This is the big one. This post is a long read, has taken me six (so far) hours to compile, and outlines everything about my recompositions, transformations, whatever you want to call them. My battles with body fat, if you will. It’s detailed, there’s a ton of new pictures, my workouts, my foods, what worked and what didn’t.
So here we go.
If you’ve read the introduction and some of my older posts, you know my back-story, but here’s the extremely abridged version of my adolescence and early adulthood:
I was a stick-thin cross-country runner in high school, developed terrible eating and exercise habits around the time of my Senior year, and ballooned up to (an estimated) 240 pounds in ten years. This was a gain of almost 100 pounds from my weight at age 17 (at the same height). I started smoking and drinking during that time, eventually quitting smoking (and much more recently, drinking). I made numerous weak attempts to get myself into better shape over those years but I had no idea what I was doing, and ultimately failed. I quit mountain biking in 1999, but started riding Downhill again in 2008. I made a commitment to change in late 2012 and joined a gym with little understanding of what would be needed to recomposition myself. That’s the very short version, as I said.
2012: Recomposition #1.
I started on September 18, 2012, joining a small gym in the town I lived at the time. I had a rudimentary understanding that amounted to “eat clean, lift weights, and do cardio”. I used a basic upper/lower split-based three-set program from a popular website for this period of time, tweaking my exercises based on how much “burn” I felt I was getting. I no longer have any of my records from this transformation, as they were completed with a software that wasn’t very good, and I inevitably deleted.
Around the third or fourth week I shifted my diet from beer, hamburgers and chicken wings to multiple small meals comprised mainly of:
- Eggs, usually 2 or 3 at a time, over medium or hard-boiled
- Pre-cooked, pre-cut frozen Tyson chicken breast fillets
- Cottage Cheese
- Beef Jerky
- Peanut Butter
I rarely cheated. At the time, I was generally eating the aforementioned small meals, and inadvertently did some intermittent fasting from time to time, occasionally going on an empty stomach until late in the afternoon. My caloric intake was always quite small, sometimes not eclipsing 1000 calories.
I also started supplementing with Lean-Out, Scivation Xtend and Optimum Nutrition protein powder. I may have used green tea extract around this time, but the details are fuzzy. I was drinking a lot back then.
I introduced cardio around the same time as the nutrition and supplementation, usually doing 30-45 minutes post-workout, and sometimes doing another hour later in the evening, as I was going to a 24-hour gym.
This probably isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s what I can remember:
And the results? The fat melted off. Absolutely melted. From mid-September through early December, I dropped from a size XL tee-shirt to a Medium, and my pants went from 38 to 32. I weighed 188 at my absolute lowest. I have to attribute this to a dangerously low caloric intake, tons of cardio, and some “noob gains”
December 2012 – October 2013: Life Changes
I moved twice in this time period, and didn’t have a gym I liked, or the ability to lock into a solid routine until October. I was still eating reasonably well and lifting occasionally at a friend’s home gym during this time, at least. I gained about 15 pounds back. It was during this stretch that I was lifting heavier than ever before, learned to deadlift and squat, and bench-pressed 200 pounds for the first time.
October 2013-June 2014: Recomposition #2
In October of 2013, I had settled into my new living space and new job, which had a nice gym on the premises. I started using my lunch break to lift four, sometimes five days a week. I went with a more bodypart-focused split. I started off doing a chest day, a back and traps day, a shoulder day, a leg day, and an arm day.
A few weeks in, I realized I was always skipping leg day (of course) as we simply didn’t have the equipment I thought I needed to perform a solid leg workout (leg press machine, specifically). I added deadlifts to my back day as a result. We also didn’t have a squat rack in this facility, and I was not confident that I was doing them with proper form, so I simply neglected this movement.
I had great momentum through the winter of 2013-2014, but as I was lifting alone, and getting more serious about the weights I was putting up, I started to develop some poor form, doing only half-reps on the bench in order to boost my ego. I loved being able to “lift” 230 pounds, even though I wasn’t even coming close to hitting my full range of motion.
