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8 Week Fitness Challenge (Results)

This is a long post but I feel I need to provide you with as much info as possible in order to get the most effective feedback from you guys.

Two weeks ago I signed up for an 8 week fitness challenge at my local family gym. The challenge is based upon cumulative points for various activities (# of times attend the gym, group classes, ect., with the majority of the points coming from % of mass change, and % in body-fat). Although I would like to do well in the challenge, my fitness goals are much more far reaching than just the next 6 weeks (currently just finished my 2nd of 8 weeks). The majority of the people who signed up have a large amount of weight to lose but I think I still have a shot to do well taken into account the points system.

Current Info:
26 years old male, 5’10", currently 185 lbs, body fat % = 15.5 (using hand held detection device); been lifting for about 8 years, but never been what you would call a serious lifter. I have some decent mass, but I’ve always had a decent layer of fat hiding any hard work I’ve put in at the gym.

Background:
I’ve always been over weight, especially while in middle and high school (early and mid 90s). At one point I believe I was 33% body-fat! Toward the end of high school I got into lifting around '98/'99; and with the additional of finally growing taller, I started to thin out some, but it was never much. In college I got into lifting harder and got some pretty good results. Just before I turned 21 I got to 9% body fat and felt great. I had a lot more confidence and made me a much happier person. After turning 21, like most college students I starting drinking on weekends, staying up for late nights, eating bad, and by the time I graduated in '05 I was up to 204lbs. Although I was still lifting regularly, my diet was crap and I wasn’t making any changes to my body.

Fast forward to the last year or so and I’ve finally learned quite a bit about diet and nutrition and have been making a conscious effort to eating better. Now that I’m approaching 27 I’ve noticed that nothing is getting easier as far as trying to life a healthy life style. I’ve decided that I truly want to improve my overall fitness and I felt this challenge would lite a match under my ass and get me seriously focused on my goals.

Goals:
Lower body-fat % to 6-8%
Lose minimal amount of muscle mass while obtaining this bf %
Commit to living a healthy life style
For once, feel good about taking my shirt off at the lake

Strategy:
Improve Diet, Increase Cardio, Continue lifting, try and increase metabolism for additional fat burning.

Diet:
Since I’ve started the fitness challenge I have made a strong effort to limit my carbs late at night. Dinner is typically a high protein, lean meat meal that’s either served on a salad or with a side vegetable. My last carb source of the day is typically a protein bar around 4:30pm I’ve been tracking my food intake for the last 2 weeks and my average protein intake per day is in the 100-150grams/day depending on my meals.

Carbs selections have been focused on complex sources, however my other meals have not changed significantly in the past two weeks. I usually consume around a gallon of H2O a day and drink 1-3 diet sodas/day. I was drinking 6-12 beers a week, but I’ve done well so far on having just 3-4/week (good for me - I might be what you call a beer lover.) I had a few over the 4th of July weekend, but I’m focus on limiting beer/alcohol even further - although that might be the hardest thing for me to do.

My sugar intake is very low and usually is only consumed by the protein bars - and even then it’s pretty low. Luckily I don’t get much of a sweet tooth…I can’t even remember the last time I bought candy. Unfortunately I love chips and pizza. However, I’m ready to give up all those things in order to help achieve my goals.

Now let’s move onto my diet, training schedule, and so on…

Schedule:
I tend to work long days at work, which isn’t an excuse, but it can limit my gym availability. Luckily I’m out for summer and I’m not taking a class - however most of the year I’m also loaded down with taking graduate classes on top of working full time.

A typical work day with the time ranges showing when I might eat the following meals:
6am - wake up
7am - arrive at work
7am-8am - Breakfast
9:30-10 - Snack
12:00-1pm - Lunch
4-4:30 - Snack
5:30-6:15 - Leave work
6:15-7:30 - Gym
7:45-8:15 - Dinner
10:30-11:30 - Bed

Around 2-3 days a week I’m able to shoot over to the local gym and lift weights on my lunch break. I’m usually in and out in about 45 minutes so the tempo is pretty good. I feel this provides me a great mental relief from the stresses of work while at the same time allows me to train and retain my muscle mass while giving me a metabolism boast in the mid day. I follow this weight session with a high protein lunch within 20-30 minutes following my last set. Protein is in the 50-60 gram quantity in the form of a grilled chicken sandwich. If I’m able to work out at lunch, in the evening I focus my attention to high tempo cardio sessions.

