TRANS-forming Your Body
It’s all about the physical changes when it all comes down to it. As trans-men and trans-women, we look forward to the day that we can look into the mirror and finally see the person we’ve only been able to see in our thoughts, and the body we’ve always longed for. It takes more than surgery and hormones to achieve this though.
Working out is a necessity when you’re transitioning. It has massive benefits. For one, taking hormones drives your body into going through puberty. For those of us that have already been through puberty, there’s an annoying familiarity in the process. There’s the weight gain, the mood swings, and the horrible acne that can be even more embarrassing as an adult. Having a regular workout routine can help you to battle these side effects, naturally. Also, for those of us who plan on getting surgery, being healthy will help speed up your recovery. Who doesn’t want that?
Starting….For the 20th time
When it came to working out, I was the absolute worst. I hated it, and I would make any excuse possible to avoid it. I wanted the six pack abs, and defined arms but I didn’t want to put the work in. I’ve never been seriously over weight, but I was disappointed in myself when I looked in the mirror. I was even more disappointed that I could’t keep up the motivation to actually do something about it. The hormones with the added mood swings, didn’t help. The dysphoria also had me thinking that there was no point in even trying. Also, I had no clue on where to start.
There are so many different diets, supplements, and routines out there, so how the hell do you pick one? One moment “the experts” are telling you to do one thing, and by the time you get it down pact, they tell you about the new “next big thing” that proves your last routine to be wrong. I didn’t want to waste my time doing a routine I hated, and end up without the results I wanted.
The industry is riddled with B.S products and routines that just do not work. There is no such thing as an “easy” way to get the results you want. There are no magic pills or supplements. Actually, a lot of what they are trying to sell you can do more harm to your body than good.
I got tired of the “next big thing” and “quick fixes.” I wanted a amazing, and healthy body. By transitioning, I was creating a brand new life for myself, and with that I wanted to be completely happy in every aspect of my life and in myself. My fiancée found a book for me called “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger,” By Michael Matthews. It changed my life.
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger
This book is an amazing source of information. It takes you back to the basics before all of the clutter in the workout industry. It breaks down exactly how our bodies work and what we need to do in order to get results. The author doesn’t just tell you what you need to do, he tells you why, and backs it all up research studies. He also shows you why certain “fad” workouts don’t work, and why you should steer clear of certain products.
I am going to give you a summary of the contents in the book and my workout out routine, but first here is the link if you should happen to decide you want to buy it. I am in no way affiliated with the author. I just believe in what he has created, and want to pass on a good product that has changed my views, and habits when it comes to working out.
He also has another book that is tailored to women as well:
Going through this last link you will be able to see many of his other books. I haven’t read any of these yet, but if they’re even half as good as these two, they’re definitely worth looking in to.
First Thing’s First, Nutrition
If you want to get the right results, you need to eat right. This is the hardest part for a lot of people, especially those of us who like sugar. I was addicted to energy drinks for years! If I quit drinking them I would get an intense headache that would last all day. Research shows that sugar can be even more addictive than cocaine, so when it comes to quitting, you go through withdrawal which makes feel sick and depressed. You will get past this, and you need to! Sugar is what’s holding you back. Clean eating, and feeding your body the right amount of macronutrients a day, will severely change your life and you won’t even miss the junk.
What are Macronutrients?
Protein– A high protein diet is absolutely vital for building muscle and preserving it when you’re dieting for fat loss. A low-protein diet is absolutely good for nothing. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids, which are used to build muscle tissue. If you eat too little, your body becomes deficient and repairing muscle tissue becomes impaired. All protein is metabolized the same way, but different proteins digest at different speeds. Some are used better by the body than others.
Best sources of protein:
- Whey Protein Powder- The most popular type of protein supplement. It contains a large amount of leucine which is an essential amino acid that plays a key role in initiating protein synthesis. It can be taken at anytime, but it’s particularly effective as a post-workout source of protein because it’s rapidly digested, which causes a dramatic spike in amino acids in the blood. This stimulates more immediate muscle growth than slower burning proteins.
- Casein Protein Powder- It is digested more slowly than whey, and has a smaller spike in amino acids, but a steadier release over the course of several hours. It is great for a “general use” protein source, and is a good protein before you go to bed which helps with muscle recovery.
- Egg Protein Powder- Best for those who are lactose intolerant or those who simply don’t like eating a lot of dairy. It’s similar in its ability to stimulate muscle growth. It digests slower than casein. It has no fat and very little carbs.
- Then, of course, there is whole food sources such as chicken, lean beef, turkey, pork, and fish. Every meal should contain, at least, 30-40grams of protein.
