RP Updates

Writing a post about the diet I’m going on and then NEVER WRITING AGAIN might seem suspicious. But it all worked out very well! I lost about 20 pounds overall and was very happy with the experience. I even started using RP training templates. I am finding this dieting + training combo to be satisfying and, in a way, creative–like I’m crafting this body. I’m not sure I have the drive to do “real” physique stuff, but I do find myself more interested in it…

Beginning of cut (L), end of cut (R)

Pro(?) Tips

  • Life is easier if you just eat the same thing. But, you can do variations on a theme. I’m a big weirdo who can eat plain chicken and rice every day, but Bren, who likes this thing called “flavor” ??? started making his chicken into kebabs and varying the marinades. The process is always the same but the spices change. It is a simple/easy way to get some variety in.
  • We stopped portioning out our meals in advance and kept our food in big containers in the fridge. Then we would portion out for the day in the morning or the night before. I prefer this because I can be certain my macros for the day are correct–no need to worry if an unexpected event that impacts my workout schedule, and I can’t accidentally grab the wrong meal (which, let’s be real, is my real problem). The amount of time it takes to portion out one or two meals at a time is negligible–doing it all in advance does make your fridge look great on Instagram because it’s filled with all those identical containers but it’s not THAT much of a time-saver.
  • However much rice you think you need to make, you’re wrong. Double it.
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt. That’s it. That’s the pro tip. You need it.

Life with Templates

The templates are intimidating at first but, since each meal basically has the same macros, you memorize your numbers after a while and it becomes easier.

Fat Loss 1 isn’t so bad–the template mostly cuts your fats out, which doesn’t bother me much. Fat Loss 2 is a little more difficult because it cuts your carbs. Fat Loss 3 is the frickin’ worst because it cuts both your fats and carbs to almost nothing–you are basically eating protein and vegetables and nothing else.

I originally intended to do the full 12 weeks but called it quits as 10 weeks. Fat Loss 3 really impacted my energy levels, to the point where I couldn’t complete my workouts. It wasn’t worth it to me to suffer for another two weeks just to lose a couple more pounds. I ended at 201.4, which was “close enough” to 200 for my purposes. 😉

Maintenance & the App

PANCAKES

When I went on maintenance, I decided to switch to the RP app. I was worried that I would re-gain all the weight I lost; the app appealed to me because it would adjust my macros if I gained back too much.

I actually lost a few more pounds on maintenance, stabilizing at ~198. So I did break 200 after all!

The app is much easier than the templates because it just tells you what to eat. It is NOT a food tracker and does not include a huge food database like MyFitnessPal. I suppose it’s a bit similar to the templates in that regard; the templates had approved food lists.

That said, the app does tell you the macros for each meal so if you want to eat “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) style, you can.

For maintenance, I just tried to stay above 80% adherence. This was really easy to do, especially because Bren went on a cut at the same time I went on maintenance so we basically just stopped eating out. My non-adherence to my plan was usually a glass of wine or an extra pancake. Gimme dem pancakes!!!

A Slow Cut

I liked that I had lost a few pounds on maintenance without really trying and decided to do that “on purpose” with an easy cut: 5 pounds over 7 weeks. I am down to ~194, just a couple pounds to go. I’m not sure if I would do a “hardcore” cut again…I think I might just cycle between maintenance and “aggressive” maintenance.

This past week the app cut my nutrients for the first time (my loss has stalled out) and, unlike the templates, it seems to have cut the carbs first. I don’t think I’m in the app equivalent of FL3 yet and I hope I never have to go there. 😛

Female Physique Template

I enjoyed my RP diet experience so much I decided to try out the RP programming experience as well. I got the Female Physique Template (FPT), which is more of a physique/hypertrophy-style training than the powerlifting I had been doing. It is 23 weeks of training, 4 mesocycles. I have completed meso 1.

You can pick your exercises so I made sure to include squat/bench/dead, but technically you don’t have to do any of that. I actually ended up removing the back squats later because I am having issues with my shoulder and both high and low bar position are too painful. So now I do 3942094023 dumbbell lunges instead.

The template is a dynamic Excel sheet (as an Excel nerd, I am impressed by its construction) that reacts to how you rate your workouts–i.e., if it’s too easy, it’ll add sets. And that’s how you end up with SEVEN. GOD DAMN. SETS. of deadlifts in week six. I wanted hypertrophy and I got it!!!

