Friday, September 30, 2016

First DEXA body fat scan and Resting Metabolic Rate test done

We who are either obsessed with fitness or claim we're just "passionate" like getting tests done. It's usually a good indicator of how you're doing.

For example, a few years ago I got my body fat percentage checked with what's called a Bod Pod.

The Bod Pod is quite inconspicuous and a rather easy test. You'll go into the facility, get your height and weight checked, the attendant inputs those points into a computer connected to the pod, then you dress down to your underwear, put on a swimmers cap, and sit inside. 
The Bod Pod will automatically start filling with air, calculating how much air you displace. It then figures how much of your weight is bone, organ, etc. and spits out a number that should reassemble your body fat percentage.

When I first went to the Bod Pod, I was told I had a 5% body fat when I was clearly over 20%. Quite the margin of error!

I wanted to see what my true body fat percentage was, so I booked an appointment with Body Fat USA


First you have to (obviously) book the appointment. I was told that in Colorado, the use of a DEXA scan requires doctor approval so that needs to happen first (they handle the "doctor approval").

Next, you'll get an email saying you should avoid taking any calcium supplements 24hrs prior to the test and that you should avoid eating big meals 4hrs. before the test.

I read some research on DEXA scan accuracy and found that it tends to be even more accurate if you fast for 24hrs. I fasted for 12hrs which isn't bad considering that my appointment was for 9AM, I just had to stop eating at 9PM which I do almost every night anyways!

Day of the procedure

I showed up with gym shorts and a T-shirt and got my weight and height taken before being shown to some strange looking table with an arm.

The lady asked me to sit real still and the arm moved down my whole body slowly (about 6min) scanning everything.

I was then shown a quick photo of my body in DEXA form, then lead to the RMR (resting metabolic rate) machine.

The RMR test was a bit more, let's say, difficult than the DEXA scan. You have to sit still (albeit on a comfy chair) for about 15min while creating a seal with your lips on a breathing apparatus. The plastic mouth piece makes breathing seem like it's a bit more difficult, but it's not. Many people struggle with the test because it feels like you're out of breath, and your nose begins to throb about 2min in. You have to wear a nose plug to make sure you're not breathing at CO2 out of your nose.

That's what the RMR measures; CO2 output. Using this, they plug it into a formula which calculates about how many calories you're burning in those 15min, then they average it out for the whole day. This gives you a good idea of your maintenance calories.

One needs to know their maintenance calories so they can calculate how many calories they can eat before they start gaining weight.

For example, I was calculated to have a 1,642 caloric daily requirement. This means that if I sat down all day, I'd still burn about 1,642 calories everyday. Taking into consideration the activity requirement of my job, walking to and from my car, walking in the grocery store, etc., I probably burn another 400-500 calories a day. To stay on the safe side, that's to say I probably burn around 2,000 calories everyday (without considering exercise). Considering my daily weight lifting, according to Harvard Medical School, I'm probably burning around 220 calories an hour.

Putting it all together

RMR: 1,642
Regular activity: 400
Weight training: 110/ 30min

TOTAL amount of calories burned on an average day: 2,152

This means that I can eat up to ~2,000 calories a day (if I workout everyday and keep the same activity up) without gaining weight.

If I want to lose weight, I'll eat about 1,500 calories or less. 

Being 23% body fat, that means I have about 33lbs. I know that 1lbs. of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Meaning, if I want to lose 1lbs. of fat, I have to restrict myself 3,500 calories.

Putting that into perspective, if I want to lose 1lbs. of fat a week, I'd have to restrict 500 calories a day (7 days). For me, that means I'd have to eat around 1,500 calories a day to equal a 3,500 caloric deficit a week. If I ate only 1,200 calories a day, that would mean every 4 days I'd lose 1lbs. of fat (hopefully no muscle).

A gift from the company

Body Fat USA gave me a very in-depth report in a binder of my test results. They even had a nice lady explain to me everything that was in it. I'd highly recommend going to Body Fat USA if you're interested in your body fat percentage.

I do not receive any compensation or benefits for mentioning Body Fat USA.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Important fat-loss discovery made

I was doing some research on fat-loss (like I always do) -!: realized that I'd been missing a very important aspect of any fat-loss diet; taking a break!!

Some of you may be reading this and thinking "well, duh!!" But I'd bet you $100 that you couldn't explain to me, with science, why they are beneficial.

Turns out my favorite fitness guru, Lyle McDonald, also believes people should take a break in their diet every once in a while,  he not only explains it herebut also here in another post called "The Full Diet Break".

