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Eat. Sleep. Lift. - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Eat. Sleep. Lift. [Feb. 13th, 2009|01:55 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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Lifting. 2008 was a wipeout—almost zero net muscle gain. This was because I spent a full 3 months traveling (spread over 7 trips) between January and October, which tends to be harsh on my body. I stayed put after that, but then I got sick a couple of times and the gym was closed during the winter break.

2009 has been much better so far. I'm back to pushing my max in almost all the exercises, and I also manged to get a brief fat-loss/cardio stint in. I have a ton of travel coming up again soon, and I'm hoping to convert those into productive fat-loss cycles by the simple heuristic of limiting myself to a salad for dinner (see below).

Overall, I'm happy with the strength gains I've made, especially core strength. I now deadlift 300 lb sets, which should go up a bit more pretty soon as I improve my grip strength, which seems to be giving out before my back muscles do.

I'm not happy with the size gains though, which do not seem to be commensurate. Perhaps it has something to do with fast vs. slow twitch muscle fibers. I dismissed that as esoteric crap when I first looked at it, but perhaps it's time for another look.

Diet. Occasional hiccups involving tiny sandwiches aside, I've pretty much figured out my diet these days. My constraint is that I need to get enough calories and proteins to weight-train effectively. My problem was that I was brought up in a culture where cold food is just not food, period. No, not even our desserts, at least not the ones that weren't recent imports from elsewhere. I still remember my consternation when presented with a salad when I first visited Europe in '99. Neither I nor any of my friends who were with me at the time had ever before eaten vegetables that weren't at least steamed :-)

Of course, I soon understood that culinary preferences are almost entirely the result of cultural conditioning. I pity the Italians for clinging to their idiotic notions of authenticity and missing out on the wonderful American mutations of the Pizza. (Although the univsersally addictive nature of hot foods seems to be an exception to cultural relativism. I believe it is due to the endorphin release triggered by capsaicin.)

Anyway, the understanding that my taste barriers were merely the result of my upbringing didn't in anyway help overcome them. Time, however, did. It's been five long years, but I'm proud to say that I can finally tolerate green salads, and occasionally even enjoy them.

What this means is that I can spend the whole day eating whatever I want, as long as has roughly the right carb-protein-fat ratio, and at the end of the day, consume a giant bowl of salad (ready-made at the grocery, purchased in weekly installments) to get my portions of vegetables. So simple, I wish I'd realized it before.

Sleep. I submitted a paper last week, and by now I've gotten good enough with time-management that I don't need to cram, miss sleep, or curtail gym or social activities before the deadline. I can't seem to avoid drifting West when I have a deadline, though—I was off by 8 hours on the day we submitted.

Getting out of it is basically the same as beating jet-lag. Somehow I never realized that before, and used to try to drift East, which never ever worked. The right way, of course, is to miss a night of sleep, and force yourself to stay awake the next day until your regular bed-time. That seems to have worked this time. I'm hoping not to go right back to drifting again.

From: fixious
2009-02-13 09:37 am (UTC)
I'm still not a fan of salads (unless they come with nuts, cheese or fruit). My way of getting the vegetable balance is soup -- they're generally easy to make, will store for a few days, are lovely in the winter, and are comfortably filling without the calories. Carrot sticks when I'm lazy.

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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 04:22 pm (UTC)
interesting. what do you put in it? i can't imagine greens tasting very good in soup. or does everything go into the broth?
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From: fixious
2009-02-13 11:42 pm (UTC)
Have you had palak soup? Oh, and I've heard kale is a good smoothie ingredient, but have never tried it.

I usually just put in whatever I feel like at the time -- some subset of corn, peas, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and beans.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-14 02:58 am (UTC)
i don't think soups will work for me, because of the quantity i need, but the smoothie idea is very interesting. i'm all for anything that's quick to prepare and consume. my entire breakfast is liquid—i just figure out all the ingredients i need and make a big smoothie out of it.

i googled greens smoothie and found this; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXr8-jru1KE

fascinating. i'm going to give it a shot. thank you! if i can get it down, it will be huge.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-21 09:03 am (UTC)
so i tried the kale smoothie the same night you posted that.

just the smell of it made me nauseous, and the first sip actually made me throw up a little. that was the end of that.

tonight i had an idea: a soup-smoothie. i did everything as if i were making soup, and then put it into the blender, so that i could drink it.

and it worked. good lord in heaven, it worked! over a liter of the green gooey stuff, 10 minutes of effort. the taste is wonderful.

i love you.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 04:18 pm (UTC)
what made you think that??!

roughly 30 different exercises, split over 3 days.

