As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been on a 6 month strength/bulking phase. In the year out I had due to ill health, I lost a lot of muscle mass, and to be honest, I didn’t have all that much to start with. I wanted to build my strength back up and I also decided I wanted to build my upper body . I have never been broad shouldered and hunky. I have never had a chest of any description at all, really not had big arms or shoulders. I decided that at 50 I didn’t want to be either skinny or skinny fat and was going to do what I could to change that.
My plan was to bulk for 6 months, concentrating first on strength then hypertrophy, then cut for 3 months, stripping back the inevitable fat that would have been acquired along the way and revealing the new lean, muscular me beneath.
Well, that was the plan back at the beginning of September. Now, 6 months later, stage one is complete. I have bulked and now it is time to cut. (to be pedantic about it, the six months was up on Thursday, and my cutting plan is 12 weeks rather than 3 calendar months, which is why I am starting this on a Saturday. I have already been easing myself back into the cardio and dropping the calories that last couple of days already though).
How successful I have been, I am not sure, but I am not hugely confident at this moment. In terms of simply increasing in bulk I have definitely achieved that goal: I started at 83.4kg and as of this morning am now 93.6kg. I had actually aimed to get to 95kg as my target, but am close enough.
So I have gained 10.2kg in 26 weeks. That is just under a pound a week.
Comparing today’s picture to the September picture, the principal difference as far as I can see is that I have became fatter around the waist and my collarbones have disappeared. I think I can see some gains to my chest but I don’t have the increase in mass I had hoped for. I certainly have not packed on 20lbs of muscle, that is very certain.
However, before this sounds all too gloomy and despondent, I am not despairing of the project just yet. I have 12 weeks to shed the accumulated bodyfat and see how much muscle is revealed, and will make a judgement then as to how successful, or not, I have been. Even though I don’t think I will achieve my original goal, there is no point trying to second guess what the final outcome will be at this stage. Certainly it has not been a complete failure: there is one of those motivational mottoes that reads something like “I never fail: I either succeed or I learn – I think it might even have been Nelson Mandela who first said it, or something similar. I have learned a great deal during the last six months about eating for growth. It has been the first time I have ever deliberately eaten in caloric surplus and the first time I have actively worked on building mass. I think the mental game of it has been the most difficult. Getting your head around eating more than you need, consistently, day in, day out, is a lot harder than getting used to working out every day. Adding a substantial amount of carbohydrates to my daily diet after years of low carb eating, was a lot more challenging than I expected. I did learn though, as I said, and next time round I will go into my bulk with a much better food game.
The last couple of months, I freely admit, I have been looking forward to starting the cut. I feel heavy – which is probably because I am at the heaviest I have been in my life. I have been looking forward to doing some cardio too – in the last 6 months I have concentrated just on lifting and done almost nothing in the way of cardio, partly so as not to risk using those hard fought calories for anything but gainz, partly because there has not been time to do more than the lifting. I feel out of shape and unfit, and just miss the feeling of doing a hard cardio or HIIT session (although may change that opinion shortly). I have also been looking forward to eating less, to cutting some carbs, and feeling a bit lighter, both in weight terms and post meals. I know where I am a lot more with planning and making lower calorie meals and am more confident with my diet.
Which brings us on to the actual nitty-gritty of my 12 week cutting plan.
For month 1 I am going to reduce my calories to 2500/day. My maintenance is around 2800, so this is a 300 calorie deficit. In month 2 I will drop another 200 calories to 2300/day and for the final month another 200 to 2100/day.
Whilst this sounds a fairly modest start, I have been maintaining a 500 calorie surplus for months, so it represents a drop of 800 calories a day in terms of how much I am actually eating. It is already quite a shock to the system, having been used to such vast quantities of food.
I shall be prioritising protein, but starting with moderate carb and dropping carbs as I go along.
Exercisewise, I will be continuing the 6 day split on lifting, but adding cardio, initially about 20 mins, 4 days a week and again ramping that up over the course of the 12 weeks. Next week I will detail my starting exercise routine in detail.
My target is 87kg/190lbs by the end of the 12 weeks, maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. That works out at about 1lb/ 0.5kg a week, which is roughly the same rate as I put the weight on, only it is just fat I want to be shedding. This is again a first, as, although I have lost weight many times in the past, this is the first time I have done so in a structured way with the express intention of maintaining gainz, and the first time with such an emphasis on lifting. I am sure it will be as much a learning process as the bulk was, but hey, always learning new stuff is as much a part of the gainz as building muscle is.
I will be doing a weekly update with my progress, so come back next Saturday and watch me diminish/get shredded before your eyes.