*Stay away from soy protein. 91% of soy beans are genetically modified which has a negative effect on our bodies. It can increase the estrogen levels in men. Being a trans-man, that is something that disturbed me. Having any unnecessary spikes in hormones, during transition, can really throw your body off. It also can stimulate the growth of cancer cells in women.
Carbs– Carbs cause a bigger insulin spike than protein or fat. That is why it is attacked so frequently and why people think “low-carb” is the way to go. When you eat carbs, some of the glucose released into the blood turns into glycogen and is then stored in the liver and muscles. When you lift weights, you rapidly drain your muscles glycogen stores, and you replenish those stores when you eat carbs. By doing this, and keeping your muscles “full” of glycogen, you improve performance and reduce exercise-induced muscle breakdown.
Dietary Fat– Healthy fats help your body absorb the other nutrients, nourish the nervous system, maintain cell structures, and regulate hormone levels. Trans-fats should be avoided at all costs. They are created artificially and is added primarily to increase shelf life. Any food that contains hydrogenated oil, or partially hydrogenated oil, contains trans-fats.
Water– The human body is about 65% water, and muscles are about 70% water. Staying hydrated aids in digestion, nutrient transport, and absorption.
- Women should drink 91oz of water per day
- Men should drink 125oz of water per day
*These numbers include water that is found in food, which is 20% of the water in the average person’s diet.
*Water should be filtered and not from a tap. Tap water is starting to contain more and more chemicals such as, pollutants, bacteria, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and various types of poisonous chemicals. Bottled water also contains chemicals and is expensive.
*Also, limit your intake of sodium. The institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day and an upper limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for adults. 2,300 milligrams is equal to one teaspoon of salt, so if you like a lot of salt, make sure you’re really watching this. I use Himalayan pink salt instead.
Cutting: For maximum weight loss- With cutting you are looking to lose .5-1 Lb per week. That may sound low to you, but you need to remember that any weight loss that is too rapid means that you are losing a fair amount of muscle with the fat. If you have a lot of fat to lose, however, you may lose up to 2-3 lbs per week for the first few weeks which is fine. As time goes on, you should see that slow to a rate of .5-1 lb per week.
This program is not meant to be a “quick fix” rather, it is meant to be the ultimate fix. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for longevity here. I want a body I can be proud of, along with the perks of living a healthy life. If you’re looking to get in shape before that vacation, event, or party next month, this is not the program for you. But, that’s also why this program is perfect for the trans community. It’s all about longevity with us. It’s all about a body that we can be proud of. Plus, since transitioning isn’t the most cost effective thing; vacations, events, and parties, aren’t generally in the cards for us at this point. It’s a win-win situation, right?
Calculating your cutting diet:
- 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 1 gram of carbs per pound of body weight per day
- 0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day
*If you’re fairly overweight (30% body fat) your formula is different
- 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 0.6 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day
- 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day
Bulking: For maximum muscle gains– If you are in the 10 -12 percent body fat range, and are looking to put on muscle as quickly as possible, bulking is the answer.
Calculating your bulking diet:
- 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day
- 0.4 grams of fats per pound of body weight per day
Maintenance: For slow and steady muscle gains- You’re eating more or less how much energy you burn on a daily or weekly basis. You maintain a certain level of body fat while still making slow gains.
Calculating your maintenance diet:
- 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 1.6 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day
- 0.35 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day
Finding your daily calorie intake- The book gives a different formula to find your calorie intake but I found it a little confusing. A simple way to calculate your intake is by doing the following:
- Multiply your daily fat intake by 9 (One gram of fat contains 9 calories)
- Multiply your daily protein by 4 (One gram of protein contains 4 calories)
- Multiply your daily carb intake by 4 (One gram of carbs contains 4 calories)
- Add these sums together
- 168 grams of protein X 4 = 672 calories
- 140 grams of carbs X 4 = 560 calories
- 28 grams of fat X 9 = 252 calories
- 672 + 560 + 252 = 1,484 calories per day
I am still trying to master the art of meal packing. I actually find it harder to prepare meals for the whole week because when it comes down to the day I’m actually supposed to eat my scheduled meal, I tend to have a taste for something else. I look forward to the day that I can get this under control because meal planning is definitely the best way to go about dieting.
Tips for meal planning-
- Try to eat every 3-4 hours per day
- Each protein feeding should contain at least 30-40 grams of protein
- Eat 30-40 grams of protein and 40-50 grams of carbs before training
- Eat 30-40 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbs per 1 kilogram of body weight after weight lifting workouts
- Consider eating 0.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight 2 hours after your weight lifting workout
I know that all seems like a lot of work, but its worth it in the end, and the best way to get where you want to be.