Beginning of Meso 1 (L), end of Meso 1 (R)

People say the big changes happen in meso 3, so I’m looking forward to that. 😉 So far I have noticed small changes, but nothing dramatic. Luckily I enjoy the style of training itself, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to cry a little when looking at some of the programming. Just……. so many reps.

First Impressions: Renaissance Periodization

Earlier this year my mom asked me if I knew of any sports nutrition-type services as a possible birthday gift for my brother. The one that came to mind was Renaissance Periodization (RP), which I understood to be a diet aimed at athletes. It seems like every Fitness Influencer(tm) I follow on Instagram uses RP templates. After recommending it for my brother for his birthday, I got myself a template for MY birthday. 😀 My curiosity finally got the better of me — and, after a year or so of growing muscles, I would like to see them! So I got a fat loss template (and I got 10% off because the fitness people always have discount codes). They also have muscle gain templates that I may try someday.

These are my initial impressions after two weeks. I am still on Base and haven’t moved onto Fat Loss yet – I’m sure I will have many more hangry things to say when I’m in Fat Loss. 😛

Apparently they recently came out with an app that will just tell you what to eat and adjust your macros on a weekly basis depending on how your gain or loss is going — I might check that out once I’m done with this template.

Why This Diet?

This is the sample template from RenaissancePeriodization.com

This is one of those macro-tracking diets, which are increasingly popular. Rather than tracking calories, you aim for a certain amount of macros per day or meal. Some people find this tedious, but I think of it as Catan for my nutrition. I sort of enjoy figuring out how to maximize my meals within the constraints.

Although there are macro calculators all over the interwebs and I am very comfortable tracking macros, I was never sure if I was doing it “right.” I was interested in these templates for a few reasons:

  • They are designed by PhDs* and athletes, so I am more confident that the guidelines are worth following. Lots of generic nutritional advice is aimed at losing weight, not losing fat. These templates are designed to maintain as much muscle weight as possible. Many people report continuing to gain strength while on these cuts, which is hard to do.
  • The phased dieting means you don’t have to diet harder than you need to and when you’re done they provide you with a new maintenance plan.
  • For me, there is a psychological benefit to “doing a cut”: I only have to put up with this nonsense for a maximum of 12 weeks. They discourage you from dieting for more than three months at a time and recommend at least two months of maintenance between each cut.
  • The meals are supposedly timed around your workouts, but as I’ve discovered, this basically just means you get an extra protein shake and workout carbs (aka gatorade) when you train, so that’s not a huge component. But you do get more carbs on training days.
  • You get four meals a day plus bedtime casein and a protein shake on workout days, which appeals to my Hobbit eating style (breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc).
  • I’m at the point now where I just want to pay somebody to tell me what to do vs. trial and error my way through things. Well, certain things. I’m still a DIYer at heart. 😀

*the PhDs are related to physiology and exercise, I did check. 😉

Phased Dieting

The templates are phased: you start with Base to get your body to a good starting point, and then there are three phases of fat loss. If you are losing weight on a phase, you don’t need to move on. A lot of people end their cut during Fat Loss 2, and a lucky few never leave Base at all!

I really like that they don’t push you into a crazy cut if your body doesn’t need it. They also provide you with a new maintenance for when the cut is over, so you can maintain the loss and let your body recover from the stress of dieting.

Workout Ratings

RP gives you more or fewer carbs depending on how intense your workout is — light, moderate, or heavy. This was a huge difference for me. The average CrossFit workout is considered “light.” I used to consider my powerlifting workouts as “heavy,” because, well, the weight is heavy! Haha sucker, according to RP I’ve never done a “heavy” workout in my ENTIRE LIFE. At best I get “moderate,” and some powerlifting sessions are considered “light” if the weight is heavy but there aren’t many sets.

On my template, the difference between heavy and moderate training day carbs is 80C = 320 calories. I train four days a week, so that’s an extra 1,280 calories per week that I wouldn’t even need to be eating. I think if I did nothing else but rate my workouts appropriately, I would cut a few pounds.

Also, cardio is not considered training at ALL. If you do cardio, you get “non-training day” carbs. SAD

Set It and Forget It

I have been on the MyFitnessPal train for a while and have found that I don’t need to use it with these templates. I like that the macros are per meal, rather than per day (which is what many calculators provide). And I REALLY like that if I know my meal is compliant, I can just eat it and be done. No need to go back and log it. There is a lot more upfront planning and work but once you’ve got your meals for the week, you just roll through and don’t think about it at all. Past Mariza did all that thinking for me.

