Thursday, 16 January 2020

Making good progress with my weight loss and weight training (preserving lean mass)

The new low carb/high protein 'keto' seems to be working out quite well so far. I've not really felt hungry at all, and the diet provides plenty of protein to support my weight training to retain lean mass while reducing my body fat. This morning I was 90 kg exactly on the bathroom scale (which puts me into 'overweight' rather than 'obese' BMI range), and around 17% body fat. That means I'm still carrying about 15kg of fat, and if I can get to my target of 80kg by shedding mostly fat (and not losing much lean mass) I should get down around 10% body fat (or less?).

Weight training has been progressing quite well, as shown in my total 'volume' (wt x reps) for each workout since I started going to the gym a few months ago:

There is a clear increase in volume over time (progressive overload), with the variations along the way being due to doing a low-wt/high-reps workout on Mondays, medium-wt/medium-reps workout on Fridays, and high-wt/low-reps workout on Friday. The low-wt/high reps days tend to have the highest volume, and the high-wt/low-reps days the lowest volume.

Once I achieve my target body weight I'll increase the carbs in my diet (via fruits and rice/potatoes etc.) to match my energy expenditure and provide a more 'balanced' diet over the long term (there are some studies that suggest that 'keto' dieting may increase mortality, although other studies suggest it has health benefits, so I'm not going to stay 'keto' once I achieve my target weight).

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Monday, 13 January 2020

Diet 2020 Wk 2 - week ending 12.JAN.2020

Last week was my first full week of 'keto' dieting. I didn't do any fasting days, but instead managed to stick to between 1,200 and 1,600 cals every day, and kept my carb intake below 30g/day while having between 170 and 210 g of protein each day. My walking during the week was between 12,500 and 17,500 steps/day, but on the weekend I drove 3.5 hrs up to our lake house to drop off my youngest son to stay with my parents for a couple of weeks during the school holidays, and drove back again on Sunday night. So I didn't do much walking on the weekend, but did do a bit of kayaking on Sunday with a cheap, new 'glide' kayak ($210) I bought to use when I'm at the lake house (I have a more expensive 'fishing kayak' at home that I have sitting in the garage and haven't used yet, as putting it on the car roof rack to drive down to middle harbour on the weekend wastes a bit of time). As the lake house is just across the road from the lake foreshore, and the 'glide' kayak is short enough to fit in the back of dad's station wagon, it will be a lot more convenient to go for a kayak whenever I feel like it at the lake house.

I got in three proper gym session last week as there weren't any public holiday closures. My total volume (wt x reps) was also a lot higher, as I've increased some of the weights and I also added a couple of new stations to my routine, and also did a fourth set on some of the stations during my 'heavy' training session on Friday.

My overall macros for the week show my first week of all-keto dieting. Low (<10 carbs="" high="">175 g/day) protein, and a caloric deficit (around 1,400 cals/day compared to my maintenance cals being around 2,800 cals/day). Aside from needing to do more walking on the weekends, and getting a bit more sleep, the other area I need to improve is to reduce the amount of sodium in my diet. The recommended maximum is around 2,300 mg/day!

My average weight for the week dropped considerably, due mostly to it having shot up during the holiday season. I expect my weight loss will be back to the normal rate of 0.7-1.5 kg/wk from now on (if I stick to my diet and exercise plan).

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Friday, 10 January 2020

My 'new' Jag died - such is life

The 1999 S-type Jag I bought in late 2019 stopped working in the middle of last year, after only using it a couple of times. The anti-theft steering lock came on after the second time the battery had mysteriously gone flat when the car wasn't driven for a couple of weeks. After a bit of mucking about (several times) recharging the battery and attempting to disengage the steering lock myself, I had two call-outs for NRMA roadside assistance (battery and then mechanical) that both couldn't get the steering unlocked, and then a visit from a Lubemobile mobile mechanic (no luck either). The local garage was uninterested in even trying to find and rectify the problem, so I got the NRMA to provide a free tow to the nearest specialist Jaguar service garage.

They spent a couple of weeks trying to get their 'diagnostic tool' to 'talk' to my Jag, before deciding that the main control console was faulty and replacing it with a second-hand unit. After that, it turned out that there was a further fault with a rear control module (probably associated with the fault that originally caused the battery problem - a rear light that stays on continuously). At that stage the Jag 'specialist' mechanics also gave up, as there could be a whole series of computer components that had been damaged by whatever the main electrical fault is...

I've now paid around $8,600 for the initial purchase, $150 for the Lubemobile service call, and about $2,500 for work done by the Jag specialist. The car still isn't driveble and is now also out of registration, so my only real option is to sell it to a wreckers for $300. All-in-all a loss of about $11K.

I don't think I'll be buying another second-hand 'luxury' vehicle any time soon...

