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Thursday, 30 January 2020

How deadly is the coronavirus really?

I'm don't have any medical training (unless you count a first aid certificate), and I'm certainly not a medical expert, but I do have post-grad training in industrial mathematics, and something seems very wrong with the current media (and even medical professional) discussions regarding how lethal the coronavirus actually is.

It is often reported that the death rate is "around 2%", which is, on the face of it, lower than the 6.5% fatality rate for SARS back in 2002-2003 (when there were 348 deaths and 5327 people diagnosed as having SARS).

However, given the incubation period of the new coronavirus is apparently 1-14 days (before symptoms appear), surely the current death toll (as deaths are known/reported almost immediately) needs to be compared to the number of cases that existed when the victims were infected (on average about 7 days ago?). Even allowing for a delay of a couple of days from when symptoms appear to when a case is detected/reported, the current death toll needs to be compared to the number of people that were infected when those that just died were actually infected (ie. not today, but several days previously).

Hence, rather than divide the death toll at any particular date with the reported cases at that same time, the death toll needs to be compared with the number of cases reported several days ago?

Looking at how the death rate changes if you compare figures with the number of cases reported at that time, vs. the number of cases known 1, 2 or 3 days previously seems to suggest that the death rate may be a lot higher than 2%. I suppose we won't know the true figure until the spread of the disease ends and we can get final figures for the total number of people that were infected and how many of them eventually died. That rate may also change over time if the virus mutates (often ease of transmission increases while virulence declines - I'm not sure if there is any theoretical reason for that, or if it is just a 'rule of thumb'?). Fortunately the spread of the disease appears to be linear rather than geometric at this time - possibly due to isolation/containment efforts?

JAN   CASES   DEATHS   T0     T1     T2     T3
24     651      18    2.8%
25     941      26    2.8%   4.0%
26    1438      42    2.9%   4.5%   6.5%
27    2116      56    2.7%   3.9%   6.0%   8.6%
28    2794      80    2.9%   3.8%   5.6%   8.5%
29    4474     107    2.4%   3.8%   5.1%   7.4%

T0 denotes death tally compared to known cases as at that date, T1 denotes deaths compared to the number of cases known as at the previous date etc.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Health vs. Fitness - when might it not be such a good idea to go to the gym?

Continuing to work out when you are sick or injured can be counterproductive, but for regular gym goers there is often a temptation to continue to work out even if it isn't really such a good idea. A less common (OK, pretty damn unlikely) situation is when attending the gym might actually be bad for you health.

Having missing Monday's gym session (the gym was closed for the public holiday, and we were out of town anyhow), I decided that DS2 and I would also skip today's planned gym session and also this coming Friday's session. We'll decide whether or not to attend the gym next week over the coming weekend.

Why? My rationale is that gyms are notorious for being a great place to get sick during 'flu season in normal circumstances, so I didn't think it was a great idea to go to the gym when a) there have just been five confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia in the past few days, with four of them living here in Sydney, and b) the gym we attend happens to be located in Chatswood, which has a high Chinese population (according to the 2016 census, 34.1% of Chatswood's population is of Chinese ancestry, with 20.7% of the population born in China). So there's a good chance that some of the passengers on the flights into Sydney from Wuhan last week live in Chatswood.

The chances of someone contagious attending the gym we attend is obviously very low, but not zero, so I've decided to play 'better safe than sorry' for a few days, and see if there are any more cases reported in Sydney. In any case, we have some weights at home, so avoiding the gym for a few days won't make any significant impact on our weight training progress.

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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Diet 2020 Wk 4 - week ending 26.JAN.2020

I was doing well during the week, and then on the Australia Day long weekend we visited my parents up at the lake house and I had some (slightly) large meals and a small amount of excess carbs, and I didn't do much walking. I did do an hour or so kayaking on Saturday (not as much as I'd intended over the weekend), but didn't much else in terms of exercise. My overall stats for the week still look OK, but as the high cals/low exercise came at the end of the week it will probably mean that this week also won't show much/any progress and will instead be focused on getting back into my keto diet and exercise routine. My weight was a bit higher this morning, probably due mostly to extra fluid retention due to the larger meals eaten over the long weekend.

I did get in my three gym sessions last week and continued to increase volume (reps x wt) slightly, but the rate of increase in progressive overload is starting to slow down a bit. I stick to my current weekly routine for the next couple of months until I reach my target weight, then look at varying my routines to try to add muscle once my caloric intake has increased back to maintenance level (allowing for some extra calories required for the weight training to add some lean mass over time).