The Right Way to Do a Cheat Day
Every one thinks that if they’re good and follow their diet throughout the week, they’re allowed to go crazy and eat whatever they want on the weekends. I was one of these people, but this book as taken me out of this bad habit because by going crazy on the weekends, you can actually gain back all of the weight you lost that week, and some.
The truth about cheat days– Leptin is a hormone in your body which regulates hunger, your metabolic rate, appetite, motivation, and libido. When you’re in caloric deficit and lose body fat, your leptin levels drop. This causes your metabolic rate to slow down, your appetite to increase, your motivation to wane and your mood to drop. When you give your leptin levels a boost, this can have a positive effect on fat oxidation, thyroid activity, mood, and even testosterone levels.
Eating carbs is the most effective way to raise leptin levels, eating protein is moderately effective, eating dietary fats has little to no effect, and drinking alcohol lowers leptin levels.
You shouldn’t do a cheat day, only a cheat meal. A good cheat meal is high protein, high-carb, low-fat, alcohol-free, and one that doesn’t put you in a large calorie surplus for the day. I know the alcohol-free part can be a little tough (for those of us who are legal to have it of course) but the truth is alcohol will not only blunt leptin production, it also will accelerate the storage of dietary fat as body fat.
Instead of a Cheat Day, Consider a Re-feed Day
By doing a re-feed day, it allows you to take a psychological break from your diet and boost leptin levels. They make you feel better mentally and physically. It can also give you an acceleration of weight loss over the following 3-5 days and it causes you to be less likely to give in to temptations. To re-feed, increase your current calorie intake by 30% and break the calories into the following macronutrient profile:
- 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
- As little fat as possible (20 grams or fewer for the day)
- The rest is carbs
*Calculate the carbs by subtracting the calories from protein and fat from the calorie intake, then divide the sum by 4 to convert to carbs.
Plan a re-feed day on a day that is followed by a training day. It’s best to train the muscle groups, that you are lagging on, after a re-feed day because the boost in carbs results in higher energy in the gym.
Alright, now it’s time to get to, what has become, my favorite part of the book. When I first started out, I had no clue what I was doing. My form and technique was completely off. I got frustrated and it became hard to commit to the workouts. Getting into an actual routine is hard. You’re essentially breaking habits that you have carried around for years and creating a whole new way of life. I struggled with it for awhile, but then, something beautiful happened. I started to see results. I couldn’t believe it. I was becoming stronger, even though, I hadn’t been putting as much effort in to my workouts as I should have been. This motivated me to work harder.
1-2 | 4-6 | 9-12 | 3-4 | 60-65 | 5-7 | 8-10 |
Train 1 to 2 Muscle Groups Per Day-
Training multiple major muscle groups in one workout is very hard when you’re focusing on heavy, compound weightlifting. Training only one to two muscle groups will allow you to give your workouts 100% focus and intensity.
Do Sets of 4 to 6 Reps For Nearly All Exercises-
This means that you’ll be using weights that allow for at least 4 reps but no more than 6 reps. You’ll be generally lifting 85% of your one rep max for each exercise. You won’t be doing any burnout sets, supersets, drop sets or anything else with this program.
Do 9 to 12 Heavy Sets Per Workout-
Regardless of what exercises you do, the workouts in this program will call for 9-12 heavy (or working) sets per workout, which are your muscle building sets that you’ll be doing after warming up.
Rest 3 to 4 Minutes in Between Sets
Sufficient recovery time in between sets is what allows you to repeat this process enough to get to the maximum amount of muscle overload to stimulate and force new growth. Basically, the point of resting this long in between sets, allows your muscles to prepare to lift your maximum amount on the next set.
Train For 60-65 Minutes
If your workouts go much longer than one hour, you’re doing something wrong. Long workouts are unnecessary and can be counterproductive. Stay focused and keep all distractions to a minimum.
Train Each Muscle Group One to Two Times Every 5-7 Days
The amount of time you give each muscle group to rest, before training it again, plays a big role in the process of muscle growth. If you don’t allow your muscles to fully recover before you subject them to overload again, it doesn’t matter how strictly you follow your diet, or routine, eventually you’ll struggle to make progress. Plus, you will feel physically worse and worse over time.
Dial it Back Every 8 to 10 Weeks
Heavy weightlifting can feel pretty brutal. It can take a lot of physical effort and mental concentration. It also puts the central nervous system under a lot of stress as well. This all leads to reduction in speed, power, and the ability to perform technical movements or exercises. The easiest way to fix this is to “refresh” your body. To do this, you either reduce the intensity of your workouts for a short period, or take a week off of the weights all together.
