Chilly nights and mornings have officially begun to seep into the northeast with daylight savings time getting dark by 4:30 p.m.! My journey towards being pro-active about my health and well-being (which you can read about here) has now reached a point of adjustment to account for the inconveniences of fall and winter. One is to find creative ways to incorporate my cardio indoors – since I’m not equipped to power walk/run on the main road in the dark! The other is to review my food journal over the past few months to see if I can spot any repetitive patterns that, if adhered to, might put me into a plateau. This led me to some extensive research about ‘flexible dieting’ or ‘macro tracking’ which is not just about the number of calories you consume, but where they are derived from. The macronutrients.
An honest look at my food journal revealed that, although I was eating healthy, my portion sizes were definitely not along the lines of what was listed on the labels of each food. Just take a look at my entries from June:
I had pretty much been tracking my food this way through September – just listing what I ate. But not the serving size, calories or grams of macronutrients per serving. Although I lost 15.5 lbs between 6/1/16 and 10/1/16 eating this way, I had also stepped up my working out to twice a day, 5-6 days a week since mid-August. So whatever I may had gone over in calories or fat, I was more than burning off. But with winter and early darkness on the horizon, my after-work, 1-hour power walk will not be possible. Not to mention that I want my workouts to be smarter – not harder. I also learned that by doing 15-20 min ‘fasted’ cardio in the morning that I can increase my body’s chance of using stored fat for fuel rather than having to push myself for 45 – 60 min after work, where I’ll most likely be burning off what I ate throughout the day. Likewise, it was better to weight train when I got home from work as the carbs and protein I’d consumed during the day would provide the fuel my muscles would need for the workout. So I had to tweak my diet to offset any cardio reduction.
So I’ve made the decision to be one of those food scale/measuring cup,/gram-counting individuals to get a better hold on not just what, but how much of the ‘what’ I was eating. And just at first glance of my journals above instantly told me that I was most likely consuming wayyyyy too many grams of fat and carbs, and not enough protein. For example: Breakfast would be two whole eggs with two whites, then a salad for lunch filled with veggies and lean protein, but would also slice half an avocado, maybe sprinkle in a few slivered almonds and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Snack would be mixed nuts or apple with peanut butter then supper was a smaller portion of whatever I was making for hub and I with all the condiment prep and trimmings. Then maybe 5-6 peanut M&Ms for dessert. On the surface, this daily consumption consisted of close to 100 grams of fat alone (just 1 tbsp of olive oil is 14 grams and half an avocado is 18 grams!) Not to mention I most definitely wasn’t getting enough protein.
This macronutrient combination could very well be holding me back from my fat loss goals. After completing my research and going through the tedious process of recording the ‘per serving’ calories, protein, carbs and fat grams of just about every food in our fridge and cupboards on an Excel spreadsheet (in the intro photo), I took an old notebook to use for daily macro tracking and workouts only rather than create a section in my Filofax Pocket Malden. The entries would be too high volume. I did come across several apps to handle macro tracking on my iPhone, but I like the idea of putting everything in a notebook. And I didn’t want to be attached at the hip to my phone! In addition, I used a website called Fat Secret (which is also available as an app) to look up the macros for just about every food on the planet!
The first thing I did was figure out how many daily calories and macros I needed per day. The number was determined by my age, height, current weight, goal (fat loss, bulking, maintenance) normal daily activity (job) and extracurricular activity (working out). I used a website called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) to determine these numbers as my starting point. Based on my answers and goal (fat loss) I was recommended 1,350 calories per day, 135g protein, 145g carbs and 30g fats. I use pretty much the same format that spans across an open spread (sometimes it crosses over to the next page). Here are some of my entries from October
Day begins with a.m. workout details (if applicable) then meals with the macros recorded to the right – CAL (calories) P (protein) C (carbs) F (fats) in grams. Then my p.m. workout details (if applicable) and total for day. Workouts are highlighted in orange, meals in yellow and daily total in green. Every 7 days I did a cumulative review tabbed in the back section of the notebook to give me a weekly ‘big picture’ of how I did, along with my thoughts of what I did good with and what I could do better on.
As you can tell, I had a very difficult time staying within my allotted daily calories/macros, though not going over too much. The hardest was keeping fats to 30g, even with the barest minimum of fats per day. I decided not to agonize over it and just stay as close as I could. I wasn’t training for a bodybuilding/figure contest so if I went over or cheated it wasn’t going to be the end of the world.
Though I made a rule only to weigh myself the first of the month, I decided to do a mid-month weigh in to see if it was making a difference. As you can read from the second weekly review above, I had lost 2.5 lbs over the course of two weeks – after having lost a total of 4 lbs between 8/1/16 and 10/3/16. While I was pleased on the surface, this told me two things: 1) I could handle additional calories/macros or 2)reduce my workout schedule. I just don’t want to lose ‘weight’ – I want to lose ‘fat’ and too much lost in a short period could signal loss of water and lean tissue along with fat. Since I was lifting weights 4-5x/week, I don’t think I’m sacrificing lean muscle, which I want to build and drink close to a gallon of water a day so I’m pretty certain that 2.5lb loss was pure fat. Still, I wanted a slow and steady loss as it would stay off better, so if I only lost 1-2 lbs per month (especially heading into the holiday season where I’d be tempted with cookies!!) that would be just fine.
Since I began on 6/1/16, weighing in at 161.5 lbs as of the writing of this blog post, I’m currently 142 lbs (after weighing in on 11/2). Here is the ‘before’ photo I posted in the linked article above, which was taken around 2 years ago when I fluctuated between 162-165 lbs:
And here are some progress photos:
And comparison between before and most recent:
Though I’m down almost 20 lbs, I still have much progress to make. I still have a good amount of body fat in my middle and covering my arms that’s hiding my weight training results. My goal is to lose another 10-15 lbs of fat and put on about 5 lbs of muscle. I’m not allowing myself to be controlled by a number on the scale, but rather my BMI (body mass index) ratio of lean muscle tissue to fat. Muscle is denser than fat and weighs more. I could lose 5 lbs of fat, but gain 5 lbs of muscle and look thinner, even though the scale shows no change. After the first of the year I want to go and have a body composition test done to see just what % of my body is muscle and fat as well as maybe consult with a trainer for a more well-rounded weight training/cardio routine to better reach my goals. Until then, it’s just myself, my concrete basement, several dumbbells and a stability ball doing the best we can on our own!
Until next time,