When the cravings hit….

Photo Creds: Michelle Shih

Photo Creds: Michelle Shih

“You aren’t dumb. You know what’s good and what’s bad for you. You can’t live in denial and trick your physique.”

“Your body is going to be screaming for calories both good and bad, and you need to keep stuffing only good ones into it until it finally shuts up.”

My custom engraved bodybuilding.com ring reminds me to not just start something… but to finish something. Here’s to some midweek motivation to keep me through the temptation of restaurant week. Shoutout to my best friend who’s staying strong and resisting the hot cheetos.

Thank you Kris Gethin… can’t wait for your 12 week Muscle-Building Trainer when I’m finally ready to bulk!

How I packed my meals in 15 minutes

My first meeting of the day starts at 8 AM tomorrow and my last one ends anywhere between 7-8 PM. That’s before I have to go home, go to the gym, and get ready for another day of meetings after that. I’m not too thrilled.

I just got home from my last meeting about 30 minutes, and in the time I got home, got settled, and started writing this post… I also packed all my meals, breakfast, two lunches, and my dinners for tomorrow. Within my macros.

For the synopsis, head on over to my food log for January 20, 2015 and check out what I’m planning on eating for the day.

For the slightly longer version: THANK YOU COSTCO.

My meals consist of microwavable oatmeal that I can bring to work in case I run late in the morning, and a 4 oz. serving of smoked salmon. It’s a little higher in sodium than I’d usually opt for, but I figured I deserved a treat if I’m gonna stay sane throughout the day.

My first lunch of the day involves some pre-sliced steak and refrigerated (from Costco), frozen broccoli (from Costco) that I threw into a tupperware, and half a container of microwavable brown rice (from Costco).  Get the trend? The steak I’ll be eating cold like some cold cut, with my broccoli and microwavable brown rice which will heat up and finish cooking in the microwave tomorrow.

My second meal consists of Kirkland pre-cooked chicken breasts that I’ll eat on my drive from meeting to meeting, along with broccoli that I will heat up and eat along the way.

Because I’m buying everything in bulk… nothing is too pricey and I’m still spending less money than I normally would eating out all of my meals.

I also brought a MusclePharm Combat Bar to hold me over in case I want a snack somewhere in there  and I also planned for my 2 daily shakes intra- and post-workout.

Because I knew I’d be home late, and I’d have to sleep early so I could get up early tomorrow, I was grateful for the stock of food I kept in the pantry/refrigerator. Food that rarely goes bad. This saved me a ton of time.

Granted, my sodium level is a little overboard, and this isn’t the most balanced/fresh meals I could be eating, I’d rather compromise with some pre-packaged but clean meals, than eating out when I don’t need to.

Perhaps my biggest tip for the day is entering my “planned” meals the night before when I pack my meals… That way I know how much I can pack for and plan for any meals that I’ll be eating out.

Being busy isn’t an excuse. Working isn’t an excuse. Plan ahead and you will prevail. If there is a will, there is a way. I found my way to fit fitness into my life, how do you do it?

Taking a moment to give a huge shout out to Kris Gethin. He continue’s to be my motivation and teacher. Check out his new line of supplements and his website as well at: http://kagedmuscle.com.

I even got some advice from him today… Thanks Kris!

In the meantime, check out my instagram for some diet food inspirations and updates from my life!

Fitting friends into fitness

When I first started going to the gym, I was afraid I would have to sacrifice even more of the scarce amount of time I had to spend with my friends. I knew I’d be able to schedule the occasional “group” workouts, but I knew that my gym and meal prep time would cut into my personal life.

What made things worse was that I never did well working out with other people — when plans would go wrong, I’d feel less compelled to complete my workout. It didn’t help that all my close friends lived at least 20 minutes away from me.

It’s not impossible, however to make it work. A few months into this journey, I’m glad to say that I’ve been able to inspire a few other people in my life to eat better, start exercising, or simply finding a new them. Being their inspiration consistently motivates me.

My best friend, Jerry, recently told me how he wanted to make a change like I did. He got a gym membership, started a Bodyspace, and started asking me about foods to eat and good protein powders. I encouraged him to start easy, eat clean, and try the delicious cookies and cream combat powder from MusclePharm that’s available from Costco. We were both happy when we found out that it was on sale for 35 for a 5 lb tub, down from the original cost of $44.

We went back to my place and I showed him proper form for his first chest day ever. He was so intimidated by the idea of a bench press that he started his warm up with 10 lb dumbbells. He ended up realizing he could press 50. We both ended up with a great chest day, although he claimed his triceps were so sore he had issues moving them when we started cooking.

