Happy New Year!
Results from Week 3:
- Bodyweight more or less unchanged, 179lbs
- Body Fat % and Muscle % mostly the same as last weight, some differences on the range of 0.2 or 0.3%
Okay! I successfully maintained over the holidays.
I started this all 3 weeks ago, on December 10th. In that time, my weight has stayed the same but I’ve lost 1-2% body fat, depending on which of my two scanners I use.
Why has my weight stayed the same while I’ve lost fat?
A simple explanation is that a high-protein diet has been shown to improve body composition at all caloric intakes.
At a caloric deficit (hypocaloric) intakes, where you would expect weight loss, a high protein diet is linked to greater fat loss and great retention of muscle mass. It also helps control appetite by controlling hunger cravings.
This all translates to a better improvement in body fat percentage (body composition). You’ll lose more fat while keeping most of your muscle mass and look more toned as a result. This is ideal.
At eucaloric intakes, where your weight will remain the same, a high protein diet has been shown to similarly improve body composition. People tend to lose more fat while building muscle mass. This is my hunch as to what’s happening with my results.
Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve been eating an extra 50-80 grams of protein every day. I was probably under-eating protein in the past. Now that I’m at or above an intake of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, my muscle mass is increasing as I lose fat.
At hypercaloric intakes, where you would expect to gain weight, there have been some fascinating results with extremely high protein intakes. Intakes as high as double or triple bodyweight!
Typically, you’d expect any caloric surplus to show up as a gain in body fat. On these studies, they’re showing that people gain muscle mass but little to no fat mass. In other words, it’s purely muscle gain. This is a growing field of interest in sports nutrition.
What I Will Do Next
Over three weeks, I’ve maintained my bodyweight, lost 1-2% of fat, and gained 1-2% of muscle. Mathematically, I’ve lost 2-3lbs of fat and gained 2-3lbs of muscle. Even over the Christmas holiday, where I maintained my progress for a week.
My next step is to reduce my calories by 250 per day.
I’m happy with my progress, but I’d like to keep losing fat.
As a bottom line, if my weight is stable, I’m eating enough calories for maintenance.
I’ll repeat that: because my weight is still around 180lbs, even though my body composition is changing, it means I’m eating enough calories to weigh 180lbs.
Remember this fact – most people overreport or underreport their caloric intake by as much as 50%. This means that what I think is 2400 calories could be as high as 3600 calories!
I guarantee you that I’m not recording my vegetable or chicken intake correctly, but I can’t say that I care yet, as it’s unlikely that I’m overeating on chicken and broccoli.
This is why weighing and measuring your food for a short period, say, 5-7 days, can be an invaluable lesson. If my progress stalls in the future, I’ll weigh and measure my food.
My body composition is changing, which is positive, but this is all the evidence I need to make a next decision. It’s possible that I would maintain again next week if I kept my calories the same.
I don’t perceive this as a failure, which might surprise you. I’ve made progress and I’m learning each and every week. That mindset is key to my success and will be key to yours, as well.
Each week is a data point, nothing more and nothing less.
I could be stricter during the week, as I’ve had splurge days and I’ve missed workouts.
Adjusting my calories further down on most of my days will accommodate for this.
I’ll cut my calories in a few ways:
- One will be to eat less starch by limiting starch to my post-workout window only.
- Most of my meals will be protein and vegetables, which is fine with me.
- I’ll also use less butter, as I tend to add one tablespoon of butter to my vegetables or toast. I eat 3-4 servings of vegetables at a sitting, so it’s not an excessive amount but it simply might keep my calories too high.
What About My Workouts?
I missed a couple of sessions during the holiday week. I picked up where I left off, though.
That’s an important point – don’t beat yourself up! Don’t start over, either. Just pick it up and keep going from where you stopped.
I found that I prefer jump rope and kettlebell circuits to stationary interval work. The skillswork component of it keeps me more motivated than just pedalling on a bicycle. Plus, the jump rope is strengthening my lower legs – which have weakened substantially since I stopped running after my hip injury.
The kettlebell work will prepare me nicely for a big goal of mine for 2019 – testing for the StrongFirst Level 1 coach’s certification. It’s a great way to combine several of my goals into one training cycle.
I’ll keep working on the density sets, as the workouts are a challenge and leave me sore still. (My upper body is incredibly sore as I write this). My weights and/or reps increase each workout, which means that I’m getting stronger each week.
Density workouts work beautifully because they guarantee progression on each week. After all, the most important principle of strength training is the principle of progressive overload. You need to improve from workout to workout, or else your body stops adapting.
Density training works by forcing you to complete more reps each workout. When that’s not possible, you increase the weight. In these workouts, I complete two 8-minute rounds. Each consists of two exercises performed back-to-back with minimal rest.
The end result is that I tend to complete 40-60 repetitions of both exercises. One of the keys for muscle growth is working a muscle to fatigue. My reps decrease on each consecutive set during the 8 minutes, meaning that I’m constantly working to fatigue. It’s a great stimulus for adding lean muscle mass and strength.
Volume is another key to muscle growth. Density sets provide volume in spades.
A few of the circuits still leave me huffing and puffing, but that will always happen when you pair heavy squats with a heavy upper body exercise. (It’s kind of the point, afterall).
Stronger and with better body composition? I’ll take it!
- Track your progress and adjust your methods! It’s all a big science experiment. Treat it like so.
- Appreciate the small victories. I didn’t lose fat or weight this week, but I maintained my progress through the holidays! That’s enough for me.
- Keep consistent when you don’t progress and don’t change everything all at once
Meet the Author: Devin Gray
Founder, Head Coach
NSCA-CSCS, FMSC, Pn1 Certified
B.S. in Exercise Science – Texas A&M University
Devin is the owner & head coach of Optimize Fitness & Performance. He helps people become stronger and perform their best. Devin is especially focused on helping people with injuries learn to workout safely after they finish physical therapy.
You can book a free 15 minute coaching call with Devin by clicking here.