Operation Body Fat 2017: Week 1

Doesn’t time fly. Just this time last week I was sitting down to write the first part of this Operation Body Fat series, which you can read here. In it, I discussed my targets for this challenge, and calculated my nutritional needs to achieve my goal of 10 percent body fat in 12 weeks.

I’m now one week in, so wanted to share my successes (and failures) of the week, and talk you through my workout regime, food plan and initial results.

No Quick Wins

No matter how much you read or see in the media, I whole-heartedly believe that there is no such thing as a quick, healthy and sustainable win. Like it or lump it, if you want to get healthy, it’s going to take at least some time.

So, firstly, bear that in mind when reading through this post and this series. The changes week on week will be small. Almost infinitesimally so. What matters is the macro changes. Secondly, bear it in mind when tracking your own progress. I’m weighing and measuring myself every week in part out of morbid curiosity, but largely to prove this point: there are no quick wins.

I suggest that if you’re embarking on your own weight/fat loss journey that you try and avoid tracking your progress weekly, and maybe switch to once every two weeks.

Food, Glorious Food

I’m a lazy sod, at times. Thankfully, my wonderful wife is no slouch in the kitchen and is perfectly happy to cook the evening meals. This only leaves two meals under my control, which puts two thirds of my daily intake at the mercy of my laziness and lack of organisation.

Operation Body Fat Week 1 - Huel Bag
I’ve been trying Huel – more details soon!

I decided to tackle this head on with a product I caught sight of via Facebook: Huel. An amalgamation of Human Fuel, Huel aims to be a nutritionally complete drink, acting as a full-blown meal replacement.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on Huel here, as I want to give it the attention of a full post. Its benefit is simple – I can now very quickly prepare accurately calorie-controlled meals for both breakfast and lunch.

Operation Body Fat 2017 Huel
I’ve been trying Huel – more details in a future post – but have found my home-made strawberry and banana mix rather tasty!

Each meal comes in around the 450 to 500 calorie mark (depending on what I blend it with), and the balance of macro nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats) is set at 37:30:30 respectively with a further 3% reserved for fibre.

I’ve been tracking my calorie intake via the free myfitnesspal app, having set it up based on the calculations I did last week. Bar a minor blip on Friday (more on that shortly…), I’ve been substantially within my calorie allowance every single day – averaging 1,843 calories per day versus my 2,099 target.

Cheat Day

I’m a big believer in cheat days, both for your state of mind and your metabolism. That day for me, this week, was Friday. We’re in the process of buying a house, and after a particularly good meeting with the developer decided that we should celebrate. So, Friday was a break from the no booze rule and the evening meal threw caution to the wind with a mixed grill.

There’s no benefit in punishing yourself for days like this. You need them. I’ve said before that any ‘diet’ – or more accurately lifestyle – like this needs to be sustainable. If I had eaten up to my calorie target every day up to Friday, I would have ended up being over my target for the week. Instead, however, rather than eating for eating’s sake, I ate what I needed, and if I came in under my goal, so be it. The result – all of that subsidised my cheat day, and I’m still way under my weekly goal.

The difference is, I don’t feel like I’ve had to live totally like a monk.

On the Wagon

I mentioned last week that the tail end of 2016 was particularly boozy. Well, the clichéd Dry January has come into force (other than that pesky Friday), and I must admit I feel a lot better for it. I sleep better when I haven’t had a drink, so I feel more rested. I get more done at the weekend because I don’t wake up muzzy-headed.

Most of all, however, I’ve cut out a major source of completely empty calories. Those calories from beer, wine and spirits have no nutritional value whatsoever. So, when I’m already running on a calorie deficit, it seems silly to squander what few calories I have to play with on something that gives me nothing (at least nutritionally speaking…) in return.

My intention is to stay tee-total for at least 6 weeks, and longer if I can. I’m sure there will be the odd day here and there where I’ll have a drink, and again, like the cheat day, that’s ok. It’s about the net benefit.

