HIIT day – and the struggle to workout

It’s been a while since I last did HIIT  (high intensity interval training). It was my best friend when I first started to shred weight 3 years ago. Those 20-30 minutes crazy all-in workout works like magic for me, boosting my metabolism, and crazily efficient in burning calories and post-workout-burn.

This morning, after waking up at 6:20am, I struggled in bed for quite a while, debating if I should get up and do it. I know I should since I skipped gym for a few days recovering from the cold, feeling weak. But even after I dragged myself up and tuned to fitness blender channel to find the HIIT program I want to do, dreadful of the ‘cruelness’ of the HIIT workout, I lay down again… Giving myself all these excuses not to proceed…

Anyway, after 20 minutes of mental struggle, thinking about the friends who have been keep up at my weight loss program, thinking about my promise of change after 8 weeks, I finally pushed the ‘start’ button for the youtube HIIT program.

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Oh boy, it’s not easy. The  20 minutes seemed like forever… But I managed it. Afterwards, the familiar feeling of accomplishment after stepping out of shower overwhelmed me. The feeling of getting something done even before the family waking up made me happy (despite the struggle at the beginning). No one says the journey of exercise is easy, but it’s the rewards, the improvement of life quality, the improved capability, the increased energy level, and the gratitude for a healthy body that keeps us going.


My usual meals

Quite a few friends were asking me to post my meals. It’s actually a bit embarrassing for me to do so. Cause although I know a lot of what to eat, what are the right food, how much I should eat, and what macros I should be eating, I don’t usually do that in reality…

First of all, I do not count my calories. Not during my 1st transformation, not for this one. I should say, I know macro nutrients distribution in the food more than average people. I can estimate food portion and calories 70-80% accurate. When I look at what I eat, what I thought is not its tastiness but calories and macronutrients, subconsciously. So, even though I don’t count, I usually have a rough idea of how much I  have put into my body. And since most of my meals consist of whole food, I used my fullness as the guideline.

But for newbies in fat loss, without the knowledge of food, I highly recommend to record your food for at least a week. After one week, you should have a pretty good idea of how much we usually eat, and adjustment can be made from there. One month of food log would be even better. We are what we eat. The more we know about what we put into our body, the better.

2nd of all, not all my food is healthy. I eat junk snacks as well. I eat out, have desserts once in a while, and like to have a drink sometimes. I enjoy fat pork bellies and Peking ducks. But most of the time, I ate consciously, and compensate in other meals accordingly. And that is basically how I maintained my body fat low for an extended period of time, while still enjoying the good food I like.

3rd, I usually just eat the same food with the family. It’s just I eat more of the healthy choices (like lean meat, leafy veggies, etc.) and less of the non-macro-friendly ones (like pork bellies, Pizza, etc.) if not all the plates are ‘clean whole foods’ to my standards. And the other family members needs to be fed with some more delicious food than my prep after all. In that case, I don’t need to spend extra time for a separate meal which is definitely not affordable for working families.

Food is fuel. And eat mindfully. That is what we are trying for…



It’s Friday! (Gym diary 6/2/2017)

So far, the program has started for a week (counting the long hike day as the 1st)! Hooray! The weight has been under control (actually hitting 3 months low under the influence of a combination of clean diet, long hike, and portion control). And the volume of the weight training has slowly been picked up. If the weight keeps dropping for next week, I think I need to switch gear to lean muscle build instead of shredding then. =D

Since my legs and glutes are still sore from yesterday’s plyometrics training, it’s upper body day again. And here are the shoulder and arms moves for today:

DB Shoulder Press, Straight Bar Curls: 20×10, 45 bar x6; 20×10, cable 30×8; 20×9, 30×8; 20×9, 30×8
DB Reverse Fly, DB Tricep Kick Backs: 12×10, 12×12; 12×12, 12×15; 12×12, 15×11; 12×12, 15×12
Straight Bar upright row, Preacher Curls: 45×10, 30×4 + 20×6; 45×10, 20×10; 45, 20; 45, 20
DB Lateral Raise, Bodyweight Dips: 12×10, 8; 12, 10; 12, 10; 12, 10

