I believed I can eat anything provided that I earned it. I should retain some form of sanity by having no-fuss philosophy to eating. Life is already complicated as it is.
You can’t out train bad diet
Turn out I was wrong (nothing new).
After many years living with this mindset, I realized that I won’t be able to progress further (to be shredded) unless I change the way I looked at eating.
Case in point; say you’re an avid runner. You ran a 6min/km pace of 10km (this took one crazy hour of pounding the tarmac). This would burn roughly 530cal. Which is great. Other people would prefer to indulge their one hour or more watching Netflix.
But, if you coupled it with a post-run feast of nasi lemak, roti canai and white coffee this could easily bring back upwards of 800cals. This is generous as runners I know would be able to swallow 1000cals easily.
This Is Why Ramadhan Is A Blessing
Good thing Ramadhan came and it presented a great opportunity to perform a month long experiment on myself to test calorie deficit & Intermittent Fasting. For the uninitiated, Intermittent Fasting is the new fad in Fitness industry, and while I need to fast anyway, why don’t I record the metric to see the result? This eventually morphed to a decision to adopt Intermittent Fasting.
The objectives of this post are:
- Recording the numbers down for my own future reference (yes, I’m very self-centered).
- Painting the picture of how caloric deficit in action should look like. (I’m using should in a very liberal sense as I’m learning as I go, there’ll be tweaks for improvement)
My weight has been hovering around 66kg for about 3 years. I don’t think I have issues with my weight. But I do have issues with my leanness.
Since I don’t have a scale with body fat % in it, it made me ignorant to the fact that I have a pretty high body fat. This is the reason why my six pack isn’t showing despite years of working out. I swear I hear an evil laughter poking fun of the irony whenever I checked my body fat %. Here I was working my ass off (at least a session of Stronglift per week, not including Freeletics 3 times per week and one running session per week), but the progress has been unnoticeable.
And as part of my aesthetic goal to spot a body like Taeyang or Chris Heria, I knew I couldn’t neglect eating correctly.
P/S : This goal is not for everyone. Be comfortable in your skin, some might say. I’m sorry but I’m sold to the pursuit and I enjoy the journey thus far.
So, I derived these goals;
- To drop my body fat % from 20% to 15% (and getting to know my abs for the first time!). General consensus says 10%-12% would be the ideal range for the abs to show themselves. But I don’t want to put a range too far from my current body fat %. If I can get to 15%, it is close enough and I would continue only if the eating and exercise patterns fit my lifestyle.
- Minimize muscle loss in the process. My current weight is 66kg. This corresponds to Lean Body Mass (LMB) of 52.8kg. To get to my desired body fat at 15%, I’ll need to keep my LMB to achieve target weight of 62.1kg. Hopefully, I didn’t lose too much muscle in the process. Calculations are based on this.
- To reduce 5% body fat in 60 days, I need to maintain caloric deficit by 420cal daily which means my daily limit is 1749 cal daily. Calculator here.
Let me summarize:
What I Did To Get Somewhat Ripped
- Tracking calorie & macros.
I have used MyNetDiary (the cooler version of MyFitnessPal) as recommended by Antonio Radu. While calorie counting is nothing new to me, macros on the other hand is a bit an unknown territory and precisely the reason why I opted MyNetDaily.
Basically, macros are fat, protein, and carbs. I love MyNetDaily as it has a sizeable food banks which automatically derived how many macros you are getting.
Based on this apps, I found out I need to get 27% Fat, 41% Carbs and 32% Protein from my total daily calorie intake. This is on-top of calorie deficit that I need to maintain. My compliance for macros varies everyday, but I noticed that I am hugely under eating in Protein department. This led to my decision to start eating Whey Protein.
Antonio and this guy would bring weighing scale everywhere and I kid you not they weigh their food everytime. This is a little too bizzare even for me, so for the entire duration I do guesstimate the calorie if I can’t have their actual weights. Mostly, I think I erred on the worse side. A handful of keropok ikan would be 100g which equivalent to 500cals. Worse side, no?