Cardio:
5-6 days a week. 30-60 minutes per session. A good mix throughout the week of jogging (2-5 miles), interval spin classes, rock climbing, elliptical, and jumping rope. Heart Rate ranges in the 130-170 beats per minute range typically.

Weight Training:
4-5 days a week. Each day of weights I focus on two body parts:
Bi’s / Tri’s
Chest / Back
Legs / Shoulders
I rotate those accordingly and typically do 3 different exercises per body part, with 3 sets per exercise. Thus a typical chest/back day would have me do 3 different exercises at 3 sets each = 9 set’s total…same with back. Right now I’m shooting for 8-12 reps per set - with most sets falling in the 9-10 rep range before complete failure. I’m working each body part out around every 5-6 days. Very, very rarely do I train a body part less than once a week. I figured this schedule is allowing me to retain the muscle I have while in my weight loss plan.

Abs I fit in about twice a week - depending on time availability…I don’t do them on a certain night of the week.

Schedule:
If I work out at lunch - it’s always weights; cardio would make me to sweaty to return to work in a reasonable amount of time. If I can’t work out at lunch, after work I either do weights and cardio, or just cardio. Typically after 3 straight days of lifting I will take a day off and only focus on cardio - however this isn’t always the case due to outside life schedule.

Diet Example:
Breakfast - I’m always in a hurry in the morning and I always eat the same breakfast every workday morning…2 breakfast lean pockets = 260 calories, 8g fat, 36 g carbs, 10g of protein. It would be a struggle to work in time to cook a quick breakfast, but I could try. I typically eat this after I get to work and while I check my email.

1st snack - Protein bar. Brand typically is ‘south beach diet’, ‘pure protein’, EAS, ect and average is 190-210 calories; 5-7g fat, 22-26g carbs, 15-21g protein.

Lunch - almost always eat at one of these two locations for lunch: Chic-fil-a or Subway
Chic-fil-a: 2 grilled chicken sandwiches (total: 6g fat, 72g carbs, 56g protein) with honey bbq sauce (60 calories �?? 6g fat, 2g carbs)
Subway: 12" club or over roasted chicken breast loaded with veggies. I typically eat 7-8" of the sandwich for lunch and then eat the remainder for my afternoon snack around 4:30

Afternoon snack: If I’m not eating the remainder of my subway sandwich, I’m eating a protein bar similar to snack #1 listed above.

Dinner: Focuses on low carbs…Grilled chicken, chili (made w/ 96% lean ground beef), sirloin, or other lean meat and either served on a salad or with a side veggie (spinach, carrots, green beans, corn, ect).

If I stay up too late, I’m often hungry before going to bed so I might allow myself a stick of string cheese, a few slices of deli meat, or a teaspoon of peanut butter to hold me over until the morning.

Mind-set:
I’m truly ready to drop my fat % before making an attempt to bulk up and consume additional calories in an attempt to put on additional muscle mass. I’m tired of always being self conscience of my body fat (especially around chest, abdomen, and lower back/love handles) and I�??m truly ready to make a change.

Since pictures are worth a 1000 words, here is where I am currently at. It was taken June 25th - the night the contest started. Although before and after pics are not necessary for the challenge, I felt they would motivate me and keep me focused on my goals. I didn’t work out that night and I wasn’t trying to really flex (not for he before pics) but you can get an idea from these…

See Attached if pics don’t auto load

Weight in the pic is 187.8lbs w/ bf % = 15.5% According to the girl at the gym who did the weigh in.

I feel I have provided you with enough info for some decent feedback. With that said, I do have some questions in order to try and maximize my results. Perhaps you guys can chime in!

A.) I’m worried my diet still needs some work…especially my breakfast. Any recommendations for a quick, healthy breakfast that I could whip up on my way out the door?

B.) Am I eating too much processed food? (lean pockets, chic-fil-a, subway)

C.) I’m also worried my veggie/fruit intake is too low…any thoughts?

