My wife completed the 21 Day Fix last month, and it reminded me of a plan I designed for myself a couple years ago. I wanted to see how much fat I could shave off over a four week period; we’ll just call it the 28 x 24 Hour Repair for the sake of this post.
I’m not making this post to claim that Beach Body or Autumn Calabrese stole my idea. I actually think that the 21 Day Fix is a very well-crafted system–in fact–I literally just finished it myself (I lost 12 lbs…I’ll do a write up on it soon…but first, let me finish this celebratory beer, pizza, and beer).
My system had many similarities to 21, and also a few features that made it quite different. I’m sharing my experience in hopes that it helps someone add a few successful tweaks to their fitness goals, and hopefully you guys can drop a little knowledge on me in return (hit me up in the comments section at the bottom).
First, allow me to begin by addressing the 272 lbs pale-bellied gorilla in the room. If you’ll notice, my “before” pictures are pretty freakin’ awful looking…that was intentional. When I took these back in 2012, I was never planning to create a blog post about the program, so for my own entertainment, I binged on Chinese and slouched like a fat idiot for the pictures. Having said all that, the results were still pretty fantastic. After completing the program, my weight was down to 259 lbs (lost over 13 lbs). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a body fat measurement, but from my visual improvement in muscular definition, and short strength and endurance gains, I definitely maintained, if not added a bit of lean mass.
Basics of the 28 x 24 Period Repair
The idea was really simple; I’ve been reading about body builders doing it for years: decide on a goal, determine how much food you need to eat to achieve it, prepare all of your meals ahead of time, and always have them on hand so you don’t screw up the plan. Add a little fitness routine, and a dusting of black magic (i.e., the “thermic effect” and cold showers), and you achieve solid results…I did any way.
My goal was burning body fat while maintaining muscle mass, so I built my plan around that.
Weight loss is basically the product of burning more calories than you consume, however, I couldn’t just starve myself for a positive effect. There’s a little more to it. If you’ll remember, my goal was to burn fat while maintaining muscle mass, so I planned a relatively simple diet to achieve the said results.
First, I determined how many calories I planned to eat on a daily basis. I stumbled across the Mifflin-St Jeor formula, as represented by freedieting.com’s calorie counter, and decided to use that as a baseline, as opposed of the Katch-McArdle or the Harris-Benedict formulas. Honestly, I can’t distinguish a whole heck of a lot between the three formulas, but the Mifflin-St Jeor seemed the most conservative, and required only general vitals to produce an estimated daily intake (Katch-McArdle requires you to know your body fat percentage). A calorie calculator is only partially objective at best…there are just too many unique factors to consider from person to person, so I treated the numbers that I crunched in the calculator as a guide rather than the gospel.
- I filled out the aforementioned calculator fields, including my age, height, weight, and activity (I chose 5 times/week intense, as that’s how often I planned to work out intensely), and hit “Calculate”.
- I then took the average between the “Maintenance” number (3529 calories/day) and “Fat Loss” (2823 calories/day) which was roughly 3200 calories/day.
I could have just taken the “Fat Loss” or even “Extreme Fat Loss” number, but again, I was very concerned with maintaining, and possibly even adding lean muscle mass. Reading Flex and Muscle and Fitness throughout college (both are bodybuilding magazines) made me very weary of dropping my daily calories too low. My perception at the time, when I saw the recommended “Extreme Fat Loss” suggestion (2176 calories per day), was that the calculator was asking me to starve.
This is primarily where my home-baked program and Autumn’s 21 Day Fix part ways. Having just completed 21 yesterday, I’ve been “used” to eating around 2200 calories/day to promote what can definitely be described as “Extreme Fat Loss” (in other words, it works as advertised). However, back in 2012, when I put this plan together, my daily personal target exceeded 21‘s by over 1000 calories. So, while I ate a lot more variety on 21, I ate a lot more food on my 28 plan, and very rarely went hungry as a result.
Mighty Macronutrient Ratios
I’m not a nutritionist, so I decided to keep things simple, and build my diet around basic macronutrient ratios (i.e., carbohydrates, protein, and fat). I wanted to build my macronutritional split around that of an athlete’s diet since I would be working out intensely nearly every day.
