Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Weight Loss: A Brief Overview

I have had several people asking me what I have done to lose my body fat and put on muscle. So I decided to post a blog rather than telling everybody individually.
This all started for me in June of 2011. My wife had posted a pic of us on a balcony at the beach. My wife was absolutely stunning, but I had fat hanging off my chin, bigger ta-tas than my wife, and a gut that was hanging to my knees. It was a serious wake-up call!!! So I started researching nutrition. I already had a small grasp on some things, but not nearly what I have now. I knew vegetables were good me and chicken was good for me, but I didn’t know why some of these things were good and some were bad. In August I joined Gold’s Gym in Pelham and start lifting weights. In June I was 345 pounds and 40% body fat. (At my heaviest I was 415 pounds) Today I am 18%-19% body fat and 280 pounds, and still dropping.
Before I start this I would like to say two things. One, my workouts will not be recommended by the majority of the fitness community. Two, I am a huge fan of monitoring your Body Fat Index. I don’t believe in worrying about your weight or BMI. I say this because I know a lot of people that are under 12% BFI and 33-36 BMI. In my opinion, this is a healthy individual. They get in the gym three to five days a week and spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day getting their heart rate up and are building some rock hard muscle. I also know individuals that step on the scale weekly, and all that they care about is weight loss. They have no regard for whether they are losing fat or muscle, and when I finish this transformation I want to have kept or added lean body mass as well as having lost fat.

The Nutrition
Notice I used the word nutrition and not the word diet. Diets to me send the message that you need to starve yourself, or that you need to drastically cut, the portions, of all the foods that you eat. The latter, in some cases may be true, for some people if they are indulging in foods like desserts, regular pasta, or pop tarts. However, it doesn’t apply to people that eat chicken, sweet potatoes, any vegetables, or high fiber fruits like apples and pears. My daily diet usually works out like this. I have six meals day and in those meals I try to work toward a total of 250 grams of protein, 65 grams of carbs, and less than 10 grams of sugars for the entire day. This may sound somewhat disproportionate, but here is my reasoning behind. Through-out my transformation I have read hundreds of articles and have discussed nutrition with actual body builders that have attained incredible results, and they all say the same thing.
Protein is essential for muscle gain. In order to repair the wear on our muscles our body needs a source of protein to replace what we destroy. However, there are different views on which proteins to eat. Some like eggs, chicken, and steak. Some individuals say to stay away from red meats and focus on chicken and tuna. Some say to drink whey protein and eat chicken. I personally incorporate all these methods into one. I consume three to four whey protein shakes a day. I will have one in the morning, one after my workouts, and one before I go to bed. In between those times I change up what I eat. I am fortunate enough to have an oven at work so I bake chicken and steak or eat a can of tuna during my day. Another factor to keep in mind is quantity. Most of my research has led me to understand that, in order to sustain muscle, the average person needs to eat .75-1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. This would put me at 230 pounds of protein a day, but since I am trying to build muscle I try to give my body a little extra protein every day.
The next item that I monitor, and this one is watched more closely, is my carb intake. Essentially our bodies take the carbs we digest and use them as fuel. This is a great way to avoid the feeling of starvation, but I have to watch my intake and compare it to what I have and/or am burning for the day. Any unused carbs that are left in our bodies are converted into fat stores. So essentially, if I am eating too many carbs it doesn’t matter what I did that day. I am going to start packing on the fat stores. There are infinite different theories out there on this, but what works best for me is simple. I eat whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and the occasional sweet potato. I have tried white rice, regular pasta, and white potatoes but at the end of the day I feel bloated, bogged down, and miserable. This isn’t to say that somebody else couldn’t eat these things and lose weight/feel great it’s just simply not for me. Another thing that I have to keep in the back of my head is that our bodies look first for simple sugars to burn as a fuel, then complex sugars, and then our fat stores. If I am giving my body an abundance of either simple sugars or complex sugars then it will have no need to dig into the fat stores.
