I have completed the Transformation Challenge! It was definitely "challenging" as I did have to overcome an ongoing injury (shoulder) as well as a new one (herniated lumbar disc). However, as numerous examples in sports exist, these "challenges" should never become excuses but instead give us an opportunity to dig deeper and find ways around the obstacles. Below is a summary of what I did and how I did.
Since I have been nursing a sprained AC joint, I knew my shoulder would need ample recovery and I knew I couldn't "overwork" the joint itself. I used to like to do chest with back, biceps and triceps, and shoulders and legs separately, then just repeat the sequence. But since chest and back work the AC joint a lot, I decided to do Chest one day, then back, then shoulders, Legs, and lastly bis and tris. Then I would just repeat the sequence again once through. Sometimes on chest day, I would do some extra bicep work so I could do a push-pull type training plan, but in doing this, I would do a more moderate weight since I would hit biceps hard in the arms day. I also did the same with my Back day where I would mix in some tricep exercises to do push-pull. I generally stuck with 4 sets on each exercise and would do 3 or 4 exercises total with reps 12-10-8-8. On my last exercise I would do a burn out set until failure often with some partial reps at end to really get the muscle burning. On Shoulder day, I would also work traps. I kept the weights more moderate at 10-15 rep range to not aggravate my shoulder. Before my low back acted up, I was hitting legs heavy with squats and leg press, extensions, curls and a seated as well as standing calf raises. Once the low back got bad, I had to stick with extensions and curls because the pressure on the spine was just not pleasant. Arms was my favorite day. I could lift very heavy and it would not bother my shoulder or my low back. I would do 4 exercises for biceps and 4 exercises for triceps in push-pull, supersetting type sequence. On the last exercises, I would do burn outs with drop sets and partial reps. Since I was able to lift heavy on arms, I saw the most progress here with about an inch gained in size in the 12 weeks. It is very important to mention that I strongly believe in the "muscle confusion" principle so I was always changing up the exercises I did. I rarely did the same exercises week to week. I kept a log to make sure I was not repeating exercises.
First, since I wanted to stay lean, I did research on low glycemic index foods. I wanted insulin levels to remain low except immediately post exercise so I wasn't adding excess body fat. Also, I stayed completely away from "white" complex carbs such as white breads, regular pasta, white rice, or white potatoes. I only had whole grain pasta or bread or brown rice. Also, I was lighter on the fruits (because lots of sugars) so I had much more veggies in compared to fruits. If I did have fruits, it was earlier in the day or immediately post exercise. Overall, I was "lower carb" but not "low carb" diet since I wanted to make sure I had the energy for the workouts. I increased my amount of protein compared to what I had been doing. I was around 1gm protein per pound body weight (200grams protein in a day). Any fats I had were "healthy fats" such as nuts or oils. I stayed completely away from saturated fats, with the exception of some cheese. I was around 2300 calories daily which is lower, but again, I was wanting to lose fat and add some muscle. I think this amount allowed both as the measurements show.
I tried a few new supplements and stuck with some old standbys. Of course, first and foremost, I used whey protein regularly (morning, pre and post workout, and usually one other time in evening). I get the Cytosport Whey from Costco because it is 6lbs for $30 and it is 80% whey concentrate with 20% whey isolate. This combo mixes and tastes awesome. For pre-workout, I had Universal's Storm. Since it is caffeine free, I would take a separate 200mg caffeine pill from Prolab. Also, pre-workout I would take 2 capsules of Kre-Alkalyn from SciFit and would take the newer supplement Astravar which is suppose to increase effectiveness of pre-workout drinks. Overall, this combo was effective. I felt like had pretty good intensity in workouts. Intra-workout, for part of the 12 weeks I used Dymatize's Recoup (has BCAAs, glutamine, citrulline). Post-workout, I would use Muscle Pharm's Recon. I can't say enough good stuff about this supplement. When I started using this stuff, my recovery was noticeably improved. At 38 years old, recovery is not like when you are in 20's so this was great to have. I also, did try Muscle Pharm's Battle Fuel and Colossal Labs Testofreak for natural testosterone increase. Unfortunately, I did not notice any dramatic effects. Maybe helped with recovery, but the Recon alone is MORE THAN ample to help recovery.
I stayed motivated mostly just because I enjoy it. I have a degree in Exercise Science and I just love this stuff. I love how exercise can make you feel so much better mentally if you are having a rough day or week. How it makes me feel IS my motivation. Also, I had tons of support from my Wife who was always encouraging me by letting me know she was seeing a difference. Other family members encouraged me as well. It is nice to have support from family and friends but when it is all said and done, it comes down to each individual saying "I can do this" and "I will do this". Some days, I was tired and maybe didn't "feel" like exercising but as soon as I would begin my first set of my first exercise, any feelings like that would disappear every time. Exercise does change us, but not just physically. I am realizing that the more important effects for me are not just the physical effects, but the mental ones. We need to be well in body, soul, and spirit. Exercise is the key to well-being for all three! I feel blessed to have the opportunity to exercise as some individuals physically may not be able to (physically disabled individuals for various reasons). Exercise is a gift and a privilege! I will continue this journey for life!