D.) I’m torn on trying to decide on if I need to intake additional protein - in particular in the form of shakes. My thinking is that additional protein may help me keep my current muscle content - however I’m worried that since my ultimate goal is to lose weight - the additional calories from the proteins will only take additional work in order to burn off the additional calories.

I know muscles burn more calories throughout the day, however in this particular case do I really want to focus my protein intake levels at muscle building quantities or just maintenance quantities - and if so, what should that quantity limit be? My thinking was that if I time my current protein intake at specific times, in particular after weight training, taking in additional protein throughout the day will only slow my rate or fat loss.

E.) Should I make an effort to consume protein after a strenuous cardio workout? I know it’s important to do so after weight training in order to promote muscle growth and synthesis; however is the same train of thought also beneficial after cardio? If not, what do you recommend? Typically I eat dinner about 40 minutes after I’m done wit cardio.

F.) How does my weight training (schedule, strategy, frequency) look?

G.) Is my reps/weight look OK even though my goal is to loss weight? A lot of ppl mention that one should focus on lighter weight but higher reps. However I’ve also read that I should still lift heavier weights than that and do so to failure.

H.) Anything in particular I should focus on when heading into the final week of the contest?

I.) From what I have read, my breakfast is too small and doesn’t contain enough protein…however is it really necessary for me to consume 500-600 calories at breakfast if my overall goal is to reduce body fat?

J.) Any supplements you feel I should take along the way that might assist me?

K.) Anything else you might be beneficial to me?

Hopefully you can tell that from the amount of time I have put into this post, I’m quite motivated about reaching my goals. I’m ready to feel good about myself and life a long, happy, and fitness lifestyle. Once I reach my bf% goals, I’ll focus on lifting heavier, eating more, and gaining more mass - however in the mean time I think it’s best if I focus on reducing an on going issue - body-fat loss.

Thanks in advance for any input you might have; I truly appreciate it!!!
TN Engineer.

Pic 2

Last pic…pic #3

[quote]TN Engineer wrote:
A.) I’m worried my diet still needs some work…especially my breakfast. Any recommendations for a quick, healthy breakfast that I could whip up on my way out the door?[/quote]
Try the queche in this thread http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=1498939
Also, your diet in general needs some work. Search for everything by John Berardi, particularly his 7 habits article. If you’ve got the free cash, his precision nutrition program is a great resource

Yes. If you’re really serious about fat loss, cut them out completely if at all possible. It’s a pain in the ass, and keeping a supper tight diet can be very difficult long term, but for 8 weeks, you can do it.

Eat more. Seriously, have 2 servings of veggies every meal.

Aim for 40 grams of protein per meal, for a grand total of 200 grams (800 cals). If you’re worried about total intake, cut back your carbs. Not taking in enough protein will slow your rate of fat loss a hell of a lot quicker then taking in a little to much, since you’ll lose muscle mass pretty quickly and tank your metabolism.

Just have some protein with dinner, you don’t need a pwo shake after cardio.

[quote]F.) How does my weight training (schedule, strategy, frequency) look?
G.) Is my reps/weight look OK even though my goal is to loss weight? A lot of ppl mention that one should focus on lighter weight but higher reps. However I’ve also read that I should still lift heavier weights than that and do so to failure. [/quote]
Take a look at CT’s destroying fat workout. Heavy lifting to keep muscle mass on, plus high rep circuit work to burn fat.

Yes, breakfast should be your largest meal. A large breakfast will put your body in a better hormonal state for fat burning, muscle building, and pretty much everything else

Flameout. Fish oil should be in everyone’s diet.
If you can’t get your veggie intake up, try some superfood.
If you get your diet hammered out in the next 22 weeks, consider adding HOT-ROX to your routine for the last 4 weeks. Normally I’d recommend not adding them until your fat loss starts to stall out, but since this is a timed competition, they should help. However, if you don’t have your diet and workout down, you’ll be wasting your money with them, so get those in order first.

[quote]K.) Anything else you might be beneficial to me?
[/quote]
Drink some green tea every day. Good luck

Well it’s been 30 days since the start of the contest. Tonight was my half way point weigh in…

The Results:
181.4 lbs
13.6% body-fat.

