Exactly one month into the cut

IMG_20150607_085456It’s been almost a month to the day since the end of my last bulking phase. If you recall, I ended the bulk at 187.75lbs, a couple of pounds shy of my 190lb target. Truth be told, I have far from mastered the art of the bulk, and I was grateful to see it end. Still, we’ll do better next time.

As bodybuilders, we say a lot of things that need added context to make complete sense, especially to the novice trainee. For example, consider some of the things I say regularly:

  • “I’m not even dieting yet”
  • “I don’t do any cardio at all”
  • “I don’t track my macros”
  • “I pretty much eat what I want”

All of these things are both completely true, and yet, very misleading without context and some added narrative.

Hence, the goal with this update is to be very specific about what I’ve done during the last month, and evaluate where we are as we head into the second half of this cutting phase.

Current status

Before we get into the how, let’s cover that current condition. Unfortunately, I don’t have pics to support the analysis, so you’ll have to take my word for it for now.

I weighed in this morning at 184.4lbs, and weight has been fluctuating in that region for a couple of weeks. In the 28 days so far, this is only my second morning weigh-in below 185lbs. And considering I am not yet dieting (see, I did it again), this is pretty good progress.

That puts me down about 3.35lbs since ending the bulk, or about 0.85lbs per week.

And while I won’t know until I get my next dunk on July 29th, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s also been a little recomp going on to this last month.

Waist is down a half inch, although abs are still not visible in anything but laboratory conditions. I look tighter, feel tighter. It seems entirely plausible that I’ve gained half to a pound of lean in this same period, so maybe fat-loss is a little higher. We’ll see…

Training

I’ve already shared my training schedule in significant detail, so I won’t dwell too much on the overall program and specific exercises etc. What I will do is add some of the missing color to show that the programming as written is a framework, and not something I have doggedly stuck to.

First, as always, consistency is king.

It’s been exactly 28 days since I weighed in and ended the bulk, and tonight will be my 24th workout. That’s hard training, six days a week, whether I am sore, tired or busy. I can’t stress this point enough. Within reason, it wouldn’t matter what program I was doing; do it long enough and hard enough, results will come.

The programming has turned out to be pretty good, especially the splits. Although I’ve been sore somewhere on my body for every workout, I am seldom carrying an excess of soreness into a workout for the body parts I am training. The exception here would be elbows and shoulders which sadly struggle to escape the full brunt of the volume.

That said, I have definitely swapped a couple of movements during the weeks, as well as modify set, rep and rest patterns a little. In general, the modifications have been subtle, and mostly geared toward increasing intensity and offsetting injury and excess joint pain.

I started out with rigorous application of the 60 second rest intervals throughout the workout, and have steadily been pulling those down by a few seconds. The core of my quad workout has 10 supersets (so 20 sets), and this week, we were down to 50 seconds of rest between supersets. It was truly brutal. It’s amazing how such seemingly small changes can dramatically increase the workout density. I’ve also been adding some myo-reps to selected exercises, as well as a few drop sets here and there too.

Bottom line: I’ve been all in with these workouts… no messing around, just business.

On that quad workout. It’s the one workout of the week where I have not been fully recovering and this week, with the shorter rest intervals, I pushed a little too hard, straining my left quad. It happened in set four of the closing six-round superset, and I decided to push on. Not my smartest move, but certainly commonplace in my world, and I was lucky. Nothing let go, but I have more than just DOMS in that left quad today.

Diet and nutrition

From the day I stopped bulking, I’ve genuinely made very few changes to my diet on a day to day basis. In general, I am eating three square meals a day, with small snacks between meals that usually consist of fruit or nuts.

On week days, my eating is very structured and I end-up consuming a lot of the same foods for breakfast and lunch. Evening meals vary, but again, the food choices and combinations come from a consistent pool of nutrient dense foods.

To be specific, here’s what I dropped from my “bulking diet“:

  • No post-breakfast treats. That waffle or french toast has not been eaten, whether it looks good or not!
  • Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are just a single piece of fruit. The peanut butter, alas, is gone.
  • No post-lunch treats. Not a single shot of double-barrel espresso ice-cream pumped.
  • Evening meals are unchanged, and portion sizes remain largely the same.
  • The big evening snacks are largely gone. No more muesli or chocolate peanut-butter protein pudding.

I also cut my intra-workout drink, which was carb based. I only used a single scoop, but that dropped an additional 100-120kcal.

I also stopped my post-workout Quest bar, moving that to the 8pm slot for when I get that inevitable post-dinner evening munchie craving thing going. Otherwise, at weekends, eating has been “normal” working to the above guidelines.

Sundays have tended to be my more relaxed day, and I while haven’t been refeeding, I have eaten a wider range of foods. I even managed a weekend away with the wife in the middle of this four week period and ate french fries. Yes. FRENCH FRIES. But for context, I hadn’t previously eaten french fries for months, if not a year or more.

So to be clear, I am eating well but sitting on the fringes of hunger throughout the day. I wake hungry, and I am almost always hungry for my next meal.

Back to that “added context”…

I say I am not dieting, and I am not — at least not in the sense that the industry now glorifies. I have not eliminated any foods, I am not carb or calorie cycling. I am not deep into a deficit and I am not feeling stretched at all by my current plan.

However, I am still exercising considerable discipline on a day to day and hour to hour basis. I am surround by food here at work; wonderful food. I have to walk past and otherwise ignore a whole gambit of things I would truly like to eat.

I sit next to a bowl of chocolates at home, right next to the sofa. I don’t take one, although I do pass one to my wife on occasion.

My cupboards are stacked with boxes of Alpen, a low-sugar muesli and go to favorite of mine. This is stuff is like heroin to me; I can’t get enough. But still, given the current goals, it sits there largely unmolested.

I am also not counting my calories or tracking my macros. But I am aware of what I am putting in my mouth, and I am listening to my body. The edges of hunger tell me that I am in a modest calorie deficit at various points in the week, and having counted calories before, I can judge my intake and macros pretty well. Certainly enough to get lean… shredded is a different story.

Due to my APOE 3/4 genotype, I’ve also got crappy lipids. This means that I am already following a cleaner, leaner diet than the average person, avoiding alcohol, red meats, saturated fats etc. So again, context matters greatly when I say the things I do.

I eat everything I want to eat is also largely true. I just want to eat very different things than the average guy. Why? Because I am laser-focused on my goals and know that the path to progress lies in discipline and consistency.

I have two weeks of travel, vacation and socializing starting tomorrow, so a whole new set of problems to manage as we push through this cut. Hopefully, progress won’t be derailed too much, although I do tend to lose a little weight without the structure of home and working life. We’ll see…

But there you have it, the inside scoop on my cutting program so far, including all the little details that make all the difference.

And for my good friend Bryan, that is how you build your own lightsaber.

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