Yeah, I Work Out

I said I was going to train 5 times a week, and I have. I’ve split it into two days of interval cardio on the rowing machine sandwiched between three days of compound whole body weights exercises. It looks something like this:

Cardio Days

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Pyramid Rows

  • 5x 100m with 10 seconds rest between
  • 4x 250m with 30s rest
  • 3x 500m with 1min rest
  • 2x 1000m with 2min rest
  • 1x 2000m

It’s important to keep the intensity high on these intervals. I tried to keep my time per 500m around the 2 minute mark this week, but aim to bring this down quite significantly.

Unfortunately on both occasions I was unable to complete the final 2000m interval, but I’m ok with that. There’s no point absolutely destroying myself to the point that I feel unwell, pass out, throw up or just can’t face training the next day. I worked hard, I tried hard, and I did the lion’s share. I’m confident that by this time next week, I’ll be telling you that I’ve hit that final interval.

Weight Days

I haven’t pushed myself excessively hard for my weights this week, primarily because I wanted to ease myself in, and not end up aching so badly that I wasn’t able to train/walk. The focus this week was on relatively high reps before working up to some lower reps and bigger weights later in the series.

I’m a big fan of the workouts on Men’s Health, and have used their total-body barbell routine before with some success. I decided to stick to it for this week, too, but played around with some of the numbers of sets and reps. My regime this week looked something like this:

4 Sets of 10 Repetitions of:

Chest Press
Military Press
Barbell Row

4 Sets of 12 Repetitions of:

Barbell Shrug

Rest 60 seconds between each set.

I spent quite a lot of time this week focussing on my squatting form. I’ve always lacked discipline with squats in pursuit of increasing the weight, so I decided to put a stop to it. Dropping all the way back to a completely unloaded bar, I stacked some step-up plates under my bum and made sure that I touched the stack on every single rep. I’m hoping that I can steadily start to increase the weight whilst maintaining some good form with a really good, deep squat to fully engage my leg muscles through their full range of motion.

Operation Body Fat: Week 1 – Results

Ok, so, scores on the doors then:

Measurement Last Week This Week Target
Resting Heart Rate 64bpm 60bpm 55bpm
Weight 15st 3lb (96.6kg) 15st 2lb (96.2kg) 14st 7lb (92.1kg)
Body Fat Percentage 19.8% 19.7% 10%
Body Water Percentage 54.9% 55.0% 60.0%
Body Muscle Percentage 38.1% 38.0% 43.0%
Chest 104.5cm (41.1″) 108.5cm (42.7″) 106.7 (42.0″)
Bicep 35.5cm (14.0″) 34.0cm (13.4″) 38.1cm (15.0″)
Waist 103.0cm (40.6″) 99.0cm (39.0″) 86.4cm (34.0″)

Operation Body Fat 2017 Week 0 Line Up

Operation Body Fat 2017 Week 1 Lineup

You can see that there really hasn’t been much change in my physical appearance, testament to my ‘no quick wins’ statement. I do feel better, however, and am comfortable with the progress thus far.

The hard data tells a similar story. My weight has only come down by 0.4 of a pound, which is somewhat less than the 6,212.5 calorie deficit calculated last week should deliver (around 1.8lb). But, as I talked about last week, the simplistic ‘3,500 calories burns 1lb of fat’ mantra is only a rule of thumb. It’s going to take my body more than one week to start to really boost its metabolism and start to respond.

Body fat hasn’t moved a huge amount, decreasing by 0.1%, and my muscle mass has decreased by the same amount.

My measurements have seen some movement. My chest is up by 1.6”, biceps down by 0.6”, waist down by 1.6” and my thigh up by 0.8”. Again, on a weekly basis these measurements are going to fluctuate, and I did a weights session yesterday, so it’s likely that there will be residual swelling from there than may well be the cause of the increased chest and thigh measurements. Certainly, however, nothing has swung wildly, which is promising.

The biggest single move this week is my resting heart rate – down 4 bpm to a resting rate of 60 beats per minute. I’m extremely happy with this, and hope to see a further reduction next week with continued efforts on the rowing machine.

So roll on Week 2! I’m going to keep the formula pretty similar for this coming week – increasing weights at the gym where possible, and increasing the intensity of my cardio days. Overall, though, I feel a surge of motivation after one week. I’m not starving and I’m not exhausted.

In fact, I feel pretty good.

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