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 2020-09-26). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.
I imagine that this will likely end up being a whole section of examining physical fitness from different angles. My immediate purpose is to go into a bit of detail about why physical fitness occupies such a prominent place in my life and exactly how it manifests.
Here are a few areas I'd like to explore:
- media imagery: the role of cartoon depictions of superheroes and developmental concepts of masculinity
- consistency and integration: developing not only the mind, but also the body
- the body as a work of art (functional "versus" aesthetic goals)
- connection to physical health
- self-esteem versus second-handed approval-/attention-seeking
- shirtlessness: feeling sexy versus feeling wanted; pride versus flaunting
- the rebellion against shame triggers
- simultaneous feelings of pride and revulsion when looking in the mirror
- the role of my genetics in why achieving fitness goals is so rewarding
- social stigma against judging / concern with the physical: "even deep waters have a surface"
- terms like "narcissism" and "vanity"
- exercise versus recreation and cardio
I'll definitely need a page or section that summarizes what my current physical fitness (diet and exercise) routines are, as well as the historical evolution of my approach.
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:
- A "mesocycle" is a 4-to-6-week progression in which weights increase week over week, and the number of sets depends on performance the previous time that muscle group was worked. The last week of a mesocycle is a "deload" week, where the weights are very low; think of it as a "rest" week where there's still a bit of stimulation/activity. Mesocycles come in three flavors:
- basic hypertrophy (medium-to-high weight), more reps
- metabolite focus (low-to-medium weight), way more reps
- resensitization (high weight), fewer reps
- I estimate my 10-rep max ("10RM") for each exercise I select. On that basis, the template tells me what weights to use in each week as I progress.
- I often have to make modifications because of my knee issues, lower-back sensitivity, and propensity for elbow tendonitis.
- I typically lift Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
- I don't do any "cardio" as a formal part of my routine (proper lifting provides all the cardiovascular conditioning I could need or want for any practical purposes), but I do enjoy recreation whenever it comes up as a fun thing to do!
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).
Here is a typical full cycle of my diet:
- cut / caloric deficit
- drop body fat while preserving muscle
- typically correlates with one round of
- 2 basic hypertrophy cycles
- maybe a metabolite focus cycle
- typically 10-14 weeks
- typically until I get my ab veins back
- stop when negative health indicators start manifesting; eg,
- decreased sex drive
- inability to sleep (mostly because fantasizing about food / next feast day)
- chronic leg fatigue
- "cut until you hate life"
- bulk / mass / caloric surplus
- put on muscle while minimizing fat gain
- typically correlates with one or two rounds of
- 2 basic hypertrophy cycles
- 1 metabolite focus cycle
- typically 17-34 weeks
- "bulk until you hate your body" (which is tongue in cheek; for me, that means I don't like my ab definition anymore and I have a lot more paunch than I would like)
- help body to "set" the muscle gains
- typically correlates with the 4-week resensitization mesocycle of the last template used for a bulk
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:
- Maintenance is 3500 calories/day.
- To lose/gain a pound per week is -/+ 3500 calories/week, which is -/+ 3500/7 = 500 calories per day.
- Therefore, daily average on
- a cut is 3500-500 = 3000 calories
- a bulk is 3500+500 = 4000 calories
With a feast day, I have to budget something that will work "pretty okay" and probably beyond what I'm likely to eat.
- total calories per week is 3000*7=21000
- budget 10000 calories for a weekly feast day (yes, this is totally possible!)
- (21000-10000)/6 ≈ 1833
- practically, I target 1800-1900 calories daily
- total calories per week is 4000*7=28000
- budget 7000 calories for a weekly feast day (definitely don't get too hungry on bulk feast days, and this is a typical number)
- (28000-7000)/6 = 3500
- practically, I target 3500-3600 calories daily
- maintenance...okay, you get the idea
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:
- pin fat intake to be 25-30% of total calories (probably closer to 25% for a cut)
- pin protein to be 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of body weight
- 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
|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
|Carbs (4 calories/gram)||x - (calories from fat + calories from protein)||(x - (calories from fat + calories from protein)) / 4||280 calories
A few notes:
- Notice that the numbers don't line up exactly? This is why I deal with ranges, to make calculations a bit easier. So I do a bit of fudging within 50ish calories and round to nearest 5-10 grams. This also translates into a bit of fudging when it comes to estimating food quantities (eg, 1/4-cup of rice, not 3/16-cups of rice) and exact compositions.
- I'm pretty loose about protein versus carbs, so I often err on the side of more protein. Any protein your body doesn't use gets converted into carbs anyway, and I tend to feel better consuming more protein.
- Time the protein-carb combinations to be close to workouts. Move fat away from workouts.
Optimizations that make cuts more bearable for me:
- unlimited feast days (covered above)
- more, smaller meals throughout the day to keep deep hunger at bay (If I get to the point where I'm starving, there won't be enough calories left in the day to get me out of that state.)
- casein (eg, greek yogurt) before bed because it digests slowly and provides caloric support throughout the night
- lots of caffeine in the mornings (which is an appetite suppressant), but none in the afternoon/evening, so it doesn't interfere with sleep