My climbing abilities jumped: I had never sent a V3. Afterwards, I was able to send a few V5’s and V6’s. This is my story of how I lost 22 lbs. of fat, gained 7 lbs. of muscle and improved my climbing from V2 to V6.
The usual disclaimer: This is just my experience and my opinion. This is what works for me. If you have a different experience, feel free to share in the comments. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the interwebs. However, I embrace the concept of self-experimentation and the value of N=1 data for personal improvement.
MY PERSONAL THEORY FOR IMPROVING CLIMBING
- Improvement in overall fitness should lead to improvements in climbing
- Improvement (reduction) in Body Fat Percentage should lead to improvements in climbing
All I wanted to do was lose some belly fat (maybe even lose weight fast) and climb a little stronger. I didn’t have an end weight in mind and I really didn’t know if I would lose weight or add muscle or both. Mentally, I was prepared to just accept the data. And I had no idea how this would affect my climbing. I was hopeful that I would get stronger; I just didn’t know how much stronger.
- I made a promise to myself to see this experiment through to completion
- I committed to doing P90X
- I committed to finding a style of eating that I thought worked for me and gave me the greatest chance of success. This ended up being a Ketogenic Diet for me.
- I tracked everything I ate
- Fat Caliper
- www.eatingacademy.com the personal blog of Dr. Peter Attia
- The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
My Results For Weight Loss
Days 1 – 30: Not much change. Link to “Would You Stick With Your Diet?”
Days 31 – 60: Just look at that beautiful graph:
Weight Loss Details (and math)
Begin date was January 15th. I weighed in at 191.6 lbs. My weight peaked at 193.0 lbs. on January 31st. My lowest weight was 176.8 lbs. on March 30th.
I used the Accumeasure Fitness 3000 Personal Body Fat Tester.
On January 15th, my approximate body fat percentage (BF%) was 22.8%. On March 30th, my approximate BF% was 12.3%. This means that I started with around 43.7 lbs. of fat on my body and ended with around 21.7 lbs. of fat on my body. MY BEST GUESS is that I lost 22 lbs. of fat and gained 7 lbs. of muscle for a NET loss of about 14.8 lbs. (*The accuracy of body fat caliper is low; but it can give you a general idea of your BF%. Additionally, I only measured my waist right above my iliac crest. Only one measurement means greater possibility of error on my part. Anyway, just look at the graph and my pics – I lost fat and that is the point. Lastly, I rounded and I guessed so there is no exact math in this section.)
This Simple Mental Trick Helped Me Keep Going
Human adipose tissue is kinda gross. I knew that I was fatty around my middle. And when the scale wasn’t moving in those first 30 days, I relied solely on my promise to myself. I was going to see this through no matter what. And then, in those second thirty days, seeing my scale show me new data almost every day really kept me committed. This is what motivated me to keep going.
I looked for a mental picture to help me understand the days when the scale didn’t show me losing any weight. I ended up thinking about sticks of butter. Every stick is a quarter pound or 4 oz. I would push myself though those tough workouts and push myself to stay on diet thinking about how many sticks of butter my body would burn. Using butter as an example, I lost 88 sticks of butter in 75 days! Take a second right now to imagine what 88 sticks of butter looks like! Yup, and I was losing more than 1 stick of butter per day!
The Scale Only Gives You Data
Some people are weird about stepping on a scale – that is funny to me. I had an old style analog scale that would give me different measurements each time I stepped on it. Because I was very interested in what would happen to my weight, I went ahead and purchased a new scale that would give me a more accurate measurement. I used the EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale. It is top rated and the #1 best seller on Amazon. It is easy to use, easy to read, and very affordable. If you need to update your scale, this might be the one for you. (Amazon link at the end of the article.)
Yeah, it is a tough workout. Yeah, it is a huge time commitment. Most P90X workouts are 60+ minutes long. Then you have abs every other day for about another 20 minutes. Yoga day is 90 minutes! But what I liked best about P90X is that it makes you keep track of your repetitions and gains. And, just like in climbing, you see small improvements every day.
I enjoy that P90X is heavily geared towards body-weight exercises with many pull-up and push-up type movements. I can do it in the privacy and convenience of my own home. I also don’t have to think. Every single day is charted out and coach Tony Horton tells you what to do and how to do every step of the way. They made P90X super simple in that way. All YOU have to supply is the I-want-to-change-my-body energy to go get it done!
It doesn’t have to be P90X. I used P90X because of the structure and simplicity. Find something that you love to do for a workout. Once you decide what that is, push yourself a little more each workout.
I got introduced to the idea of the Ketogenic Diet while reading Tim Ferriss blog and book The 4-Hour Body. In his book Tim says, “…Cyclical Ketogenic Diet…produced veins across my abdomen, which is the last place I lose fat.” THAT is exactly where I want to lose MY fat. So, I took that idea and ran to google searching for more info on ketosis and found Dr. Peter Attia. His blog and writings are what convinced me to try the Ketogenic Diet. Every question that you have about a Ketogenic Diet can be answered at Dr. Peter Attia’s blog The Eating Academy.
If you are really interested in learning about Ketosis, I suggest these articles by Dr. Attia:
- Is ketosis dangerous?
