Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Important Key Points To My Body Transformation

Jan 31st 2011 -April 2th, 2011

Important Key Points To My Body Transformation

1. Calories matter

This is the number one most important thing when it comes to dieting: You have to reduce your calorie intake to less than what your body uses in order to lose weight! You can do cardio until you pass out but you still won't lose weight if you're eating 3,000 calories when your body is only burning 2,500 a day. 

I've heard people say that they hardly eat anything and exercise everyday yet they still can't lose weight or keep gaining weight. I say this is crap and the fat on your body is not being made out of thin air. At least in the beginning of a diet, you have to count calories in order to know exactly what you are taking in and how to adjust to make progress.

2. Lift heavy

A common misconception is that in order to get "cut up", you need to lift lighter weight for higher reps to "tone" the muscles. This misconception really needs to get trashed because the only thing it will lead to is a smaller, weaker version of your current self. 

Since it will be very difficult to build muscle while on a caloric deficit, the main objective of lifting weights during a diet is to maintain the muscle you currently have. 

This requires that you attempt to lift just as heavy as when you were trying to pack on muscle. Now being that you are in a caloric deficit, the volume of sets/reps/exercises you do will need to be lowered, but the intensity should be just as high.

During my transformation, I alternated heavy days of a 5x5 routine with medium days where the rep range would be between 8-12 reps per set. Doing this actually allowed me to get stronger during the 5x5 heavy days!

3. Take it easy with the cardio

Another mistake people generally make when they cut is that they do something like an hour of high intensity cardio after their hour long weight session. I'm referring to high intensity as any type of cardio where you need to open your mouth to breathe or pant. On a calorie restricted diet, this easily leads to muscle loss which also will turn you into a smaller, weaker version of your current self. 

I used to do the higher intensity cardio while dieting myself and found that it lead to muscle loss and loss of strength as well. This is not what we want when transforming our bodies. We want to hold on to as much of the hard earned muscle mass we built as possible.

During my transformation, I stuck to doing low intensity incline treadmill walking or the elliptical. By low intensity, I mean keeping my heart rate between 110 - 130 beats per minute. Or a simple way I monitored this was to just make sure I was able to breathe through my nose and not my mouth. It should be fairly easy, non panting cardio.

4. Progress slowly

Another key to retaining retaining muscle mass is to slowly progress on the diet and cardio. If you start a diet by immediately cutting your calories down to 1,000 a day and doing 1 hr of cardio everyday, you're going lose a lot of muscle fast and hit a plateau just as quickly. When you hit the plateau, you have no room for adjustments since you're already only eating 1,000 calories and doing a ton of cardio. 

By reducing calories by a reasonable number and adding in some cardio slowly over time, this allows the body to slowly burn the fat while retaining the maximum amount of muscle. You should start off on a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day. Then maybe after two to four weeks depending on how you feel and the results you're getting, add in 30 minutes of low intensity cardio every other day. Then maybe after another two to four weeks reduce calories further or lengthen your cardio sessions. You get the point...It's all about slowly progressing so that you can make adjustments along the way if needed to get the desired results.

5. Supplements can help

There's some debate on whether supplements actually help or are even effective and do what they are supposed to do. In my experience throughout the years and during my transformation, I feel they definitely do improve results. I'm not going to go into the science of these supplements here but will list what they are intended for and what effects I felt from them. Here are some of the important ones I used during the transformation:

a. BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids) - I take these during my weightlifting sessions and cardio sessions to help preserve muscle. BCAA's don't need to be broken down by the liver so are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. These activate the body's signals to increase protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown. The specific one I used was Scivation's Xtend which is arguably the most popular BCAA product on the market.

b. Fatburner/Thermogenic - These are used to sustain energy levels, decrease hunger, and increase metabolism. My favorite one is OxyElite Pro by USP LabsI've tried many others but this has been my favorite one and the one I stick to now. 

c. Creatine - This is also another supplement which is meant to help preserve muscle and strength during a diet. Creatine can also lead to more intense workouts which in turn can burn more calories and preserve muscle. Any standard Creatine Monohydrate product will do.

d. Testosterone Booster - The one I used during my transformation is called Free Test by Applied Nutriceuticals. This product is intended to increase testosterone, decrease estrogen, and control cortisol levels. All of this together will lead to more muscle preservation and strength and less fat. I felt I had great results with this product and would use it again. I normally don't gain strength on a diet, but with this product I did!

So to summarize: Eat less, lift like a man, take it easy on your heart, pace yourself, and take your supplements :)

12 Week Body Transformation - Intro

12 Week Body Transformation continued - Cheat Days


dogsbrekky said...

Great work mate. At 46 years young I too have failed miserably to build a physique because I fall back on my cardio/endurance type mentality.

In the last 3 weeks of IF I have already bulked on some muscle while lowering BF% a little BUT my lifts are MUCH heavier than before and my energy is through the roof.

Today, I am going to start squatting more and doing very light cardio only (walking on incline)

Great blog and great effort on IF and showing us laymen on bodybuilding.com how to see the light.

Duong Nguyen said...