I got involved with Intermittent Fasting at the suggestion of my friend Dave, who had also taught me how to deadlift and squat. He was, and continues to be in exemplary shape, and I took his information to heart. I stopped eating breakfast in early October, substituting with only coffee and tea. I started off by having a 2:00 PM post-workout buffalo chicken breast and a protein/creatine shake. After the first two months or so, I dropped the chicken and only had the shake. It would usually be followed by dinner at around 7:00 PM, consisting of:
- 12 oz of New York Strip Steak
- Four Eggs
- Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Four pieces of Turkey Bacon
- An Apple
- Cottage Cheese with Honey and Cinnamon
Sometimes, though, I would go out with co-workers for wings after work. Other times I would stop at a Mexican restaurant to get a breakfast burrito and loaded nachos. I always ate within my window, though. Even on “cheat days” which sometimes turned into “cheat weekends” filled with pizza, ice cream, doughnuts, Chinese food and double bacon cheeseburgers.
After a few months, I started coming to work early in order to do an hour of fasted cardio. This wasn’t a regular ocurrance, as I probably only did this five or six times throughout the entire eight months.
At this time, I was living alone in a new town where I only knew two people. I didn’t have much of a social life during the week (aside from the occasional wing night), and didn’t particularly want one. I was for the most part, focused on my physique.
By Spring, I was leaner and more defined than I had ever been, even with my sporadic cardio. I was also much stronger than I was on my initial 2012 cut.
Bad news was around the corner, though. My job moved to Connecticut, and unable to find an affordable apartment there, I moved back to my hometown, where I was offered a job in early June of 2014.
For the next month, I managed to stay at least partially on track, moving back in with my parents while I was looking for an apartment. I found a gym nearby and joined immediately, not even skipping a beat. I stuck to my intermittent fasting routine… briefly.
July 2014 – December 2014: Distractions, Coasting and Roadblocks
I was suddenly back in my hometown, after being gone for nine years. I was re-connecting with old friends, newly single, and ready to enjoy myself a bit after the somewhat lonely life I had led over the past year. I started dating around, going out and partying with friends, found the apartment I live in right now, and joined my current gym. I started rock climbing, riding my Downhill bike a lot more regularly, and putting in time on my XC bike while the weather was still good. I was focused on the objective of winning a major Downhill race in September, and ended up accomplishing it. It felt great to achieve something I had wanted for years.
Afterwards, I planned to “coast” for a month, until late October, when I would re-enter a period of heavy training and dietary restriction. “I’ve earned a month off” I thought to myself, not really comprehending the fact that I had basically taken all of July, August, and September “off” already, eating lunch every day at Taco Bell, Chipotle, or a locally-famous artery-clogging sandwich chain. I was only just beginning to pack some fat back on.
I had zeroed in on Kris Gethin’s 12-week daily video trainer as my planned method of getting back in the swing of things, having never been on such a structured plan (or one incorporating any sort of carbs), I figured this would take me to the next level. I set November 1, 2014 as my re-start date.
On October 28, I was hit with the hardest sinus infection I had ever experienced. My nose and ears were swollen shut, and I was leaking green mucus from every orifice in my face. I pushed back the start date by a few weeks.
I had planned on November 14 as my go-to date, but the infection re-surfaced, putting me out of commission yet again. I decided to hold tight until my birthday in early December to give it another shot.
On December 6, I broke my nose and gave myself a light concussion at an indoor park, AGAIN pushing back my re-start date. December proved to be too busy for me to really get anything done, as I was settling into the responsibilities of my current job, diving headfirst into a new relationship with a great girl, and coping with the trivialities of the holiday season. I would have to wait until early 2015 to get back on track.
January 2015-April 2015: The Failed Restart
January 1 brought an off-the-cuff resolution I thought up on New Year’s Eve. I decided to stop drinking altogether. I’ll have more to say about this at a later date, but it’s almost twelve months later and I still haven’t had a sip of alcohol.
The new year also brought some other changes. Jaime and I were having a great time together, and inevitably going out and sampling restaurants all over the city, ordering pizza, take-out Chinese, and doing the type of things most happy couples do together (when both of them like food). I set another re-start date for February 1, and this time, I thought, nothing would stop me. I’d get on Gethin’s program for good, and finish the whole twelve weeks.
