Counting to 3,500

At the start of July, I switched the focus of my training from spending the majority of my time doing CrossFit to weight lifting. It’s part of my larger plan to get stronger by lifting heavy and eating more.

Thanks to the nature of it being summer, a big change at work and lots of stuff going on with family and friends, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

A month later, my focus has not changed but I’ve hit the reset button now that things outside the gym, especially regarding my job, have been sorted out. Last week, I hit all four days of lifting as planned, plus made it to yoga and a CrossFit class.

This week, I was welcomed into a barbell club, which I will discuss more at length later, and we’ve been testing 1 rep maxes in anticipation of the structured programming that we will start on Monday.

With the lifting planned and penciled in on my calendar for the next 8 weeks, I’ve now been trying to figure out my eating.

My goal is to gain 10 pounds by October and a total of 15 pounds by the end of the year. It’s an ambitious plan but the timing is right and it’s what I need, combined with the weight lifting, to increase my overall strength to make me more competitive.

The key is to increase the total number of calories I consume everyday. The target number is 3,500.

Most of my friends from the gym think this problem is an embarrassment of riches. They seem envious of this challenge and want me to just chow down day and night on burgers, fries, cake and cookies. However, I’d like to take a healthier approach to this weight gain. Ideally, I would like to bulk up following the precepts of Paleo.

The exceptions to the Paleo rules that I am willing to more readily make are to continue taking whey protein isolate and allowing myself some dairy (i.e. chocolate milk). This might be too idealistic and too difficult to maintain; and I will admit that this first week I broke a lot of my own rules to get to the needed 3,500 calories.

Yet, I am determined to try and do this right by eating lots of whole foods rather than processed junk and empty calories.

One of the tools to help in this process that I’ve been utilizing, thanks to a recommendation by my friend Mike, is MyFitnessPal.

It tracks calories and, while used by many to aid in their weight loss goals, it can be used for gains. It’s free and is accessible online and as a SmartPhone app The main feature is a food diary.

There is a huge database of raw ingredients and brand name foods and restaurants to pick from (or you can manually enter your own) to fill out your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

It shows you the total number of calories, carbs, fat, protein, sodium and sugar in each item.

I started tracking my calories last Friday and the daily goal in the app is only set to 3,360. Ideally, I’d like to consistently hit my 3,500 but it is tough.

I am not used to eating this much and now struggle with the constant feeling of being too full and that I might throw up. I am trying to combat this by spreading out my food intake. Here’s a look at how I did on my first week:

As you can see, I’ve been falling short of my 3,500 everyday but overall I am eating a lot more than I usually do so far in this first week .

In addition, I purchased a scale to do a weekly weigh-in. I’ve been told that there can be some variation from scale to scale in terms of a person’s definitive weight and that the best scales are the old-school ones used at the doctor’s office.

Knowing that, I am going to use this scale as my only source of measurement. As of this morning, I weigh 177.0 pounds after my first 7 days of counting calories.

While some may argue that the true measurement of strength will be on the bar, I believe tracking my weight will help me get a better sense in the short term if I need to adjust my calorie intake.

So what am I eating? Well it has varied a bit due to eating out quite a few times as I was on a two-day business trip and some social engagements.

I’ve gotten lots of great recommendations from my friends once they moved past suggesting cake. Here is a list of my favorite calorie-heavy Paleo foods that I am using in my bulking efforts to-date:

  • Almonds (1/4 cup) – 170 calories
  • Banana – 110 calories
  • Bacon – 40 calories per slice
  • Egg – 78 calories
  • Strip Steak (12-oz) – 468 calories
  • Sweet potato – 112 calories
  • Sunflower Seed Butter (2 tbsp) – 200 calories

So what do you think I should be stocking my refrigerator and pantry with? What healthy, nutrient dense foods do you recommend I pack in my lunch box everyday?

Leave your best advice in the comments section below. In the meantime, back to counting.

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