tracking progress

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http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/07/07/how-to-track-progress/

Track if:

  • You don’t know how much you’re eating. If you’re overweight, you probably don’t realize how many calories you consume on a daily basis.  If you’re underweight and “can’t gain weight no matter what you eat,” you probably don’t realize how many calories you consume on a daily basis.  Americans have such a warped sense of reality when it comes to proper “portion size” and what constitutes a meal.  We need to be better informed.
  • You can’t tell if you’re getting stronger. Our bodies need to be constantly challenged in order to adapt and get stronger.  If you do three sets of 10 push ups every day for a year…you will just be really good at doing 3 sets of 10 push ups and nothing more.  You need to constantly increase the difficulty of your workouts in order to get results.  If you didn’t know how you did last time, how the hell are you going to know if you’re doing better this time?
  • That which is measured gets improved! I’m sure there are actual psychological reasons behind why this works, but I know that I get better results when I exercise if I know EXACTLY what I need to lift or how fast I need to run to get stronger and better.  If I did 30 push ups in a row last week, then this week I have “31! 31! 31!” emblazoned in my mind while doing them…sure enough I’ll get to 31.  On top of that, if you’re constantly keeping track of what you eat, taking measurements, and tracking your workouts, you will always be thinking “healthy!” and thus make healthier decisions on a more consistent basis.

How to track your body:

Take a picture – once a week, preferably the same time every week, after you wake up and before you have breakfast. Friday or Monday mornings

Take measurements – Make sure your measurements are taken in the morning and not after your workout.  Also, make sure you measure the same location each week. Take a circumference measurement at each of these spots and write it down:

-Neck
-Shoulders (both arms down at your side, at the widest point from shoulder to shoulder)
-Chest (lift up your arms, wrap the tape measure around your chest, just above the nipple, and then lower your arms)
-Bicep (either left or right, but be consistent)
-Waist (at the belly button for consistency)
-Hips (measure the widest part of your hips)
-Thigh (left or right, but pick the same spot on your thigh each week)

Measure body fat %

Track your Diet:

80% of your successes or failures will be a direct result of how you eat. Although the quality of your calories consumed is incredibly important, the quantity of calories you consume is the first thing that needs to be fixed.  Think of your stomach as a muscle that adapts to its surroundings.  If you continually shovel 4000 calories down your throat, your body will start to crave 4000 calories even though it doesn’t need that many.

Most people eat the same few meals over and over again on a weekly basis – I do. For that reason, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to track ALL of your calories EVERY day for months and months.  However, I think spending a week writing down every calorie is incredibly important for your education and awareness on what you’re eating.  I’m talking every freaking calorie: that half of a Kat Kat bar at Judy’s desk when you stopped by to grab some cover pages for your  TPS reports, the handful of M&Ms you ate while watching 30Rock reruns on NetFlix, the five cans of Coke you drank while finishing up that late night project, and the six beers and three slices of pizza you crushed to celebrate afterwards.

Track your Workouts:

When you exercise, do you do so with purpose? Do you know exactly what you’re going to do and how long it should take you?  If you’re serious about getting in shape, you need to start tracking your workouts:

  • If you did 3 sets of 10 push ups last week for a total of 30 push ups, you need to be able to do 31 total push ups this week to be stronger.
  • If you did squats with 135 pounds last week, this week you better be squatting 136 pounds or more
  • If you did 3 pull ups last week, you know you need to get to 4 this week if you want to be stronger.

Have a plan, know what kind of results you need to get in order to be better today than you were yesterday, and then GET THERE!

Body fat percentage

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http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2012/07/02/body-fat-percentage/

A super ripped male body builder who is minimizing body fat percentage could have a percentage down as low as 3-4%, while a super ripped female body builder who is minimizing body fat percentage would only get as low as 8-9%.  A male athlete could be in fantastic shape and have 10% body fat, while a women at comparable  level of athleticism and appearance might be at 18-20% body fat.  

body fat

Female Body Fat Percentages 11-18%Female Body Fat Percentages 20-35%

 How to measure:

– Compare with pictures 

http://www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-pictures-and-percentages

By having an accurate list of pictures and comparing a picture of yourself, you can determine somewhat closely what your body fat percentage is. 

– Take measurement

US Navy measurement   I have found, as have others, that this method isn’t incredibly accurate as it can very easily overestimate your body fat.  Considering it only takes a few points of data, this is not surprising.

How to drop %:

Lift heavy things – When you strength train with heavy objects (or with intense body weight training), you get stronger and keep the muscle mass that you already have.  On top of that, you also push your metabolism into an “afterburner” effect which burns extra calories even after you are done working out.

Sprints – When you run sprints, you create a similar afterburner effect with strength training, meaning extra calories burned after the completion of your workout.

