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Primal Pete is going to get ripped

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  • Primal Pete is going to get ripped

    Hi everyone,

    I've been frequenting these forums on and off since their inception, and have been coming to MDA for 2.5 years now. I've been able to maintain the same healthy body composition with very little effort eating 80/20 primal. My diet has been clean for the most part, though riddled with plenty of typical 25 year old male splurges -- beer, cheeseburgers, ect.

    I was very fit in college having rowed for four years, and was able to get to around I'd say 8% body fat to make weight for the lightweight division, however since then I've gained fat back and hovered around the 12-15% range for about two years. Not bad at all for basically eating without reservation and sporadic exercise... but the desire to get in really good shape has rekindled in me and I want to create a journal here to track my progress.

    I joined a rock climbing gym about six months ago and have since become a borderline climbing junkie, which in itself is amazing primal exercise. The gym also has a great weight room with multiple racks and a good rubber floor, plus they let me lift barefoot and use chalk which is a huge plus!

    Here is my over all plan:

    Goal: get ripped (a long term desire of mine), with BF% hovering in the 6-8% range.

    How I plan to get there:


    I've stared counting my calories on Fitday, and I want to average a daily calorie defecit of 500 each week, which comes out to roughly a pound of fat a week. Through various calculators I've estimated that my average daily calorie expenditure is 3100kc -- I'm a 5'9" guy that weights 170 lb and I'm guessing my lean body mass is around 145-150lb. For someone lifting 3 days a week (hard), and doing a variety of other things like climbing/biking/walking I'd say 3100 calories a day on average is pretty accurate. My goal is to eat 2200 calories or less on non workout days, and 3000 calories or less on workout days. I don't want to feel like I'm depriving myself on lifting days, because I'm definitely interested in getting stronger and adding overall muscle mass.

    I'm counting calories to remove any uncertainty -- I've always had these little mini "get ripped" campaigns in the past and constantly fretted about eating too much. No longer. I want to make my plan and just stick with it -- as long as I'm posting a 500 calorie defecit on average daily the weight will come off.

    The most recent major change I've made to my diet is becoming much more lenient with carbs. Carbs are, by far, the best replenishment food source post workout, especially lifting. I've been doing modest refeeds after lifting days and am eating white rice and potatoes, and so far the results have been great. I'm getting much stronger and the fat is definitely coming off. I'm also doing a lean gains style eating schedule with a 12-16 hour daily fast. I'm not convinced that fasting in itself accelerates fat loss significantly, but it allows me to eat liberally at the end of the day while still controlling my calorie intake, plus I can really gorge after hard lifting when my body needs it most.

    I'll get more into my diet details and philosophy later on...because it has definitely diverged from the typical mentality on this forum.


    1) I'm doing a minimalist 3 day lifting program that looks like this:

    mon: Deadlifts, Bench Press

    wed: weighted chin ups

    fri: shoulder press, squats

    yep. that's it for now -- this is something that someone might do following Martin's protocol. I'm doing 4x5 with a pre warm up set, and I lift the only way I know how: heavy, hard, and with plenty of rest between sets.

    2) rock climbing:

    This is the reason that I'm only doing one back lift a week -- rock climbing is a huge workout for your back, forearms and grip muscles. Not to mention it's fun as hell. I'll be climbing for a bit each time I go to lift, and also perhaps 1 or 2 extra days during the week

    3) cycling/running/walking:

    I don't own a car, so I have to bike to the gym -- pretty much a necessity, but helpful nonetheless. I'm considering jogging on "off" days simply as a means to give myself more room to make sure I hit my calorie deficits. I also take a 30-45 minute walk every day at work because if I don't I'd punch myself in the face by 2:30pm every day.

    The point of this thread:

    Analogous to a "hard gainer," I would call myself a "hard loser." I have no problem getting stronger and putting on muscle -- I'm ten pounds heavier than 6 months ago and also leaner, and my big lifts have increased dramatically. I've just always struggled to shed that last bit of fat, which I think is a common problem on this forum. I'm hoping my experiences can help others in similar situations achieve their goals once and for all. This will also serve as a way to hold myself accountable.

    I think I'll post weekly progress updates with a pic so that I can hopefully see my body composition improve. Wish me luck!

  • #2
    Primal Pete, after reading your intro I fully expect you will reach your goal. Thanks for journaling here as it will make for some very edifying reading. Good luck!


    • #3
      Thanks Timothy! I remember reading your success story a long time ago and your transformation was pretty remarkable.

