first set, add five more pounds to it.  Follow the same rules as step 3 (but with a higher rep count).

Step 5: Take videos of yourself doing weighted pull ups.

That’s pretty much it.  The video below is my second set of weighted pull ups this week with 25 pounds added.   You can see my weight progression in the table below.  Notice that even though my weight is going down, the total weight I’m lifting is going up.  (So my absolute strength and relative strength are both increasing.)

Date Weight Set 1 Wgt w/body Reps Set 2 Reps
2/23/2016 196 0 196 6 0 3
2/29/2016 195 0 195 6 band 5
3/7/2016 194 0 194 5 0 4
3/14/2016 195 15 210 4 5 4
3/18/2016 193 15 208 4 5 4
3/23/2016 192 15 207 5 5 5
3/28/2016 192 15 207 5 5 5
4/2/2016 190 20 210 4 5 5
4/11/2016 189 20 209 4 5 5
4/18/2016 188 20 208 6 5 6
4/25/2016 188 25 213 5 5 6
5/2/2016 186 30 216 5 10 7
5/9/2016 186 35 221 5 10 7
5/16/2017 187 40 227 4 15 6
5/23/2016 184 40 224 5 20 6
5/30/2016 185 40 225 5 25 6
6/6/2016 182 40 222 5 25 6

Frequently asked questions:

Man! I could NEVER do weighted pull ups!

It’s not really a questions, but that is exactly what I thought until I started doing it.  I’ve never been good at pull ups.  When I was in the Air Force Academy, the max I ever did was 13, and I assure you the last five were not nearly as explosive as the last five in my video at the top.  When you see someone doing pull ups with 70 pounds attached, you think, “there’s no way I can do that,” and you’re right.  You can’t do it…now.  But if you start with adding 5 pounds, increase your reps to 6, add five more pounds, rinse and repeat, you’ll be doing 45 pounds before you know it.

So what’s this simple secret you mentioned in the title?

Too subtle, eh?  The secret is adding 5 pounds.  As you get stronger, you’ll be able to do more pull ups with just bodyweight.

Does this work for weighted dips too?

Absolutely.  It actually works even better for weighted dips.  In the time it took me to go from 0 to 45 pounds for pull ups, I went from 10 pounds to 77.5 pounds for 6 reps for dips.  The only thing holding you back is not using a dip  belt.  Some gyms even have one you can borrow.  But if not, buy one on amazon.

Where did you learn how to do this?

Greg O’Gallagher from Kinobody is the person who made me believe I could do it, and I was following his Aggressive Fat Loss Program while implementing this plan.  Actually, I’m still on it.  When I get down to 175 pounds, I’ll re-evaluate my bodyfat and see where I want to go from there.

Keeping weight off is IMPOSSIBLE…or is it?

Keeping weight off is IMPOSSIBLE…or is it?

Recently a New York Times article about the Biggest Loser TV show made a big splash on some of my friends’ Facebook pages.  The article is essentially a human interest story about contestants of the TV show.  In case you’ve never seen the show, it’s a “reality” TV show in which extraordinarily overweight people go to extraordinary lengths to lose weight on national TV.  The show was a massive success for a while, and an inspiration for many people.

Some of the contestants lost upwards of 200 pounds, but there is a problem.  Of the 16 contestants from Season 6 (the sibkect of the New York Times article), only one has been able to successfully keep the weight off.  Everyone else’s weight has drifted upwards, some as high as they started out.  Peppered throughout the article are quotes and tidbits from researchers who used the contestants to conduct studies in weightloss and metabolism as well as other researchers of metabolism and weightloss.

Your body wants to be fat, okay?

Unfortunately, the former contestants’ metabolisms had slowed significantly, with one of them burning 800 fewer calories per day than would be expected for someone of his weight.  On top of that, a certain hormone associated with satiety and weightloss was much lower than normal.  This has led some people to the erroneous conclusion that losing weight shouldn’t even be attempted because their body will sabotage their efforts because it wants to be fat.

