Friday, April 4, 2008

Happy Belated B-day to Mr. Sandow

I really wanted to post this on April 2nd, which was Eugene Sandow's 141st birthday, but that obviously didn't happen. So, it's better late than never. I also thought this would be a good time for me to report on what I learned during my In Search of Sandow Body Transformation, which extended a little longer than anticipated. Nevertheless, here's a list of things that I learned on trying to reduce my body fat % and my continued search for a six pack:

  • Life happens - Even the best intentioned plans don't always come off exactly as planned. Getting married, moving, and trying to keep with my planned diet and workout routine didn't always work well together. So, I feel as though I did not keep sufficient records for this cycle as far as my nutrition is concerned; however, I kept a pretty good log of my workouts. Even so, my next 6-8 week cycle, which I'll start in two weeks, I plan on being a bit more disciplined with keeping a written account of my intake.

  • Calories must be counted - It is really unfortunate that we are in 2008 and folks are still debating this issue. I'm sorry to keep beating a dead horse here, but I achieved my lowest level of body fat on this journey (7% as my electronic calipers indicate), and there is no way in hell I could have achieved this loss in body fat without counting my calories and eating below what my body needed to maintain my current bodyweight. I still don't understand why people are still so resistant to this idea, and it's not like you'll be doing it for the rest of your life.

  • Insulin is not an evil hormone - I'll be the first to admit that I am a re-covering Carb-phobe. You see, my body responds extremely well to a low-carb, paleolithic style diet since I suspect that I'm an endomorph that is insulin sensitive, which is a recipe for a fat ass; however, I played around with cycling my carbs or carbing up which allowed me to actually eat a large number of carbs which went to replenishing my depeleted muscle glycogen and not fat storage. I'm going to play around more with this and blog about it in the future. But, I will say that from reading Jim Hale's new book and a couple of Lyle McDonald's that there are many more hormones involved in the fat loss and fat storage process that are seldom discussed. I'll be the first to admit that I'm still trying to digest what they are saying because I don't think most guys really understand how complex our body really is, or at least I didn't. So, I'm getting a crash course education now.

  • Zero or very low carbs is not necessary - Unless you know that you are very sensitive to insulin, I really don't see the need for most fellas to go so low with their carbs. Honestly, I've done very low carbs for more than a year and worked out like a mad man with kettlebells only to get a very unimpressive (in my opinion) and emaciated looking physique. I had no idea how a muscle that's been depleted of its glycogen looked versus one that isn't. So, I could not figure out why I could not build muscle while I was going really low carb. Well, I wasn't eating enough carbs to keep my muscles' glycogen replenished, which gives the muscle a full look that most guys want. I suggest as Anthony Colpo does in his Fat Loss Bible that you eat between 60-100 grams of carbs a day and to take in post-workout carbs with the amount depending on how hard you worked out and for how long. Again, manipulating your macronutrients is not as simple as reduce your carbs to near zero and you'll have the body of Adonis before the summer.

  • One can gain strength and definition using bodyweight exercises solely - You know I really can't believe that people are still saying this is not true, and they really should be ashamed of themselves. Yes, I understand that folks want to sell fitness equipment, but when they make outlandish claims like this, it's really criminal. As I've noted before on my blog, some of the strongest athletes are gymnasts who use virtually no weight training yet are able to do muscle-ups, iron crosses, and push ups on rings. Hey, I'm not anti-weights or anything like that because I'm going to go back to my kettlebells in a couple of weeks; however, I still strongly believe that one should master his/her own bodyweight first before thinking about picking up a weight. Also, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than buying some type of Bowflex contraption.

  • Doing endless crunches is not necessary to get rock hard abs - Did I finally get my six-pack? Well, not quite, but I've reduced my sag in my belly enough to know that it is definitely within sight. Oh, and I did nothing special either to develop my abs. I hate doing crunches and preferred to do mainly isometric style holds such as ab vacuums, side bridges, oh and this one that my buddy Steve told me about which has you staying in the half-crunch position while raising your hands above your head. I called this one stick 'em up. LOL! The main thing about getting abs is removing that layer of body fat that's covering them up because WE ALL have them! They may not all look the same, as all of our muscles' shapes and sizes differ, but we all have a six-pack, and I don't care how fat you are right now.