      So far this week has been good -- I PRed on the bench and Deadlifts too. I am particularly happy with my DL PR since it was only my second week doing legs after a 3 month hiatus of leg lifting. I have a back injury from college that was causing problems...but my back feels great right now. I'm doing my best to keep my form impeccable. I could have gotten back much sooner but I got kind of lazy on that front. Here are my current lift stats:

      Bench: 175lb x 5
      Dead Lift: 335lbx3
      Squat: 255x3 (this needs serious work -- i haven't tried to max out in years)
      weighted chins: 5 reps with 25lb added weight
      DB shoulderpress: 55s x 5

      I will be tracking my lifts with a spreadsheet and attempt to increase the weight each week by 5-10lb. I'll be posting an upper body shot soon but I am a total moron with cameras... so I need to figure out how to actually take a decent pic of myself first.


      • #4
        My evil twin does exist. Good luck with getting more ripped. Been primal for a few months now but I needed a change so I started my leptin reset a few days ago and decided to make it a whole 60/leptin reset. I like it so far.


        • #5
          lol! That is funny. Well, here's my first week's update.

          Macro nutrient breakdown for the week:

          I'm pretty happy with this to start. If I'm estimated to burn ~3100 calories, then with my daily average I'm more or less hitting my daily deficit goal of 500 calories. I'm a little concerned about the accuracy of my tracking -- sometimes fitday doesn't have certain food items, and entering things manually is a real pain, so I've used "generic" items that more or less resemble what I'm eating. It's especially hard if I'm eating out, because sometime I don't know exactly what I'm eating.

          That being said...I am definitely aware of feeling like I'm eating less, especially since I'm no longer binge snacking on nuts, chocolate, and cheese. I'm starting to see how those things really add up fast.

          I'm personally shocked at how much of my daily intake is alcohol -- I usually drink 10oz (2 glasses) of red wine a night, and even that can add up real quick. There's definitely one party night in there, which could explain it. Truth be told I'm getting tired of the bar scene, and this might just be the motivation I need to cool it on the weekend drinking. I don't want to know what this chart would have looked like last year...

          Body comp shot:

          I tried to find an old pic from 6 months ago to compare that to -- but my old camera has gone missing. Oh well. What's more important is that I can compare this to myself a month or two down the road an asses my progress.

          Goals for next week:
          1) make sure to keep track of my calories as accurately as I can
          2) maintain an average daily deficit of 500 calories
          3) reduce alcohol consumption


          • #6
            More on my general diet philosophy going into this challenge:

            I'll be honest, I feel like I got somewhat brainwashed into the whole carbophobia fad for a while when I first stumbled on this site. I think a lot of Mark's low carbohydrate teachings are more geared towards people who are overweight, sedentary, perhaps have broken metabolisms or blood sugar issues, and aremaybe trying to get fit for the first time in their lives. This is all well and good, don't get me wrong, but applying Mark's low carb, high fat in a sweeping general fashion to everyone, I've realized, is foolish. For the 150lb overweight female secretary with pre-diabetes who just started exercising, eating 75g of carbs a day or less makes good sense. However, for a 6'3" MMA fighter with a high volume of high intensity training (assume he's never been overweight and in decent shape all his life), eating 75g of carbs or less would be disastrous. The one thing I flat out disagree on Mark with is his one size fits all carbohydrate curve. Yes, 300g of carbs a day would lead to weight gain for the female secretary... but the same 300g of carb a day for the MMA fighter might barely be enough for efficient glycogen replenishment given his training schedule. Yes, he may even require more than 300g a day for efficient glycogen replenishment and recovery. Not that the MMA fighter NEEDS carbs, but by not eating them he would be shooting himself in the foot from a performance and gains standpoint. I'm glad that the primal community, Mark included, is becoming more lenient on carbs, and recognizing the situational importance of macro nutrient consumption.

            There is no one size fits all perfect diet that works for everyone. Also, carbohydrate restriction is not some magical gateway towards weight loss -- I got lulled into a false belief that I could just chomp away on the fat and protein with no regard to overall calorie intake, and that my metabolism would just magically adjust itself to turn me into a lean ripped machine. I believed this for nearly 1.5 years despite my body comp remaining unchanged. Insulin is just a small part of a very complex system that dictates body composition… and it is not some demon hormone that is there to sabotage your health or weight loss efforts. For example, one reason why carbohydrate consumption after workouts is so great is that one of the functions of insulin, in addition to storing fat, is to shuttle glucose and amino acids (protein) into your muscles, giving them the goods to grow and recover.