Thankfully, this conclusion is completely unfounded, and I’ll show you why.  Now for this particular post, I will NOT be reading any of the research articles referenced.  I will only be critiquing the actual text of the New York Times article.

Disclaimer: I do not mean to deny or denigrate the experience of the former Biggest Loser contestants (BLC)—but I do mean to show how their fate does not have to be your fate.

Some basic research

The most important aspect of healthcare research when it comes to applying the findings to other people is called generalizability–how well a study’s findings can be applied to other people.   The most influential component of a research study”s generalizability is how “representative” or similar the sample is to us, the general public…or you specifically.  So for example, if researchers find that statin medications can reduce the rate of heart attacks in very high risk patients (for example, men who have already had a heart attack), they cannot generalize those findings to say that statins will reduce the rate of heart attacks in young healthy people with high cholesterol.  They must first do the study again with the new younger population before they can scientifically (let alone ethically) say that statins will reduce heart attacks in that population.

So, although the BLC (Biggest Loser Contestants) study is fascinating and provides an interesting window into extreme weight loss, how meaningful is it to you?  I am happy to report, “not very”.  First, they took people who were extremely overweight, with many of them weighing 300-400 pounds.  Then they put them through an extreme (I hate to keep using that word but it really does fit) weightloss regmien.  For example, Danny Cahill, the Season 8 winner lost 239 pounds.  To do this, he tried to lose a pound a day.  He had an extremely restricted diet, and was exercising upwards of 7 hours a day.  He had to quit his job in order to comply with the program.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Mr. Cahill exercised seven hours a day, burning 8,000 to 9,000 calories according to a calorie tracker the show gave him. Mr. Cahill set a goal of a 3,500-caloric deficit per day. The idea was to lose a pound a day.
If he had not burned enough calories to hit his goal, he went back to the gym after dinner to work out some more. At times, he found himself running around his neighborhood in the dark until his calorie-burn indicator reset to zero at midnight.
Mr. Cahill knew he could not maintain his finale weight of 191 pounds. He was so mentally and physically exhausted he barely moved for two weeks after his publicity tour ended.

How representative is this experience for the average person?  Does it represent you?  I can tell you it’s not representative for me.  My maintenance calories for my current weight is 2800.  I need to eat 2800 (more or less) calories to stay at my weight.  Danny Cahill’s calorie deficit was bigger than my entire diet.  I would have to eat negative calories to have a deficit that big.  My current exercise regimen is a 30-45 minute weightlifting workout 3 times a week plus an hour walk the other four days a week.  So in an average week, I’m spending less than 7 hours consciously exercising—less than Danny Cahill did in a single day.

I’ve lost 26 pounds recently on the exercise regimen I described above and eating a thousand calorie deficit (1800 calories per day).  Once a week, I would do a “refeed” day where I ate closer to 2800 calories.  I eat chocolate every day.  I drink milk most days (raw, grass fed, full fat milk).  I have bread, pasta, steak, birthday cake.  I have ice cream on occasion.  I even had half of a Miller’s Alehouse “Captain Jack’s buried treasure” (an ice cream/Oreo/Heath bar pie served over hot fudge).  I just had to plan my calorie intake for the day accordingly.  Compare that to the draconian diets of the BLC described in the article.

I, in no way, feel deprived.  Nor have do I have binge cravings (which I have had in the past under different weight loss plans).  I could live like this the rest of my life if I had to.  When I reach my goal weight of 175 pounds, if I wanted to maintain that weight, I’d need to eat more or less 2600 calories per day.

The point is that my weightloss plan is 1) enjoyable, 2) sustainable, 3) when I reach my goal, I get to keep doing what I’m doing but have more ICE CREAM!!!!

But Danny Cahill’s metabolism is 800 calories less than normal!!!

