Photo Update: Body Composition 3/10

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Photo taken this morning after Sunday breakfast. Body composition still in the low 5 percent. I weigh about 5 pounds less than the last update 3 months ago, which is exactly what I had planned as my new year’s resolution… which was to lose some muscle while keeping fat at the same percentage (this means that I lost some fat, too). I now weigh under 150, and at a little less than 5’8″, I feel lighter, faster, and much healthier. 

I want to note that, when these photos were taken this morning, there was absolutely no dehydration procedure (I thought about it, but that wouldn’t represent the message of The Lean Saloon, which is to be lean and look lean at any time). There was also NO warm-up or pre-photo pumping up, and really no flexing (at least not consciously 🙂 ). These pictures show the condition that my body is in pretty much all the time.

The best part? It’s pretty easy with intermittent fasting and low-volume exercise.

Except for Sunday, first meal is almost always around 4 PM or 5 PM, and I eat until bedtime around 11 PM. My exercise is typically one strength day with compound exercises, and sometimes a second day with muscle-specific (isolating) exercises. Every now and then I sprint very short distances. I stay active otherwise.

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35 Responses to Photo Update: Body Composition 3/10

  1. Toph says:

    This is exactly how I want my physique to look like. Muscular but not grotesquely big. It looks just….. healthy and fit!! So far I’ve lost over 10 pounds of fat and am beginning to see some abs. Your pictures and this site are VERY inspiring!!!

  2. Axe says:

    Impressive ! !

  3. Louis says:

    Wicked!

  4. Jordan says:

    How do you eat on Sunday? I assume a nice Sunday breakfast. 🙂 Lunch, too?

    It’s good to know that that amount of muscle is attainable with only 1-2 workouts per week. You say you stay active, so a lot of NEAT?

    • Johnny says:

      Jordan,

      On Sundays I usually eat a nice Sunday Brunch with my wife. I probably won’t eat anything else until a nice dinner later. If we’re out, however, I’ll probably enjoy sharing with my wife a french baguette with cheese and a bottle of Perrier at this nice outdoor French cafe. A lazy afternoon in the sun with a good conversation and people-watching.

      Best,
      Johnny

  5. You look great. If I read that correctly, you eat everyday after 4 or 5 PM? That is a little restrictive.

    • Kevin says:

      Reading all of Johnny’s blog, you’ll see that’s part of his fasting plan.

      Between 4 or 5pm and when he goes to bed, he still eats plenty of calories … while at the same time getting the benefits of longer periods of time between eating.

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks, Balti-Babe.

      Yes, I usually eat my first meal in the late afternoon, 4 or 5 (and sometimes later). I’m glad you mentioned that this sounds restrictive, as I been meaning to write about it — so I’ll just say a few preliminary things in this reply:

      While this meal pattern (eating later) is not for everyone, it’s actually not as restrictive as it sounds. It follows the same pattern as The Warrior Diet, in which the first meal is at 5PM and eating ends at 10PM; and it also follows nearly the same pattern as the Lean Gain pattern, in which you fast daily for 16 hours and feed for 8.

      My feed-window starts around 4 or 5 and I’d eat one, two, or three meals, or whatever I feel like; I’ll eat as late as right before bedtime. (Weight gain from eating at night, as you might already know, is a myth.)

      I chose this meal pattern for several reasons:

      * I like to eat when eating really counts: with family, friends, or celebrations. These things USUALLY occurs later in the day.
      * Not eating during the day frees me up to get a lot of work done, and allows me to be creative in other areas.
      * A longer period of being in an UN-fed state increases fat metabolism and other energy-catalysts. This metabolic environment supplies nearly endless energy for mental focus (many people report greater concentration during the fasted state).
      * Food stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, preparing the body for higher quality sleep. This makes sense to eat most of the food toward the evening, and to maintain the fasted state during the day for catecholamines to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system for wakefulness and energy.
      * Although I eat a “paleo-ish” diet, I also realize that food is the center of our culture’s celebration of many events. As such, this type of intermittent fasting allows participation in the enjoyment of food, whatever kind it might be.
      * Not eating every 3 or so hours (in the car, at the desk, in front of the computer, on the go) actually brings much more meaning and joy to food — at least for me.
      Body fat perpetually at 5%, for long-term. (And I was a pudgy kid.)

