THEMES: #1: Coming Out of Lockdown Hiding!
Ugh! 2020 has been an absolute car crash. I don’t know about you, but trying to stay focused on my 2020 objectives and not get distracted has been near on impossible.
Of course you could look at 2020 with a glass half-full approach – time to recharge, more time with family, re-prioritising what’s truly important, less material obsession, environmental recovery, and the COVID-19 death toll not being nearly as high as many had modelled and feared.
But still. Geez! The baby has truly been thrown out with the bathwater this year. Business goals, career goals, wellness goals, physique goals, social goals… all been put on ice for a great many of us.
Well, I am WAY overdue on sharing a Body Journal. The goal with these journals is transparency, honesty, and insight into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to managing your physique. So, here goes…
Slowly gaining weight (as planned)
December 2019 marked the stated end of my two year body goals journey, and it was celebrated with a photoshoot. You can check out the end result in 2019 W19 Body Journal.
From that point, I started a new phase of my physique development – to Lean Bulk without counting calories! Yep. after 3+ years of meticulously counting calories and tracking towards protein and calorie targets, I felt I was ready to start ‘intuitively eating’.
The goal with lean bulking is to slowly put on scale weight, where the minor surplus you are consuming is going predominately towards muscle development – leaving little else for fat accumulation. You do this by being max 5-10% over on your daily caloric needs whilst weight training intensively.
Sufficiently overshoot your caloric needs on a constant basis and you will pile on the fat much faster than you’d like – which means seesawing between cutting and bulking within moving the ball forward.
So, the plan was to lean bulk until March or April, which should get me to my personally set weight threshold of 205lbs. And then… lockdown happened!
However, this intuitive eating vibe (more later) was working really well. So well in fact, that I’m still lean bulking – 7 months later! I’m still a couple pounds away from my top end weight, which is pretty awesome as I’ve done this all without tracking or counting. Check it out:
I’ve been putting on scale weight at an average of 1.7lbs a month – much slower than I have previously been able to. In actual fact, it’s been averaging at 1lbs a month for the last 3 months … i.e during lockdown.
This is a win. If my goal was to maintain weight, then it would be a relative disaster. But with the goal in mind, I’ve managed to read my satiety signals pretty well – as in I’ve figured what minimally overeating feels like.
Of course, scale weight is not the goal. The goal is to continue to develop a strong muscular and athletic physique in line with my personal physique aspirations. And you can’t manage what you can’t measure…
For the last 3 years, I’ve been tracking the body measurements that indicate whether I am making progress. I’ve posted regularly about these stats – feel free to check out past Body Journals.
Once I hit the 2 year milestone in Dec 2019 and took stock of progress, I simply decided to carry on. Developing your physique is like great art – sculpting your best shape takes years of dedication and an appreciation for the pursuit, not the end goal.
I am tracking towards my body measurement goals – that have been tweaked up a smidge from Dec 2019’s re-assessment. Take a look below, which shows my starting measurements, where I am now, the changes made, and the gap between now and ‘end-stage’ goals:
Has the last seven months been rewarding and effective from a body composition perspective? Well, being at 10% body fat after 7 months of intuitive eating and a 4 month lockdown is a win in my books!
The net-net is that I’m trending positively for the most part, but with the ball being dropped a little on training, the progress is slightly shy of what I felt could have been. More in a mo, but first…
My Eating Approach
It’s been really simple to be honest.
- I do a low carb nutrient-dense diet – comprising ~12% carbs mon-fri
- 90% of my calories come from animal-based foods – beef, eggs, dairy, lamb, salmon, pork etc
- I do my best to comprise my diet with nose-to-tail foods, such as liver pate, ox tail, ox cheek, off-the-bone roasts, pork belly etc
- Morning is a liquid breakfast. Lunch is no-carb. Dinner is a nutrient-dense feast
- Monday through Friday I eat the same food – The above, with a coffee and a piece of dark chocolate
- On the weekend, it’s family feast time. Roasts, Barbecues, Dining Out and other nutrient-dense meals where the centrepiece is the animal-based ingredients. We tend to go OMAD (One Meal A Day), allowing the big meal to be massive and super enjoyable
Monday through Friday I eat about 3100 calories. I don’t count or track, but the consistency means I know where I fall on average. I am currently not adjusting down calories for non-training days.
