Hacking Health: A Journey to Living Longer

HackingDave
43 min readDec 1, 2020

By David Kennedy (@HackingDave)

This post is roughly 35–40 minutes to complete. That’s 35minutes to understand how you can change your life long-term without any diet and get the body you want. What is contained within this post is information I wish I had known my entire life, and information that I sorely needed going through my journey. Spend 35 minutes to understand your body, to understand and build a plan, and execute on that plan to change your life forever. Anyone can do this, anyone can lose weight and build the body they want. This is how your body works, how diets make you lose weight, and how you can create a plan without a diet to create a long-lasting lifetime of looking and feeling the way you want. Spend 35minutes to read this, at a minimum — you will be smarter on how the body operates and how you can improve on how you eat.

I also want to caveat that I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I do have a doctor and nutritionist that has helped me through this path. This is what I’ve found through research from smarter people than me that are professionals. I’m sure my feeds will be covered with you should try this and this or follow this person or read this article. More information is always great and always open to more information. What this post is about is a lifestyle that has clicked with me that both you and I can use for the rest of our lives as a template for success.

My entire life has been one massive struggle with weight. Since I was a child, I was obese and struggled with my appearance, self-motivation, energy, and self-confidence. I started off young, by age 16 I was already frustrated with myself and wanted to do better. By age 18, I decided I needed to change my life and I joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Just to join the Marines, I had to spend an extra two months in boot camp for the physical conditioning platoon (PCP) just to get me through the base level of getting to pass because I was so out of shape.

I wish I knew then, what I know today because it would have drastically changed a large percentage of my drive and motivation for the future. The only exception in my life on the weight front was when I joined the Marines. One interesting fact about the Marines is that it is a heavily structured program where you are forced to perform physical fitness on a regular basis which creates a program for you to maintain a level of healthy lifestyles. The major issue, and that a lot of people who leave the military is that as soon as you get out, most do not work out at the same interval or structured format and balloon up in weight.

Think about it, in the military you are highly active and performing physical fitness on a regular interval. You are burning thousands and thousands of calories (and eating that too). You get out of the military, and all of a sudden that level of physical fitness is gone, and your body is burning a fraction of calories that you did before. Yet, you are still eating the same way you did during all of the physical fitness you did while in the military. It’s simple math. All of this is just that, understanding the math of your body.

This guide is my experiences and what I’ve learned for my journey and what you can use to be successful in yours. This will work for both men and women and something that you can incorporate into your everyday life to be happier and healthier.

This is what happened to me. Shortly after leaving the Corps, I continued to eat excessively high calories while not working out nearly (if at all) as much as I did when I was in. This caused my body to skyrocket in weight to all-new levels. At my highest, I was 64 and weighed 315 pounds. I tried virtually every diet in existence to weight watchers, Atkins, keto, paleo, and many more. The issue with diets, in general, is that short-term they have consistent results however making them a lifestyle is extremely challenging. This isn’t to knock those that have found a healthy lifestyle in these diets, however, what I’ve found, and statistically, most find is that diets are not long-term solutions for weight loss.

Ever make a pact with yourself that you are going to the gym starting January? By March you are back to your old habits, the fad diet you were on has failed and while you may have had some initial results, you are tired of the same old boring things day in and day out and you revert back to your normal routines. From what I’ve learned, what if I told you that you can still enjoy the things you like but all within a way that structures your life in a way that allows you to get the desired results that you want but also make this something that you can do for the rest of your life, not just a snapshot in time.

The section that is the fundamental most important section you can read in this entire post is the nutrition section. Everyone talks about it, but I never understood why it was so important and how the science behind everything worked. Once I understood this, it was a complete game-changer for me and my life. I can’t emphasize this enough, if you read only one part of this blog, read the nutrition section because it is the single biggest impact you can have in your journey to have the body you want.

Remember, this is not a sprint. It has taken multiple years for you to get to the state you are in now. It will take time for you to get the desired results of where you want to be. Stay motivated, stay strong, and don’t use anyone else’s baseline for you. Your body is yours and reacts differently than anyone else. You will get frustrated, you will feel defeated, you will have set-backs, you will get injured. Push through all of that, and make yourself better.

Don’t quit.

If you are interested in some health tips and a primer before reading this, check out the recent Twitch Stream with Second-Order Chaos talking about a lot of these concepts and health. Great Twitch stream with Bryson, Danny, and Russ on hacking health.

Part 1: Everyone Has A Different Journey

Everyone’s body is different and things that work for one may not work for others however everyone has the same makeup on what makes a difference and that's calories. Calories are the fundamental most important tracker for you and your body. Without an understanding of what you are putting in your body, you cannot baseline how much your body needs and what you need to drop weight, sustain weight, or gain weight. For me, my journey is very different — in 2013, I had tried everything. I was morbidly obese, I had heart surgery for A-Fib due to my weight, I was pre-hypertension, and I knew that if I didn’t make a change and soon,

I would not be there for my kids. My energy levels were at an all-time low, I was depressed about my weight, and had tried every single diet known to man including excessive cardio and exercising. This worked for a bit, I would lose 20 or 30 pounds here and there, but then add 40 right back on and revert back to my old self. I tried everything.

I was defeated.

Finally, I had enough. I decided to get a gastric sleeve bariatric surgery which severely limits the amount of food your stomach can hold. This was largely successful for me in losing weight and gradually went from 315lbs down to 185lbs. The situation for me was not good, and I had to make a change in my life. Had I known then, what I know now, I probably would not have needed to go through this surgery. I am glad I did it for my health, family, and energy however what a gastric sleeve does for you can be accomplished through other methods that are much less extreme.

A sleeve limits your caloric intake because it shrinks your stomach substantially. You can’t overeat thus reducing your caloric intake and dropping weight because your body is in a direct caloric deficit. This key concept is fundamental for anyone to get the results you need to lose the weight or form your body in a way that you want. Again, calories are everything.

