What I Am Up To Now, January 2021

This post and the entire series highlight what I am doing/using/thinking as of right now in the areas of fitness & technology. If you care to compare or read the other posts in this series, refer to the category What I’m Up To Now.

Introductory Comments

I will start off by saying COVID did not affect my physical fitness at all this year, so f*ck COVID. I have had a full garage gym for almost a decade. In March when everything locked down, I changed zero things I was doing. I maintained my fasting routine when I was “teleworking” for 4 months (we shut it all down in DC), but I definitely moved less during the day since we were basically stuck inside and I didn’t to go to an office, but I adjusted. Then I moved in the summer, got a new job that had a totally different schedule, and changed some of the basic things I had been doing for the past three years as a result. The below reflects what I am up to today.

Nutrition

In 2018, I began following a 16:8 time-restricted eating window (16 hours of fasting, 8-hour eating window) since 2018, which is basically skipping breakfast and then eating two basic meals per day. In late 2019, I moved to a daily 20:4 (20 hours fasting, 4 hours eating) eliminating the lunch meal that was previously my first meal of the day. On a daily basis that looks like one large dinner meal and then a small meal or grazing until the window ends. Most days this window was from 4 PM to 8 PM. I had also moved to dry fasting for my 20 hours, which meant no liquid intake except for a small cup of coffee in the morning. I maintained this general regimen most days until September 2020 at which point I went back to eating earlier in the day and taking in more liquid.

If you follow this blog you see I am a huge fan of fasting and time-restricted eating, so what gives? Well, due to a major change in my job and daily timeline, the need to eat earlier and drink more became a necessity to maintain and improve my performance. I basically went from waking up at 0530-0600 and training in the evenings to waking up at 0400 and training first thing in the morning. I also moved to much more outdoor activity in the hot sun. I was able to continue to dry fast all day for a few months, but I was seeing my performance suffer. My recovery just wasn’t there. So I went back to sometimes eating a breakfast (based on activity), always a lunch and then always a dinner a few months ago in late 2020.

The 20:4 was excellent for fat loss/staying lean for sure. I have never been leaner honestly. I was down to an easy to maintain 170 pounds. When I was at my strongest 5 years ago, I was about 20-25 pounds heavier (fatter for sure but more muscular too). I had traded performance for abs. I think I found a better balance, which puts me at around 180 pounds.

A daily eating regimen now is generally a high protein, low/moderate fat, low carb breakfast if I eat it, same for lunch, and a normal dinner (meat with some vegetables). Looking to get in at least one gram of protein per pound (more is fine). It’s actually hard to get a lot of protein, so I need to supplement food with protein powder to do it usually.

A specific day of eating for those nerds who want more details on a day I eat breakfast:

0700: 6 eggs, 2 cups skim milk, 2 scoops Jocko Mölk = 780 calories, 28 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbs, 98 grams of protein

1200: Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt (35 oz container – the large one that looks like it’s for a family) = 540 cals, 0 g fat, 30 g carbs, 108 g protein

1800: 12 oz. beef sirloin tips and misc vegetables/sides = 1000 cals, 20 g fat, 50 g carbs, 120 g protein

That is the baseline minimum (the framework if you will) of an ideal day, which is about 2250 calories, low carb, low moderate fat, high protein. I pop popcorn most nights for a snack (this is a new one I love), may eat some fruit after dinner, etc.

Now to get even more specific, if I do certain activities or on the weekend when I don’t train at 0500, I will eat differently. If I do a cardiovascular endurance session, which has no need for protein for recovery, I usually don’t eat until lunch. I don’t alter my food much except just to skip breakfast. Taking in less calories but still getting that good amount of protein every day. Most days lately I don’t eat breakfast, so it’s pretty much two large meals, 100 grams of protein each.

So what is the deal with all that protein? Isn’t it too much? My thought is protein is the only nutrient that can be used for amino acids (build/maintain muscle) but also the can be used for energy. It’s basically a carb with an amino group. So protein above my body’s need for amino acids will just be used as fuel for activity. It’s the most satiating nutrient too so that giant yogurt I eat for lunch (easy to pack/no prep/tons of probiotics/tons of protein with minimal other nutrients) is very filling although it’s only 600 calories. That is just about as much as a full-sized Subway turkey sandwich which has 30 g of protein and 90 grams of carbs (crappy carbs at that).

