As we are now about two months from Memorial Day and the official start of beach/pool season, Holly and I are both trying to focus on leaning out a little more to look better in bathing suits. Since last beach season, we’ve added another barbell to our home gym (A Pendlay Bushing Bar – sweet) and another 175 lbs of bumpers and weights so we could both work out at the same time and have a little nicer equipment.
I went back to a modified linear progression program (very similar to a less frequent Starting Strength) doing heavy 3×5 or 3×3 sets (or a heavy 1×5 for deadlifts) usually once a week and then doing something like 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps another day of the week. I didn’t do very much cardio or conditioning of any type, maybe once a week, maybe not at all. I put on maybe five pounds but all my lifts went up to as high as I’ve seen them, seeing numbers I’ve never seen. With the hypertrophy training (10 rep stuff), I’ve gotten bigger too. The shirts I bought late summer are super tight in the chest and back and my pants are tight in the waist and ass. On the strength side, I am pretty happy, though right now I’m in damage control mode with my back, keeping it out of the injury “red zone” as I can feel it’s not quite right. That means the elimination of heavy deads and being smart with frequency of heavy squats too.
What I’m not happy with is how (not) lean I am. The winter Blahs, the less than great food, the drinking all lead to some mid-section pudge. It’s really not that bad, but definitely not what I want to show off in a couple months. So I’ve decided to try and maintain my muscle mass as best I can, but need to compromise a little on diet and caloric intake. I’ve added back in some sort of Cardio most days, though cardio to me may only take 8-12 minutes of high intensity weight work some days. Adding running a couple times a week (if the weather actually warms up a little) will help, and I’ve been doing my Insanity DVDs again when I feel like I need to mix it up. I’m expecting to give up a little bulk for some leaness, which I’m willing to do.
It’s very, very hard to accomplish both getting stronger and getting leaner due to the delicate balance of macro-nurtients and calories. You need excess calories to grow muscles, but too much excess grows fat. Too few calories and your muscles aren’t fed properly. Too much cardio and not enough glycogen means you catabolize your muscles for energy. A delicate balance all around.
For some reference on body-fat percentage for those looking to estimate where they are and where they want to go, here’s some images to give you a rough estimate:
Based on those photos and examples, I’m probably 17-18 percent BF. Ideally, I’d like to be 10-12 percent. That would mean (keeping the same lean mass), I would need to drop about 10-12 lbs of fat. That equates to approximately 1.5 pounds per week from now to Memorial Day. It’s doable but will take some more effort. Here’s what I plan to do:
1) Keep lifting. I love it, lean mass burns calories and lifting burns calories and increases testosterone and growth hormone production
2) Eat cleaner. I don’t really eat that bad, but it can always be improved, especially my midnight snacking. This includes limiting beer, wine and the like. Also, trying to eat a slight caloric deficit each day.
3) Do more on the cardio side, more frequently. I can tell doing once per week efforts didn’t help in this regard to keeping weight down. Bumping both frequency and duration, and walking more, should help in caloric deficit, but being careful to still take appropriate rest days and not be too aggressive here so I can limit cortisol excretion. Cortisol, the stress hormone, decreases testosterone and thus decreases ability to lose fat. Too much chronic cardio produces too much cortisol, so it’s something to keep in mind.
4) Sleep more, a solid 8 hours or more per day if possible. This article helps to explain why sleep is important in fat loss, and this one cites a study that compares those sleeping 5.5 hours a night vs. 8.5 hours a night noting:
After two weeks, the people who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. More than half of the weight loss during the 8.5 hours of sleep was fat versus only one quarter of the weight loss during the 5.5 hours of sleep. People literally burned fat while they slept.Even more startling, the folks who slept less lost more muscle (60% more muscle was lost by the sleep-deprived group.) Those three hours of lost sleep caused a shift in metabolism that made the body want to preserve fat at the expense of muscle. And that’s not all that happened: When the researchers compared circulating blood levels of appetite-regulating hormones in the two groups they found those who slept for three fewer hours had produced more of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin. They woke up hungrier!
5) Meditate, yoga, positive thoughts – That’s right, these things also serve to keep stress low, subsequently cortisol lower, and not disrupt production of testosterone.
We’ll see how my leaning experiment goes. Hopefully you’ve started your preps too.