Physical Fitness

Why does physical fitness occupy such a prominent place in my life? And how does my concern with physical fitness manifest and relate to other values?

This page is a stub, created on 2020-04-20 (last updated on 2020-11-05). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.


On This Page

Introduction

I imagine that this will likely end up being a whole section of examining physical fitness from different angles. My immediate purposes are to give an indication as to why physical fitness occupies such a prominent place in my life and exactly how it manifests, provide a bit of detail about what I do for exercise and diet, and describe some of my personal history and evolution in my approach(es).

Physical Fitness, Philosophically

Here are a few areas I'd like to explore:

Exercise

I use the Renaissance Periodization Male Physique Templates (full-body, 4-day-per-week, which is basically an upper-lower-upper-lower split).

There's a bit of nuance, but I basically go through the template (three or four 5-6-week "mesocycles") in conjunction with a phase of my diet. (At the start of a cut or bulk, I start with a fresh template, regardless of whether I chose to finish the previous one.)

A few high-level notes:

Diet

My approach is inspired by the science/logic/algorithms that were later incorporated into the RP Diet App. (Full disclosure: I worked on the UX for earlier versions of the app, and now my brother Andrew is their CTO / lead engineer!) I don't use the app or their templates, since I prefer to exercise more granular control over my diet design, especially by making various adjustments that help my cuts be more tolerable/effective (eg, reducing hunger pains, preventing hanger, avoiding ruining my health).

What about Paleo? Strictly speaking, Paleo and my calorie-counting/bodybuilding goals are orthogonal (or at least tangential). I eat Paleo for non-bodybuilding health reasons. Think of it roughly like this: Paleo is about what I eat (qualitative/substantive), whereas my bodybuilding dietary plan is about how much I eat (quantitative).

Cycle

Here is a typical full cycle of my diet:

Calorie Calculus

As I understand, total calorie deficit/surplus accounts for about 80% of body morphology changes. So macronutrient breakdown and timing is a further optimization.

The basic figure that I start with is my "maintenance calories". This is not basal metabolic rate; this is the number of calories I need to consume to maintain my weight, given my typical activity levels. For me, that's roughly 3500 to 4000 calories. (Yes, I have an unusually high metabolism!) I discovered this through scrupulous tracking of calories and weight, putting the data in a spreadsheet, and fitting some curves! I err on the side of fewer calories, so I peg that at 3500.

I've found that, regardless of whether I'm cutting or bulking, since I'm limiting my caloric intake (yes, even on a bulk, so as to not put on too much fat!), I benefit from having a weekly feast day of unlimited calories. It's "feast", not "cheat", for conceptual/linguistic/psychological reasons, particularly because it's an intentional part of the plan, not a departure from it.

To lose or synthesize a pound of flesh, it's about 3500 calories deficit or surplus, respectively. On cuts and bulks, I project about a pound per week change; anything faster seems to not work well for me. So my daily average on a cut has to be 3000, and my daily average on a bulk has to be 4000.

Here's the arithmetic:

With a feast day, I have to budget something that will work "pretty okay" and probably beyond what I'm likely to eat.

So how about macros? Well, I tend to use carbs as a performance-enhancing drug, so I time them around my lifts. So what follows is for lifting days, regardless of what diet phase I'm in. I tend to be willy-nilly on macronutrient breakdowns on non-lifting days, being low-carb on non-feast days and a total carb glutton on feast days (if that's what I'm craving!).

Here's the high-level algorithm:

  1. pin fat intake to be 25-30% of total calories (probably closer to 25% for a cut)
  2. pin protein to be 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of body weight
    Disclaimer: The general recommendation for maxing out muscle-sparing / protein synthesis requirements based on the science is something in the range of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight to 1 gram of protein per pound of total body weight, which leaves more calories from carbs to use as fuel. My going well above that is based on my own experimentation around what helps me to feel better and do better with satiety.
  3. remainder from carbs

Here's a more detailed view. For purposes of the table, let's use x to refer to the total calories for that day. The entry in bold is the first part of the calculation (with other columns showing other representations of the same information).

Macronutrient Calories Grams Example for 1800-1900 calories
Fat (9 calories/gram) 25-30% of x min: 0.25 * x / 9
max: 0.3 * x / 9
450 calories
50 grams
Protein (4 calories/gram) min: (body weight in lbs) * 1.5 * 4
max: (body weight in lbs) * 2 * 4
min: (body weight in lbs) * 1.5
max: (body weight in lbs) * 2
1080 calories
270 grams
Carbs (4 calories/gram) x - (calories from fat + calories from protein) (x - (calories from fat + calories from protein)) / 4 280 calories
70 grams

A few notes:

Optimizations that make cuts more bearable for me:

Supplements

Powders

Pills

To be frank, I'm not confident how much good these various supplements are doing and how much I'm getting what I need from things like food (and in the case of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight). I might be largely throwing my money away. But given the fact that I don't really have a lot of variety in my diet, hate seafood, and have a general disposition toward eating the same boring things day in, day out (especially when I'm strictly adhering to a predefined meal plan!), I think of this as a sort of insurance policy, covering my bases in terms of important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc).

Keep in mind that it's not a recommendation for anybody else.

Supplement Morning Evening Justification and Comments
fish oil or
flax oil
1280 mg Omega-3 (fish oil) or
1550 mg Omega-3 (flax oil)
1280 mg Omega-3 (fish oil) or
1550 mg Omega-3 (flax oil)
anti-inflammatory
(fish oil recommended by Diana; flax oil recommended by urologist)
cod liver oil 250 mg 250 mg dental health
(recommended by Diana)
butter oil 250 mg 250 mg dental health
(recommended by Diana)
vitamin D3 5000 IU 5000 IU immune function, calcium absorption
psyllium husk capsules 2000 mg
(1467 mg fiber)
2000 mg
(1467 mg fiber)
fiber: bowel function
(recommended by gastroenterologist)
glucosamine 1500 mg glucosamine HCl
1200 mg chondroitin sulfate
250 mg methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
1500 mg glucosamine HCl
1200 mg chondroitin sulfate
250 mg methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
joint and bone health/support (particularly knee issues)
(recommended by Emily Webb; seemed to make a huge difference)
curcumin 1500 mg 1500 mg anti-inflammatory
(recommended by Andrew)
vitamin C 1000 mg   immune function
calcium citrate 150 mg   bone health
separated from magnesium to avoid competition for absorption pathways
(recommended by Andrew and Tom)
vitamin B complex 409.467 mg (various)   energy
magnesium glycinate   120 mg pre-bed calming support
separated from calcium to avoid competition for absorption pathways
(recommended by Andrew and Tom)
zinc aspartate and zinc orotate   30 mg immune function, thyroid function
(recommended by Christian Wernstedt)
iodine and potassium iodide   12.5 mg thyroid function
(recommended by Diana)
selenium   0.2 mg iodine and iodide absorption
(recommended by Diana)