You have to, however, be careful when building a diet based on what “other” athletes eat. For instance, the makeup of some professional triathletes’ diets (those crazy overachievers who are able to complete my collective annual cardio efforts in a single afternoon) consist of over 80% carbohydrates. Unlike them, I will never consistently train for six hours a day, so eating that many carbohydrates would almost certainly give me some chunky buns (I was heckled by a couple transvestites in Santa Monica while strolling on the beach during my honeymoon–they gave me the endearing epithet, “Chunky Buns”, and it’s sorta stuck since then…thanks again, fellas!).
On the other end of the spectrum, bodybuilders take a different approach. When preparing for a competition, they commonly cut their carbohydrate intake to Atkins-like proportions (i.e., less than 40 grams/day) to help shred body fat. This is a practice that should only be done in very short periods of time, and frankly, I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to not screw up my glucose levels, and do more harm than good.
After a bit of homework, I decided on the following macronutrients levels (based on my 3200 calories/day target):
- Carbohydrates: 50-60% calories from carbs. That’s 1600-1920 calories from carbs, or 400-480 grams of carbs/day (one gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories)
- Proteins: 25-35% calories from protein. That’s 800-1120 calories from protein, or 200-280 grams of protein/day (one gram of protein = 4 calories)
- Fats: 15-20% calories from fats. That’s 480-640 calories from fats, or 53-71 grams of fat/day (one gram of fat = 9 calories)
Here’s a brief explanation of each nutrient listed above, and why I decided on the amount I did:
Carbohydrates have been wrongfully demonized over the last decade or so, primarily due to the rage (albeit declining rage) in low-carb diets. While I know plenty of people who have experienced significant weight loss by limiting their carbohydrate intake to extremely low levels, it’s definitely not a diet for me. Put simply, carbs are the best source of energy for your body, especially during moderate and intense exercise. If you aren’t supplying your body with enough carbs, it will begin to use fat and protein as a source of energy (in most cases, a sub-par source). Too much of this, and your body can actually breakdown your hard-earned muscles in order to keep itself truckin’.
I’m not going to refinance my body’s glucose economy just so I can eat a ton of fatty meats on a glorified fad diet (though I love fatty meats). No, I’d rather enjoy high levels of energy while promoting healthy muscle growth…but you do what you feel is right.
My carbohydrates primarily came from rice, pasta, barley, and/or beans at every meal (six meals per day). A small glass of milk (~20 ounces) and a cup of oats at breakfast, and fruit in between morning and early afternoon meals. I also ate tons of green, red and orange vegetables; they aren’t a particularly significant source of carbohydrates, relative to the aforementioned grains, but they’re critically important to any healthy diet.
I’m not going to get into the makeup of protein, or the magical process by which it allows your body to build muscle. I’ll stick to the basics, and leave it at that: protein builds muscle.
All protein sources aren’t created equally for every application (some offer health benefits and unique combinations of amino acids that others don’t), but as a general rule, you want to vary your protein sources to the best of your ability. Building a diet around deliciously murdered animal sources is generally viewed as the “best” strategy for building lean mass (when you factor in things like efficiency ratings and other nutritional witchcraft), but I’m sometimes doubtful. I’ve known two vegetarians who are a heck of a lot more jacked than me. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you might not learn much from my diet, but there’s plenty of hope for you…you’ll just have to get your information somewhere else.
I got my protein mainly from chicken (I ate about 60 chicken breasts during the month), tuna, eggs, lean beef (mainly from eye of round steaks and homemade beef jerky), and beans.
I’m a beef jerky fiend. Jerky has been a staple snack food for any diet I’ve ever been on. It’s nutritious (but go easy on the sodium), low in fat, portable (it keeps forever without refrigeration), and in my case, cheap! I can usually find a 10 lbs log of lean ground beef at Sam’s club for under $35. I mix in some jerky seasoning with the beef, shove it in my jerky gun (operates very similarly to a caulk gun), crank it out on my Nesco five tray dehydrator (can be expanded to 10 trays), and let it sit for a few hours. A pound of jerky nets me about $4.00 (without factoring in the initial price of the dehydrator), which is a fraction of what it would cost in a grocery store. Oh, and it’s much much better…if you’ve never eaten beef jerky hot off the tray, you’ve lived a crappy life. Un-crap your life, and consider making your own jerky, if you don’t already.
