Losing those extra pounds
I started working out probably around 5 years ago. 5 years of working out on and off, not that serious at all. The first half of 2013 was definitely time off. It took a good look in the mirror and a change of gym to get me started again.
Now, approximately 5 months later, I’ve learned quite a lot about working out and nutrition. Out of all the good advice I got (thanks Jeroen, Mireille, Paul, Jeffrey and a lot of articles online), I had to build my own truth around it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that you have to find your own balance. You can get a great nutrition plan, but if you can’t keep your hands of chocolate (yep, that’s me), then why not make it part of your nutrition plan? I will discuss my workout routines in different posts as well as my food regimes. This article turned out to be pretty long.
Get your ass to the gym
First off, getting your ass to the gym is the most important thing. Start working out! And please try and find a decent gym, a gym with trainers, who know what they are talking about. This can be the health spa around the corner, but also the local power gym (yes, that’s actually were the knowledge lies). Of course you can lose weight without going to the gym, but I believe that strengthening your body is important as well.
Set a goal!
You will have to set a goal. What is it you want? Lose weight? Gain muscle? For me it was pretty clear from the start: loose those extra pounds! After my first weigh-in, 180 lbs (82 kg) and bodyfat at 24%, the first thought that came into my mind was “if I am at 24%, how friggin’ many people are way over that number?!”. You should know, a healthy percentage of bodyfat would be anything between 12% and 20%. So, my first goal was to get down to at least 18% bodyfat before the end of the year, and try not to lose too much muscle I built up during my 5 years of not-so-serious training. This was at the end of August.
Since losing fat and gaining muscle can’t really go together, you can divide my goal into two separate things:
- Lose bodyfat
- Maintain muscle
1. Lose fat: High intensity Interval Training (HIT)
So, to lose fat, you basically have to burn more calories than you take in. That doesn’t mean stop eating. That means lower your intake and step up your workout. Something I actually wouldn’t recommend is running on the treadmill for hours and hours. It’s just a waste of time. Instead start with high intensity interval training (HIT), or name it Tabata. It’s proven to be vastly more effective for losing weight or increasing your stamina. And I know it is true, since I lost many kilos in just two months of ending each gym session with HIT.
HIT basically means doing several exercises at full throttle, then take a rest and start with the next exercise and do that for several minutes. For Tabata that basically means 20 sec. workout, 10 sec. rest, 20 sec. workout, 10 sec. rest etc. and do that for 4 minutes. For me it’s just a guide. If you need to rest a little more, rest more. If your exercise takes longer, exercise longer. At the end of interval training you should be totally exhausted, or totally destroyed I would say J. You don’t need to do the same exercise every interval. Try to find several exercises that suit you well.
Examples of HIT exercises are: sprinting, kettle bell swing (!), push ups, pull ups, mountain climbers, jumping body weight squats (!) etc. And if you don’t want to do HIT on you own, try and join the GRIT sessions (LesMills) at your gym! About half an hour of intense workout.
2. Maintain muscle: Strength training
To maintain muscle, you have to add proper strength training into the mix. Whether this should be full body or split training depends on how much you go to the gym. I would choose full body if you can only make it to the gym 2 or 3 times a week. If it’s more I’d move to split training. In the beginning I used to do a full body workout, but ended up in the gym nearly every day, and that’s when I switched to split training.
When you lift, you have to lift heavy. If you are not lifting heavy (depends on your number of repetitions of course) than you are not working out. It happens so often that I see (especially girls) use weights that are way too light and they are just stretching their arms or legs 15 times. That’s not working out, that’s pastime (and not fun I may add). You can also do that workout at home, taking zips of your coffee. If it burns, that’s good. That means you are actually working those muscles. And it actually feels quite good!
Often women complain that they don’t want to end up looking like a man. Here’s a secret: that won’t happen J Most women don’t have the genetics to get that muscular, especially if you are not intending to get big. What you will get? Probably more toned.
As I said before. Really, don’t stop eating. Eat regularly during the day and count the calories. For me that really worked. I realized I was taking in way more calories than I ever imagined. I went down to about 2000 kcal a day, assume you burn over 3000 kcal a day including your workout, then you will eventually lose weight. I used FatSecret to count my calories. They offer an app on every phone platform (Apple, Android, Windows, BB). You can track your progress in the app as well as on the website.
Sugar is the enemy
Just like the title says. Lower your sugar intake to a minimum! You can probably not avoid taking in any sugar (e.g. in bread), just lower it to a minimum. E.g. I switched to Coca Cola Zero (I still think it’s the same as light, well marketted there!) and I don’t eat fruit during the day. Only before and mostly after my workouts. And yes, there are reports that Zero contains other stuff that’s bad for you, just don’t drink too much sodas. I can crash my car tomorrow and still get behind the wheel.
Since I lowered my sugar intake drastically, I have more energy at the end of my working day, hence loads of energy to workout! And don’t forget, as long as your body can burn sugar, it burns sugar, not your bodyfat!
If you are trying to lose weight, carbs are sugars too. So that also means lower those carbohydrates! Don’t eat too much spaghetti for instance.
You always get a lot of comments on this one. “Peanutbutter is fat!” That’s true, you shouldn’t eat a jar a week! Peanutbutter contains a lot of unsaturated fat (85%), which causes you to feel full way longer than from, let’s say, Nutella (ok, you may have a cheat-jar of Nutella at home for the occasional scoop :D). I ate 4 crackers with peanutbutter a day and it caused me to eat less, resulting in weight loss. Except the 4 crackers, I also ate two slices of bread, but that was basically it. Enough energy for my workout from just that little food.
Also. Peanutbutter contains a lot of protein and minerals. It’s really healthy and natural. I have had discussions with people saying you should only eat biological peanutbutter. I think that’s nonsense. Most peanutbutters contain so little added ingredients, it’s almost natural. Maybe a little sugar or salt has been added, but hey, I said lower it to a minimum 😛
Even better than peanutbutter are other nuts like almondbutter or try hazelnuts (ow hey, that’s an important ingredient for Nutella 😀 – no still just the occasional scoop!).
I hadn’t started to really adapt my foodplan until two months into training, and it was after I started the routine mentioned above that I started to see real results.
As far as supplements go. I started out with just one scoop (30g) of Isolate a day for the first two months and added some pre-workout and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) after those months. CLA helps you lose weight and maintain muscle, but don’t compensate the working of CLA! So keep eating the same and stick to your food regime, it’ll probably give you and extra 2-4 lbs of weight loss in a month if you workout as well.
So I hear you asking. Did he achieve his goal? I dropped about 4 lbs (2 kg) the first two months, resulting in 22% bodyfat. But I dropped no muscle, so that was at least a good thing, but for me things were going to slowely. After those two months I started to get really serious and pretty fed-up about losing just 4 lbs after all that hard work. I changed my food regime to those few crackers and 2 slices of bread and I added CLA pills in the mix. In a month I had lost another 11 lbs of bodyfat and even added 2 lbs of muscle. I overreached my goal by almost 2%. I went down from 24% to 16% bodyfat! After that I almost broke my wrist with soccer (so no workouts for Robbie for a couple of weeks), and of course celbrated Christmas and my birthday, but I didn’t even gain a pound! Dunno how I did that. Guess I was used to eating so little 🙂
Right now I stand at about 15% bodyfat and I changed my goal, from losing weight to gaining muscle. The goal will probably change in a month again to dropping the bodyfat to summer values 😉 Around 10%.