In summary, after the body is in a diet for a while (more than 2-4 weeks) cortisol levels increase (a stress hormone that makes everything more difficult), leptin (a chemical made by adipose tissue that makes you feel satisfied or full) drops, along with other fat preventing processes.

Lyle explains that about 7 days is sufficient for those levels to return to normal along with other psychological benefits (read the second article I linked above "The Full Fat Diet Break").

This is quite the realization! I'll be utilizing this method of dieting after I do my DEXA body fat scan this Thursday, make sure you come back to see what that's like!. I also have to post this to my Basics of fat loss page found here.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Journey to Success

When I was in high school psychology, we were taught a myriad of "life hacks", if you will. 

It seemed as though scientists were making discoveries everyday about how our brains work and how we can hack them to do what we want. Other, older discoveries seemed to be shadowed and out-dated very quickly.

One particular, older, psychological discovery (or theory) was that of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. As the theory goes, one cannot (and wouldn't want to) proceed to the next level without satisfying the level they are currently at. The goal is to get as high on the pyramid as you can. If you're unfamiliar with this theory, here's what it looks like;

1. Physiological- the most basic needs are found here. Warmth, hunger, thirst, shelter, pain, comfort, etc.

2. Safety- although this may seem obvious, this can be physical safety, emotional, mental, etc. If you don't feel safe, you can't progress to the next level which is...

3. Social- people at this level are concerned with friendships and relationships in general. You'll know someone is here if they are always trying to date and form a close relationship. They might be expressing a concern about how they've never felt loved, how they can't trust anyone, etc.

4. Esteem- this has to do with feelings of accomplishment, ego, self-identity, and the like. Someone at this level would be seeking acceptance from their parents, trying to impress someone, or perhaps struggling to really define who they are and what they believe in.

5. Self-actualization- the highest point of the pyramid, someone in this region is focused on achieving their fullest potential, becoming the best they can be, enlightenment, complete fulfillment, contentment, etc.

This is important because I have people ask me all the time how they can be more focused on their goals and their life and after observing them for a few days I tell them; "you don't want success, you want ______ (a meaningful relationship, to feel safe, to have people like you, fill in the blank)". 

To be successful, one must reach self-actualization. Although, many people's path to success involve transcending each level until they hit the top.

Why is self-actualization needed for success? Because success, true success, requires that you work on your craft every minute of everyday-- and if you aren't working on self-actualization, you're wasting time satisfying those other levels. On top of that, you have to spend time doing other things as well! Let me explain...

On a daily basis, there are a multitude of things one must do. For starters, one must; eat, work, sleep, go to the bathroom, walk, drive, etc. All of these things subtract from the 24 hours we're told we have to do what we want... we don't really have 24 hours in a day... at least not to work on our dream.

"If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life." -Abraham Maslow

Once you subtract all of these things that we have to do, you're left with a small percentage of 24 hours to work on what you want to do. Maybe 5 hours.... 

If only there was a way to either not do those other things that we have to do (nope, we have to do them) OR a way to work on our dream while we do those other things...

Working on your dream/craft every minute of everyday requires a little bit of creativity. Let me use starting a business as an example, and be warned, this gets a little complicated but if you can follow it though it'll give you some good tools to use in your life;

What kind of business do you want to build, and what skills/resources are needed to accomplish that? This isn't an exhaustive list, but here are some things that anyone wanting to build a business needs;

  • a goal
  • focus (need to be able to focus on your goal)
  • motivation

How can one work on one or more of these while working at their day job?


That's an obvious one... or at least it should be. You can ruminate and devise a specific goal while you're working, no matter the job. For example, I have a day job that requires that I involve a lot of critical thinking and decision making, yet I have time to think about other things. I'm an interpreter, which involves thinking of deeper meanings, translation of words, affect, etc. If I can do all of that and still have time to think, so can you.


Also an easy one. You can develop your focus with really any task you do. With my background in Buddhist meditation, I believe there are two types of focus;

General awareness

Single-mindedness requires you to focus on one thing at a time, for as long as you can. If your mind wavers, gently bring it back to focus. This bringing-your-mind-back-to-focus is exactly what improves your focus. You'll find that with 10min a day on this "meditation", you're focus improves dramatically.

General awareness is when you're just being aware of your senses. Such thoughts in this "meditation" include; cold table, warm hands, bright window, smelling something, shiver, comfort, thinking, tasting, etc. You're essentially noting whatever comes into your awareness.