As yesterday was a public holiday (and I was driving back to Sydney for 3.5 hours in the evening) I didn't get to the gym, so this week I will only have two gym sessions (but I'll be doing another Kendo training session on Saturday). My weight currently seems 'stuck' around the 88/89kg level and my body fat seems to be hovering around 17.5%. I'll just have to wait for some more progress to become apparent. Doing three sessions of weight training per week and restricting caloric intake to around 1,200 kcals/day *must* eventually result in weight loss (and should be predominantly fat rather than lean mass). I just have to be patient and stick with 'the plan' even when there is no obvious improvement day-to-day.


I have to focus on the fact that I've already got back down to the 'best' weight I've been since 2016, and should soon be down to the lowest I've been this century, and closing in on my target weight *80 kg) within a couple of months.

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Thursday, 23 January 2020

Movie Review: Color out of Space

Somehow I came across this entire movie on Youtube, before it's even been released in Australia and possibly even before it hit cinemas in the US? Anyhow, I watched the first half two days ago (in between waiting for Fortnite matches to begin and watching Athlean-X weight training clips on Youtube), and finished it off last night (the fact that I was quite happy to pause in the middle of watching this movie and only bothered with the ending because there was nothing much on TV the next night says a lot about this movie). Overall, I'd have said this was a poor mashup of 'The Blob'/'The Thing' and 'Altered States' - except that this is based on an century-old H P Lovecraft short story.

Anyhow, the movie is full of disgusting special effects of mutant wildlife, farm animals, and, eventually, the family that is the focus of this movie. All the result of some random piece of space debris (a meteorite?) that crashes to Earth in the family's back yard (conveniently close to the front porch and well). Aside from Nicholas Cage in full manic mode, the movie has little to recommend it IMHO. Overall I'd give it 2/5 stars.

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Monday, 20 January 2020

Diet 2020 Wk 3 - week ending 19.JAN.2020

Stuck to my nutrition and exercise plan 100% last week. Daily calorie intake ranged from 833-1,511 cals/day and averaged 1,120 cals/day. As usual I got in more walking during the week (avg 15,608 steps/day) than during the weekend (avg 7,013 steps/day), but I did two hours of Kendo training on Saturday which probably compensates for this. Continued to increase my reps and total volume in my gym training while keeping to three sessions (Mon/Wed/Fri) per week. Managed to reduce my sodium intake slightly, but still higher than the recommended maximum - while bacon is tasty and packet ham or roast beef a very convenient 'keto' snack, their sodium content means I'll have to watch how much of these I consume!


While I'm very happy with my current rate of weight loss (it might even be a bit too rapid), and I can see the reduction in belly fat, my bathroom scales body fat daily readings seem to have remained scattered around 17.5% for the past week or so. The daily data has quite a lot of 'noise', so hopefully I'll start seeing some lower body fat readings over the next couple of weeks. When I get close to my 80 kg 'target' weight I'll get my second DEXA scan done to get a more accurate reading of body fat and lean mass. The body calipers I ordered a few weeks ago should arrive soon, and then skin fold measurements will give a more accurate estimate of body fat percentage than the "bioelectrical impedance analysis" (BIA) of my cheap bathroom scales.

Apparently this sort of measurement (BIA) isn't really accurate enough to use to track changes in body composition over time, although I found the 21-day moving average corresponded very well with the DEXA reading. The main limitations of BIA estimates of body fat are that they are a) a calculation based on the correlation of body fat measurement to BIA for a specific test group - so the correlation may be different for any particular individual, b) the measurement is affected by hydration status, so a change in body water can be misinterpreted as a change in fat mass, c) my type of scale uses foot pads, so measures the current travelling up one leg and down the other, so is really only measuring how fat my legs are -- probably not the best methodology when most males carry excess fat stores around their belly, d) losing weight via cardiovascular exercise (rather than via weight training alone) can underestimate fat loss and overestimate loss of lean mass due to an increase in plasma volume that is one of the adaptions to cardiovascular training. Overall, BIA readings can apparently be out by up to 8%, so I won't worry too much. In any case, to eliminate to impact of daily reading variations I'm using a 21-day moving average, so the 17.5% estimate is for 11 days ago.

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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Started beginner Kendo lessons today

Because I'd done some Judo when I was a teenager, and my sons are both doing Judo each week, I'd tried taking an adult beginner class in Judo more than a year ago. I only lasted about four weeks before having to give up. Being 50+ years old, weighing more than 100 kg and quite unfit, I found that when acting as the Uke (training partner) during the Ippon Seoinage (One arm shoulder throws) practice I first hurt one shoulder, and then following next week, because I was favouring the injured shoulder, I hurt my other shoulder also. It took more than six months for my shoulder pain to completely go away.

So, this time around I decided to take a beginner course in Kendo (another martial art that my youngest son is taking) and had my first two hour lesson today. Although Kendo involves some unusual movements that I certainly felt in my left calf and shoulders, my only 'injury' was a couple of blisters on my feet. I'm pretty sure that I can survive the 8-week beginner course and will continue on with Kendo training for two hours every week. While today's lesson involved a lot of standing around getting instruction, the practice was enough to generate a sweat.