Thanks for the comments! It sounds like you are actually building muscle and losing fat as well, which is something I had thought was not possible before IF!

Anonymous said...

a year + on and this is still super inspirational! Had doubts but your account has turned the tide for me! How is it going this year? Thanks for this article btw.


Duong Nguyen said...

Thanks for the compliments Greg! It's great being able to inspire people to let them know that it IS possible to change your body.

I've been super busy this year, so haven't been able to update lately. But I'll be posting an update soon...about one of my friends who my blog as a guide and got awesome results!

Anonymous said...

Really great to see you're active and around Duong! Personally can't wait for more of your work, your communication style is clear and enjoyable.
If all goes well you can add one more person who will use your blog as a guide for awesome results..about to start a cut.


Anonymous said...

hi Duong I am still learning so much from your site and am very grateful for all of you support. I have a question about the 'afterburn' effects of cardio. Apparently if I did steady state cardio for 50mins and burn around 500 calories, my metabolism speeds up in theory to burn an additional 500 calories according to studies.

I noticed that you only ate between 1200 and 1600 calories a day despite doing cardio and not factoring these calories and afterburn calories - am I right? If so how does your body gain muscle and lose fat? Depending on your daily work etc you may be only at 500cals a day after cardio. I use a calorie counter and for me to lose 1lb fat a week I need to consume 1600 calories but this excludes any cardio and exercise according to the calculator. It would be great to know how you came up with the 1200 to 1600 calories calculation given your starting weight and height and your fat loss goals. I am just afraid of becoming a smaller version of myself as you point out. I am doing IF since April and have lost over 20lbs - I can start to see my abs but feel I have lost muscle too. I lift 3 times a week - chest/delts/triceps, cardio day, legs/traps, cardio day, back/biceps, cardio day then a rest day. I use high intensity training to failure and am very strong - ie 500lb+ squats, 350lb+ bench and nearly 600lb dead lifts - not bad at a tired 38 and only 168lbs! Am I not eating enough calories? I only use BCAAs, creatine, whey/casien protein, vit c, d and lots of ground flax seed for Omega 3. My protein is about 175g/day. Is there a benefit to taking fishoil over flaxseed?

I am not confident with thermogenics and potential heart issues given I have a risk of heart disease which my dear father passed at a young age.

Sorry for all the questions but I really want to be in my best shape before I hit the big 40.

Be good to yourself bro, peace, Sam.

Duong Nguyen said...

Hi Sam, yes I did not factor in the calories burned from exercise. I came up with 1600 calories using the general guideline of eating 10 calories per lb of bodyweight for the weight you wish to achieve. So I would shoot for 1600 but sometimes I just wasn't that hungry and couldn't eat.

If you've been dieting since April, perhaps you can benefit from taking a diet break and upping calories to maintenance for 2 weeks or so.

Those are some great lifts Sam! If you're not losing strength, then don't worry about muscle loss. You're most likely feeling 'flat' from lack of glycogen in your muscles but it is not true muscle loss.

I've read that your body has a hard time processing the flax see for omega-3's so I just use fishoil.

Anonymous said...

Hi Duong hope all is good with you and many thanks for all of your expert advice. I am making some good progress thanks to your advice. I would like to get your opinion on carb cycling. You mention leangains method as far as fasting windows but Martin Berkhan suggests low carbs, higher fat, high protein non-workout days (4 days a week) and high carbs, low fat, high protein on workout days. I suppose this is because your body needs carbs to recover from the workouts. Did you not find this method effective? It seems you kept carbs low (30g or less) for 13 days and then a carb refeed day. why did you do this? You logic and reasoning is excellent and I would greatly appreciate your advice.

All the very best, Sam.

Duong Nguyen said...

Hi Sam,

Good to hear you're still making progress!

The main reason I did this is because I can control my eating better this way. What I mean is, it was difficult for me to eat carbs and not eat a lot of it. I found I could stick to a diet better by just eliminating carbs completely.

So, not eating carbs and then have a cheat day allowed for me to do this. Plus, I just found my body seemed to lose fat better with no carbs.

I'm bulking/lean gaining now and I've found I've gotten better at controlling my carb intake though :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Duong

What would your recommendation be for someone who works out in the morning? I don't feel bad working out at 6AM and not eating until 4-5 oclock. Just sip on Bcaa's every few hours?

Also, how did you space your Free test out?


Duong Nguyen said...

I honestly don't have any experience with working out in the mornings fasted. My friend said he takes BCAA's pre and during the workout and also sipped on some as well and it seemed to work well for him. I just took the Free Test per the instructions, 4 caps in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Hi Duong,
Ready through your plan has really motivated me to kick it in gear to bulk up before college. I am 18 years old and not happy with the way I have been putting muscle on and really want to cut down on body fat. Any specific tips for me?
Thanks, keep it up

Duong Nguyen said...

Hey, sorry for the delayed reply. Here's the most important tip: Be consistent in your weightlifting and nutrition. Get your protein and macros in, keep making progress in the weight room and you should see great gains.

Anonymous said...

Oxy Elite Pro was pulled from all shelves due to liver damage. Just an FYI.

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