Evidence of Insanity – My 2018 Photo Shoot Prep by the Numbers

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My clients know this very well, and if you’ve read much on this site or follow me on social media you’ve probably gathered this as well:  I can get a bit crazy when it comes to collecting and analyzing data.  It’s my engineering background, I guess – it’s not ultimately what determines how we make changes during prep, but it is one factor that needs to be considered at least.

What does the data tell us?

So as a fun exercise, I thought it would be interesting to break down some of the numbers from my own recent prep.  This is made possible due to diligent tracking and copious note-taking.  I didn’t plan on writing this post when I started my prep, I just liked having a record of everything that was going on and then once I saw the mountain of data I had, it just kinda made sense to do a super-nerdy retrospective post – and here it is!

So without further ado!

109 – Days on prep

Right about 16 weeks.  Just for reference when thinking about everything else that follows!

4 – number of days spent off-plan

To be fair I’m defining “off plan” as not precisely hitting my macro targets – either going under (which, ok, never happened) or over.  So what were those 4 days?

  1. Travel day to Oregon to visit family.  Airport food accommodations were lacking, I ended up going over on my fats by about 10g and over on carbs by about 60g, while falling short on protein by 20g.
  2. Travel day coming BACK from Oregon – sense a theme here?  This was closer – proteins and fats were on point, carbs were 35g over.
  3. Massive binge day on Halloween following news of the death of my mother-in-law.  Emotional/stress eating, comfort foods, etc.  Somewhere around 2500-3000 calories on TOP of normal macros.
  4. Same as #3, the following day.

After that it was back to business – not easy, but being so close to the end I knew I had to pull it together

0 – number of workouts missed

To be honest, I knew this wouldn’t be an issue.  My coach got me in the habit of FORCING myself to take days off, and I’m better for it.  So this is targeting 6 lifting sessions per week.  Average humans who never take days off will invariably experience a decline in performance that’s almost imperceptible – until you realize “shit, I am pathetic on these lifts for some reason” and you realize it’s been 7 weeks since your last rest day.

Don’t be that guy (or gal).

70 – number of cardio minutes missed

This is in comparison to what was programmed by my coach.  One day I had to cut a session short by 10 minutes so we could skip town in time to make an appointment.  The remaining 60 minutes were from November 2nd, following my 2nd straight day of binge-eating where I literally felt so miserable I just could not do cardio without fear of throwing up.  Lesson learned!  I missed 30 minutes fasted and 30 minutes post-workout that day.

25.6 – number of pounds lost

This was from a high of 221.0 down to a low of 195.4, which was during peak week but prior to the introduction of higher carb days so it wasn’t the number I ended up at.  For the most part the losses were pretty steady, with little fits and spurts here and there but mostly predictable, with new lows hitting reliably on Sunday, before hitting a cheat meal that night (just kinda worked out that way!)

2857 – total number of minutes of fasted cardio

Or, if you prefer, 47.6 hours of fasted cardio.  I made the most of this, listening to a LOT of tunes to help keep the blood pumping.  If you check out my Instagram, you can view my “Cardio Jams” story highlight to get a sample of the kind of stuff I was rocking out to on a daily basis.  Feel free to judge me on any and all of those – some are more embarrassing than others!

Also – every single fasted cardio session was performed on my bad-ass Schwinn elliptical in my garage.  I was definitely sweating a LOT more at the start of prep than I was by the end.  The reason?  I finished prep in November when it was cold as shit outside!  The garage was noticeably cooler but I still went out there shirtless just because, I dunno, I was trying to be tough or something.

929 – total number of minutes of post-workout (or other) cardio

Or 15.5 hours in this column.  Most of this was directly post-workout.  Some days (days off), my coach had me double up my cardio and do an AM and a PM session just for a higher overall burn for the day.  Post-workout cardio wasn’t brought in until I was just a little more than 6 weeks out, and then not every day.

46,274 – total calories burned through cardio

Yeah that’s kind of a big number!  Full disclosure, this is according to the individual display readouts on whatever piece of equipment I was using for that session.  Midway through prep I got a Fitbit Ionic to track caloric burn but, for consistency, I didn’t switch to report those numbers on my tracking tool and kept with the numbers from the machine display readouts.

206,848 – total number of calories consumed

That works out to an average of about 1900 calories per day, but does NOT include my cheat meals, of which I had 12.  And those ranged from 2100 to 3600 calories each (yeah, I go hard on that shit – ha!)

26773/17670/7269 – cumulative macro totals for all of prep (P/C/F)

These big numbers are kinda fun, I won’t lie.  The totals are fun, but the average or amount of change throughout prep is probably more interesting/useful.  And those numbers are:

  • Protein:  started at 255g/day, ended at 240
  • Carbs:  started at 180g/day, ended at 130 with periodic carb-up days
  • Fats:  started at 80g/day, ended at 55

So you can see, the overall movement on the macros was NOT amazingly significant.  Each change was incremental and felt appropriate, sometimes just 5-10g difference here and there.

13 – number of near-meltdowns in the final 2 weeks

I won’t lie – the last two weeks of this prep were hard as shit.  Part of it was the cardio load – I’ve never been a real cardio monster, able to tackle it endlessly.  After 14 weeks my body was already pretty exhausted and having it ramp up further at that stage was really tough.

Losing my mother-in-law unexpectedly at that same time obviously compounded the issue tremendously.  I know I did not make the most of the final 2 week stretch, and if this prep was for a show and I hadn’t yet registered for it, I likely would have bowed out rather than bring some other than my best, or at least would have thought long and hard about what classes I wanted to compete in (just masters, etc).

In conclusion

It was an interesting experience.  I’ve done many cuts before but it had been a couple years since I committed to a full 16 week cut and saw it through to the end.  The first 10 weeks were cake, absolutely.  After that, some necessary programming changes made things a bit tougher and everything started to become more challenging.  Logistically, everything was pretty smooth for the first 12 weeks with minimal interruptions and life events.

After that, things went south in a hurry due to some things that were planned but more challenging than anticipated, and some that were definitely unplanned.

Just goes to show the value in planning the right time to do your cut, whether it’s prep for a show, photo shoot, or something else entirely.  Minimize the difficult stuff and challenges you have control over and assume that other uncontrollable factors will enter in as well.

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