Done properly (ie. after I've learned the basics and have done a few months of training) Kendo training and competitions apparently rate about 7.5-8.0 METS which is similar to circuit training, jogging or playing casual soccer.

After I've got down to my 'ideal' weight, and done six months more of weight training and Kendo lessons I *might* have another go a doing Judo again.



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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

Breakfast:
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

Lunch:
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

Dinner:
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

Dessert:
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 https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/air-quality/search-for-and-download-air-quality-data

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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Strict Keto diet - day 2

I stuck to my meal plan yesterday, so I only had about 10g of carbs. I also went to the gym on the way home to do my normal Friday 'heavy' (low reps) weight training session, and then swam some laps and did a bit of Wii Fit for fun in the evening.

The exercise combined with the very low carbs probably explains why my Keto diastix reading showed 0 glucose but 1.5 mmol/L of ketones already by this morning. Normally it is supposed to take about 2-4 days of being on the typical 'keto' diet.

While reading up a bit more on ketone levels during ketogenic dieting I found that ketone levels vary considerably during the day, and increase after some types of exercise. So it is best to measure them at the same time each day - one recommendation is first thing in the morning. Once my breathalyser unit arrives from China I'll start doing breath measurements for acetone at regular intervals and see how it correlates with the morning ketostix measurement, and how my ketone levels vary during the day.

I also came across a mention that keto dieting can have side-effects for diabetics (not relevant to me) and to people on blood pressure medication (which I am). It mentioned that losing weight and getting fitter may lower blood pressure enough to require a reduction in medication levels (which I had already noticed - my BP went from 120/70 on medication before I started my diet and exercise regime, to being typically 105/65 recently), and that commencing a keto diet can cause a further drop in BP which may cause dizziness etc. I just checked my BP and it was 97/64, so I'll drop in to my GP some time next week to check if I should reduce my medication dosage a bit.

It's very hot weather today in Sydney, and quite smoky due to all the nearby bushfires, so I'll go to the local Westfield shopping centre to do my walking exercise indoors in air conditioned comfort today. Wandering around outside in 40 C heat and breathing in the air of what is currently the city with the world's worst air quality readings wouldn't be a great idea!

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Friday, 3 January 2020

Trying out a 'ketogenic' meal plan

Having decided I should boost my protein intake a bit (from around 100 g/day to about 175 g/day) to retain maximum lean mass (muscle) while continuing to loose weight, I thought I may as well switch to a proper 'ketogenic' diet for a while (this generally means consuming less than 50g of carbohydrates per day for at least 2-4 days so that your metabolism switches from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat stores). After 2-7 days on a 'low carb' diet the 'ketone' levels should be detectable in urine, blood and breath (from the negligible ketone levels that are normal when you are consuming a diet that includes lots of sugar/carbs).

My version (based on the available low carb foods that I like) of a 'keto' diet plan that I'll be trying out from today is:

Breakfast: 2 eggs (poaches) + 80g of smoked ham

Lunch: 15g processed cheese triangle + 125g tin of smoked salmon slices

Dinner: 200g fillet steak + 200g chicken breast (grilled) + 100g of broccoli and 100 g of cauliflower

Dessert: A plate of diet aeroplane jelly (one sachet in 400 mL, aka 4 'serves').

Adding up the nutritional composition of these items gives a daily total of around:

1,187 kcals
9.9 g carbs (3.7% of total cals)
36.6 g fat (30.8% of total cals)
175.1 g protein (65.5% of total cals)

[I also drink a couple of 2L bottles of diet coke each day, which is low cals/carbs. (Not a great habit, but I've been doing it since uni, so I doubt I'll switch to drinking water now...)]

I'll stick with this for at least a week and see how I feel. The caloric content should mean that I loose around 0.7-1.5 kg/week, depending on how much exercise I do.

This meal plan seems pretty good for achieving a steady rate of weight loss while retaining muscle mass (via weight training three times a week, walking, doing 5BX and swimming some laps). Unfortunately it only provides 10 g/day of dietary fibre, so I might need to also add in a tin of green beans (which are low carb/cals) which would almost double my daily fibre intake. BTW this meal plan seems especially low-carb, as it only provides 10g of carbs/day, which is well below the 50 g/day limit for a 'keto' diet.

Today is "Day 0" for this new meal plan, so I'll monitor my 'ketone' and glucose levels each morning using the keto diastix I bought a few days ago (about $7.50 for a box of 50 test strips). I did a test yesterday morning (while on my normal diet regime) and, as expected, there were negligible (0) levels of glucose and ketones present in my urine, I'll do test this every morning for the next week, and I *should* observe a rise in ketone levels after 2-4 days that will indicate that I've entered 'ketosis'.

