Revisiting the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment?

Last year I unsuccessfully tested Tim Ferriss’s idea of consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Instead of curbing my hunger, it increased it. Here is what I posted on Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment:

It not only isn’t working, but I’ve actually gained 4 more pounds. It has been a disaster. My hunger levels are higher than before. I now think about eating all day long.

After 3 weeks, I ended the experiment. At the end of the post, I listed several possible reasons. But I have may have missed one. For my experiment, I used whey protein. Although I am not a fan of protein powders, I needed the supplement for the convenience of consistently getting 30 grams of protein quickly.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

Maybe the failure of my experiment was really a failure of whey protein and not protein itself? That idea didn’t occur to me until this morning when I watched a video on a making a 4HB protein smoothie on YouTube.

30 grams Protein 4-Hour Body Breakfast Smoothie by HealthNutNutrition

At 2:20 the host of the video states the problem with just using whey protein. Because whey protein is so highly absorbable, “you will probably be hungry within an hour”. That is exactly how I felt! Her solution is to mix it with egg protein. Doing this increases satiety.

High Satiety, High Convenience Proteins?

If whey + egg has more satiety than whey by itself, then one starts to wonder – what is the most satiating protein? What is the most satiating protein powder blend? Most whey protein is sold to athletes that use it precisely because it is quickly absorbed and won’t blunt their appetite for additional calorie loading.

But if your goal is to use higher protein levels to reduce appetite for fat loss, what is the best protein? Egg, casein or maybe my beloved gelatin? I spent a few hours searching and couldn’t find the answer to this question, so maybe one of my smart readers can lead me in the right direction?

30/30 Reboot

I’m ready to try this experiment again. I believe the science is clear that protein has the most satiating effect of all the macronutrients. But I also believe that whey protein by itself is an appetite stimulator for myself. I need a new protein shake recipe. I could even use one of those “build your own” protein powders if I knew which amino acids had the greatest effect of satiety. Your thoughts?

20 Pound Bet: Week 11 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #11 Weigh-In: -1. Total Loss: -9.

These posts are getting boring. This will be the last regularly scheduled weekly weigh in. From here on out I will be updating a spreadsheet instead.

http://goo.gl/3xyqMv

I like what Pauline said in her comment on the Week 10 Weigh In.

 I read two things recently regarding eating healthily – practise, practise, practise. And consistency as long as you keep trending in the right direction, you will get there.

Practice is essential for the individual, but it isn’t a spectator sport. If I gather any new insight or reach my goal, I’ll post again on the blog. Until then, I’ll jot down numbers and notes in the shared spreadsheet.

20 Pound Bet: Week 10 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #10 Weigh-In: +2. Total Loss: -8.

Not a good week. A step backwards. A few things went wrong.

  1. My average daily fasting window dropped from 14.85 hours to 13.29 hours.
  2. My knee was giving me fits, so I did no cycling and the time I spent at the gym was unfocused.
  3. I ate too much cheese.
  4. It has been a long time since I’ve had back pain, but this week I did, which kept me even less mobile.

Why did I get back pain? Last weekend was the big coffee event of the year. SCAA came to Seattle and I went for 3 days. Now on a normal day I might have 4 coffees. During the 3 day coffee event, I easily was consuming 10+ a day. Espresso shot after espresso shot. I had opportunities to try espressos that I had either never heard of or only read about. I had to take advantage of it, much like a beer drinker would go a little nuts if they attended Oktoberfest.

Anyway, by the end of the 3rd day I noticed my lower back was feeling sore. At first I though it was from standing and walking the floor for 3 days. And it could very well have been that, but then I recalled a post I put together in 2012 about the connection between excess coffee and lower back pain. See Sarno, Back Pain and Coffee? if that topic is of interest. A few days after the event, my coffee was back to “normal” and my back felt better.

Pulling Out the Big Gun

I didn’t want to have to do this, but I’ve decided to stop eating cheese. It is too palatable. I over consume it. In 2011, I went a month without dairy, but at that time I consumed lots of almonds to curb hunger. That won’t be an option this time, as I quit eating nuts in June 2013.

This will be the first time ever that I won’t be consuming nuts or cheese.

cheese

Photo by JD Hancock. Perfect photo for May the Fourth. ;) 

Notes:

  1. I am still tied for the lead in the bet with Competitor #3. Competitor #4 is still MIA.
  2. My goal is to hit a 15 hour average daily fasting window for week #11.
  3. I’ll be using potatoes to replace cheese. 100 grams of potatoes are 77 calories, whereas 100 grams of cheddar are 402 calories.
  4. I plan to ease back to cycling. Starting with a few minutes.

20 Pound Bet: Week 9 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #9 Weigh-In: -2. Total Loss: -10.

This was a good week. My plan last week was to journal the number of hours in my eating window. It worked! I was solid on my morning fasting and I lost 2 more pounds.

Fasting Journal

Day
Fasting Hours
Sunday14.5
Monday15
Tuesday15
Wednesday14
Thursday13.5
Friday17
Saturday15

My goal was to average 14 hours. I hit 14.85 hours. It got easier later in the week. I will continue with this strategy. Fasting sure beats counting calories and weighing food.

potato soup

Photo by marsmet546

Notes:

  1. I exercised less this week due to a setback with my knee rehab. This turned out to help making morning fasting easier. Fitness “gurus” that dismiss the relationship between activity and appetite are fools.
  2. I had quite a few potatoes this week. Very filling. This is a lesson for all you militant low carbers. Carbs are not inherently fattening. Excess calories are.
  3. As far as I know I am now in the lead on the bet. Competitor #3 slipped and is back to 7#. Competitor #2 is at 5#. and Competitor #4 is still missing in action.

20 Pound Bet: Week 8 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #8 Weigh-In: -1. Total Loss: -8.

8 weeks, 8 pounds. Grinding away.

My knee rehab had a setback this week. Cycling for more than 5 minutes started to become uncomfortable, so I’ve scaled back. This means going into Week 9 I’ll be exercising less. Weight gain often happens when activity drops before appetite can register the change. Appetite always lags activity, but they are connected. Any fitness “guru” that argues that point is a fool.

I said I would return to food journaling if my weight loss stalled. It hasn’t stalled, but it is getting close. Today I got a better idea. I believe the most effective idea for fat loss is reducing my eating window. So starting today I will begin keeping track of my eating window and make that information available on this blog starting next week.

My goal will be to average an eating window of 10 hours and then adjust from there. That works out to a fasting window of 14 hours. An example would be 11:30 AM – 9:30 PM. Please don’t leave a comment saying how you need to go hours before your last meal and sleep. That Oprah nonsense has been disproven countless times. The best time for your last meal is whatever facilitates deep sleep. For my ectomorphic caffeine abusing body eating right before bedtime keeps me asleep longer.

pho

I love my pho. I eat pho at least once a week. Often homemade. 

Notes:

  1. I discovered I eat more cheese when I have more varieties in my frig. This week instead of getting my normal Kerrygold Cheddar block, I got three different cheeses from Trader Joes. The result was I consumed more cheese. Lesson learned. I’ll return to Kerrygold Cheddar until the bet is over.
  2. Competitor #3 is tied with me at 8 pounds lost. I have no updates from the other 2 competitors.

20 Pound Bet: Week 7 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #7 Weigh-In: -1. Total Loss: -7.

Last week was the one week where I gained a pound. I was concerned that I might need to go back to the food journals. On Monday, I weighed myself and saw I was up 2 more pounds. Yikes! I really don’t want to do food journals again, but I told myself that if I didn’t register a loss this week, I’d return to writing down every meal.

Well I turned it around and dropped that weight plus an additional pound. The motivation of not journaling turned out to be quite effective. I decided to use Tuesday and Thursday as days where I wouldn’t go to the gym for knee rehab and instead really restrict calories until mid-afternoon. The other days would be maintenance.

The strategy of cycling between caloric deficit and baseline is an effective one. You get the weekly calorie reduction, but you don’t run your metabolism into the ground or feel deprived day in and day out.

liver - sweet potatoes

Beef liver + Brussels sprouts + sweet potatoes

Notes:

  1. Foods that I have found to reduce appetite the best so far (besides calorie dense cheese) are: tuna, carrots, kimchi, potatoes and beef (especially organ meats).
  2. Competitor #2 in the fitness bet did a blog post this week that highlighted some quotes on an article about the problem of thinspiration.
  3. Competitor #3 is tied with me at 7 pounds lost. No weigh-in updates from Competitor #2 and Competitor #4.
  4. Competitor #3 began the bet pretty apathetic, but now seems highly motivated. Although I have more discipline, he has more weight he could lose. I suspect my last 5 pounds will be tougher than his last 5 pounds.

20 Pound Bet: Week 6 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #6 Weigh-In: +1. Total Loss: -6.

The bad new is this was the first week where I gained weight. The good news is I lost another 1/2 inch off the waist. My pants are getting a little loose. Am I gaining or regaining muscle? Possibly. Now that I am in the gym 5 times a week for knee rehab, I am lifting more volume. My intensity is of course lower, but when you have a knee injury and work out in a gym that is too hot, something must give.

6 week, 6 pounds, 1 inch off waist. That kind of fat loss would make me a boring contestant on The Biggest Loser. But it is working for me.

If I don’t lose weight in Week 7, I will return to the food journals.

tuna

Notes:

  1. I pigged out on Sunday. Can I call this a refeed? I blame poor sleep. Bad sleep leads to bad food choices. Whenever I talk to people with serious weight issues they ALWAYS have trouble getting good sleep.
  2. I ran out of tuna and didn’t replace my stash until Friday. Protein suppresses appetite. Tuna is a quick hit of protein. When I was eating tuna in the AM, I was dropping weight. When I ran out, I started to gain. This week I will have plenty of tuna.

20 Pound Bet: Week 5 Weigh In

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #5 Weigh-In: -2. Total Loss: -7.

After I posted the ant-Quantified Self post, I decided I didn’t want to continue creating food journals. The purpose of the journals were to keep me away from the foods I overconsume, which were dairy kefir and ice cream. Since starting the journals, that strategy has worked. Now I’ve created a habit. I think I can continue eating in the same manner I have been for the past 5 weeks without the journal. If I stall or begin to gain weight, I can always resume the food journals.

kimbap

Kimbap by Amanda Wong. Whenever I visit the Korean grocery stores, I usually pick up some kimbap to eat on the ride home. 

Notes:

  1. I am down 7 pounds in 5 weeks without restricting carbs. I eat a few pieces of fruit a day. Plus I eat potatoes, rice and rice noodles. I am also still eating dairy in the form of cheese and butter. Post-Paleo indeed.
  2. My focus has been to reset my appetite to a lower level via higher protein intake and certain key foods such as raw carrots.
  3. I believe I would lose weight faster if I consumed soaked or roasted almonds (not almond butter) in place of cheese, but it might be short lived as I suspect the high levels of PUFA in nuts lower metabolism. Although cheese is calorie dense, it also is metabolically stimulating (according to Matt Stone). Since giving up nuts in late May and increasing my cheese intake, my body temperature is up a full degree.
  4. I am still unsure of the role fructose has on appetite. There is so much mixed information out there. I suspect eating apples and pears has helped, but I don’t know.
  5. In my bet, I’ve heard one of my competitors is down 4 pounds and another is down 5 pounds. No word from the 4th member.

** UPDATE: the 4th member is down 5 pounds.

20 Pound Bet: Week 4 Weigh In and Food Journal

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #4 Weigh-in: -1. Total loss: -5.

Slow and steady appears to be how my body wants to drop the weight. The good news is I’ve already dropped over 1/2 inch on my widest point, which tells me I’m losing fat and not muscle.