A weekday looks like this:
- Breakfast – Non-flavoured Whey Protein, Un-homogenised Whole Milk and Decaf Espresso shake.
- Lunch / Post Workout – 2x homemade Beef and Pork Patties (approx 250g) and two eggs. Whole Milk Decaf Latte.
- Dinner – Steve’s Steak & Eggs Combo with Chicken Liver Pate (see below / here)
- Dessert – 4x squares of 85% Dark Chocolate. Tea/Bone Broth later in the evening.
And then the weekend…
The weekend is all about the family, nutrient-density and nourishing the soul around the dinner table.
We follow the same principles during the week, but the weekend is where we crank it up a notch. More intense flavours, longer cooking times, slow roasts, or firing up the barbie. Amazing cuts of meat, roasted potatoes, broccoli cheese, a few other veggies and a condiment or two.
We skip breakfast and eat our one BIG indulgent meal around 2pm – i.e. One Meal A Day (OMAD). We’ll finish it off with something with Chocolate, Cream or berries. Yum!
My Lockdown Training Approach
I’m blessed to have a fully-loaded home gym, which came in super handy over the last four months. That said, it still hasn’t been easy to commit to training whilst my mind has been focussed on finding the truth about the COVID-19 crisis.
As Lockdown was announced, I designed two #HyperWorkouts training plans. MAR-20 was a Home-based Training plan that helped people train effectively with just bodyweight, bands or limited dumbbells. It actually mimicked our gym-based training philosophy, just without the barbell and heavy weights.
APR-20 #HyperWorkouts Training Plan was our latest Gym plan, where the idea was to introduce full-body training per session, whilst training to failure and getting maximum effect with minimum dose in terms of time and volume.
So, I got stuck in on the APR-20 Training Plan, and haven’t stopped since. It’s a five day plan, but I’d be lying if I said I keep to five days a week.
My mental and physical recovery has taken a hit whilst the mental strain has been so high. I’ve also been quite often too distracted to go balls-to-the wall with this heavy train-to-failure plan. As it’s focussed on setting strength PB’s on the regular, I need to be dialled in mentally to access my max strength and do it safely.
As such, my training frequency has been a bit spotty. It currently looks like training every other day, for a total of 3-4 sessions a week. It’s not the end of the world, but I have knowingly pulled away and not been my typical self in terms of prioritising the gym.
However, and this is super surprising, I am still setting strength training PB’s almost every time I get into the gym – across almost all exercises! We’re talking all time strength records, such as 227.5KG on Deadlift, 140KG Bench and 195KG Squat 1RM’s…
One last point on training. Given the 10+ weeks of training on the same plan, I did take one week to deload – where I keep the same routine but dialled down the weight and trained with more reps and less failure. It felt right and necessary to dial this back. This was a couple weeks ago.
My Post-Lockdown Physique
This is what 203lbs 10.2% body fat looks like on a 5’11” mesomorph frame. Physique hasn’t been my priority, but stability of my diet and the habitual training commitment hasn’t let me down too much…
Final Thoughts On Body Composition Progress
- Body Fat – I’m pleased to see that a non-tracked nutrient-dense diet format which is high in satiety has allowed my to slowly build size whilst still having abs after 7 months of bulking
- Lean Mass – I nice (expected) bump from my shredded physique, but slightly less than my max. I put this down to less training, with a training plan that has less volume.
- Arms – Progress has stalled. Again, I need to own this. I need to increase my effective training volume for my biceps and triceps.
- Growth across the board – Surprisingly, I’ve seen PB gains across all other muscle areas in my body. It’s a little conflicting with a slightly lower max lean mass reading, but perhaps my strength gains have created more density in certain areas.
- Waist – I’m at the edge of where I am comfortable. I enjoy a slimmer waist, and so I know it won’t be long before I need to cut back some of the belly fat for physical and mental comfort.
When to Cut?
Based on current progress, I suspect I will be ready physically and mentally cut back the body fat by early September 2020. That would have been almost 9 months of bulking! Geez. Luckily, I love my food, and everyday has been a treat. 🙂
When I do cut, I will do a Fasting Blitz Cut over 4 weeks max. An aggressive in-and-out approach rapidly losing where fasting and low calories feature, albeit every meal is still incredibly nutrient-dense with high protein and fat.
P.S. I’ll check back at the end of this current bulk. Wish my luck!
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