It has been an interesting 12 weeks! I had to really work around some nagging injuries but I found if there's a will, there's a way. Anything that irritated my shoulder I just steered clear from. So my shoulder was feeling better then about 2 weeks into the body transformation, my back began hurting, mostly after a day of dead lifting. I thought is was likely a strain, but then days turned into weeks so I had to get physical therapy to help in the healing process. At that time, I found out that I have a herniated lumbar disk so I had to really eliminate a lot of good "body hammering exercises" such as squats, most leg press, and deads. I ended up going to more moderate weights with a short rest period between sets. It worked fine. I did get a good burn and I did make gains. The best gains were in arms where I put on about an inch in the 12 weeks. I had to do more arm exercises because they aggravated my "ailments" the least. Overall, I am happy with my progress. I do think without my shoulder and back issues, that my results would have been even better. The most challenging task to adhere to was maintaining a good clean diet. You don't realize how often you have a chance to eat crap and it takes a lot of discipline to say "no", like at work environments when they bring in "treats" or if you are at someone's house and you are offered not so healthy things. My biggest dietary challenge was staying away from cream and sugar with my coffee. I instead used sugar free flavored creamers the whole time but it just isn't as good as my half and half with sugar! I think it did my aging body good though. I definitely have to recommend to others to make sure you get lots of veggies if you are on a high protein diet because you need the fiber. High protein diets and protein powders are notoriously low in fiber but it is important. I am not sure that I will win anything in this Body Transformation Challenge because there are some individuals who probably made drastic results but in the end, my body won something---improved health!
Body Transformation- Half way through!
So today is officially 6 weeks into the Body Transformation. It has been fun, educational, tough, and exciting. Since I am nearly 40, I notice that I get nagging things like tendonitis that seem to last forever so it has been interesting working through some of the aches and pains. I injured my AC joint in the right shoulder last March (2010), went through $1000 of physical therapy and it still is not 100% but it is close. I have learned that you just have to work around some of these life obstacles whether injury, illness, time crunches, etc. With significant illness, obviously you have to often take some type completely off from working out but most things you just need to alter what you do. For me, my AC joint is most aggravated from chest exercises so I just am not able to go real heavy yet. I just use moderate weights and real good strict form. I still feel a nice pump in the chest and still get sore so it is still doing the job. If tendonitis flairs up, I just do very light weight and high reps until it improves along with some ibuprofen of course.
So now 6 weeks into the Body Transformation Challenge and I am seeing results but it is time to step it up. I have noticed the most beneficial thing a person can do is be consistent with nutrition and exercise. I use to eat fairly healthy but would "splurge" now and then. I have found that cutting out the "now and then" really pays dividends. I have lost just over 3% body fat but have done very little cardio. A half an inch was added on my arms by making sure I hit arms twice a week. I have noticed the smaller muscle groups recover faster so I just hit them more often. Chest, back, quads, and hamstrings need some good recovery. Maybe it is just my age, but I can just tell when the muscle is ready to go again. I like to leave sufficient recovery time because if you don't it is easy to plateau and begin to see less results with strength and size. Good recovery allows me to go harder each time. In the last 6 weeks, I hope to continue to see a decline in Body fat weekly and some increase in muscle mass. Certainly not easy to do both at the same time but I have been able to manage so far, mostly because of my diet. I am really sticking with eating the carbs earlier in the day and only protein and veggies in evening. I have only had 3 tall latte's from Starbucks since this started which is great for me. I really am hoping to be at 5-6% Bfat which should show quite a bit definition since I am seeing definition at the 8-9%. Winning something would be great, even if a BB.com gift card, but the bottom line is that I have already learned a lot and will continue to improve myself as well as help others along the way. I already give quite a bit of advice to the high school guys who work out at the gym when I am there. Hopefully, the advice of proper lifting will help them avoid injury when they get to be my age. Consistent, proper weight training and nutrition will always pay off in the long run!
Well, I am just over a week into the Body Transformation and I already see and fell results. It is amazing when you are really consistent and strict with your diet how soon you can see the results. I am using no added sugar to anything like coffee, cereal etc. Also, no starbucks espresso drinks which is really tough for me, but knew it would just be added calories that wouldn't help transform the body. I began 2 new supplements yesterday and will discuss any noticeable, obvious differences as time goes on. One is Gaspari's Anavite Multi which is rated very highly consistently on the internet no matter where you look. Also, I began a natural Test booster by a less know company called Colossal Labs. They make a very ecconomical test booster called TestoFreak. I did lots of research. I wanted a non-pro hormone supp that should boost some but not super hardcore like some out there. I researched the ingredients and it has pretty much everything shown to increase testosterone naturally or at least proposed. It is basically all herbs like tribulus, eurocomia, chrysin, etc. I realized not everything in there has concrete studies but thought for the price, it couldn't hurt to try because many things are so individual specific. One thing may work great on only one individual but not on others. Just like lifting. Some individuals respond better to certain types of lifts. I only have used one dose so far and it was for legs. I did feel like had some more endurance and strength, but may be "placebo" effect so I am going to report back in a week or so.
Lifting has been a little frustrating because my AC joint shoulder sprain still is not 100% which means I can't lift real heavy on bench otherwise it begins to get worse. I just have to be patient so it heals properly. I continue to do scapular strengthening exercises I learned at physical therapy because I have to bring the whole joint into alignment. The biggest lesson learned through the whole injury process is making sure whole joints are taken care of. Many young guys will be in my same position if they don't properly train now. Mine was an injury that gradually occurred from many years of neglecting some smaller muscles most people don't know about or don't train. Learn from mistakes! Train smarter and you will have less problems in the future!
So, I have worked out most my life and stayed in decent shape, but I have never really pushed hard to get to the more "elite" fitness status. With this Body Transformation Contest, I thought it would be a good time to give it a try. I have considered the transformation contests in the past but just never did do. I have also convinced my wife and some family to join me so I am very excited. I am going to push my nutrition to new limits as well. I am going to completely avoid sugar, white bread, pastas, and will stear clear of high glycemic index foods. This should help the body fat plummet. I am hoping to get to 5% body fat in 12 weeks. Consistent, hard work will pay off!