Sunday March 16

  • Gluten Free Waffles
  • Bacon
  • Orange Juice
  • Corned Beef + Cabbage + Potatoes + Carrots
  • cheddar (3 oz)
  • apple

Monday March 17

  • apple
  • beef kidney + mushrooms
  • tuna + EVOO + mustard
  • popcorn w/butter
  • beef stew w/ potatoes (2 bowls)
  • cheddar (2 oz)

Tuesday March 18

  • apple
  • tuna + EVOO + mustard
  • olives
  • asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • apple
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • beef stew w/ potatoes (2 bowls)
  • cheddar (2 oz)

Wednesday March 19

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • tuna + EVOO + mustard
  • beef stew w/ potatoes (1 bowl)
  • 2 carrots
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • refined beans w/ corn tortillas
  • apple
  • cheddar (3 oz)

Thursday March 20

  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • apple
  • Viet Dish: hu tieu thap cam (see photos below)
  • cheddar (3 oz)
  • apple
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 Korean beef bulgogi tacos w/ corn tortillas + kimchi
  • pear
  • cheddar (3 oz)

Friday March 21

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • tuna + EVOO + mustard
  • apple
  • IKEA smoked salmon
  • IKEA chocolate bar
  • cheddar (5 oz)
  • apple
  • strawberries and cream
  • potatoes
  • Vietnamese chicken legs
  • cheddar (1 oz)
  • apple

Saturday March 22

  • tuna + fish sauce + mustard
  • apple
  • 3 types of kimchi
  • kimchi fried rice
  • Korea yam noodle dish with pork and broccoli
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • 2 carrots
  • kimchi soup w/ shrimp (3 bowls)
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • apple

Noodle soup menu

Vietnamese Noodle Dish

H3 –  Hu Tieu Thap Cam

If you want to know why I personally object to counting calories look at the photo above and tell me how many calories it is. This is how I eat. I am a food explorer. This year I have really been into Vietnamese food and I’m always trying new dishes at different restaurants in Seattle’s Little Saigon. If I ate boxes of Lean Cuisine®, I wouldn’t have an excuse for not counting calories, but I don’t.

Notes:

  1. After reviewing my food journal I realized that carrots are a great food for reducing appetite.
  2. On Saturday I swapped out the Extra Virgin Olive Oil for fish sauce in my tuna. Did I mention I like the flavors of Vietnamese cooking? I’ll probably added crushed thai peppers and garlic soon.
  3. My Week #3 rule of not eating processed meat started after my Sunday bacon. A friend of mine hosted the Waffle and bacon party. Couldn’t pass on that. I used the rest of the week to create the calorie deficit.

20 Pound Bet: Week 3 Weigh In and Food Journal

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #3 Weigh-in: -1. Total loss: -4.

This was an odd week. One of my competitors left a big bag of sliced salami in my refrigerator and I was tempted. I ate more than I should have early in the week. Sneaky! That same competitor created a fitness blog called MAS BETTER. Too funny! Starting today I have created a rule against eating processed meats as the calories add up super fast. My weigh in this week was taken on Friday morning, as I knew I would be donating blood later that day. After donating blood, I load up on salty food and water, so those scale readings are likely to be flawed.

Thursday was a rough day. Poor sleep the night before and I was feeling cold. Also an important event I was excited to attend was canceled last minute. So I ate an entire Lindt chocolate bar. Here is the food journal for Week #3.

Sunday March 9

  • banana
  • kimchi
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • Korean pork dish with rice
  • cheddar (3 oz)
  • Korean seaweed soup
  • apple
  • Vietnamese Chicken with rice
  • cheddar (1 oz)

Monday March 10

  • kimbap
  • apple
  • Korean seaweed soup
  • brussel sprouts w/ butter
  • salami
  • Vietnamese fish soup
  • apple
  • cheddar (3 oz)

Tuesday March 11

  • banana
  • salami
  • Vietnamese fish soup
  • apple
  • 2 lengua tacos
  • beef stew w/Korean rice cakes (2 bowls)
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • salami

Wednesday March 12

  • banana
  • kimchi
  • apple
  • Vietnamese fish soup
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • French onion coup
  • apple
  • beef stew w/Korean rice cakes (2 bowls)
  • pear
  • cheddar (2 oz)

Thursday March 13

  • 3 eggs w/ rice
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • salami
  • Vietnamese fish soup
  • Lindt chocolate bar
  • cauliflower roasted
  • potatoes roasted

Friday March 14

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 can pineapple chunks
  • 3 eggs + roasted potatoes
  • raisins
  • orange juice
  • beef pho
  • tamarind candies
  • beef kidney w/ mushrooms
  • roasted beets + carrots + Japanese sweet potatoes

Saturday March 15

Vietnamese Fish Soup

Vietnamese Fish Soup by stu_spivack

Notes:

  1. Going into Week #4, I need to focus more on creating a caloric deficit on weekdays. Weekends are more challenging.
  2. I’m questioning the effect apples or fruit in general has on appetite. This seems to be a highly debated topic. Some – especially those that follow Ray Peat – believe fruit is slimming. Others believe the opposite. I’m not sure who is correct or if there is context as to who does better on which source of carbs when it comes to dieting. If you have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment.

20 Pound Bet: Week 2 Weigh In and Food Journal

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #2 Weigh-in: Unchanged. I weighed myself a few times this week and was down, then up, but I ended the week even. Due to a project I was less active than Week 1.

Sunday March 2

  • banana
  • tuna (1 can)
  • cucumber
  • cod
  • apple
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • beef chili w/ rice (2 bowls)
  • grapes
  • cheddar (2 oz)

Monday March 3

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • kimchi
  • banana
  • beef stew w/ rice (1 bowl)
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • apple
  • 2 lengua tacos (corn tortillas)
  • pear
  • brussel sprouts w/ butter
  • beef stew w/ rice (1 bowl)
  • apple
  • cheddar (3 oz)

Tuesday March 4

  • 2 bananas
  • Vietnamese: beef + tomato + eggs + rice
  • grapes
  • cheddar (3 oz)
  • apple
  • French onion soup w/ cheddar
  • Falafel (GF) salad w/ tahini sauce
  • cheddar (3 oz)
  • beef chili w/ rice (1 bowl)

Wednesday March 5

  • tuna (1 can)
  • kimchi
  • apple
  • 2 lengua tacos
  • cheddar (4 oz)
  • apple
  • beef vindaloo w/ rice (2 bowls)
  • apple
  • gouda cheese (2 oz)

Thursday March 6

  • banana
  • apple
  • beef chili w/ rice (2 bowls)
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • Korean: cauliflower soup
  • apple
  • kimbap

Friday March 7

  • banana
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • kimchi
  • beef vindaloo w/ rice ( 2 bowls)
  • apple
  • green salad w/ oil/vinegar
  • carrots (2)
  • Korean soup: Beef stock + seaweed + shrimp + mushrooms
  • cheddar (3 oz)

Saturday March 8

  • 2 bananas
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • Brussel sprouted w/ butter
  • blackberry shrub
  • apple
  • green salad
  • beef marrow
  • cheddar (2 oz)
  • Korean soup: Beef stock + seaweed + shrimp
  • lunch meat + cheese (6 oz)
  • beef vindaloo w/ rice (1 bowl)

Notes:

  1. I might need to consider scaling back on the cheese. Maybe reserve it for just before bed and minimize the rest of the day.
  2. As the days get warmer and longer I think AM fasting will get easier.

20 Pound Bet: Week 1 Weigh In and Food Journal

For a background to this post see How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds and Win the Bet.

Week #1 Weigh-in: Down 3 pounds. From 216 to 213. I suppose this is a common weight loss in the first week. It is especially common when people drop processed carbs with high levels of salt. But I consumed almost no processed carbs before and I didn’t cut back on the salt.

I fully expect the first 10 pounds to be easy. After that it will get more challenging. I mostly credit reducing my morning calories for the first week progress.

Below is my food journal for last week. I’m not counting calories or weighing anything. The early phase of this diet is about making better choices. And as long as I’m making progress, why complicate things?

Sunday Feb 23

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • kimchi
  • 3 oz beef neck meat
  • phad thai w/pork
  • mango sorbet
  • beef pho
  • mango sorbet
  • 2 oz cheddar

Monday Feb 24

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • kimchi
  • 2 oz cheddar
  • apple
  • kimbap roll
  • Korean hotpot w/ beef, fish balls
  • pork ribs
  • rice
  • 4 oz cheese
  • apple
  • 1 oz cheese

Tuesday Feb 25

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • beef pho
  • apple
  • beef heart stew (potato, carrot)
  • apple
  • 3 oz cheddar
  • 3 eggs
  • broccoli w/ butter

Wednesday Feb 26

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • fermented carrots
  • 2 lengua tacos (corn tortillas)
  • 2 oz cheddar
  • beef pho
  • apple
  • grapes

Thursday Feb 27

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • kimchi
  • tuna (1 can)
  • apple
  • cucumber
  • banana
  • 2 oz cheddar
  • beef stew (carrot, seaweed) w/ rice
  • apple
  • 2 oz cheddar

Friday Feb 28

  • coconut oil (2 T)
  • cucumber
  • apple
  • 4 eggs (hard boiled)
  • 2 Vietnamese spring rolls with shrimp
  • apple
  • popcorn w/ butter
  • beef stew (carrot, seaweed) w/ rice
  • grapes
  • 2 oz cheddar

Saturday Mar 1

  • coconut oil (1 T)
  • kimchi
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 oz cheddar
  • tuna (1 can)
  • 2 lengua tacos (corn tortillas)
  • 1 apple
  • broccoli
  • roasted potatoes
  • cod
  • grapes

lengua taco

Photo by Morgan Rochele. Lengua tacos means beef tongue. 

A couple of notes.

  1. I often eat coconut oil and kimchi (not together) in the AM. It is an appetite suppressing trick I learned a few years ago.
  2. I no longer mix mayo into my tuna. I find mustard works fine. I’ve also mixed fish sauce with thai peppers into tuna.
  3. Cheddar is my calorie dense tool for dealing with evening hunger. Nothing is as easy or as effective and as long as I am losing weight, I know I’m not overdoing it. Should weight loss stall, I’ll be looking to reduce intake a little.

Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment

On Friday September 20th I began each morning by consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. This is a fat loss strategy Tim Ferriss explained in his book The 4 Hour Body. Less than 3 weeks after starting, I’ve decided to end this experiment.

It not only isn’t working, but I’ve actually gained 4 more pounds. It has been a disaster. My hunger levels are higher than before. I now think about eating all day long.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

When I mentioned the experiment, I was concerned that it might not work as well for ectomorphs or those of us within 10 (now 14 ) pounds of our ideal weight. Some of the comments I received mirrored my experience.

From JM:

I tried that experiment 2 separate times. Each time, I put on weight. I rotated between canned fish, beef patties or chicken breast. It did not suppress my appetite and the additional calories added up over the month.

From Becky:

I never lose weight when I begin eating early in the day, no matter what I eat. Eating early in the day always gets my appetite going. If I eat breakfast first thing, I am hungry 3-4 hours later. If I wait until late morning or lunchtime to eat, I generally only eat two meals.

Based of my research and my N=1 test, I am going to speculate on why 30 in 30 works for some and not others. Again this is just speculation.

  1. 30 in 30 probably works better for those with slow metabolisms that have erratic eating patterns.
  2. 30 in 30 likely works better for those people consuming low amounts of protein and higher carbohydrates.
  3. For people like myself that already have healthy eating patterns and are getting plenty of protein, adding an additional meal upon waking doesn’t have the same day long appetite suppressing effect.
  4. I could see 30 in 30 working better for someone with a long history of dieting that had low energy.
  5. For people like me that need to eat before going to sleep or else I’ll wake hungry, 30 in 30 is probably a bad idea since our eating window is now 18 16 hours. That is a recipe for weight gain.

Starting tomorrow I am returning to 12-16 hour breaks between my last meal of the day and my first meal the next day. Looking back at my initial fat loss I experienced in 2008-2009, it did come as a result of reducing my eating window via Intermittent Fasting. The trick for me is learning how to do that without abusing caffeine. Which is a trick I have yet to figure out. :(

The 30 in 30 Experiment

I’ve started a new experiment. This time I will be testing an idea from Tim Ferriss. Upon waking I will consume 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes. In the book The 4 Hour Body, Ferriss mentions how this trick helps accelerate fat burning.