Gym day: Leg day 6/1/2017

Finally, I managed to get the first leg day in after the 30 miler hike last Saturday. I feel I am still recovering from the cold and the hike, but got the most of the routine done. Planned to do some heavier glutes work but my squats turns out suffered. So I chose to do lighter plyo instead. So, here below is the routine:

Squats 4 sets of 10, Jump Squats (4×30 seconds): 95, 19

DB Swing Lunge 4 sets of 10, Jump Lunges 4 sets of 30 seconds:
20×6, 19; 15×10, 20; 15×10,20; 15×10, 20

Cable Deadlifts 5 sets x12, High knees 5 sets of 30 seconds:
110, 45; 110, 45; 120, 45; 130, 45; 140, 45

Cardio: Inclined walk as warm up, 10 minutes

For Food:
I am now putting all my food onto one plate before I start, and force myself to stop when the plate is empty. Along the way, I am also constantly reminding myself to eat slowly, so that I can be more sensitive to if I’m feeling full. So far so good. No overeating episode so far, and the weight is going the right direction. =)

Gym Diary: 5/31/2017

Today is the first time I was able to hit the gym with full energy after being back. Having cold was bothering me, and the long hike on Saturday was taking a toll. Especially because I was sick while hiking, I could definitely feel the body took longer to recover.

I tried to train legs at the beginning but they were still weak, even with the pre-workout caffeine. So I switched to upper body. And here is the training details:


DB Shoulder Press, Wide Grip Lat Pulls: 4 sets of 10: 20, 90;

Cable Straight Bar Underhand front raise, Straight Arm Lat Pulls with Rope: 4 sets of 10: 35, 35;

DB Arnold Press, DB Pull Overs: 4 sets of 10: 15, 15;

DB Upright Rows, Standing High Row with Rope (Face pull): 4 sets of 10: 20, 50;

Cardio: 6 mins inclined walk, 5 mins Row as warm up; 9 mins inclined walk as cool down

A brief note about food:

Eat when moderately hungry; 
Stop when moderately full. 

Long Cardio day…

I felt I need to include my last Saturday’s long hike for the record here. I have to count it as part of my shredding effort, for LISS and a bit of leg workout. =D

‘Skyline to the sea trail’, a 29.4 miles trail between Saratoga gap and Waddle Beach in Santa Cruz. It became one of my bucket list since last year, and I’ve always wanted to start from Santa Cruz instead of Saratoga gap to climb up the 2600ft elevation change.

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When the opportunity presented itself, when Joy called out for the trip, even though I was still in China, I sighed up immediately. I knew I would still be bothered by jet lag, but I know it’s manageable. In fact, some cardio in the sun would help adjusting. But I don’t know I would be so weak and caught a cold immediately after I landed, and may even had a low fever on the morning of the hike.

Has the thought of giving up occurred? Definitely. I asked my body and it told me it can probably handle it. So, I still woke up at 6:00am, got ready in 15 minutes, and met the friends in Los Gatos at 6:30am as planned.

With my weaker body than usual, I lagged behind for the first half. My hip was not feeling right. My muscles were aching because of the light fever. Every step, I was relying more on the trekking poles. I had to constantly remind myself to engage core and glutes which were the only muscles not complaining at the time. For the first half, the motivation is to get to Big Basin Headquater, which is a mid-point, and that’s the first place I can get a car to end this suffer earlier.

I’m not sure if it’s the big lunch, or the long break I got, or the morale I got from re-union with the friends at the HQ, friends’ trust and encouragement made me continue walking for the last 16 miles. Along the way, I forced myself not to think about the long stretch, but only focus on ‘the step ahead’. ‘One step at a time. One mile at a time.’  is the sentence I kept repeating to myself. Finally, the destination is closer and closer. Towards the end, we got to observe the sunset from the hills, which is so amazing that made three of us speechless and gave us the extra boost we surely need to finish the last section.


