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My 16-week challenge- Engineering the Alpha


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Summary- Having recently gotten in better shape, I will be challenging myself to complete the 16-week Engineering the Alpha program to lose weight, get strong, and optimize natural hormone production to feel better and improve my quality of life. 

 

Background- I am 23 years old, 6 foot tall, weigh 223lbs, and have 22 percent body fat. 

 

I've always been overweight and out of shape due to a lack of exercise and compulsive overeating. About a year ago I started attending HIIT classes three days a week and improved my diet (by eating less, avoiding starchy carbs, and tending to stick to paleo foods). I lost 40lbs. 

 

A bit more about me: Overall, I've lived a very blessed life. I have a good family, lots of ambition, and an overall bright future. I'm outgoing and try to be a moral person. I do lack confidence, and sometimes feel I'm not living up to my full potential because I procrastinate too much. 

 

Issue- Although I feel better then I did a year ago, I continued to experience melancholy, a lack of energy, low sex drive, and chronic fatigue. My doctor ordered blood work and found I had low testosterone and high estrogen- two problems that wreck havoc on a person's well being, and an issue that is becoming increasingly common for young, overweight men.

 

I have three issues I'd like to address: 

 

1. Natural Hormone Optimization: Because I'm a total nerd, I now understand how hormones work and how they affect a person's health. By naturally optimizing my hormones, I believe I'll feel better and build the life I want. My research has taught me that the number one thing a person can do to optimize their hormones is...

 

2. Have a healthy bodyweight: My goal is to achieve 15 percent body fat by the end of this challenge. The best way to lose weight is to...

 

3. Build muscle and get in shape. 

 

Next Step- I'll address each of those issues by following the plan laid out in the book Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha.

 

I know what you're thinking- that must just be another douchey book about picking up woman and rocking ray bans. 

 

On the contrary, the authors attempt to reclaim the label of "Alpha" from the pick-up artists, and redefine it to means "the best version of yourself" (as opposed to "the best person in the room"). Their thesis is that if you are in shape, eat well, and have optimized your hormones (naturally), you are better positioned to make your life whatever you want it to be. 

 

The plan has four phases, and each phase includes a diet and exercise regime with different, but complimentary goals. Here they are summarized (from Wikipedia): 

 

  • Phase 1: Prime – Focused on improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin, using a combination of low-carb cycling and metabolic workouts that focus primarily on fat loss.
  • Phase 2: Adapt – Set up to build strength and endurance with the result of increasing testosterone to burn fat and build muscle, Adapt uses of density-based training, and employs weekly cheat days.
  • Phase 3: Surge – Workouts that utilize a total body approach and are designed to increase the production of growth hormone.
  • Phase 4: Complete – Combining strategic aspects of the previous three phases.

In each phase I will workout four days a week following their program (there are four different workouts in each phase, and you do each one once a week). I will also have to track my calories and macronutrients (admittedly this isn't for everyone. But I feel I have the discipline, knowledge, and experience to benefit from this type of approach. Plus this nerd LOVES tracking things in spreadsheets). 

Throughout the program I will be following Intermittent Fasting. The authors claim this helps optimize hormones and build muscle. I know there are mixed reviews on this, but I have lost weight through IF in the past (admittedly it may have simply been because I consumed fewer calories) so am going to give it a shot.  

Here is a spreadsheet I put together to track everything- https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/59724461/EtheA.xlsx (haven'tcreated a spreadsheet for any of the workouts beyond Prime (Phase I) yet. I'll post an update when I do). 

I've also attached a current photo. I'll post a new photo every two weeks.  

I'm starting day one of Phase I tomorrow. I will endeavour to update this thread everyday for the next 16 weeks. 

 

Purpose- The purpose of this thread is fourfold:

1- I find writing things down helps me galvanize the plan in my head and makes me more likely to follow through. 
2- If I have some success, I hope to be able to inspire others.
3- I'd like to educate people about the importance of hormone optimization. Hormones can completely change your life, and unless you are truly sick, optimizing your body's production of hormones is almost 100% within your control. 
4- Extrinsic encouragement is always helpful and appreciated. 