By starting the day off with a high dose of protein, Ferriss has found that it has an appetite suppressing effect which results in an easier path to fat loss. 4HourLife has some ideas on how to get those 30 grams. For me, even though I think whey protein is the one of most hyped overrated supplements, I bought some to make this experiment easier.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

This experiment is a radical change for me. I’ve never started my day off immediately with food. In the past few years, I’ve gone hours before consuming calories. Besides seeing if the 30-30 method could control my appetite, I also selected this experiment because it will help me be morning compliant with an idea from the Ray Peat crowd. They warn against consuming coffee on an empty stomach as it can trigger stress hormones.

I started this experiment on Friday September 20th. Way too soon to tell if it is having an effect. I’m only interested in losing 10 pounds. Unless I get a negative response, which I don’t expect, I’ll keep this experiment going for at least 60 days.

I wonder how well the 30-30 plan works for the last 10 pounds? Has anyone experimented with it? I’d especially like to hear from those that normally would skip breakfast.

Low Caffeine Weight Gain

Beginning in late September I scaled down my caffeine intake. Then in October, I went the entire month without coffee and 21 days without any caffeine. This month I have been on a very low caffeine intake, averaging just 1 cup of coffee a day. I covered that experiment in the article A Month Without Coffee. Well, today I confirmed a side effect that I suspected was occurring: weight gain.

I am now 7 pounds heavier than when I started my caffeine reduction experiment (was 187, now 194). And it isn’t muscle. Although I am still lean, ab definition is now gone. I’m not concerned though, because reducing caffeine has resulted in fewer headaches. I’ll take that trade any day. Plus I know how to lean out with minimal effort, so I can always get back to my normal weight – if I can do it without increasing headache frequency.

Why did I gain weight during this period? Some thoughts:

  1. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant.
  2. Seattle weather was terrible during this period. My non-exercise movement (walking) was minimal. This means I was home near my food supplies for a high percentage of the month.
  3. I had strong sugar cravings when I came off caffeine.
  4. When I did go to the gym to do my High Intensity Training, my focus was off. Either I went to failure faster than normal or I didn’t have the grit to push myself as hard. Although I strongly believe exercise plays almost no role in fat loss, I do think HIT has some fat loss applications, provided it really is high intensity and you aren’t just going through the motions like I was doing.
  5. Less morning fasting. I had less discipline on delaying my first meal without caffeine.

Photo by Länsmuseet Gävleborg

I’m even more convinced than before that my next caffeine detox will be in the summer. Then I will be able to distract myself with hours of low intensity movement away from my kitchen. But for now, I’m gradually adding back more Intermittent Fasting. My gym intensity is still below normal, but that just might take more practice of learning how to generate high intensity without getting jacked on espresso. If those strategies don’t work, I might increase my average daily coffee intake to 2, which is still half of what it was before I started reducing my caffeine levels. Of course I’ll only do that if it doesn’t result in more headaches.

Less Exercise Equals More Fat Loss – Of Course It Does

Several people have sent me a link to the study that just came out that showed that less exercise resulted in greater fat loss. From Study Suggests Less Is More for Exercise and Weight Loss:

If you’re looking to shape up, researchers at the University of Copenhagen say 30 minutes of rigorous exercise can be as effective as an hour when it comes to shedding weight.

The team studied 60 heavy but healthy men between 20 and 40 years old who wanted to lose weight. Twenty-one were directed to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise — running, cycling and rowing — daily. Twenty-one were told to get 60 minutes, and 18 were assigned to a control group that remained sedentary. The results showed that exercising for 30 minutes at a pace hard enough to break a sweat was sufficient to promote weight loss.

Makes sense to me. The more you exercise, the stronger your appetite signal will be. Maybe not at first, but eventually appetite matches energy expenditure. The more time you waste running around the neighborhood or on the treadmill takes away from the time you could be spending preparing healthy food in the kitchen. You get lean in the kitchen, not in the gym.

I’ve covered my thoughts on this topic in the April post Fat Loss and the Case For Less Exercise.

Photo by Andrea Zamboni

One thing I do want to say is that 30 minutes a day seems excessive to me. I’m down to 15 minutes a week and I’m as lean an collegiate volleyball player. And I haven’t broken a sweat exercising in several years. The time I used to waste on exercise volume has been freed up so I can spend more time on food preparation. It is a simple economic decision. If 90% of body composition comes from diet, why would you waste so many hours exercising only to return home too exhausted or time crunched to make a nourishing meal?

My Response to the Exercise and Overeating Study

How is that for odd timing? A day after I completed my 5 part series on the role of exercise and fat loss, a widely reported study on the same topic surfaces. The short summary is that not everyone loses weight exercising and some people actually overeat to compensate for increased energy demands. Sound familiar? Whole Health Source did a summary of the study titled Exercise and Food Intake which discussed the individual variability.

The study ties in food reward to exercise, which is a topic I was thinking about when I wrote my series. I look forward to seeing what researchers learn in further studies, however I did have some issues with the study as it applied to fat loss.

  1. Their test involved doing 60 minutes of aerobic exercise on a cycle. No surprise that it was ineffective for many. Intervals and weight training would have been a better test.
  2. The test only used young healthy individuals (Age = 22.2 0.7). Young people recover faster from exercise and tend to have less health problems.
  3. The test was only 12 weeks long. I have gone many 12 week periods in my life where exercise helped me get leaner. However, when you stand far enough back and look at much longer time periods, those benefits disappear. The reason is our appetite rises to meet energy needs. We can’t keep exercising at an ever increasing volume or intensity. We are human. We get hurt, sick or get sidelined with life’s interruptions. During the down periods, appetite does not return to baseline. It stays elevated. The fat we lost during our exercise interval comes back. It is a survival strategy the brain uses to prepare for an environment with periods of high energy demands. BTW, I am not a scientist, but I have examined 20 years of my own exercise experiences to arrive at this conclusion.

Photo by Mark Stosberg. Can I ride up front? :)

As much as I agree with the headline of the study, once I got into the details, I found it useless. We all aren’t 22 years old. Long duration aerobic exercise is highly stressful to our bodies and hormones. And most importantly, 12 weeks is no where near enough time to make a conclusion on the role exercise has on fat loss. Bodybuilders know how to exercise to get super lean in weeks, but those gains are unsustainable for long periods of time.

I believe the key to leveraging exercising for fat loss is to do highly intense brief exercises, followed by rest periods that allow the body to recover fully and ideally quickly.

Maximizing Fat Loss with Exercise

This is the 5th and final part on my series of posts on the role of exercise and fat loss. For the most part, I strongly believe that you lean out in the kitchen and not the gym. I think the role of exercise in fat loss is vastly over rated. The benefits we see in the short term tend to disappear when we account for increased appetite as a response to the exercise and the increase in down time due to exercising too much.

Post summaries for Part 1-4:

  1. Walking Didn’t Lean Me Out – I showed how it was diet alone that caused me to lose 20 pounds of fat and keep it off.
  2. How Exercise Indirectly Kept me Fatter – I go through 20 years of my personal exercise experience to show that appetite and injury risk increase when exercise volume increases. What appears to be effective in the short term for fat loss isn’t sustainable or effective in the long term.
  3. Fat Loss and the Case For Less Exercise – In the post, I explain why I traded exercise duration for exercise intensity.
  4. Fat Loss and High Intensity Exercise – This blog post digs into the science of fat loss that comes from High Intensity Training and why it is superior to steady state cardio. These are concepts I learned from Dr. Doug McGuff.

Maximizing Fat Loss with Exercise Prerequisites

I know I’m repeating myself here, but I believe you get healthy to lose fat not lose fat to get healthy. If you remove the toxins and eat highly nutrient dense foods, the body will become more healthy. A healthy body that is well nourished will drop excess fat. If you are not healthy yet, focus on that first. Adding a caloric deficit to an already under nourished body might result in short term fat loss, but that weight often comes right back once the body senses its survival is being threatened.

Enough with the disclaimer, here is the prerequisite list.

  1. Remove Toxic Food – Grains, Sugar, Vegetable Oils and non-fermented soy. Dairy for some people. Perform 30 Day elimination tests to figure out what foods make your body tick. Recommended reading: 9 Steps to Perfect Health #1 Don’t Eat Toxins.
  2. Fix Your Sleep – Sleep is extremely important for fat loss. Our society glamorizes the athlete that sets their alarm to get up at 5AM to exercise. Not me. I know that sleep leans you out. Recommend reading: Review highlights several mechanisms through which lack of sleep can cause us to put on weight.
  3. Eat Nutrient Dense Food – It isn’t enough to remove the toxic food. You will want to load up on nutrient dense food to send a signal to your body that you are surrounded by nutritional abundance. See the post High Velocity Super Warrior Foods.

Choosing Exercises For Maximum Fat Loss

  1. Safety – Your bias towards safety is the most important exercise decision you can make. There are many exercises that may lean you out more in the short term, but have a higher risk factor for injury. Professional football players are amazing athletes, but have you ever seen these guys when they hit 50 or 60 years old? Their bodies are broken down and bloated. Be kind to your future self. Choose exercises that allow you generate high levels of intensity on the muscles without stressing the joints. I have found SuperSlow HIT on machines, rowing and uphill sprinting to be the three most effective and safe methods of exercising.
  2. Minimize Appetite Increases – I know someone that spends 3 hours every week doing Cardio Dance. She is constantly eating grains, because she is hungry all the time. She wants to lose an additional 5 pounds, but can’t seem to do it. Her appetite now exceeds her activity level. She is not alone. Long duration low intensity exercising is highly stressful to the body. The body responds with stronger hunger signals. I could never eat enough when I was a cardio junkie or doing high volume weight training. High Intensity Exercise doesn’t result in an ever increasing appetite. It goes up a bit on work days, but falls back below baseline on rest days.

Exercise Timing and Nutrient Timing For Maximum Fat Loss

  1. Train Fasted – Don’t drink a smoothie or eat a Cliff Bar before you exercise. This is a topic too large to cover in this post. The short reason is your body is primed for fat loss and muscle gain when you train fasted. This is how nature works. Recommended reading: Why Fast? Part 5 Exercise.
  2. Train Recovered – It is during our rest periods, not the time we spend in the gym, where the body gets stronger. Going back into the gym before you’ve had time to recover interrupts this process. When we return to the gym prior to full recovery, we increase our risk of injury. And it is during this down period when you’ll gain back the fat you lost. Minimizing injuries are critical to getting the fat loss benefits of exercising. The young, genetically gifted and the pharmaceutically enhanced individuals can sometimes get away with more frequent training, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can. Recommended reading: An interview with John Little (Conditioning Research).

The Limiting Factor To Maximum Fat Loss From Exercise

Once we get past nutrition, sleep, safety, exercise selection, nutrient timing and understanding how to generate high levels of intensity while exercising there remains a single limiting factor to exercise and maximum fat loss. It isn’t exercising more. It is recovering faster. The limiting factor to fat loss from exercise is recovery speed. If we want to get the maximum fat loss benefits of exercise, we should be focusing our efforts on decreasing recovery time.

Right now it takes me 5 days to fully recover from a SuperSlow HIT workout. This means in a typical quarter, I can engage in 18 workouts. If I could figure out a way to reduce my recovery time to 4 days, I could engage in 22 workouts per quarter. This is not about gutting it out and pushing myself to return to the gym. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work in the long run. This is about training the body to recover faster. Some ideas that have come to mind include:

  1. Specific Nutrition and Supplements – What foods or supplements can measurably improve recovery times? I’m getting good results drinking beef bone broth at the end of my workouts. What else works?
  2. Cold Water – I have noticed that cold showers at the end of a workout decrease muscle soreness. I have not measured if this is the same as faster recovery, but I suspect it helps.
  3. Even More Sleep – Adding in additional naps or longer sleep post workout might increase recovery speed.
  4. Stress Reduction – This was the idea Keith Norris talked about in his podcast interview on the Latest In Paleo Episode #35. A stressed body takes longer to recover. This lines up with my own personal experiences, which I discuss in Health Goals – Late 2011 Edition (#2). I’m guessing that one could time stress reduction exercises (meditation, Morning Faces Therapy, yoga, nature exposure, etc) post workout to speed up recovery.
  5. Massage – I can’t afford to add massage into my weekly schedule, plus I’ve had mixed results with it. I am interested in practicing more with my foam roller to see if it provides benefit.