Eat less than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day – When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, it no longer has steady access to its preferred source of energy, sugar (which all carbs become once they’re consumed and processed by your body). It now has to pull from fat storage to fuel itself.

Follow the Paleo Diet – I am biased here, but this is the diet that I follow whenever I need to drop weight.  I recently dropped from 13-14% down to 10-11% in back in March for a vacation.  I had only followed this plan for three weeks (heavy strength training, Paleo Diet, and working out in a fasted state).  As you get very low, I would recommend cutting on almost all fruit and nuts and focusing on just consuming protein and vegetables.

Work out in a fasted state – Although advanced techniques to get to super low body fat percentages are beyond the scope of this article, here’s another tactic if you want to drop the last few percentage points: strength train in a fasted state, and don’t consume your first meal of the day until AFTER your workout.  This is a technique used by LeanGains and guys like Vic Magary and Anthony Mychal.  I’ve been training in a fasted state with zero issues on energy.

Case Study: Nerdfitness – Stacy

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Meet Stacy

As we’ve learned from Mark Twight, trainer for the actors from 300, “appearance is a consequence of fitness.”

Diet:

While I did switch to a 80/20 Paleo Diet for a while, ever since my Hashimoto’s diagnosis I’ve been doing an extremely strict auto immune Paleo diet. I basically eat meats, veggies, and berries.  The auto immune part of Paleo cuts out nuts and seeds, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers), and eggs.  I do have milk and butter, but only whole and organic grass fed. I don’t do any other dairy (like cheese) at all.  I don’t even cheat with gluten or soy anymore, no matter what.  I feel SO much better since adopting this new diet.

  • Every Sunday (or whatever works, but usually its Sunday) I cook a few pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast.  I then portion it out and keep them in ziploc bags.  If I don’t have time for that, you can get all natural precooked sausage (both chicken and pork) that works just as well as a “bring to work” meat.
  • 5AM: pre-workout: (first thing in the morning) – protein shake. (nothing special).  Its not paleo, and i love every sip of it.  Then I go and work out.  If I go to the gym with a full stomach, I will not leave with a full stomach.  :)
  • 7:30AM: on my way to work: apple or pear.
  • 9:30AM: sweet potato with cinnamon. I keep them at work, and cut them up, throw it in the microwave for 5 minutes with cinnamon.  Comes out amazing.
  • Another protein shake somewhere in here between breakfast and lunch.
  • 11:45AM-12PM: lunch: two of the bags of chicken I precooked and a bag of the steamfresh vegetables.  The entire bag, its like 3.5 servings of vegetables.  My favorite is broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
  • Lunch 2: spinach salad with shrimp, red peppers, green peppers, red onion, lemon juice.
  • 2-3 snacks in the afternoon. Could be one of these: Apple with almond butter, bell pepper (I eat them like apples… I’m weird), carrots (they even make carrots cut like chips), bags of chicken (yes, those bags of chicken I consider a snack as well, not just a meal), a zucchini (yes, plain, raw, uncooked), celery with almond butter and raisins, strawberries, frozen mixed berries.
  • 7-8PM: dinners: 95% of the time it’s meat (steak, sausage, shrimp, salmon, or chicken) with one of the following: red peppers, green peppers, red onions, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower (steamfresh bags!), and/or summer squash and zucchini
  • Every once in a while i make something awesome, like this (but really, that takes a lot of time).  When i DO make something like that, i make it in mass bulk and will eat it for the week.
  • In the winter, I’ll usually make a beef shank stew on Sundays that I can eat for a lunch or two as well.

Focus on:

Follow up:

Right now I’m focused mainly on strength, doing a crazy Russian squat program where I squat heavy 4x a week, working other big lifts in around that. I try to get in conditioning, in the form of something like sprints, burpees, or sled pushes a few times a week as well. I’ve also been swimming a lot, but that’s more for fun, recovery, and meditation.

Staying Hungry:

I guess I never reached a point where I felt like I was content with where I was at.  I always want more, and there’s always something new to learn.  People will tell me that once they reach, say, a 315 lb squat they will be satisfied. But to me, I’m thinking, “Why? Why wouldn’t you want to try to squat 316 lbs next time?”

I have this concept of hitting a PR every day, no matter what, and that could mean anything from lifting 1 more pound, doing 1 more rep, or finishing 1 second faster.  I hate the idea of being “comfortable,” because if I’m not pushing out to the edge and trying to do better, then I’m not growing.

I think because my overall goal, sport specific aside, is to be able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to, without warning, without my body holding me back.

And by that I mean if a friend calls me tomorrow and says, “I found a secret treehouse in the middle of the woods, but we need to hike a gigantic mountain and bike 50 miles to get there,” I want to be able to say “I’m in” without hesitation.  So I always want to push my body’s limits.  Plus, it’s fun.