 

Even if no one reads this thread, I'll still be able to benefit from the first three purposes. 

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Day 1- Phase One (Prime)- Tuesday, April 7, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout One

 

I successfully completed workout one. Admittedly I was tired, but fortunately I was familiar with most of the exercises thanks to my experience with circuit training. My arms are particularly sore. I was able to complete just one pull up. 

 

Because of an early morning flight, I worked out a bit later then I normally will and after having already eaten. It will be interesting to see if the workouts are tougher without eating in advance. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 1713
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 77 
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 91
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 124 

 

I avoided snacking today but did an imperfect job tracking my calories/macros, in large part because my day was thrown off due to the flight. My carbs were high because of too much fruit. 

 

I woke up at 4:45AM to catch my flight and did not begin eating until 11AM, allowing for an Intermittent Fast (assuming I stop eating at 7PM). 

 

I will need to get groceries tomorrow so I can be more militant in my diet tracking.

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Day 2- Phase One (Prime)- Wednesday, April 8, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout Two

 

Another successful workout. A couple concerns:
 

-I worry about my cardio strength. I've mentioned before that I plan to do Couch to 5K on my rest days because I'm starting this challenge in the middle of the C25K program. I've also noted potential problems with this plan(lower caloric intake, no rest days, etc). Tomorrow is my rest day so I'll attempt C25KM. Hopefully it goes well because I'd love to get my cardio up to snuff and be able to run 5KM. 

 

-I had to skip hanging knee raises today because I was unable to do any. I've decided to replace all pull up sets with inverted rows ( http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2009/11/06/inverted-row-are-you-missing-out-on-this-great-exercise/) until I am able to complete a pull up. 

 

Overall I feel good about the exercises! I really enjoy the workouts and find them doable, but challenging. I didn't eat before working out, and although I was a bit hungry, I managed no problem. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 1767
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 79 
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 116
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 110

 

My calories, protein, and fat are all below my targets. I attribute this to the fact that it's still early in the program so I have extra motivation. I'm not complaining, because I don't feel hungry. 

 

For the second day in a row my carbs are too high. The reason is that I'm eating a TONNE of vegetables- that's where the majority of my carbs are coming from. I don't know if I should be worried about this. Will it affect my insulin reset, even though the carbs are coming from veggies???

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11AM this morning. 

 

I went grocery shopping today and bought loads of good food for the week ahead.

 

Weight Update

 

When I planned this program, I weighed 223lbs. I was away for five days and when I weighed myself today, I weighed 226lbs. I'll continue to use my calculations for 223lbs and consider that my starting point. 

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Day 3- Phase One (Prime)- Thursday, April 9, 2015

 

Exercise- Rest Day

 

Today was an appreciated rest day as my muscles were quite sore (especially in the upper body and legs). I just didn't feel like attempting C25K. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 1935 Actual: 1662
Carbs: Target: 0 Actual: 56
Protein: Target: 122 Actual: 112
Fat: Target: 161 Actual: 92

 

Unfortunately I indulges in 32 mini eggs today, hence the 56 carbs. This also accounts for 420 calories. Ouch. 

 

Again today I felt satisfied despite coming in under my calorie, fat, and protein targets. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 2PM this afternoon. I was on the road all day and because I slept in, I didn't have a chance to eat lunch until then. 

 

Other

 

Although I felt good for most of the day, I started feeling a bit depressed and incredibly tired in the late afternoon. It was difficult to get up this morning because I was awake until 2AM. 

 

I really hope I can address this energy issue with this challenge. 