I still believe dietary tweaking will still yield the most benefit when it comes to fat loss. However, I am interested in learning how to decrease recovery time from brief intense workouts. I think it is the key to maximizing fat loss potential from exercise. If you have ideas on speeding up recovery, please post them in the comments.

Fat Loss and High Intensity Exercise

In my last post Fat Loss and the Case For Less Exercise, I explained how I’ve designed my exercise plan to be as minimal as possible to maximize my chances at fat loss without increasing my appetite or risk of injury.

My HIT workout takes about 15 minutes, which includes light mobility work. The sprint session takes about 10 minutes, where most of the time is spent walking back to the bottom of the hill. The rowing takes less than 5 minutes.Adding everything together I am exercising less than one hour per week.

To be clear, I am not saying this is the optimal plan for everyone. This is what has worked best for me. When I increase my exercise volume, I also increase appetite and risk of injury. I covered this in detail in the post How Exercise Indirectly Kept Me Fatter.

On the surface it appears the primary mechanism for fat loss is not burning calories, but increasing muscle gain. Increasing muscle increases metabolism which can result in greater fat loss. Up until I read Body By Science this is was the only fat loss pathway I was aware of when it came to resistance training.

Body by Science
Body by Science by Doug McGuff and John Little is by far the best book I’ve read on fitness.

Forget The Fat Burning Zone, Embrace High Intensity

The Cult of the Cardio loves to preach that exercising in a range between 60% and 70% of maximum heart rate maximizes fat loss. They call this range the Fat Burning Zone. When we lower our intensity into this range, not only can we exercise longer, but we access fat at a higher percent. Is this a good thing? Body By Science makes the case that it isn’t. Fat loss is not just about calories, it is also about hormones. Watch the two videos below (13 minutes in total) for a primer on High Intensity exercise and fat loss.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzA-E8zb-Ds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToGt_GYCUmY

I’m going to list some of the fat loss ideas from Dr. McGuff’s book. I had to read this section three times before I felt I felt I understood it. If my understanding is flawed, please help me out in the comments below.

  • The greatest metabolic effect comes when all muscle fibers are recruited.
  • When we aren’t accessing body fat directly, we get our energy from glycogen stores. Glycogen provides “on-site” energy to the muscular system.
  • Fast twitch muscle fibers have the most glycogen stores.
  • Cardio does not tap the fast twitch muscle fibers. High intensity does.
  • Because cardio does not meaningfully empty glycogen stores, circulating glucose in the blood must be stored as fat. The muscle cell walls lose their sensitivity to insulin. High intensity exercise causes the opposite to happen.
  • Glycogen storage can diminish over time when we do not engage in exercise at high enough level. When those glycogen stores stay full, excess glucose goes to fat storage. This can lead to both muscle atrophy and insulin resistance.
  • High Intensity Exercise activates hormone-sensitive lipase. Low Intensity doesn’t. Lipase permits the mobilization of body fat.
  • Cardio produces more oxidative free radicals and inflammation than High Intensity.

Body By Science goes into much greater detail. I highly recommend buying that book. You’ll never step on a treadmill ever again and you’ll be leaner for making that decision.

When I embraced High Intensity in late 2010, my volume of exercise dropped. Because my intensity increased, the result was precisely what Dr. McGuff said in the videos above, I got leaner. In my next post, I will conclude my thoughts on exercise and fat loss with an idea on where we should be directing our resources to maximize fat loss potential.

Fat Loss and the Case For Less Exercise

This is the third part on my series about exercise and fat loss. Part one was the post Walking Didn’t Lean Me Out, where I showed how all my fat loss was a result of diet and how exercise played no role. Part two was titled How Exercise Indirectly Kept me Fatter. In that post I covered how twenty years of varying exercise protocols not only didn’t lean me out, but increased my appetite above my activity level during down periods of injury. For the past 3 years I have firmly stated that fat loss occurs in the kitchen and not the gym. I still believe that.

On the surface it appears obvious that exercise would result in fat loss, but the long term success rates are awful. Appetite will rise to meet activity level. Increase the exercise and not only will your appetite increase, but so will your risk of injury. Trying to out exercise your appetite is a losing battle. Your buff personal trainer will blame your lack of discipline, but the reality is the body sees chronically exercising in excess of caloric intake as a threat to its survival. At some point its survival plan exceeds your willpower to override it.

Not For Everyone

This post is not for the typical overweight person. If you are still consuming toxic foods such as grains, sugar, soy and vegetable oils then you should devote your resources into the fixing that. Remove the toxins and load up on highly nutrient dense foods. In other words, get healthy to lose fat, not lose fat to get healthy. An hour learning to cook will have far greater of an impact than an hour of exercising.

Eating nutrient dense foods like kimchi will do more for fat loss than exercise. Going into energy deficits before you’ve fixed nutrient deficiencies is like trying to a row a leaky boat. Fix the leak first.

The second group this post is not for are the young and genetically gifted. By young, I mean all you 25 year old CrossFitting Parkour junkies with Kevlar joints that scoff at us mere mortals. This post is for the normal sane healthy person that wishes to leverage exercise in a way to accelerate fat loss, while minimizing injury risk and honoring recovery. If your sport requires a higher volume of training, then by all means do what is necessary to be successful. If you like to spend hours every week spinning or jogging, because it is good for your mental health, that is wonderful. This post is just about fat loss.

The Case For Less

Let me start by saying that I am not a personal trainer and the only client I’ve trained is myself. I will say that I’ve read numerous books and a ridiculous number of articles written by industry professionals. I’ve studied the failures of conventional fitness and arrived at a few core principles regarding the role of exercise in fat loss.

  1. The limiting factor in exercise is not desire, it is recoverability and results. Without sufficient time for recovery, results will be limited and risk of injury will increase.
  2. Some people have amazing recoverability skills. Modeling your workout with the gifted is a mistake.
  3. During periods of injury recovery, appetite does not fall to baseline.
  4. The #1 way to maximize results is don’t get injured.
  5. Injuries are most likely to happen when volume is too high and recoverability time is too short. The importance of quality sleep can not be overstated. Never sacrifice sleep for exercise.

The key to leveraging exercise for fat loss is minimizing down time, not increasing volume. Bias should always be towards safety. Be patient with your body and focus on the long term.

My Exercises

My exercise plan for fat loss is based upon low frequency, low stress and brief periods of high intensity. It is not about burning calories and volume. I believe those approaches fail in the long run due to increased appetite and risk of injury. For me I want to push the boundaries of what my body is capable of performing. Increase strength and speed in an energy conserving manner and the body will respond in a positive way.

  1. High Intensity Training (HIT) – The number one exercise is weight training. I use a HIT protocol of SuperSlow and static holds. I favor machines over free weights, as they both honor biomechanics and are safer as the movement approaches failure. Reaching full failure on a leg press is perfectly safe. Going to failure with a back squat will hurt you. I perform a single HIT workout once every 5 to 7 days.
  2. Uphill Sprints – About 1-2 times a week and never on the day I do HIT, I perform 4-8 uphill sprints modeled after Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 plan. The twist I added is to improve safety is to only run uphill. Sprinting has been shown to spike growth hormone levels, which can accelerate fat loss.
  3. Rowing Machine – I got this idea from frequent commenter GWhitney. I’ve been rowing now for 2 weeks and I love it. It is a sprint for the upper body. Go all out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat for 6-10 sets. Or something close. To see excellent form, watch this 24 second video of Rob Smith. Right now I am rowing about twice a week, although I could see going up to three times as this is even less stressful than uphill running. I do not row on the day I do HIT.

That is it. My HIT workout takes about 15 minutes, which includes light mobility work. The sprint session takes about 10 minutes, where most of the time is spent walking back to the bottom of the hill. The rowing takes less than 5 minutes. Adding everything together I am exercising less than one hour per week.

All my exercising is done in a fasted state. Prior to weight training, I do supplement with BCAA. I don’t know if it helps build/preserve muscle, but it is cheap insurance. After my HIT workout, I consume starchy carbs and protein. After my sprints and rowing, I continue fasting for another hour.

Not only am I leaner than I’ve ever been, but I feel better than ever. I’m not dog tired like I used to be when I was a runner and I don’t get the aches and pains I did when I did volume based free weights.

A High Intensity Approach to Cold Weather Training

It has been a while since I last posted on Cold Weather Training. For those new to the site, I began experimenting with cold temperature exposure back in 2008 as way to “toughen up” after living in the perfect temperatures of San Diego for seven years. What I learned was that not only does cold temperature exposure increase your personal comfort zone, but it has many health benefits including fat loss and a stronger immune system.

I thought I had nothing new to add to this discussion until about a month ago. While studying the High Intensity Training approach to weight lifting, I wondered if those concepts could be applied to cold temperature exposure. HIT workouts are extremely intense, very brief and highly effective. The goal is to trigger certain physiological and hormonal responses and then allow the body to respond. I love Dr. Doug McGuff’s analogy of hitting an elevator button. Once the button is pressed, pressing it more won’t make the elevator arrive faster.

When I approached cold weather exposure, I gradually increased the duration I spent outdoors as the temperatures were falling. I went from requiring a jacket at 65 degrees to spending hours outdoors in the 30s with just a short sleeve shirt. It took several months, lots of planning and raw grit to get the benefits. My experiment was interesting to others, but not inspiring or empowering. It also violated my Minimal Effort Approach philosophy.

Is there another way?

Photo by espensorvik

What if one could do a High Intensity approach to cold temperature exposure that achieves the same benefits in far less time? This is all theory and self experimentation. I have no clue if this will work, but I’m thinking it might. After taking two months off from cold weather training, I started this method about a month ago. I’m getting rapid adaptations. It could be my prior training or it could be the new method. I want to find out.

Welcome to version 1 of High Intensity Cold Weather Training. Here is how it works.

Cold Water Exposure

At the end of your daily shower, turn the water to as friggin cold as you can handle without having a heart attack. Do deep slow breathing and relax. Aim the cold water directly between your neck and shoulder blades. Hold this for 30 seconds. End the shower. That is it. If you want you can do a quick rinse on your legs, but that is optional.

Cold Ambient Temperature Exposure

I don’t know if cold water alone will build temperature resiliency. For this you will need to go outside when it is chilly. Wear one less layer than you normally would. Go for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, many people will discover they have already started adapting to the colder temperatures. Most people baby their metabolism. Force it to work for you! After five minutes, you can put your jacket back on. Do this repeatedly and you’ll soon discover the need to always grab a jacket will disappear.

This post was written as we head into summer. This means take advantage of early mornings and late evenings.

Feedback

I’d love to get feedback from others if they try High Intensity Cold Weather Training. I’m already well adapted to both cold water and cold ambient temperatures. For me this method is about maintaining my temperature resiliency. I have no desire to swim a mile in icy water. I also suspect that extreme exposure to cold temperatures could have the opposite effect on fat loss, as the body would respond to the chronic temperature stress by increasing body fat.

The three things to look for are:

  1. Increased temperature comfort zone. You should begin to feel more comfortable with lower temperatures.
  2. Fat loss. I covered this in the post The Media Discovers Brown Fat.
  3. More energetic. Nothing like a blast of coldness to jump start your day!

Are you ready to try High Intensity Cold Weather Training?

Fat Loss Metrics For Men

How should guys measure their fat loss progress? There are several methods. Each have their problems, but I think one is a clear winner. Before I proceed, let me state that the overall goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. Subway’s Jared had an amazing fat loss story, but he failed on gaining muscle. He became a smaller version of his lumpy self, which is definitely more healthy, but not ideal.

The Scale – The scale isn’t bad, but it can’t tell the difference between a pound of muscle and a pound of fat. Also, water weight varies a lot, especially in larger individuals. Those body fat scales tend to be inaccurate in the obese and super lean. I used one for years when my body fat was between 15-20%. Once I got leaner, the numbers jumped.

