Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Basics

That bagel with cream cheese and coffee with milk and sugar? Probably not the best idea for breakfast if you’re trying to change your body composition in order to be leaner, faster, and have more non-solo naked time.

“But it’s a wheat bagel and reduced fat cream cheese!” Now that was the kind of rationalization I made when I first started my transition. That is, when I actually allowed myself to eat back then. Like I said in the first post, I. was. an. idiot. I distinctly remember being proud that I had only eaten 800 calories a day and had done 2 hours of cardio. That’s will power, right? Nope, it was stupidity to the nth degree. No grown man should be eating <800 calories a day…unless he’s 50 years old, 3ft 6in tall, 75lbs, and never gets out of bed. Seriously, I did the math.

In order to save you what took me 6 months to get through my thick - albeit well groomed - skull, I have compiled a list of tips to get you started and, in a broad view, are applicable to pretty much any goal.

Here’s the quick and dirty:

1) Eat. Find out how much fuel your body really needs. Enter: The Harris Benedict Formula:

First, calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – how much your body burns just from existing:

Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.76 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Once you have that, multiply that number times your activity factor:

Little to no exercise

Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.2

Light exercise (1–3 days per week)

Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.375

Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week)

Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.55

Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week)

Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.725

Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts)

Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.9

So let’s take me as an example:
BMR = 66 + (6.23*185) + (12.7*72) – (6.76*29) = 1937 calories, just for sitting here
Take into account my lifting 5-6x a week, let’s low-ball with the Moderate AF: 1937*1.55 = 3000 calories a day, just to maintain my current weight

If you want to cut fat: subtract 500 from that number to lose 1lb per week, 1000 to lose 2. NEVER, ever, ever, ever, ever drop more than 1000 below your maintenance. Your body kicks into starvation mode and it starts to eat muscle instead of fat, which should never be anyone’s goal…except for Christian Bale in The Machinist.
If you want to gain mass: add 500 from that number to gain 1lb per week, 1000 to gain 2. I’m in a mass gaining phase right now, so at most, I need 4000 healthy calories a day. Eating that much, in itself, is just as (if not more) difficult than the lifting involved to gain the muscle. God bless almond butter.

2) Yes, I just called food “fuel.”
And yes, I’m going to compare your body to a car. What can I say, I’m butch like that. Remember this: 80/20. In my experience, 80% of any body transformation – whether it be to cut fat or to gain muscle – is based off what kind of fuel you give your body. You don’t give your body enough, you run out of energy. Give it too much, well, that could be a part of your goal. The important part is that you give your body enough quality fuel (amount based on #1). Lean meats, eggs, leafy greens, legumes – have at it. Cereals with cartoon characters? Yeah, no. You’re an adult. Time to eat like one.

3) Lift weights.
No, you won’t get bulky just from lifting. Stop using that as an excuse. Muscle burns calories 24/7. Bet you can’t say that about that pole dancing class at the gym. Not saying don’t take that class, those skills might come in handy later. Cardio – with very limited exceptions – only burns calories during the window in which it is performed. Muscle constantly burns calories. If you’re just starting out, get a buddy who’s been lifting for a while or a trainer to show you some basic whole body lifts. Do that 3x a week with a day off in between each lift session. As you learn more, your routine will evolve.

Lastly, #4: Keep a journal.
Two, actually. Yes, for your feelings. The first should be a food journal, at least in the beginning. Everything that goes into your mouth should be tracked in here. Well, food and drink wise. Calories as well as grams of protein, fat, and carbs (aka a “macronutrient breakdown”). Fitday is amazing for this, it has thousands of foods already entered. If you’re feeling run down, go back to yesterday or the day before, make sure you’re getting enough carbs. Still hungry? Up your protein and leafy greens. Learn how your body reacts to changes in your diet and modify accordingly. After a little while, it’ll become second nature, just like instantaneously standing tall, chest out, gut sucked in when you see someone you think is hot. No? Maybe that’s just me.
Secondly – a workout journal. This. is. your. Bible. No lies, no embellishments, 100% honesty. Every day you go, every exercise done, every weight used. It becomes a great baseline so you can see how much you’ve progressed as well as a reference for later if you’re like me and can’t remember if you deadlifted 235 or 245. It stops you from regressing and keeps you honest. You skip a workout? It’ll remind you. It’s amazing the power an empty page has.

Welp, there you go. What took me six months to learn, you have off the bat. This might be new to some people and a refresher to others.

Either way, get off your computer and go lift something heavy.

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