The third item that I monitor is the amounts of fat that I consume. There are multiple reasons why eating fat is bad, and I hope everybody understands this without me having to explain it. I tend to get my fats from my omega fatty-acids either through fish or supplements. On an average day I will consume around 6000mg of Omega-3, and while I love fish my wife hates it and the smell, so I eat fish at work or when I have time to air out the apartment. (Confession: I have a soft spot for Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and Little Debbie Nutty Bars and will occasionally indulge into these things)
I have tried supplement after supplement after supplement since I began this transformation. I was looking for something that would assist me in “weight loss” goals. Here is my take on the majority of supplements out there, A WASTE OF MONEY. Fat loss pills like Hydroxycut, Yohimbe, Ripped Fuel, etc. have been a waste of time and money for me. My results, so far, have been the same without these products, and because I am not taking something that sucks the water out of me I don’t have to drink 6 gallons of water a day. Post workout supplements also fall into the same category as pills. BCAA’s and glutamine are the only two post workout supplements that I have ever read good things about, and guess what, both of these things are found in Body Fortress Whey Protein. This brings me to one of the three supplements I do take and would recommend to anybody that wants to do this. I drink three 52 gram protein drinks a day minimum. I chose Body Fortress because it is cheaper than GNC products and contains most of the ingredients that the other products contain. The second supplement that I take is the N.O. Xplode. This is a pre-workout supplement that contains Beta-Alanine and caffeine. I have to cycle this supplement every eight weeks. So I will take it for eight weeks and then come off of it for three weeks. I can personally tell a huge bump in reps and weight when I am taking it. The third product that I take is Animal Pak vitamin supplement. Every individual I spoke to about this and every article I read on taking a vitamin said the same thing, DO IT. So I tried a couple different multivitamins and of all the different products I have tried this same to be the best. This is also important because during workouts our bodies burn through things like sodium, potassium, glutamine, etc. and we normally rebuild these things through the foods and beverages we consumed. Since my nutrition doesn’t include ample amounts of these nutrients I have to get them from another source.
The Workout
This is the portion of my blog that will be extremely controversial with the majority of the fitness community. I love the gym. In fact, my body has developed a love/hate relationship with the gym, and I often joke about pain and pleasure being the same thing. When I first started working out I would go into the gym Monday through Friday and do what I called a “traps to toes” workout. I would hit every muscle group in my body with at least three workouts. I would do 15-20 reps per set and 5 sets per workout. This got my heart rate elevated and kept me off the treadmill. (Now again this works for me and it may not work for everybody else) After doing this for several months my body felt great, I was losing fat, and I had actually put on a couple pounds of lean body mass. So I kicked it up a notch and began doing a little heavier weight and fewer (10-15) reps. This workout proved to be a little more challenging and took a lot more determination, but eventually my body adjusted to new workout and I began to see major gains in the way I felt between sets and after the workout. In December I went through another progress check and I had the same results as before. Only this time I had lost more of my body fat and gained slightly more lean body mass. At this point, I found a regular workout partner, his name is Trace, whom had already been bodybuilding. It turned out that my hard work and dedication had paid off. This guy had seen me in the gym continuously just killing it, and because he had seen the dedication from me he agreed to take me under his wing and show me some tricks. This turned out to be 5 day-a-week teaching lesson. Which brings me to my current workout regimen which is: Monday is arms, Tuesday is legs, Wednesday is Chest, Thursday is cardio, and Friday is back. My workouts, with Trace, consist of two exercises per muscle group, 12 reps, and 4 sets. After Trace leaves I go back and do high rep/low weight workouts to finish off each muscle group. Again this works for me but will not work for everybody else. Many bodybuilders will tell you that you should be in the gym for an hour max and do no more than three exercises per muscle group. I do that, and then I do some more.
That in a nutshell is what I do. I am in the gym four to six days a week. I spend two to four hours in the gym a day. I watch my nutrition closely and I make sure that I get enough rest for my body to heal. When I started this I was overweight, lethargic, and depressed. Now I have energy, a drive, and my snapping turtle attitude back.
I will be going into more details on each of the three topics to give everyone a more detailed look at what I am doing. 
If anybody has any questions about specifics of my workouts, or if they want to know about something specific about my nutrition please feel free to ask. I encourage everyone to take charge of their health!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Generation of Entitlements