it's not even possible to do only one exercise.. you will soon find that your secondary muscles involved in the lift are inadequate.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 04:46 pm (UTC)
oh!! "lift" doesn't mean "deadlift." it's simply a synonym for "weight training exercise" :-)
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[User Picture]From: floopilot
2009-02-13 03:17 pm (UTC)
completely agree about the food conditioning and time. I was reminded of the first time I was taken to a salad bar, 8 years back, eating only corn and thinking 'how could this be a way to celebrate my presence?' :D Now, I regularly eat salads for lunch and actually like them - I mean really like them - and love the crunchy strong flavor of raw spinach. That I wouldn't have been able to taste this flavor let alone call it strong a few years back proves your point :)

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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 04:34 pm (UTC)
ha ha. i hope i will be able to say the same in a few more years :-)
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From: skittish_derby
2009-02-13 06:31 pm (UTC)
my hubby won't go near salads. he calls them rabbit food. lol. we eat fresh broccoli and asparagus most nights, warmed up of course.

where did you go on your trips?
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 06:37 pm (UTC)
india, east coast, bay area, europe (france/belgium), seattle, east coast again, bay area again.

33 cities, around 40 counting repeat visits.

i missed the chance to roam around in india because i was sick. could have taken the total to 50 :-) dang.
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From: skittish_derby
2009-02-13 08:12 pm (UTC)
that is amazing. i wish i could do more traveling. but hazel is too young and it is too expensive. one day, we are gonna get some kind of a station wagon and drive around the u.s. i would love to see europe though.

you know, i never really wanted to go to india. awhile ago i saw a modern marvels episode about dangerous roads, some of the intersections they showed in new dehli looked chilling and freaking ridiculous.

where do you get all the money for traveling for so long? (that was rude, but i am curious)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-13 11:35 pm (UTC)
"you know, i never really wanted to go to india. awhile ago i saw a modern marvels episode about dangerous roads, some of the intersections they showed in new dehli looked chilling and freaking ridiculous."

that doesn't make sense. it's like someone deciding not to visit the U.S because certain neighborhoods in L.A are gang-ridden. the only thing that's "dangerous" in india is the water, which will probably make you sick.

edit. the roads are in fact dangerous for the locals, in the sense that the chance of your being in an accident over a period of several years is higher. like half the people i know had some kind of injury at some point form an accident i guess. but as a foreigner on a short trip, you're pretty insulated from it.

"where do you get all the money for traveling for so long?"

i didn't spend a dime. well, i did, but not nearly as much as you'd think. i've been meaning to do a post about this for a long time. perhaps in a week or two. nag me if i don't :-)

Edited at 2009-02-13 11:37 pm (UTC)
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From: skittish_derby
2009-02-14 04:46 am (UTC)
well, i don't like driving through LA either. :shrug: it makes sense to me. i wouldn't want to go somewhere where i might hit a pedestrian or a bus going on the wrong side of the road to avoid a red light. and that isn't the ONLY reason... goodness. i like modern conveniences.

sides, not being used to other people's disruptive driving would probably make me MORE likely to kill someone or be hurt, not less.

i won't nag it out of you. but i am just curious.

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From: ext_167209
2009-02-13 11:54 pm (UTC)

Routine is the key to all productivity

Great post. I find that the biggest deterrent from muscle gain that I have is irregularity in sleep patterns (the influences of which often lead to irregular eating patterns). Weight training really demands a full eight hours of rest for the body's muscles to recover.

My ideal sleep amount is about 5-5:30 hours (I don't like wasting too much time sleeping), but with a regular workout routine, I make a compromise at 6-6:30. Even this amount often leaves me feeling unnaturally sore and generally fatigued, demanding high caffeine consumption which often leads to a negative feedback cycle.

In short, I work out about 4:30-5 hours a week, but the actual time cost required of planning meals, eating those meals, and disciplining myself for a consistent sleep schedule is much higher. It sounds like your trade-off is very similar; eat, sleep and lift well and your traveling and hard work will suffer, or your health will.

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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-02-14 02:50 am (UTC)

Re: Routine is the key to all productivity

"My ideal sleep amount is about 5-5:30 hours"

you do know that sleep has vital cognitive functions, right?

you may have occasionally heard me brag about being able to function with almost no sleep for 2 or 3 days, but i do that very rarely, and i don't think getting less than 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis is a good idea at all, irrespective of weight training.

re. caffeine: http://arvindn.livejournal.com/57651.html

"It sounds like your trade-off is very similar; eat, sleep and lift well and your traveling and hard work will suffer, or your health will."

yup, definitely. my work-outs are around an hour and a half; i need an extra hour to nap; and just physically putting food into my mouth takes a lot of time, not to mention the planning and reading about weight-training. overall, a lifting regimen takes about 4 productive hours *per day* out of my life. i still think it's worth it: http://arvindn.livejournal.com/90688.html

at some point, though, i plan to switch to a maintenance mode, with 1 or maybe 2 workouts per week focusing on core compound exercises. also, my diet and dietary supplementation needs to change into one that focuses on aging-retardation rather than muscle growth.
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