Tape Measure (or Belt) – A shrinking waist size is half the goal. Measuring fat loss with a belt or tape measure is superior to the scale. A tape measure does not penalize muscle gain.

BMII do not like the BMI. The book Waistland goes into detail why this test penalizes people that are tall, muscular or African American. Since half the goal is gaining muscle, I can’t endorse this metric.

Body Fat Tests – Unless you have access to the same person taking your body fat score in the same manner on a regular basis, any given body fat score can vary wildly. Body fat tests usually cost money. Mark Sisson recently asked his readers to guess his body fat percentage. He has defined upper and lower abs. I guessed 7%. His body fat test came back at 16.9%. His conclusion:

Sometimes these tests are just plain wrong. And sometimes they can create far more problems than they solve.

Frankie Method – Frankie was a trainer at a previous gym I went to. Frankie asks the question “Can you see your abs?”. Joe put together a nice flowchart. Frankie’s Method is simple and addresses flaws in body fat testing (see above), but is probably only useful for the super lean. Most will be discouraged using his method if their goal is far away.

The Golden Ratio (aka Adonis Ratio) – In mathematics the golden ratio is 1.618.

At least since the Renaissance, many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratioespecially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratiobelieving this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing.

A few women fitness writers have written on applying the Golden Ratio to the male physique. In an article for Men’s Health, Beth Bischoff wrote:

So it’s no surprise to learn that chicks dig a physique that measures up to the golden ratio. An Archives of Sexual Behavior study reveals that women are most attracted to muscular men whose shoulders measure 1.6 times the size of their waists.

This is a mathematical methodology for measuring the V-shaped torso. I like this method the best. It rewards both fat loss and muscle gain. The only problem with this method is you need someone to help you measure your shoulders. Beth’s article describes a hack where you measure your chest and then shoot for a 1.4 ratio.

Detailed instructions in the article:

1. Measure your shoulder circumference at its widest point — usually around your shoulders and chest in a line halfway between your nipple and collarbone. (If you’re on your own, you can measure your chest at its widest point, just below your armpits.)

2. Determine your waist circumference by wrapping a measuring tape around your abdomen so that the bottom of the tape touches the top of your hip bones.

3. Divide the circumference of your shoulders (or chest) by that of your waist.
You don’t have to look like a cartoon superhero to hit the ideal proportion: If you use the standard from Swami’s studies, you could hit the jackpot by having a 45-inch chest and a 32-inch waist.

True ectomorphs and endomorphs may never achieve the Golden Ratio, but they can certainly try. John Barban wrote this on a comment on AdonisLifestyle.

True ectomorph and endomorphs may very well have ideals that are skewed towards their ends of the curve. In other words, a true ectomorph may never get all the way up to the ideal waist we have calculated, but they may not need to.

Likewise a true endomorph might not get all the way down to the ideal waist but again they may not need to either as they will have bigger shoulders.

The Golden Ratio isn’t perfect, but I think it is the single best metric for male fat loss.

Intermittent Fasting – Improving Your Success Rate, A New Strategy

In the post Intermittent Fasting Reports From the Field, I reported on the success several of my friends have had with Intermittent Fasting. They lost weight and feel great, but not everyone is succeeding. I’m going to list the reasons that I have witnessed that caused Intermittent Fasting to not provide the results desired. Then I am going to share a new strategy that I believe will work better.

  1. Post-Fast Gorging – I was guilty of this at first. As soon as I ended a 22 hour fast, I’d eat everything in sight. When you exit an IF, you should resume eating as you would normally. There is no need to double down on the calories.
  2. Non-IF Sloppy Eating – I’ve witnessed some people that think Intermittent Fasting once or twice a week means they can booze it up or eat lots of carbs the rest of the week. The main purpose of IF is reduce your insulin levels to increase access to stored body fat. It is not an excuse to spike your insulin more on your eating days.
  3. Life Happens – We try to plan our IF, but something happens. A party, a trip, a special dinner or whatever. It throws us out of our routine. I personally like to do my fast on Monday and then lift weights on Tuesday. This week Monday was Presidents Day and so I made plans that involved eating. Do I push back my weights or postpone the IF?
  4. Restarting IF After a Hiatus is Tough – The first fast is the hardest, but they get progressively easier. That is unless you “fall off the horse” (see Life Happens). The difficulty of restarting the weekly fast becomes an obstacle for fasting itself. Sort of like putting off exercise.

The Intermittent Fasting strategy I have talked about and used is the one Brad Pilon wrote about in his book Eat Stop Eat. He advocates two 24 hours fast each week. I modified it to 22 hours and then suggested twice a week for the overweight and those with a history of cancer in the family and once a week for the rest of us.

There are other Intermittent Fasting strategies, so I set off to see if there might be a better method. My research has turned up an alternate IF method that I believe might be better. Note that I said “might”, because I have not tried this method yet and my definition of “better” could be different than yours. Do what works best for you and your schedule.

Martin Berkhan of LeanGains advocates a 16 hour daily fast. All eating is done in an 8 hour window (EX: 1pm – 9pm). No day is special. Just wake up and push your “breakfast” to 1pm. And because everyday is normal, there is no reason to celebrate or get sloppy in that 8 hour window. The daily habit overcomes reason #4 above. And for the ladies, Martin has found a 14 hour fast is often enough for women. Also recommended is ONLY increasing your carbohydrate intake on days you exercise.

Even though I have been successful doing weekly (and sometimes twice a week) fasts of 22 hours, I am going to try the 16/8 daily method. I’m all in favor of a new experiment and since pictures are more powerful than words, check out the latest Client Update post on LeanGains.

Revisiting “Cleaning Up My Diet”

In 2006, I did two nutritional posts titled Cleaning Up My Diet 1 and Cleaning Up My Diet 2. Boy did I get some things wrong. Not quite a nutritional mullet, but close. Usually I attack others, such as the current Surgeon General, but for this post I will attack the 2006 version of myself.

Part 1 wasn’t too bad.

On closer look Im getting too many starchy carbs and not enough protein.

After eating one piece of fish, Id still be hungry so Id grab another serving of rice. Starchy carbs are fine when you return from exercise. However they should be minimized on rest days. Starting last night I doubled up on the fish and cut back on the carb grams.

Cutting the carbs was correct, however the hunger issue was caused by lack of fat. Doubling up on a super lean protein like fish did little to curb my hunger. The result was periodic carb binges and I never leaned out for long on this strategy.

Part 2 is embarrassing.

Monday I swapped my Mayonnaise for Nayonaise Original. Tastes fine to me. Its got 1/3 the calories and fat of the real stuff. They offer a fat-free version as well, which I may try in the future.

At Costco they sell cases of egg whites. Just pour and cook. No need to do that egg white dance anymore.

In p1 I covered removing excess starchy carbs and in this part I got rid of the bad fats.

I was so wrong. Swapping egg based mayo for a highly processed soy based mayo is nutritional stupidity. Soy is to be avoided, not egg yolks. Egg yolks are highly nutritious. But the biggest error in this post was my goal of lowering the calorie content in my diet by reducing fat. Less fat = more hunger. When you swap fat for carbohydrates, you increase your insulin output, which is the fat storing hormone.

Today I follow a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. I am no longer a slave to wild blood sugar swings and strong hunger signals. My jeans were once tight at 36 baggy and I even had one pair of Dockers that had a 38 waist. Today, my jean size is now a 33 normal, which was my size during my freshman year…of high school. I exercise far less now. My cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure are all in the optimal range.

MAS in the 10th Grade. I’m leaner today and no longer sport a mullet. ;)

I’m glad that I admitted what I knew to be true in 2006 wasn’t. Once I got comfortable with not knowing, it gave me the freedom to start researching again and open myself up to new ideas. Those new ideas have had a profound and positive effect on my health.

Intermittent Fasting – Reports From the Field

Last April I started posting about what I learned and my experiments with Intermittent Fasting. Although Intermittent Fasting (IF) can be done several ways, what I do is pick one day a week and go 22 hours without food. Not only has it leaned me out, but I now have far more discipline over hunger. I can delay meals whenever I want and I’m no longer a slave to frequent feedings or low blood sugar.

For more background on the motivation and reasoning for IF, I encourage you to check out the following posts.

This post is about all the feedback I’ve received from people that have read my posts and decided to try Intermittent Fasting for themselves. The response has been amazing. I know 3 people that have fat loss in the 25-35 pound range. I also know people that have had some moderate fat loss as well as individuals that have gained focus and have taken control of their hunger signals.

I’d love to hear some feedback if you’ve tried Intermittent Fasting and what it has done for you.

Caloric Nonsense at the Glitter Gym

While at my Glitter Gym, the gym paused the soccer mom workout music for an important announcement. It was a professionally made audio clip encouraging members to sign up for some nonsensical aerobic class, because it burned lots of calories. The implication is that burning calories will equate to permanent fat loss. Take the class and get leaner.

Too bad fat loss doesn’t work that way. Yes, you can knock off a few pounds in the short term by running around like an idiot, but will that result in long term fat loss? Rarely. Gyms around the world are full of people diligently burning calories to get lean and yet very few met their goals. This isn’t a problem of willpower, it is human physiology.

The role of the body is to survive, not to look good by swimsuit season. Simply burning calories tells the body to send a stronger hunger signal and/or slow down. Back when I was a runner, I never got leaner. I just got more hungry and when I wasn’t running I was more tired. My body was sending hormonal signals to save the host. It could care less if my marathon time was under 4 hours. And when I used willpower to override those signals, my body had two more tricks it used: injury and sickness. Chronic cardio plays hell on your immune system. Runners are always sick or injured. It is their body telling them to stop.

run

Me in 1995. I exercised way more back then. My waist size is smaller now.

Body By Science

This is an outstanding book that challenged many of my beliefs about weight training.

Body by Science
Body by Science by Doug McGuff and John Little makes a damn good case for super slow weight training. As I stated in a previous post, I read this book because I am unconvinced that slow training is superior to normal or explosive training. Did this book convince me? Not fully. I still have my doubts, but far less than before. The slow movement contradicts so much of what others in the fitness field have been teaching. Because of thisI need to do more research on this important point. That debate will be shelved for an upcoming post.

Body by Science will be accessible for most readers, but there are a few chapters that very heavy in science. Those chapters will require several readings for completecomprehension, but they aren’t necessary to put the program into place. Body by Science goes into why high intensity weight lifting is superior to all other forms of exercise. This book trashes aerobic conditioning in scientific terms to the point that no one would ever step onto a treadmill after reading Body by Science.

The chapter on fat loss has a lot of good information that covers hormones and the fallacy that steady state aerobics make you leaner. However, the authors come to same old incomplete conclusion by promoting that caloric restriction is necessary for fat loss.

…there’s no getting around the fact that calories must be restricted.

Gary Taubes in the book Good Calories, Bad Calories, did a brilliant job researching all the medical literature on obesity research and came to the conclusion that one must reduce insulin, not calories, to generate permanent fat loss. Restricting calories will result in weight loss initially, but the body willrespondby initiating a stronger hunger response and/or slowing down. Considering how Body by Science went into details on the connection between elevated insulin levels and obesity, even going as far as to cite how morbidly obese can’t get nutrients to their muscle cells while eating thousands of calories, because of the elevated insulin levels, I am surprised they stated that “calories must be restricted“. If caloric restriction could cure obesity, dietary success rates would be much higher.

Despite their calories statement, I loved this book. Body by Science will take a place in my library and I will refer to it in the future. Will I be following the slow motion weight lifting protocol? Stay tuned for a post that explores that debate and my decision.

UPDATE 2014: Back when I first posted this I was still one of those people duped by Gary Taubes. So just ignore the cross-outed portion. Body by Science is the greatest fitness book I’ve ever read. I’ve become a HIT convert. Doug McGuff and John Little are the best.

Physique Hacking

Earlier this week, I was having a discussion on nutrition with some friends. I disclosed my latest experiment, which is still too early to blog about at this time. The response I got was, “how lean do you want to be?” It was a fair question that I didn’t have an answer for. I’ve since had a few days to think about the answer and it not as simple as being a certain weight or body fat percentage. Let me explain.