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." - Colin Powell

Growing up my father taught me that in order to succeed you had to have a set of goals (short term, mid term, and long term) and they all had to roll into one another systematically in order for you to achieve success. He also taught me that it is the responsibility of each individual to be a product member of society, and in order to be this product member a person had to work hard. My father would lay out a list of chores to be down each day and he expected them to be done. He didn't except excuses and would occasionally make 3:00am wake up calls if the dishes weren't cleaned the night before. This is the household that I grew up in. A man handles his responsibilities regardless of circumstances. Discipline came at the elbow grease of both my mother, father, a leather belt, and often if mom got a hold of you dad would be right behind her when he got home from work. I grew to understand that nothing in life is simply given. It takes discipline and hard work, but as I look around I am beginning to see that these principles are becoming a dieing notion. They are being replaced with the idea that we are in some sense entitled to receive handouts without first putting in any effort. This, in my opinion, is going to be the downfall of my generation.

Now, what would I be defining as an entitlement program? Well programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and food stamps to name a few. What is it about these programs that makes them entitlements? Well, based on the governments definition, these are government programs that provide personal financial assistance to individuals when they meet certain eligibility requirements set by the governing laws of that bill.

Now does this mean that that every individual who applies receives this assistance. No it does not, but are there people out there that are smart enough to fool the system. Yes there are. Which brings me to the underlying issue that has developed in my generation. Individual character, morals, and ethics are being lost. There appears to be this growing idea that we are no longer responsible for our actions and that the government, or others, should be the provider for us. Now why do I say others? Because simply put the government is not an establishment that has the ability to provide for itself, let alone the countless millions that are already bleeding the system dry. In order for the government to function it has to take resources from each individual that is putting into the system. This idea works out great if each individual of society is doing their due diligence and the system is supporting those that truly need it. However, this is not the case anymore.

I know a family right now that is receiving food stamps. The mom has a couple of children and holds a job, but she has also been dating a guy for almost three years now. When I asked the couple when they were going to get married their response was "well we probably will not get married". When asked why "she" stated "well if we get married then our income would put us over the maximum income for receiving food stamps." This statement actually took my back for minute, and I found myself unable to say anything at that moment. After a few minutes I finally asked the guy why he felt that he shouldn't take on the responsibility of being the sole provider. He response was one that I will never forget. "Why should I do that when the government is doing it for me. Plus as long as she keeps getting assistance the two of us have money to go and do what we want to do."

Now I know that this is one couple, and not every situation is going to be the same. However, I am seeing a rise in the number of people that feel this way. My question to them is always the same. How long do you think the system can support you, and what are you going to do when it runs out? Sometimes I hear that they just need a break, and sometimes I hear that they will cross that bridge when they come to it. This thought pattern astonishes me. Essentially we have able bodied individuals that are capable of being productive members of society that are leeching off a system that was designed to assist individuals that weren't/aren't capable of providing for themselves.

Anytime that I run into this situation I am always left with the question: "Why would anybody want to let somebody else provide for them?" In the end, I am left with only one thought that seems rational. They either weren't taught to be responsible, or they have lost the meaning of responsibility.

For me, it doesn't take much thought to understand that you can't give something to somebody without taking it first from somebody else. Which brings me to my next point.

Ambition. Why is it that we have an unbalanced system of givers and takers. Yes, I agree that these programs are a great idea. BUT only when used responsibly. My point is this, we are taking something from somebody who is working for that item, and giving it to (not in every case) somebody who is able to get it for themselves but to lazy to get up and get it. Do we really think that this can go on forever??? It astonishes me that people actually want to empower individuals in this way. We reward laziness and not hard work. How can we not see the logic behind this?? As time progresses we will continue to see this problem get worse. Until we begin to take personal responsibility for ourselves we will fail.

After the 2008 elections. All I heard from people was that this was the generation of change. What kind of change?? How have we lost the morals and principles that made this nation what it was? Why isn't my generation taking a stand for integrity, honesty, and accountability? Why are we okay with receiving a handout instead of acquiring it through hard work?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Racism in Todays Society

This is in response to Balancing Jane's post on teaching racism to our children.

While I agree that teaching our children that every individual is a child of God, and that racism is wrong. I feel that the reasons for teaching our children, as of late, have become distorted.

Now before I get into this I do want to say that I understand that this is a slippery slope and I expect a little back lash, but I am okay with that.

As Mrs. Jane I was raised in a small community where the idea of racism wasn't a huge factor due to the small number minorities present in the nieghborhood. So giving thought to jokes that may have had underlying "tones" weren't of great concern to me. In fact the majority of my experience with "racism" came from the lectures of Stephen Lilley my History teacher. His position was simple in that the slavery prompted the idea that individuals who weren't of caucasian descent were viewed as deficient members of society. They lacked the intelligence of thier conterparts and were seen as nothing more than property. After moving to Alabama I have been introduced to a notion of racism and how it impacts the everyday life of individuals.

What I have found to be most disturbing is that "racism" is often taken out of context on almost every occasion. Whether in school, work, or in a general conversation. If there is a difference of opinion, and one of the members is a minority, than the other individuals involved must have a problem with the color of the individual's skin. It can't possibly be any other reason. Personally I have an issue with this idea that decisions are made on the basis of a person skins and not their IQ, character, morals, or ethics.

Now on to the response. I agree that as parents we are totally responsible for ensuring that our children do not look at an individual and form judgement based on race. However, I do believe that if we place too much emphasis on race than we can be developing the foundation for "racism". Isn't simply acknowledging that there is an issue, and that they have to choose a side. opening the door to the complication.

Why is it that parents, in todays society, aren't focused on teaching their children to look at the true attributes that make a person unique. Character traits such as honesty, integrity, and accoutability (to name a few) are essential in each individual.

I acknowledge that it is vital that we teach our children to look into the heart of a person to see who they are. I believe that tolerance has to play a role in that training, but tolerance of what is key in this whole equation. Using logic and wisdom to explain why a person has a different color pigment is not complicated, and that is truly all that makes me different from Jane's husband (except of course that he has a higher IQ than me :) )

I don't fear these conversations with my future children. Understanding that a person physical attributes do not make that person who they are is, in my opinion, what is important when teaching my child about this topic.