New year, same old me.

I didn’t end-up posting in December last year as there was a lot going on in my world. And, as is always the case, whenever there’s a time-crunch, the blog is the first to suffer. Truth be told, I had the time to blog; plenty of it, actually. I just haven’t been inspired to write lately, in part because I still don’t know what this blog is supposed to be.

At times, it’s very much a journal; just me, sharing my thoughts and opinions with anyone that’s interested (or bored) enough to look. But I also want to make this blog a resource, something useful to help others navigate their way to successfully achieving their health and fitness goals. I am sure there is a way to satisfy both goals in one blog, but it frequently feels like I simply flip-flop between the two extremes. Así es la vida.

To kick things off, let’s start with some updates.

My hormones are finally in check

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with both hypothyroidism, and low Testosterone levels. In short, it’s pretty good news on both fronts at this point, with my thyroid levels within my [extremely thorough] doctor’s good clinical range, and Testosterone levels back up to where they should be. I am still taking the Synthroid, which frankly, I’d rather not, but the dose is low (75 mg) and we do hope to experiment with coming off the medicine at some point.

The TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) is going well, and I’ve settled into a weekly injection of just 0.5mg of Testosterone Cypionate — straight into the bum. Most of the time it’s painless, although we did hit a blood vessel the other day and managed to get blood everywhere! It happens, and frankly, the TRT has made such a big difference to my mood and sex-life that I couldn’t give a crap whether it hurts, bleeds or otherwise. I am just grateful to be feeling back to my old self.

Making some gains in the gym

Ever since I finished “shredding” with Adam Bornstein, I’ve been working hard to get some size back. While reaching less than 8% body fat was both exhilarating and a monumental achievement (for me at least), it left me looking smaller than small. At my peak of leanness, I think I weighed in at just 150lb, that’s 15lb under my “normal” weight of around 165lb. And it wasn’t that I lost all the muscle, in fact, I held on to nearly all of it during that cut, losing only 2lbs of lean mass. The cut simply revealed just how little muscle I actually had!

This is me at 153lb and less than 8% body fat.To give you some idea, here’s a picture of me at around 153lb and 8% body fat.

When clothed, I just look like death, and frankly, I NEVER want to be this small again. I really didn’t look healthy and everyone, including my parents, friends and even colleagues at work, would pull me aside and ask me if I was seriously ill!

The reality is that to pull of sub 10% body fat levels, you need to be packing, and packing hard. Hence, the next time you see me at 8% body fat, I’ll be around 175lb. No doubt I won’t be satisfied, but that’s what keeps us moving forward.

And that’s where I am now — still working with Adam to build some muscle and pack on the pounds. It’s working too!

Just four months after hitting 153lb, I weighed in at 169lb carrying only 9.21% body fat. The last time I was hydrostatically weighed, I came in at 156lbs and 9.14% body fat. That’s a gain of 11.33lbs of muscle, and only 1.27lbs of fat! Pretty epic, even if I do say so myself.

Of course, things are harder now, much harder. Another two months of solid work in the gym has added only 4lb to the scale and I suspect at least a pound of that is fat, maybe more; this next phase is certainly going to be tough.

So that’s where I am now, hovering around the 173lb mark and probably around 10% body fat. Here’s a couple of up to date (albeit crappy) pictures for comparison. Even now, although I am still much smaller than I’d like, the contrast is marked. I at least look healthy, even if I don’t look like I lift [bro] when clothed.

Filling out     Filling out

Goals for the year ahead

Given I am inherently goal oriented, I don’t do the whole New Year resolutions. I am setting goals all the time, on a weekly, monthly, yearly and retirement basis! Yup, that’s right, I am already planning my biggest life events at the same time I am planning my meal for this evening. Why? Because that’s how I make progress, or at least feel like I am making progress. When I don’t have goals and just try to go day-to-day, I feel like I am drowning. I’m just not good at feeling like I am standing still.