And speaking of upfront planning…

Food Prep

First of all: If you don’t know how to cook, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s the only way to control what’s going into your food, and if–when–you get tired of the same thing week after week you need to be able to get creative.

Also, get a food scale.

There are several “approved foods” on the templates in each of the macro categories. If you eat one of those foods, you don’t have to worry about taking into account the other two macros. For example, if I eat 90% or leaner meat, I only have to count the protein content and disregard any fat content. If I accidentally grab 85% lean ground turkey then I do have to count the fat content. Yes, it’s sort of complicated at first. They make it really easy to eat approved foods and really annoying to eat something not on the list, although technically you’re allowed to do so.

They also make you eat like 3,000 cups of vegetables a day. I know they’re trying to trick me into thinking I’m getting a lot of food but I’m not falling for it.

My first week, I decided to make my meals the way I usually do – just make five versions of the same meal. I messed up my fat content right away due to the aforementioned 85% turkey plus I added mayonnaise because I didn’t realize I had the wrong meat. Since the fat was cooked in there, I couldn’t make any adjustments to that meal. I adjusted by taking fat out of my other meals, but was annoyed that I had screwed up right out of the gate.

I immediately understood why RPers prep food the way they do: huge quantities of protein (usually chicken and turkey), vegetables, and rice, all separate and plain. Everything is separate so you can assemble as-needed. It also helps to prep everything plain so you can smother it in whatever calorie-free seasoning appeals to you in that moment.

I just completed my third meal prep and finally got my macros right. Woohoo!

Eating Out

Try not to. But if you do, just get some protein and vegetables. I’m not a figure competitor so I don’t worry about eating out once a week but if you’re trying to be 100000% compliant, it will be hard.

The RP Group

Shortly after I bought my template, I was invited to the RP Facebook group. I like it because I get all the latest hot tips on calorie-free sauces, sugar-free jello, and weird protein pudding recipes. Some people in there are trying a little too hard to HaCk tHe SySteM with their weird recipes that aren’t really food, but we’ll see how I feel about those when I’m in the throes of Fat Loss.

I also find it helpful to see other people complaining about how hungry they are. I know that sounds weird, but if I get hungry I sometimes worry I’m doing something wrong. Knowing that it’s A DIET and everybody is hungry reassures me that this is all planned suffering.

Results to Date

Not really enough to register a large change, but including for completeness. For my first pic I accidentally defaulted to my Belly Dance Contraposto pose and then realized that was a bad way to actually see what was going on.

In two weeks, I have lost either 6.4 or 4.8lbs depending on if you wanna go by average weight or lowest weight; maybe even 9 if you want to include what was clearly a water retention spike on March 30. 😀

I am using average weight to track the loss because of those aforementioned random spikes. RP does not require you to weigh yourself daily–although they do recommend a minimum of twice a week–but I prefer to because I like GRAPHS. I’m at the point now where my weight is just a number but it took me a long time to get here and I totally get that weighing too frequently may be too stressful for a lot of people.

A lot of people in the RP group have really amazing visible results but very little weight loss–body recomposition is a strange thing. In my case, I think I’m carrying enough fat that I do anticipate losing weight vs. recomping at the same-ish weight. If I were already super lean I might not track my weight so diligently.

The first few days I was low-grade hungry all the time. Towards the end of the first week I would usually be OK for a bit, but it would be like falling off a cliff where I’d go from “OK” to “STARVING” within a matter of minutes. Luckily that would be right about time for another meal. At the end of week two, I am not so constantly hungry. Which probably means I’ll have to move onto Fat Loss 1 soon.

Unexpected Side Effect: Offensive Odors

A couple nights ago, Bren very gently and lovingly told me that, since starting RP, my breath has been terrible. :O I had no idea!! It’s like that episode of SpongeBob where he thinks he’s ugly but he really just had bad breath.

This diet has me eating more protein than I’ve ever eaten. I googled around and apparently It is Known that high protein diets can cause bad breath. I took away two primary possible causes and solutions:

  1. Sometimes your body has trouble breaking all that protein down, which can lead to bad smells coming up from your belly. It’s possible the issue will resolve itself as your body acclimates, but you can help it along with digestive enzymes (the enzymes also help if you are struggling with the 91849308 cups of vegetables you have to eat every day).
  2. If you are eating a lot more meat, it’s probably getting stuck in your teeth. Floss after EVERY meal and buy a tongue scraper.

