Six Pack in Three Months - Update 2/24

Want to skip ahead to the results? Check out my guide on How To Burn Fat.

As of my last update on Feb. 10, I had been using an old-school analog scale to measure my weight. I went from 68 kg to 65 kg (weight loss of roughly 7 lbs) in less than 4 weeks. That seemed like a fair amount of weight to lose, but it was hard to know how much progress I was really making without understanding how my body composition (fat vs. lean mass) was changing as well. The very next day, a bunch of biohacking toys that I had ordered online arrived and included an Omron scale that can measure body fat % (you hold onto handle bars while standing on top of the scale) and a set of Slim Guide calipers. I planned to use the Omron scale as the primary method of measuring my body fat % given it's convenience, while using the calipers as an additional reference point (and to use when traveling given it's portability). Excited to finally be able to track my body fat %, I stripped down to nothing and started measuring.

Feb. 11, 2014

  • Body fat (Omron): 14.9% 
  • Body fat (Calipers): 11.6%* 
  • Weight: 65.2 kg

With these new body fat % measurements, I was now able to track my progress towards my goal of reaching 10% body fat (and gaining a six pack as a result!). I'll of course continue to track weight but body fat % is the key metric that I want to focus on moving. 

* I've found calipers difficult to use and limit myself to the 3-point Jackson-Pollock method so that I can measure myself without needing help from others. In general, I focus on the Omron readings and have been ignoring the caliper readings. 

Note: when measuring anything, it's important to maintain consistency so I try to control several variables prior to measuring including time of day, water intake, going to the bathroom, etc. A detailed explanation on how I measure body fat % is for another post, but basically I try to keep conditions as consistent as possible between readings. 

Week ended Feb. 17

I stuck to the same routine as the previous week and continued to lose weight. By Saturday morning, Feb. 15 (my cheat day!), I was down to 63.8 kg -- in other words, I had lost an additional 1.4 kg (3 lbs) in 4 days. I was now feeling particularly confident in my ability to burn off fat, so I wanted to test what effect a more extreme cheat day would have on my progress. In the 4 Hour Body, Tim Ferriss eats an insane amount of food on his cheat days and is able to bounce back in 48 hours. I wanted to see if I'd get similar results. So that Saturday, I made it a point to eat until my stomach hurt. I skipped breakfast as usual but lunch and dinner consisted of the following:

  • Lunch
    • 1 fried pork chop
    • 4 servings of egg fried rice
    • 14 pork dumplings
    • 1 hot and sour soup
  • Dinner
    • 1 chili cheese burger (1/2 lb of beef)
    • 2 servings of french fries (mine plus my girlfriend's)
 Steamed pork dumplings ("Xiaolongbao") from Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

Steamed pork dumplings ("Xiaolongbao") from Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

 Fried pork chop at Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

Fried pork chop at Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

 Fried Rice at Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

Fried Rice at Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

 Chili cheeseburger at New York Steak & Burger, Tianzhifang, Shanghai

Chili cheeseburger at New York Steak & Burger, Tianzhifang, Shanghai

I was feeling pretty horrible by the time I got home that night. I jumped on the scale and my weight was 66.5 kg -- I put on nearly 3 kg in 12 hours! Unfortunately, I forgot to measure my body fat % before and after the binge, but given that food typically takes anywhere from 1-3 days to digest, most of the 3 kg gain was probably food and water weight with the full impact on my body composition yet to hit. The next morning, I was down to 65.9 kg and by weigh-in day on Monday (Feb. 17), my measurements were:

  • Body fat (Omron): 15.1% 
  • Body fat (Calipers): 11.6% 
  • Weight: 65.6 kg 

So for the week, despite my solid progress leading up to my cheat day, I still ended up slightly fatter than when I started. This was my first week with no improvement and the excessive binge on Saturday was most certainly to blame. However, a question that came to mind was whether 48 hours (Sat morning to Mon morning) was enough time for the food I ate on my cheat day to become fully digested and either used as fuel or stored. I think the only way I'll be able to answer this question is by continuing to experiment and gathering more data points on how my own body works. At the very least, however, this experiment allowed me to test whether I could in fact eat anything I wanted and bounce back after 48 hours like Tim Ferriss. The preliminary answer is "No".   

Week ended Feb. 24

Moving on to the next week, I decided to keep my routine the same except for the fact that I would eat normal portions on my cheat day (eating until satisfied but not hurting). Showing zero improvement the week before was a bit demoralizing, and I certainly didn't want that to happen too often. However, I also certainly wasn't about to get rid of my cheat day! It's important to have at least one day to eat with friends and socialize without coming across as the guy with the weird diet. So the test this week was really to see if having a more normal cheat day, which includes 2 cheat meals, would negatively effect my progress to the point where I should consider reducing to just 1 cheat meal instead of 2.

So my Saturday cheat day arrives, and I eat the following:

  • Lunch
    • 2 large slices of New York style pepperoni pizza
    • 1 chicken wing
    • 0.5 egg custard cake 
  • Dinner
    • 1 bowl of Vietnamese "Pho" (beef and rice noodle soup)
    • 1 extra order of beef balls for the noodles
    • 1 order of fried egg rolls
    • 1 scoop of chocolate ice cream
    • 4 pieces of dark chocolate

This time around I remembered to measure both my weight and body fat % prior to eating my cheat meals. On Saturday morning I was down to a record low of 63.5 kg with 12.4% body fat and by Sunday morning (post cheat day), I was back up to 64.6 kg with 13.7% body fat. This wasn't particularly a surprise as I had consumed a far larger amount of carbs than usual. It is interesting though to note the degree to which measurements can fluctuate on a daily basis. But in the end, what I'm most interested in is how I progress week-to-week (focusing too much on daily fluctuations can make anyone go insane) and by Monday, Feb. 24, my measurements came out to be:  

  • Body fat (Omron): 13.4% 
  • Body fat (Calipers): 11.5% 
  • Weight: 64.4 kg

Not too bad. At 13.4% body fat, I'm still quite a ways from my 10% goal but it's good to know that I'm back on track. Hopefully the remaining 3% body fat won't be too difficult to burn.