      There are a dozen other benefits to intermittent fasting, as you probably already know, some of which is potentially increased health and possibly longevity, without feeling deprived of calories.

      But since you brought up the (fair) concern that this meal pattern is *restrictive*, my reply is two parts:

      1) Psychological hunger is like a switch. When you decide to go on an intermittent fast, you essentially turn “off” the switch, and something in the mind comes to an acceptance of “not eating.” The kitchen is closed, sort to speak, removing all ambiguity of the act of eating.
      2) Physical hunger is a very interesting hormonal-based phenomena, in that hunger is highly adaptable. Most people adapt to changing meal frequency.

      These 2 factors work together to make this meal pattern pretty accessible… not the least bit restrictive. But, like I mentioned, it’s not for everyone; as such, I don’t presume to convince everyone to try it.

      But those who adopt this meal pattern have told me it’s surprisingly easy to lose fat and to keep it off.

      Best,
      Johnny

      • Al says:

        It is easy to keep it off “as long as you eat real foods of course.” By the way, this fasting pattern is working well for me but I have one problem and a question.

        Do you gorge at all with your meals? This is still my number one problem for me. I do not eat until around 5PM everyday and then I eat my first meal and I tend to eat way more food then I need to. Has this ever been a problem for you?

  6. Kevin says:

    Still looking awesome Johnny.

    Cool hair too!

  7. Al says:

    Thats the thing, I do not know my caloric need, and I thought you did not keep up with your calories either.

    • Johnny says:

      [Replying to Al’s original question of whether I have a problem with gorging after an IF.]

      Hi Al,

      I don’t call “gorging” a problem, if at the end of the day my caloric intake doesn’t exceed my need.

      In fact, studies examining meal frequency and alternate-day fasting use the term “gorge.” Many studies found increased health benefits among subjects who ate at reduced meal frequency (i.e. one or two meals a day, or eating only on alternating days) but with the same caloric intake as subjects who ate at higher meal frequency. By design, subjects who ate with reduced meal frequency must “gorge” in order to take in the same calories (isocalories) as subjects who ate a higher meal frequency.

      It appears that the body is pretty efficient at adjusting for complete digestion and assimilation of nutrients, even with the bigger meal intake.

      My question, thus, to you is this: Do you think you are exceeding your daily caloric need, even if you gorge? In the end, that’s what matter.

      As for me, I occasionally gorge (like last night’s HUGE birthday dinner). But over the past year I’ve learned to listen to my body and usually stop close after I’m full. There are two types of eaters: those who stop eating as soon as they’re full, and those who tend to continue. I’m more toward the latter… another reason this meal pattern is so useful for me.

      Best,
      Johnny

  8. Al says:

    Well I guess you do not need to keep up with your calories if you are only eating fruits, veggies, and real meat.

    • Johnny says:

      Al,

      I eat mostly vegetables, fruits, and quality meats. I still enjoy foods outside the paleo menu. I also don’t count calories. I believe that, for most people, having a condensed eating window makes it difficult to overeat the day’s or the week’s caloric needs.

      (Remember, body weight is a reflection of meals over time, not one single meal.)

      At the end, I still have to eat responsibly. And yes, you are mostly right: by eating mostly whole, real food, the calorie content is low.

      I tend to chose foods that are nutrient-dense and calorie sparse. Which is all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and meats. This helps a lot, but it’s important that you learn to listen to your stomach.

      It takes work, but you can do it.

      Johnny

      • Al says:

        Thanks for the vote of confidence, and after looking at your latest pics I have the upmost desire to be lean, ripped, shredded; The whole nine yards. Being that ripped has to feel better than any type of crap food that I shove down my throat. It just has to feel better.

  9. Cammy says:

    I really enjoy reading through this blog. Without realizing this but my grandfather throughout his life always skipped breakfast and even lunch, and he was a lean man and lived into his later 90s. If skipping meals was so bad for you, then he should have died much earlier as an overweight person.

    I’m just curious though why some people here say that for IF to work you must eat real food?

    Thanks and i just forwarded this blog to all my family and friends. thanks for a great site!!!

    • Johnny says:

      Cammy,

      Thanks for the good words.