When I think about health, I can really break it down into 8 goals. Two primary (1,2) , three secondary (3,4,5) and three tertiary (6,7,8).

  1. Be Healthy – The desire to be disease free, not get sick and be energetic.
  2. Injury Free – Avoid accidents and have minimal restrictions on mobility.
  3. Leaner – Not only is it important to be lean, but maintain that level.
  4. Gain Muscle – I’m a dude. I will probably always desire at least one more pound of muscle on my frame.
  5. Strength – Although there is a correlation with muscle, it is not always direct.
  6. Dexterity – Eye / hand coordination. Juggling, sports and hobbies can improve dexterity.
  7. Endurance – Hiking long or steep distances. Lifting a large volume of weight. Not distance running.
  8. Speed – Something I haven’t focused on since I was a kid, but is on my radar now.

Photo Farmer’s Walk by milesizz

I am searching for ways to accomplish these goals via nutrition and fitness. The most important thing I’ve learned in the past 2 years is that diet is FAR MORE important than exercise and that too much exercise can be just as bad as no exercise at all. Exercise too much and you’ll get sick (suppressed immunity) or injured. Finding the food and exercise combination that allows me to achieve my listed goals is not case of willpower. It is a research puzzle. In computer terms, it is hacking.

For all the non-coders out there, when a programmer goes to make a change to working code, you just change a few lines at a time. Then you test. Then you study the data and test again. If things look good, you make some more changes. Otherwise, you roll back to a previous version and start the process again. I do the same process with food and exercise.

For me Physique Hacking is a riddle. I’ve done the balls-out approach. It only works in the short term. The body’s job is survive and propagate. Running marathons and caloric restriction interfere with that primary objective. Fat loss and muscle gain come from hormonal responses. Triggering those responses without interfering with the body’s objective is the goal. Studying evolutionary health has been extremely beneficial.

I’d like to quote Bruce Lee on simplicity.

In building a statue, a sculptor doesn’t keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiseling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions.

Small incremental changes are far more effective than the go big or go home mentality. True Physique Hacking doesn’t look like a Gatorade or Nike commercial. It is a lot of reading. Sifting through all the information and finding something that works a little better than it did yesterday.

What you a capable of achieving can be greater than you imagined. Here is what Bruce Lee said about limits.

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Suffer The Little Children

Yesterday I made the following dish for lunch.

  • Broiled Wild Salmon with a mayo seal.
  • Fresh cut green beans cooked with onions, garlic and hot peppers in tallow rendered from a grass-fed cow.

The dish was excellent and easy to make.

While eating my lunch, I thought about what I would be eating if I was still a kid back in middle school. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to easily locate the lunch menu for Woodward Park Middle School in Columbus, Ohio. The nutritional quality of the menu was appalling. The lunch menu was broken down into 6 Zones, each one designed with an “extreme” font.

Here was the menu for November 6, 2009. I would link to it directly, but their idiot web designer uses PDFs inside embedded frames. You’d think that a public school system that has special needs students would design their website to be 508 compliant. Nope. But I’m getting my rant off subject. Back to the menu.

  1. Burger Zone – Cheeseburger, Chicken Sandwich, Oven Fries
  2. Energy Zone – Fish & Chips
  3. Pizza Zone – Specialty Pizza
  4. Market Zone – Combo Sub w/Chips, Chef Salad
  5. Energy Zone* – Enchilada
  6. Sides Zone – Selection of Fruits & Vegetables, Skim milk, 1% low fat milk, 1% chocolate milk, juice

This is the crap kids are eating today. A bunch of low quality protein surrounded with unnecessary carbohydrates. No wonder children are getting so fat these days. Even the choice of low fat milk is wrong. Columbus City Schools and I’m sure most parents missed the memo that kids who drink whole fat milk are leaner.

I may not know the first thing about raising a child, but I do know that what I see most parents feeding their offspring is borderline child abuse. Human children somehow evolved 2.5 million years without french fries and macaroni. Take away the sugar and empty carbohydrates. They’ll be fine.

Most people would consider my lunch to be more nutritious than anything offered by the 6 Zones. By calories my lunch was probably 50% fat. Since I dropped the bread, pasta, white potatoes and most rice, I’ve gotten much leaner and my thinking is clearer.

* I guess they couldn’t come up a fresh name for Zone 5, so they repeated the name of Zone 2

The Ectomorphs Dilemma

About 10 years ago, I came up with a phrase to best describe the choice ectomorphs must make when pursing their fitness goals. Before diving into the topic, review the image below to show the different somatypes.

Somatypes

Image from How to Eat Right For Your Body Type by Dr. John Berardi. Typically Ectomorphs are taller and Endomorphs are shorter. Other than that this image is a good representation of somatypes.

Mesomorphs are ideal candidates for both losing fat and gaining muscle. Endomorphs may never sport washboard abs, but they tend to gain muscle easily. When it comes to gaining muscle, the Ectomorph has been dealt the worst hand. It is possible, but it comes at a price and therein lies the dilemma.

The Ectomorphs Dilemma: Do you want to look good with your shirt on or with your shirt off?

The quest for muscle on the ectomorph frame will require lots of calories. Not all will be directed at muscle growth. Some will end up as fat. The upside is your chest to waist ratio will improve. The downside is your waist size will increase. In other words, you’ll look good in a shirt, but not as good at the beach. Or you could choose the 6-pack abs and end up with a physique that looks great on the beach, but stick boy in a shirt. This is what I call The Ectomorphs Dilemma.

bruce-lee-bw

Bruce Lee is an Ectomorph that pursued leanness.

bruce-lee-suit

A shirt and jacket completely hides the strength of Bruce Lee.

How did I answer the Ectomorphs Dilemma? From 2001-2008, I decided to pursue muscle over fat loss. Since gaining muscle is much harder than leaning out (especially for the ectomorph), I always figured that I could do it later. Well, later has arrived. For years my weight was steady at 208. Since leaning out this year, my new normal weight is 193. Did I lose muscle? Possibly, but it all could just be a visual illusion. Let me explain.

There are 3 types of fat.

  1. Visceral – This is the fat between the organs that is also known as “belly fat”.
  2. Subcutaneous – This is the fat just beneath the skin.
  3. Intramuscular – Located throughout the skeleton.

Although it may look as if I’ve lost muscle, I think all I really lost was intramuscular fat. This was confirmed Friday when I reviewed some material from fitness guru Art De Vany. In a presentation he stated that working out in a fasted state does a great job of targeting intramuscular fat. And since I typically do one fasted weight workout per week, this means I am specifically targeting intramuscular fat.

This may sound like good news on the surface, but I don’t think it is for the ectomorph. Sure we want less visceral and subcutaneous fat, but a little more upper body intramuscular fat would help us fill out our shirts better without increasing our waist size.

Starting this week, I am ceasing fasted weight workouts. On days when I do Intermittent Fasts, I will stick to just walking. On weight days, I will resume post workout protein shakes. This is just a test and I’m not sure if I have the science right, but I love a good experiment! I’d be interested in hearing feedback from other lean Ectomorphs.

17 Lessons For Fat Loss

The Precision Nutrition site just posted a great article on fat loss lessons called Why You’re Not Lean Yet. My first thought was – oh great, not another get lean list. But I really like this list for a few reasons.

  1. It was written by a CLIENT (Canada K), not the TRAINER.
  2. The author is a 37 years old chemical engineer that was able to get to 5% body fat. To me this is more relevant and inspiring than the magazine profiles of 25 year professional athletes that are ripped. I’d rather listen to an engineer than a running back.
  3. Never once was a supplement or service pushed.

I don’t want to go through every tip, but I want to highlight two themes: emotional eating and the fat loss dead zone.

Lessons 4 – 6 cover the importance of recognizing that all eating is emotional and learning how to direct those emotions to your benefit is extremely important. This is the psychology of eating and most dieters do nothing to mentally prepare themselves for fat loss. Canada K writes:

It is also nearly impossible to divorce the emotional aspect from eating and make it simply a re-fueling process. If it was, wed all eat nutritionally perfect gruel and be perfectly happy with it. Getting to an elite level of body comp and staying there requires wrapping your head around the FACT that the reason you reach for the bag of Doritos, or the cheesecake, or the Aero bar is emotional eating.

Its all the mental stuff tied up in eating that make it pretty much impossible for most of the world. Its the emotions around eating, the addiction to the taste and the feeling of food, the bonding that comes from sharing food with others, and the sense of belonging that comes from going with the flow. Most people fail not because they don’t have the right diet plan, not because they don’t have access to the right food, and not because they don’t know or understand exactly what they need to do. All the physiological elements are in place, and they work. Most people fail because they don’t consider the psychological aspect of the diet.

Amen! The body and the brain crave different foods. The body wants all the healthy stuff and the brain will often just want a simple source of sugar for that hit to please the emotions. The body doesn’t want a donut, the brain does. The book Mindless Eating references the book Think Thin, Be Thin in describing the two forms of hunger.

Physical Hunger:

  • builds gradually
  • strikes below the neck (growling stomach)
  • occurs several hours after a meal
  • goes away when full
  • eating leads to feeling of satisfaction

Emotional Hunger:

  • develops suddenly
  • above the neck (eg – a taste for ice cream)
  • unrelated to time
  • persists despite fullness
  • eating leads to guilt and shame

Reading and understanding those two lists on a regular basis will do more to lean you out than any treadmill. Advertisers peddle poison to appeal to your emotional hunger, not your physical hunger.

The second theme that Canada K writes about, that was of interest to me, is something he named the Fat Loss Dead Zone (aka When Fat Loss Turns Invisible). He states any fat loss above 15% looks good (this is the male number).

Your shape improves, you get slimmer, clothes get smaller, and so on.

However, once you drop below 15% you enter the Fat Loss Dead Zone.

Once you slide below 15%, the returns really diminish. You can lose a boatload of fat and it seems invisible. Its not until you get below 10%, or even 8%, where abs start to appear, where your waistline starts to get really tight, and where veins really start to show up.

So basically, there is this giant dead zone in the middle where you’re making real gains but they’re incredibly unsatisfying. You must hang in there anyway. If you dont, youll never be lean.

I wish I would have learned this lesson 10 years ago. As soon as I’d start to get lean, I’d enter the Dead Zone, fear that I was losing muscle and then end the diet. This is only time in the past 10 years where I’ve felt comfortable in the Dead Zone.

Not every lesson will be relevant to every reader, but the entire article Why You’re Not Lean Yet is great.

The BMI is Still BS

I now weight 197 pounds. This means my BMI (Body Mass Index) is now 24.9. For the first time in over a decade, I am no longer Overweight.

BMI Formula for Adults:

BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ) x ( Height in inches ) ) x 703

BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ^ 2) ) x 703

BMI Chart:

  • < 18.5 Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9 Normal
  • 25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
  • 30.0 + Obese

Actually with rounding, I am one cashew away from returning to Overweight.

The example I always cite to dismiss the BMI is Mike Tyson. At his fighting peak, he was considered Obese by the BMI scale. The BMI scale treats muscle no different than fat. It is an over-hyped metric for the measuring leanness.

One of the movies getting press today is X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is my height (6′ 2 .5) and weighs 210 pounds. Everyone is interested in finding out how he got in such great shape. He is Overweight by BMI standards with a BMI of 26.6. Does this look Overweight?

How should one measure leanness? I used to believe in body fat tests, but they vary too much by method and who is administering the test. I like the Frankie Method. There is a good trainer at my former gym named Frankie. His metric in a single question. Can you see your abs? If no, then you are too fat. Gotta love New York Frankie.

UPDATE (5/10/2009): Updated formula per Jim’s comment.

Can Cold Weather Exposure Increase Muscle Growth?

In earlier posts, I covered how cold weather exposure may trigger a fat loss response by activating brown adipose tissue (BAT). It may also lead to muscle gains. There isn’t a lot of information on this, but the theory is that cold temperature exposure results in higher levels of testosterone.

My first exposure to this idea came from Nelson Montana’s Bodybuilding Truth book. In a paragraph titled Naturally Increasing Testosterone, Nelson cites Charles Atlas with this chilling idea.

