Reflections On Cutting
One night... a bit perturbed and unable to sleep, I sought out solace from within a book. I came upon the words,
They are from the Tao Te Ching and for some reason had great significance on that night.
I found myself contemplating what it means to be humble and the difference between pride and arrogance. I saw that by denying myself credit - by not patting myself on the back - I could more easily stick to my work and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. Instead of staring off into the distance like a dreamer, I could simply act and progress.
We humans have a way of letting success go to our heads. We let our heads blow up like hot air balloons and forget how we got to where we are. The struggles, the lessons learned on the climb become a thing of the past, part of an old persona.
And then, you are one of the privileged forsaking all that you have. Laziness ensues and the gifts are squandered all because we insisted on recognizing our success.
I have seen it happen. People working so hard to attain some great personal level of strength, speed, agility or whatever. And they get it. Surpass it. They cheer and shout and point at themselves and... Poof! it's all gone. In that state of self righteousness it only takes a couple of weeks to lose what may have taken years to find.
I saw myself facing this very demon as I approached the culmination of my dedication. I could see that by assuming I was done, accomplished, I was letting go and allowing seeds of weakness to creep in.
Results On Cutting
I'll say right away that I have gotten to the body fat I set out to achieve. My body fat level is easily 9%, maybe even lower. The interesting thing is in my level of lean mass. It would appear that not only have I dropped a lot of body fat but also increased lean mass at the same time. Generally, this kind of thing is unheard of especially in such a short amount of time. Review the numbers:
Bodyweight: 150 lbs.
Body fat percentage: 9% (3 point caliper test)
LBM: 137 lbs.
My lean body mass increased by an extraordinary 7 pounds while cutting. But maybe this unusual result and increase in lean body mass can be reasoned out. I mean, I did give myself some extra time to cut and also utilized the zigzag approach to dieting which allowed me to get in more calories for building muscle.
I kept lifting heavy and consumed a lot of protein. It is possible that this kept my system in a prime anabolic state; possible but not likely. Weirder things have happened. Actually, I can't fully explain how this happened. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe it was the use of the right supplements and a perfect diet. Probably all three.
Help From Supplements
I could definitely attribute some of the lean mass gains to the use of
BCAA's and ALCAR before all physical activity. These are some potent anticatabolic supplements which may have contributed to overall anabolism.
Also, the use of adaptogens like rhodiola and bacopa definitely helped my body cope with the stress and therefore preserve muscle and improve performance.
Also, the use of creatine, the most basic and yet still the king of supplements, surely had a profound impact. Creatine will keep the cells full and anabolic and aid in keeping the body from going into starvation mode.
Strength, Endurance & Flexibilty
Great changes in my body composition aren't the only thing that have occurred. I've also gained a bit of strength, going up by 10 pounds on both
bench press and 5 pounds on
dumbbell shoulder press and
biceps curl. I honestly didn't expect to gain any strength with such a low caloric intake and high caloric expenditure. Also, as per my goals, I improved in my running ability.
When I first started out I struggled to simply run 3 miles but now, only a few weeks later, I'm hitting 6 miles with ease. Granted, I'm still only about half way to my ultimate goal of 13 miles, but it's a good start.
And to address my flexibility goals, well, that's progressing smoothly as well. When I started out I had a hard time simply touching my toes. Now, with straight legs dead in front of me, I can touch my toes and lean forward quite a bit. I would like to soon be able to flatten myself against my legs as I was once able to.
Enter The Bulking Phase
As I transition into the bulking phase, the format of these articles will be changing slightly as well. I will be including weekly numbers pertaining to my lifts and bodyweight as well as my cardiovascular improvements. My bulking will be a slow, lean bulk, aiming at minimizing fat gains.
I will definitely not be one of those bulkers who think it's okay to gorge on junk food. For most of us, eating huge amounts of food isn't going to speed the growth of muscle, rather it will only speed the growth of that belly.
I won't be outlining a detailed diet plan for my bulking phase simply because I don't think it is necessary. Since I only need to be sure to eat enough food; eating too much is highly unlikely (given that you listen to your body). All I need to do is put together a healthy, calorie dense grocery list and eat to satisfy my perceived energy requirements. However, for those of you who want to know how to eat based on the numbers, a good rule is to consume 18-24 calories per pound of body weight (assuming you are fairly lean).
Here Is My Usual Shopping List:
- Chicken breast
- Lean ground beef
- Part skim mozzarella cheese
- 100% Spelt bread
- Organic thick-rolled oats
- Mung beans
- Adzuki beans
- Basmati brown rice
- Vegetables (red-leaf lettuce, bok choy, onions, carrots, bell pepper, tomato)
- Sesame oil
- Spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne)
This is my cheap-skate food list. The majority of my calories will come from a dish that mixes the mung beans , adzuki beans , brown ride, sesame oil and spices together for a great tasting, ultra cheap, super healthy, bulking meal.
The Mung Bean
The mung bean is the seed of Vigna radiata which is native to India. It is also known as green gram, golden gram and (misleadingly) green soy.