On February 1, I actually started the program as planned, and ate as he suggested in his daily videos. I weighed myself at the beginning (I believe I was 206) and hoped for a steady decline in body fat for the whole twelve weeks. The problem, however, came in the form of my work schedule and the supplementary cardio that Kris required. My work days were up to ten hours long, and would fluctuate wildly. Sometimes I would start at 5:00 in the morning, other times I wouldn’t have to be at work until noon. At times I would be called in, other times I would go home early. Doing the supplemental cardio was simply too much of a scheduling challenge for me at this point, and I all but stopped doing it.
Six weeks had gone by, and I was performing most of the strength workouts, and eating as was prescribed. I noticed that I was almost always full, and never had the “running on empty” feeling I did when I was fasting back in 2013-2014. I didn’t notice that my clothes fit me any differently, and I didn’t look any different in the mirror.
When I weighed myself, though, I was stunned. 204. I had only lost two pounds, and didn’t seem to have recompositioned myself at all. I looked the same. I got immediately frustrated, said “fuck it” and gave up. I spent the next month eating indiscriminately and only visiting the gym on average of once a week.
By April of 2015, I was panicking. I was well on my way to being as fat as I was when I started my first recomposition back in 2012.
April 2015-August 2015: Another Failed Restart, More Distractions, and Reorganization.
Jaime and I were (and are) quite happy together. I don’t want to say I was blinded to the fact that I was putting fat back on my body, but it didn’t bother me too much. I wasn’t exactly okay with it, but it wasn’t (and still isn’t) the absolute most important thing in my life.
We went on vacation in May, and we spent our time eating poorly, lying on the beach, and doing other things that couples generally do on vacation (banging constantly). I was excited to get back on my XC bike when I got back, as the weather in Pennsylvania had finally broken. I had a simple plan for whipping myself back into shape over the summer:
Ride my single-speed road bike to and from the gym, ride XC three times a week, and lift heavy.
Ultimately, this turned out to be a pipe dream. It rained every day in June. I got stuck in it often. July brought consistent temperatures in the 90’s. I was disillusioned with the bike industry, and more or less put my bikes away, deciding to take a break from the sport until 2016, and then focus on Downhill, and Downhill alone. Some other significant events were set in motion over the next few months:
- I walked away from my job in the bike industry with no fall-back for income
- My car started having serious problems (wonderful timing)
- Jaime and I decided we would relocate to the other side of the country in mid-2017
- Jaime started Nursing School while working full-time
The summer months slipped away as quickly as they had arrived, I was still eating like a pig and lifting inconsistently. By mid-August, I was undoubtedly in my worst shape since 2012. I was quite strong, but shaped like a refrigerator.
I started this blog in August, with the sole purpose of getting my writing “out there”, intending for it to be an outlet. Instead, it found a new purpose almost immediately: Chronicling my 2015-2016 Recomposition.
August 2015-Present: A Fresh Start and a New Tool
I spent weeks playing with different protocols. I slipped up and got lazy. I still ate like a jackass on weekends, but I had to be accountable to my blog. For the first three months, no one looked at it but me. That was fine, though. It was there to remind me that if I fucked up, I had to write about it. If I skipped a workout, I had to write about it. If I spent a day sitting on the couch being lazy and eating tacos, I had to write about it.
My approach has gotten more refined. It’s gotten simplified.
- Intermittent fasting every day, even on cheat days.
- Warrior Protocol when possible.
- Fasted cardio five days a week.
- Fasted lifting when possible (never on squat day).
- Basically no carbs unless it’s fiber.
- Two-a-day cardio when possible.
- Varied cardio (elliptical, treadmill, exercise bike, P90X, and starting next week, our gym is getting a heavy bag).
I’ve made progress. I am seeing results. I will not stop until they’re what I want to achieve, and then I’ll keep going to maintain it. I’ve come a long way and then let it slip through my fingers. I know the cost of this. I’ve learned many valuable lessons over the past three years, and not applying them now would be a massive mistake.
Thanks for reading. Until next time,
Brian at RH/LH