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Day 4- Phase One (Prime)- Friday, April 10, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout Three

 

It felt great to be back in the gym today. I went hard and it hurts so good tonight. I'm going to go to a C25K later (for reasons that will become evident when you read the diet section of this log). 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 2839
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 180
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 94
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 178

 

Ouch. :( Basically what happened is someone delivered oatmeal chocolate cookies to the house today. I indulged and ate six. Blahhh.

 

Oh well. These things happen. I'm going to compensate by going back to the gym to jog tonight and refocusing my focus tomorrow. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until noon today. Loving this IF thing. 

 

Other

Another day not getting up until about 9:30AM. I'm lucky that my current work allows me to be this flexible, but I really need to get my sleep schedule in order. 

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Day 5- Phase One (Prime)- Saturday, April 11, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout Four

 

Had a really great work out- I really love going to the gym. I had sprints on the treadmill at the end. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 2020
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 60
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 46
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 25

 

I was on the road all day and as a result my diet suffered. A brought a leftover salad from supper that I ate at 11AM but I was still hungry afterwards... that's where I made my first mistake. I went to the grocery store planning to buy some almonds for a snack. Instead I indulged in salt and pepper peanuts and ended up eating about 1000 calories worth. 

 

For supper I had to attend an event where they served a turkey dinner. I avoided most of the carbs but it still wasn't a great meal. 

 

I've been consistently blowing my carb goal which makes me worry my insulin reset won't be successful. I'm going to need to step it up. At least I've been losing weight!

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11AM today. 

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Day 6- Phase One (Prime)- Sunday, April 12, 2015

 

Exercise- Rest Day

 

Although today was a rest day, I did go to the gym and run sprints, do 20 burpees, and 20 lateral pulls. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 1935 Actual: 1970
Carbs: Target: 0 Actual: 101
Protein: Target: 122 Actual: 78
Fat: Target: 161 Actual: 141

 

So another mini egg indulgence today. I also ate three apples, but I'm not going to worry about those carbs. 

 

Going forward I'll be more judicious about hitting my macros. Not only have my carbs been too high, I've been coming in way under my protein target. If I avoid my dumb little indulgences (i.e. mini eggs) then I can eat more protein and fat and still not go over my calories. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 10:50AM today. I was pretty hungry because I ate so poorly yesterday. 

 

Other

 

When I weighed myself today, I was at 226lbs. Although that was in the evening, it should be motivation to tighten up my diet. 

 

Also, I'm going to work on being more productive this week. I made a to do list and will focus on the following goals:
-Awake by 8AM, asleep by 11PM.
-Brush teeth in the morning and evening. 
-Go to the gym.
-Stick to my macros. 
-No porn. 
-Forward plan and schedule each day. 

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Day 7- Phase One (Prime)- Monday, April 13, 2015

 

Exercise- Rest Day

 

Although today was a rest day, I did go to the gym and run sprints, do 20 burpees, and 20 lateral pulls. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 1935 Actual: 1240
Carbs: Target: 0 Actual: 60
Protein: Target: 122 Actual: 96
Fat: Target: 161 Actual: 49

 

So a much better eating day today. Most of my carbs came from vegetables and quinoa which I wont stress over. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11:00AM today. Still love the whole fasting thing.

 

Other

 

When I weighed myself today, I was at 224lbs. I've noticeably gained muscle.

 

Overall I had a very productive day and tonight have a positive outlook on life. I've decided not to drink caffeine after 4PM to see if that improves my sleep. 

 

One week in! Three more to go in Phase One, 15 to go overall! I feel positive. 

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Looks like you're making great progress so far! Good luck!

 

I never liked the taste of coffee and gave up soda in high school, and since then I've been able to get a solid 7-8 hours sleep and feel great the next day. What helps me go to sleep is to either read a book, listen to a relaxing album, or concentrate on my breathing. I remember in a psych class learning that you shouldn't exercise 3 hours before bed and to try to avoid any kind of screen. I read on my computer sometimes before bed but reading a physical books make me much more tired. 

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"If you die, you die. A man must constantly exceed his level." - Bruce Lee

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Looks like you're making great progress so far! Good luck!