As the test strips aren't particularly sensitive (the colour chart only indicates levels of 0, 5, 15, 40, 80 and 160 mg/dl, which corresponds to 0, 0.9, 2.6, 6.9 etc millimolar ketone values. As readings of 1.5-3.0 millimolar are generally considered 'optimal' for a ketogenic diet, only the first two colour graduations are in the 'ideal' range.

Instead of test strips, one can check ketone levels in breath or blood. I don't fancy taking a blood drop sample every time I want to check on my ketone levels, and the normal 'ketone' breath testing units are around $90. However, I've seen some articles suggesting that cheap breathalyzer units that are normally used to check for alcohol in the breath also respond to acetone (ketone), so I bought a cheap ($14) breathalyzer unit from banggood. If it has a chip sensor (rather than the more expensive fuel sensor used in police breathalyzers, than doesn't respond to acetone) it should provide a reading for ketone levels. Once it arrives I'll compare the test strip readings to the breathalyzer readings and see how they compare.

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Thursday, 2 January 2020

Net Worth: December 2019

My estimated NW managed to increase by $28,079 (1.16%) during December. This was despite the stock market weakness that saw my geared stock portfolio decline by -$9,809 (-3.62%), and my superannuation savings drop -$3,814 (-0.33%) despite making the usual monthly SGL and salary sacrifice contributions. The overall increase in NW was due to the local house sales data reflecting the recovery in the Sydney real estate market, hence my half of the estimated valuation for our house increased by $41,458 (5.88%). The increase was unusually large as the local sales data had not been updated last month or two, so this change reflected several months of price adjustment in one hit.

My total estimated NW reached $2.442m, which is a new 'record high' as they like to say when talking about the stock market ;)

In the medium term (5 years) the trajectory of my NW will be largely dependent on how the stock market and Sydney real estate perform, as changes in asset prices will dwarf the impact of my savings. In the longer term a lot will also depend on whether the off-the-plan I've put a deposit on ends up being worth more than the purchase price by the time construction is completed in 2023, and how the Sydney property market performs in the next decade or two. Hopefully this investment unit will be 'positively geared' (i.e. the rental return is sufficient to cover the outgoings - loan interest, strata levy, rates etc.) by the time I retire. The completion of a new 'metro' train station close to the unit is due about the same time, so that should help with rental and vacancy rates. On the down side there is quite a lot of new unit (apartment) development occurring in the area, which might affect prices.

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A free online tool for calculating caloric requirement and target weight loss

A new year, a new resolution. Not.

Same old. Same old... loose weight, get fit, and finish off the whole swag of financial planning postgrad and specialist courses that I'm part-way through (and hopefully also get my first few financial planning clients this year!).

Anyhow, reading an article about the weight loss progress of Jessica Irvine in the SMH, I followed her link to the TDEE calculator and used it to check on my maintenance calorie level. It gives and answer of 2,794 cals/day, which is about what I'd calculated from empirical measurement of my actual weight loss/gain data plotted against average calorie intake.

The tool also used various formulae to suggest my "ideal weight" is in the range 69-73 kg, which is in line with the "ideal" weight calculated using BMI recommendations.

However, the same tool calculates that my "maximum muscular potential" is to be 76 kg with 5% body fat, or a more reasonable 80 kg with 10% body fat. After the DEXA scan results I'd revised my target to 80 kg and 10% body fat, so the "maximum muscular potential" figure for 10% body fat is a much better guide (for me) than a simplistic BMI target.

The tool also suggests a maintenance macronutrient target of 279g protein, 124g fat and 140g carbs for the 'low carb' option. This would result in consuming my maintenance caloric intake of 2,794 cals/day. I'll continue to try IF (or fasting) on Tue and Thu each week, and to reduce my carb intake to that approaching a 'ketogenic diet' level (under 50g of carbs/day).

I tend to have trouble eating almost 300g of protein a day - even with extra whey protein added to my morning porridge, salmon for lunch, and chicken breast or fillet steak for dinner I tend to only get to around 120-140 g of protein. But I also tend to eat more than 50 g of carbs/day, so I suppose I'll just have to substitute some more high carb foods with more protein intake.

In any case, as long as I keep going to the gym, walking 10,000+ steps/day, and aiming to minimise carbs and eat around 1,800 calories on my 'normal' diet days and do some level of fasting on Tuesdays and Thursday I should continue to make progress towards my target of 10% body fat and around 80 kg weight by the middle of this year.

If I can average around 1,800 cals/day each week (my tendency to overate a bit on the weekends offsets the caloric deficit boost of my 'fasting' days) I should loose around 7,000/7,700 = 0.9 kg/week.

Onwards and downwards!

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