I wanted to teach him how easy it was to make food that was not only good for you, but food that tasted great. We had a lean “cut” meal including steak, smashed cauliflower, and steamed broccoli under an hour.

Nights like this make me realize that it’s not impossible to fit friends into fitness… Having my buddy on a bench next to me gave me the motivation I needed to push hard even after a long day at work. His reaction to beta-alanine was also hilarious. Tell me, how do you fit friends into fitness? I’d love to hear from y’all!

Planning Ahead

A lot of people always talk about how its too hard to fit eating healthy into their busy lifestyles. I don’t claim to be the busiest of my friends. But I do keep pretty busy. Two assistantships, volunteering as a advisor in my fraternity, and being a part of my professional associations are only the “job” parts of my life. I have to find time to do homework, apply for internship, attend my graduate school full time, and somehow live my life. Ok so maybe I’m a little busy. But I’m not here to brag about schedules and trust me when I say no matter how busy you are, you can fit fitness into your life. You just need two simple words in your life:

Plan ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely understand that if you’re stranded at the airport and you got snowed in for 3 days and you’re all out of packed snacks and foods, it’s ok to visit the different stores and restaurants and test out your options. But for the most part, you can plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.

I’m currently in the middle of Palomar Mountains at the Palomar Christian Conference Center for a weekend retreat I planned with my Greek Life team. The retreat will last until Sunday around noon and all our meals are being prepared. I’ll be far up a mountain without my own form of transportation and eating at the cafeteria. I’m pretty much stuck right? Wrong.

I’ve packed all my supplements in a pill container so I don’t miss a single supp. I have ziplock bags of pre-measured protein powders so I can still hit my macros. I brought beef jerky and my favorite protein bars from MusclePharm that I ordered from bodybuilding.com ($29.88 for 12 at the time of this post), dried seaweed, and dates to cover all my bases between flavors and textures. I also plan on eating primarily proteins and focusing less on the carb-heavy foods, limiting myself to 1 full plate at the buffet. I planned ahead.

My workout routine was shifted so I have two rest days between today and tomorrow, and when I return tomorrow I can finish up with Back, Biceps, and Abs on day 42 of Kris Gethin’s 12 week daily video trainer. While I’m up here, I plan on taking power walks during my break time when I’m exploring the scenery of the conference center to make sure I hit my 10,000 step goal.

In fact, I even made an effort to make sure this blogpost was planned out. Wednesday night, a friend, whom I had not talked to in a few years, sent me some words of encouragement, reminding me that there would always be obstacles in this process. It made me think about how I could do my best to… you guessed it… plan ahead. I sat down and proceeded to write out my blog post, setting the publish date to “Friday, January 9 at 6:00 PM”.

So yes, this post was written 3 days ago. Writing as if I were 3 days ahead was (is?) weird, and took (is taking….?) way too much proofreading (I guess thats why we don’t do it).

My bad symbolic gestures aside, my point is that my friend was correct in saying that obstacles would come up and it would be hard to overcome them each time… Instead of being afraid of challenges and failure, you have to embrace the ambiguity and do your best and plan for the best. I treat my workouts and meal prep like every other meeting and engagement — it’s an event in my calendar. I make sure to plan ahead.

If you think of being fit as an added “something else” to your life, it will be hard. But plan ahead and making it part of your life will make it seem effortless that much easier to incorporate into your everyday living.

My “Diet”

The word “diet” is another one of those words that have started gaining a negative connotation with regards to fitness. This is one of those cases that I can actually agree with. Dieting such that you’re body is subjected to abnormally low amounts of fats or carbs might be effective in the short term but tend to have little to no long term results and a bounce-back effect when you come off the diet. That is, when you end your special food program, your body thinks it just underwent starvation, and begins to store large amounts of whatever macronutrient you deprived it of. No Bueno.

Ironically, the origin of the word diet was from diete, diaeta, or diaita (Middle English, Anglo-French, and Greek) all revolving the the manner of living. The word diet was intended to describe how one ate or drank, and is the summation of the foods that one consumes.

Thus, while I do watch my diet and critically evaluate what I eat, I don’t believe in fad diets.

At the end of the day, a net calorie loss equals weight loss, and a net calorie surprise equals weight gained. Whether it be fat, or muscle, that depends on what is complimenting your lifestyle at the time.

