It’s been some weeks now since my family moved back to the UK whilst I see out my contract working in Germany having moved into a block of rooms similar to that of a Premier Inn, Holiday Inn or other such budget hotel. My room is en-suite and apart from bulk storage, there are no shared facilities like cooking areas or food preparation areas. I had a George Foreman grill, but having set the fire alarm off twice by using it, I was left with 4 options: Disable the smoke detector (highly illegal in communal living areas); bin it/sell it (what a waste of a perfectly good machine); don’t use it (see previous point); or use it but cook on the windowsill with the window open and a fan on ensuring the detector remains smoke free (with winter coming this option scared me). I used it for what I didn’t realise would be the last time. The water was shut off from the block so I couldn’t clean the grill, so I saw this as a sign and binned it. As a result, the large fridge freezer was only being used to hold microwave meals and cans of diet coke, both of which I’m finding I can’t afford in the current climate, particularly when I can have a 2 course lunch and a 3 course dinner cooked for me, with no washing up, for the combined cost of €4.18.
The problem is, having been unable to afford supplementation, or bulk loads of meat and now with no-where to store or cook it, I have noticed a dramatic effect on my body. For some time I have been battling with my body fat and energy levels and for a while I thought I had cracked it. I had worked out, after 12 years of dabbling with different diets, nutrition plans and exercise regimes, the perfect solution for me. I was leaning up, growing muscle and gaining more energy. Now, by being frugal with my money and being forced to seek alternatives to home cooked meals, I am left eating whatever the catering contractor deems is suitable for me, with absolutely no knowledge of what is going into my meals. The results have been horrible, particularly for someone with my goals.
For €4.18 I get a 2 course lunch and a 3 course dinner, which is great, but the contractor has been told that the food should have a composition of 60% carbohydrates, 25% fat and 15% protein. This is in order to fuel a fighting soldier and make him ready to patrol and engage the enemy, the downside is that I do none of these things, nor does anyone here. We are not at war, we are not patrolling, we are not in an area of conflict. We sit behind a computer for 9 hours a day and do 2 sessions of physical training a week. Not exactly Rambo. So this abundance of carbohydrates is at best wasteful and at worst harmful to our health. To give you an example, one evening meal had the following options: Deep fried battered fish (fried in shortening, an horrific trans fat that is atrociously bad for you); beef lasagne which had about 15 layers of pasta sheets and a table spoon of beef per serving; a steak and kidney pie with an exceptionally thick pastry; or the healthy option, sticky barbecue ribs. WTF. At lunch, everything was carbohydrate heavy, when I asked what the healthy option was, I was told the jacket potato. WTF. But it’s not all bad, there is a salad option and if you want to live on 250 calories a day, it’s a great option. There are extra boiled eggs, sheets of reformed chicken and ham, but these come at an extra cost because protein is a luxury item apparently.
Despite this I try to make sensible choices based on my goals, but I am not getting anywhere near enough calories for what I need to achieve. This is clearly evident when I had my body composition analysis conducted this week. I have lost 3% body fat, but more worryingly for me, is that I have lost 6 kilos in weight. My biceps have shrunk from 16 1/2 inches down to 15 inches, my shoulders have lost 2 inches and my chest has shrunk 1 inch. So whilst a lot of people would be over the moon that they have lost that much weight and have lost body fat, the body measurements show that I am also losing muscle mass, which concerns me. If ever I get to the point where I have a six pack, I want it to be because I a ripped, not because I’m skinny. That just doesn’t count. The food that I am eating has confirmed the importance of protein to me over that of carbohydrates, and it is clear that I do not need them. When I had complete control over what I was eating, the 50% fat, 40% protein and 10% carbs was perfect, for me.
There is nothing I can do to change this though, so I am going to have to live with it, and try to find a way to retain muscle mass as far as is practicable. As long as I am losing body fat I will be content, but I do not want to become so skinny I resemble Justin Bieber, because that just doesn’t count.