30 days ago:
187.8 lbs
15.5% body-fat

I feel pretty good with the results so far. I can notice a slight difference in the mirror and I’m the lowest weight I’ve been at in 5-8 years.

I’ve made a few changes to my diet - but nothing drastic - which I’m pleased with since I’m still motivated and haven’t fallen off any.

In particular I’ve added a 40g protein shake in the morning, added a shake after weight training (if I train at lunch), and instead of my stops for lunch at Chic-fil-a or Subway, I’ve been packing 2 turkey sandwiches in a cooler and I scarf them down on my way from the gym on my way back to work.

Night time I’ve been sticking to a low carb, high protein meal, and if I need a late night snack before bedtime, I’ll have a slice of string cheese. Low carbs after 5pm has been my goal.

I’ve done next to nothing for changing my breakfast so far due to time, however I plan on trying the queche link that ninjaboy posted.

Overall I’ve been eating more at breakfast, and my protein intake is up to around 180-200g now vs 2 weeks ago when I started this thread. I’m still lacking on the additional veggies - I need to work on that.

Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Thanks!

Really nice to see someone making a true effort and seeing solid and sustainable results. Good job!

A tip for additional vegetables is frozen spinach! Depending on the exact size of the package, it’s something like a full pound of it condensed into that little pack. Just microwave for a minute or two and squeeze out the excess water. Voila! Green veggies ready to go.

Thanks for the kind words.

I’ve really made an effort to time my meals with my workouts. I’m not necessarily taking in more calories, but I’m just timing my meals so I get the best benefit from my nutritional and protein intake.

Right now I’m at 2 whey protein shakes a day, with about 40g per shake.

I got a 5K race coming up next weekend so I’ve been running about 2-3x a week.

Tonight I ordered the HOT-ROX and I’ll take that starting in a few days. I also ordered 5 lbs of protein poweder while I was at it. I’m still lacking on the veggies, but I’m making a better effort.

So far I’m feeling good…can’t wait to hit single digit body-fat % !

I’m also thinking about taking some more BCAA’s and perhaps some phoshatidylserine (Cort-Bloc)…any comments on this?

The Results:

June 25th:
187.8 lbs
15.5% body-fat

July 25th:
181.4 lbs
13.6% body-fat

August 25th:
178.4 lbs.
11.8% body-fat

OVERALL: Overall Lost: 9.4 lbs, 3.7% body-fat!

Before and after photos:

Great job. The difference is easily visible.

Looks to me like your back lags behind other body parts. i would work on it some…

great job so far… now as u said u should stay motivated to a healthier lifestyle and then that single digit BF% will be yours in no time

[quote]chrillionare wrote:
Great job. The difference is easily visible.

Looks to me like your back lags behind other body parts. i would work on it some…[/quote]

Thanks for the comments.

I’ve been trying to get my traps to grow for a while, but they have always lacked volume. I have a lot of lower back fat and love handles. Once I hit single digit bf%s, I’m hoping the lats show better. Rear delts are proportion to front delts though (least I think so anyway.)

Might try some new exercies to try and jumpstart some growth.

[quote]evilachilles9 wrote:
great job so far… now as u said u should stay motivated to a healthier lifestyle and then that single digit BF% will be yours in no time[/quote]

Thanks.

I know the fall is always rough diet wise (I tend to like to drink…a lot…at tailgates.) However, I’m determined to look good so I might let myself do that on Saturdays, but I’m dedicated so I think I’ll do OK overall.

A bonus, my gym opened a location just miles from where I tailgate, so I plan to hit up the gym before each homegame this year.

I have yet to hear of the results from the contest, but I’ve been told by several ppl that participated with me that I should end up in the top 5 for biggest change. We’ll see.

Thanks again to all those that posted in this thread.

Got the results today…I got 5th place!

Nice man you can totally see a difference, keep it up!

how did you seem to get bigger and lose fat. you included cardio in your routine and seemed to gain muscle. or did you just lose fat that was covering the muscle?

i’d like to try to put on muscle and lose fat like you did.