Years after my sleeve, I noticed myself gaining weight again, and jumped all the way up to 220lbs and rising. A sleeve isn’t perfect, and it can be circumvented as the stomach expands again, and I found myself in a dilemma where I didn’t want to go back to the same way I was before. I had to again, make a change. Even if you are “eating healthy”, you can absolutely gain weight and still not lose anything because your calories are in excess of what your body needs to shed the weight in a caloric deficit.

I started down the path of dieting. I did Keto at first, then switched to intermittent fasting. Then I started incorporating cardio and lifting. Sound familiar? I had some initial results, but eventually gained it right back again and right back up to 220lbs. Even with IF, I was holding true to my eating windows, and I wouldn’t lose any weight. At times, I would gain weight.

Frustrating.

Why did I mention my surgery and my struggles? Because my journey is vastly different than yours, versus another person, versus another. What you will learn here has nothing to do with my journey through surgeries or health problems. Everyone has their own issues that they have gone through, and the reasons they are where they are at now. Just recently, I injured my back which set me behind a couple of weeks then shortly after sprained my ankle. Needless to say, I was frustrated but I couldn’t wait to get back at it. My mindset is there, and I’m locked into making myself better more than I ever have before in my life.

This post is meant for everyone, regardless of your own situation. We are all different, and our lives are different. This is how your body works, and how you can hack it into getting to where you want to be for the rest of your life.

In the next section on nutrition, I’ll break down what you need to do in order to lose weight, gain weight (muscle), or stay at a certain level once you hit your desired goals. For me, I am at a point where I know my body better than I ever have my entire life, what I can eat, what I can’t, and how to go and grow to the spots that I want to as a person. It’s all about fine-tuning and perfecting how your body operates.

Part 2: The Most Important Part. Nutrition.

Our body uses things in different ways. Let’s take the Keto diet as an example. What Keto is doing is severely limiting carbohydrates so that our body turns into a fat-burning machine. The way that Keto works is through a method called Ketosis which when your body goes into a deficit of carbohydrates, it uses fat as a primary source of burning for energy. Protein also is used as an energy source once the fat methods are exhausted. That’s what most people want right? To lose weight and get to the desired goal that you have in mind. When you eat high fat and high proteins you also are full faster versus pounding carbohydrates which if aren’t used for energy burn turn directly into fat.

Keto is a great way to shed pounds, and some have succeeded in making this a long-term lifestyle change. Regardless of how you slice Keto or other diets, what is happening is putting your body into a caloric deficit. Since you are fuller faster on Keto (fats and proteins make you fuller quicker), you aren’t taking as many calories and your body uses its stores of fat to lose weight. You can still overeat and not be in a caloric deficit on Keto.

Regardless of the diet (Keto, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, etc.) you are on — diets can be great for short-term fast weight loss. Long-term sustainability becomes extremely difficult on these diets and most folks resort back to their own ways or often go to cheat days (which are often trigger foods) and eventually lose the battle. Let’s dive into the diets though, notice what I said before about caloric deficits. You are putting your body into a caloric deficit. This key concept is the fundamental concept to understand about changing your entire lifestyle and success to long term weight loss, weight gain, and muscle building.

A lot of people have had great success with intermittent fasting (IF). The concept here is to only allow your body to eat during certain periods of time and time windows. Some people fast for 24 or 48 hours to kick-start the metabolism and used it as a detox for the things we put in our body. Other’s limit themselves to certain time windows to eat for example 12 PM to 6 PM and cannot eat at any other time. IF is still a method for limiting how many calories you are placing in your body creating a caloric deficit and thus allowing for sustained maintenance or weight loss. With IF, you should be tracking your daily caloric intake, and you can still absolutely overeat and not lose weight with IF.

There is nothing wrong with diets if you can stick to them, or want to leverage them for short-term faster weight-loss. Again, some people live their entire lives in diet mode and these diets provide a good structure for them. I never had success with long-term diets. You should have a plan and strategy once you come off of those diets so that you don’t gain all of the weight back that you fought and worked so hard to get.

Calories allow us to understand how much our body needs to burn as a number that either A. causes us to gain weight, or B. causes us to be in a deficit thus losing weight. The terms “starvation mode” and “storing weight” is garbage, ignore them. If your body is in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. If you aren’t losing weight, you aren’t in enough of a deficit to lose the weight. The more deficit you have, the more weight you will lose. We will start talking about macro breakdowns here shortly however, the overall concept for any program is that you need to know what your body uses in calories a day.

There are two key terms to understand for your body in order to understand where your body is. There is Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the number of calories to sustain your life day in and day out. This is the bare minimum of what your body needs to survive. This is the number of calories you must have in order to live your normal day. Notice I didn’t say high energy, muscle building, or anything else. This is the lowest form of caloric intake you need for your body.

The second term is called Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). TDEE is used to understand how many calories you burn per day and understanding your BMR and using a multiplier to figure out based on things like cardio, weightlifting, walking, or other activity through the day your total calorie expenditure you use. Most think in order to lose weight you need to do rigorous cardio. What is happening in cardio is you are burning calories which increases your daily caloric deficit which allows you to lose weight faster.

Check out this quick video on a breakdown of TDEE and how to use a TDEE calculator and some other great basics:

If you shrink how many calories your intake, you are effectively doing the same thing without needing to do cardio. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do cardio. Cardio is fantastic for your body and helps with your overall health and endurance, however, you do not have to do cardio to lose weight. In fact, when you are first starting off, it may be beneficial to focus on caloric deficits and how much you are eating versus trying to pound cardio and eat the same amount of food as you normally do.

To understand where your BMR and TDEE are at now and where you can grow to, visit the Dad Body calculator here (has both male and female options for calculator):

Here is an example for me. I’m currently age 38, 64 199lbs, and lift weights 5 times a week. I do cardio 3 times a week which is considered high-intensity interval training (HIIT) which is more short bursts in a circuit training (Orange Theory). In addition, I get 10,000 steps a day at a minimum. My BMR is 1924 calories (my basic levels to live) and 3600 calories TDEE or how many calories I typically burn a day.