            My bottom line for my challenge:
            -carbs are the best macronutrient for short term recovery from hard workouts
            -natural fat is the best macronutrient for long term satiety and energy
            -protein is the ONLY macronutrient for lean mass repair, and muscle growth
            -the metabolic advantage theory is bullshit, and proven scientifically time in and time out to be false
            -in order to lose weight, there must be a calorie defecit. Period
            -there is not dietary or exercise gimmick that will morph you into Tyler Durden overnight, whether it be carbophobia, or the Ab Buster 3000 or something silly like that
            -I need four things to succeed: Desire, a modest work ethic, persistence, and vigilance. That’s it. Nothing fancy

            If you find yourself rejecting opinions that are against the primal blue print without really considering them, because “they have to be wrong, because I am right.” Seriously – take a step back and think about what you are doing. It’s always important to be critical at all times and assess your beliefs, because doing so is required to having a solid, informed opinion on anything.

            Bit of a rant there, but hopefully others who are experiencing similar weight loss stalls and are frustrated can share my sentiment


            • #7
              Primal Pete, I think you're right to take a more nuanced approach to carbohydrates, and I agree with most of what you wrote. Another confounding factor is that the carbohydrate curve does not distinguish between different types of carbohydrates. 100g of disaccharides, 100g of soluble fiber, and 100g of cellulose all have very different nutritional impacts, even though they are all "100g carbohydrate".

              But for people who are used to excessive carbohydrate intake, I do think that very-low-carb and unlimited-fat can be a weight loss solution. It was for me -- at first. I reached my lowest weight eating as much fat as I wanted. But over the months, that stopped working. If I overeat fat these days, it most certainly clings to my body.

              Hopefully somebody will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is because in the case of carb overindulgers, the body's ability to store fat in the absence of insulin atrophies. Spend enough time on a low-carb diet, though, and your body will become very efficient at storing fat without insulin, like an eskimo.


              • #8
                I do actually agree with everything you wrote -- and the GI/GL of various carb sources is definitely important. The reason a low carb PB style diet is so effective for weight loss, at least initially, for many people is pretty simple, in my opinion:

                1) going low carb or primal from a SAD invariably means replacing typical non-nutritious junk with healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables -- natural food is more nutritious and satiating and has less calories. People lose weight not because certain macro nutrient combos are metabolically's because they are eating way less calories overall while feeling just as satisfied as they were in their previous homeostasis

                2) fat and protein have a much greater satiety effect then starch, hands down -- One of the reasons calorie restriction is easy on this diet.

                3) people who come here also begin a sensible exercise program -- enough said.

                4) People who are overweight are both insulin resistant and, more importantly, leptin resistant. Leptin, the less mentioned sister hormone of insulin, signals for the release of fat from fat cells. People with broken metabolisms desperately store fat because their body is in "starvation" mode, even though they have excess body fat. They have elevated leptin levels but the signal to release fat is so weak because they are so resistant to it. Once carbs and calories come down, so does insulin, and insulin sensitivity increases. I'm not exactly sure why obesity and leptin resistance correlate, but I do know that overall leptin levels are a function of overall fat stores. All of a sudden people do not have insulin constantly pumping fat into fat cells... and with elevated leptin levels their fat stores will literally melt off. This explains some of the radical transformations we've seen here with overweight people particularly.

                I don't want to get into the whole topic of carb cycling -- read chocotacos thread here for a great primer on that:


                He explains it much better than I can.

                Your last point I also agree with. Basically, Men's Health tells us that looking ripped like Michael Phelps is desirable, but common sense tells us that from a survival standpoint, having 12-15% body fat and being able to perform at near the capacity as you could at 6-8% body fat is by far a better scenario than having 6-8% body fat and no "reserve tank" if shit hits the fan.

                The reality is that for many of us, myself included I think, being really lean and ripped is not necessarily what our bodies desire. I basically ate with impunity and hovered around 12% body fat for the last several years, with the exception of lightweight racing season where I restricted my calories and got down to about 8% body fat. From a survival standpoint, if I can perform at the same capacity at 12% bf as I can with 8% bf, why wouldn't my body want to have that extra fat, you know, just in case?

                Ultimately it comes down to a matter of personal choice. If you're sitting at 12% BF with a perfect blood work, high energy, and over all good health while eating low carb PB -- then more power to you. I think that's great.

                Some of us succumb to vanity, though. I'll admit it. I want to look good naked in front of the mirror and turn heads at the beach. I also have a strong desire towards maximum physical performance in whatever I'm doing -- right now that's rock climbing.

                Although I do think this challenge will allow me to make overall improvements to my health regardless of vanity -- maybe drinking less, eating less junk, less cheat days, sticking to my exercise regime 100% ect.
                Last edited by primal pete; 10-11-2011, 02:30 PM.