I utilize MyFitnessPal (join me @itsboomie) to count how much calories I eat. I’ve found that this helps me understand the overall amount of food I’m eating. To help compliment my specific fitness goals, I also consider my macronutrients or my “macros”. In many ways, just like how your weight is only a part of the bigger picture, your overall caloric intake can mean many things. Each gram of fat you eat is 9 calories and each gram of protein and carbs is 4 calories each.

I’ve found that by watching my macros, I’m able to effectively evaluate how much I’m eating. Bodybuilding.com wrote an excellent article on how much protein someone should be ingesting, especially when attempting to build muscle mass. The article supported the 1 gram per pound bodyweight of protein that is commonly suggested. This equals about 50% of my total caloric intake. I then split the remainder of my carbohydrates and fats 3:2.  MyFitnessPal (under the Goals settings) allows for you to input these goals and helps me watch my macros as I eat throughout the day.

That said, just because I can eat up to a certain amount of a certain macronutrient, doesn’t mean I go crazy. For my carbohydrate and fat goals, I am for fiber-rich carbohydrates and unsaturated good-fats through broccoli and avocado oil. I supplement my diet with 2 double-scoop protein shakes a day, one post-workout, and one before bed. This makes up 100 g, close to 50% of my protein intake. Without it, hitting 50% is difficult for me. My day to day food menu changes with whatever I want to eat and whatever I crave, so long as I hit my goal.

This allows me to indulge in the occasional chips and salsa when I’m at a holiday party, and gives me the freedom to make my diet… mine.

The concept of macro-watching only makes up a small element of “my diet” but is probably the most foundational piece. By watching my macros and calories at the same time, I’m allowed a great amount of flexibility while achieving my fitness goals.

Every person reacts differently to a diet. At the end of the day, it really depends on what works for you. I’ve found that my body adapts well to the commonly used 50:30:20 protein:carbs:fats and I’ve stuck with it. There are a lot of different opinions on dieting, but at the end of the day, this is whats worked for me.

How Bodybuilding.com keeps me going

I’m currently training on Kris Gethin’s 12 Week Daily Video Trainer. The entire daily video trainer includes daily videos on the workouts, printable plans, a PDF of the 12 week schedule and more. With a free Bodybuilding.com account, you can get email reminders, subscribe to a calendar, or have the workout applied to the Bodyspace app on your phone so you can track your workouts at the gym.

I’m an avid user of the printed calendar, calendar subscription feature, and Bodyspace app. Every day after my workout (or at the end of a rest day) I cross the day off with a highlighter. The small little checkmark becomes part of my positive reinforcement. Seeing the 12 weeks fill up in blue highlighter makes 84 days seem manageable. I like having the at-a-glance view so I know what body part I can plan to workout next. The calendar subscription gives me the freedom to plan my life around certain workouts that I know I’ll want to spend more time on, and each calendar event actually contains a link to the full workout so I always can plan my workouts ahead of time. The Bodyspace app not only acts as an excellent tracker at the gym, but also provides a weekly recap on how I performed as well as useful information such as my one-rep max and a log of how much I’m lifting.

Having such a tangible connection to the Bodyspace community at Bodybuilding.com has been essential to my success and huge foundations to the progress I’ve made thus far. I highly encourage you to check out some programs and get plugged into the community. Add me on Bodyspace @john10142001. I hope to see you there!

Why your weight matters (and it should)

The scale is someone that almost every household owns. Even for those who don’t own a scale, they’ve been measured at a doctors visit, and more than likely have a rough ballpark of how much they weigh. Most people have an awareness of the concept of weight. Yet, the topic of weight is oh so very sensitive. It’s taboo to ask someone else “how much do you weigh”. In fact, if I walked down the street and started asking people “Hey, nice to meet you, I’m John. How much do you weigh” I wouldn’t be surprised if I got slapped at some point…

Well, I’m not a psychologist (I don’t care if I got my bachelors in that…) so I’m not going to even attempt talking about why it matters so much to people, and whether its because of pride or self-consciousness. I’m also not going to attempt to dive into why your weight might matter on a level of physiological health as I’m sure you can probably go to your doctor and get a whole lecture on it.

What I do want to attempt to delve into is the societal constructs that have been established around weight and more specifically, metrics.

Our entire lives revolve around the utilization of metrics as indicator of performance. We grow up in an education system where a single letter becomes representative of our grueling efforts across the span of months. We proceed to take “standardized tests” that become representative of our learning across years at a time. When we shop read reviews on amazon, find restaurants on yelp, or even look at car ratings, everything is on a scale of 1-5 stars. Metrics run our lives.

