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Physique Transformation Contest: Week 1 Recap

A week ago I entered’s 12 week physique transformation contest. While not required by, I’m going to be doing weekly updates with progress pics, and a recap of all the data I’m keeping. I’ve never attempted a strict 12 week diet plan before (nor gotten much below 10% body fat) so I’m chronicling everything I can to inform any future diets I do.

So, as stated last week, here are my starting stats:

Weight: 195.0 lbs
Bodyfat*: 13.4%
LBM: 168.8 lbs
Fat mass: 26.2 lbs

Arms: 15.0″
Chest: 43.0″
Waist: 35.75″
Thigh: 23.5″

Bench: 215 x 5
Deadlift: 325  x 3
Back Squat: 255 x 5
Pull up: 240 x 5 (195 + 45 lbs)

*body fat measurement is not to be trusted; probably closer to 14-15% body fat.

Here are my basic measurements as of this morning, the 8th day since starting the competition:

Weight: 191.2 lbs (-3.8 lbs)
Bodyfat*: 12.0% (-1.4%)
LBM: 167.4 lbs (-.6 lbs)
Fat mass: 24.6 lbs (-3.2 lbs)

Arms: 15.0″ (–)
Chest: 43.0″ (–)
Waist: 34.75″ (-1 inch)
Thigh: 23.25″ (-.25 inch)

Bench: 215 x 4 (-1 rep)
Deadlift: 325  x 4 (+1 rep)
Back Squat: 255 x 5 (–)
Pull up: 240 x 5 (–)

Progress pics:


8 days, 4.5 lbs of fat loss


Side relaxed. The mirror vs non-mirrored is a trip though…

And here’s my spreadsheet:

week 1 nutrition week1 measurments

So far, things looks great. I’m pleased with the visual progress, and if the numbers are anything close to accurate then I’m doing well. The single least accurate variable I’ve collected is the BF measurement since that’s using bioimpedance, as the numbers can swing wildly based on how much water I’m holding, food in my gut, and a number of other factors. Still, 3.2 lbs of fat loss and only .6lbs is fantastic, and that’s a ratio of 1lb muscle lost for every 6.67 lbs of fat, or roughly 15% LBM loss and 85% fat loss.

Some interesting observations:

Actual fat loss vs fat loss on paper

According to my net weekly cals, I was -3560 cals which is almost exactly equal to 1 pound of fat [LINK]. Yet the scale says I lost 3.2 lbs of fat. My guess is the truth lies somewhere in the middle, probably around 2-2.5 lbs of fat lost. It’s just interesting to note the potential difference between fat loss on paper and real life fat loss, especially while following a leangains style program during a body recomposition phase.

I under ate the first 2 days

Admittedly the first 2-3 days I was winging things as I developed my workout & diet plan, and so I didn’t log my foods or track calories until day 3. When I went back and tracked the first 2 days (both workout days) I realized I’d eaten too few calories, particularly carbs. If I lost any LBM in the first week, it was likely during these first few days. Even though I only hit my caloric surplus on 1 workout day: super bowl sunday. I can do better on this next week.

For reference, on strength training days I’m supposed to eat: 3300 calories (+10% surplus), 100g fat, 225g protein, 350g carbs, with all those carbs consumed during or after training.

Feeding window times

I’m more or less following the leangains cutting protocol [LINK], which means I should be eating all my food in an 8 hour window. I’ve set my window to be from about 1:00/2:00 PM until 9:00/10:00 PM. The first 3 days (tues, weds, thurs) I was right on – more or less 8:00 hours on the dot. But then the next 3 days (fri, sat, sun) I was consistently 2+ over. All these feeding windows started on time between 1:00-2:00 PM but I ate later at night since it was the weekend and I was out with friends. Super bowl sunday was my biggest day of eating so far (+34% surplus), and I ate some leftover snacks at 1:00 AM. For shame!!

Actually, I’m not too concerned about it, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was 12% under my calories the day before. +34% over for one day averages out to around +15% both days. And I had been spot on the 3 days before that.
  2. I went right back to low carb, -30% deficit, and a metabolic sprint workout the next day to burn the FFAs before they got stored.
  3. It’s life. It was the super bowl, I’m from san francisco, no way I’m not enjoying myself a bit. Eating a bit dirty 10% of the time won’t ruin the progress made the other 90% of the time.