Don’t be afraid of fats. Fats are wonderful for you, in moderation (isn’t everything?). Including fat in a well-balanced diet helps optimize brain function, gives the body proper insulation, temperature regulation, tunes up your immune system, and helps with vitamin absorption. And all of those behind-the-scenes benefits are well and good, but I love fats because they taste great and can act as an appetite suppressant.
It is darn near impossible for me to fall asleep on an empty stomach, so on this diet, I routinely found myself eating a small handful of almonds or pecans and a couple pieces of beef jerky before bed…it made a huge difference. Plus, as an added benefit, fat is said to help slow gastric release, so I got a nice residual jerky drip while I slept (better than a bacon grease IV…better for you anyway).
I stayed away from trans fats and cheeses (though I partook in a delightful dusting of Parmesan every now and then), and got the bulk of this wonderful nutrient from plant sources; olive oil (at least two tablespoons a day), avocados, almonds, and sunflower seeds were the “heavy” hitters of my program.
My beverage breakdown was simple: I drank water when I was thirsty, and caffeine in the form of black coffee when I wanted to wake up. With the exception of a little skim milk in the morning, that’s about it. So, no soda (diet or otherwise), no juice, and no booze (waaaaah!).
I probably drank (and continue to drink) 1.5 gallons of cold water every day while on this program. I don’t really subscribe to any particular view concerning how much water is the ideal amount for daily intake; the information that I’ve read on the subject varies too dramatically. All I know is that I’m thirsty a lot, and water is a calorie-free way for me to stay hydrated, and keep my digestive system ticking like clockwork (I don’t care if that’s TMI). I drank around 20-30 ounces of cold water with every meal, and another 40 during my workout, and that doesn’t even include all the water I got from eating fruits and vegetables (there’s a lot more than you might think).
I drank a fair amount of black coffee during this program as well (about four cups per day). If you don’t currently drink coffee routinely, I wouldn’t recommend starting just for the sake of a few nominal benefits, but if you’re already an addict, like myself, you’ll be happy to hear that coffee can find a warm place in just about any dietary fitness program, including this one. Caffeine can cause minimal boosts in your metabolism, provide extra energy before workouts, and coffee itself is extremely high in antioxidants. Again, I’m not going to make recommendations on caffeine intake–I just stuck to my daily joe consumption, and took in an extra moment to smell the glorious benefits of America’s A-OK addiction.
Juice, even the 100% organic, butt-naked, pulpy kind, needs to be consumed sparingly in a fat-burning program…at least this one. I chose just to cut it out altogether. Fruit juice is loaded with sugar, and while there are ways to fit it into a nutrition program (drinking it first thing in the morning, directly after workouts with creatine, etc…), I chose to achieve my gains without juice (either kind).
Even the most uneducated American probably knows that the human body is better off without soda (i.e., pop, or the all-encompassing “Coke”), but it case you are…um…stupid, your body is better off without soda. Even diet soda, is a conglomeration of garbage. It may not contain sugar, but some studies suggest that all the other crap in it can have stifling effects on your metabolism, even with the extra caffeinated boost. I have a pop once in a blue moon, but when I striving for optimal results, I don’t touch it.
And now the final don’t: alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m borderline addicted to responsible–even quasi-responsible–drinking. I like watching a movie with a couple dark beers or a neat glass of bourbon. I find that a fancy meal is indeed complimented with a glass of nice or cheap (depending on who brought it) red wine. And, every now in then, I treat myself to a $1.50 40 oz. or shotgun a beer at a family event. Despite my appreciation for fermentation, however, alcohol and peak fitness don’t mix.