You can work and improve your focus at work, while driving or eating, walking, and much more. Having improved focus will help anyone focus better at their goal(s), especially an entrepreneur.


This one requires a bit more curiosity and creativity. One of the best ways I like to improve my motivation is by asking myself questions and answering them in-depth. Are you motivated to go to work? Why or why not? What causes your motivation to ebb and flow? You're not motivated today, why?

Answering these questions helps me understanding the link between something like work and motivation itself. You can ask yourself these questions wherever you are. Don't feel like going to the gym? Why not? Because I'm tired? Is that a good enough excuse? Should I base whether or not I go to the gym on if I have energy?

Again, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of how one can work on their dream every minute of every day. There's really no excuse to not be working towards your dream.

"To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him."-Buddha

In conjunction to my current goals (get a six-pack and help someone else achieve their fitness goals), I am adding another goal; read as many books as possible every week for a full month.

My current life goals list is as follows (the underlined ones are the ones I'm currently working on);

  1. build a tiny house
  2. read as many books as possible for 1 month
  3. -write a book
  4. have a six-pack year round
  5. -learn to do a back flip on the ground
  6. -learn to do a double back flip
  7. -run a mile in 6min
  8. -learn how to do the windmill
  9. help someone reach their goal fitness level
  10. build a car from scratch
  11. fly in squirrel suit
  12. -live with no car for 1 month
  13. eat no processed foods for 1 month
  14. learn to surf
  15. visit and vacation in another country for free
  16. -live in another country for a year
  17. -learn good/fluent Chinese
  18. -visit every continent
  19. learn to play an instrument
  20. -make a hit song
  21. learn to code
  22. -make an app
  23. sky diving
  24. make it into the Guinness book of world records
  25. learn to play Texas Hold ‘Em well
  26. earn/save $1 million
  27. -raise $100K for a cause
  28. -earn $1,000+ doing misc. things online
  29. -spend only $100 in one month
  30. -make $20K/year on dividends
  31. Change a stranger’s life
  32. Volunteer 1,000 hours
  33. Give back to parents in sincere way
  34. go to a foreign country with little money, clothes, and resources and succeed
  35. convert a vehicle to travel in
  36. help someone start a business

Of course, this list will change and grow over time. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Habits of productivity and efficiency

Being "productive"

Let me start off by saying that I've read many books on productivity, efficiency, focus, goal setting and accomplishment, etc. and I've learned that being "productive" isn't the same as being productive. Let me explain...

Charles Duhigg explains in his book "The Power of Habit" and his other book that I just finished, "Smarter Better Faster" that many people mistake being busy for being productive.... I couldn't agree more. 

Being busy does not mean you're being productive. 

This may seem trivial but it's an important point. Do not mistake the fact that you're busy doing things for being productive towards your goals.... or else one day you'll realize you did a lot of running around for nothing.

In any case, like I mentioned above, I finished Duhiggs' book "Smarter Better Faster" and I must say I wasn't impressed. After reading his other book "The Power of Habit" I was really looking forward to a strong application and explanation of more powerful habits, but instead all we got was a handful of anecdotes and, if you read the index, some tips on how to improve your productivity.

One thing I did learn; writing down an ambitious goal (he calls these "stretch goals"), then detailing a specific plan for achieving that goal (also called SMART goal setting) is a great recipe for success.

I had heard of SMART goals before, but not in conjunction with an ambitious goal.

Basically, the premise is that you think of a big, lofty goal that you'd love to get accomplished but don't think it could happen. For example, I made a goal of achieving a six pack year round (for me this is 'lofty' because I'd been told my whole life by my family that we "didn't have the genes for six-packs").

After I declared my "stretch goal", I detailed my SMART goals.

SMART goals are;

S- Specific. You must be specific with your goal setting if you are to believe you'll ever get it done. "I want to lose weight"-- perfect! That's an easy goal. Stop drinking water and eating food. Oh... you meant FAT.... guess you should've said that.

M- Measurable. Your goal must be measurable, meaning, you've defined it well enough to know when you've actually accomplished that goal. "I want to lose fat". Oh, ok. Then go run on a treadmill. TA DAH! You've lost fat!!! Oh..... you wanted to lose more fat than that.... "I want to lose 10lbs. of fat"-- good goal.

A- Attainable. The goal has to be possible. If you're 5'2" and want to be able to jump over a 10' obstacle... that might not actually be possible. Make sure it isn't SO lofty of a goal that no one in the world believes it could be done. Although, maybe people have achieved the seemingly "impossible"...

