Weeks 20-18

Week 1:

The first week is off to a shaky start. On the very first day of prep I injured my shoulder and then when I went to do my meal prep for the week, I discovered a bunch of food in my fridge which was out of date. Regardless, nailed my macros by ordering a My Muscle Chef meal via Uber Eats, got an appointment with an osteo and some groceries delivered the very next morning. The injury is a minor sternocleidomastoid strain, however it is related to the discrepancy in strength between my left and right shoulder. My left side being more dominant, my clavicle sits a little higher and pulls my shoulder and scapula into more of an elevated, internally rotated position. I’ve added some more external rotations and lower trap work to the left hand side. This will help symmetry on stage so this is actually a blessing in disguise for balance and how I present on stage. 

Nothing is ever going to be “perfect,” adaptability is a skill you can train the same as any other. 

The main challenge in the initial weeks ahead, is something I am familiar with and something I planned and communicated ahead of time – which is that for some time, I won’t be catching up with friends in situations which are related to food or drinking. I do of course have the option for a free meal every so often, so when I can I will invite as many people to dine with me as I can. However, day to day offerings of food, food as a gift or act of service, or social settings where alcohol is a social lubricant are all off the table for now.

I understand why and how this is a big challenge. The way I show love and care for people is to cook for them, or to buy them little gifts of foods I know they love, or to enjoy an event, usually a metal gig with friends with a drink in hand. This can be a blessing in disguise though as not only am I reassessing my relationship with alcohol, but it gives me the ability to forge sober connections and focus on the people I love and not how drunk I can get with them. Over time this gets easier, but the first few weeks can be trying. 

Week 2:

Injured my shoulder again! Apparently sleeping in your late 30s is fraught with danger. 

Thankfully the osteo has confirmed it’s just a sprain and should recover quite easily, but right now I am in a fair amount of pain. Sleeping is nearly impossible as there is only one position that doesn’t hurt so it’s taking me a long time to fall asleep, when I do sleep it’s in one or two hour bursts and I’m getting muscle spasms from my pecs / subclavius right down my forearm and into the webbing between my thumb and forefinger.

I don’t think for a second it was “just” sleeping funny that caused this, as I have had a few of these symptoms before and knew that my left shoulder was far tighter than my right. Although I’ve been addressing it in training as best I can, I’ll reduce the volume of my upper body training further, prioritise soft tissue work then keep pushing the volume up in other areas (posterior chain, core) for a few weeks. Thankfully, my upper body is very well developed so this will only enhance lagging body parts and isn’t really a huge deal provided I can do all the right things to recover, and help prevent this from becoming something chronic. 

Food has been consistent, I’m smashing my targets each day and I’m feeling like things are moving as well as they could, and despite the challenges from shoulder, everything else has gone very well. I’ve not dropped a huge amount yet visually save for already lean places looking leaner – ie lower abs, forearms, chest and shoulders are getting more vascular. This is absolutely normal and in line with something fitness circles call the “paper towel theory.” 
Ie, when you have a new roll of paper towel, and you take a bunch of sheets off, the roll doesn’t look much different at all. It’s only until the roll starts to get smaller that “dramatic” changes begin to occur.

The initial stages of any diet will be water and glycogen losses (which is why the scale tends to drop so fast in the first few weeks), so changes are really only seen to parts of your body where there is naturally little bodyfat already.
Over time and with a lot of patience, you’ll find the less lean areas making more visual changes. 

Why I’m getting ready so far out:

This has been a common question I’ve been asked, and I think it’s a great opportunity to educate those who are interested in understanding a bit more about how physiology changes when you’re a) already quite lean and b) when you’re a woman. 

1. Lean people (20%BF or less in women, 15% or less in men) lose more muscle when dieting.

Taking my diet slower means that I will stand to lose less muscle over time, making the end aesthetic result (to get the most leanest AND jackedest you can be) far better. 

2. Lean people need more refeeds / diet breaks, especially women.

As you get leaner, physiological changes mean that hormones and other drivers of satiety and metabolic rate will change more rapidly than in those with a lot of bodyfat to lose. By scheduling refeeds and diet breaks where I return to maintenance for a short period will not only help minimise those metabolic effects, but will help me pyschologically. Knowing I have a day or two, or a full week ahead of eating a bit more will keep me focused during times when calories are very low. 

3. I have an inbuilt failsafe.

If something happens that impairs my recovery, interrupts my training or means that I have to adapt my strategy completely, I can then choose to push a bit harder for a few weeks to make up for lost time. As per the notes above, this also means less deleterous effects on my metabolic rate, wellbeing and mental energy. If I have more time, I have room for errors, room for refeeds / diet breaks and periods of slowed or no fat loss. 

Plans for weeks 16-18:

  1. Keep current intake consistent
    If it’s working, don’t fuck with it.
    Once my weight stabilises, I’ll reduce my carbs on rest days. This will have me in a slightly higher deficit without adding cardio or sacrificing energy needed to train.
    Shortly after making this change I’ll then schedule in a day or two each week at maintenance.
  2. Avoid aggravating my shoulder/neck injury
    I’ve scheduled in some regular myotherapy / soft tissue massage and have included more supplementation (magnesium, higher fish oil intake) to enhance the period of healing that follows the initial inflammatory phase. This combined with some changes to training should have a positive outcome.
  3. Keep track of NEAT
    As my calorie deficit grows, so will my subconcious efforts to sit more and move less. I’ll be making sure things like daily steps are consistent.

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