      A lot of people say that IF is easier if you eat whole, real food. I believe that this is based the idea that whole, real food triggers less insulin, which prevents low blood sugar. Low blood sugar tends to trigger cravings.

      This is true to a certain extent, but not necessarily always the case.

      When you first use IF (intermittent fasting), sugar or refined carbs can increase insulin and leaves low blood sugar, and the result may be fatigue and/or cravings for more sugar or refined carbs.

      Before the adaptation to IF occurs, the human body is probably accustomed to burning mostly glucose for energy, and not fat. During fasting, the body eventually runs low on glucose and must switch to metabolizing fat for fuel. This switch is probably not efficient in a body that’s used to burning glucose most of the time. But once the body is accustomed to IF, it’s more efficient at using fat for fuel… and you may experience less cravings.

      When first adopting IF, eating whole, real food may help stabilize blood sugar to minimize cravings. Once you get used to IF and have better eating control, foods falling outside of the Paleo menu (whole, real food) won’t impact your cravings much.

      The body has an amazing capacity to balance blood sugar — if you’re healthy, it is rare that you’ll ever go into hypoglycemia. And once your body adjusts to IF, your blood sugar will stabilize more efficiently… because your body will have learned how to metabolize stored liver glycogen and stored body fat to create blood glucose.

      Having said all of this, EVERYONE can absolutely be healthier by eating mostly whole, real food… vegetables, fruits, and quality meats.

      And since it’s ALSO about caloric intake, an avoidance of grains is a good idea for most people; grains are nutrient-sparse and calorie-dense. It’s also dense in anti-nutrients that most people may benefit from minimizing. And you know how wheat and glutton effect a good portion of the population!

      Hope this helps.

      Best,
      Johnny

  10. Johnny says:

    Al, on so many levels, mentally and physically, being lean feels absolutely incredible. This is coming from someone who used to weigh 205 pounds at a little under 5’8″.

    Keep it up, Al. It is entirely worth it.

  11. Al says:

    One other thing, how do you define quality meat? I think I am relying too much on sausage, brats, and bacon for my meat intake :).

    • Johnny says:

      The meats you mention are fine. But try to get meats from grass-fed cattle and some wild games, if you can. They contain healthier fats. But in the end, eating whole, real food matters most… not eating “nutrients.”

      Johnny

    • Johnny says:

      By the way, they serve brats in heaven!

      Johnny

  12. Kevin says:

    Killer conversation goin’ on here!

    I find for myself, it feels the most natural to eat later in the day. I never was a morning/breakfast person anyway. And once I get busy during the day, eating doesn’t really even cross my mind too much anyway.

    As for eating real, whole foods… I find they kill cravings and the desire to keep eating more and more. (And I feel amazing all throughout the day, instead of groggy or sugar shaky)

    And this coming from someone who could pound down breakfast, lunch, then a package of cookies, a tub of ice cream, quart of milk, etc … and still want to eat something later. Excessive eating was an understatement.

    Tonight, I had some steak and veggies in butter, with a salad. Didn’t even finish it all. Then later had an omelet with spinach & onions cooked in butter. I don’t even want to think about eating until tomorrow night now … haha

    The difference in my hunger/eating routine amazes me every time.

    Also, back in my “6 meals a day, 6 workouts a week” days, I was eating a mix of shakes and real food with quite a bit of grains. I was always sneaking in snacks to hold off hunger, felt bloated, gassy, and annoyed at being in the kitchen preparing and eating all the time.

    Everything became a “job”, annoying, and I fell off the wagon big time. (more like jumped ship!)

    What worked best for me before then, and works for me today … is holding off eating until later in the day, stopping the trashy, gassy, energy robbing foods, moving around a lot all day and keeping it all in the back of my mind, staying busy with Life instead of “dieting”. 🙂

  13. Jordan says:

    Johnny,

    Brunch + Dinner = Excellent. 🙂

    I love that approach. Lately I’ve been alternating between two snacks and dinner, or one meal and dinner. Either way, I’ll eat my first meal/ snack around 11 am, and dinner at the normal time, with an optional snack around 3-4 pm. I’ve also done two IF’s on Monday (including yesterday) to compensate for eating more over the weekend. I’ll probably do those more often. This has been working well for me.