My BMR and TDEE are automatically calculated based on my height, weight, age, and activity levels.

Now let’s take a look at what we want to do. If we want to lose weight, we need to be in a caloric deficit which means that I shouldn’t be eating 3600 calories a day. For me personally, I don’t want to lose weight, but I also don’t want to gain fat. I want to build muscle and lose fat. This is a difficult process because your body needs enough calories and most specifically protein to gain muscle and support the energy levels in order to gain muscle. I have to balance the number of calories I intake to do this.

A pretty accurate calculator to figure out desired results can be found here:

For standard weight loss, you should expect 1 to 2 pounds a week. This is a long-distance run, not a sprint. If you are much heavier, you can expect initially a bit more as your body starts to shed weight. Remember, the more caloric deficit you are in, the more you will lose. Here’s the gotcha. If your goal is to build muscle and shed weight, you cannot go to extreme weight loss because you will eat away at your muscles. If your goal is weight loss, you can always shed your weight, then work on building mass afterward.

For my body type, here is my breakdown:

Note that this will change for you based on your activity levels and measurements.

Where I’m currently at weight-wise is my caloric intake is on workout days at 2450 calories. On non-workout days, I am at 2100 calories. My goal isn’t necessarily to lose weight, but remember I am also gaining muscle. Here is a comparison of fat to muscle size-wise:

Image Source: https://baltimorefishbowl.com/stories/weekly-wellness-tip-by-fit-for-you-a-pound-of-muscle-vs-a-pound-of-fat/

While I’m on a caloric deficit, I still intake a substantial amount of protein (we’ll talk about macros in a few), which allows me to gain muscle while losing fat and maintain the same average weight (+- 5lbs). By understanding your body, what your calorie needs are and your BMR and TDEE, you can start to develop a plan of what you need per day in order to lose or gain weight. Every weight loss plan regardless of diet is restricting your calories and putting you into a caloric deficit in order to lose the weight. The bigger the caloric deficit, the more you will lose weight. You cannot have consistent weight loss or maintenance once you hit your desired weight unless you understand your caloric intake.

If you are looking to gain weight, you shouldn’t be anything more than 15% bodyfat. You hear bodybuilders talking about bulking and cutting. Bulking shouldn’t be performed if you have a body fat ratio of 15%. If you are under this, bulking is the right way to go. This is by drastically increasing your calories to a caloric surplus and incorporating weight lifting routines in order to build body muscle. You inherently will also create body fat as well however eventually when you hit a certain desired goal muscle wise, you can put yourself in a small caloric deficit to reduce body fat and get that ripped looking body you always wanted.

There’s a lot of studies that show when you increase your caloric intake to a surplus you build substantially more fat than muscle. A lot of experts on this subject are saying you can cut and build bulk muscle at the same time and without the need to fatten up in a caloric surplus. Instead being in a slight caloric deficit and ensuring enough protein to protect and build the muscles works fantastic.

Another topic to mention here is that the caloric deficits are recommended numbers. You will adjust these over time based on how your body is responding. Cutting 50 calories here or adding 50 calories there based on your weight and objectives and goals. It’s also important to note that you do not need to hit your caloric intake values every day, if it’s late at night and you still have 400 calories to go, don’t pound food before bed. Stay in an even more deficit, that’s a good thing. The only exception to this rule is protein. If you are on a high protein diet, protein protects your muscles and supports muscle growth. Keep up with your protein numbers but skip the carbs and fats if you aren’t there for the day.

If you do one thing out of this entire post, please please please count your calories from here on out. It’s not hard, it’s not a huge burden, it’s a change but one that will change your life.

Part 3: Macros, Muscles, and Counting Calories

This section here was always something that I never understood. I mean not at all. I wish in school or the Marines, or personal trainers focused solely on the previous section and this next section here because it’s literally the foundation of how to live your life. This is where we throw out all diets completely, and we now focus on how to eat for the rest of your life. This program here will completely give a structure to you on how you can get to a point that you are happy with and understand what’s actually happening to give you a template to build off of. In the previous section, we learned how to understand what our body needs, and in order for us to lose weight what type of calories we need in order to shed a pound or two per week. Now let’s talk about how you actually do this.

First, if you are committed to this and this is something you are going to do. You absolutely, I repeat MUST and absolutely need to count calories. You need to count everything you put in your mouth. If you cannot do this fundamental thing, you will not be successful for the rest of your life. You need to log every aspect of calories you do or again, you will not be successful. If you don’t know how many calories you are putting in your body, you cannot baseline your body and understand why certain things are happening. I use MyFitnessPal which is pretty much the de-facto for counting calories. It has the most comprehensive list of foods you eat on a daily basis and you can do things like scan the barcodes to automatically generate the calories for you. If you do one thing for yourself, it’s switching to something like this to understand your body.

Last thing I’ll say here to re-emphasize, if you do not count calories, you are not investing in yourself and making the right changes in your life for long-term goals. If you can’t do this one simple lifestyle change to understand how much you are putting in your body, you can’t expect long-term and life-changing goals for the rest of your life. Put in the time and inconvenience and log your calories.

A quick walkthrough of MyFitnessPal and an introduction to macros is important. Macros are the breakdown of the foods you put in your body. The simplest way to look at this is macros are broken down into three categories (a good breakdown:

Carbohydrates: Carbs are not bad for you. They are energy. They are what your body uses to produce the high intensity you use for workouts or to help you go through the day. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. The issue with simple (things like sugar, donuts, candy, etc.) is that they flood your body quickly with a “sugar rush” and are immediately turned to fat for what you don’t use. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand take longer for your body to breakdown and slowly release energy for your body. Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, corn, and potatoes are all examples of complex carbs. A good read on complex vs. simple can be found here:

Fat: Fat is an important part of your diet and necessary for your body. Fat is used and broken down into fatty acids and used by your body’s cells. The issue with fat is that un-used fats are stored in fat cells which have an unlimited capacity for storage. Our body can store unlimited fat (which is our problem). Having fat in your diet is important however, you don’t want to go overboard here as it’s directly used to store more fat. I try to limit my fat intake as much as possible however not completely eliminate as fat is essential for the body’s cells.

