If you want to stay in shape you have to plan ahead for weekday meals.   It is only by making decisions in advance, such as “what will I have for lunch” that you stay on track.  One of my weekday lunches this week is steak, asparagus and yam.

The problem I always have with steak is the same problem I have with everything – overcooking.

Another answer from Alton Brown.

This week I bought a 3/4 lb sirloin.  I always estimate that the cooked weight is 75% of the raw weight.  That’s probably high but until I get a food scale its the best I can do.  Therefore, I estimate that I end up with 9 oz cooked and split into three meals.

What about the vegetable?  Asparagus was on sale this week – decision made!  12 spears give me the approx calories I need in a meal.  It does not take very long to cook so I either throw it in the oven for a few minutes while something else cooks or I steam it separately.

One half of a yam (also on sale) rounds out the meal.  Bake one yam, and you have it for two meals.

Calorie and nutrient breakdown - steak, asparagus, and yams

January 2016

Say Hello To January.

Its the start of a new year and I’m here in a place that so many of us can relate to.  Hung over from the holiday eating binge and left with a lot of work to do.

Have you ever been there?  Not completely out of shape, but far from where you was six months ago?  From November through New Year’s I tend to slack off.  It starts with Thanksgiving and then just  continues with all the parties over the next six weeks.  I had a great time but now there’s a price to pay.

Enough Is Enough.

Now its time to get motivated and  get back in shape.  Actually, motivation is the easy part.  There are so many thing that I’m excited to try this year.  The hard part is narrowing it down.  The strategy is one thing at a time.  Build some momentum and keep trying the little experiments.

The Start and The Finish

I started the month weighing in at 170.2lbs and 14.2% body fat.  That’s pretty big for me.

I ended the month at 164.2 lbs and 12.7% body fat.  In other words, I dropped six pounds a bit more than half of it fat.

That’s a pretty good result.  January was a success.

The Goals

  • Establish a daily calories needed for maintenance
  • Drop my body fat percentage
  • Work on my bench press

Mission accomplished on all three.

The January Plan

  • Average daily calories – 2,350
  • Macro nutrient breakdown – 40% breakdown, 30% carbs, 30% protein
  • Supplements – none
  • Training – twice weekly strength training, no aerobic training

The Experiment

The January experiment was to employ some of the cold tactics described by Tim Ferris in The Four Hour Body.  Specifically, I drank lots of ice water and took cold showers every day of the month.

The cold tactic works.

Some of the stuff I’ve read on the subject says that cold showers can actually boost your immune system.  I came down with a cold before starting the program.  It was gone a few days into the routine.

The Results

My body weight leveled off at the end of the month at 164.2 lbs.  I am confident saying that 2,350 calories is my maintenance level for this body weight.

No strength gains to report.  This was month one of a three month cycle.  All planned exercises / weights / reps / tul were achieved with the exception of one workout skipped due to the after effects of snow shoveling.  I chose recovery over training.

The Beginner’s Guide To Bodybuilding: Part 2

Everyone has an opinion about reps

Rep counts are everywhere.  Do a search on the subject and you’ll find information from people who recommend sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 3 or even singles.  Here’s what you need to know about rep counts:

They all work

That’s right.  All of them.  There are differences in Rep rangesthe results that you’ll get, but those differences will be slight if you stay way from the extremes.  In general low reps are about building strength and high reps are about cardio and muscular definition.  The differences  are probably marginal for the beginning bodybuilder and that’s why the number you choose is probably not that important.

But let’s pick one.

Consistency is necessary.  Without consistency its impossible to track progress.  So we have to pick a rep range and stick with it for at least one cycle.

It would seem that the majority of us should stay in the middle of that upside down pyramid.  Lets try to get the best of both worlds and keep the sets at somewhere between six and twelve reps.

Wait a minute.  I said “pick one” and I give a range.  Yes, a range.  Do it this way – pick a weight you can handle for six reps and gradually work it up to twelve.  When you get there, add weight and do it again.  If you find a six rep increase to be a bit difficult, narrow the range.  Try 8 to 10 instead.

But there is an alternative

I’ve said in previous posts that there are better ways to track workouts than counting reps.  In fact, I think that focusing entirely on rep counts can be a bad thing.  The goal of any exercise should be to keep the bar moving continuously at an even pace in strict form.  No bouncing, jerking, heaving or cheating.  Reps counts can be a bad thing when you sacrifice good form in the pursuit of “one more rep”.  It is the pursuit of one more rep at all costs that  short circuits so many cycles and prevents so many of us from making the gains that they should.

Its an easy line to cross.  After all, a workout is a multi-tasking event.  Humans are only capable of focusing on so many variables at a given time.  Good form is hard to maintain.  Think of all you have to pay attention to when under a heavy squat bar.

  • Retract your shoulder blades
  • Chest out
  • Weight on your heels
  • Back straight

That’s only a short list.  Add to that the task of counting to ten.

Was that 8 reps or only 7?

It might sound like a joke, but can you say that you never asked questions like that during a hard set of squats?  Those with training partners don’t have that problem, but people like me in the basement gyms do.

In the face of the pain that goes along with an intense workout its understandable that you might lose your count.  If you are focused on counting at a time when your muscles are weakened, you form will break down.  You might hit your rep target but the result is only the illusion of progress.  Your cycle will stall.

Why not try TUL (Time Under Lift) instead of counting reps?  Take your cell phone and bring up the stopwatch function.  Start the timer and get the bar into position.  Glance at the watch to get the start time and lift until you “can’t lift no more”.  Check the time at the end and you have your TUL.

Try this:

  • Each movement gets two warm up sets of five reps each and one or two work sets.  Don’t bother counting reps on your work sets, because…..
  • Work sets are done for time, not for reps.  Keep it going with slow, continuous movement done in strict form for anywhere from 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Choose a weight heavy enough to make it a challenge to get to 60 seconds TUL with the weight.  After you hit 60, increase the weight, drop the goal down to 45 seconds and gradually progress until you hit 60 seconds.

Equating the two approaches, a set of ten reps done at a 3/3 cadence (three seconds up and three seconds down) would give you sixty seconds TUL.

Whichever way you choose, remember that the differences are insignificant.  The only thing that matters is effort.