Four years ago, I lost 50 pounds in four months. It was pretty easy; eat little and run often. I ran 2 to 3 miles a day and took up
tennis. Eventually, I got tired of being skinny. I started lifting weights seriously. However, the diet available to me didn’t provide much in the way of protein. I managed to put on about 10 pounds in 18 months without changing pant sizes.
My circumstances are different now, and so I wanted to experiment with a dramatic reversal of what I did for several years. I all but eliminated my cardio, running no more than one mile at a time, and that only occasionally, just so I wouldn’t get out of breath walking up the stairs. I also reduced the frequency of my workouts, from 5-6 a week to 3 to 4, and dramatically changed my approach. Instead of 60 to 90 minute sessions, I do about 45 minutes. Instead of 3 minute rests between sets, I do no more than 60 seconds, and I do 4 sets of 6-8 reps rather than 3 of 10 to 12.
I abandoned any attempt at restricting what I ate or drink, except to limit my intake between noon and 8pm. This is called “intermittent fasting“. I also leaned heavily towards paleo, usually eating meals consisting of meat and green vegetables. I didn’t always stop eating at 8pm, I didn’t always stick with the paleo diet, and I ate breakfast on the few occasions She cooked beforehand without asking me if I wanted homemade sausage biscuits, eggs Benedict, homemade biscuits with homemade gravy, or a Bloody Mary.
Admittedly, this wasn’t purely ‘self experimentation’, a la Tim Ferris. I wanted to see if I could reduce my time at the gym so I could add a few other family activities to the schedule. Cutting the exercise time ought to involve a drop in performance, right?
The results have been…interesting. Skipping breakfast is pretty easy. Not eating after 8pm is, for me, hard. Eating as much as you want is pretty easy. Eating only protein and veggies is not. That bag of Doritos that #2 and #11 somehow missed can disappear pretty quickly if the only carbs you’ve had in 72 hours came from
a martini two martinis yesterday.
At the gym, I was shocked. In 30 days my bench press jumped 30%, my squats jumped 60%, and I max out most of the machines,
which probably represents a 50lb increase in most every area. (Not the most powerful man in the world, granted, but #2 is bigger and has a 21 year advantage on me and he’s been conspicuously absent with me lately, preferring to “get my workout in early”, as he says. This despite the fact we started attracting small crowds as we exceeded 450lbs on machines). I gained 10 pounds in 30 days. Fat? Muscle? I don’t know.
What’s next? Conventional wisdom and the over-eager fitness trainer at the gym would say to hit the treadmill again and up the reps to cut the fat and see how much I can drop while preserving my strength gains. I’m not convinced. Sounds like a lot of work. Besides, it’s time for second lunch.