Five percent

Friday 1st July 2016

Back in May I made a silly bet with a friend that I could lose 5% of my body fat more quickly than he could. I learned a lot about nutrition and completely changed my relationship to food along the way! My diet has always been pretty poor and if I'm going to live to be a hundred I need to sort it out. 

We don't have any lawyers at Lost In Thought, but if we did I'm sure they'd say that I'm not a doctor, this isn't dietary advice and you shouldn't follow a diet from some random blog that you found on the web. 



Measuring time

I bought some body fat calculation scales which use electrical impedance along with your weight to calculate your percentage of body fat.

I started off weighing 68.4kg with 18.4% fat according to the scales. This means I'm carrying 12.6kg of fat around. Ew! This is a mixture of subcutaneous fat, under my skin, and visceral fat which surrounds my organs and is considered the bad fat.

An average range for a 40-year old adult male is 18% - 24% body fat. If I somehow manage to lose 5% I'll be in the fitness body fat category according to Wikipedia. I can do fitness.

This makes me smile because Alfie, who I'm competing with, is starting at 15.9% so he'll be in the athlete range at 10.9%. Not sure I could do athlete, but good luck to him.

However my calculations tell me that if I'm going to lose 5% fat I have to shed 7.5kg of fat and I'll weigh 60.9kg. I've never been that light in my life and I'm going to look skeletal.

The other way would be to increase the percentage of non-fat, either by gaining muscle or by drinking lots of water to increase my total weight. Another quick calculation tells me I could drink 27 litres of water to achieve this. According to this article six litres of water will kill a 75kg adult human, so that's probably out. I told you I'm not a doctor, right?

I'm going to have to work out a lot and keep an eye on my muscle mass (which the scales also tell me) and try to put on muscle as I lose fat. If I start losing muscle as well then it's going to take even longer.


Day 1

Today is pretty hard. The scales tell me that my resting metabolism is 1550 kcal per day, so I set that as my food goal in MyFitnessPal. I quickly realise that my diet has always been very heavy in carbohydrates and fat, very low in protein. This is bad, I need to be eating lots of protein to build muscle in between workouts.

So I start learning about nutrition for the first time in my life. I've only ever used MyFitnessPal to count calories before, but now I start keeping an eye on the ratio of carbohydrates to fat to protein.


Day 4

Hmm, I'm 0.9% fatter than I was when I started but 0.4kg lighter, so all I've done is lose muscle (or become dehydrated). The reading on the scales jumped about a lot during the first four days so I'm going to say that 19.5% is my new starting body fat and I'm aiming for 14.5%. Or am I cheating already on day four?


Day 5

I've been reading up on the best ways to lose fat and the consensus is that I need a low carbohydrate diet. This encourages your body start burning fat, but the constant low blood sugar is making me feel dizzy. I'm trying to eat 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein.

Here are the MyFitnessPal charts of my carbs (blue), fat (red) and protein (green) ratios for three days at this point, as you can see it's hard to stick to the ratios!


Day 10

Back to my original fat levels and lost 1.3kg. The dizziness has gone now. I've changed to 40% carb, 30% fat and 30% protein. This is a huge amount of protein: at least a chicken breast, a steak or a fish every day, which is unusual for me. My coffee intake seems to have gone up dramatically, not sure if this is related.


Day 15

Okay, we're starting to get somewhere. I've lost 0.7% fat and only 0.1% muscle so it looks like I've got the balance right at 35% carbs, 35% fat and 30% protein. My normal meals of pasta with some kind of sauce have been replaced by a grilled chicken breast, half a head of steamed broccoli and a small portion of quinoa. 


Day 20

After a weekend of serious walking I wonder if I might actually achieve this goal. I've now lost 1.8% fat and put on 0.8% muscle. The scales tell me that my visceral fat has gone down too, which is an unintended health benefit. I've eaten more fillet steak in the last month than the preceding 40 years. I'm really hungry a lot of the time though, which isn't a good sign. 


Day 25

Starting to get a bit bored of this now. One thing I've learned is that how much I need to eat during a day is very different to how empty my stomach feels. In the past I'd always eat when my stomach rumbled, but I realise now that I don't need to.

Eating loads of salad and loving it! Here are some more MyFitnessPal ratios:


Day 30 

I think I can keep this up for about another week at the most. I'm losing about 0.1% body fat a day on average, so I might make it to 14.5%. I'm down to 64.3kg, the lightest I've ever been as an adult. I've discovered that the best time to take my measurements is when I'm fully hydrated, so I've taken to drinking a pint of water mid-morning, waiting for my body to pee out what I don't need and then get on the scales. 


Day 35

This morning I step on the scales and I weigh 63.8kg. I glance at the mirror and I look too thin. I've been feeling a bit weird, light-headed and a little angry. I've lost a lot of weight and not much fat for the last five days, so I think I'm about ready to give up. It's been a really interesting experience, not one I'd like to repeat but I've learned a huge amount about nutrition. 

There's an increasing body of evidence to suggest that we shouldn't be counting calories but eating a high fat, lower carb diet. There's an interesting article here. To quote from it:

The EPIC study revealed that one can [of cola] a day (approximately 150 calories) was associated with substantially increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Conversely, PREDIMED revealed that consumption of a handful of nuts, (30 g of walnuts, 15 g of almonds and 15 g of hazelnuts) or four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day (approximately 500 calories) significantly reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke. 


Day 39

Done it, woohoo! I've been away for three days at a dance music festival, not eating or sleeping much. I hopped on the scales when I got home and I'm down to 14.5% fat! I feel pretty good to be honest, like I've got a younger body, a lot more energy and feel more alive (despite the festival). 

Here are the final graphs:

That was hard work

This has easily been the hardest thing I've done for Lost In Thought, but also one of the most rewarding. I've stopped logging my calories for now because I don't want to lose any more weight, but I'm still going to eat sensibly with more fat and protein and fewer carbs. I didn't think my 5% fat loss was going to be achievable without some serious weight lifting, and I'm really thrilled that I achieved my goal! I'm going back to weighing myself once a week instead of every day, as all the health professionals recommend. 

This is lunch today to celebrate. I know what it looks like, but this is actually what I wanted to eat for lunch. Kat's smirking reading this, because she can't believe I would ever choose to eat it. But in all honesty I've completely changed how I feel about food and drink in just over a month. 



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