  • Fat is not bad for you but shouldn't be eaten ad lib either - I think what happens when someone goes low-carb is that it is unbelievable that they can eat what seems like an unlimited amount of dietary fat and still lose weight. I know because I was one that couldn't believe that I could eat three double-cheeseburgers, without the buns of course, and still drop weight. Not only did I not count calories, but I embraced fat like a long lost friend whom I had shunned during my years of low-fat dieting. Well, it was too much of a good thing because of the calories per gram of fat. I know that there are a lot of guys out there low-carbing, eating damn near zero carbs and can't figure out why they are still experiencing a plateau. Well, if you stop eating so much fat, you would automatically lower your daily caloric intake. If you're going very low-carb, you could also increase your carb intake to no more than 100 grams a day, and as long as you are in an energy deficit, you will lose weight. Also, I've switched to using 2% shredded cheese as I did with full-fat shredded cheese and mixing real eggs with a little bit of egg beaters. Also, I'm taking more fish oil pills that have also replaced some of the dietary fat I use to eat. No, fat isn't bad, but when you are trying to get your body to use the stored fat it has, you need to chill on eating so much dietary fat.

  • Be flexible in your beliefs and open minded to challenge your previous views - When I reached my first goal of losing 100 lbs, I did so buy basically reading one book, Dr. Ellis's Ultimate Diet Secrets. I've blogged enough about this book, but I had to come to realize that there is no such thing as a guru or someone who has all the answers. If someone claims to, then they are just full of themselves because not one person can be an expert on every aspect of weight loss because the process is just too complex. Now I realize that much of the debating that goes on in the dieting community as a whole is really counterproductive in many ways because it keeps people from reading and trying to understand the complex processes involved in weight loss, especially if you are trying to achieve low levels of body fat. While I think that I'm getting a better grasp of the things I read, the more I read the more I realize how much I have to learn.

  • Saggy skin is mainly stubborn body fat - As my picture shows, my hanging belly has gone down a bit, but I know that I still have fat in my lower abdomen and lower back because I can feel it. I'm not kidding myself by thinking that my skin is going to come back and be smooth as it was when I was a teenager; however, I do believe that it will tighten up and come back much more than I initially thought. Also, I've noticed that my stretch marks become less noticeable the smaller my belly gets, which is really encouraging and motivating because I really want to see how far I can take this. Oh, and talking about the complexity of the problem of what I'm trying to do is that I'm actually fighting against my own body's defense system of stoping the body fat levels from getting too low. And, to add to this, different types of body fat respond to different stimulii from the body. Listen, if you are dieting down to try and get a six pack, and you've never done it before like me, then let me be the first to tell you that it is DAMN HARD, and anyone who tells you it's not is full of shit or trying to sell you something!

  • Bodybuilders have weight loss down to a science - I don't know if it's the image of over muscled guys or women with pecs harder than most men, but the average person becomes really intimidated when it comes to the bodybuilding community. This is really unfortunate because they have this weight loss thing literally down to a science, but let me be clear about which aspect of the bodybuilding community I'm talking about. Now, 99% of the BB magazines you see on the market are garbage that are basically full of ads of companies that want to promise you the world and basically hustle you. So, you can cancel your subscription to Muscle and Fitness. You want information on how to really lose weight? Well, go on bodybuilding forums and read, read, and read some more. Not only will you find some extremely smart individuals on there, but they are not the 'roid rage, WWF-type personalities they are stereotyped to be. BB is a competitive sport, so you don't have to do everything they do, but when you have a group of individuals who's chance of winning is how little amount of body fat they have is someone that I will definitely want to hear what they have to say. I've found that and are two of the best forums around. However, I will warn you. If you are lazy and looking for an "easy" way to lose weight or get ripped, these forums aren't for you. Although they have it down to a science, they don't have a patent on a magic potion to make you shredded overnight. I'm sorry but it's going to take a major effort on your part.
OK guys, there you have it. My report from this roller-coaster ride that I've been on over the past three months. While I did not get my six-pack as I had hoped, I more convinced now that it's in my cross-hairs!