I know what you’ve probably read about the wonders of drinking a glass of red wine for a healthy heart and all that, and I’m not necessarily disputing that. I’m just saying that in terms of caloric intake and muscle development, alcohol is bad for you. First off, any alcoholic beverage, even straight liquor, has tons of frivolous calories (seven per gram, I believe). In terms of protein synthesis (i.e., muscle development), alcohol can slow your muscle growth by 25%. Now, there are a few caveats and details that I’m choosing not to discuss in this article, but I decided (with a tear in my eye) that if I wanted to go for peak progress, I would need to blow 0.0% for the month.
I ate six meals every day, spaced out approximately three hours apart from each other, with occasional snacks in between. My post workout meal was bigger than the rest, and my evening meal was smaller (I robbed from my evening meal to pad my post-workout meal…I’ll get to this in more detail when I discuss preparation). My primary reason for planning my meals like I did was two-fold: optimizing appetite control, and protein synthesis.
You’ve probably heard that it’s best to space out your daily consumption over five or six meals a day, starting with a huge breakfast. You’ve also probably heard that the primary reason for this is that it kicks your metabolism into overdrive. I wish that was the case–in fact, for the longest time, I thought that it was. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that shows that eating several small meals throughout the day has any greater effect on your metabolism than simply eating breakfast, lunch and dinner (or breakfast, dinner, and supper, depending on how close you live to my mom). So, if eating tons of small meals doesn’t hype up your metabolism, what’s the point?
I’m always hungry, especially when in a steady workout program. When I don’t have a meal in front of me, and I want one, lots of bad things happen. First of all, my blood sugar plummets, and I turn into a raging jerk (the only time I ever threw anyone against the wall by the throat was when my coworker–who had innocent intentions–thought it would be funny to hide Mr. Hyde’s hamburgers). Secondly, I get horribly desperate, breakdown, and stuff my round face with whatever I can find, whether it be leftover meeting pizza or a dish full of dinner mints. For the safety of others, and the success of my diet, I find that I have the best results when I eat often (and make sure I have the meals I need within reach when I need them).
My main reason for choosing to eat often during my 24 x 28 Day Repair was to optimize protein synthesis, and give my body the necessary tools to build up the muscles that I tore down during my workouts. One could probably study skeletal muscle protein synthesis for a lifetime and not completely understand it, but here’s the ultra dumbed down version (which is as much as my ultra dumbed down brain can process):
When you exercise, especially during any kind of strength training, you tear down your muscle (hopefully not too much). You body relies on protein synthesis to repair your muscles, and over time, build them stronger than where they were before. Now, as I mentioned, the process is not that simple. You can’t just throw your back out clean-n’-jerking at the gym, eat a chicken coup for dinner, and expect to be The Hulk in the morning. If it worked like that, this article would be a lot shorter.
In reality, the process requires a bit more finesse. Your body will only “use” a limited amount of nutrients at a time to repair and grow muscle (protein being the main contributor, in this case), so it’s important to give it just the right amount. Too little, and you might actually see negative results from your training, possibly even injury. Too much, and the excess nutrients might be stored as adipose tissue (chunky buns).
Honestly, I don’t really know the perfect amount for me, and it’s going to vary from person-to-person and regimen-to-regimen, but I believe that eating the calculated 3200 calories/day spread out every three hours or so helped me achieve positive results in protein synthesis.
If you’re a huge nerd, and want to read a scientific study on the topic of meal frequency and protein synthesis, I recommend the following: Optimal Protein Intake to Maximize Muscle Protein Synthesis (Layne Norton is a super smart fella).
The worst part about this whole program for me was food preparation. It’s such a pain in the butt, however, getting my meals ready for the day (I wasn’t ambitious enough to prep a whole week at a time) played such a critical role in my success that I’m glad I slogged through it. As previously mentioned, timing is everything–when meal time rolls around, you need to have your food ready-to-eat, right in front of you. I found that the easiest (but not “easy”) to do this was to cook and pack all my food at night for the following day.
I’m not a cook, and I’m lazy, so I sacrificed flavor for convenience. I decided to basically cook one huge 2500+ calorie meal (based on my macronutrients breakdown discussed earlier), and split it up into several Tupperware containers to eat the next day.