Sleep troubles

I’ve got to confess – I’m a terrible sleeper. Not one night did I get a full 8 hours; in fact I only averaged 6 and a half hours per night. Historically I operate fine on 6-7 hours of sleep, I just want a full 8 hours for physical benefits of enhanced recovery and all the beneficial fat loss hormones released during sleep.

I’m usually awake by around 7-8 AM, which means I’ve been going to bed around 1 AM, sometimes later. For week 2 I’ll make a point to get to bed by midnight and see if I can get those 6-7 hours a night up to 7-8 hours.

Confounding variables

Here’s a short list of some of the confounds to this journal to keep in mind when viewing my results:

  1. Body fat measurement – As stated above, this is the least accurate data point, and it is a rather crucial number for determing how much weight lost is LBM vs. fat mass. In the future weeks I may look more at the average body fat reading over a week so iron out day-to-day inconsistencies. Unfortunately, this won’t help get a more absolute sense of my body fat and I don’t have the means to test any other way.
  2. Carb cycling – I’m following a natural carb backloading style diet, where I consume <30 grams of carbs on off + sprint days and 300+ grams of carbs on weightlifting days. Since carbs pull water into muscle [LINK] this can drastically affect my weight from day to day (this can be seen in my weigh-ins the day after my high carb days). This will further confound how much weight lost each week is fat, vs LBM, vs. simple water/glycogen.
  3. Weight loss at start of dieting – in line with the above point, a lot of people experience natural weight fluctuations the first week of any diet due to glycogen & water storage, food in the gut, and general hydration levels.
  4. Pictures not consistent – As you probably noticed, I used a different location (which has different lighting) than my 1st week pictures. Unfortunately I can’t always find someone to snap a few pics of me when I wake up at 7:00 AM, so everything but my Week 1 & Week 12 pics will be self-shot by me in the mirror. So at least weeks 2-3 and beyond will be consistent.

On to Week 2 of my physique transformation…

Week 2 might as well be my first REAL week… I’m now tracking everything, on a set total physique transformation and body recomposition plan [LINK], and hopefully away from some of the swingy things that can happen to your weight in the first week of dieting.

See you next time!

My Weight Loss and Physique Transformation

The past 3 months have been pretty rough for me. Financially, I went deep into debt. Emotionally, I got dumped. And physically, I gained 15lbs of (mostly) fat. I mean, I get a little winded just from running up the 16 stairs in my house.

More than any of that, what has been most upsetting (or SHOULD be the most upsetting) to me has been that, since the start of the new year, I’ve become indifferent. Now, getting into the 6-7% bodyfat range has been a physique goal of mine I’ve fought for but never realized in my 4 years of strength training experience. And in those 4 years, every time I get off track – whether for a day or a week – I always jump back up and get right back on a program.

And for the first time ever, in 2013 I stopped caring. I know because I put on the typical 3-5 holiday pounds I put on every year, but come new years resolutions time, I just didn’t have it in me to get fired up and demand change from myself. I was slipping into habits of laziness, apathy, greed, and routine. I was growing complacent with my shitty little place in life.

Instead of looking for ways to improve my situation, I simply looked for quick escapes from reality. Alcohol, weed, TV, video games, porn, you name it. Things got so bad that I didn’t even look forward to going to the gym anymore, and weight lifting is one of the foundations of my life. This all went on for the better part of a month.

And then, on January 29th, I’d had enough. I’m not sure what really clicked in my brain. There wasn’t any lightning bolt of inspiration, or some dramatic moment where I decided to turn everything around. I just realized that, above anything else, I wanted my life to move toward purpose and meaning.

So while brainstorming on how to do that, I kept coming back to one area of my life: my love for fitness, nutrition, working out, and helping other people. I know my future belongs in this area – helping people become healthy and achieve their fullest potential. My life needed a transformation in a big way.

I also knew that, in order to help others realize their goals, I would have to realize my own first. After all, if I talk the talk but fail to walk the walk, then I’m just another internet marketer claiming to be a “weight loss guru.” I knew I needed 3 things:

  1. A goal
  2. Motivation
  3. Accountability to that goal

And it just so happened, as I was looking for something to motivate me, I came across’s physique transformation challenge.