That being said, I will use metrics as a way of explaining why my weight matters to me, and why it should. You see, my weight is an excellent indicator of my progress. I was nearing 230 lbs when I first started my weight loss journey, with a minimal amount of lean muscle (with the exception of my lower body that had to trek through the UC San Diego campus for 4 years). For me, there was little weight gain that could occur when I started losing weight from muscle mass increase. If anything, my “weight loss” would just seem slower. But I also weighted nearly 230 lbs.

Just like how a grade might be reflective of your overall performance, but doesn’t tell you the big picture, your weight is not always going to be a good indicator of how “fit” you are. For example, a 5’10, 190 lb man who doesn’t stay active, and has a high amount of body fat (say 20% or above), compared a 5’10 190 lb man body builder who is at 7% body fat technically weigh the same, but have very different body composition. For the individual who doesn’t stay active, his weight loss might seem slow or inconsistent at first, since his body is rapidly building muscle, especially if his program involves high amounts of strength training. For the individual who is around 7% body fat, however, his goal in getting “fitter” is to put on more weight and increasing in muscle mass.

This leads me to my point — weight is a metric that can provide useful information. Weight loss, however, shouldn’t always be the goal. A good metric I like to utilize instead of weight loss, is body fat percent loss. By measuring body fat percentage, you get an adequate sense of how much fat your body is composed of, thus providing useful information about how lean you are. Unfortunately, accurate body fat measurements are hard to come by. I’ve found that by utilizing the same scale, I can generally get a trend of my body fat composition. Even if I can’t get an accurate body fat percentage point, I can see an overall trend in my body fat composition.

At the same time, my weight matters to me because it helps me with my motivation. I like seeing that something is working, and I like knowing that progress is being made in a very tangible way. But I know eventually, I’ll be able to rely on my weight less and less, especially with the high amounts of strength training I’m doing.

On the days where my weight patterns seem a little off, I have to remember that weight is supposed to fluctuate, and it’s the bigger picture that matters. My Withings smart scale helps me with the bigger picture by charting everything on a graph. I’ve included a link at the top of this site so you can follow along if you’re curious.
On the days where my weight pattern might not read how I want it to or my weight isn’t sitting at the number I want it to, I remind myself what my weight means to me. I take a look in the mirror and remind myself the progress I’ve made–the progress that I can continue to make.

Now onto the topic of how weight is such a sensitive topic for people? You can ask me any day of the week and I’ll tell you. Hell, I’ve posted my progress above for everyone to see for themselves. I share my weight and I’m proud, because even though that metric might not have the same meaning for the person asking, I know that my weight is the result of the hard work I’ve put in for the past 6 months.

Injury and Commitment

A lot of my fitness journey has revolved around the theme of commitment. Commitment is a funny word. It’s etymology involves the word “com” – together, “mittere” – to put, or send” and the suffix “ment”-the result or product of an action. The result of putting or giving a togetherness, or persistence. The history of the word commitment dates back to the 1600s. But, alas, I digress and I am definitely not a history buff.

I can promise you that this will be far from my last entry on commitment, but I hope it’s a decent first.

Perhaps what is so striking about this word is its emphasis on persistence and persevering. In many ways, I see commitment as being result to determination–determination being the result of one’s free will, and commitment being a result of said free will. They are, however not the same thing.

Determination comes from within. Determination is your own free will. Your dedication towards a vision.

Commitment is scary. Commitment is ambiguous. Commitment is vague. Commitment requires courage.

Kris Gethin has played a tremendous role in my fitness journey. This journey has been far from smooth sailing. He told us that we had to push ourselves, and if I didn’t get the results I wanted, I had no one to blame but myself. I had become brainwashed that my commitment to my success would be a result of pushing limits. I, of course, didn’t know where my limits were and mistakenly equated pushing my limits to mindlessly adding more weights onto my exercises. As a result, I ended up with a minor rotary cuff injury– partially dislocating my left shoulder (which I idiotically relocated on my own in the moment).

I realized I had to take time away for the gym; I did this with two reasons in mind. I knew that I had to give my body time to recover, but I was also afraid of more injury, and ultimately, failure. I was afraid that this would be the tipping point, where I would give up again. That this would become another failed attempt at fitness.