I have acquired these items and hopefully they will help. I’ve also got some mints so my breath can smell like minty butt instead of just butt. If you see me in real life, I apologize if I offend; I am actively working to resolve the issue.

Cauliflower Rice

Stop trying to make cauliflower rice happen. It’s gross.

My Life with Nut Cheese

Two small pizzas

(alternate title: DEEZ NUT CHEESES)

I got a reminder that my domain was up for renewal and I was like “shit, I should write on that thing.” There are many things that I’ve considered blogging about and I’ll start with FOOD. Obviously.

As many of you know, I’ve gone gluten- and dairy-free on an experimental basis at the suggestion of a nutritionist. This is my story (dun dun).

Why I Went to a Nutritionist in the First Place

I’d been struggling a while with “being tired” and “gaining weight no matter what I do.” The latter is a bit of an exaggeration; I could keep my weight steady if I watched every damn calorie I consumed, but it never went down. Only up, or nothing.  I don’t care so much about my actual weight because I strength train but this was also coupled with “feeling fat,” whatever that means.

I’ve been on thyroid medication before so it occurred to me that maybe something was up with that. But feeling tired and fat is also a symptom of basically everything else, so in order to rule out just “being lazy,” I put myself in what was surely a caloric deficit and it was also around this time we put the squat rack in the basement and I got back to lifting regularly.

My weight/general ennui continued not to budge, at which point I felt like I wanted to get science involved.  I had recently moved so I picked a new doctor that was part of an “integrated health practice;”  their services included nutritionists and they even had an apothecary. Neat!

My blood tests came back infuriatingly normal; my doctor suggested I take more Vitamin D and B12 and meet with the nutritionist. If dietary changes didn’t help, there were some secondary tests she could run. Infuriatingly reasonable!

I was nervous to go to the nutritionist because I was expecting her to tell me to eat 900 calories a day and/or do a weird juice cleanse and/or go low carb and I really didn’t want to have to throw her down a hallway. But what she actually did was give me “healthier” suggestions to appease my sweet tooth (lara bars & lily’s baking chips) and recommended swapping Coke Zero for Zevia, although water would be best.  She asked me if I already WAS low carb because my blood sugar was so kickass. High five.

She also noted that I had an elevated level of C-reactive protein (CRP) which apparently indicates inflammation in the body, as well as slow (but still in range) thyroid function, which may have been exacerbated by the inflammation.

She suggested cutting out gluten and dairy as these are often inflammatory for people. She recommended cutting out diet soda and gave me a sheet about what sorts of oils to consume vs. avoid (spoilers I haven’t been paying much attention to that – that’s phase 2, I guess). She also suggested adding cardio into my routine which I pretended to consider but secretly rejected outright.

So how’s it going?

Gluten

This was surprisingly easy. I’m used to “eating clean,” a term I no longer like to use because it has become meaningless or even destructive; back in the day it just meant eating minimally processed foods. So basically I’m comfortable with eating protein and vegetables, protein and vegetables, or, if it’s a special occasion, protein and vegetables. Couple this with the fact that Bren is legitimately gluten intolerant so our shared meals are already gluten-free (GF) and it wasn’t a difficult transition.

I enjoyed checking out all the weird GF products available these days – what a time to be alive – but I agree with the Whole 30 principle that you should just learn to eat the new way rather than trying to replicate the old way. So, except for the occasional pizza crust or pancake when I’m really jonesing, I just try to stick to my friggin protein and vegetables.

But, good news, plenty of potato chips are gluten-free, so there are still plenty of options for me to eat like an idiot! 😀

Dairy

Dairy- and gluten-free at the same time is pretty hard. Everybody knows if something tastes bad you just dump a bunch of cheddar on it… but what if you no can has cheddar?

BTW, the day after I saw the nutritionist, I accidentally ate cheese enchiladas. I made sure the shells were GF but the fact that I couldn’t have dairy hadn’t sunk in yet. Obviously I ate them because I had already ordered them.

I’ve gotten used to this and it’s actually not so bad in my day-to-day life. It’s usually the weekends when we’re out and want to share an appetizer or something that it becomes a problem.  I miss you, spinach/artichoke dip!!

I’ve already “challenged” my system with dairy – on our anniversary I ate a cheese plate and some ice cream because F the police – and didn’t seem to suffer any adverse effects.