(ps. My old Mark II Jaguar has also been quite expensive to restore and maintain, but at least when something goes wrong it can be identified and fixed. When a new 'computerised' car develops an electrical fault it can be impossible to even work out what needs to be fixed).

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I paid the $42K stamp duty on my investment property today

Last year the rules regarding payment of 'stamp duty' were changed in relation to 'off-the-plan' apartment purchases - instead of the stamp duty ($42,000 in the case of the $1m apartment I'm buying) being due when the construction is completed (in mid 2023) I had to pay the stamp duty within three months of 'exchange of contracts' (when I paid the $100,000 'deposit'). If the development isn't completed (so 'settlement' never happens) I'll have to get the stamp duty refunded by the state government. But if the development isn't completed I'll have the bigger problem of trying to get my deposit back from the developer...

Hopefully the unit will be completed on schedule, and I can get a mortgage for the balance of the purchase price at that time - which will be a lot easier if property prices rise over the next three years (which will make the LVR lower). Real estate prices in Sydney bottomed out in the early part of 2019, and had started rising again quite strongly again during the second part of 2019, driven by interest rate cuts and pent-up demand (population increase due to immigration). Prices are still below the previous peak and some commentators have predicted a rise of 15% during 2020, followed by a few years of more typical 5% annual growth in Sydney real estate prices. Overall my $1m apartment could be 'worth' up to $1.25m by the time I get it valued for a mortgage application in early 2023. Only time will tell...

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A focus on body recomposition

One of the key points to consider when losing weight is that your goal usually isn't simply to shed kilos, but to shed FAT without losing too much existing muscle (lean mass). When I got my DEXA scan done, the technician mentioned that typically dieting reduces weight in the ratio 1:1 in terms of lean mass vs fat. For example, on a typical weight loss diet I could expect to reduce my weight by 20 kg (from 100 to 80) and that would consist of equal parts fat and muscle (lean mass includes bones, blood etc., but that won't change significantly in a short period of time).

So, under a 'typical' diet regime (caloric restriction) if you started at 25% body fat (25 kg of your 100 kg was fat), you'd expect to end up at 80 kg with 15 kg fat remaining (half the 20 kg weight loss being fat and the rest lean mass). So your new body fat percentage would be 18.75%. This would be a considerable improvement compared to 25% body fat, and accordingly your BMI would have improved.

However, a 'smarter' way to diet is to combine caloric restriction (to reduce fat stores) with additional activity that retains (or builds) lean mass (muscle) ie. weight training. This is known as body recomposition (ie. changing the ration of lean mass to fat). By modifying your calorie restricted diet so that you are still getting adequate amounts of protein you will either retain lean mass, or possibly even add some muscle while shedding fat. For building muscle a typical amount of protein intake would be 1.6 - 2.0 g protein per kg of body weight.

This is one reason that a 'keto' diet can be useful, as you can reduce caloric intake by slashing the amount of carbs being consumed without reducing protein intake.

Anyhow, I've been tracking my daily morning weight as well as the body fat (measured via bioelectrical impedance analysis) since late October, when my weight was 102.4 kg (I'd been tracking my weight but not my body fat reading prior to that). Although both the weight and body fat readings can vary considerably from day to day (depending on hydration, sleep, bowel movements, recent meals and exercise etc.) taking a reading first thing in the morning minimizes the intrinsic variability. Since I already had the data available in my diet spreadsheet, I've used the weight and body fat readings to calculate daily lean mass and fat values, and plotted them:

Combining dieting with regular weight training (2-3 45 minute sessions per week) and increased activity (walking 10K+ steps/day) I've managed to reduce my weight by 10kg with minimal loss of lean mass. The trend lines show that my lean mass has remained almost constant while my fat stores have been depleted. The ratio of fat loss to lean mass loss has been a pleasing 7.75:1

I'll continue with my current (VLCHP - very low carbohyrate, high protein) version of 'keto' dieting and weight training until I achieve my target weight of around 80 kg, by which time my body fat should have reduced to around 10%, which is my initial goal.

After that I'll increase by carb intake slightly (adding more potatoes, pasta, rice, fruit and vegetables) so I'm no longer in caloric deficit, and (hopefully) slowly add bulk (muscle mass) and reduce body fat slightly over the following 12 months. At some point everything will reach equilibrium, with my body weight, body fat percentage, and lean mass remaining fairly constant (as long as I continue with the same caloric and macro nutrient intake levels and amount of weight training).

If I wanted to seriously 'bulk up' I'd eat more than maintenance calories and do additional weight training in order to add muscle, then 'cycle' with periods of reduced caloric intake to 'cut' (ie. remove fat while retaining as much muscle as possible). But I'm too lazy (and old) to put in the hours and effort in the gym that would be required to put on lots more muscle, so I'll see what happens after 1-2 years of 'modest' amounts of weight training.