                • #9
                  Excellent points, Pete. Especially your discussion of leptin. That made the most sense of any summary I've seen so far.

                  I also agree with your analysis of 12-15% body fat as a preferred range for the body. This correlates with female aesthetic taste, which seems to prefer that range. Most women are indifferent to, or even actively turned off by, very low body fat in males. Their instincts, after all, are finely tuned to select a resilient provider.

                  However, to other males, and to a male looking at himself, very low body fat speaks powerfully indeed. The "lean and hungry look" signifies a man who is especially dangerous and not to be messed with. If I was trying to attract a woman I'd be content with 12% body fat or so, but since I already have a woman and I'm more interested in advancing my career, protecting my family, and having fun with bodyweight exercises, maximum shredditude is my objective. However, my wife made me promise not to end up looking like a lobster (her phrase for trapezius hypertrophy).

                  In any case, good luck -- not that you need it. Especially from your last paragraph, you seem to have all the right knowledge and I expect it's only a matter of being consistent until you hit your goals. I hope to learn from your experience.


                  • #10
                    weekly update! Here's my macro breakdown:

                    This week included a weekend junket trip to lake tahoe for my friend's bday. Lots of drinking, eating crap, and gambling. It was a blast. I still managed to stay within a weekly deficit, but fell short of my 500 calorie a day goal. This was mostly due to getting stoned on Friday night and getting some serious munchies. I went way over my calorie expenditure on that day... close to almost 5k calories. lol. My workouts stayed on track and i did a nice kayaking session on Sat.

                    The reality is that these situations are going to be something that I'm going to have to learn to deal with in a practical matter. Halloween and Thanksgiving are around the corner, and then Christmas... on top of my regular shenanigans with my friends. I'm not going to cut out having fun and partying from my life, not by a long shot. One thing I feel like I've mastered is the daily fast...I've never been a breakfast person, and I feel like doing a leangains style daily fast really helps me keep my calories in control. I can easily fast for the day on a holiday dinner, then stuff my face while staying within my daily intake goals. It will be interesting to see how I deal with these obstacles down the line.

                    Body comp shot:

                    possibly a barely noticeable improvement...possibly some good lighting. I still can't figure out how to make my camera not suck. Obviously i want to take as close to the same pic as possible each weak so I can honestly gauge my progress. I don't expect to be able to really assess things until I have 8-10 weeks of pics. Staying on top of my workouts is one of my strengths...I love going to lift and rock climb!


                    • #11
                      next weekly update - 10/24/11

                      Macro break down:

                      Body Comp Shot:

                      My average daily caloric intake was much better this week. I definitely exercised much more control, despite 12oz of whiskey on Saturday -- one of my best buddies came home from a 3 month European we had to party and catch up!

                      I'm a little bloated in my body shot... I took it after I ate a post workout meal pretty high in carbs, but I think I can see a little progress. I'm not too worried about my overall macro profile as long as my daily caloric intake for the week is in the 2600 range. If after two months I am stagnant, I'll have to reassess and possible focus more on macro content. I'll also be sure to post my progress lifting wise.

                      Despite exercising what I felt like was major control, I still drank a lot this week. I was careful to keep track of my intake exactly, and I could have easily put down more. I'm not sure how I feel about that... and I think it might be time to really assess whether or not getting drunk on weekends is really worth it. So many Saturdays and Sundays spent feeling crappy and hung over, when maybe I could have had just as much fun while being more sober. I definitely have to be careful with Halloween coming up as well as the holidays.

                      On a more personal note...I decided to join an online dating site and get myself out there =p. I'm kind of sick of the bar scene...and I feel like I'm at a disadvantage with a more introverted dry sense of humor personality in that environment in terms of meeting new people. We'll see how it goes. I've never been Mr. Relationship, and I feel like that's what I want at the age of 25 after not really ever having a long term relationship yet. I've had a few girl friends in the past and more girl...friends if you know what I mean, but nothing really long term and significant. Maybe a girlfriend will give me a good reason to have fun on weekends without drinking my face off.

                      I might post in a few days with some new goals.


                      • #12
                        Per Mark's post today, I came across and it seems to be superior to from a functionality standpoint. I also like that the nutrient profile is more comprehensive, and it has omega3/6 ratio calculators, which is awesome. I'm going to try it out and see how it goes.