Protein: Protein is the key to all of this. In anything you do, you will want to maximize high protein and balanced carbs and fats in your diet. Protein is the building block of muscles and is broken down into amino acids which are directly used throughout our entire body. Protein is absolutely essential in protecting our muscles. If we are in a protein deficit, the body will eat away at our muscles for additional energy sources and will lose all of the work we’re putting into building muscle and losing weight.

A quick calorie breakdown:

1g of protein = 4 calories

1g of carbs = 4 calories

1g of fat = 9 calories

Now we know macros are broken down into three categories, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You can still sneak in foods that you love to enjoy as long as it fits within your macro breakdown. For example, you can still sneak in a donut or a candy bar or other things as long as it works within your macro breakdown list. Why are macro breakdowns this important? To plan your day for eating the way your body works. For example, in order to balance weight loss or to build muscle and lose fat, we need to protect our muscles, while ensuring we are in a caloric deficit. If you are, let’s say 300 pounds, 6’4, and you used calculator.net to calculate how many calories you need. For extreme weight loss, you need to eat around 2400 calories per day with moderate exercising. There is a great nutrition calculator of your breakdown of macros for desired results here:

Here you can specify what you want to weigh by a certain date, and it’ll break down your macros and calorie count for you. I would recommend eating more meals throughout the day, this allows you flexibility in how many calories you consume, and when you may be eating too much or less, you can balance that throughout the day based on the meals. Below is an example of a specific plan based on weighing 300lbs and the breakdown of macros that you should be eating per day to hit desired results:

Here we can calculate our current age, weight, and height and use this to calculate our goals and objectives for weight loss including our macro breakdown of foods.

In this example, I could still go higher protein. The way that I typically look at macros is to take your total calorie amount used from calculator.net on desired weight loss (or gain) and break macros down into 40% protein, and the other 60% however you want. Be careful with too many carbs as the unused will go directly to fat stores. A good split is 40% protein, 35% carbs, 25% fat. This will prepare you for when you hit your desired weight, and how you should be eating. A recent study has shown that high protein intake directly equates to people feeling fuller, more increased energy, and increased fat loss.

In order to hit these desired breakdowns of macros and caloric intake, you need to track all of the calories that you eat. Every single thing you put in your mouth, and as accurate as you can get. We will dive more into MyFitnessPal and how to do this in-depth in a dedicated section towards MFP later in this post. I want to emphasize that the biggest thing you can take away from this right now is logging your food and caloric intake. This will allow you to understand how many calories you consumed and keep you within a caloric deficit to lose the weight that you need. Then placing things like cardio and weight lifting can even further increase the process much faster.

Once you hit your desired weight and you want to start building muscle and balancing fat loss for muscle. The rule of thumb is 1g of protein per pound. For me, I consume around 200g of protein per day (at a minimum) and then sprinkle in carbs and fats for the other percentages of macros. I track all of this through MyFitnessPal on a regular basis.

For this example of protein breakdown, this is when you are at a point where you’ve had consistent weight loss, and you are at a point now where you want to start shedding fat and build muscle. There are routines for gaining mass and “shredding” which are more drastic, for me I’ve found a good balance in this routine in order to maintain and grow muscle mass while reducing fat. I stay at a consistent weight and notice remarkable differences in muscle size, increased strength, and body appearance. For me, this is the “tuning” phase of my body where I am continuously adjusting based on where my body needs certain nutrients and what is needed in order to gain more muscle.

200 grams of protein may seem like a lot of protein. My typical day will start off with a high protein and complex carb meal, especially if I’m about to workout (more on this later). It takes a couple of hours to digest complex carbs, so if you need something quick banana or apple can help provide some immediate energy. Often times at night, I’ll consume carbs, so I have a decent store for the morning if I’m working out early. Throughout the day, I focus on getting as much protein as possible. This can be supplemented by protein shakes to hit the desired number. One other area to mention is that our bodies can typically only consume 25–30 grams of protein at a time, so if you are doing more, it’s being wasted and typically not absorbed into the body. Per sitting, you typically want 25–30 grams of protein per meal. If you eat 5 meals a day, that’s 150 grams of protein. Throw in a protein shake or two or other snacks that are high protein (Greek yogurt, jerky, etc.) you’ll easily hit that 200g mark.

Most people recommend stick to 70% of whole foods to get your nutrients and 30% of other things to keep within your macro calculations. One last area for a tip, consume more water. You can calculate how much water you drink here, but as a rule of thumb — you can always tell by how you use the bathroom and how frequently. If your bathroom breaks are more on the lighter color side, you’re doing a good job.

Here’s a calculator for water intake:

For me, my lifting routines are typically an hour and a half to two hours per day and at a minimum 10,000 steps a day. In addition, three times a week I mix in cardio which lasts one hour.

Water intake amount specifically for me, yours will vary based on activity and weight.

That means I need to consume around 156oz of water per day. Which is around 1.2 gallons of water per day.

Part 4: Sleep

Your body needs sleep in order to repair itself. This was one of the most challenging things for me when I started this process. I get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night now, but on average I am getting 8 hours or more. Sleep is one of the biggest things you can do lifestyle change wise to help your body repair. Without it, our mind and body do not function at a normal rate and will start to decline short, mid, and long-term.

It’s important to track your sleep on a daily basis and keep a journal of it. How well do you feel that day? What was the sleep like the night before? For computer security folks, lack of sleep is usually a badge of honor for us because we spent the entire night doing research or coding something amazing. You can still do all of that, but incorporating regular sleep routines into your life.