BTW, when I finished high school I weighed about 78 kg and was a bit 'chubby' so my lean mass back then must have only been around 64-66 kg (15%-18% body fat I'm guessing), so I've actually put on a considerable amount of lean mass over the past forty years, not just fat!

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Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Impact of my weight loss on hypertension control

My mother has high blood pressure and requires medication, so several years ago I bought a cheap sphygmomanometer (self-inflating wrist blood pressure monitor) to keep an eye on my blood pressure readings. As I got older and put on more weight (I was never 'slim') I noticed my blood pressure slowly creep up to often be around 160/85 (isolated systolic hypertension). My GP tried a couple of different medications before it was brought back to 'normal' (~120/80) by taking 300 mg/day of Avapro (Irbesartan) medication (an angiotensin II receptor blocker). After a while my blood pressure was consistently less than 120/80 while taking 300 mg/day, so the dosage was able to be reduced to 150 mg/day.

While losing weight from 112 kg down to 92 kg I've noticed that my blood pressure readings were often lower than 'normal' - for example 95/65 was quite common. Reading up on the 'keto' (low carb) diet I started last week, I found that often blood pressure will decrease by around 8 mmHg after 6-8 weeks on a 'keto' diet regime. So I decided I should check with my GP if it might be OK to reduce my medication dosage.

She confirmed that I can reduce my dosage to 75 mg/day, and, subject to the readings staying 'normal' on the new, lower dose, I might be able to reduce it even further (to half a 75 mg tablet per day) or even stop taking the medication completely when I've stabilised my weight at my target of around 80kg.

While individual blood pressure readings (especially diastolic) are quite variable (affected by time of day, recent activity, stress, etc.) the readings I have recorded show a distinct decline (clearly shown by the linear trend line) in both my diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings as my weight has gone down during the past four months:

(nb. as I've been losing weight the more recent data in on the LHS and the oldest data on the RHS)

I might also try to reduce my sodium intake (eg. minimise bacon and ham etc.), as I suspect I am 'sodium sensitive' - so consuming 3,200 mg/day of sodium on average (over the past four months) is probably also excessive if I want to control my hypertension without medication.

The required 'adequate intake' of sodium is only around 500-1,000 mg/day, and the recommended 'suggested dietary target' for sodium is 1,600 mg/day. So, ideally, I'd like to keep my sodium intake in the 1,000-1,500 mg/day range.

For example, today's meal plan originally consisted of:

4L diet coke spread out during the day  -- 40 calories, 4.0 g carbs, 40 mg Na

400 ml low carb chocolate protein shake -- 198 cals, 2.4 g carbs, 420 mg Na
100 g smoked ham -- 94 cals, 2.5 g carbs, 1,040 mg Na

15g processed cheese -- 44 cals, 0.8 g carbs, 151 mg Na
125g tin smoked salmon in olive oil (drained) -- 135 cals, 0 carbs, 288 mg Na

100 g bacon chop -- 312 cals, 2.8 g carbs, 2,180 mg Na
200 g fillet steak -- 240 cals, 0 carbs, 140 mg Na
1/2 tin green beans -- 32 cals, 6.1 g carbs, 310 mg Na

500 ml diet jelly -- 28 cals, 0.4 g carbs, 116 mg Na

TOTAL: 1,123 cals, 19 g carbs, 4,685 mg Na.

By simply replacing the 100 g of ham and the 100 g bacon chop with two 125g portions of plain grilled chicken breast I can reduce my sodium intake to the recommended level (and also reduce my carbs):

NEW TOTAL: 1,070 cals, 14 g carbs, 1,615 mg Na.

I'll start off by not having the planned bacon chop tonight (instead I'll grill some chicken breast portions), and I'll cut out the morning ham from tomorrow onwards.

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Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The impact of the widespread NSW bushfires on our local Air Quality

Fortunately for us, there haven't been any significant bushfires in the Ku-ring-gai national park that is close to where we live, so our house isn't in danger. But the impact of the massive, unprecedented bushfires raging through many of the national parks in NSW is clearly visible in the data from the Air Quality monitoring station that is closest to us (at Macquarie University). The results come from

The chart shows average hourly reading of visibility (ie. smoke concentration) and small particles (PM2.5) since 1 July. You can see when the first widespread fires started to impact Sydney air quality in October, and how bad air quality has been this season so far.