The Physique Transformation Challenge

The challenge is a 12 week physical transformation challenge with 2 categories: Lean (weight loss) and Mean (muscle building). Winners in each category get $50,000 and an exclusive photoshoot with other veterans. Sounds like a great way to bust onto the personal training scene to me!

Since my goal is 6% bodyfat I signed up for the ‘lean’ competition. Looking at winners from last year I need to get down to roughly 6-7% bodyfat while retaining as much lean mass as possible. The contest is also judged mostly on before/after photos, but I’ll also be keeping detailed track of all my other metrics in case that helps the judges make a decision.

Halid Shokunbi - 2012 physique transformation winner

Halid Shokunbi – 2012 physique transformation winner

And thank god I decided to start my physique transformation when I did – 2 more days and I would have been excluded from the competition!

My Physique Transformation: Before

Okay, so here’s my starting numbers. I’ll do a full writeup for my after numbers, and a comparison of all the relevant stats I can get.

Starting numbers and stats:

Weight: 195.0 lbs
Bodyfat*: 13.0%
LBM: 169.65 lbs
Fat mass: 25.35 lbs

Arms: 15.0″
Chest: 43.0″
Waist: 35.75″
Thigh: 23.5″

Bench: 215 x 5
Deadlift: 325  x 3
Back Squat: 255 x 5
Pull up: 240 x 5 (195 + 45 lbs)

*Body fat measurements are from a standard bioimpedance scale, so the numbers should not be considered accurate in the absolute sense. Rather, they’re meant to give a general sense of if the measurement is going down or up over time. I’d be willing to bet I’m closer to 14-15% bodyfat based on my before pics.

My goals for the bodybuilding physique transformation contest are to end the thing at ~185lbs and 6% bodyfat, which would mean I need to lose ~14lbs of fat (more if my body fat is closer to 15% than 13%) and gain ~5 lbs of muscle over the next 12 weeks. That’s around 1lb/week of fat loss and 1lb/3 weeks of muscle gain. Those may seem like pretty big numbers, but they shouldn’t be too drastic.

Before pics

To be uploaded tonight – 2/6/2013

Other tracking

I’m writing this post several days after starting the competition, but I’m also planning to log several other important variables to see where I’m doing well, and where I’m falling short. I’ll be doing a weekly writeup and check in with all the stats from the week, and a summary of how things are going. Oh, and – progress pics! Anyways, here are the stats I’ll be tracking:

  • Weight + Body fat percent
  • Total macronutrient intake
  • Calories in, calories out, and estimated caloric deficit
  • Feeding window start/stop times (I’ll be intermittent fasting)
  • Total hrs of sleep (for a better picture of overall recovery)

Here’s the full version of my workout and diet plan, down to the nitty gritty details of how I’m going to get to 185 pounds at 6% bodyfat.

My Minimalist Lifestyle Experiment – Week 1

There’s a quote by Bruce Lee (and I’m paraphrasing here because Google is failing me) that goes:

“Your mind is like a cup, and the liquid it is filled with represents your accumulated knowledge. If you wish to learn from me you must first empty your mind and make it open to new ideas.”

As outlined yesterday, I have a rather aggressive list of personal changes and habits I’d like to develop over the next year. The only way I’m going to be able to make those changes and find time for those habits is by first simplifying and eliminating my current lifestyle. I know I’m wasting a lot of my time, energy, and money on things that aren’t ultimately making me happy. If I can eliminate the waste and focus those resources on the things that really matter, then it stands to reason I could accomplish a lot over the next year.

Cleaning out the Clutter

As for physical possessions, I know having a lot of stuff inevitably leads to a lot of daily clutter. When you accumulate more and more stuff, no matter how often you clean and reorganize, you’ll always have overflowing clutter. And for me, having a room full of clutter is like having a computer that’s RAM is full with random programs and applications. There’s just no room to organize new thoughts or ideas when my physical space is filled with clutter.

My plan is to simply do a 15 minute house sweep each night before I go to bed. This routine will be right before I brush my teeth and get to sleep. My plan is to just sweep the living areas for any mess I made, put dishes away etc. Then I’ll make sure all my clean and dirty clothes are away and my desk is clean and organized. If I have any extra time, I’ll pick a random part of my room (a drawer, a closet etc) and go through and make sure it’s still organized.