And at around 9pm, we made it to the parking lot, and that marked our long cardio day. An estimation of 4900 calories burned for the day. Pretty awesome way to jump start my fat-loss journey I would say. =)

Oh, forgot to mention, for the food part, here is a list I consumed along the way (1400 calories?):

2 protein bars
1 nut bar
1 bag of nuts (~3oz?)
1 egg
1 肉松饼 (from my China trip. =)
1.5 cuties
2 small sweet pepper
half bag of Costco Chef’s cut beef jerkey (half pound?)

Some sesame paste mix, 3 oz of beef for breakfast, and some random bites for breakfast.

After I got home, I ate a big bowl of greens, and added a few chunks of beef stew.

I did not pack sandwich for hiking not because I don’t want to eat carbs but because I don’t have bread at home … And having no time to prepare, I just grabbed whatever is available at home…

I’m back! My status now…

First of all, there’s no reason to indulge any more. Time for reality check. After all the yummy food intake, here are the numbers and the picture of ‘before’.

Weight change for the past 12 months: The average for recent is ~133lb.


Body fat measured by Skin-caliper: 21.5% (side waist, obviously, increased the most from 6.5mm to 9.5mm. Like for most people, fat always accumulates the fastest at around waist.)

Before picture (morning fasted, relaxed vs. flexed)

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So, body fat increased from 17% a month post show to 21.5%. My weight changed from 125lb to 133lb. If I can execute the diet properly without sidetrack, I should be able to lose 0.5lb per week. My goal is to get the body fat down to 20% below. So, 8 weeks approximately should do the trick, base on the fact that I am eating the right food, with the right volume.

Today is the first day. Let’s roll!

What is the ‘diet’ for weight loss?

The first step is to get rid of ‘empty calories’ and ‘junk food’ from the food list, which includes candies, cake, muffins, donuts, sweet bread, fried doughs, sweet dumplings, chips, crackers, fries, etc. Those food features high added sugar, and high fat, which does not offer much nutrients but only extra burdens to our body.

2nd step is to limit ‘liquid calories’, which includes alcohol, juices, sweet tea, soda, etc. Those drinks usually has high sugar content and contributes to liver fat. And they don’t fill our stomach as the ‘real food’.

During ‘weight loss’ time, every calorie intake is precious. We want to save the quota for the food that offers more satisfaction and make us feel full.  Leafy vegetables are highly recommended, along with asparagus, cauliflower, celery, cucumber and some other green ones.


In addition, water intake is super important. Other than the health benefit, it can also make us feel full, and helps with metabolism (like we need to get up and visit restroom more often. LOL).

For weight loss, my preferred diet is always to prioritize protein intake, and avoid food with high fat content. One obvious reason is 1 gram protein equals 4 calories, while 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories, which is more than two times than protein. The other reason is protein has a higher thermic effect, which means digesting protein burns more calories than digesting fat. Therefore, most diary items including whole milk, cheese, and yogurt, are excluded from weight loss menu.

So, what food can be included, and recommended? Here below is a suggested list from three macronutrients categories.

  • Protein: lean meat (fish, shrimp, chicken, turkey, loin, etc.), Tofu, Beans, Egg (no more than 1), Egg whites
  • Carbs: Rice, oatmeal, rice cake, yam, quinoa, black beans, ezekiel bread
  • Fat: Nuts, peanut butter, avocado
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, Kale, Orka, Bok Choy, Collard green, Asparagus, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, green beans, mushrooms, Onions, Spinach

And here below is a suggested ratio from each category. I actually would suggest to have more leafy vegetables than the picture below since the calories are low and they filled our stomach. Besides, they are great source for fiber which has a recommended daily intake of 25-30 gram.

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So, what is the plan?