So, if my staple grain for the day was going to be rice, I’d prepare an amount based on the calories from carbohydrates in rice, as well as whatever minimal amount of fats and proteins it has (I usually made six servings of rice). I would then prepare 2.5 to three full chicken breasts, baked in two tablespoons of olive oil (again, measuring calories from protein and fat), and do the same for beans and vegetables. When I was done, I factored in my breakfast, which usually consisted of three to four whole eggs, a cup of oatmeal, a glass of milk and a piece of fruit. I filled in my remaining calories with allowances for snacks (mainly fruit, nuts, seeds, and jerky).
When I was finished, I put it all in a spreadsheet, and checked my math to make sure I was coming in at total number of calories and macronutrient ratio that matched my plan.
It wasn’t really that hard, once I got the hang of it, but daily planning, cooking, cleaning, packing, and sometimes shopping for a last-minute item was a huge challenge for me…the last thing I wanted to do after a day of working out and eating flavorless food, was spend an hour preparing more flavorless food for the next day. So, unless you have a personal chef, preparation is pretty much unavoidable. Fortunately for you, I can almost guarantee that your organization and time management skills surpass mine, so if you try this, you can probably shave some time off the clock…please share your tips with me if you have them.
Meal Plan Example
Here’s an example of a daily meal plan:
- 3 Whole Eggs
- 1 Cup Oats
- 1 Banana
- 20 oz Milk
- 1 Apple
- 2/3 Cup Brown Rice*
- Half Chicken Breast
- 1/2 Cup Peas
- 1/2 Cup Diced Tomatoes
- 1 Apple
11:30 AM Workout
- 1 Cup Brown Rice*
- 1 Can Tuna
- 1/2 Cup Peas
- 1/2 Cup Diced Tomatoes
- 2/3 Cup Brown Rice*
- Half Chicken Breast
- 1/2 Cup Peas
- 1/2 Cup Diced Tomatoes
- Small Handful of Almonds
- 2/3 Cup Brown Rice*
- Half Chicken Breast
- 1/2 Cup Peas
- 1/2 Cup Diced Tomatoes
- Couple pieces of Beef Jerky
- 1/2 Cup Brown Rice*
- Half Chicken Breast
- 1/2 Cup Peas
- 1/2 Cup Diced Tomatoes
- Couple pieces of Beef Jerky
- Small Handful of Almonds
* cooked in olive oil and salt & pepper
As I noted earlier, the main focus of my efforts went into diet, however, the same results would not have been achieved without sticking to a workout plan. I modeled my workouts after a basic four-day split. For those unfamiliar, the basics of a four-day split include carving up the body’s main muscle groups into four sections, then intensely working them out individually once per week.
The idea of working out a muscle group once per week might seem like chronic under-training to some–especially those with a circuit training (e.g., Crossfit) background–but it’s an extremely common method among bodybuilders, and anybody determined to achieve the most visually appealing results (if visually appealing results include having a size 30 waist with a house-sized back and 22″ arms).
It’s been two years since I completed the program, and I’ve since taken a more “functional” approach to fitness (circuit training and martial arts are more prevalent in my workouts), in an effort to keep my weight down, and endurance up. That said, a four-day split approach–a regimen that allows for muscle groups to get maximum rest (i.e., maximum growth) after intense, isolated workouts–is a very effective way to turn heads at the beach (and so is taking a stroll without pants on…especially if you have chunky buns).
Back in college, when all I was concerned with was sculpting, my time in the gym was spent pumping out low-rep, heavily-weighted sets with extended rests (up to 1.5 minutes) in between. For someone who’s only concerned with building muscle, taking long breaks between heavy sets is a very effective use of the four-day split model (provided they’re also eating and sleeping well). And while the process of building and maintaining muscle (i.e., protein synthesis) consumes a ton of calories, time spent in the gym with this approach does not.
During my 24 x 28 program, my primary workout objective was to get my heart rate up, and burn a healthy amount of calories, while performing workouts that still promote modest strength and muscle gains. What I decided on was kind of a circuit training, bodybuilding hybrid; I kept my heart rate up with high reps and short breaks (lots of body weight exercises), but also isolated my workouts into only one or two muscle groups at a time, and in my off-days (when I wasn’t “strength training”), I did cardio, yoga, and joined a church softball league for good measure.