In addition to sleep, another big area in the computer security industry is alcohol. Cut out as much alcohol as you can. Recovery is drastically reduced when drinking alcohol and your body has a tough time repairing itself. A quick read on the effects of alcohol and your heart rate and heart rate variability can be found here:

Sorry, but alcohol should be enjoyed in moderate settings and infrequently if you are looking to live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve personally cut out all alcohol and haven’t had any in over 6 months (including bourbon).

Summary here, track your sleep, cut back on alcohol, and make sure you are getting enough sleep for your body to recover.

https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/intimate-relationship-between-fitness-sleep/#:~:text=Sleep%20gives%20your%20body%20time,the%20body%20produces%20growth%20hormone.

Part 6: Counting Calories Primer

MyFitnessPal (MFP) is probably one of the easiest things to do. You can set your goal percentages in the app as well as track everything you do. What I do, is right before I eat something, I enter it into the app first, then eat. I also try to plan my day if I can on what I’m going to eat, but that isn’t always necessary. Here’s a breakdown of how to track calories in MFP. I would recommend getting the Premium version as it allows you to set goals and set calorie intake per day. Makes all of the math a lot easier.

Each day you start, MFP creates a new day for you to start with. Notice this screenshot, it is at the end of the day and after I’ve hit my calories for the day.

Here we can see my meal breakdown as well as calories for the day and remaining count.

In here, I’ve hit 2303 calories with a goal (in this example of 2450). It doesn’t need to be exact and if you are a little over or a little under, it isn’t going to drastically impact your numbers. If you want to add a new food that you are going to eat, hit the plus icon in the middle:

Options to add food, exercise, water, and more.

Here you can track your exercises, water intake, weight, food, and more. I personally only use MFP for tracking food however if you want one central app for tracking everything, it’s great for that also.

Keeping track of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks is important to understand your eating habits.

Once you select food, you can use it as a snack, dinner, lunch, or breakfast.

Here we can see the things I normally eat, or I can search for others.

It saves the common foods that you eat on a regular basis so you can quickly select things you normally eat. There’s also a plus sign on the top right that allows you to quickly add things or scan a barcode of food you have.

Here we have a few options, create our own, scan barcode, quick add, and more.

If you click on where the calories are, it’ll show you your macro breakdowns through the day also which is beneficial to see where your goals are:

In this example, my goal is 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat.

Notice here, I’m pretty spot on, my goal is to get 200g of protein a day, and my carbs and fats are broken evenly at 30 percent. Even if you are losing weight, I would recommend focusing on a higher protein diet versus carbs and fats. One thing to note, at first when you start this diet, your weight may stay the same or EVEN GO up. This is NORMAL. Give it a couple of weeks and adjust accordingly. If in two or three weeks, you are still gaining, then cut your calories by 100, and modify as necessary. Only do small increments, don’t do anything drastic. Protein takes a substantially longer time to digest which means you’ll be keeping more in your body. One other quick tip ensures you are getting enough dietary fiber on high protein diets or else your bowel movements won’t be that great.

That’s basically all I use MFP for and makes it easy through the day to add what I’m using. Note that if you are eating out, it might be difficult to get exact counts however a lot of websites post their caloric intake, as well as there, are generic foods you can search for and get in the same realm. Again, if you are off by a little bit — it’s not going to make a big difference.

Part 7: Walking and Steps

It’s important to incorporate things like steps into your daily routine. Every single day you should get in steps and track your steps. Moving around helps your body repair as well as shave additional calories. Walking is fantastic for you and easy to do! I recommend at least 10,000 steps a day as a goal and tracking that. There is a free app on iPhone Pedometer which you can use to incorporate into your Apple Watch that will track steps for you as well as other fitness trackers like FitBit. Steps are an important part of you being active, and just as an example, an hour-long walk can burn more than 300 calories putting you further into your caloric deficit.

Track your steps and make sure you are hitting at least 10,000 steps a day!!! I can’t emphasize enough to hold yourself accountable for steps. They are a pillar of your overall success program and lifestyle change. 10K steps can be accomplished in an hour or an hour and a half depending on how fast you move. Cut some time out for yourself, get a treadmill, or if it’s nice outside, enjoy the weather. I love going to the local parks and just enjoying nature and the sounds. It’s extremely meditating for me and I come out substantially more relaxed and healthier.

Get your steps in!!

Part 8: Wearable Technology

I’m personally a huge fan of Whoop. I like fitness wearables because they provide a substantial amount of information about your body as well as how well of a recovery you have had. Whoop tracks things into strain and recovery. The strain is how much strain you put your body through a day, and the recovery is how well your body is rested in order to introduce additional strain (workouts) for your body. It helps prioritize how hard you should be pushing yourself and bases it on a number of factors including heart rate, resting heart rate, heart rate variability, hours of, and sleep.

On sleep, sleep is so important for your body to recover correctly. You need at least 7 hours of sleep a day in order to properly recover. Make sure you are getting enough rest through the day, especially if you are doing strength training or cardio. Sleep is paramount for a sound body and mind!!

Here are a couple of examples of Whoop and the stats you can understand about your body; these are all great to track over time:

My total sleep time and sleep disturbances.
Recovery plays a big role in how well our body is ready for exercise and our intensity.
HRV and RHR are great indications of how our body is doing.
Strain shows us how hard we’ve worked out for the day.

There’s a number of wearable technologies out there, not saying you should use Whoop, it’s just one that I love and have incorporated into my daily activities and wear every single day. If you are interested in joining Whoop, you can use my join code for a free month:

Join the #RedTeamFit leaderboard (open for everyone) and track other folks that are tracking their fitness in cybersecurity too. The code for the Whoop #RedTeamFit group is COMM-CC787C.