Anyway, Charlie recommends finishing off your shower with cold water. Allow the cold water to flow from the solar plexus onto the genitals. The belief was that these areas contain the highest concentration of nerve endings, therefore, the cold would stimulate the nerves which in turn strengthened the entire nervous system. “Stimulate” is certainly the operative word here. I can attest to its effect since I’ve been doing this for some time now. It takes a little getting use to but it sure is an eye opener!

Now Charles Atlas isn’t exactly someone I’d listen to, especially if it means freezing the twig and berries. However, Nelson Montana is a smart guy. Maybe there is a seed of truth to this? If there is then I’ll need more evidence and from real scientists, not Charles Atlas.

Photo strong man ignoring the cold by Flickr user un flaneur

This weekend I stumbled on evidence that may support the frozen junk theory. And ironically it comes from an INeedCoffee contributor. Jose Antonio, Ph.D. wrote How Functional Coffee Can Help You Attain Fitness and Weight Loss for the coffee site. In 2007, he wrote Cold Weather Good for Testosterone? for Muscular Development.

Total testosterone (T) peaked in the months of October and November, with a smaller peak in February. June levels of total T were the lowest. Moreover, free T peaked in December and reached a low point in August. The subjects waist-to-hip ratio followed the pattern for T. That is, they were highest when T was lowest. So, subjects were perhaps leaner during the cold winter months, which, by the way, also have the fewest hours of sunlight. Furthermore, the variations in hormone levels were quite large (31 percent difference between peaks and nadirs).

The study he cited is Seasonal Variation of Testosterone and Waist to Hip Ratio in Men: The Troms Study. After reviewing it, they referenced a study that shows the body is more likely to use fat for fuel during winter months. Why though? I have a few thoughts.

  1. From an evolutionary perspective, food would be more scarce during winter months and more plentiful during the summer. Those that became efficient at storing fat during the summer and accessing stored body fat during the winter would have an edge.
  2. Accessing stored body fat is more efficient when insulin levels are low. Higher insulin levels will lower testosterone levels.
  3. Belly fat produces its own estrogen. Estrogen aromatizes testosterone. (lower T levels)
  4. Not a scientific observation, but have you noticed how most of the Strongest Men in the World come from very cold countries?

It is all coming full circle. Our genes are able to switch into accessing stored body fat if they believe the food sources are getting scarce due to colder weather. This is the exact opposite of how post-Agriculture man lives. We are now able to eat constantly with no exercise demands during the winter months. When modern man emerges from his toasty warm cave (flat screen TV and kegerator), instead of having low body fat and high testosterone levels, he has the exact opposite.

I don’t know if it necessary to aim your shower cold water at Little Elvis. Arms, legs and shoulder blades are probably good enough. At least I hope so. :)

Triggering the Cold Weather Response For Fat Loss

Yesterday the media discovered brown fat. How much of a role cold weather exposure plays in fat loss is still unknown, but there is one thing I’m confident about. This story will disappear and you most likely won’t hear about it again for a very long time. It may be years before it pops up again.

Why? I just don’t see a profit angle in this path for fat loss, so there will be no incentive to keep the story and studies alive. How can they make a buck off the public with their findings? If Vitamin E helps reduce the risk of breast cancer, you can add that to a number of foods and remind your consumer of those studies. What can you sell to a person by telling them to take their jacket off on a cold day? Nothing yet. Some scientists will try to package a pill that activates brown adipose tissue and then sell it as a drug or supplement. That product may never come and if it does it may or may not be successful or affordable.

Why wait? And why pay for a fat loss strategy that has no cost.

The two issues I’ve heard from those that want to try this, but can’t are:

  1. Busy schedule prevents them from going outside during the colder months.
  2. They live in a warm climate and are not exposed to cold temperatures.

This problem is easily solved. At the end of your shower, turn the temperature down and aim the cold water at your arms or legs for a minute or two. Before you do, take slow deep breaths. You don’t want to hold your breath and have a heart attack from the shock. I also don’t think you should aim the water at your chest. There is no need to start out using ice cold water. Start medium and then over time move the temperature down. As I got more comfortable doing this, I started hitting the shoulder blades with cold water as well. This is the area of the body with highest concentration of brown adipose tissue.

This isn’t medical advice and it may or may not help you lose a few pounds of fat. The studies published yesterday are encouraging though.

The Media Discovers Brown Fat

I want to thank Mike D and The TailGunner for sending me links to the recent brown fat stories. Looks like my cold weather exposure project, which I called No Jacket Required, has some medical merit. First lets review the story that hit the news wires. From Brown Fat: A Fat That Helps You Lose Weight? (Time.com):

Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, including Enerbck’s, confirmed that brown-fat cells become more active in the cold that is, when study participants needed to boost their body temperature. Enerbck saw increased activity when he plunged one foot of each volunteer into an ice bath while in the scanner. In a separate study, scientists at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands also saw upticks in brown-fat activity in subjects who had been chilling in a 16C (61F) room for two hours.

The Washington Post article Studies Find A Way Adult Bodies May Fight Obesity had a brilliant summary quote.

The latest findings highlight once again the extent to which obesity is a consequence of Homo sapiens carrying into an era of abundance, leisure and warmth the physiology that evolved in a world marked by barely enough food, constant physical activity and dangerous cold.

“We are living in a very comfortable time,” said Wouter D. van Marken Lichtenbelt, a physiologist at Maastricht University who led the Dutch study. “But we did not evolve in such a time.”

That is pretty much what I said in the post Maybe I Think Too Much But Some Thing’s Wrong.

For 99.99% of human evolution, we did not exist in a perfect temperature environment. We got hot and we got cold and our bodies learned how to deal with it. We now go from temperature controlled homes to temperature controlled cars to temperature controlled offices.

I first heard about using cold temperatures to trigger brown adipose tissue to generate fat loss in the mid 1990s by steroid guru Dan Duchaine. He would have his bodybuilder clients do ice water baths prior to competition to strip off additional body fat. In recent years, Arthur De Vany has expanded upon this knowledge. From his 2005 paper Why We Get Fat:

During cold stress, lipoprotein lipase activity decreases in white adipose tissue and increases in brown adipose tissue.

Now that the media has discovered Brown Fat, who is going to join me on project No Jacket Required? Here was my advice from Still No Jacket Required:

I still think anyone can benefit from some cold weather exposure. It doesnt need to be as extreme as what I did. Stay out in the cold longer and wear fewer layers. Youll get used to it. Youll be fine.

You may even lean out. I did.

Hormonal Balance: Understanding Hormones, Weight, and Your Metabolism

The last book I read was a little too tough to follow at times, so I backed it off a bit and read a book that covered the basics of hormones and metabolism.

Hormonal Balance: Understanding Hormones, Weight, and Your Metabolism
Hormonal Balance: Understanding Hormones, Weight, and Your Metabolism by Scott Isaacs was exactly what I needed. It helped me understand the role of hormones and fat loss. It isn’t a great book, but the foundation will be helpful when I do read the more scientific articles.

If you are overweight and need a book that explains the role of hormones, this is the book for you.

UPDATE (3/26/2009): Drat. Looks like a I read the 2002 edition. There is an updated 2006 edition.

No Jacket Required

Last April in the post Shivering My Way to Leanness, I discussed how I was inspired by evolutionary fitness guru Arthur De Vany to try cold weather exposure. In a nutshell, throughout thousands of years of human history, it has only been in modern times that humans have lived in a perfectly controlled temperatures. As an organism, we losing our ability to adapt to cold weather stresses.

Went to the gym this morning at 7:45 AM in my tank top and shorts. It was a bit brisk, but not cold. At least that is what I thought. When I got home I checked the weather and it read 41 degrees (5 C). I guess Ive acclimatized to the Seattle area.

The above story was a short trip to my gym by car, where I had only a few minutes of outdoor air exposure. The testing has gotten a lot more intense. On an average day, I am now spending between 1 to 2 hours outside. As temperatures gradually dropped from summer 70s to the current mid 40s, I have remained in short-sleeved shirts. If the wind is strong, I’ll add a thin fleece on top, but that has only happened once so far this season.

No Jacket Required
My cold weather exposure tests are not to be confused with the 1985 Phil Collins release.

There are three goals of cold weather exposure.

  1. Protection from heart attacks and strokes. De Vany believes that cold weather exposure produces an acceptable amount of stress that can condition the body to deal with much harsher stresses in the future. He theorizes : “The adaptive capacity extends to other stresses as well and, thus, may protect you against a heart attack or a life-stressing event.”
  2. Getting Leaner. Is this the third path to fat loss, after diet and exercise?
  3. Cold Weather Comfort. How quickly can the body adapt its comfort level, aka acclimatization?

Although my testing will continue, I want to give a status report on how these goals are being met.

  1. No heart attacks or strokes this year. :) Seriously, there is no real way to test for this. If I make it to 100 years old without having a heart attack then I’ll count this as a success.
  2. Too soon to tell on this one. Every year when the colder weather comes, I gain some fat. This year I haven’t, but I also haven’t gotten leaner. So the jury is still out on this one. By spring I should have a better idea on the fat burning effects of cold weather exposure.
  3. Acclimatization has been an amazing success. My body has been able to adapt to cold temperatures more this year than the 24 years I lived in Ohio. When I first walk out the door, I get the sting of cold on my exposed skin, but it goes away in minutes. I love walking around my city enjoying the cool brisk air without putting on a jacket.

While putting this post together, I discovered a 3 minute video by Art De Vany explaining how cold weather exposure accelerates the burning of body fat.

Since content by Art De Vany is often moved or removed from the Internet, I’ve taken some notes from the video below.

  • Infants have BAT (brown adipose tissue) to protect them from cold.
  • People in cold climates retain BAT.
  • BAT generates no energy that can be used for movement, it throws off pure heat.
  • When De Vany hikes or rides his motorcycle, he tries to trigger a shiver response.
  • De Vany also rinses his legs with cold water in the shower.
  • Surfers tend to be lean because there is a tremendous heat loss in the water. They have higher amounts of BAT.
  • Unlike aerobic exercise, energy from BAT produces no free radicals.

Note that when you watch the video that De Vany is 71 years old, 6’1 and weighs 195 pounds. No Jacket Required, indeed!

The Body Fat Test

For the past 4 months, I’ve been flying blind without a body fat test. Up until May I had a scale which told me my weight and a rough estimate of body fat percentage. The scale was not real accurate, but the good thing about any method of body fat testing is you can track trends. Is it getting higher or lower?

Since I lost 10 pounds this summer and 2 inches off my waist, I really want to find out what my body fat percent is now. Would you believe I have a spreadsheet going back to 2003 and body fat scores as far back as 1996? Of course you do, I’m a database developer with German heritage.

My pal from AMAZON recently bought a new body fat scale and I went over to test it out. It had me at 26.7% body fat. Clearly wrong. Home body fat scales tend to be widely inaccurate for the really obese and the really fit. Once your body fat drops below 12%, these home machines are junk. So the good news is I think I might be below 12% body fat. Now I need to find someone to measure me.

So I ask around my Glitter Gym to find out if they do body fat tests. A simple 3 point from a personal trainer is all I need. No fancy dunking required. It turns out there is one trainer on staff that does body fat tests for the members. They described what she looked like and asked if I was familiar with her. Yes I was. Drat, it was the trainer I said nonsense to in front of her client. This week is starting to feel like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. :)

The Stick Boy Explained

In a few previous posts, I casually threw out the term stick boy. Without thinking, I assumed everyone would understand that phrase. Although I would love to take credit for the term, I first heard it from a co-worker back when I lived in Florida. That employee referred to me as a stick boy. He was built and I was scrawny. I could have taken offense, but I didn’t. I knew he was right. I needed to lift weights.

stick boy

Johnny Webuser is by FLICKR user TomNatt

A stick boy is an adult male, usually an ectomorph, that is lean with no muscular development. They often have the physique of a 12 year old girl: all arms and legs with no chest. Seattle is the mecca for the stick boy.

