When I find a good book about fitness or athlete diets, I usually devour it in a few days. Thrive by Brendan Brazier, Born to Run by Christopher McDougal, Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, and Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry are a few such books. I can’t not mention Tom Brady’s TB12 book. It was no bueno, IMO. While reading, I couldn’t stop criticizing it in my mind: this sounds like a commercial again, you already said this fifteen times, stop saying “I”, am I going to learn something soon? Writing a scathing amazon review for that book was cathartic. Ugh. Back to good reads! So, I just finished Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Matthews in 4 days; it’s a 433 page book, and I didn’t read it that fast because I am just a fast reader. I read it that fast because it might be the most motivating and informational fitness book I have ever read.
What were the immediate takeaways? This book provided me a new lifting routine that evolves in 6-8 week phases. Diet wise, you can choose to start with cutting, maintaining, or lean bulking diets depending on what your goals are. Cutting, lean bulking, and maintaining all have unique meal plans and ratios of macros. Best factoid of the cutting diet: it has me eating 100 grams of carbs a day (YAS!), more in this later. You can choose a 3, 4, or 5 day a week lifting plan, and you can incorporate some cardio. Some? Yup! More in this later too. I chose to start with cutting on a 5 day lifting plan. This is how the author recommends to start: cut until you are at 18-20% body fat. I don’t have a body fat caliper, and I don’t completely trust my digital scale that tells me my percent body fat and my percent lean mass. I estimate that I am at like 19.5% body fat, but I’d like to be at 18%. So, I think I want to lose like 2.5 lbs of body fat, then I will switch to a maintenance phase or a lean bulk phase. I have counted calories before and I have tried to hit certain amounts of protein before, but I have never had such a defined plan and such a clear path to achieve that plan; do x, y, z and eat x, y, z.
Shocking take away #1. I get to eat 100g of carbs every day. I am pretty stoked about this! I love whole wheat bread, I love whole wheat pancakes, I love whole wheat cookies, I love whole wheat muffins (oat flour and chickpea flower too). Love, love, love. WHY, HOW is this possible?! I thought carbs were kind-of dangerous. I did some rereading and some googling to understand the basics of the role carbohydrates play and how they metabolize. In a nutshell, I learned that your muscles turn carbohydrates into glycogen. Glycogen is what your muscles cells use to create ATP, which is energy that is used to make muscles perform. Muscles that are fed a low or no carbohydrates the diet are left with little to no glycogen to create ATP to function. Thus, muscle performance is greatly hindered. Less than optimum muscle performance is NOT what you want when you are trying to grow or maintain muscle mass. If you want to be toned and healthy, then you need muscle, and that muscle needs to be fed carbohydrates so it is ready to perform at its best.
Shocking take away #2. Too much cardio will hinder muscle growth. I can imagine that my fellow runners read this were immediately saddened like me. I was dismayed because I love to have running in my workout toolbelt. I was also dismayed because I just got my first pair of Altra Solstice running shoes and I freaking love them. So, brand new running shoes that I love and I can’t run and build muscle? Sad face. But, this isn’t the case! The suggestion is to limit intense cardio to 1-2 hours a week. No more. So, for those who like to bang out 45 minutes on the elliptical 4 times a week, that is too much. For those who like to go on hour long runs 3 times a week, that is too much too. My runs top out at 3 to 3.5 miles and I am usually hitting a somewhat hilly trail or doing HIIT stuff on the track. Turns out this kind of running is A-OK. The reasoning behind this? Glycogen. Intense cardio burns glycogen that is better ‘spent’ lifting if you are trying to be toned and have maximum health, so just make sure that your muscles have recovery time to replenish glycogen stores for lifting.
Challenge #1. Eating enough protein. I am only on day 6 of this program. (I almost don’t want to call it a program because it is more of a lifestyle, and I feel that I can call it a lifestyle because I honestly don’t think it will be terribly difficult to stick to!) I am trying to cut and maintain muscle, which is tricky. There is a lot of information online about how it is tricky to maintain muscle mass while in a calorie deficit, but the key to doing so is resistance training and lots of protein. About 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of weight. I weigh 112.4 lbs so I need to eat a whopping 134 grams of protein a day. I haven’t achieved this once. Yesterday, I sat down and made a plan to make it to 130 grams of protein, and over half of my calories have to come from low calorie high protein foods. I’m talking 3 servings of egg whites (15g), 4oz chicken breast (25g), 4 oz lean red meat (25g), one protein shake (30g), one low fat greek yogurt (15g), and 3 servings of a whole grain (15g) takes me to approximately 125 grams of protein and at about 66% of my calories for the day. It is very doable, but requires me to stay on top of things!
So, as an aging person who loves to be really active, I love to snowboard, I love to surf, I love to climb, fitness and health is paramount to me. And, I want to be doing all this stuff in my 80s. I know I can’t get there without diet and strength, and I really think that this book gave me a great deal of the information and steps to achieve that. Now it is just up to me and my willpower. GTG! Time to eat some greek yogurt.