R- Realistic. The goal must be something that you're willing to work at. Don't say "I want to lose 10lbs. in a month" if you aren't willing to eat less food and workout hardcore. It just isn't gonna happen.

T- Timely. You want a realistic timeline for your goal. If you've got no deadline, then that means you have the rest of your life to accomplish that goal, why stress out now to accomplish it? "I want to lose 10lbs. of fat in 3 months"-- nice job :)


Goal: Achieve a six pack and keep it year round in less than 6 months.

S- specific. six pack, keep it year round, achieve it in 6 months or less.

M- measurable. Six pack is obviously measurable. It needs to be clearly visible.

A- attainable. Definitely attainable in less than 6 months. I don't have a tremendous amount of fat to lose so it should be relatively easy.

R- realistic. 6 months is plenty of time. Eat less calories than my body needs everyday, hit the gym and workout everyday, eat enough protein (150g per day), get enough rest, keep up on the latest data on losing body fat and six packs.

T-timely. 6 months. 

Easy enough! Duhigg cites a cool story about how an American company was experiencing serious productivity decline and therefore tried some desperate attempts at getting people to be more productive. Eventually, a man named George Doran invented the SMART way to set goals.

Use it. Document progress. Adjust. Repeat.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Listen to no one... or listen to everyone...?

Today I want to address the concern of where to get your information from.

As anyone who has tried to do anything knows, everyone has an opinion. I mean, everyone. I personally get this one person who's obese giving me fitness and diet advice on an almost weekly basis. O.o

Anyways, it's tough to know who to trust these days. I mean, if you keep up with the science and daily news, you'll know that "in 2015, the New York Times showed how Coca-Cola has funded millions in research to downplay the link between sugary beverages and obesity"

It's an obvious fact of life that any organism will fight to stay alive, and that includes businesses. They'll twist and turn facts and studies to either support their business or downplay their competition, because they're trying to stay alive! Makes sense. But what do we do about all of this mis-information?

It has to do with doing your own research. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it takes a long time and yes, you have to work at it. Suck it up, get a cup of coffee and hit the internet/books.

Most of my arguments with people about fitness have to do with the fact that they are behind on their research. I'm constantly reading new research about fitness and health so I'm constantly using new information in my workouts and diets.

DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! Read books, read articles online, talk to people, get involved with the community, etc. Don't rely on quick fixes like online forums where people either give you an incomplete answer or make fun of you. Improve yourself as a human being and learn!!!!

BTW, this study has shown (although isn't conclusive evidence) that a protein sparing modified fast (PSMF) is a very effective way to lose a substantial amount of weight, a majority of it being fat. Lyle McDonald, a very respected fitness/health-nut, has written a book linked here called the Rapid Fat Loss Handbook that describes the PSMF. He takes a more scientific approach at explaining the reasoning behind it all and his recommendations are very safe and have been studied hardcore.

I was a bit nervous as a vegetarian that I'd run into problems doing a PSMF diet, but I've been able to manage! I'd suggest trying it no matter where you are in life, just to see what kind of results you can get. Many people report have little to no muscle loss and a lot of fat loss in a short period of time.

Although just like Lyle, I'd recommend doing a more long term diet focused on changing eating habits. But, if you need to lose a substantial amount of weight and/or in a short period of time, try reading and implementing Lyle's book.

I also wanted to quickly mention this phenomenon of losing motivation or passion for working out or eating healthy.

NEWS FLASH!!!:::: it happens to everyone! Including myself! It's happened to the great Arnold Schwarzenegger, it happens to Usain Bolt; it happens to everyone! And it sucks! 

The trick to it?? Remember; emotions are like clouds, they come and go and don't leave any lasting impression on the sky. Your mind is a cauldron of emotions, hormones and other chemicals that I don't know. The beautiful and eternal You is beyond all of that.

When I feel unmotivated or sad, depressed, angry, etc., what do I do? Go to the gym  r e g a r d l e s s. Don't let emotions dictate what you do.

I'm not going to tell you to "work through them" because I believe that 90% of the emotions we feel throughout the day don't mean anything. They're just reflections of chemicals swirling through our brains. Keep fighting. Keep working. 

I get no financial incentives for mentioning Lyle or his books.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fitness exposed

It's been almost 3 months now (I started this fitness journey in July), and I think I've made considerable progress. Although, I still don't have a six-pack.