  14. Mark says:

    Hey Johnny,
    Just wanted to clarify because I think that you have talked about this in the past. Have you seen any need to keep protein to a certain level to keep/gain muscle? I have a hard time believing that we need to eat 1g per pound of body weight or lean body weight. Any insight is appreciated. Thanks

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Mark,

      Brad Pilon’s ebook “How Much Protein?” does a good job at presenting scientific evidence that shows protein intake beyond 70 to 110 grams per day does not necessarily increase any more muscle mass.

      Protein uptake and protein synthesis in muscle do not necessarily turn into “end-point” muscle mass.

      I read elsewhere that muscle mass is the balance between anabolism and catabolism, or the rate of muscle protein turnover. This turnover rate is determined not by how much protein you eat but by the physical demand you place on your muscle.

      Strength exercise tells this turnover rate to favor muscle protein retention, while eating more protein does not — it’ll only add to a caloric surplus that makes us fat.

      So as long as you meet your minimum protein requirement (over a period of days… not just one day or one meal), and as long as you use a good, progressive strength training routine, you’ll grow or maintain muscle. The rate and amount of muscle you’ll grow depend on your genetics and your training years.

      Hope this helps. Check out Brad Pilon’s book, if you get a chance.

      Best,
      Johnny

  15. Mark says:

    Thanks Johnny. So would you agree that as long as one is eating a low enough amount of calories, assuming it’s mostly nutrious food, that the macronutrient breakdown won’t really matter (again, assuming there is enough amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, glucose) in the end if fat loss is the goal?

    • Johnny says:

      Absolutely. I have made a change in my eating perspective to abandon the focus on macronutrients and micronutrients and look at food as what it is — food.

      Even Paleo does not always mean “low carb.”

      I only categorize food into two types: Whole food, and processed food. I eat mostly the former, but sometimes enjoy the latter. The key is to eat less food, but enjoy that which you do eat.

      Best,
      Johnny

  16. Marc says:

    Johnny,
    Thanks for all the great info you share.

    Question; do you drink coffee?
    I have no problem waiting till 4 or 5 to eat (I do it often) but I DO drink my morning cup of coffee.
    Your thoughts?

    Marc

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Mark,

      I definitely drink coffee. In fact, I put a little heavy cream in it. It’s not representative of a total fast, but a little full-on fat won’t disrupt the insulin-catecholamines balance.

      In fact, here’s trivia to consider (for fun):

      Several studies suggest that frequent feeding may increase colon cancer risk. A study by Favero (1998) shows that coffee reduces it.

      Frequent feeding increases bile acids, whereas high coffee intake decreases them. Bile acids are suspected to be carcinogenic to the colon.

      So, if you’re eating fewer times through the day, you’re lowering the associated risk of colon cancer; and by drinking coffee, you’re further lowering this risk.

      As a coffee lover, I say this is good news! 🙂

  17. Bangkok Jay says:

    Great blog, Johnny. Found you through Martin Berkhan’s blogroll.

    Question on refeeds. Did you or do you do refeeds as a means of controlling leptin or rebalancing/resetting metabolism as you approach above sub-normal leanness?

    Been reading Lyle’s books and others about carb refeeds, but I just read that Grok in reply to an older post of yours says he did a 5000cal paleo refeed for leptin balance. Didn’t know paleo refeeds existed!

    Been paleo (Panu-style) and doing daily 18/6 IF (before I knew Martin advocated it) for 6 months to lose 30lbs (42 yrs. 171lbs at 5’5″ now) with minimal formal exercise and little muscle loss.

    But my fear is loss of lean muscle mass as further fat comes off without doing some sort of controlled refeed. Yes lots of research seems to point to minimal loss with resistance training but then “carb refeeds” and programs like “cyclical ketogenic diets” have duly perplexed me. And while Martin did no refeeds to get lean, I’m wondering aloud whether such refeeds are like an insurance policy for those less genetically gifted.

    Haven’t read much about this issue in the paleo world. Any thoughts you have on this would be greatly appreciated. Kawp koon krap. – Jay

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jay,

      According to Byron Richards’ book “Mastering Leptin,” caloric deprivation lowers leptin, which in turn decreases sympathetic nervous flow to fat cells and prevents further release of fat. This has been said to be the mechanism by which our metabolism compensates for decreased energy intake. (This hypothesis is still debated.)