Mung beans are commonly used in Chinese cooking. Germinated mung bean sprouts (usually sold simply as 'bean sprouts') are stir fried (usually with ingredients such as garlic, ginger, spring onions or salted fish pieces to add taste) as a vegetable accompaniment to a meal.
The Adzuki Bean
The adzuki bean (also spelled azuki) is an annual vine widely grown throughout northeast Asia and the Himalaya for its small (approximately 5mm) bean . The cultivars most familiar in northeast Asia have a uniform red color, but white, black, gray and variously mottled varieties are also known.
Genetic evidence indicates that the azuki bean was first domesticated in the Himalaya. It was cultivated in China and Korea before 1000 BC. It was later taken to Japan, where it is now the second most popular legume after the soybean.
The bananas are for my shakes, the vegetables to be eaten raw for micronutrients and enzymes, the spelt bread because it is more nutritious than wheat, the cheese for a slow digesting protein before bed, walnuts for healthy fats, and the meat and oats for protein and carbs.
Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a sub-species of common wheat.
Spelt is considered to be a hybrid of emmer wheat einkorn wheat that originated in the Near East, where it was cultivated at least 3000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, it was cultivated in parts of Switzerland, Tyrol and Germany.
Spelt was introduced to the United States in the 1890s. In the 20th century, spelt was virtually replaced by wheat, which produces higher yields.
However, since spelt is rather more hardy than wheat and does not require fertilizers, the organic farming movement made it more popular again towards the end of the century.
I also keep costs down by getting a lot of my protein from cheap whey sources. For this purpose, the best choices are probably the Dymatize Elite Whey in 5 pounds or the Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey in 10 pounds. Aside from the eggs, these whey proteins will be one's cheapest source.
These are the foods I will be eating in no particular order or fashion. Getting enough calories will be no problem.
The most important thing to remember when eating like this is consume only natural, whole foods, get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, and eat plenty of healthy fats (raw nuts, fish, eggs).
Now Let's Talk About My Workout Routine
I was going to put together my own routine until I read an article by Mike Mahler entitled "The Compound Solution Program for Puny Arms". While I am not too concerned with my arm size, I noticed how beautifully designed the program was overall and how it addressed the aspects of bodybuilding and strength that I was intending to address myself.
So, I figured I'd just go ahead and follow this program; be it the first time I've ever followed someone else's program. I will be starting Phase 1 of Mahler's program on September 12 with a small modification. On the Mass Day workout, I will be doing a single set of heavy hammer curls as they are a part of my grip training.
|AUTHOR RECOMMENDED ARTICLE|
The Perfect Proportions
I ended part 3 of this series talking about some "perfect" human form. This is the proportions used by ancient Greek artists in works of paint and sculpture. Obviously, the proportions used changed during different periods of Greek history, but I'm talking about the Hellenistic period where we start to see the fully jacked, muscular men and gods in so many celestial poses.
| Greek Civilization
The size and shape of these figures where based on calculated proportions. And while I'm not going to be exactly shooting for the Grecian ideal, it will be a major part of my influence.
There are several ways to calculate the perfect proportions and ways to find one's ultimate proportion, and I will look at a few of them. So, let's look at the Grecian ideal. For me, at 5'9" tall, I would need to achieve the following proportions:
Chest: 44" (unflexed)
This is one way to go about things, and these measurements will produce a pleasant tapered look. Although the true Greek rule was that the neck, flexed biceps and calves be the same size. These are definitely some numbers worth playing with.
And in comparison to two other ideal proportion calculations (one based on wrist size, one based on height and desired body weight at 10% body fat), the above sizes for a Grecian ideal are actually a bit larger and probably represent a maximum beefiness for someone with my frame who desires to stay well proportioned and athletic.
After all, not only must a man look good from all angles, but he should also be strong, speedy, and in perfect health. Obviously, there comes a point when trying to attain muscularity where one must say "enough is enough" or risk the detriment of one or several of the other factors.
There is another set of calculations that can be done that is supposed to predict one's maximum natural muscular weight at approximately 8 percent body fat (all natural, no steroids). These calculations were created by a man named Casey Butt and here they are:
First: find your height followed by wrist and ankle circumferences in inches. Now perform the following calculations.
A = 1.13^(ankle - 0.1345 x height)
B = 1.13^(wrist - 0.1087 x height)
C = 1.03125^(height - 60) Maximum weight at ~8% bodyfat = 59.8 x C x (1.5 x A + B)
|MAXIMUM WEIGHT CALCULATOR|
Following these calculations I came out with 177 pounds; which to me seems very realistic and a good goal to shoot for. Furthermore, I compared this number to another set of calculations designed to find girth measurements for a number of body parts based on weight and height.
Interestingly, the measurements almost perfectly matched the Grecian ideal outlined above. So now I've got a specific something to shoot for: 177 pounds at 8% bodyfat with measurements near the Grecian ideal. This is going to be very challenging.
That's it folks! It has begun. This is my journey in developing my ultimate form. It will be an interesting one indeed. In my updates from now on I will be reporting lifting numbers, body part measurements, and other little details pertaining to my training and its progress. The setup is complete so there'll be no more planning. It's time for action.