You may be wondering where all the whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are in each meal like the government recommends. I generally don’t think it matters to eat fruits and vegetables except to get micronutrients (vitamins & minerals). I take a very robust multi-vitamin to address these needs which I will discuss next in the supplements section. And whole grains should not be the basis of any healthy diet.

I drink one cup of coffee each morning (Kion Coffee exclusively) and water the rest of the time. Occasionally will put some stevia and apple cider vinegar in it as well. A few times a week I have a cup of Jocko White Tea.

I also eat a “treat meal” from a restaurant usually once a week and a real dessert also once per week. That’s enough for me to be happy with an occasionally interesting thing. I am way more about quantity of food than quality.

Last comment on food. I said this last year and it bears repeating: Many of you are imagining being unhappy with faasting or not eating the unhealthy things you eat now that you enjoy so much. I often hear “I want to enjoy my life!” I would counter that I would rather enjoy the other 23 hours per day looking better, feeling better, and performing better. The minute you eat that donut, your enjoyment is done. Wearing pants with a waist smaller than you had in high school is much more enjoyable for many more hours each day. So is seeing your abs at 40+ years of age. Play the long game. Short-term gratification should be something you really enjoy when you do it and you should do it rarely.

Supplements

I endorse three brands of supplements: Ben Greenfield’s Kion, Jocko Willink’s Origin Labs, and Joe DeFranco’s Nutritional Supplements. I trust these three gentlemen a great deal and am happy to support them, so start there if you are looking for something I didn’t list below.

  • Jocko Mölk. For protein, my favorite. I usually get chocolate, but strawberry, pumpkin, and chocolate peanut butter are excellent.
  • Jocko Discipline Go. My staple pre-workout (when I take one). I take this to increase fat burning before cardio or for a little pick-me-up a few times a week.
  • Kion Creatine. 5 grams per day. A staple supplement for anyone training hard. I can’t say for sure the cheapest giant bag of creatine won’t work as well as this one, but I trust Ben Greenfield to put out high quality things, and this is one way to pay him back for all the free content he gives me.
  • Kion Aminos. I use this when I am going to lift heavy weights but am not going to eat around the session to have the essential amino acids around. It’s too expensive to take every day and not really necessary if you eat well, but it’s a good strategic use supplement.
  • Thorne Research Multi-Vitamin Elite. This is a high powered multi separated into a morning and evening dose. It’s $65 per month, which is truly cheap for what you get but may seem like a lot. Two dollars per day is chump change for a potent multi that cleans up all your nutritional needs.
  • L-Theanine. Wrote an article about this supplement already, so check it out if you are interested. It’s a nootropic, sleep aid, and a good partner to caffeine. 200mg in the morning and then 200mg before bed is a good regimen.
  • Now Supplements Super Enzymes. One pill before the evening meal to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. Hard to tell if it works honestly, but I trust the science. Super cheap anyway, so not much downside.
  • I have been using various drink mixes from Perfect Keto as meal substitutes on days I am fasting. I like the Nootropic and Exogenous Ketone Base. If you are trying to follow time-restricted feeding or want some energy in the form of ketones on days you are low carb/not eating, these are great.
  • I just got a big shipment in of Organifi Green Juice, Red Juice, and Gold drinks as another means of nutrient delivery. I have used these before but not regularly. Green in the morning with some protein mix, red during the day, and gold before bed. I don’t take all of them every day right now. Time will tell if this stays in the routine.
  • I have tried a lot of other supplements (you can see there are a lot I tried last year that didn’t make this list), so if you don’t see it, it’s just not worth the money although I am sure they do something. Kion has a lot of great supplements worth trying that may work for you like Kion Omega, Kion Immune, Kion Flex, and Kion Lean. I have tried them all, but I don’t buy them regularly.
  • I used to take a separate magnesium and vitamin D supplement, but now that I have upgraded to a more robust multi, I don’t. DeFranco’s magnesium and D are good though if you want one.