Chest, Triceps, Calves
Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets
Dip (Chest Variation, weighted if possible) – 3 working sets
Seated Tricep Press – 3 working sets
Calf Workout A
Back, Biceps, Abs
Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
Barbell Row – 3 working sets
Wide-Grip Pull-up or Chin-up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)
Barbell Curl – 3 working sets
3 Ab Circuits
Upper Body & Calves
Incline Barbell Bench Press – warm-up sets with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per set and 1-2 mins of rest in between lighter sets
Seated or Standing Military Press- warm-up sets and 3 working sets
Side-Lateral Raise – 3 working sets
Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise- 3 working sets
Calf Workout B
Legs & Abs
Barbell Squat- warm-up and 3 working sets
Leg Press – 3 working sets
Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets
3 Ab Circuits
Hanging Leg Raise
Flat bench Lying Leg Raise
- Do a set of weighted exercise like the cable crunch, captain’s chair leg raise, or hanging leg raise for 10-12 reps ( you can add weight by holding a dumbbell between your feet).
- Go directly into 1 set of an unweighted exercise to failure.
- Go directly into 1 set of another unweighted exercise to failure.
- Rest 2-3 minutes.
- This equals one circuit.
Calf Workout A
Standing Calf Raise – 3 sets of 4-6 reps
Seated Calf Raise – 3 sets of 4-6 reps
Rest 2-3 minutes in between sets
Calf Workout B
Leg Press Calf Raise – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Donkey Calf Raise (or Leg Press Calf Raise) – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Rest 1-2 minutes between these sets
Do 12 reps with about 50% of your usual 4-6 rep weight and rest 1 minute
Use the same weight as the first set but do 10 reps, this time a little bit faster. Rest for 1 minute
Do 4 reps with about 70% of your usual 4-6 rep weight at a moderate pace. Rest for 1 minute.
1 rep with about 90% of your usual 4-6 rep weight. Rest 2-3 minutes.
Write Everything Down!
If you can’t track what you are doing, how will you ever know if it’s working? Get a journal, take down all of your measurements and record your weight. Since this is such a slow process, you’re not going to be able to always see your changes until you have a reference. It’s the same as when you look at the “before” transition pictures, you don’t realize how much you have changed until you see what you once looked like. You might not think you’re making any progress, but when you weigh and measure yourself, you might be in for a nice surprise.
Write Down Your Goals
When I started, I was only able to bench press 80 lbs. My goal was to reach 100 lbs in two months. I was able to reach this goal in 6 weeks. Obtaining a goal you set for yourself is truly an amazing feeling, and it pushes you even more. It’s a nice to get a conformation that your efforts haven’t been for nothing, and that you are getting closer to your ultimate body goal.
Have a Food Journal
This really helps you when it comes to sticking to your diet. When you do fall off the wagon, and have to write it down, it has an effect on you. I caught myself, a couple of times, trying to leave certain “slip-ups” out of my journal until I finally realized how silly that was. Its like I was trying to lie to myself about what I ate when, of course, I already knew. Writing it down makes it official, and makes you see what you did. When you stare down at the ink that forms the words “cookies” or “cake” in your once perfectly clean notebook, you feel the shame that comes with it. A journal can help keep you in check with yourself. You can also have a family member or friend look over it as well, in order to keep you on track.
Take a Picture
This is something were all no stranger to. Take some before pictures so you can look back and surprise yourself with your progress. Sure, you might not like the picture now, but soon you’ll love it because it will show a person that no longer exists. It’ll show you how far you’ve come and how much you’ve changed, not only physically, but mentally too.
On a Final Note!
This is going to be hard. There are going to be days that you want to just say, “Forget it. I can’t do this. This is too hard.” There will be days that you’ll make up excuses for why you can’t workout, or why you should be able to eat that pizza. It’s on these days that dieting, and working out are the most effective. You’re keeping yourself disciplined, which is hard at first but when you say no to that junk food and yes to that workout, you’re reprograming your mentality. It gets easier in time. Your first day will be your worst day, that’s a given. Every time you quit you have to start right back on your worst day.
Have you ever played a game and had all your progress get deleted, then you had to start back at the beginning? If you have, you know how frustrating it is. You worked hard to get to that new level, or checkpoint, then some sort of glitch happened, and all of your hard work was reduced to nothing. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you quit. You are deleting your bodies progress and forcing it to start over. You become the glitch. Stop doing it to yourself. There’s is no better time than now to change your life.