But I haven't given up! And neither should you. Giving up is for losers who don't get what they want out of life. I demand from life what I want. Here's the progress so far;

Yes, it's a bit tough to notice a difference but there is one. Of course, if you have to focus hard on the difference, obviously I'm not at my goal.

But if you look closer at my hips (I know it's tough to see my hips in the second photo), you can see that I've lost some pudge there.


Again, the goal is to get to >SIX PACK< then I'll focus on building muscle WHILE keeping my body fat percentage low.

Basics of any (successful) fat loss regiment;

1. Eat less calories than your body needs. First, you'll need to track how many calories you eat a day. I like using My Fitness Pal because they have such a large catalog of common foods eaten and their nutrients. 

Then, calculate how many calories your body needs on a day to day basis using a calculator like this one and start by subtracting 500 calories to that to lose weight. After you lose a few pounds OR are in a plateau, drop those calories even more. Don't drop below 1,200 calories a day.

2. Eat more protein and workout. Most people don't eat enough protein a day. Read; Lyle McDonald's The Protein Book. Generally, you'll want 1 gram of protein per pound of LEAN body weight, not regular body weight, those two are way different.

After you've figured out how much protein you need, make it all work for you and workout! Start by doing the basics; bench/dumbbell press, shoulder/military press, squats, pull-ups/lat pull-downs, etc. You don't want to lose ALL weight, you want to lose fat. Working out and getting the right amount of protein will spare as much muscle as possible while letting you burn that fat.

3. Adjust as needed and keep increasing. As you lose weight, you'll need to adjust your calorie intake. Obviously, if you were once 250lbs. and are now 200lbs., you need a whole lot less calories than just your 250lbs. requirement - 500. Go back to the calorie calculator and figure out how much.

You'll need to keep track of your progress in the gym that way you can keep increasing the weight so your muscles keep getting a challenge. Ladies, you won't become big and buff doing this, trust me. Many women worry about that when it's not a legit concern. To get big and buff, you'd need a particular workout and diet.

4. PATIENCE!!! It takes a long time to lose all of that fat. Think of it this way; you didn't gain all that weight in one month, did you? So what makes you think you'll lose it in one month??

A question I get often is; how fast can I make this fat loss work? Well, as far as fat loss is concerned, you can expect around 1-2lbs. a week at most.

There ya have it! The secrets of all those workout and fitness guru's exposed!!! Any diet (ketogenic, Atkins, doughnut-beer-and-chips, etc.) all work off one main premise; eat less food than your body needs.

Friday, September 16, 2016

First post... what's this about?

This blog is about me challenging myself to be better, hence the name; Be Better. 

I'm going to try and use this blog as a way of tracking my accomplishments, goals, frustrations and other experiences while on the road to success. I'd like something to look back on when I'm older, and if this is something people find inspiring, even better!

My lady and I have another blog dedicated to the building process of our tiny house, if you're interested, check it out here!

As a quick notation, here's what we did;

Yep! Created a tiny house. Check out the blog, seriously. You won't be disappointed. 

We've gotten our next challenge started and here is my before picture;


As you can tell, I'm not in amazing shape, although I thought I wasn't far off.

I'm 5'7", in the above photos I was 155lbs., 24yrs and obviously male. I was getting close to the standardized BMI rating of overweight (my BMI at that time was 24.3 and overweight is 25). Granted, I do bodybuilding/weight training so a good amount of that weight is in fact muscle. I know, you can't tell too well in the photos but it's there, trust me.

I was under the impression that it may take me ~5lbs. to lose enough fat to have a visible six-pack, I was wrong. I apparently had more fat than I thought.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I only want a six-pack because of what it represents; generally, hard work. Six-packs are hard to maintain and even harder to get, especially in my family! So, I've undergone the challenge of getting my body in low enough body fat percentage so that my six pack is visible.

Some frustrations I've faced so far; losing fat is a long process, losing muscle is definitely possible (and probable), it's difficult to see your progress from day to day.

What I've ultimately learned about body fat percentage and losing weight is that you must eat less calories than your body needs or burn more calories than you eat, or a combination of the two to lose weight. For example, I'm now 149lbs., 24yrs old male, 5'7" which puts my caloric requirements at ~1,700 calories a day to just maintain my weight. If I want to lose weight, I should go down to about 1,300. Here is the nifty online calculator I used to figure that number. 

Eating less calories is tough, no matter what anyone says! What I've found that works in suppressing hunger is drinking a bunch of water or caffeinated beverage (like black coffee).