Here’s a quick run-down of my immediate term goals, at least as it pertains to my health and fitness.

Conditioning

  1. Stay at, or around, 10% body fat for the duration… and certainly no more than 12%
  2. Hit 180lb body weight at ~10% body fat by April 9th, 2015 (by birthday!)
  3. Cut to 175lb of lean muscle at < 10% body fat by end of 2015

Gym

  1. No injuries; at least none sufficient to keep me from working out
  2. Achieve the following lifts/weights by mid-year:
    1. 275lb squat for reps
    2. 315lb squat 1RM
    3. 365lb deadlift for reps
    4. 405lb deadlift 1RM
    5. Floor press 80lb dumbbells for reps
    6. Floor press 100lb 1RM

Other than that, I am once again going to try and keep the blog up to date with my progress, thoughts and ideas, as well as a few whines and moans, I’m sure.

As always, thanks for following along, and feel free to ask me questions of give feedback in the comments. I don’t offend easily, so feel free to speak your mind.

Wishing you all the best for 2015!

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  • Brian

    I notice when I get to low body fat levels that my hormones (including testosterone) and my thyroid get all out of wack – do you think your issues are a result of getting to that exteremly shredded state?

    Also, did you find it was easier to pack on muscle when you got to that shredded state because of the improved state of your insulin sensitivity as a result of being lean?

    • Hey Brian; thanks for reading.

      I am 100% convinced that my thyroid, if not my testosterone levels, were greatly impacted by this cut. It was my first sustained calorie deficit of this magnitude, coupled with intense exercise, over a relatively short period (12 weeks).

      In fact, since going on Synthroid to bring the thyroid back-up, I am having some symptoms (palpitations, slow weight gain) that suggest my own thyroid production might be increasing (as I am eating a lot), perhaps edging me toward hyper (vs hypo) at the current Synthroid dosage. I am waiting on a second blood test as of last night … so we’ll see.

      As for whether it’s easier to gain muscle at lower body fat levels, my own experiences suggest yes. At my lowest body fat (<8%), I was only 150lbs. That said, I only lost 2.3lbs of muscle on my shred from 168lbs, so I've definitely gained a decent amount of muscle since then — far more than I ever gained when training at around 15% body fat.

      As for insulin sensitivity, I tend to cycle carbs all the time, limiting (not eliminating) carbs on non-training days, and taking in added carbs (but not excessive) on training days, especially in the post-training period (evenings for me).

      Lots and lots to learn, and a much still to do, but making progress.

      Biggest take-away for me was that I need to approach the next cut VERY differently, keeping calories as high as possible as long as possible, largely creating the deficit through exercise. Timing too is a big factor; I definitely rushed last time. Correcting for these issues should minimize hormone flux considerably next time.

      • Brian

        Yeah, I got really lean before the holidays and all sorts of weird things were going on with my body. No sex drive, hungry all the time, and I was even getting these weird hot flashes in my extremities which they say is a sign of a thyroid being out of wack. I am trying to get as lean as I was again as I’ve gained some weight over the holidays (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) but the second weird things start happening I am going to have a cheat day to help reset things a bit. Then I want to gradually increase my macros to gain some muscle on a slow-bulk. My goal is to start slow-bulking in mid-to-end February.

        But great work on your gains. I’d be happy if I gained a fraction of the muscle you have recently! Were you gradual in increasing your calories after your cut?

        • Definitely cut slowly; goal should be to eat the absolute maximum amount of calories you can while still losing fat and moving toward your goal.

          And thanks! I’ve definitely gained some muscle, no doubt, and quite a bit too. And I am happy. Sure, I should be happier — but such is the game. No sooner do I reach a goal, my mind has moved on to “what’s next”… sadly before I’ve taken enough time to bask in moment.

          Something else I am working on! Good luck with your cut (and bulk); take ’em both nice and steady.

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