That said, I “feel like” (science!) consuming dairy on the reg was not great for me over time (e.g., I was eating a Greek yogurt cup every day) so in the long term I think I’ll just avoid dairy as a general rule but not worry too much if I encounter some incidental cheese* here and there.  But I’ll wait until after my follow-up with the nutritionist to loosen up.

*Incidental Cheese is the name of my next album

Speaking of getting used to the “new way” of eating, ALL THOSE FAKE NUT CHEESES WILL NEVER BE ACCEPTABLE

Caffeine & Diet Soda

I used to drink so much Coke Zero on a daily basis that I was embarrassed to quantify how much it was, which probably meant it was too much. I come by it honestly – my dad went to Iraq and only drank Coke Zero instead of water. He even wrote a blog post about how great it is.

There is a lot of conflicting information on artificial sweeteners. There is some evidence that it messes with your metabolism but nothing really conclusive. I think it’s probably one of those things that either affects you or it doesn’t. At any rate, I figured I was drinking too much of it and maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I drank some damn water ughhhhh gross

The nutritionist suggested Zevia which is sweetened with Stevia; it has that weird Stevia aftertaste that I’m getting used to but it does hit the spot better than a seltzer if you want a soda-soda. And some flavors are caffeinated!

I was worried about the caffeine withdrawal, which always had me crawling back to my Coke Zero every time I tried to cut down. So I went looking for the most caffeinated tea I could find – I believe I told Bren that I wanted to find “the meth of tea” – and ended up with some type of “English Breakfast” with THE MOST DOTS under “Caffeine Level.”

For somebody with such a severe sweet tooth I have surprisingly little issue with consuming plain ol’ black tea. I drank some every morning but eventually phased it out (more out of laziness than anything else) after I felt like I was over the caffeine hump.

I still get a diet coke if we go out to eat because I need to live my life but haven’t had any in the house since the appointment. I bring a box of Polar seltzer to work because I need to have a CONSTANT STREAM of alternative beverages to keep me from going to the vending machine and that has been working. But the worst part is, in the last couple weeks I’ve started drinking just plain … regular… flat … water. Like, what animals drink. What have I become?!

Results So Far

First of all, this is a bad experiment because I cut out three things at once. I guess we’ve established that dairy is probably not a problem. And, let’s be real: if you can’t eat gluten and dairy, you also can’t eat basically anything except protein and vegetables, so of course you’re gonna feel better and less bloated. I don’t know that that’s an inflammatory thing.

BUT

I feel frickin’ great, which is good but also bad because it means I have to keep up with this charade.  I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my energy levels: I used to be fighting to stay awake by like 7:45 – Thursday night rehearsals were brutal because we’re there until like 10pm – now I can make it all the way until like 9:15! 😉 (By the way, I get up at 5:30, so this seems reasonable).

I don’t “feel fat” most of the time (like I said, potato chips are gluten free) and literally just within the last couple weeks something very strange has started to happen: I stop eating if I get full? I noticed it when I was eating a Chipotle bowl. I had eaten about half and was like, “I’ve had enough of this for now” and put the remainder in the fridge. What the hell? Usually I just power through whatever’s in front of me.  I wonder if, now that I’m no longer riding the wave of artificial sweeteners and/or the inflammation is going down, my body’s signals are more accurate (or noticeable)?

I also invented iced tea. It was hot out and I didn’t really want to have my customary hot tea, and I was like, “what if, I could have this tea, but like, it was, like, cold? or like with ice in it?” and then I was like “wait, they already have that. this is exactly why I need caffeine.”

About Looks

One sort of surprising thing that I struggled with was wanting to lose fat in the first place. For some reason I felt like it made me a bad feminist – why do I want to take up less space? Who does that serve?

These are good questions to consider, but I realized – I just don’t feel good. Continuing to feel gross just because pointless diets are a ToOl oF tHe PaTrIaRcHy doesn’t make any sense. Once I re-framed it as the way that I feel vs. how I want to feel, it was much easier to pursue solutions. Turns out, I don’t really care how I look when I feel good. It was only when I felt bad that I became overly concerned with my appearance – maybe as a way to feel more in control. So, this whole process has worked out pretty well for me personally.

I have my follow up soon and I’m very curious to see if there has been any change in my body composition. My body fat % was higher than ideal so the immediate goal is to get that down.   I perceive a slow change but it could be wishful thinking. 😉

TO BE CONTINUED, I GUESS