I won a trip to Hawaii!

Loyal readers of this blog (hi dad!) will remember that in 2010 there was a fitness challenge at work, and that I won. As it turns out, work has been doing challenges like this every year after that, since it was a success. I didn’t partake in last year’s because we were going to be in Europe for about 25% of the challenge and it was preposterous to imagine that I’d want to skip on eating and drinking like a tourist.

The challenge consists of having a DEXA scan to determine your start body fat percentage, and have one at the end. The person who dropped a higher percentage of their start BF%, wins a trip to Hawaii for 2. Pay attention there, it’s tricky. To make it simpler to understand, let’s say that someone starts with 30% body fat and ends the contest with 25%. This person lost 5 points of percentage, but the percentage compared to the start was 16%. Someone who goes from 25% to 20% also dropped 5 points, but compared to the start they lost 25% of what they started with, so the second person wins.

I went in for my body fat scan, and the result said that 21.7% of what one could call “Nico” that day was basically fat. This wasn’t too far from my start point in 2010, so I knew what I could accomplish, and I set my goal to get that prize.

Lucky for me, I’ve been really into reading about fitness in the last year. I spend hours a week between SomethingAwful’s “Watch and Weight” forum and reddit’s “Fittit“, ending up reading all sorts of blogs, articles, research articles and of course tons of anecdotal evidence. From all the knowledge broscience I’ve acquired it was easy to develop my program. Since all the information was readily available for me, it wouldn’t really be a secret for me to keep my plan to myself. So, here’s what I did:

  • LEANGAINS : Diet? Yup. This one is pretty simple, which for me meant not eating for 16 hours, thus only eating during an 8 hour window (for me, it was 11:30am to 7:30pm).
    Every single day, I aimed to consume at least 160g of protein. On the days that I did weight-training, I’d shoot for a target of 2300 calories, with most of them coming from protein and fat. On the days that I wasn’t pumping iron and acting like a meathead, my calories intake could only be around 1700 calories.
    This whole Intermittent Fasting thing was actually easier than I thought. Waking up and working for hours? Sure, bring it on. I was actually very clear-headed and as pleasing as always! Other people doing this also share in their experiences that they are far from cranky or sleepy monsters, but that they feel pretty good. Besides, try not eating for 16 hours:  That first bite tastes so good it’s totally worth it to not eat for 16 hours everyday so that lunch tastes like a gourmet meal.
  • HEAVY-ASS WEIGHTS: Not only did I weight train, I committed to actually improving. I followed the classic Starting Strength method. One thing that made it easy to stick to the program and track all my sets done was Fitocracy. You can see for example my last gym workout before the final DEXA here: http://www.fitocracy.com/view_workout/5606365/. Squat: 245 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps… Bench press with 155 lbs  for 3 sets of 5… Deadlift 265 lb for 5 reps. And after all that, come out feeling like Ronnie Coleman.
  • FASTED CARDIO: Even more eyebrow-raising than not eating for 16 hours: don’t eat for 16 hours and try to do cardio right before eating! It really isn’t hard to get the heart pumping even if you haven’t eaten in the last few hours! I just imagined fat melting off my body as I headed out for a swim or a walk instead of for the lunchroom.
  • EVEN MORE CARDIO: On the days that I didn’t go to the gym to lift things and put them down, I needed to do something on the evening. So, I would either go for a run or use the bike on the trainer.

And that was the plan, the easy part. Next up was sticking to it and hoping that no one else was going to be willing to hack their body so much to win a trip to Hawaii.

Low-and-behold, executing the plan was easy and enjoyable. I kept receiving positive feedback in many different ways: lifting a weight a little heavier than the week, props and comments on Fitocracy.com, seeing changes in the mirror after about 5 weeks and then having people comment on my changes in person… that’s what kept the fire going.

The fire that melted 43% of my fat. Because on March 28th(exactly 10 weeks after my first scan), my body fat percentage was of only 12.2. Boom! I was very happy with the product of my hard work. All that sacrifice, commitment and perseverance paid off. If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone trying to figure out just how I did it, it would be to stick to the plan and give it time. Everything else is easy to find, it’s not a secret. The only thing that’s missing is having what it takes, which is hard to find if what it takes is a lot or hasn’t been found in a while.

Anyway, my part of the challenge was done then, but there was the little detail of having to wait for all the other 150 contestants to get their final scan, which wasn’t going to happen for over 3 weeks. The final results of the whole challenge were announced yesterday, and fortunately for me, no one else beat me, and the trip to Hawaii goes to Kelly and me. That’s the part of winning the challenge that I feel was up to luck.


But seriously, (and very aware that it might come off cocky): I feel like I also earned it.



PS: as a true follower of the W&W forums and fittit, here are my before/after pictures for evidence, motivation, comparison and further anecdotal evidence.