                        • #13
                          weekly update: 11/1/11

                          Macro Break Down:

                          Body Comp:

                          I'm content with my macro nutrient intake this week solely because I'm still averaging roughly a 500c/day deficit.... which means that if I had 100% lean mass retention, I should have lost about 3-4 lb of fat since I started this challenge a month ago. I think that seems pretty accurate based on my pics. I can definitely see an improvement in this one from the one 4 weeks ago. I've put on a touch of muscle and I can see my abdominal muscles more clearly. I'm glad that I've stuck with it and made some progress despite a ton of mistakes so far...drinking to excess, Halloween candy, high carb restaurant work lunches ect. My diet has kind of sucked's very obvious that I'm eating more crap as the carbs go up and the protein goes down.

                          I had a great workout today -- i climbed for an hour then was able to do 4x5rep deadlifts at 315lb and benched 2x5rep 175 (lowered it after). I am getting stronger!

                          One big goal moving forward is to figure out how to consistently brown bag it to work. That means saving money, eating better, and being able to track my calories more accurately. Two things have stopped me -- laziness and lack of culinary ability. I can make a decent dish for myself don't get me wrong... but I want to be able to make myself tasty varied food to bring to work. Enough chicken with rice and I might jump out my window... I will think more on how I can do this.

                          I will post more on my general thoughts about how things are going with more detail later on, but I'm tired and need to sleep. I've been a bit slacking in posting my thoughts on going through this challenge... keeping a thread like this is actually quite a bit of work. Kudos to the people who keep a daily journal here.


                          • #14
                            Things are a bit slow at work... So I have some time to make this post I was talking about. Seeing as I'm a little over one month into my challenge, I think it's a good time to assess my overall experience so far.

                            General observations:

                            1) I've realized that the big, big pitfall in most people's weight loss efforts is the constant snacking. this is definitely true for me. I think it's a combination of not paying attention to how those small bits of calories add up fast, as well as the fact that society doesn't really associate these small "innocuous" indulgences with weight gain and obesity. When people think of being fat, they think of large greasy hamburgers, steaks, and things like that... not the handful of nuts here or their, or the dried fruit, or the halloween candy...whatever. I used to binge snack on trail mix and other things with impunity, and cutting that out has been hugely helpful.

                            2) Assessing my diet is hard if I eat out constantly. Who knows what various places put in their food...but I can be sure I'm getting a hefty dose of carbs, O6 fats, and salt. Not to mention it makes calorie tracking somewhat hard...I can only give my best guess as to what I'm eating. If any people out there have come up with a good brown bagging strategy let me know! Certainty is my main goal when it comes to eating these days.

                            3) Being a 25 year old male is very bad for fitness challenges. Seriously...despite my best efforts to remain tame on halloween weekend, I still managed to guzzle over 1000 calories in Alcohol... all the while I was very vigilant about "moderating" my drinking. I don't even want to know what my pie charts looked before I started tracking.

                            4) upping my carbs to the 150-250 a day range makes me feel much better than trying to do the vlc thing. This is especially true post workout...getting a healthy dose of simple sugar that my muscles crave after a hard lifting session via modest refeeds has really worked for me. I feel more satisfied eating less food this way. Off days are still pretty low carb and high protein/fat in the traditional paleo style.

                            That's about it for my major observations so far. A month is still not that long to really assess my progress overall...I think at the 3 month mark I'll really look at everything and see how it's all going.

                            Main goals moving forward:

                            1) Figure out a brown bagging strategy so I can eat better, track my nutrition better, and save money.

                            2) Continue developing culinary skills

                            3) maintain a daily caloric avg of 2600 or less, hitting my expected 500c/day deficit

                            4) Figure out how to moderate my drinking without compromising my social life

                            5) develop a strategy to handle the upcoming holidays -- this is where my fasting will come in handy... If I fast for a day and gorge on a holiday meal, I can still stay within my calorie windows without looking like a dweeb in front of my friends/fam. Eating 2500 calories of real food in one sitting is hard to do. I also need to settle on a workout plan since I won't have regular gym access for about 1.5 weeks around thanksgiving.

                            That's it for now... good luck to everyone with similar goal threads.


                            • #15
                              Hi Pete.

                              Looks like you've got a really solid plan. I've been doing LG-style eating and lifting for a little over a year now and the results have been great. I also use 5/3/1 to keep track of my lifts and motivate me to keep progressing. I subbed weighted chinups for bench press though. I see you have weighted chins, deadlift and squat in your routine and that is awesome.

                              Is lunch your pre-workout meal? If so, how about a piece of fruit/small potato and some lean protein like canned tuna or chicken breast? You could serve it on a salad if you need to add some interest. Hard-boiled eggs are great, but maybe too high-fat for a pre-workout LG meal. If you don't have access to a fridge, you could use a lunchbox with a freezer pack inside. I know you know to look at ChocoTaco's threads for more awesome food inspiration.

                              Keep up the good work and keep us posted!