Sleep

Regularly getting six to eight hours per night in a cool dark room. I protect my sleep as much as any other element of fitness. I wear blue light blocking glasses if I am watching TV or using a computer after 7 PM. I use a good sleep mask to assist with some residual room light. Well worth the money. There isn’t much more to say about sleep except I prioritize this highly. I have made this important for many years now.

I just bought a Chilisleep Ooler Bed Cooling System too (same company as the ChiliPad that you may have heard of), which is a potential force multiplier since being hot at night affects my sleep a ton. I don’t even have it yet so I can’t comment on it at all but will do a review after I use it long enough to make a recommendation. Can’t stand to hear someone I trust recommend it anymore without buying one.

Stress

I haven’t been doing anything actively to mitigate stress, i.e. meditation, for many years. My self-perceived stress levels were healthy, so after I fell out of the habit of doing it in the mornings when I changed jobs, I didn’t feel the urgency to resume it. I am a believer in its value for some people and would recommend anyone who can meditate does so. In early 2019, I started Sam Harris’ Waking Up meditation program to try to reintegrate this into my regimen though because I really didn’t have a good reason not to be meditating. Kept it up for more than a month every morning, then it just fell out of favor with me again. I just wasn’t getting anything valuable from it. Instead of persevere, I got out. So I am still not actively doing any meditation or stress management, which is working out fine right now.

Activity

I try to keep up with 10,000 steps per day of walking, but it’s harder now than the last few years since I have to go to physical training in the mornings with my new job. I am averaging around 8,000 steps daily for the past three months. I used to start my day with a long walk with my dog, more movement during the work day, then take another evening walk. My personal time has been greatly reduced, so I do a long walk on the weekends usually and some weeknights when I get home early enough. I wear a GoRuck Rucker with 40 pounds most of the days I take long walks.

I have used a standing desk since 2014 both at home and at work. Sometimes I sit to read or type, but it’s not very often. I use an adjustable one like this one at work to put on top of my desk.

At home I have the FlexiSpot 48″ crank adjustable frame and I repurposed my old desk’s top to go on top of it. Now the entire platform is raised up and it’s much better than a desktop solution like I have for the office. I have the Topo mat with it as well. This is the preferred way to do the standing desk. It can be easily lowered if you want to sit, and it’s much easier to stand at a stable platform like this as well.

My exercise routine has changed a good amount. As I said, I now go to a unit physical training session each morning. I can do what I want (I am in charge of the training schedule), but I still don’t train exactly like when it was just me whenever I wanted.

My weekly battle rhythm has evolved to this generally under normal conditions:

  • Monday: Cardiovascular Endurance (long slow run or sprint intervals)
  • Tuesday: Strength & Power (lift weights, throw balls, drag sleds)
  • Wednesday: Ruck (walk for about an hour with a 40-pound pack)
  • Thursday: Strength & Power
  • Friday: Stamina (sub-maximal movements strung together for 20-40 minutes with minimal to no rest in between)
  • Saturday & Sunday: Strength (one or both days depending on how well recovered I am)

I am looking to get in at a minimum two strength sessions (usually one upper body, one lower body), one cardio session, one stamina session, and one power session each week. Anything after that is gravy. I will add or remove sessions based on how well I am recovered. I use my watch and ring to help me quantify recovery (see below). I will train every day if I can. I will just do more strength training with my extra sessions mostly. I rarely add in more cardio or stamina work. I am content to maintain my performance there, but I always want to make more progress in muscular strength and size.

In a normal week, I am in my garage gym two maybe three times. I go to an Army gym the other one or two times, and then am outside usually three time per week.

Tech

Watch = Garmin Fenix 6x. $700+ and worth every penny. I use it to track steps, sleep, recovery (they have a “body battery” metric that is very good) and it does a ton of outdoor things that are useful for hunting and survival.

Ring = Oura Ring. I am wearing it for the HRV, recovery, and sleep data.

Phone = Google Pixel 4. Very happy with the Pixel line. Upgraded lastyear from Pixel 2 and Pixel 5 is actually a downgrade, so I didn’t get it.

Computer = Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. Love it, highly recommended. Very powerful, great battery life. Huge fan of the surface line.

Hope you got some insight into what I am doing that may be beneficial to you. Post thoughts/questions to the comments below.