      A slight re-feed seems to boost leptin. Martin Berkhan’s latest post ( http://www.leangains.com/ ) talks about the specifics of this re-feed, from a personal and clientele standpoint, as well as that of limited data.

      Martin also mentions that intermittent fasting may have a slightly different effect on leptin, compared to the traditional caloric deprivation method. Intermittent fasting, although typically lowering calorie intake, allows a window of “re-feeding.” During this window, leptin appears to spike, so the average leptin level seems to be unchanged with IF.

      But the interesting data that Martin brings up is that, during IF, leptin levels may actually increase in both men and women, which may (or may not) be associated with the decrease in hunger (via a decrease in neuropeptide-Y).

      But, as body fat mass decreases, leptin level also tends to decrease (leptin is made within fat tissue); this decrease in leptin sounds like bad news for further fat loss. But IF may release fat-mobilizing hormones like the catecholamines to continue to metabolize fat, independent of leptin level.

      To answer your question, though, I honestly try to keep things simple. My “re-feedings” are not always planned, and they’re not always planned around exercise (post workouts, etc.).

      My feeding window usually starts around 4 or 5 PM and often ends right before bed. Most times I eat pretty well (lots of vegetables and meats), but sometimes I eat potatoes and other root vegetables, which are relatively dense in carbs. Still, other times I enjoy (limited) amounts of refined carbs. I guess you can consider them as part of my carbohydrate re-feedings.

      I believe my leptin remains within a normal average range because of a dietary lifestyle that’s adopted as organically as possible. In other words, I eat an IF lifestyle (not too unlike the one recommended by Martin Berkhan — in fact, it is heavily inspired by him) with feeding windows that allow varying intake of total calories and occasionally some heavier carbohydrates.

      Leonardo Da Vinci said that “Simiplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I aim for my diet to exemplify this quote!

      Kawp koon krap,
      Johnny

      • Kevin says:

        I find it interesting that many times when we “get serious” about dieting … we start worrying about all these details like grams of protein, nutrient ratios, hormones, timing etc.

        That’s exactly the kinda “mind filler” that burned me out of the whole “dieting” thing a few years ago.

        Worrying about “this” and “that”, wondering if I’m “_______” enough or too much… etc made me hate it all.

        Nowadays, I’m proactively working on “unlearning” most of it.

        I’m thinking for normal everyday people (those that aren’t researching or teaching this stuff) it’s best to keep it super simple and not worry about all that.

        Just get an understanding of what humans were designed to eat and how to move … and then enjoy doing it.

        Know what “whole, real” foods are, eat them and learn when to stop, be active, let “life” happen, and enjoy seeing your real body come into focus (and have fun using it!)

  18. Johnny says:

    Kevin, well said.

    I think that getting into the mechanics of things work well for many people, while not so well for others. It’s the same thing I’ve found with a lot of my personal training clients — some really want to understand the citric acid cycle, while others just want just want to know the basics. I’ll tell you this: both groups sweat a lot, and both groups attain equal results. The split between these two types of people is almost half-and-half.

    I simply chose to write for the half that want to keep things simple. But I’m always prepared to explain the complexity… and if I can’t, I know a few people who write great blogs that can.

    Best,
    Johnny

  19. Bangkok Jay says:

    @Johnny and Kevin, thanks for the feedback guys!

    That recent post (great timing & excellent!) of Martin’s is just what I was looking for and your added summary brought further clarification and simplification of these issues I’ve not yet come across anywhere. VERY useful and good to know that “ah-jahn” (teacher) also uses the occasional refeed in a natural manner.

    I’m don’t count calories either and prepare all my whole foods and the fatloss is both shocking and inspirational that creates hunger for knowledge. Like golf students, some do better just following advice and others do better understanding the mechanics. As an engineer, I’m in the latter group but I also appreciate the beauty of simplicity. So I thank you for that as well.

    PS Thailand is a pretty good paleo country. Local cows are grass-fed; fresh young coconuts on every corner for 28cents; cheap virgin coconut oil, palm oil, coconut cream; real pork rinds; tasty local foods cooked in palm oil (even the street vendors-our version of fast food); great sun (vit D) but overly hot/humid at times. Not perfect but makes for a great paleo destination. Not that we know what we’ve got nor what keeps most of naturally lean.

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