Again, I didn’t record any of this because I didn’t think I’d be sharing it two years later, but here’s an example of what one of my workout weeks looked like. All of these workouts imply a quick warm up at the beginning, and a cool down stretch at the end:
- Pyramid push ups to 10 (also called “Texas push ups”, for some reason)
- Do a push up, stand up for a second, do two more, stand up again, three more, four…all the way to 10, then nine, then eight…all the way back down to one again
- 3 x 10 dips, then 15 cable flies, rest one minute and repeat
- Incline Pyramid push ups to 6
- Same concept as before, but feet are elevated on a higher platform (like a chair)
- Kick boxing work on a heavy bag for 30 minutes
- 3 x 20 explosive squat jumps
- 3 x 15 stiff legged dead lifts
- 3 x 20 split jumps (alternating jumping lunges)
- 3 x 30 Hindu squats
Thursday (Back and Shoulders):
- Pull ups to 50 in however many sets it takes (I think at the time it took 5 or 6 sets to hit 50)
- 3 x 1 minute sets of “renegade rows” (get in the plank position, balancing yourself on two dumbbells, and alternate rows)
- 3 x 10 one-arm dumbbell clean and press (each arm)
- 3 x 10 one-arm dumbbell side lateral raises
- 3 x farmer carries up a hill and back (roughly 2oo feet). I used to use bags of water softening salt for this (50 lbs).
- 10 interval sprints uphill. My in-laws live a couple minutes away, and they have a huge driveway up a steep hill. I’d sprint up the hill as hard as possible, walk down, sprint back up…rinse and repeat. I’m not a runner, and this wasn’t fun.
- 3 x 10 dips
- 3 x 15 diamond push ups
- 2 x super set of overhead french press (12) and one arm concentration curls (10 each arm)
- 3 x 10 hammer curls
- 2 x barbell 21’s. Load up a barbell with light weight. Without stopping, do 7 reps of lower half range motion curls (curl from your arms full extended, up until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor), upper half range of motion curls, and 7 full curls. You will most certainly feel the burn.
Sunday (Active Recovery):
- ~1 hour of yoga. I just popped in P90 X Yoga, and mellowed out to Tony Horton’s ever-so calming banter.
Other Fitness Factors
Thermic Effect of Protein
You may have noticed in the meal plan section that I didn’t drink any protein shakes. This was intentional. I have nothing against protein shakes; I’ve been sucking down 10 lbs bags of Optimum Nutrition protein for the last decade. The thing is, I wanted to do a little experimenting with fat burning and the thermic effect of food.
The thermic effect reflects the amount of calories your body burns while it digests and processes food. While I can’t imagine any nutritionist or personal trainer would build a diet solely around the benefits of the thermogenesis (the amount of calories burned is nominal compared to generally healthy eating and exercise), the data I found on the digestive phenomenon were enticing enough to add it to my fat burning regimen.
For example, the protein found in fish and chicken requires the body to burn 25-30% of its total calories digesting it. Assuming that to be a fact, consider my daily protein intake from meat alone: I was eating roughly 230 grams of animal protein a day (a total of 920 calories), so using the 30% mark in the equation, my body burned almost 300 “extra” calories/day processing an absorbing the nutrients from the meat I was eating. That’s not even counting the thermic effect of my grains and vegetables consumption (though it’s significantly lower: 5-15%). Burning 300 extra calories/day isn’t going to give you an eight pack, however, assuming my research is accurate, it’s a heck of a bonus.
In case you’re wondering why I chose not to supplement with protein shakes, protein powders are actually classified as “pre-digested”, so very little thermogenesis occurs after consuming shakes. One of my early concerns with eating all of my protein–as opposed to drinking most of it–was that my body would take too long to process nutrients in time for optimal muscular protein synthesis, especially during the post-workout window (when your body needs food the most). I don’t actually have any scientific evidence to back this up, but I assumed that because I was eating so frequently (every 2-3 hours), my body would always have the nutrients it needed to for ideal muscle repair.