For a shredding plan, calorie restriction is a must no matter how much volume of the exercise (unless, exercise time is unlimited…). And I imagine that will be my major struggle during the process. Depending on how things go, I may change the time needed or make modifications along the way if the weight loss is too fast inducing muscle loss (I doubt it though) or too slow. I will start with the training and diet plan outlined below.

For training, because I want to preserve as much muscles as possible, so I will keep at least two days of weight training (one upper body, one lower body), plus one plyo/glutes day. Besides, I will do 1 day of plyometrics/HIIT (high intensity interval training) and 1 day of LISS (low intensity steady state) which is my long hiking day usually on Sunday morning. If weight loss is too fast for the first two to three weeks, I will switch the HIIT day to upper body weight high reps weight training day. Actually, this is about the same as what I’ve been doing for the past few months.  I just need to record the moves, weights and reps for progressive overload.

As we all know, diet is the harder part, but it is almost the single determining factor for fat loss success. Shredding will not happen if the diet is sabotaged. And macronutrients distribution matters. For my last year’s bikini prep, I was having roughly 2200+ calories of intake, all ‘clean’ consisting of whole foods. Even sauce and spice were kept to minimum (I don’t think it’s necessary this time though since I’m not for competition. Not using the sauce reduced the total calories intake though.) As for macronutrients, my Protein : Carbs : Fat ratio is 46:43:11. This time, I was thinking to make P:C:F ratio as 4:4:2, or 4:3:3. Any comments? Because the days of low fat offers almost no satiety, it’s not sustainable for me. For total calories intake, since my exercise volume will not be as high as the prep (35-40 mins of cardio 6 days a week, 1 hr+ of weight training 4 days a week. ) either, I guess 2000 should be reasonable, if food is all clean. During the bikini prep last year, meal frequency is 6 times a day. But at that time, it posed a lot of unnecessary stress. So for a change, I will combine them to 2-3 meals a day. Bigger volume meals will also make me happier. I understand the meal timing could be important especially for muscle growth. But if it does not fit into our work/life schedule, it will not be sustainable. After all, the goal this time is not competition but to stay healthy. And it only works if we can do it.


Actually, fat loss should only be the short-term goal. It is the healthy life style we are shooting for in the long term. The main purpose of this ‘8 weeks transformation’ is to understand we can CHOOSE to eat healthy, stay active, and have a better life quality. During this process, we’ll stick together, learn together, and hopefully grow to a better self together. Friendship rules.


Almost heading back

One more day of staying in China. One more day of good food. And then I will head back home in San Jose, preparing for my ‘8 weeks’ transformation journey.

Knowing I will be back on semi-strict and limited calories diet for 8 weeks again, I indulged myself for the last few days. Knowing it is not the best practice, but I am in Sichuan province now! One of the cities featuring the best food in China! And I am pretty sure 99% of the food I ate here won’t be found in U.S., so why not?

Although I did not count the calories, and intentionally ignored the fact that SiChuan food has so much oil/hot sauce, I still tried to pay attention to my macronutrients intake. I tried to eat more lean meat whenever I can. Leafy veggies as well. The only concern is I cannot drink as much water comparing to the time not traveling. Also, sometimes the hotel or simply the time schedule does not allow gym time. On those days, I tried to walk more, like taking stairs instead of elevator, or simply walking faster and taking a detour to stretch the distance. I managed to walk close to 20,000 steps every day when I didn’t hit the gym. Of course there will be downside for extended time of low intensity cardio, which is boosting appetite for carbohydrate, and increased chances of joint injury (hip, knees, etc.). But, we do the best we can, and we listen to our body to adjust accordingly. I also tried to do some glutes activation at hotel room before sleep.


The life change after regular exercise is amazing for me. I gained so much energy and managed to do more every day. I actively seek ways to stay active. Although I did gain some weight after every vacation, I also was able to enjoy more food that I like without gaining TOO much. Basically, I love my life.