In late July, during the final editing stages of my latest book, Plant-Based Muscle (due out in August), I was inspired to document all of my meals and all of my workouts for an entire month, to accurately record my actions and behaviors. I had a strong desire to reveal to myself, and to my community, how I really train and how I really eat, as a vegan athlete of more than 20 years. In addition to the detailed information I share in Plant-Based Muscle, I thought it would be valuable and of interest to readers to share my actions while actively finishing the book. I’ve learned from documenting my behaviors in the past that what we are truly doing with our time is not as straightforward as it seems. And often, when left to our own memory without documentation, we tend to focus on what we want to remember – the days we went to the gym, while conveniently forgetting about the times we didn’t go – or enthusiastically describing a salad we just ate, even if it was the first plate of leafy greens consumed in a month or more, and conveniently forgetting about the vegan ice cream and junk food that finds a place into our diet regularly, perhaps daily.
As an experiment to verify this assumption I make of myself and others, can you accurately answer the following: What did you eat yesterday? I mean, meal by meal, calorie by calorie, with your total end of the day calorie intake, and perhaps a macronutrient breakdown of the percentage of your calories that came from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Do you know those figures? How about your workout from three days ago? What did that look like, rep by rep, set by set, with total number of sets, length of workout, and total calories burned? Does it even matter? It matters way more than you think. If you have ever struggled with weight loss or fat loss, muscle gain, maintaining weight or sustaining adequate energy, what you’re really eating and how you’re really exercising matters a whole heck of a lot. If you don’t struggle with fat loss, muscle gain, or having adequate energy, and you’re honest about that assessment, you have a stronger work ethic and greater awareness of your actions than most, and have likely made changes and adaptations based on your observations, to put you in the position of having achieved a sustainable balance in health and fitness.
As I worked 15-hour days finishing up the two-year process of writing Plant-Based Muscle, I read over my advice, reviewed my meal plans and workouts, and realized that due to trying to make deadlines, I had been spending seemingly every waking moment proofreading, editing, and re-writing. I had stopped training for an entire week, and my nutrition program eroded into something less than desirable while I wrote the very book recommending the exact opposite. I had become a hypocrite, even if for week – or was it longer than a week? I’m not sure, it was all a blur, and I wasn’t keeping track of anything. And that lack of documentation had consequences, an outcome which I argue so adamantly in Plant-Based Muscle that happens to nearly all of us when we’re not transparently accurate about what we’re really doing in areas of health and fitness. I don’t often record every day’s nutritional intake, but it is common for me to record my daily workouts in a training journal. Having followed a plant-based diet for a couple of decades, written multiple books about the plant-based health and fitness lifestyle, written for multiple magazines, and getting certified in plant-based nutrition – among other resume-building life experiences – eating a fairly healthy plant-based diet has become second nature to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s always perfect; in fact, it is often far from perfect. And that is why every now and then I decide to hold myself accountable, open to scrutiny and feedback from the public, because I know it will challenge me to improve my own life. And I am hopeful that others can learn from my experience and find value in the lessons learned. Like everyone, I’m in a constant search for the best version of myself, and documenting my precise meals and workouts is just one way that I take a step closer to becoming my personal best. Along the way, I have found that my experiment of recording my daily nutrition and training and posting it publicly, which I have done before, has helped thousands of readers look inward, and honestly assess how they are spending the 1,440 minutes we each have at our disposal every single day.
Simply recording my own actions teaches me so much about myself, and allows me to share a behind the scenes look at the nutrition and training program of a 20-year vegan athlete. I accepted this precise undertaking less than a year ago, something I nicknamed the November Project, and I referenced it in Plant-Based Muscle. Revisiting that month-long process which inspired thousands of readers, and impacted me just as much, got me fired up to do it all over again. You see, I believe we become our own personal best when we are blatantly transparent about who we are and what we really do with the 16 or more waking hours we have each day. It’s an eye opening experience for even the most self-aware among us. As the stress of book editing started to get me down, I knew it was time for an intervention. Enter, the August Experiment. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, to put this project together, but I continuously find value in it, and thus, I soldier on.
I blogged about my November Project experience week by week, and you can review it here, starting with Week 1.
And here is a summary of my entire 4-week process I experienced in November.
While my new book is in production at the time of this writing, and seemingly weeks of 12- and 15-hour days are behind me for now, I figured this was a good time to get back to work documenting my own meals and workouts, to realign my actions with what I write about in Plant-Based Muscle. The juxtaposition of writing one thing and doing another is a bit uncomfortable, especially if there is a level of self-awareness of this truth. The fact is, we all do it in some areas of life. We say one thing and do another (think of the saying “I love animals” while eating animals, for example – a common hypocritical assertion from those who love dogs and cats but eat cows and chickens). Or we claim to have a belief system of peace and doing unto others as we would have done unto us, but our Twitter and Facebook posts and comments would suggest an opposite belief system, revealed through our actions. Reconciling our words and actions to be synergistic is no easy task, and a challenge fit to overwhelm even the most ambitious among us. But the pursuit has inherent value and merit. Making amends with myself about what I’ve really been doing with my time, coming face to face with my own reality, and making requisite changes to improve the ROI from my actions in health and fitness, is one way I plan to make forward progress during this August Experiment. My wish for you is that you come away with some actionable steps you can take to get closer to achieving your goals and becoming closer to your true authentic self.
For those unfamiliar with my November Project, (and if you haven’t clicked the links above to review the November Project), what I’ll be doing is recording the following for an entire month:
- Fluids consumed
- Body weight
- Body fat percentage
- Body Mass Index
- Blood Pressure
I’ll document this through photos, videos, and paragraph-style blogging, sharing my experiences. I don’t have any specific goals to lose a certain amount of fat, or gain a certain amount of muscle, but rather, to just be honest and transparent about what I’m doing in areas of health and fitness, hoping that my own observations will help me develop, construct, and implement new habits and behaviors that will lead to improved overall wellness.
I also want to point out that this isn’t scientific or research data. I’m not prescribing anything, or even suggesting any specific protocols. I’m simply sharing what I eat, how I train, and few other related statistics that I think readers might find interesting.
My objective is to document all of my meals and workouts over the entire month of August, and to blog about my results publicly. The goal is that I will discover habits about myself that I can learn from and develop new behaviors and habits to make forward progress in areas of health and fitness. Additionally, I will reveal to a public audience a behind the scenes look at how one particular plant-based athlete of more than 20 years eats and trains, hoping it will positively impact readers.
The experiment is to see if there are any noticeable changes in my health, nutrition, body weight, body fat, mood, or mindset over the course of four weeks documenting my daily actions.
For documentation, I will use Cronometer to track my daily calorie intake and expenditure. I will use the Harris-Benedict Equation to determine my true daily calorie needs based on my gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. I will not plan out calorie targets daily, but I will record my actual calorie intake and then compare it to my daily calorie needs. Therefore, I will not plan out meals in advance to reach a specific calorie intake target, but rather, I will eat intuitively as I have been for years, and assess what my intuitive eating looks like in relation to my true calorie needs. Then I will make changes and adaptations over the course of the four-week process, noticing patterns and habits with a summary at the end of each week. Only at that time, will I decide if I need to add a little of this, remove a little of that, change this or that in order have my actions better reflect my general goals of building muscle and burning fat. I won’t know my daily calorie intake and expenditure for a specific day until days after the fact. I will make assessments at the time I prepare each weekly recap as I reflect back on the accumulative data during that time period.
Thank you for your interest in my August Experiment and for your patience as I assemble all the information together into a presentable form to share with you.
As always, I wish YOU all the very BEST in health and fitness!