My primary issue with this “experiment” is that I didn’t have a control group. I never tested the same diet and workout program with the inclusion of protein shakes, so I can’t truly be sure whether it made a difference (positive or negative). That said, if anyone has hard line information to confirm or discredit my hypothesis, please send it my way.
Speaking of unfounded fat burning strategies! I’ve been hearing about the benefits of cold showers since I was a kid, but never really gave it much thought. It’s supposed to do all kinds of wonderful things like give you thicker, darker hair; reduce acne and add glow to your skin; make you more fertile; and allow for deeper REM sleep. All that aside, cold showering piqued my interest with regard to its alleged fat burning benefits.
There is huge debate among physiology nerds over whether or not cold showers do indeed aid in burning fat. The gist, as I understand it, is that human beings have these things called brown fat cells, which consume white fat cells (the ones that make you look fat), and they’re activated every time you subject yourself to extremely cold temperatures. While no one, whom I aware of, has been able to empirically prove that brown cells burn white cells during cold showers, there are enough believers out there who convinced me to give it a try.
My cold shower routine (everyday):
I took a shower every day during my 28 day experiment (I have been known to shower daily under normal circumstances as well), however, I included two cold water sessions during every normal shower. It went something like this:
- Turn on the shower at a temperature a little cooler than normal, but not necessarily “cold”.
- Wash my body and hair (and put on my brand new Gucci underwear…that reference was for the one Slick Rick fan who reads this) per the usual.
- Slowly turn down the knob in small increments, waiting 10 seconds or so in between knob turns (allowing my body to acclimate) until reaching the coldest setting.
- I have a wand on my shower, so I did the following (5 full repetitions of each movement…back-and-forth counts as 1 rep):
- Run the wand slowly back-and-forth across the front of the chest and neck…
- across the back and shoulders…
- then from the shoulder to the fingertips (both arms)…
- and wrap it up with the butt cheek to the toes (both legs).
- Move the water temperature up to a more comfortable level (a little lower than when you started…it will feel wonderful in comparison to what you just went through).
- Wash my face, shave and floss.
- Crank down the temperature again, and repeat the cold shower repetitions.
- Turn off the shower, get out, and close my curtains, so my neighbors can’t see my shrinkage.
Like my thermic effect experiment, I didn’t have a control, so I can’t really say whether or not all that cold showering made me look hotter (play on words there, folks), but there were definitely a couple points worth noting:
First of all, I have never found a more effective way to launch myself into a deep breathing routine. One thing I found in early attempts at cold showering is that if you start to shiver, it’s almost impossible to keep yourself together. That said, the key is not to shiver, and the only way I was able to prevent my teeth from clicking together was to apply intense focus and controlled breathing. I never really got used to taking cold showers, but deep breathing made it much easier to cope with it. Since then, I’ve been able to apply the same breathing techniques to dealing with short bouts of intense pain as well (e.g., stubbed toes, funny bone smacks, etc…).
Lastly, I found that after every shower, I experienced the soothing effect of what I can only describe as relaxed euphoria. It’s very similar to the feeling you get after you’ve cooled down from an intense workout, where you’re no longer gasping for air, and you’ve completely embraced your exhaustion. I don’t really know what to call that, or whether or not it’s a truly a benefit, but anything that makes me feel like I just got off the Stairmaster must be the result of some legitimate physiological phenomenon (though some might call it hypothermia).
That about sums up the steps I took back in 2012 to achieve some pretty darn solid fat burning, muscle growing results during my 28-day effort. If I were to do it differently, I’d probably diversify my eating a little more, and get my wife on board as well. I’d like to incorporate more starchy foods like potatoes (regular and sweet) and white rice, add more sources of leafy greens (e.g., kale and spinach), and work in other protein sources like Greek yogurt to help diversify my intake. By getting my wife on board, I wouldn’t have to make everything myself (I’m a crappy, lazy cook), and I wouldn’t have to feel like a pariah eating dinner with my family.
Other than that, I was quite satisfied, and plan on posting more fitness experiments on the site like this in the future.