The origin

Well, it happened. Again. I told myself last time I wouldn’t get back here, but it didn’t work. Standing in front of the mirror, I’m not sure who or what was looking back at me. What once was the outline of abdominal muscle trying to peak through had now taken on more of the infamous muffin top shape. Gives new meaning to “you are what you eat.” (For those who don’t know what a muffin top is, a simple google search will help you out.)

But this isn’t where the story really starts. Let’s rewind a bit. I had just finished competing in a powerlifting meet. To make weight, there are the usual few weeks of strictness beforehand—limited carbohydrate intake, making sure water intake is over a gallon a day, and making sure food intake stays constant. Dropping this water and glycogen weight not only got me down in the right weight class but with a whole pound to spare! The meet went fairly well, and with three white lights on a new deadlift PR, I had to give myself a little treat. (Of course, I had already bought and brought along some treats, so despite my performance I would’ve gotten them. But hey—at least this way I could rationalize it.)

So after a few handfuls of Chex mix and chocolate covered pretzels I was satisfied. That is until we went out for pizza. And why not have a beer, too? The holidays were also coming around, and with friend and family get togethers, I enjoyed a hearty five Thanksgiving dinners over the course of a couple weeks. Along with this holiday binging, I also casually ate an entire bag of Chex mix while watching a movie. Whoops. With this new found feeding frenzy, even the treats people brought in at the office were calling my name. I think I had more treats at work in the last few months than I had in my last few years working there.

All this was coming at a price though, as I was noticing that my pants were getting tighter. Even my “fat pants” were fitting tight (guys can have fat pants too, right?). Then came the day I bent over to put my gym clothes in my bag and something tore. No, not my ACL. It was my pants. I didn’t want to be late for work, so I decided not to change into a new pair. Besides, you can’t put a price on style. I’m sure my typical attire of mismatched pants and shirt impressed many that day and they didn’t even notice the tear. Now that I think about it, it is pretty funny that I wore them. It isn’t like it was a small tear.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s what got me to this point of staring in the mirror. That’s what got me disgusted with where I was and got me thinking about where I should be. That’s what got me to create my own little project to help me find if there was any ab buried underneath the flab.

The plan

To be clear on why I’m writing this, I’m trying to show you how to set up and plan to accomplish a goal by showing you what I’m doing. Basic physiological principles don’t change whether you’re a guy or a girl, twenty years old or forty years old. Activity burns calories. Resistance training provides a stimulus for muscle. Food provides energy and body tissue support. I’ll show you the goals I’ve defined for this training period, how I’m planning to accomplish them, and the reasoning behind it. By showing you my plan, you should be able to see spots in your own training that might need to be adjusted, added, or dropped completely. I’m using this as not only a learning experience for myself but for you readers as well.

To design a program, we need to have specific objectives, options to reach those objectives, progress indicators, and accountability for the options we’re using. Below are my objectives and progress indicators and how I’m making myself accountable for the next six weeks of my fat loss training.


Fat loss

The obvious objective of getting a six pack is fat loss, which is my main objective. At the most basic level, weight loss or weight gain is a function of calories in and calories out. We’re talking about fat loss, not generic weight loss here. But for now I’ll just talk about getting more calories out and fewer calories in (a caloric deficit). The “muscle retention” section will go into a bit more detail on making sure it’s fat loss. Diet and training is what will lead to the caloric deficit.

First, we’ll look to the diet and make sure we won’t be getting too many “calories in.” To start, we need to know how many is too many. There are many equations to figure this out, ranging from some that use body weight and activity levels to some that are so extreme they’ll take into account what phase the moon is in to determine each day’s caloric needs. Regardless of the one that is used, it’s just an estimate and would need to be adjusted due to an individual’s own metabolism anyway. I used Precision Nutrition’s calorie estimator based on my goals and activity and came out to 2292 calories.

Calories are important but so is where those calories come from. To keep insulin levels under control and help aid in fat loss, I chose to keep carbohydrates at a lower amount. The exact figure I shot for was 100 grams with a little more on workout days and a little less on rest days. I wouldn’t exactly call it a low carb diet as much as a reduced carb diet. Protein goals are set at around 1 gram per pound of body weight and the rest came from fat.

Here’s a typical day (those with Gourmet Nutrition will recognize some of these):

  • 2 caps fish oil and super shake (water, yogurt, peanut butter, protein powder, walnuts)
  • Apple and handful of almonds
  • Beef stroganoff (consisting of beef, mushrooms, carrots, yogurt, cheese)
  • Handful of almonds
  • Surge
  • 2 caps fish oil and bedtime snack (cottage cheese, peanut butter, protein powder, flax meal)

This is very similar to my regular day to day eating, but I’m now making sure that my calorie counts and measurements are correct, and I’ve taken out the usual couple handfuls of pretzels a day. The occasional (or frequent lately) snacks on cookies, chips, and pizza are also out for now. So I will be aiming for approximately 2300 calories a day for the next two weeks and then adjusting if necessary when measurements are taken.

To help with hunger and satiety, I’m planning to get in at least 100 ounces of water a day, and I have a bottle of Fiber choice tablets that I can pop every so often if I’m feeling a hunger pang or if I’m just looking for something a little sweeter to help stay away any other candy. Because I’m not going into a huge caloric deficit or going extremely low carb, I’m not planning any big cheat days or refeeds, although as the weeks pass, I might play this by ear.

One thing I’m doing to keep me sane and for a reward is allow myself a drink a week. I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic, but I’ll normally have a couple beers a week. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of beers (I do have to rationalize it somehow!). I’m partial to microbrews and enjoy trying different kinds, so I’m allowing myself this little perk during this phase of my training. Now that I think of it, I will be doing this for six weeks, and with a beer each week, I think the perfect title for my experiment here is “Project Six Pack.”

The training aspect will focus on creating a high metabolic demand to burn as many calories as possible during training and also after training by raising my metabolic rate and EPOC. “Metabolic training” has been shown to increase metabolism for over 36 hours post-workout as well as help fat burning during non-training hours. Compound exercises, some lifting circuits and complexes, timed kettlebell swings, bike intervals, and jump rope work will be the mainstays.

After lifting and also on non-training days, I will be taking a walk for about a half hour to increase my NEPA. I might also add a couple more walks to this throughout the day. We’re allowed two breaks where I work, so a group of coworkers take a quick walk during these 15-minute timeframes. I might join them. I’ve always been one to sweat fairly easily, and I’ll have to see how it goes. I don’t want to be coined the stinky guy at work.

Stay tuned for part two!