- Ketosis – advantaged or misunderstood state? (Part I)
- Ketosis – advantaged or misunderstood state? (Part II)
- What I actually eat (circa Q4 2011)
- What I actually eat, part II – “IFIK” (circa Q3 2012)
- What I actually eat, part III (circa Q1 2014)
My Summary of What Ketosis Is
Ketosis is a style of eating that includes very low carbs, very high fats (good fats), and a ton of recording what you eat and finding out what works for YOUR body; then MAKING ADJUSTMENTS if your weight is not dropping, your strength is not increasing, or your body is not changing.
If you “try” a ketogenic diet for only 30 days, you will fail. You will probably not achieve the results that you want. Imagine all the hard work you did in those first 30 days – your body should now be primed to burn fat at a very high rate.
Although my sample of data is purely n=1, and I basically did not lose any weight in my first 30 days, consider this article “Disrobing Dogma: Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Weight Loss.” The author sites 26 “carbohydrate content” studies with a mean diet length of almost 29 days.
The author opines, “Even just a superficial reading of the table shows the clear absence of evidence supporting the low-carbohydrate diet for fat loss. It offers no observable advantage over diets higher in carbohydrate or any other macronutrient.” The author then adds, “Calories have always been, are, and forever will be the only determinant of absolute weight regulation.” [Author’s emphasis.] And finally, from the author, “this article is solely addressing the claim that they [carbohydrate-restricted diets] accelerate the weight-loss process through some magical metabolic effect.
I don’t want to get into a cyber-arguement about ketosis, caloric restriction, etc. Moreover, I emphatically disagree with the conclusions of the author. However, mentioning this article allows me to emphasize three points:
- 30 days is not long enough for a personal ketogenic diet experiment. 60 days might not be enough for some people. How many days, then? You go find out what works for your body.
- Read all you want about diet and exercise. The most important factor to your success is YOUR commitment to your path and your ability to solve your diet problems.
- My personal experience of ketosis in days 31-60 did feel like magic
If you decide to embark on a ketogenic diet experiment, I encourage you to buy the Ketostix. It is visual proof that you are succeeding. Just follow the directions on the bottle.
One important thought when reading your Ketostix is that you are in ketosis whether you show up as “trace” or “large.” If you have a “large” reading, it is very likely that you are not drinking enough water. Hit that water right away. And if you are the kind of person that needs a doctor’s advice / permission, then do that. (Amazon link at the end of this article.)
Tracking Everything That I Ate
I used the free version of the DailyBurn Tracker. It took me a while to find my foods and get into the habit of recording everything. There is a learning curve and it is frustrating at times. But once you get into the flow of using it; the data that it shows you is amazing. It also felt like I had an accountability partner. I committed to tracking every single thing that I put in my mouth. That way, if something wasn’t going right, I could refer back to my diet and make adjustment accordingly.
Here are two examples of what a typical day looked like for me:
Exactly What I Ate
I haven’t yet found the format I want to present this data in. So look for that post coming soon. Suffice it to say that I ate a ketogenic diet. Here is a sample of the detail of my diet from January 21st: Bouldering Results
My bouldering strength was the absolute test of my success. Sure I lost some weight and gained some muscle; but I wanted to know if I would climb stronger.
Prior to this ketogenic diet experiment, I only climbed up to V2. My sends of note were Think French V2, Bottoms Up V2, Make You Cuss V2 (all at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch), and War and Peace V1 (at Cave Creek) for which I put my climbing helmet on.
After the weight loss and strength gains, I was able to onsight (Horseshoe Canyon Ranch) The Crescent V3, Dig Dug V4. I had gotten on Perpetual Motion Machine V3 dozens of times over the course of many years, and, now, finally sent it. I had to work the world famous Le Beak V4 for about an hour or two before sending (Fountain Red). Always Lead the Opossum V5 (Fountain Red) took me many tries, but was awesome to send. I flashed The Slug Traverse V4 (Lake Lincoln). And Going to Dubville (Lake Lincoln) was my first V6. I also sent Bark Biter V6, and French Lessons V5.
- Improvements in my overall fitness did lead to real, measurable climbing gains
- Dropping my Body Fat Percentage from approximately 22% to 12% did lead to real, measurable climbing gains
My personal opinion and experience says that improving your overall fitness will improve your overall climbing abilities. I am never going to say that a Ketogenic Diet is right for everyone. I encourage you to try it for 60, 90, or 120 days to find out if it can help you drop some weight or climb a few ratings harder.
Considerations and Notes
Throughout this experiment, I did no climbing specific exercises. There were no hangboard, fingerboard, or anything similar style of exercises or training. I stuck solely to the P90X workouts and climbed at my gym about twice per week.
I was 41 years old in 2012 at the time of this experiment.
The only supplements I took were:
- Iodine, because I choose to. I eat Real Salt; not the iodized salt you buy from the grocery store.
- SAM-e which I take in the winter months to help combat SAD.
- I took a few different kinds of whey proteins when I didn’t feel like making a meal.
I did take some Saturdays off from my diet to eat whatever the hell I wanted to.
I reduced my alcohol consumption considerably.
Read more about finding out what diet method might work to help you loose weight and improve your climbing in HCRBeta’s Diet and Exercise Category
Jason Clements is the founder of and writer for HCRBeta, Hike Climb Relax: How to… Jason has served as the President of the Kansas City Climbing Club. He lives in Shawnee, Kansas and also runs the cell phone recycling company, Cells for Cells, which recycles cell phones to raise money for families battling cancer. You can follow Jason on Facebook or on Twitter @jasonclements.
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