Saturday, December 3, 2016

My review of Papillon

Papillon -- the semi-autobiographical account of Henri Charriere's escape from a French penal colony -- was a rage when it first released in 1969. It had a little something for everyone; a swashbuckling hero's escape from a corrupt regime's clutches, set in exotic tropical locales. True to his name, Papillon rises above his inner demons like a delicate butterfly, seeking redemption. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fitness goals

Since it's been a while since I wrote anything on this blog, I thought I might share my current fitness goals with all of you. I am a strong believer in expressing your goals to as many people as you can -- your friends can be a great source of motivation and they will be a lot more accommodating of your efforts to achieve them.

As some of you might know, last year I struggled with severe cubital tunnel syndrome on both hands for close to 5 months, during which I had to completely stop all resistance training and cardio. Apart from the occasional stint on the elliptic trainer, I had a mostly sedentary life. I tried to keep my diet in check, but my weight slowly rose from ~170lb in November '15 to 181 lb in May '16. 

With my cubital issues resolved, I restarted weight training and cardio in mid-May. The key was to start slow. My strength had decreased by roughly 50% on all major lifts and my endurance had dropped by roughly 40%. I began with three days of full-body training and 2 hours of medium-intensity cardio a week. After a few weeks, I changed to a Push-Pull-Legs-Rest cycle, with 3-4 hours of medium/high intensity cardio a week. Even though my initial goal was to simply get active again; about two weeks back, I decided to start a gradual cut. I estimate my initial body fat % to be around 15-16%, I plan to drop to 10% by end of August '16, while trying to retain my strength as much as I can. A highlight is that my strength rose rapidly within the first few weeks and I'm currently at 0.8x of my peak on most movements. My endurance is still pretty poor, but I am making forward progress, which is the important thing.

The primary determinant of a cut's success is your diet. You can always out-eat any workout. My TDEE is around 2785 Cal, so I started my cut at 2450 Cal a day, with a macro split of roughly 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat. I was able to actually gain strength on this diet, but my weight loss was too slow, less than a pound a week -- very disappointing indeed. It is my hypothesis that I was retaining too much water, possibly due to dehydration (it's a very hot summer in Madison) or excessive carbs. Since last week, I have reduced my budget to 2250 Cal, with the reduction primarily coming from carbs. I'm seeing good progress with my body composition, though the weight scale is still a bit stubborn. I plan to stick to this budget for two more weeks and then cut another 100 Cal if need be.

I'm a relatively big guy and for my fitness goals, I try to eat 0.8-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight, which means trying to cram 145-180g of protein each day. This is becoming a huge challenge with my vegetarian lifestyle. Apart from eggs, all other vegetarian protein sources are calorie-rich, which blows apart my calorie budget. Hence, my reliance on eggs and natural whey powder has gone up drastically during this cut. I'm starting to believe that a vegetarian diet is not ideal for a cut, though it works fine for a clean bulk.

Outside of losing body fat, my cardio goal is to run 12 miles a week consistently by August '16, with a lot of focus on stretching and recovery. I am recovering from a mild case of shin splints, but my new running shoes from New Balance are working wonders with my running form. I hope to run a lot more this summer, coz the heart is the most important muscle of them all!

That's a quick summary of my current fitness goals, I will keep you updated on my progress.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Is a plant, an animal?

One of the objections against Veganism that my last post evoked was that 'plants have feelings too and that Vegans are shying away from the ethical implications of killing plants'. I think that's a very valid question and deserves to be examined. I took a few days to ponder on this question and at the end of it, I stand by my last post's conclusion - "It is unethical to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to a living being. However, to survive one must do what one must."

The implications of the second part of my statement should be clear - if you have no other option to survive,  apart from eating meat, you should eat meat. Not doing so would lead to wilful starvation which is a form of violence against oneself.

Now let's evaluate if eating plants is subject to the same ethical compulsions as eating animals.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Vegan dilemma - To kill or not to kill

A few weeks back, I was involved in an agitated debate with a friend on whether the consumption of meat by humans is justifiable. He was interested in this question from a philosophical/ethical standpoint, while I was interested in pushing my agenda of vegetarianism. Hence, it was not an impartial debate from my perspective. Over the course of two hours, our discussion arrived at several islands of thought such as the definition of sentience, the ability to subjectively evaluate one's environment, the ethical implications of humane meat farming and so on. For instance, we spent close to an hour arguing whether we can categorize animals on a spectrum/scale of sentience. He argued that cats/dogs are vastly more sentient than ants, while I countered that ants can collaborate and build architecturally complex ant-hills, which cats/dogs cannot.