Taking this idea a step further, when you have too many low-priority tasks cluttering up your headspace it can drastically affect your efficiency. Things such as bills to be paid, dishes to be cleaned, phone calls to be returned, or chores to finish might not seem like a lot individually, but once they start adding up they can severely bog down your mental systems and smash your productivity. I’ll begin each day with a solid 30-60 minute chunkj of time where I eliminate any quick daily tasks I have to get done in an attempt to keep mental clutter to a minimum.

This way I’m creating 2 habits for simplicity – being productive first thing in the morning, and doing a sweep for clutter before I go to sleep. I like the idea of starting and ending my day on an efficient note =)

But first, the fun part. Gutting my current lifestyle with a butcher knife and getting rid of all the fatty excess I’ve layered on over the years.

My Minimalist Lifestyle Regimen

So the whole point of a minimalist lifestyle is not to get rid of stuff simply for the sake of getting rid of stuff, but to get rid of stuff to focus on the things that matter most to you. So a good place to start would be: what are the things that matter most to me?

Well here’s a short list:

  • Being healthy, mobile, and physically strong. Basically, to never be limited by physical ability.
  • Having the financial freedom to travel and really experience life, without worrying about debt or a set-in-stone career.
  • A close circle of true friends I can rely on when times get tough. No drama, no leeches, no fakeness.
  • Having the energy and freedom to pursue my passions after a day of taking care of responsibilities. Not being tied down to my lifestyle.

So I’m going to break the next month into a few blocks to really focus on eliminating the excess. From there I’m going to evaluate my goals to pick the 1-2 goals that matter most, and then apply the concepts of minimalism to my budget and also my social life to round the month off.

By the end of this week here is what I will have gone through EVERYthing I own – from decorations to household items to gadgets and luxury items. The criteria for all my stuff is as follows:

  1. You may keep only the most precious items. Everything else is to be either donated, sold, or thrown away.
  2. You may only keep stuff you have used in the past 3 months. Seasonal items considered on an individual basis.
  3. You may keep only 1 item with a specific function (1 knife, 1 desk lamp etc).

And that’s it. I will be taking before/after photos and tracking how much money I can make from selling extra stuff I find during my purge.. I’ll also list some of the more unusual or interesting items I come across in my cleaning.

I’ll be back Sunday night with an update of everything.

Other minimalist lifestyle resources:

Becoming Minimalist

Minimalist Life


The Minimalistas

Reddit Minimalism


Zen Habits


52 Weeks to Awesome: My Year-Long Lifestyle Experiment

Here we are, a full 3 weeks into the new year. Resolutions are full-swing, gyms are experiencing their peak of new member enrollment, and generally everyone pats themselves on the back and feels good for a few weeks until going back to their normal routine for the remaining 11 months of the year. And this is why new years comes under a lot of flak by personal development gurus:

“If you really want to make a change in your life, you shouldn’t need a big day like new years to motivate you to make those changes. Any day is a good day to begin making yourself a better person.”

And that’s a great point – if you want to make yourself better why not start RIGHT NOW – don’t wait til tomorrow, don’t even wait another hour. That said, I think those gurus can step off their high horse a bit. Yeah sure, you shouldn’t need a big anniversary to kick-start your personal development but let’s face it: days like New Years or another birthday always serve as a good time to check in on your long-term goals and see how you’re progressing.

The trick is to actually stick with your resolutions and goals. Ironically, even though we’re just 3 weeks into 2013, I’d wager a solid 30-40% of people that made new years resolutions have already given up, forgotten, or somehow compromised their resolutions (after doing a bit of reseach I’m not far off – only 45% of people stick with resolutions past the first 6 months).Continue Reading

Life Lessons from Groundhog Day

I have a confession to make… I just watched Groundhog Day for the first time. Shameful, I know.

Groundhog Day is a classic Bill Murray comedy from the early 90′s. Without giving too much of the plot away, Bill Murray plays a cynical TV weatherman covering the annual groundhog day festival in Punxsutawney, PA. However he find that when he goes to sleep, he repeatedly wakes up at 6:00 AM on groundhog day in his hotel room. He keeps reliving the same day over and over again – for upwards of 10,000 years. He eventually learns to develop himself and becomes a master pianist, ice sculptor, and fluent in french.