For me, Whoop has been a great addition to my lifestyle. Every day I wake up, I check where my recovery is and how hard I want to push myself. I log and track my workout routines and try to be my previous records (personal records also known as PRs). The leaderboards keep me super interested in what others are doing and somewhat competitive. I like to be that number one spot like today, when I worked out hard, shoveled snow, and got my steps in. Knowing more about how your body is doing, your sleeping habits, and how well you are recovered allows you to make informed decisions about what your workout routines are and what you may need to adjust.

Part 9: Pre-Workout vs. Post-Workout

Working out has a number of different purposes. Do you want to be skinny and fit? Do you want to look like Arnold? Each of these body types requires different workout routines and ways to shape and morph your body into what you want it to be. If your goal is weight loss and to be “fit”, your main goal is going to simply be caloric deficits. You can add cardio into the mix which means you are burning more calories and puts you in an even more caloric deficit to lose weight while improving your overall health.

If you want to lose weight, I recommend focusing solely on cardio until you hit your desired weight and start incorporating weights for strength. I heavily recommend checking out a pro bodybuilder named Jeff Nippard who has a ton of videos on everything weight loss and lifting and breaks down all the science on this. One of my favorite articles is building muscle while in a caloric deficit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuUh0fkmbyU

Jeff also some amazing muscle and strength programs as well as nutritional books that I highly recommend (no audible kinda sucks): https://shop.jeffnippard.com/

His YouTube channel is absolutely amazing, watch every single video of his if you can: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC68TLK0mAEzUyHx5x5k-S1Q

You can absolutely do both. If you want to incorporate weight training and cardio, you just need to ensure you are absorbing enough calories for energy as well as enough protein to protect the breakdown of your muscles. The main difference here is that your “weight loss” will be slower. It’s slower because your adding muscle mass while losing body fat. This is difficult to see progress at first, and why I would recommend investing in a measurement tool. When working out I highly recommend doing the following things to track your progress:

1. Take weekly photos both front and back of yourself. This is important to look back several weeks and show progress, so you don’t get frustrated.

2. Take measurements of your hips, biceps, quads, chest, shoulders, waist, and more to see the difference. If your biceps are increasing and your waist is decreasing but you’re not seeing a significant weight difference, this is a clear sign you are building muscle.

A cheap measurement tool can be bought here:

https://www.amazon.com/Measure-Push-Button-Retract-Ergnomic-Portable/dp/B077Z4DRMS/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=body+measure&qid=1606091096&sr=8-7

3. Track your weight daily. Some people say to do it once a week, but when you are counting calories you want to understand what fluctuations you may have had.

4. If lifting weights, keep track of your strength (how much you are lifting) and try to increase that once a week or every couple of weeks (the amount you are lifting).

I like to break things down into pre-workout and post-workout. If you are doing more cardio, you’ll burn a lot of initial carbs for energy. If you are going to work out, consume carbs a couple of hours before you go and workout. This will provide you the necessary energy — sweet potatoes, oatmeal, etc. will help you with the energy you’ll need to perform at a maximum level. In addition, if you are lifting or even doing high-intensity cardio, I would recommend taking protein before and after your workout. Especially after. Right after.

It’s important to ensure that our body has enough protein to repair our muscles from strenuous work and to ensure that it actually repairs itself. After a lifting workout, it can also be beneficial to replace glycogen as it is the main ingredient that is used when lifting weights in our body.

Here is what my typical pre-workout and post-workout diet and load look like:

Pre-Workout

· First thing in the morning I take Onnit’s Total Human multi-vitamin https://www.onnit.com/total-human/

· Overnight Oats in the morning (high protein and high carb food: https://www.oatsovernight.com/). Usually two hours before my workout.

· A protein shake 30–45 minutes before my workout.

· 20 minutes before a workout, I use a pre-workout drink (this has mixed feelings with people): https://jaycutler.com/products/prevail

· During the workout I will drink a mixture of Cutler’s Repair and Generate which contains Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) as well as glycogen to repair depleted glycogen used while you are lifting: https://jaycutler.com/products/repair, https://jaycutler.com/products/generate

· The Cutler “sour” series is super tasty and my favorite flavors for these.

Post-Workout

· Creatine: I like Alpha Lion Superhuman Post (5g of creatine a day), will take this even on days I don’t work out. 5g of creatine per day is recommended for added muscle repair: https://www.alphalion.com/products/superhuman-post

· A protein shakes 25–30g of protein no later than 30 minutes after your workout.

· At night, I will take the Onnit Total Human sleep multi-vitamin (it’s broken into morning and night supplements in each pack). I will also drink a protein shake to ensure enough protein overnight for muscle repair.

Supplements have mixed reviews and results scientifically. It’s a heavily non-regulated industry and it’s all personal preference. Some people prefer only BCAAs some people prefer only EAAs some people prefer both, and some prefer none at all. Regardless, these are all safe. This part here is largely how you feel and what you are comfortable with. I do notice a difference when taking pre-workouts and there’s a ton of them. One thing that’s a constant though, adequate-protein is highly important in workout activities.

There is no magic pill that will shred your fat away. Only hard work, caloric deficits, and dedication, and focusing on your nutrition will get you there. Pass on supplements that guarantee weight loss, that talk about new and innovative ways to shed the weight. Only caloric deficits and applying cardio and lifting can drastically change your body.

Part 10: Workout Routine and Personal Trainers

Here is an area that I would highly recommend seeking an online (or in-person) personal trainer or coach if you can. Someone that can develop programs for you and keep you accountable. I personally use an individual named Ben Canning at https://www.bc.training/. This has worked for me and has a structured program to keep me on track including tracking my calorie intake, macros, and a system designed to help show your progress over time. In addition, Ben does a great job of keeping everyone motivated and is reachable at any time. The perks of an online trainer are they help develop programs custom to you and your progress. This is an area that I was fairly weak in and having an online trainer has really helped me grow and progress over time.

