Monthly Archives: June 2011

Side Effects of Being Very Lean

Be careful what you wish for.

I can only speak from experience but I’m sure these symptoms are familiar to anyone who has gotten very lean, who isn’t naturally muscular.

Keep in mind that  you can get to a healthy weight and a “hard body” by cleaning up your eating habits and exercising regularly.

By very lean, I mean anyone with a decent amount of muscle mass will have a clear set of abs (the coveted six-pack), separation between every muscle group, i.e. “definition”, with a hint of veins running across each muscle and visible striations (muscle fibers) starting to appear when the muscles are contracted.

For most males, this would occur in the 10% body fat range or less (true ten percent–not by methods commonly available in most health clubs), and is the stage prior to being “ripped”.

But here are some things you’ll have to contend with as you get there:

1. Appetite

Of course, in your quest for lower body fat, you will have a strong appetite and this is to be expected. If you simply followed your whims, you’d stay where you normally are body-fat wise, which probably isn’t your ultimate goal. Hence, you need to sacrifice. Yes, it will be a pain especially on social occasions; but when you wake up looking better than you did the day before with new “cuts” (muscle separation) appearing and clothes fitting looser, you will feel on top of the world.

2. Feeling cold a lot of the time

I suspect this is either due to lack of insulation, lowered calories, or both. Whatever the cause, I noticed that in the defined state, I felt the shivers even when it was warm outside. But I would lay under blankets and wake up with veins running across the lower abdomen and quads! The only time you’re not feeling cold is when you’re training.

3. Sleep

Having trouble falling asleep can be a problem, which happens when you’re in a deficit. You want to rest from training; but your body is energetic and you have massive cravings. You just want to sleep off, but you can’t, so you lay there awake and think about food. My suggestion is to take advantage of that time to get some reading done; but try not to do anything too stimulating or involving electronic devices as you might not be able to fall asleep at all.

Conclusion

These aren’t all the side effects; but some of the major ones. Others include hitting your hip against a table really hurts, shoes don’t stay on very well, and family members think something is wrong with you because you no longer have chubby cheeks. Not trying to sound negative; just letting you know what you’re getting into should you desire to go beyond having good “shape”. I can tell you, the final results are worth it, even if you’re only able to sustain them for a very short while. Take all the pictures you can and enjoy the perks!

Restaurant Pet Peeves (Rant)

I’ll surely ruffle some feathers here and that’s okay. My family was in the food management business for a long time so I know what it’s like to be on the service side of things. Having said that, I only go to restaurants for social reasons or for an occasional indulgence but most of the time, I’d much rather head to a farmer’s market or simply fix something up at home than dine in the finest establishment.

Here’s why:

Too much ambiance

I can’t enjoy a meal when it’s too dark. Some places try to create too much atmosphere by over-dimming the lights, but plain and simple, I won’t enjoy my meal if I can’t see it and all its fine colors.

Too much/too little service

The server never seems to be there when I need him or her and always bugs me when I don’t. I know it gets busy during peak hours, but the ideal scenario would be for them to be visible and available but not ask me questions every moment I put a bite in my mouth.

Also, here’s my #1 rant about restaurants: when busboys ask if they may clear my plate from the table as they already start the process of doing so. It irks me when there’s still food on my plate and you try to take it away. What’s the rush, here? I’m paying a tip, let me relax and chill with food still on my plate. Don’t make me feel like a glutton or a cheap-o by trying to finish what’s served to me and/or get my money’s worth.

Food

Restaurants are in business to make a buck, not to improve your health or nutrition status. Sure, most places now are creating the illusion of healthy options, but most of the time it’s smaller portions of the same stuff (at nearly the same prices) or “vegetarian” i.e. meatless options where everything else is a go.

Menus are usually based on creating a “feel” and not about the real-world fact that friends come along to dine with hosts. And most of the time, I wish I had other options besides ordering a so-so salad with the dressing on the side. When I do get lucky and there is some fruit, it was usually frozen and served in a tiny portion, usually as a “dessert”.

Check, please.

The Cheat Meal

Today I’m going to explore the concept of cheat meals so that you can determine if they’re an appropriate part of your fat loss/stay lean/healthful eating plan.

What is a cheat meal?

This is usually defined as any food or mix of foods that stray from the typical dietary. It’s usually done for a psychological purpose more than a physical benefit. And it’s relative to the individual. For some, it may be a greasy, high-fat meal, and for others, it might just be a larger portion of clean, healthy carbs or simply a day off from working out.

I’m no stranger to indulging, but I never considered it “cheating”. The reason for this is that I don’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” foods. I either eat or I don’t. If I’m going to eat, I might as well choose the most optimal foods available that also serve my purpose.

And if I eat ice cream? Big deal. It’s sweet (artificially so), will deplete my body of B vitamins, and will sit in my stomach for hours, making me feel lazy instead of wanting to get up and be active.

What about the metabolic increase from cheat meals?

It’s true that your metabolic rate increases from a sudden dose of high calories, but this is never enough to actually override the calories contained in the food. Plus, any excess will cause your weight/body fat to increase, and at that point, who cares about a metabolic increase?

Final recommendation

We eat for purposes other than nourishment and that’s okay. My opinion is to rid yourself of the concept of “cheat meals” and instead adopt a healthy relationship with food for life–even if that plan includes a daily dose of chocolate mousse.

Should You Count Calories?

Both losing and maintaining bodily fat stores are active processes. I’ve practiced different dietary methods: fasting, “clean” eating, journaling, paying attention to hunger . . .

Nevertheless, calories do have the final say on your final body composition. It’s the law of thermodynamics. Yes, your body is tightly regulated in a way that can adjust up or down, but I will not discuss that here. Just know that you cannot gain [fat] without food.

With that said, there are inherent inaccuracies when applying calorie counting to the real world. For example, one organic apple may have a different density to the next. Furthermore, it’s difficult if not impossible to know exactly how many calories you expend in a day, especially because it’s varies each day.

This does not dismiss the value of calorie counting; you just have to know its limitations. At best, calorie counting gives you a good estimate. And that’s where the value lies. As long as you’re in the “ballpark”, you’re less likely to be influenced by your environment.

Therefore, do not drive yourself crazy trying to get your numbers to the nearest calorie. At best, you’ll be closest to the nearest hundred. Furthermore, you’ll never know exactly how many calories you should budget for the day; it’s a matter of trial and error.

[personal note: I set a budget of 1200 – 1700 calories a day when I’m trying to cut, at a height of 5’11].

BOTTOM LINE TIPS FOR COUNTING CALORIES:

  • Set a budget of less than 2000 calories, especially if you’re trying to cut down. Most people don’t need 2000 calories, and you must assume that for special occasions, your numbers will be way up, so you have to plan for this.
  • Use a database–a nutrition book, online resource, or phone application. My favorite websites are FitDay and CalorieKing.
  • Weighing your food using a digital food scale is the most accurate way to keep track of food intake, even in food items that come in a package. Measuring using tablespoons and cups are the second most accurate, and eyeballing portion sizes are the third most accurate.
  • Eat at restaurants that have nutrition information on their menu. Remember, it will never be accurate (that depends on the chef), but at least you’ll have an estimate.

Summer is upon us–keep it tight.