Okay, fair enough.  If my metabolism were that much slower, I’m sure it would be vastly harder to maintain my weight loss.  However, I don’t think that will be the case for a number of reasons.  The first is that generalizable word again.  My 1-2 pounds a week weight loss with minimal effort is not comparable in any way to Danny Cahill’s except in the direction of weight.  He lost more than half his bodyweight.  I’m planning on losing less than 18% of my max bodyweight.  Moreover, once I’m done losing the weight, I’m planning on bulking (purposefully eating more calories than maintenance to build muscle).  I’m fairly certain that my increased muscle mass will help boost my metabolism preventing me from sharing Danny’s fate.

The second reason I don’t think that I will share the same fate that I am eating a fairly high amount of carbohydrates, 35-45% of my diet is carbohydrates, which helps to boost leptin levels.  Leptin is a hormone (secreted by your fat cells of all things) that helps promote satiety and weight loss.  The contestants of BLC all had much lower levels of leptin even years after the contest was over.

But even if my leptin is low, and my metabolism is permanently damaged, I still don’t think it will be to the same magnitude as the BLC contestants.  The contestants with the highest weightloss had the lowest metabolisms and leptin levels, so the effect is proportional.  As a ratio of fat lost, Danny lost 239 pounds, with 3500 calories to a pound.  So his ratio is 800:836500 calories or around 1:1000.  My total fat lost will be 37×3500 = 129,500.  So proportionately, I might expect to burn 140 calories less per day.  I’m pretty sure I can handle that.  Maybe the ratio is based on initial weight, and not weight loss.  In that case, he weighted 430 pounds, so 430:800 or 1:1.86.  So for me, starting out at 212 pounds, I could expect 394 calories fewer in a day.  That’s significantly higher, but still doable.  After all, I’m eating 1800 calories a day and losing weight, so if I had to do maintenance minus 400 calories, that would still be 2200 calories a day (400 more than I’m currently eating).

Now, there’s a very good chance that I’m not representative of you, but chances are much higher that your more similar to me than you are to Danny Cahill or any of the other BLC participants.

But he’s got a PhD from Harvard!!!!!  You just have a PhD from University of Florida.

He’s a Doctor! And you’re just a Nurse!!!  Actually, some of the researchers cited in the article are medical doctors while others have PhDs in related fields like physiology.  The most important thing to remember is that science is not exact, and scientists are not perfect.  There are huge gaps in what we know.  In fact, one of the researchers actually says this in the article:

He cautioned that the study was limited by its small size and the lack of a control group of obese people who did not lose weight. But, he added, the findings made sense.

“This is a subset of the most successful” dieters, he said. “If they don’t show a return to normal in metabolism, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Still, he added, “that shouldn’t be interpreted to mean we are doomed to battle our biology or remain fat. It means we need to explore other approaches.”

The unscientificness (is that a word?) of that middle line is simply astounding. The only sense in which this group of “dieters” were successful is in the sheer number of pounds that they lost.  But they were quite literally paid to lose weight.  They had professional coaching, and medical staff on hand to deal with overexertion.  They were competitors, not dieters.  There is simply no relative comparison to an average individual looking to lose 10 – 40 pounds of fat who has to fit whatever he’s doing into his every day life.  Or as Greg O’Gallagher (who designed my current workout/diet plan) says, “Fitness should enhance your life, not rule it.”

And another researcher:

“There is a lot of basic research we still need to do.”

Every scientist thinks what they are working on is extremely important, and more than anything else, they want to keep getting paid to do it.  I’m not impugning any of the scientists and physicians in the article, but scientists and physicians have been known to be a little, well, unduly enthusiastic about the implications of their research—statins in the water anyone?  The article also glosses over some flaws in the research such as only measuring leptin and not “other hormones”.  It doesn’t mention what these other hormones are.  That’s probably the fault of the author, not the scientists.

Well if you’re so smart, why don’t you explain it?

It seems that most people (in the U.S. anyway) have a tendency to gain weight.  For most of us, it’s a pound or two a year.  As the article points out, a pound of fat is 3500 calories.  There are conveniently 365 days in a year, so 10 extra calories a day will give you about a pound of fat in a year.  20 calories a day will give you 2 pounds of fat in a year. Let that go unchecked for 10 years and you’re 10-20 pounds overweight.  Pretty cool huh?  The key then is not to let your weight get out of control.  If you can stop it after 5-6 pounds, you can lose that weight quite easily and quickly, and then regain it again over the next three years.  We really don’t know what the long term metabolic rate effects of this strategy would be.  But we can assume based even on the findings of the BLC study that the less weight you have to lose the less impact it will have on your metabolism.