Stick boys can be in great shape. They often excel at sports such as running, cycling and skiing, where being light and having long limbs is an advantage. However, since the arms are long and the wrists are small, sports or exercises that require grip strength or moving weight are more challenging.

Somatypes

Image from How to Eat Right For Your Body Type by Dr. John Berardi. Typically Ectomorphs are taller and Endomorphs are shorter. Other than that this image is a good representation of somatypes.

I could have accepted my lot in life as a stick boy, but I hated it. If you are a stick boy and want to do something about it, lift weights, avoid alcohol and get plenty of rest and in a few years you too can become a former stick boy.

I Don’t Like the Nightlife, I’d Rather be Lean

In the post I Don’t Like the Nightlife, I confessed that I probably have the type of insomnia called early-morning awakening.

There is also a type of insomnia called early-morning awakening. It occurs when the sleeper wakes up too early. I may have this and have learned to deal with it by going to sleep earlier.

This morning I thought about food cravings and how they tend to be stronger on days when I don’t get a full nights sleep. My speculation was the brain recognized it was operating at below optimal levels and therefore required more of its energy source glucose to pick up the pace.

If the brain sensed it needed more fuel then perhaps the body would develop stronger cravings for simple sugars. So instead of additional sleep, the brain would get its fix via simple sugars. The end result would be that the body would store the excess calories as fat.

Less sleep = more fat.

This was just a theory, so I decided to research it further.

Turns out there is a hormone called ghrelin that plays a role in regulating appetite. From the Wikipedia:

Professor Cappuccio of the University of Warwick has recently discovered that short sleep duration may also lead to obesity, through an increase of appetite via hormonal changes. Lack of sleep produces ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and creates less leptin which, amongst its many other effects, suppresses appetite.

Bodybuilders have known for decades that in order to build muscle, you need a full nights sleep. It now appears to be important for fat loss as well.

I Don’t Want To Ride A Donkey Down The Grand Canyon!

During the planning stages of my 2003 visit to the Grand Canyon, I learned that one could rent and ride a donkey down the Grand Canyon. The only catch is you couldn’t weight more than 200 pounds. I weighed 210 pounds and was damn proud of it. There wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d give up 10 pounds to ride that donkey. I’d rather carry the donkey.

For those new to this site, I’m a former stick boy. When I left Army basic training at age 17, I was 165 pounds and 6′ 3. Long story short, I started weight training in 1994 and then stumbled onto low-rep training in 2001. My weight went up to 210. Not bad for an ectomorph.

Somatypes

Image from How to Eat Right For Your Body Type by Dr. John Berardi. Typically Ectomorphs are taller and Endomorphs are shorter. Other than that this image is a good representation of somatypes.

From 2001 through May of this year, my weight has been between 208-212*. It doesn’t budge. Well it hasn’t until recently. My recent revitalized interest in nutrition and cooking has caused my weight to fall. Today I weighed exactly 200 pounds. Uh oh! Even though I’m clearly leaner than I’ve ever been, it is a bit scary to drop 5% of my weight in such a short time, considering how long it took to gain that weight.

I might need a vacation to a country with liberal pharmaceutical laws if I’m ever going to approach my fitness role models.

* In late summer 2003, using a pro-hormone supplement which has since been made illegal I got up to 222 pounds. Once the supplement ran out, the weight came right back off.

Why Cooking and Why Now?

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve developed a sudden interest in cooking. I know quite a few single people in Seattle and they tend to find cooking to be a tedious chore.

Why bother going through all that effort to cook for oneself? It is too much work for just one person.

I’m approaching food from a different angle. After I deciding that spending another thousand hours studying finance wouldn’t benefit me, I went back to my love for nutrition. Books like SuperFoods RX, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Mindless Eating and more recently Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food have challenged me to improve upon what most people would already consider a healthy diet.

Now combine that with food inflation and the mentorship of a good friend who is fearless in the kitchen and you have the conditions for me to pursue cooking. I’m still a long way from being a great cook, but I’m certain that after a few hundred hours of practice I’ll be as confident in the kitchen as I am when discussing actions by the Federal Reserve. :)

Taking more control over my food has also resulted in a nice side benefit. My body fat is dropping. By controlling the ingredients, I’ve been able to further reduce my intake of corn and processed soy. More on that in another post.

Shivering My Way To Leanness

Went to the gym this morning at 7:45 AM in my tank top and shorts. It was a bit brisk, but not cold. At least that is what I thought. When I got home I checked the weather and it read 41 degrees (5 C). I guess I’ve acclimatized to the Seattle area. Last fall, after spending 7 years in Southern California, I would shiver like a frightened chiwawa when the temperature dropped to 60 degrees (15.5 C).

When did I embrace the cold? Maybe it was after I read Art De Vany’s Cold Exposure blog back in January.

I have long practiced forms of cold exposure. The brief shock of cold encourages a stress response and increases adaptive capacity to those exposures that are unplanned and more lengthly or severe. The adaptive capacity extends to other stresses as well and, thus, may protect you against a heart attack or a life-stressing event. Warm and cozy all the time is one of the many pathways to obesity in this comfortable, physically non-demanding we live in.

This rang true to me. My pal DW left sunny California to take a job in Moscow for a few years. When he returned he was noticeably thinner in the face. He told me he didn’t change his exercise or his diet. His wife cooks the same meals he had while in San Diego.

Upon further discussion with him I learned that he spent 30 minutes each morning riding an unheated metro subway into Moscow. This was the shock he was not exposed to in perfect SoCal weather. It reminded me of a bodybuilding trick that the late Dan Duchaine did with his athletes prior to competition. He would have them dunked into a bathtub of ice water for a few minutes. This shock allowed already lean bodybuilders to strip off just a little more body-fat prior to competition.

Maybe this principle is one reason why cities in Colorado always make the most fit list, whereas cities in Texas always make the most fat list.

Tales From the Glitter Gym – The Bodyfat Test

Even though I no longer workout at a Glitter Gym, sometimes elements of glitter rear their head. On a recent trip to the gym I was doing sit-ups when I overheard an older couple arguing. The woman was reading a flier posted on the wall. Our gym is sponsoring a body-fat test using the highly accurate water dunk method for around $50.

The wife kept reading the flier with interest. The husband kept saying we already discussed this and we aren’t getting the test. This went back and forth for a while until the woman looked at me and asked my opinion. Getting put in the middle of a marital fight was a Glitter Gym first for me.

My response to the woman went something like this:

The water dunk body-fat test is highly accurate, but a completely useless number for anyone other than Olympic athletes. The best body-fat test is not the one that is the most accurate, but the one you can get done on a regular basis. Since most people don’t have access to regular body-fat tests, a simple tape measure is the best and cheapest tool. If you lose inches around your waist then there is a high probability your body fat is dropping. So I think the $50 is waste of money.

The lady liked my answer and agreed with me. When she had her back turned, the husband gave me a quick smile and nod. He just saved $50 .

Calculate Your Grecian Ideal

A few days ago I was researching some fitness topic when I found the Grecian Ideal Body Measurement Calculator. This tool generates ideal body measurements if the ideal body is the one used in classic Greek sculptures. What I like about this tool is that it generates its calculations based solely off of wrist size. Wrist size is the most important variable when it comes to body composition. Last May in the post A Decent Bench Press? I wrote:

I agree with the author that my bench press is not yet decent, however I do think there are 2 other variables that factors greatly into how much one can bench. The first is wrist size and the second is arm length. Ectomorphs have long arms and small wrists. This means I need to lift the weight higher and with less support than a thick-wristed short man.

Somatypes

Image from How to Eat Right For Your Body Type by Dr. John Berardi. Typically Ectomorphs are taller and Endomorphs are shorter. Other than that this image is a good representation of somatypes.

I learned what I suspected. I’ve sacrificed Greek leanness to gain as much muscle as my skinny frame can handle. The more I push my weight training, the more injuries I get. Back in 2001, I stopped training like a mesomorph (3 sets of 8-12 reps) in favor of low-rep training and I made amazing gains. Maybe it is time I stopped eating like a mesomorph? It is time to reevaluate.

UPDATE: The original calculator is no longer online. I did find another one. Not sure how its numbers compare to the original. Tom Venuto wrote a good article on the topic as well.

The Anabolic Quality of Food

Last year when I visited Brazil one thing had me puzzled: How could the people be so lean when a large amount of the food was either fried or loaded with sugar?

The answer I came up with at the time was that they either ate less or just played endless hours of soccer. This morning I stumbled upon another possible answer. The food quality was higher. Could it be possible that the nutritional quality of the recipe components in Brazil are higher than the food we get here in America?

Here is what strength coach Charles Poliquin wrote in Question of Strength: October about his experience eating in the Dominican Republic.

I realize how anabolic food is every time I go teach in the Dominican Republic. Last time I taught a Biosignature Modulation course in the DR, the students took my body fat Monday morning. I was at 8% and weighed 198 pounds.

Now, there’s no such thing as grain-fed in the DR; they can’t afford it, so cows eat grass. And if you eat a mango over there you have to eat it over a sink because it’s so juicy. The eggs too are far more anabolic. They’re orange and full of omega-3s, like all eggs naturally were thousands of years ago.

A DR avocado tastes like butter it’s so rich in nutrients. Eating avocados over here is like eating fiberglass once you’ve had a DR avocado.

Anyway, five days later, after eating only Dominican Republic foods, I weighed 209 at 6% body fat. My business partner came to finish the seminar, took one look at me and said, “What happened to you?!”

But when I work in the UK or Ireland, I lose muscle mass and put fat on almost inevitably, even though I try to eat as cleanly as possible. The quality of the food is just piss poor.

Coach Poliquin gained 11 pounds all while losing 2% body-fat in sunny Dominican Republic. It’s time to start planning a winter vacation. Any glitter gyms in Santo Domingo?

Legacy Comments

Nick

Well, that article explains the DR, but not sugar consumption in Brazil. Sugar is sugar, no? While I buy that an avocado might have better nutrients if grown properly, I cannot same the same for sugar cane. :-)

And since when is grain fed bad? Wouldn’t cows get better nutrients from grain than from grass?

Anecdotes are all fine and dandy, but I fail to see how eating a few crappy farm raised chicken eggs can have such a dramatic effect.

MAS

It doesn’t explain the sugar, but it might explain the other components to their diet.

Cows fed grass yield dairy and meat that is higher in Omega-3s. The typical USA diet is low in Omega-3s and this leads to a host of diseases and possibly contributes to obesity.

Nick

Interesting. So, if is truly less expensive to feed livestock grass, and it produces better quality meat, why do we not do it here in the states?

MAS

I believe you can put more weight on a cow with corn than grass. Ryan recently read a book that I think covers this topic called Omnivores Dilemma.

Travel Weight

I always find it interesting to measure my weight and bodyfat percentage before and after a vacation. Stepping away from my standard diet and exercise routine can shock my system into either weight gain or weight loss. Usually it is more common to gain weight on vacation. After 3 weeks in South America, I could have sworn that I gained weight.

For 3 weeks, my activity level was much lower (more on that later) and the food was much heavier than my standard whole-wheat California iso-caloric diet. Instead of eating 5 small meals a day, I was eating 2 huge meals and a small breakfast. The meals often weren’t finished until close to midnight. Any nutritional textbook would tell you that weight gain was a certainty. It didn’t happen.

Over the last 3 weeks, I lost 7 pounds and am down to a rail-thin 202 pounds. I haven’t been this light since May 2001. The good news is my bodyfat dropped as well as my waist size.

Unemployment Fitness

Going without a job may not be the best financial choice to make, but it appears to be doing wonders for my health. Hiking, lifting, biking and not eating lunch daily on Mira Mesa has actually started to lean me out a little.

Two weeks ago I was 210 at 16% bodyfat. Today I’m 210 at 15% bodyfat. This may look disappointing to those that just read the scales. In reality this is an impressive 2 week change.

210 @.16 = 176.4 LBM + 33.6 Fat
210 @.15 = 178.5 LBM + 31.5 Fat

LBM Change = +2.1
Fat Change = -2.1

Now if I could only keep this up all summer.