Bill Murray is a true modern bachelor:

After watching the movie I was talking it over with some of my buddies and we all kept debating “what would you learn to do if you could keep reliving the same day over and over?” And then we’d talk about all the awesome skills we’d acquire or things we’d try.

But one scene in the movie really stuck out for me, early on when Bill Murray is drunkenly talking it over with 2 rednecks. He says:

“You ever get that feeling you’re living the same day over and over again and nothing you ever do matters?”

To which one of the rednecks replies:

“Pretty much sums it up for me.”

Well, shit. That hits pretty close to home. I know that feeling, and I know a lot of guys that have the feeling, that you’re endlessly toiling away every day without making any real progress, and it feels like each day that passes by and you’re barely closer to your goals and dreams, if at all.

Everyone talks about Bill Murray in Groundhog Day like it’d be some fun alternate reality to live out. What no one ever takes into account is that his story is very real, and extremely applicable to all of us.

The magical 10,000 number

Harold Ramis, the director of Groundhog Day, has stated that Bill Murray relives the same day for around 10,000 years. So that may be a bit longer than most of us can afford to spend. I like to rethink it in terms of I have 10,000 days, or roughly 27 years to really improve myself and be as awesome as possible.

27 years is actually a good number for most of you reading this blog. I assume you’re in your mid 20′s, and I’m 23 at the time of writing so 27 years from now I’ll be an even 50. That’s a lot of time to make myself into the most badass version of me possible.

I recently read another statistic I really like – 30 minutes a day of working on a skill equates to 3 weeks of total time spent per year. This statistic can be great for eliminating distractions. 30 minutes of  Reddit/Facebook a day? It’s much easier to cut that out when you realize that 3 weeks our of your year gone.

On the flip side of the coin, spending 30 minutes a day to learn a new skill will get you 3 weeks of solid practice a year. An hour a day will equate to 6 weeks. Think about it.

If your goal is to be fit and healthy, spend an hour per day lifting, doing some cardiovascular work, or stretching/foam rolling. You could learn a new martial art. 30-60 minutes per day studying a new language will get you to basic proficiency in a year. You can also start learning a musical instrument or teaching yourself to dance with youtube videos.

Want to be better with women? Go out to a  public place and just be social with everyone you see for an hour every day. Or more classically there’s intensive methods like the ‘newbie challenge’ where you make a point to approach & talk to a minimum of 5 girls/day.

The point is, repeated practice works. There’s no shortcut for time spent mastering a skill. Keeping on-theme with this section, you’ve probably also heard of the 10,000 hour rule. The basic gist is it takes roughly 10,000 hours practicing your craft to become a true expert. This fits right in with the 27 year outline – an hour a day of practice means you can claim true mastery of a new skill by age 50 – if you start today.

That may seem like a long time, but remember the 10,000 hour rule is for true mastery. I would argue every 1,000 hours learning a skill has diminishing returns. That is, you get maybe 50% proficient with the first 1,000 hours you spend, and then after 2,000 hours maybe you’re 70% proficient etc (I’m totally pulling these numbers out of my ass to illustrate a point).

So what does that actually mean? 30 minutes a day for 3-4 years will get you quite far in learning a new skill. And it’s easy to set 1-2 hours aside each day for personal development & learning new skills.

Right now I spend about 1 hr/day doing physical activity, 30 minutes/day reading about fitness & personal development, and 30 minutes learning portuguese. I also train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but I wrap that in with general physical activity.

After watching Groundhog Day I’m tempted to work in playing piano (a longtime goal of mine) or learning to breakdance & shuffle. 30 minutes a day really isn’t that bad, especially when you want something.

So why do people keep on living like the core premise of Groundhog Day isn’t attainable? The truth is most people essentially do live the same day 10,000 times without realizing what they missed out on. I don’t want to wake up at 50 and wonder what happened to my life and all the things I wanted to do and skills I wanted to master.

And it all starts today, right now. Figure out the 2-3 most important skills you’d like to learn and set up a plan right now to start logging your hours and making yourself a better person. Really, go do it. Right now.