The impossible question.
A health and nutrition post.
January 2021….in the first post of this series i related my story of how at the start of my own health reset experiment i started asking some simple and perhaps stupid questions before i knew enough to ask better and smarter ones. Towards the end of that time i asked one question that seemed, on the face of it, really silly, but wasn’t ie : would it be better to not eat ?…..and strangely that isn’t a silly question at all as it led me into the world of first, intermittent fasting (IF) and then longer fasts of a couple of days or so. In this post though i want to explore what i called the ‘IQ‘ or ‘impossible question about what i wanted to achieve and that was to both lose lots of excess weight from body fat while gaining or at least retaining muscle mass so……how can i fix my health problems (need to lose lots of body fat) and how can i either gain or retain muscle mass simultaneously ?
10 years gone…..*
Some 10 years ago i was also overweight just as i was before i started this experiment but i also had a minor accident while i was out walking ; tore my major calf muscle (gastroc tear) and ended up ‘off legs’ for a few weeks until i could start my rehab in a swimming pool. There was a bit of a good luck/bad luck thing going on here : i was unlucky to have the spontaneous gastroc tear just as i was setting out for a long day’s winter walk, lucky to be not far from home and even luckier when i hobbled into my GP’ s surgery a day later…..by then i’d already been to the A&E department , been diagnosed and issued with a pair of crutches.
At the surgery i remember standing and waiting because it was a lot easier than sitting down and having to stand up again and i wondered what kind of reception i was going to get because my usual jolly and avuncular GP was off on holiday and i would be seeing a locum instead. Well, a few minutes later and a much younger GP, tall and muscular looking bloke, comes bounding into the waiting room, calls out my name and when he sees the crutches ushers me into his consultation room. The first funny thing that happens as he meets me is that he says something like “so you’ve come to see me about your sore ear then ?” now, i kind-of immediately clock the doc as being most likely ex services and up for a bit of repartee……i can’t (won’t) say how i replied because it was extremely rude even by my standards but it did make him laugh and caused a few blushes among the other waiting patients.
It turns out that the good doc was indeed ex services, Royal Navy actually but had done his time with the Royal Marines and in fact had won his ‘green lid’ *……more importantly in my case he knew everything about spontaneous gastrocnemus tears as he’d had to deal with several as the RM’s medical officer and not only that but he’d had one himself. So not only did he instantly sign me off work completely for at least 6 weeks but he also talked me through the rehab i would need to do while warning me that i would effectively lose the next 3 months of my then training goals.
This was just before Christmas so i just managed to get a few sessions in the community sports college pool before they shut down for the whole holiday period and i was then left with no choice but to join the posh health and racquet club a few hundred yards down the road. That was twice the price and i had to take out a years membership but it did give me as much access to an inside and an outside pool at almost all hours of the day as i would need and it had a gym with resident trainers. After a few weeks of initial rehab work in the pool i progressed to the gym , at first only able to do very low energy stuff like balance on bosu balls and wobble boards but then about a month after that i got my official gym walkaround with one of the PT’s and i enquired about doing some sessions with him ; mainly in learning the basics of training with free weights.
Ten years ago and i just wanted to get maximally fit although i couldn’t have told you what i meant by that and i knew nothing about sports nutrition, in fact i don’t ever remember thinking about it except for finding out that it was considered a good idea to feed soon after training…..which i started to do, initially with a protein shake and soon after that with a post workout meal at the gym’s bar/cafe.
When i did start to think about what maximum fitness at that age actually meant i was heavily influenced by my new interest in weight training and how i thought was in terms of strength in certain exercises , speed and distance in running and then mainly body composition. Influenced and inspired by the PT and some forums that i joined i came up with the impossible question or impossible goal whichever way you want to think about it and that was whether i could put on an amount of muscle while losing lots of body fat.
The strange thing is that is do-able for a beginner and for a while as he starts to train with free weights ; this is what is known as beginner gains and can last as much as 18 months. A young person, particularly young men, can put on a significant amount of muscle in that time and the fat loss just seems to then be a by-product of the initial workload ; an old fart (52) like me has a harder time with the muscle gain simply due to lower testosterone , but, my PT said i had a good work ethic in the gym and i was turning regularly and putting in the work which is what counts. I’d also learned very early on not to waste time with poseur crap like the gym pretty boy doing bicep curls in the squat cage ; rather i was just cranking out sets of squats, deadlifts, bench press and such like….all the big compound moves that really do the damage. Strange also that for a while i got into running again but months later when my ankle was stable again , in fact the next year i ran my best ever one and a half miler o the treadmill.
But the main point is…..
Is that a common axiom in sports nutrition and training is that you can’t over train a bad diet or in other words that a bad diet can’t be compensated for by better training : and yet that’s exactly what i did. Other than the fact that i had a protein shake after my training and usually a 3 egg omelette in the bar afterwards i didn’t think about ‘diet’ at all, in fact i just carried on as normal at home and yet the muscle came and the fat went to the point where i was the heaviest in lean mass and the lowest in fat than iv’e ever been before or since then.
The big problem was that to do what i was doing was taking an average of 4 hours out of every day that i trained and that i was trying to do that at least 4 days a week at a time when i still worked full time just across the road and was trying to do a boat refit at the same time. Just to say that it usually took me one hour to walk to the gym and get changed, then an hour plus to warm up and do the main workout, then get changed again and hit the pool, change again and have my shake and meal at the bar and then just less than an hour to finish and get home. While successful it was an unsustainable routine long term and something had to break…..at one point i was even arriving at the gym at 0630 to do a shortened workout before running over the road and changing into my scrubs for a day’s work.
This time around and i had different problems to start with and of course i’m ten years older thus less testosterone to work with but maybe a bit more sense !, this time i started off with a dietary approach first because i was still struggling with mobility problems and severe episodes of back pain after a knee replacement…..oh….i didn’t mention the knee replacement did i ?. Ten years on and it just seems that i’m starting all over again with yet another long period of physical rehab but this time after a major operation.
Seen this time during my next enforced period of rehab….no turnig indeed !
That’s it for this year by the way…..have a good holiday period whatever you are doing and i’ll catch you soon.