- Exercise Regimes: Stronglift & Freeletics
To avoid muscle loss, I still need to hit the gym. And this is when Stronglift is coming handy. If I could charge for everytime I talk up Stronglift, I should have been a millionaire. The philosophy of the program is captivating – it cuts the bullshit by eliminating a lot of isolation exercises and unwavering focus on being stronger.
The problem though, is to find the right time to hit the gym. There are two feasible times:
- Right before breaking the fast.
- After the Tarawih (if you go to one)
For other times, I did Freeletics High Intensity Interval Workout once every 2 days (at least). Doing this for months right now, I’ll feel sluggish should I go for more than this duration without any form of exercise.
- Fast itself.
I started calorie tracking in May and fasting in June. So, after a month of toying around caloric counting, I got to add another scope of experiment. Felt super tired on the first few days, but gradually become accustomed to not eating and had no major issues.
There are some reports that you should be having more mental clarity when you’re on fasted state. I might have, but nothing concrete. I like the fact that you had more time for more productive actions now that eating are out of the equation. I had the added benefit of forcefully avoiding smoking the cigarettes.
The most popular Intermittent Fasting method preached is called 16-8 (Hugh Jackman reportedly does this). You eat nothing for 16 hours and crammed eating in the other 8 hour window. During Ramadhan, I’d be having two window of fasting periods:
- during sleeping – 8 hours
- during the day between sahur and breaking the fast – 12 hours
There are few days where I overslept and didn’t get my sahur (eating before the day start) and I ended up not eating for 20 hours. Luckily nothing bad happens other than a bad flu and fever for a week at the end of the month.
Summary of the result are as per below table:
Since I couldn’t perform Body Compisition Analysis, the Body Fat is roughly determined from bodywhat.com. I might be doing a follow-up post on more accurate result later.
I lose 2.7kg of fat during this experiment. In terms of the main objective, which is losing fat, I’m on my way of achieving the target.
What the table didn’t show (purposely) is I’m also losing muscle of about 0.8 kg. I lose a total of 3.5kg but only 2.7kg of it is fat. I wish I can show the difference in pic, but Datin Donut would not allow it. So only the numbers for now. But, the common theme is people say I’ve lost some weight and appear thinner.
Some Thoughts Moving Forward
- Calorie Deficit freaking slays. It worked even better if you adopt Intermittent Fasting. I’m sold to adopting intermittent fasting permanently as it compliments calorie deficit better. As it seems that I can reduce the body fat with these strategies I’ll be doing it further until I reach the next target (12% or 10% – haven’t decided until I did further research on this).
- Muscle Loss. At this stage I could not afford to lose more muscle as it reduce the metabolism and send my previous effort of hitting the gym to waste. From my reading, I may be cutting the calories too much per day and not having enough lifting sessions. During Ramadhan, I only able to be at the gym 4 times which clearly not enough. For this to be better, I need to hit the gym twice per week?
- The social construct that revolve around us eating may require huge tweaks & will power. You should enjoy food too. I need to figure out sufficient duration that brings the optimum benefit while still able to enjoy life. One option is performing Intermittent Fasting for a cycle of 12 days.
- Like any other pursuit, tracking provide a huge boost of getting the result. I’ve seen this in finance tracking, and it’s proven true again in this experiment. By tracking each food, I’m aware of calorie impact of the meal (although it is still not really accurate). It provides source of pain and push me to move my ass if I had over eat.
- Case for a Fitness Coach. As I learnt more on caloric deficit and intermittent fasting, it seemed there are huge amount of information of (sometime) conflicting advice on how things should be done to get shredded. The navigate through the maze of information, not lost on noises and a dependable kick-me prompt when I slacked off – I’m seriously considering to hire a fitness coach. Not Freeletics Coach, a real coach.
There will be a follow-up post detailing how I’ll be designing the next phase of the project. Stay tune!
Further readings/references on the net: