Is my (Exercise + Diet) = Healthy Lifestyle? Need advice

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Is my (Exercise + Diet) = Healthy Lifestyle? Need advice

Post by rsx_doc » Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:31 pm

I am 31 yrs old, 5'8" and present weight is around 164lbs. I have dropped about 20 pounds in last 3 months alternating b/w regular exercise (free weights in gym) and running 4-5 miles 5-6 days/week i.e gym one day and run the next day. Most of the change has been in the last month when I also started eating more fiber (bran), supplementing meals with protein bars, eating more lean meat (chicken breast) and cut down on all fats such as cheese and stopped all drinks with added sugars - I only drink natural juices e.g. carrot juice, OJ now.

In the meantime, I have heard a lot of things about the dangers of overtraining - losing muscle mass etc. I know that the changes take quite a bit of time to be seen and felt, however, I see my chest shaping up, the fat slowly disappearing over the ribs. The fat over the midsection and the lovehandles will take the longest, I guess.

I would appreciate opinions and suggestions from experienced folks on this forum whether I am doing the right thing. Should I add or change anything from my schedule?

My long term goals are:

1. I do not want to lose muscle mass, just build more. Infact, I care more about definition than bulk. Presently, I do only the following free weight exercise: A) Cambered Bar Lying Row B) Barbell Squat C) Bench Press D) Vertical Leg-Hip Raise and Ball Crunches E) Barbell Biceps Curls F) Triceps.

2. Get my BMI to around 22. Right now it is around 25.

3. Lose the remaining fat around gut and work towards a six-pack.

4. I have read a bit about High Intensity training v/s endurance training. My body can endure a lot. I am not exactly an endurance athlete, however, I have run a marathon in the past. I like running and can easily run 6 miles anytime but don't like to get out of my comfort zone of 8-9 min / mile. Recently, I have started doing sprints at end of my exercises in the gym.

What should I change to MAXIMIZE my workouts and get to my goals?

Thanks!


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Post by hoosegow » Mon Oct 01, 2007 6:47 pm

I would throw out your BMI goals.

Add some shoulder work. Switch your workout up in the week. For example, do your current workout one day. Run the next. Do something like incline bench, another row variation, deadlifts, preacher curls, skull crushers. Develope a third day using exrx.net and the equipment available to you.

You should see results. It looks like you are eating sanely. You might want to add some protein. Make sure you are eating enough calories to grow.

I don't think you are in any danger of overtraining, just becoming stagnent.

Congrats on the progress so far.

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Post by Onlyethic » Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:18 pm

I'll leave the lifting questions to others.

I'd say most generally stay diverse. It will prevent plateaus which are wasted time and, more importantly, frustration.

The belly fat is difficult. The standard response is "do cardio." This is true but since you're wanting to not lose muscle it's not the only answer. First, try to develop muscle in the lower abs. This won't solve the problem but since muscle burns fat locally it'll help.

You can try doing ab circuits-- pick 5 or so ab exercises that attack the abs from multiple angles and then do them in rapid success as a circuit. I wouldn't do this more than twice a week though. As many people here will point out, however, you can also get an excellent ab workout from various kinds of lifting.

The main thing I've found out as I've tried to whittle away remaining fat (which is basically just a very small belly) is that it's all about the margins. Meaning: the difference between a 6 pack-- or in other words a very low body fat level-- and not a 6 pack is that extra helping of whatever, or that last 10% of effort in your workout, or that beer at the end of the night. These things make a difference.

Indulging every now and again is fine in terms of fitness, but not in terms of getting a 6 pack (though it maybe ok for keeping one).

Try the HIIT as well. Maybe do a bit of steady state exercise before as a warmup.

You also might try green tea (lots of it-- 4-6 cups a day)-- I've found it's had a positive effect on appetite and fat loss.

Also stretching: stretching will keep you burning calories for long periods of time, as the muscles contract back to their resting point.

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Whey doesn't it work?

Post by rsx_doc » Tue Oct 02, 2007 3:50 am

Thanks for the responses. Will definitely get the green tea brewing. Almost forgot about it. Used to sip quite a bit not a long time back. That should also take care of the hydration too. I think I switched over from green tea to sipping cold water after reading about the benefits of cold water using up a few calories!!

Speaking of getting more protein – how do I do that easily? For some reason, Whey protein doesn’t go down well with me – quite literally. I have used a couple of top brand names over last few months - Used it in cold water, cold milk… no avail. On the other hand, protein bars are great and my stomach doesn’t churn at the thought of eating one or two a day.

So, how do I increase my protein intake? Can I just keep munching on a little more of chicken breast or lean turkey meat or beef jerky?

As far as indulgence is concerned, I relax a bit only on weekends – that too only for a glass of wine or really good beer. If I am going to reward myself, the reward better be good, right?

Any easy to start-off-on HIIT routines?

Thanks

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Post by Ironman » Tue Oct 02, 2007 4:32 am

I wouldn't worry about fat. There is no research to support anything people say about it. I'd worry more about limiting starchy stuff.


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protein etc

Post by Onlyethic » Tue Oct 02, 2007 6:14 am

As for protein, you could try casein powder instead of whey (if you were using whey), but my guess is that it'll have a similar negative reaction.

If that's the case then, yup, just go for protein-rich foods. It doesn't have to be just chicken. Things that are easier to prepare, like a can of tuna or, just as good, cottage cheese, have lots of protein, especially when compared with their carbohydrate content (very low). So, have a protein-rich breakfast and then a midmorning snack of something like cottage cheese. Same with lunch and afternoon snack.

Lots of people who know their stuff recommend upward of 200 g protein if you're lifting. I wouldn't start that high. Ramp up. Begin by eating protein in your daily diet, and see how it goes.

As for HIIT. My recommendation is to take a bunch of familiar exercises and stitch them together into a routine. e.g.: you probably know how to do pushups, situps, pullups, etc. Pick 5, or so, and create a circuit, doing one set of each exercise followed by the next immediately (or with as little break as possible). Sprint at the end. Take a very short break and go again.

You'll start to find that some exercises grouped together aren't the best. My guess is that you'll learn naturally as you go.

But by way of example, here's one of my HIIT days:

-20 x 'fly' pushups (weighted)
-20 x hanging leg raise
-5 x pullups (weighted) or 12 (unweighted)
-20 x hip plank
-20 second back bridge
-20 second sprint

-1 min rest

rinse, repeat (I aim for 3 rounds). Reps in some of the more intense stuff, pullups, leg raises, usually decrease by 3 or 4 each round.

Get protein quickly after your workout.

Part of the beauty with HIIT workouts is that you can get an amazing workout in less than 30 minutes. So if you've got a tight schedule it's a big help.

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Post by pdellorto » Tue Oct 02, 2007 10:10 pm

Welcome to the boards.

First, your weight routine seems fine in terms of exercise selection. What about sets and reps? Also, is that the order you do the exercises in? I think most people here would recommend doing the squats first because of their great demand on your system (and great benefits when done as a priority exercise). Your sets/reps range will determine to a great extent what you'll accomplish. For example, 3 sets of 10 will give you more endurance, but 10 sets of 3 will give you lots of strength.

Second, the BMI goal is really a waste. BMI is not a good individual measure - it's too simple, and doesn't account for muscle vs. fat but just weight. Make your goal a little more concrete - "I want to drop from 36 to 34 waist jeans" or "I want enough extra muscle to make L size shirts too small in the shoulders."

Don't be afraid of getting a little bigger - if your goal isn't bulk but appearance and strength, that's fine. Just aim your routine at kind of weights, sets/reps, and rest intervals that encourage those goals over muscular hypertrophy. Nothing wrong with not wanting big bodybuilder-type muscles but don't shy away from extra muscle mass.

Third, protein. Add a little at a time. I found I was able to add milk to my diet (had to add it slowly to avoid triggering a bad reaction), I eat lots of nuts, tuna, chicken, fish, beef, pork...anything heavy on the protein. Just add a little, and find easy to make snacks (tuna is a good one, so are hard-boiled eggs made ahead of time) that are protein-rich and enjoyable to eat.

Finally, HIIT. The routine Onlyethic suggested is great. Check the sticky on Barbell/Dumbbell Complexes as well. Also look at Tabata intervals - basically, you do one exercise as hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, go for 20 seconds again, etc. for 8 rounds of 20/10. That's 4 minutes (well, 3:50 actually) and can be really hard. Try it with burpees, unweighted squats, running in place or jumping rope, running stairs, sprinting, whatever. It's a good way to get in a short, hard workout. You can do 3-5 Tabata intervals like that in a row with different exercises. One note - those are hard. I started at "half-intervals" - 2 minutes total - and it still was rough.

Hope that helps. I learned about a lot of this stuff from the guys here, so I'm happy to pass it along. You've come to a good place for advice.

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Post by rsx_doc » Wed Oct 03, 2007 11:48 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. This is indeed helpful.

Firstly, to answer a few queries, my gym days (3 times a week) routine so far has been as follows:

Start with Barbell Squats (4 sets x 25 reps). Alternate with Cambered Bar Lying Row (4 x 15-20). Then alternate between Ab exercises (2 x leg raise 30-35, 2 x ball crunches 10-15) with Bench press (4x10). Then I alternate between barbell bicep curls and triceps (3 x 10-15 each). Alternating between different types of exercises allows me to finish this routine in 60 mins. Finally, I wrap up with 10 mins on the treadmill almost sprinting towards the end.

On the weights free days, I’ll run about 5 miles. Now, I am planning to replace that with HIIT routine or somehow combine the two, coz I like running outdoors.

Sometimes, I skip the non-gym days exercise if I am too busy and also one day of the weekend. So I end up exercising atleast 5 times a week.

Based on the inputs from you guys, I will introduce preacher curls, deadlifts and skull crushers in my routine. (I had to look up these terms to actually know what exercises they represent; feel like a novice, but it’s great knowledge).

Will look into Tabata intervals. I enjoyed reading about it on the net and the science behind it. Perhaps, I can incorporate that into my running days (sprint, jog, spring, jog…)

Started on the green tea, btw!!

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Post by pdellorto » Thu Oct 04, 2007 11:16 pm

rsx_doc wrote:Start with Barbell Squats (4 sets x 25 reps). Alternate with Cambered Bar Lying Row (4 x 15-20). Then alternate between Ab exercises (2 x leg raise 30-35, 2 x ball crunches 10-15) with Bench press (4x10). Then I alternate between barbell bicep curls and triceps (3 x 10-15 each). Alternating between different types of exercises allows me to finish this routine in 60 mins. Finally, I wrap up with 10 mins on the treadmill almost sprinting towards the end.
That routine seems ideal for endurance and maintaining your strength, less so for building it. It seems less than taxing if you can run on the treadmill and near a sprint at the end.

Generally, low reps are used for strength, high reps for endurance. Here is a handy link I find really useful. It's an excerpt from Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore's Starting Strength:

http://www.startingstrength.com/files/sample200.pdf

I can vouch for one thing. When I started posting here, I did a routine that mixed 5-rep sets and some 10 and 20 rep sets for exercises. In the past I'd primarily done 10 rep sets. When I switched to a pure 5-rep workout I made much faster strength gains, setting a number of PRs in lifts I'd been doing for a long time (dumbbell rows, bench press, shoulder press, weighted chinups). So you might want to change things up a bit by changing the number of reps. As stated in the excerpt, 5 is a good number, it includes lots of benefits across the board.

Alternating exercises like you do is a good idea, but if you go for lower reps the squats might be hard to alternate with anything. In that case, you might try:

Squat
Bench Press/Cambered Bar Lying Row
Biceps/Triceps
Abs

...assuming you keep the same exercises. You're essentially alternating the way you use the muscles - bending the arm (biceps) and straightening (triceps), pushing horizontally from the torso, pulling horizontally into the torso (bench press/rows). Horizontal from the perspective of standing up, that is.
rsx_doc wrote: On the weights free days, I’ll run about 5 miles. Now, I am planning to replace that with HIIT routine or somehow combine the two, coz I like running outdoors.
Check out some of the Crossfit WODs - workout of the day(s) at http://www.crossfit.com.
Many of them involve running. One I remember offhand is: As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of Run 400m and max reps pullups. If you like running and have a place to do pullups, that might be fun for you. Mark off 200m to and from the pullup bar. Start the clock and run back and forth, doing the pullups. Lots of the Crossfit WODs have running. Me, I suck at running (asthma, mostly) so I substitute other vigorous exercise, but you like it so it might be perfect for you.

Hope that helps,

Peter

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Post by ironmaiden708 » Fri Oct 05, 2007 11:21 am

If you havn't already add caffeine to your diet as well as a good multivitamin and fish oil capsules, take about 1-3 grams of it a day by adding with meals or just one in the morning. Said to help with weightloss and increase in energy.

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Progress

Post by rsx_doc » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:25 am

Making steady progress so far. Broke through 160 lbs barrier for the first time. Neways, I don't care about the weight anymore. I can definitely feel the fat burning away around the lower chest /abs and the muscle starting to take some definition esp in the upper body. I am used to running a lot so the legs are well toned anyways.

I agree with pdellorto’s suggestion of low reps with a lot of weight. Offlate I have started doing this: 1st set is a warm-up with about 80% of final weight and 2nd and 3rd set will be low reps with as much weight as I can manage and the final 4th set will be back to 80% weight. Feels good.

Had this nagging shoulder ache (not injury), but I took Ibuprofen for that for a week. Any thoughts on that? I do not take the medication anymore.

I also found out that I was doing the squats quite wrong. Some people recommend not to squat completely. I was not squatting completely, however that was not helping to work out my legs. I kept adding weight to a point that maintaining balance with the weight was more of a problem than getting a good workout. The last two times I reduced the weight and squatted all the way. Nice sore muscles after workout – felt great. I did bend forward a couple of times. I know that puts stress on the back and can lead to injury – but I have to work on keeping the back straight. Any alternatives to squats that can still give a complete exercise?

Started doing preacher curls instead of just barbell curls standing up. Preacher curls are the best to provide isolate the biceps.

My mantra in the gym is as follows: 1. If you don’t feel the burn – you are not working it
2. Work the muscle and not the weight.

Got Tuna into my diet (thanks onlyethic!). I think it’s the best source of protein / calories i.e max protein for minimal calories. My basic calculation was to get food items (barring bran and high fiber foods) that provide 1gm protein for every 10 calories. That way one can still get high protein without eating a lot of calories. Of all the foods I consume tuna has the highest protein / calorie ratio.

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Re: Progress

Post by stuward » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:20 am

rsx_doc wrote:Making steady progress so far. Broke through 160 lbs barrier for the first time. Neways, I don't care about the weight anymore. I can definitely feel the fat burning away around the lower chest /abs and the muscle starting to take some definition esp in the upper body. I am used to running a lot so the legs are well toned anyways.

I agree with pdellorto’s suggestion of low reps with a lot of weight. Offlate I have started doing this: 1st set is a warm-up with about 80% of final weight and 2nd and 3rd set will be low reps with as much weight as I can manage and the final 4th set will be back to 80% weight. Feels good.

Great so far.

rsx_doc wrote: Had this nagging shoulder ache (not injury), but I took Ibuprofen for that for a week. Any thoughts on that? I do not take the medication anymore.
Make sure you are taking care of your shoulders. Learn all you can about them. An ache now is an injury waiting to happen.
rsx_doc wrote: I also found out that I was doing the squats quite wrong. Some people recommend not to squat completely. I was not squatting completely, however that was not helping to work out my legs. I kept adding weight to a point that maintaining balance with the weight was more of a problem than getting a good workout. The last two times I reduced the weight and squatted all the way. Nice sore muscles after workout – felt great. I did bend forward a couple of times. I know that puts stress on the back and can lead to injury – but I have to work on keeping the back straight.
The knee is least stable at 90 degrees. You need to squat lower than that. Of course, the lower you get the weaker you are. That leads to a problem with partial squatting, when you go to low, you can't stop the weight and you crumple under the weight. Don't put a weight on your shoulders that you can't squat to the bottom with. The Quads is made up of 4 heads, hence the name. The vastis Medialis don't really get engaged until you get below parallel when the other muscles are at their weakest. This head also provides stability to the knees. As a result going deep will protect your knees.

As you go deep you may run into hip inflexibility issues which is probably why you are having trouble with keeping your back straight. There is a series of videos on You Tube with some tips. I'll look for them tonight.
rsx_doc wrote: Any alternatives to squats that can still give a complete exercise?
Front squats and overhead squats will force you to stay upright. Use light weight to start. You will always have to use lower weight that with back squats. Try to get yor front squat to 75% of your back squat. Clean and Jerk and Snatch and their progressions are a goal to work towards.
rsx_doc wrote: Started doing preacher curls instead of just barbell curls standing up. Preacher curls are the best to provide isolate the biceps.
Try turning the bench around backwards so that your upper arm is vertical. That will provide a better workout.
rsx_doc wrote: My mantra in the gym is as follows: 1. If you don’t feel the burn – you are not working it
2. Work the muscle and not the weight.
This is where I have a problem. the burn is no indication that the exercise is providing any benifit. That's a falicy. This site has a good article: http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/PumpBurn.html

Working the muscle is fine for bodybuilding in that the constant tension will aid in non-functional hypertrophy so if that's your thing fine, but it will not make you stronger.
rsx_doc wrote: Got Tuna into my diet (thanks onlyethic!). I think it’s the best source of protein / calories i.e max protein for minimal calories. My basic calculation was to get food items (barring bran and high fiber foods) that provide 1gm protein for every 10 calories. That way one can still get high protein without eating a lot of calories. Of all the foods I consume tuna has the highest protein / calorie ratio.
I like tuna too but Salmon has more Omega 3 fatty acids. Try to get wild salmon.

Stu

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Post by pdellorto » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:45 am

That series is SquatRx:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq8CWv8UPAI

That's #1. Great stuff.

And I'm glad the lower reps are working for you. I wish I'd known 1x5 was going to get me stronger than 1x10 a long time ago. :|

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Post by stuward » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:48 am

Thanks Pete, that is the series I was thnking about. I don't have acces to Youtube at work.

Stu

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Update

Post by rsx_doc » Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:19 pm

Hi guys,


PROGRESS:

Here's the progress so far based on great inputs from this forum and ofcourse my adopting a healthy lifestyle.

I had dropped down to 144lbs a couple of weeks back. That translates into a 40lbs weight loss in 4+ months. Now I am 150lbs; however I feel this latter gain is purely muscle for the following reasons:

1. Not only people who saw me infrequently, but even those who see me regularly have commented on my weight loss and muscular look.
2. Narcissism has set in. 7:00 to 7:10AM is purely "mirror" time, not to mention other occasions before and after workouts ;) !!!
3. Waistline has shrunk from 33 to 29/30 in terms of jean sizes and stayed there.


THE PROBLEM:

Losing weight rather quickly has left loose skin around the midriff. Rest of the body is well toned. It's so annoying coz I can feel the ab muscles beneath and can easily see the distinct outline of a potential great looking six pack. I just cannot believe that I relaxed so much in grad school to get overweight in the first place . Neways, been doing more ABS exercises to lose this "faux-belly". Any other suggestions???


EXERCISE ROUTINE:

Free weights thrice a week - full squats, cambered rows, bench press, abs, preacher curls, triceps. Regularly adding more weights / reps.
5-6 mile runs on non-gym days, sometimes HIITs. Nice progress - was doing 9-10 min/mile 5 months back down to 7.5 min/mile now.


DIET:

Lots of greens, fruits, veggies, high fiber carbs, nuts - walnuts and almonds (in moderation), high protein foods - tuna, chicken breast, low fat cottage cheese, tofu. Only exceptions - eat steak /red meat / high carbs - pasta once in a while esp after intense gym workouts ... other than that, it's only lean meat.


GOAL:

1. Have a great looking body i.e well toned, nice definition (not bulky)
2. Be healthy.


QUESTIONS:

1. How do I lose the loose skin?
2. Where do I go from here? I think I am on the right path for my long term goals; however others' experiences will be appreciated and will be very helpful indeed.

I cannot thank this forum enough.


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