I’m trying to add ten pounds of muscle in twelve weeks.
Let me clarify.
This week is the start of a new twelve-week cycle for me. I break my year into twelve-week periods, during which I pursue specific(ish) training goals as well as personal goals, and set-up writing projects. Stories, articles, and panels that I wrote during the summer will now get edited during the fall, and copyedited in the winter, to be released next spring. It helps me keep things fresh, while also rotating out projects until they are completed. It allows me to space out the stages of development on a project so I can see it with fresh eyes at every step, but not so far removed as I forget everything about it.
In training, this allows me to pursue goals intensely, but to also review and change goals as is appropriate. For instance, much of this spring and summer was spent transitioning from kettlebells to gymnastics work. Having settled into some solid progress, I’ve combined the two. This sacrifices some speed with which I achieve my desire goals, but it also gives me the ability to pursue both activities which I enjoy greatly.
Simultaneously, I spent the spring and summer pursuing fat loss diets. I tried quite a few, playing with their protocols to see if I could better understand what worked for me and what didn’t. I went through various incarnations of Hit the Target, Ketogenic, etc, before finally returning to Slow-Carb, which is my default. I saw a lot of success and vastly better understand the ins and outs of eating (though there’s still plenty more to learn).
Since February, I’ve loss about 30lbs of bodyfat, cutting weight from around 220lbs to 190lbs. My goal had been to get down to 180 but I kept stalling in the high- to mid-180s. I wanted to keep going (I wanted to get down to 10% body fat, just for a nice round number), but it was getting increasingly harder to break under 14% and I’d already been on some pretty strict diets for the better part of six months and that isn’t good.
Fat loss dieting can be done very healthy but it isn’t something that can be maintained long-term. If you’ve been trying to lose a certain amount of weight for literally years, I strongly urge you to stop. Not give up, but stop. Stop for a while. Maybe three months, minimum, though I think six months or even nine months would probably be better. Fat loss diets do some wonky things to your body’s systems, most notably your endocrine system which is responsible for your metabolism. At the least, once your endocrine system gets used to this new undereating of a fatloss diet, it will downgrade your metabolism and the diet won’t work as well (if at all). Worse, however, are the effects a strained and exhausted endocrine system can have. The symptoms are too long to go into, but suffice to say they can range from subtle to severe.
I dealt with just such side-effects going into the summer. Failing to regulate my training, coupled with long-term fat loss dieting caused severe overtraining (the point where your body doesn’t have the resources to manage the effects of exercise and stress). This didn’t present in me physically however (I didn’t lose any strength or endurance); it presented psychologically. My Depression kicked into high gear and it devastated me. It’s been three months since that happened and I’m still recovering. Overtraining and endocrine strain is no joke.
So, I’m going in the opposite direction. I’m looking to add weight. I’ve never done a muscle-gain diet before (though I have foolishly done muscle-gain training programs, to very limited results). Muscle-building is the same as a fat loss diet, only in reverse (you add a few hundred calories a day, instead of subtract). For the moment, I’m not doing too much different with my training. I’m curious to see if a sensible diet with a bit of caloric surplus is enough to put on some muscle (theoretically, with my standard exercise protocols, it should be). If I don’t put on any size, or if I do but it’s on my waistline and not my shoulders, I’ll know what to try next.
Next spring, I’ll try fat loss again, but this time for only a brief period (three months, not six or more months like I did this year). Try to maintain the muscle while I shed the fat. Next fall, I’ll maybe try to add a little bit more muscle. Given my preferred sport is martial arts, size is an advantage with few downsides (unless you compete, which I don’t).
Protracted fat loss programs – even the healthy ones – aren’t good for you. Don’t spend more than a few months at a time pursuing such a goal. Take breaks. Spend more time pursuing a sport or activity of your choice. Take up basketball, martial arts, dance. Find some way to engage in an activity your children like to do. Just find a way for your movement to come in some form other than just ‘going to the gym’. If you have a sport, you can let that sport dictate your goals. Don’t work out; train. Don’t exercise; practice. Do that and, along with a sensible diet, your weight will take care of itself.
Come the spring, as things start to warm up, try fat loss again. Try to lose about 10lbs or 10% of your bodyweight, whichever is less. Achieve that and maintain it for the rest of the year, or just for a few months. Go back to practicing your preferred activity. Rediscover the love of movement. Play.
My next twelve weeks promise to be interesting and I’m excited to see what the results will be like. I encourage you to set up similar periods in your life, to help you set and achieve goals.
Still no word on RocKaiju, although I have reached out for an update. I have several other books in the pipeline that will be revealed at MAGFest, along with a new franchise here at Teach The Sky. Lots of big things going on, so stay tuned.