We also know that certain hormones are associated with weight loss while others are associated with weight gain.  For example, leptin is associated with weight loss or weight maintenance, while insulin is associated with weight gain.  Interestingly, insulin helps build muscle as well as fat, but it’s much easier to build fat than muscle.  This is why body builders typically do bulk/cut cycles.  During the bulk, they gain both fat and muscle.  Then during the cut, they try to lose the fat while trying to preserve the muscle.

As the article pointed out, there is a lot that we don’t know.  For example, the field of epigenetics which is the mechanisms of how genes are turned on or off is showing that we may all have fat genes, but some of us have them turned on while others have them turned off.  And it’s not necessarily only on/off, but there are degrees of on.  And most importantly epigenetics shows that our fat genes can be regulated by environmental events such as overeating or near starvation.

A very interesting finding is that Adenovirus 36 (AD-36) can cause mice that were previously normal to become obese.  If we can determine which genes were turned on or off we may be able to reverse engineer the process and cure obesity in humans.  Of course there is a chance that we could unleash a Thinner-style curse on the world.

As the Terminator would say…

The future has not been written; there is no fate but what we make.

Don’t let a study that says your body doesn’t want to lose weight stop you from taking control of your health and life.  Since I’ve lost weight, I feel tremendously better, snore less, have more energy, am tremendously stronger, and everyone says how much better I look.

And the best part is that it is almost effortless and definitely enjoyable.  Okay.  It’s not exactly effortless, but compared to doing P90x, it’s effortless.  The workouts are strength building (not size building) workouts.  That means sets of 4-6 reps with 2-3 minutes of rest in between sets.  So most of my time at the gym is spent waiting around.  The only “cardio” I do is an hour long walk while I listen to podcasts.  The diet does take discipline, but it’s mostly about planning not will power.  Because I get to eat foods I like every day, I never feel deprived.  I just had to get used to measuring my portions before I eat.

Carpe Diem

12 years ago, I decided that I should try and look like Brad Pitt in Troy before I turned 40. (He was 40 at the time of filiming.)  I’m about to turn 42 and for the first time think I actually have a shot at reaching that goal thanks to Kinobody.  I highly recommend that you start today.  Go to the Kinobody website and read some articles or the youtube channel and watch some videos.  There’s enough free content to get you started on a good path.  Heck. Keep reading this article to get you started.

Brad Pitt Troy

So where exactly did you get those calorie numbers earlier?

There’s lots of complicated ways to figure out your maintenance calories, but an easy rule of thumb is multiply your bodyweight by 15.  So at 186 pounds, my maintenance bodyweight is 186×15 = 2790 calories or 2800 rounded up.  If you want to aggressively lose weight, you want a 25% deficit which turns out to be about bodyweight times 11.  You can read a lot more about the specifics of the diet I’m on in my last post.

If I’ve convinced you and you’re ready to really go after weightloss, I’d recommend the Aggressive Fat Loss program by Kinobody.  It’s what I’m doing.  If you’re a woman, I’d recommend the Goddess Toning Program.  It includes the same nutrition plan as Aggressive Fat Loss but with workouts that are more suited to the feminine physique.

Tip: If you take the survey on the Kinobody website and enter your e-mail address, you’ll get a discount code that you can use on any of the programs.

Still not convinced?

If you need more reasons to buy a Kinobody program after my lovely testimonial, how about: it’s a one time fee (currently $47 without a discount) and you’ll get access to Q&A forums and a Facebook group.  The course is yours for life, and if it gets updated, you get the updates.  And there’s a 60 day money back guarantee.  So if it doesn’t work for you, you’re not out anything.

And on that note, I’m signing off.  What are you still doing here?  Okay, fine.  Watch this video you couch potato!