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Monday, 6 January 2020

Diet 2020 Wk 1 - week ending 05.JAN.2020

Last week went quite well - I stuck to my standard meal plan on Mon and Wed, and did a semi-fast on Tue and Thu. Then I got started with my 'keto' diet from Friday onwards - sticking to around 5%-6% cals from carbs out of a total daily calorie intake of around 1200 cals, mostly by increasing my protein consumption to around 150-175g/day. I also did more than 10K steps/day on the weekdays, and managed to do about 7K steps/day (plus some swimming) on the weekend. My average daily cals for the week was the lowest its been for the past 18 weeks, which helped shed the extra kilos I'd put on during the Christmas break. My average morning weight over the past four days has been 93.0 kg, so I'm happy to be back on track and making good progress with my new 'keto' regime. According to my scales my body fat over the past week has averaged 17%, so I seem to be making progress with shedding fat without losing too much lean mass.

I won't bother doing a daily 'keto' post from now on, as the novelty has worn off already. I'll keep track of my morning ketone levels just so I have some data to compare to the breathalyzer readings (when it arrives), but its been 1.5-4.0 mmol/L for the past  three days and I'll stay in ketosis as long as I'm only consuming about 10 g/day of carbs with my current meal plan. Yesterday afternoon I did notice feeling a bit tired and low energy in the afternoon ('keto flu') and felt a bit light headed (probably due to my BP now being around 100/60) so I'll make an appointment with my GP this week to check if I should lower the dosage of my blood pressure medication. I've enjoyed the lack of hunger while doing 'keto', and I enjoy eating lots of ham, grilled fillet steak and chicken breast, and a few poached eggs. Not too keen on only having broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans with my dinner though. And having eggs and ham for breakfast still seems a bit weird (and takes longer to prepare than porridge or cereal). I tried having some frozen strawberries and avocado for breakfast this morning, but found that I don't really like avocado and the defrosted frozen strawberries were unappetizing. I think I'll just stick with having some ham for breakfast (and maybe a low carb chocolate flavoured protein shake) on the weekdays.

This week's goals are to stick to my high protein 'keto' diet plan (some 'keto' articles suggest that having too much protein can kick you out of ketosis via the conversion of protein to glucose, but other research papers have suggested that protein>glucose production is limited to meet the body's basic requirement for about 120 g of glucose/day, and excess protein intake is NOT converted into glucose. The fact that I've had no trouble getting into ketosis while having about 170 g/day of protein indicates that a high protein 'keto' diet is indeed possible) and to do all three planned gym workouts (Mon/Wed/Fri) this week, as there are no more public holidays (when the gym is closed). I also need to make sure I do my daily walking and 5BX, and will also try to swim some laps every evening.

I'm visiting my parents next weekend and mum will be cooking some non-keto meals, so although I'll keep track of what I eat (and try to not overeat too much) I won't bother trying to stick to a 'keto' diet next weekend.

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Sunday, 5 January 2020

Strict Keto diet day 3

I stuck to my meal plan yesterday, aside from having an extra 150g packet of smoked turkey slices as a snack in the afternoon while walking around the shopping center. This morning my ketostix reading was about 4.0 mmol, showing that I am fully into ketosis. Once the cheap breathalyzer unit arrives I'll see if that registers anything for acetone in my breath.

The low caloric intake should keep me on track with my weight loss goal, and the high protein intake should minimise loss of lean muscle mass as I shed the pounds of excess fat. I didn't do a gym session yesterday (I don't normally workout on the weekends) but did swim 48 laps (about 1/3 of a km) yesterday and walked 6,651 steps (I'd meant to 'top up' my step count to my 10K target with an evening walk, but due to the heat-wave I went for a swim instead), did some Wii Fit in the evening and my daily 5BX workout. So no noticeable lack of energy from being on a low calorie, high protein keto diet.

I haven't had (so far) any of the potential (rare) side-effects of a keto diet, such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, hunger, confusion, anxiety and/or irritability, lightheadedness, sweating or chills, constipation, nausea or vomiting. In fact I've found this 'keto' diet very easy to follow and quite enjoyable (so far), experiencing less hunger than I normally feel at this level of caloric intake. It does seem a bit weird having poached eggs and ham for breakfast though - I'd rather be having my normal cereal or porridge to be honest. Apparently strawberries are reasonably low carb, so I might try having a bowl of strawberries and a low-carb whey protein shake for breakfast some days instead (having 14 eggs a week doesn't seem a great idea, although recently the recommendation to limit eggs to 1-2 per week seems to have been modified to only applying to those with high cholesterol, heart disease or type 2 diabetes).

My weight registered as 92.9 kg this morning (first time below 93kg since I started losing weight six months ago when I was 112 kg), and my body fat reading was about 16% (the readings bounce about from day to day). So I'm quite happy with my progress towards my goals of 80kg and 10% body fat. I've also noticed that I can now do a lot more push-ups and sit-ups during my 5BX sessions than when I started, so my core strength is improving.

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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Sydney Heatwave

Living only a few km from the coast, our suburb doesn't get quite as hot as "out west" (where it got close to 50C (122F), but today was still fairly hot where we live! A plot below shows the temperature range in the adjacent suburb over the past three days:

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