System 2 & 3: Exercise & Diet
I've just begun recovering from a 6 week period of high stress, sub-optimal sleep and nutrient consumption, whereby my lean body mass sank from just over 111 lbs down to 104 lbs.
Although I've lost quite a bit, I'm confident that my constant thinkering will lead me back to >111 lbs of L.B.M. and vault me towards my goal of 122 lbs of lean body mass.
That's my prediction anyway, we'll see if it scales with reality in the coming months.
I also have a suspicion that lean body mass is not only circadian on a week to week basis, meaning it depends on when you eat during the day, but seasonal as well. For the last few years, my lean mass has peaked in either July, August, or September, while it decreases considerably in the winter time. I can attribute a certain amount of this to stress and non-circadian eating, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Seasonal Muscle Mass
My exercise system is actually quite simple. Find the safest, most effective, most efficient, most intense way of exercising, and do it once every 5, 6, or 7 days for 15-20 minutes most of the time, and once every 10 or 14 days for 15-20 minutes some of the time. Everyone will have to find their own sweet spot when considering their own schedules and stress levels.
The higher your stress level and the worse your sleep, the more you will have to consider shelving exercise concerns in order to deal with sleep/stress concerns, as they are more foundational to human health.
I'll also include being active 2-5 days in between exercise sessions, whilst acknowledging and deeply respecting the narrow therapeutic window, so that I don't throw my body into a catabolic (breakdown) state.
One of the most important things to remember when considering improvements in strength and body composition, is that exercise itself is not the process which actualizes those gains, it's only the stimulus. The degree to which gains are realized in the form of increased strength or lean body mass, is completely dependent on all of the things which occur in between bouts of exercise, be it sleep, adequate diet/calorie consumption, and a low stress environment.
Two of the most anabolic activities we can undertake as humans, are to sleep properly, and eat real food.
Dietary protein consumption is of course supremely important for the realization of muscle protein synthesis, the question - or the fear rather - is how much protein is dangerous? The answer is; we don't know. We don't know how much protein is dangerous due to the fact that every time we test the upper limits, there never seem to be any deleterious side-effects. To quell your fear, here's some proof, and here's some more.
The 4.4g/kg/day of protein cited is a far cry from the 0.8g/kg/day RDA in the United States, and given the prevalence of weakness, frailty, dysfunctional bio-mechanics, or even metabolic disease in aging populations, it stands to reason that the base recommendation is probably not even enough to maintain nitrogen balance.
So here's how I approach my diet.
Beginning from the 1-3 hours after a very high intensity workout, I would consume a hyper-caloric meal consisting of 3-4 servings of protein, along with 2 servings of nuts and seeds, and a variety of either roasted or raw vegetables. I would probably repeat the same type of meal 2 or 3 times over the next 2 days, first as my first and second meals of the day, followed by just my first meal of the day. Keep in mind I'm not only trying to cut my body fat percentage, but i'm also trying to gain weight
My overall carbohydrate consumption would be low over this time-frame, although certainly higher than that of other body types, due to my ectomorphic body and my phenotypic ability to tolerate a higher carbohydrate load than most others.
Apart from the few days immediately following a high intensity exercise routine, my diet would track very closely with the graphic above. I would still shoot for 4 meals/day on days 2 & 3 post exercise while making sure my protein consumption was high enough to support improvements in lean mass & reductions in body fat. I would then generally slightly decrease my overall calorie consumption on days 5 and 6 with a 16 hour overnight fast to attempt to mimic the 'hunting on an empty stomach' desperation that would help 'super-compensate' my testosterone & growth hormone for the next workout. Going to bed early is also crucial to realize those hormonal improvements.
Rinse and repeat with necessary variations.
If all you see are the pictures of people doing it, you might think that meal prepping is too time consuming for you to accomplish. The reality is that even if you only prepare 4-6 meals for yourself for the first few work days of the week, you will have done your body and mind a huge favor in terms of decreasing the stress of having to scramble on a lunch break to find 'acceptable or compliant' food.
I used to prepare 16 meals for the week, and my system looked something like this.
Saturday afternoon: Plan meals and grocery shop for the week. (2 hrs)
Sunday afternoon/evening: Prep vegetables, season and marinate meats, prepare garnish, or sauce, or side. (2 hrs)
Monday morning (my day off): Steam, roast, or fry all meats and vegetables. Partition everything into 600 g Tupperware containers for the week. (4-6 hrs)
If this seems like a lot to accomplish, it's because it is. Although I recommend trying it if you have the time, it's much easier and less time consuming to focus on preparing 4-6 meals for the first few days of the work week. My personal preferences are to do a few roasts with vegetables in the crock-pot and oven. I'll also buy 2-3 lbs of wild caught fish, cut it up into 4-5 servings, and freeze them individually. They're quick to defrost and cook in about 15 minutes for an easy dinner.
That's essentially it. As mentioned earlier, the rest of my meals for the week track as closely as possible with the P.N. graphic above. Plenty of salads, nuts, seeds, and cruciferous vegetables.
I sincerely hope you can implement some of these ideas, because if there is anything I've learned in my years of practice, it's that if you hone your sleep, diet and exercise, there are NO non-responders.
p.s.; Buying an Instant Pot was also a great idea.