So after several up-and-down not-as-fun-as-they-should-have-been months of trying to get lean and burn fat (“Why? Where?”, as one of my friends quizzically asked me), the time has come to lift some damn weights. Grrr. There is extensive science and method to this, as there is everywhere, and like I’ve mentioned before, there are a dozen different “perfect weightlifting” programs out there, and a dozen different “perfect nutrition” programs to go along with them. My plan is as follows:
I. The Workout
Along with a friend of mine who suggested the book to me, I’m going to follow the Body by Science plan of one intense 15-minute lifting session a week, 5 exercises done at a very slow cadence (10 seconds up, 10 seconds down) for about 90 seconds apiece, with little-to-no rest in between. The progress is measured by measuring the TUL, or “time under the load” at a given weight while trying to stay between 60-120 seconds, upping the weight a bit each week.
It follows that 180 seconds at 60 lbs means the weight is too light, and the next workout should start at 70lbs or perhaps even 80. Workouts are about every 7-10 days, with a lot of rest and recovery in between. It seems obscenely minimalist. But I’ll give it a month and see if I get to my goal of putting on about 10lbs of muscle.
Starting numbers: body weight 164.0 lbs, body fat 14.3%, lean mass 140.6 lbs.
II. The Diet – Macromolecules
People say 90% of bodybuilding and weight-training success is in your diet. You have to eat enough, and it can’t all be garbage. Culling together different theories from different websites (the Body by Science book has extremely little to say about nutrition, though 4-Hour Body has a good plan, essentially an expanded version of the slow-carb idea), here’s what I came up with:
Calories: I should eat about 20 calories/lb/day based on my goal lean body mass. So 150lbs x 20 = 3000 calories. Bump this up by about 400-500 on my workout days (mostly in the form of extra carbs), and we’re golden.
Protein: Not too difficult. Anywhere between 1-1.5grams/lb/day, depending on who you believe. So 200 grams/day, which gives me 800 calories.
Carbs: The point of contention. Old school bodybuilders ate rice and oatmeal like it was their job. Because often, it was. Nowadays, most Paleo diet adherents aren’t too keen on high-carb diets, but mostly because they are using Paleo as a global wellness or weight loss tool. But building muscle is kind of a “hack” or a cheat. Your body doesn’t want to do it as much when you’re not a growing teenage boy coursing with testosterone. So you have to manipulate it. Still, I want to stick with the tenets of the Paleo diet as much as I can, so here’s the general hierarchy of acceptable carbs:
Green Leafy Veggies
Sweet Potatoes / Root Veggies
Berries / Low-Sugar Fruits
Honey / Agave Nectar
Bananas / High-Sugar Fruits
The Tide is Turning:
Lentils / Beans
You Die Now:
Whole Grains / Corn / Peanuts?
I feel like potatoes, veggies, and some white rice are going to be the cornerstones of my carbs on non-workout days, to the tune of 150 grams a day (600 calories). Or maybe I’ll be casual with the sugar, but cut out the gluten altogether. Workout days? Anything goes.
Fat: The rest. Lots of omega-3 (fish, eggs, grass-fed beef for those of you who like that stuff), little omega-6 (vegetable oils like canola and sunflower; fatty poultry). Given the carb and protein numbers, I get 50-60% of my calories from fat, which is what sites like The Perfect Health Diet recommend. About 150-200 grams a day.
III. The Diet – Food Timing and Strategy
Post-workout: Simple answer. The tried-and-true best recovery drink for muscle-building is 32 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk. (The lower fat means faster absorption to your starved muscles, and the high amount of sugar gives you an insulin tidal wave that washes the protein ashore to your waiting muscle cell membranes.)
Intermittent Fasting and Carb Cycling: If you were to ask Martin Berkhan at leangains.com, a bodybuilder and nutrition junkie par excellence, he’d add two tweaks to the basic system, which may be worth trying:
1. Carb cycling – more carbs and less fat on your training days, so that you spend all day feeding your muscles with controlled surges of insulin; it follows that the workout should be as early in the morning as possible. This I like.
2. Micro-cycles – by compressing your eating into 8 hours each day, every day becomes a partial bulking-up and a partial leaning-out, so that you don’t pack on too much fat. My experience with intermittent fasting has not been as great. For me, it’s been an added stressor to my ongoing girl drama, my coffee addiction, and my intellectual strain at work. Also, it’s a JOB to fit 3000 calories into 8 hours, let alone to do it everyday.
IV. The Incidentals
Essentially, sleep sleep sleep (8 hours a day) and water and happiness. Coffee? Yes, as much as I want. Alcohol? Yes, maybe even a beer or two. So we’ll see what happens. In a month, I might just be ripping my shirts at the seams like the Incredible Hulk.
Brief girl update: The Terrorist and I had another fantastic outing. That makes six dates and four weeks, both of which are inching toward world records since my last relationship. In the meantime, of course I’m going on dates to keep myself sane, and they’re actually going decently because I’m perhaps more at ease with myself, but they seem like such a chore in the face of the awesomeness of The Terrorist. She obviously outshines everyone else I’ve met online.
Then again, I know me, and I know how clingy I can get, and I know how that can sabotage (and has sabotaged) many a potential relationship, especially when I actually have someone whom I know wants to spend time with me. It’s been *so* long since that’s happened that I don’t want to lose her and start all over. I like feeling attractive. I don’t want that feeling to go away. But I’ll listen to your advice and take it slow.