Tara said...

Great post!!
I SO agree with you on this stuff.

By the way - your abs look great!

I understand if your goal is to get cut, but I think you could also go a bit smoother & bigger.
(Obviously, my opinion on that doesn't matter - yours does, but just thought I'd throw that out there.)

Anyway, you're awesome!

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks for the suggestion Tara, and this is something that my brother has been telling me for close to a year now. What a coincidence, eh?

Losing Weight Daily said...

I just found your blog and this post was the first I read and oh so inspirational.

I'm just at the beginning of my weight loss journey (and have been at the beginning for a long, long time). I tell you one of the things that scares me about the future thin me is the fact that because I've been fat so long (pretty much all my life and rather severly in the past 2 years), my skin is stretched out like a grody old balloon.

The thing that's been making me nervous is the fact I will probably have loose sagging skin. I've read some people out there who say its just fat and can be burned away ... eventually ... but then a large contingent of our society today just goes for the tummy tuck.

I'd love to more about how you're combatting the extra skin around your belly. I figure if I can plan and adjust now for that eventuality I can minimize the chances of dealing with it later.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Losing Weight Daily, I've come to grips with the fact that I'll have some loose skin. How much? I'm not sure, but once I hit the 5% BF mark, I will definitely know, LOL!

No, seriously, one thing I would suggest is that you lotion your entire body after you shower. I can't believe how I use to neglect my skin in college by only using lotion on parts of my body that showed. I think this should be a daily routine that all folks should follow, especially for those of us with saggin' skin. Thanks for your comments . . .

Dana Seilhan said...

I know your focus here is on guys losing bodyfat, but more generally, I would love to see a resource somewhere that compares and contrasts the results of large amounts of bodyfat loss in both men and women, rather than looking at men's experience and extrapolating it to women's. I read this webpage a while back that addressed the loose-skin-is-just-extra-fat idea by talking about how elastic the skin is, and used women who have been pregnant as an example. Actually, that's not a good example. A lot of us wind up with stretch marks which means that part of the skin has lost its elasticity. And the darker your skin undertone, the more likely you are to get them, just like darker people scar more easily and more visibly from other injuries.

I was actually researching breast lift surgery last night because when I get this crap off of me I'm going to really want it--there's just no way they are going to shrink back to what they were pre-weight gain, and they've gone through pregnancy-related changes twice now to boot. (I do not intend to get pregnant again so that's not an issue.) And I'll probably want to get the tummy tuck as well because gradually getting fat as a guy, or growing up fat, is not the same thing as gaining a huge belly in nine months and then gaining fifty pounds in four or five months post-partum on top of that.

The other thing is I question what you say about fat intake making a person fat, because fat metabolism doesn't work the same way as glucose metabolism does. I wish there was some way I could see what people are eating every day when they decide it's the dietary fat doing it to them, because there has got to be some other factor going on. We are not walking bomb calorimeters--some of that fat gets diverted to body maintenance needs, rather than used for fuel. Can't say the same for carbs.

But, great blog. I hope to be able to say I lost 100 lbs in another year, and people like you inspire me to know it can be done.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Hey Dana, thanks for the comment, and I agree with you about the skin issue being very different for women than men. If you check out the forum, you'll find women who have had cosmetic surgery, but they train like men and look great!

The dietary fat issue is really one that's more of a balancing act issue. If a person's goal is to have low level's of body fat, then you must force the body to use it's stored fat, which means that you have to create a negative fat balance in addition to a negative calorie balance. Keep in mind that this applies much more to folks trying to get to low levels of bodyfat. I lost 100 lbs not counting calories (I was doing low-carbs) or caring about how much fat I ate. However, for guys who want to go from having obese to having a six-pack, you are going to have to do some fat maintenance.

Lyle McDonald talks much more in depth about this issue in his The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.