For me, I have weekly check-ins and daily quick data elements I have to put in and is reviewed once a week with feedback to see where I’m at and what we might need to adjust (for example calories or other things). I can’t recommend Ben enough; I text him in the middle of workouts with questions and he immediately answers me and supports me as I gain knowledge and learn more.

Another good option is to find a support group of folks that have gone through the same journey. I was lucky to find (from a friend) a group called the “Dad Bod Transformation”, a public group on Facebook for dads that struggle with their body or are on different journeys. Really great group of folks that post their questions or progress and keep each other motivated. If you have Facebook and are a Dad or even just looking to learn from others, I would recommend the group below.

There’s a ton of resources here and people willing to help:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dadbodtransformation/

One of the big questions always asked: Can you lose weight by just lifting? Absolutely. You do not need to do cardio, however, it’s beneficial to do cardio. I would recommend both. If you just do lift routines and are in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight at a slower rate however still build muscle. Overall, when you decide to “shred” (even lower caloric deficit to melt fat off your body), you’ll look much more toned.

There are so many different types of workout routines, you’ll need to play with what works best for you. Calisthenics for example is an amazing way to get started which uses your own body weight to perform muscle exercises. Think push-ups, burpees, pull-ups, and more. There’s resistance training which focuses on working out muscles both up and down giving a max drain on your muscles.

My workout regimen is lifting 5 days a week (10–15 min cardio before to pump heart), two days on, one day off. 3 days of cardio (Orange Theory circuit training), and a minimum of 10k steps a day as a marker. Ben comes up with my workout routines on a daily basis as well as adjusting my caloric intake based on measurements and how I’m feeling and gains via the lifting routines. Everyone else can have different routines, this one is just mine.

A great breakdown of what types of movements generate the most amount of muscle and strength: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyiQw-qiv80

A great fundamental video on strength training here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN9i9Ni0Xr4&t=1102s

Understanding progressive overload for hypertrophy: https://medium.com/@SandCResearch/why-is-progressive-overload-essential-for-hypertrophy-68757329a82d

More on how to build strength and principles around progressive overload: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/progressive-overload-the-concept-you-must-know-to-grow.html

A fantastic workout routine through lifehack for beginners, intermediate, and experts that allow you to gain muscle and go to a structured program here:

One last topic here under workout routines is to properly stretch before and after your workouts. It’s important to loosen your muscles up before your workout and after to ensure you are less prone to injury and maximize your muscles flexibility for the workouts you are about to perform. I love using foam rollers before workouts and stretching hard after workouts. Foam rollers get the blood flowing to your muscles while improving mobility and recovery and tightness. I also invested in a Theragun which uses percussive therapy on the muscles. I typically use these after for sore muscle groups and helps promote blood flow and recovery much faster.

Especially for legs day.

Part 11: Trigger Foods

Trigger foods are the foods that we are weak towards that cause us to overeat or break our caloric intake. These could be ice cream, donuts, pizza, or other truly amazing and delicious foods. I would recommend that you cut out trigger foods completely out of your lifestyle. They are the main reason you are here. If you think you can manage trigger foods and only eat a certain amount that is still within your caloric deficit breakdown of macros, then by all means continue to do so. For me, my trigger food is pizza. I have largely cut pizza out of my diet and if I do eat pizza, I do it without the bread and just eat the cheese and meats on top. Seldomly and counting the calories.

Listen, we all somedays are just having a bad day and we are like screw it. We may go over our caloric deficit amount. If it’s a day or two, don’t sweat it. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t go back into your bad habits though. Go right back to a caloric deficit and counting your calories. We all mess up, we all have down days, we all do things that break us out of the cycle. The hardest thing here is not turning back to your old ways. If you break your caloric deficit, just focus on hitting it the next day and getting back on track.

Remember this is a lifestyle. There are going to be days where we have Thanksgiving or Christmas or friends over for a football game. It happens. Just remember that one day doesn’t ruin the progress and lifestyle changes you’ve committed to.

Get back on track and hop right back on that train!

Part 12: Testosterone Replacement Therapy

One thing to get tested for, especially as you get into your 30s and beyond is how much testosterone your body is producing (men). Many people are at a severe testosterone deficit and absolutely could be the reason for how hard it is for you to lose weight, gain muscle mass, and most importantly your energy levels. There are online tests that you can do to check (blood tests) where your testosterone levels are. TRT is not steroids. Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone in your body and as we get older, these levels drop significantly. By boosting them up, you can maximize your body’s ability for muscle growth, weight loss, and maximum energy levels.

A friend of mine put me onto this, and something that I never even considered. I got my blood work done and found my testosterone was extremely low for my age. As was my energy levels, motivation, and ability to shed weight. TRT has been an amazing addition to me and my overall health and something I would recommend at least get checked for especially in your 30s onward.

The process is super simple, they ship you a package, you get a blood sample, and send it back through the mail. You’ll have a consultation with a doctor, and if you are low and need testosterone due to your low levels, it gets shipped to your house on a regular basis.

All online, and delivered to your door: https://iamhrt.com/

Some great research on TRT and its benefits:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/is-testosterone-therapy-safe-take-a-breath-before-you-take-the-plunge

https://gamedaymenshealth.com/what-is-trt-a-complete-beginners-guide/

Part 13: Starting the Journey

For me, my journey was 315 pounds. Now I’m at 200. I’m trying now to build more muscle and mass and strength to fine-tune my body into areas that I’ve never seen before. I’m now in the best shape of my life including when I was in the military. It’s been an amazing transformation and something that can be done by anyone out there with enough motivation to be healthier for the rest of their life.

Before:

Dave in 2012 watching TV with some spiffy 3D glasses. 300lbs.
At a conference with some great friends, 290lbs.
Doing everything I could to lose weight. The start of my journey, 2013.

