In early November, I joined an online fitness forum. Scrawny to Brawny is a year-long program designed to provide structure, feedback, and support while helping participants build lean muscle mass and strength. To start, though, we simply “bulk up”.
Every two weeks, those of us doing Scrawny to Brawny (S2B) are assigned a new “habit”. We do this habit every day for fourteen days. The S2B website asks us to report on our compliance (as well as compliance with workouts and other assignments). After two weeks, we’re expected to continue with each new habit, although we no longer report on it. Instead, focus shifts to a new habit.
Our first habit was to drink three “super shakes” per day. (Each super shake is composed of a bit of milk, a bit of ice, a bit of fruit, a bit of vegetable, and a scoop of protein powder.) Our second habit was to practice good posture and to perform a series of daily stretches. Our third habit — the one we’re practicing right now — is to eat a “muscle breakfast”. While the first two habits were tough, I eventually made them part of my daily routine (and continue to practice them, which is the point). This third habit, though, is killing me.
You see, I’m not a big breakfast guy. I like traditional breakfast foods, such as pancakes and bacon, but on a typical day I don’t eat breakfast until three or four hours after I get out of bed. Even then, it’s usually just a piece of toast (with almond butter) or something similarly simple. When I started the super shake habit, that became my breakfast. I especially dislike eating before my daily workout.
Now, however, the muscle breakfast has reared its ugly head. Every day, we’re supposed to eat:
- 4 whole eggs
- about 200 grams of lean meat (ground beef, sliced ham or turkey etc.)
- ½ cup of oats (dry measure)
- 2 tablespoons of nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, pecan etc.)
- 2 servings of fresh veggies
- 1 medium piece of fruit, or 1 cup berries
- 2 tablespoons of a “topper” (sundried tomatoes, pesto, hummus, tomato sauce, spice & herbs, etc.)
- 1 glass of water
Ho. Ly. Cats.
This habit is hard for me. That’s a huge amount of food, especially for breakfast. It’s tough to wolf it down when I have no appetite. Some days, I have to set aside half of my meal to eat the next day. (Plus, don’t forget, I’m also drinking about 1000 calories worth of super shakes each day, plus eating lunch and dinner!)
At this very moment, I’m staring at a plate filled with 3-1/2 eggs and one chicken sausage. I’ve eaten the other stuff on the list (except the fruit), but there’s no way I’m going to get the rest of this plate down anytime soon. I get nauseated just thinking about taking another bite.
So why keep at it?
This whole Scrawny to Brawny thing is a fun experiment for me. My body is built for long, slow distances. It likes to run and to bike. Its ideal form of exercise is hiking. I can go for hours on end while trekking at high altitude with a pack on my back. I’ve seen other, fitter fellows knocked on their butts by that kind of activity, but my body likes it. It’s what evolution (or god, if you prefer) has designed me to do.
My body is less good at lifting heavy weights. Yet I enjoy this sort of training too. I thought it would be fun to spend a year building muscle in order to see what I’m capable of achieving. Plus, this has provided motivation to get back in shape. (I’d begun the slide into flabbiness.)
As part of the S2B program, we’re required to take monthly photographs of our progress. After only a few weeks, there’s not a lot of visual difference between now and the time I started — except for my back. Most of my exercise the past month has been focused on building back and core strength so that I can move on to more common lifts with good form. I was skeptical that anything had actually changed until I saw this:
That’s not a huge change, obviously, but it’s enough. I can see the difference, and I can feel it. So can Kim. Whatever I’m doing seems to be working.
Last weekend, I talked with Cody, my Crossfit trainer (and friend). I told him how tough this was for me mentally. He knows. Most of my life, I’ve been fat. I have a huge mental barrier to being fat again. To willingly pack on the pounds by stuffing my face every day goes against every fiber of my being.
“Trust the process,” Cody told me. “You’re going to gain weight, and some of it’s going to go to your belly. You’ll shed those excess pounds later. You’re bulking now, and you’ll shred in the summer.”
And so, I’m going to trust the process. But it’s not easy!