 

I never liked the taste of coffee and gave up soda in high school, and since then I've been able to get a solid 7-8 hours sleep and feel great the next day. What helps me go to sleep is to either read a book, listen to a relaxing album, or concentrate on my breathing. I remember in a psych class learning that you shouldn't exercise 3 hours before bed and to try to avoid any kind of screen. I read on my computer sometimes before bed but reading a physical books make me much more tired. 

Thank you smazzon1! 

 

Thanks for the sleep advice. I've decided not to consume caffeine after 4PM- tried it yesterday, not sure it helped. 

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Day 8- Phase One (Prime)- Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout Three

 

Another good workout. Progressively increased my weight from last week. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 1546
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 80
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 73
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 93

 

Overall I had a pretty good day diet wise. Going to be glad when those mini eggs are gone (I ate five or six today lol). 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11AM today. 

 

Other


Was down to 222.8lbs on the scale today. 

 

Meant to get up until 8 but I fell back to sleep for another 40 minutes. I did go the gym after. 

 

Otherwise, stuck to each of my other goals.

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Day 9- Phase One (Prime)- Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout One

 

I'm really enjoying these workouts

 

I was doing some supplementary research on metabolic resistance training today- http://romanfitnesssystems.com/articles/metabolic-resistance-training/. I learned why it's advantageous to complete the workouts with minimal rest between sets. This was mentioned in Engineering the Alpha, but it was helpful to read the refresher. Going forward I'll focus on completing the exercises with less rest between sets and reps. 

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 1685
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 35
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 99
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 130

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11AM today. 

 

Other


Was down to 222.4lbs on the scale today. I checked my Body Fat % and was at 18.5%. Given that my starting BF% was 22% a week ago, I suspect one of the numbers is off lol...

 

I saw myself in the mirror today and thought I was noticeably slimmer. 

 

Got up up at 8PM and stuck to each of my goals. 

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Day 10- Phase One (Prime)- Sunday, April 16, 2015

 

Exercise- Rest Day

 

Today was a rest day but I went to the gym and ran a bit on the treadmill, and did some accessory bicep and tricep work.

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 1935 Actual: 1680
Carbs: Target: 0 Actual: 60
Protein: Target: 122 Actual: 91
Fat: Target: 161 Actual: 113

 

Even though I've been coming in under my caloric target almost everyday, I don't feel hungry at all. Even by 11AM when the IF ends and after exercising I'm still feeling good. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11:10AM today. 

 

Other

 

When I weighed myself today, I was at 221.8lbs. 

 

Generally felt good otherwise and stuck to my goals. 

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Day 11- Phase One (Prime)- Friday, April 17, 2015

 

Exercise- Workout Four

 

Another good workout. I did four sets of eight reps of 165lbs squats. This is the most I've ever squated so feel quite accomplished!

 

Diet- Workout Day

 

Calories: Target: 2135 Actual: 1226
Carbs: Target: 30 Actual: 56
Protein: Target: 139 Actual: 68
Fat: Target: 162 Actual: 71

 

I had a busy work day so I didn't get too eat as much as I would have liked. I attended a seafood chowder dinner tonight and ate apple pie, but luckily I was within my targets (except for carbs). 

 

One thing of note- I didn't eat any vegetables today. That's really weird for me and I regret it. 

 

I fasted from 7PM last night until 11AM today. I ate after 7PM tonight so I'll have to fast until noon tomorrow. 

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I read Engineering the Alpha a few months ago and enjoyed it for the most part.  I didn't have luck with IF, but there's good thinking in there.  Their supplement suggestions were also pretty pricey.  It does seem like the protein intake is difficult to manage.  I do supplement with protein using Nature's Best Isopure Low Carb/Zero Carb mixes.  Most of their products are 50g protein per serving, some with zero and most with only 1 or 2g carbohydrates.  Your mileage and access may vary, of course.  

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