At the start of my journey, it has taken me years to lose bodyweight and to get to a certain level where I’m comfortable with myself. Most recently during COVID, I noticed myself gaining substantial weight again and it getting increasingly harder for me to lose the weight. This is when I started my new journey, and ultimately the long-term lifestyle change that I know I can do the rest of my life.

This first picture is my body week 0 (August 20, 2020) when I first started counting calories and focusing on macronutrients.

Week 0 — can see very little muscle definition and a lot of clear fat.
7 weeks later you can see muscle definition, especially in the abs and obliques.
Week 10. I still have a long road to go, but clear muscle definition in a lot of parts of my body.

I still have a long journey ahead of me and every single week I focus on making more progress. My body is far from where I want to be, but by taking pictures of me each and every week, and going back and forth, I can see clear progress. I highly recommend taking pictures of yourself once a week, both in front and back. This will help when you start to get frustrated with yourself and feeling like you aren’t progressing. Go back to week 0 or week 1 and compare yourself to now. You’ll quickly feel much better.

Remember, this is not a sprint, it’s a distance run. This will take time, and you will continue to tweak your own body as you get more familiar with how it actually works.

Part 14: How To Start

Instructional steps on how to get started on this plan:

  • Start by determining what weight you want to be (this can change over time).
  • Calculate your caloric intake that is needed for weight loss here: https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html
  • From the calculator input, use the macro calculator to get a good breakdown of your macronutrients needed for sustained weight loss. Focus on high protein: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrition-calculator#calculator
  • Download MyFitnessPal and potentially Whoop if you want a wearable tracker.
  • Get familiar with the apps, how to use them, and interact with them in your daily lives. Start by tracking your food and the calories you intake. Do not cheat yourself. Log everything.
  • Consider an online personal trainer to help you structure this and to keep you motivated.
  • Take pictures of yourself in underwear to show your legs and upper body, both front and back, and do this every single week.
  • Track your weight daily as well as other relevant data such as body measurements — upper arm, shoulders, chest, waist, quads, hips, etc (measurements once a week).
  • Start on your calorie plan and build a workout routine. Remember that cardio will put you in a greater caloric deficit at first, but less on muscle building whereas lifting will gain more muscle, but less of a caloric deficit. Combining both as well as walking is a great recipe.
  • Focus on your mindset! You will get there, be patient, and be strong.

Part 15: Wrapping Things Up

Remember, if you take away just a few things here that are the most important out of all of this, remember these key concepts. Below is a breakdown of a lot of things we already talked about as well as expanding on how to get started above.

1. Count everything that goes into your body with something like MyFitnessPal. Pay for the premium version if you can afford it in order to keep track of your macronutrient breakdowns and goals.

2. Use the calculators to determine what your body caloric intake should be for your desired results for weight loss/gain, etc. Tweak these slowly, around 50 to 100 calories at a time with pauses in between to see how your body reacts. Remember as soon as you start a high protein diet, you will increase in weight. This will balance out quickly within a few weeks. Do not freak out.

3. Stick to your macro breakdown and use this for the rest of your life. Listen, I’m not saying do this, but if you eat high protein you can still fit in things like ice cream, donuts, pizza, and other things every so often that are well within your macro count.

4. Cardio and lifting aren’t necessary to lose weight, but they will absolutely speed up the process as well as set you up for success. It’s highly recommended to do both or one or the other to speed up your weight loss process. The more cardio, the more you are in a caloric deficit (and conversely can eat). The more you lift, the more muscle you will build, and the stronger you will look and feel.

5. Stay away from your trigger foods, or only allow yourself to have them in moderation.

6. If you fall off the wagon, hop right back on again. This is a lifestyle change of how you eat for your body, not how you eat for pleasure. You can still eat for pleasure, but do it with moderation and focus on calories. Feel guilty when you eat wrong, the next day — make sure you aren’t doing the same thing by going over your calories. Caloric surplus adds up day in and day out, you want to always maintain a deficit if you want to lose weight.

7. Consider a personal trainer that can help you get where you want to and help motivate you, especially at first. I personally recommend Ben, he’s amazing and someone that keeps me motivated (https://bc.training).

I hope some folks found this useful. A lot of the information in here I never knew until I really dug into it to understand the body, how it works, and why I had always been overweight my entire life. People say it’s just “genetics” or “I’m big-boned”, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, genetics can play a part and there are people that are super skinny their entire lives and can eat whatever. You can look exactly the same or look like Arnold if you apply the right skills that work for your body.

Resources

https://www.amazon.com/Own-Day-Your-Life-Optimized/dp/0062684078 — fantastic book on health, nutrients, macros, and getting into your mindset for changing your life.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC68TLK0mAEzUyHx5x5k-S1Q

https://rspnutrition.com/products/truefit-chocolate — one of my favorite proteins.

https://www.onnit.com/total-human/ — multivitamin for day and night

https://jaycutler.com/products/prevail — pre-workout mix

https://jaycutler.com/products/repair — BCAA/EAAs for repairing damaged muscles

https://jaycutler.com/products/generate — needed glycogen for muscle depletion during lifting

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/progressive-overload-the-concept-you-must-know-to-grow.html — understanding progressive overload

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrition-calculator#calculator — calculator for nutrition

https://dadbodtransformation.co/tdee/ — understanding your total daily energy expenditure and calculate your calories

https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html — great calculator for understanding where you should be weight loss wise

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/water_calculator.htm — calculator for how much water you should be drinking

https://www.lifehack.org/688549/the-ultimate-workout-routines-for-men — great site for building lifting programs for beginner, intermediate, and advanced

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/is-testosterone-therapy-safe-take-a-breath-before-you-take-the-plunge — the breakdown of testosterone replacement therapy from Harvard.

https://gamedaymenshealth.com/what-is-trt-a-complete-beginners-guide/ — a beginners guide to testosterone replacement therapy

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HackingDave

This is the personal account of HackingDave, mostly sharing fitness stories and progress and maybe other things in the future. Not related anything security.