The two weeks seemed long. I missed the gym. The constant “soreness” I felt the 2 days succeeding a workout. The routine that I had established in my life. In this time, I started letting loose. My diet was out of sorts. Nothing was being tracked. I was upset that my “free time” from school and work, was wasted since I couldn’t spend it in the gym. Because of this shakeup in my routine, I lost sight of my vision. lost my determination.

It was in this process, however, that I had time to reflect. I came to realize that pushing your limits is no different from activism, at least how my wise, wise mentor chose to explain activism to me. She said “Activism isn’t mindlessly breaking the law or making people uncomfortable. Activism is knowing where the line is, and deliberately choosing when, where, and how the line is being crossed.” I drew the comparisons and realized that I couldn’t “push my limits” if I never knew where these limits where in the first place.

It was in this process, that I realized that failure wasn’t the answer. Failure would be the result of my lack of commitment. My success had to come from my commitment, and I had to rediscover my determination to be committed.

This week was my first week back in the gym. It started with me picking up the week I left off in Kris Gethin’s 12 week Daily Video Trainer from Bodybuilding.com. It was leg day (day 28). I knew I would make it through this day. I was, however, scared for my shoulder workout (day 32) that week. I was afraid that I would injure myself again. I was afraid of failure.

Today, I can proudly say that I finished one of my best chest and triceps workouts (day 33) with this program, the day immediately following the shoulder workout (day 32). My shoulders felt slightly sore, but not in an injury capacity. It was the feeling that I missed during the two weeks I was away from the gym. I realized that in finding my determination again, I had conquered fear. I had conquered failure.

Every day is still a challenge. It doesn’t get easier, and it only feels like an uphill battle that never steadies off on some days. But it is these small moments of success, the exhaustion after a solid workout, that ironically pushes me to continue forward. In doing so, I can proudly say that I have stayed committed to my success.

Remember, commitment is scary, especially when your goal seems so broad and far away. There will always be moments in your life when you want to just sit down from this uphill hike. There will always be the rocky times when you want to “take a break”, or try to find an easier path. At the end of the day, you need to find your small trophies of success to push yourself forward. For me, its feeling like I completely obliterated a muscle group after a hard workout (I swear that’s Kris’ favorite word… follow his workout and see if you disagree with me) or the soreness that ensues for the next 2 days. For some, its watching the scale and noticing a downward trend. For others who are further along, it might be seeing a increase in mass via a measuring tape.

Somedays, you might just need someone to tell you verbally: “you look good” or “great job, keep it up”. That doesn’t make you shallow, as long as you don’t dwell on the physical aspects of the statements alone, and lose sight of the bigger picture — your commitment.

Fitting in Fitness

Hi! My name is John, and I’m a grad student at San Diego State University. I’ve always been a career-first kind of guy–putting my work, involvements, and school in front of my self. As a result, my relationships with other people have suffered and I’ve let my health slide.

While I was starting graduate school, I was briefed on the hectic chaos that would ensue once my program started. I was told that I had to learn how to say “no”. I had to take time for myself.

When I graduated college, I weighed over 220 lbs. I managed to put on over 60 pounds of weight through college. Even before that, I wasn’t happy with my body image. That said, when I finally moved into my new apartment, graduated from college, and had “free time” before the start of my program, I became committed to finding a new me.

While a lot of the metrics I talk about might be weight loss oriented, my weight is only a piece of a bigger picture.  I come from a family of disease and sickness. Both sets of my grandparents and my father have been diagnosed, treated, or passed away with some sort of cancer relating the digestive system. My dad had type II diabetes as well as a stroke and high blood pressure. Genetically, I’m a hodgepodge for future illness.

With these cues in place, I set out to start a journey towards fitness. I used the gym as time for myself, as an opportunity to take time of myself as I continued graduate school. Six months later, I’m over 20 pounds lighter, and inspired to continue finding a better self. Even though I work two assistantships, go to school full time, and maintain two separate volunteer roles, I always remember to find time to be at the gym. I remember to find time for myself.

That said, Fitting in Fitness isn’t about time management, or shortcuts in the gym. Of course I’ll share resources that have been beneficial and inspirational to me, but at the end of the day, Fitting in Fitness isn’t about how to fit fitness in my day but about where fitness fits into my life. I’m starting Fitting in Fitness as a way to share this journey with my friends, and hopefully serve as a source of inspiration for many others.

 

Hello World.

This is my attempt to start blogging. Day 1 consists of the set up. Which has been interesting to say the least… As far as “how I’ve accomplished everything so far…” well there’s more to come when it comes to that.

To be continued…