What progress have I made so far?
I have lost around 4 kg in weight. A large proportion will be water due to the drop in carbohydrate in my diet and consequent muscle glycogen depletion. A small amount will likely be muscle even though I’ve been consuming lots of protein and lifting weights to minimise the effect (my diet has been hypocaloric meaning it’s less than my body needs to maintain weight).
Most however is body fat, particularly from my waist as indicated by the fact my skinfolds and mid-section circumferences have reduced, whilst other body part circumferences such as my arms and legs have remained constant. This suggests I’ve lost visceral (internal) as well as some subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, and I am visibly leaner.
What’s been more important, the nutrition or the training?
Although both together will undoubtedly have produced better results than either alone, I definitely attribute progress so far primarily to what I’m eating and (and to an extent, what I’m not!). This first phase has been all about altering my body’s ability to process carbohydrate more effectively so my insulin levels are more regulated. That means I will be able to utilise carbs efficiently to build muscle mass without gaining excess body fat. It just so happens that a nice side effect of this is my body has been burning fat as an energy source more readily, hence the reason I’m much leaner than I was 4 weeks ago.
So can I now start to reintroduce good starchy sources such as sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa, and experiment to see what level my body can tolerate.
As with almost all aspects of the programme, it’s ultimately a case of trial and error, particularly as it’s the first time I’ve ever done this in such a controlled way. That’s one of the reasons you can probably never get absolutely 100% perfect results from a physiological point of view – there will always be trade-offs. Progress and success is arguably determined by how well you can minimise these compromises.
The exercise programme has produced steady progress in terms of weights lifted and reps achieved as you’d expect over time.
Although some of these exercises have been designed to bolster me structurally by strengthening some weak links, as mentioned above I wouldn’t say they themselves have produced any magical effect in terms of my physique so far – it’s more the overall effect of following a set, whole-body resistance training routine with progressive overload, which is supporting my metabolism. Getting the basics right is an often overlooked aspect of personal training.
That said, it dawned on me this week that I haven’t actually done more than 4-5 of the 20 exercises Shaun gave me on a regular basis before, if at all (barbell hip thrusts are great for the glutes – give them a go!). This has certainly helped to wake up my muscles and push me through strength plateaus, as well as boost my motivation (not that I don’t enjoy training already of course!).
Phase 2 will involve a more hypertrophy-based exercise routine - “You’ll feel this one” Shaun told me worryingly – using a superset approach once again to make the workouts as time-efficient as possible. I’ve also been promised a ‘cheat meal’ at the end of the week so I’m looking forward to that…
Remember to follow me on Twitter (@PaulSwainson) and tweet me with any questions using the hashtag #ProjectPaul