Everything stated on this site is, of course, MY opinion / statement / thought, unless specifically stated otherwise. You knew that.


PLEASE NOTE: I'm *slowly* combining my blogs into this single site. If you are looking for Lotus Notes content from my old site, please EMAIL me at: jrlitton at gmail dot com and tell me the link or the content you were seeking. I will try to email you the content within a day.

- Joe

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Down a pound..Arms are dead :)

Saturday is my personal weigh-in day. I'm down a pound from last week. Hopefully that's all fat, and maybe there's even a little added muscle. Regardless, this morning I did my normal Saturday workout: Body Beast "Tempo Chest + Tris". It's about an hour focused on the pecs and triceps, and doing a lot of s-l-o-w movements - push a weight up and slowly let it down. Those negative reps are killer!

To amp things up a bit, a little while ago I splurged and bought the Lebert Equalizer. I'd been doing chair dips, and that definitely hits the triceps. But doing real dips with the Lebert bars (which allows me to use full body weight for resistance) hits those poor tris so much harder! At present I find that after only 5 reps I have to put the toe of a foot from one of my bent legs onto the ground to lighten the resistence. Many years ago (meaning decades) I used to do dips with a 45-pound weight hanging from my waist. Oh well ...all things with time :)

The real evidence to me that this was a good workout was that on the final set (plank twists) it was a struggle for the arms to just hold the plank, let alone doing the twists. Ah, yes, I do believe by tomorrow the memory of this workout will be quite apparent (if the soreness hasn't begun to arrive by this evening). Bring it!


Solid mass added..time to lose fat

I want to dump 13 pounds of fat and reach 10% bodyfat. Reasons:

  1. I hate feeling a little back fat jiggle when I run. Hate, hate, hate :)
  2. My family has pretty bad heart health, genetically speaking. My dad had his first bypass operation when he was 40. In spite of "good" diet and exercise, he'd had a couple of bypass operations and a couple of heart attacks by the time he died. His dad had several heart attacks. My mom's dad died of a heart attack when in his 50's. Our family seems to be able to make cholesterol from bean sprouts. Each pound of fat lost has been shown to average a 10% increase in HDL (the good cholesterol), and exercise is the surest way to boost HDL (mine is now above 60, considered preventive for cardiac issues)
  3. I was a fat kid until joining the wrestling team in high school. I've kept fairly active ever since (with a couple of periods of exception when work or school schedules were ridiculous). I never want to have a poor self-image again.
  4. I admit to being middle aged and "they" say that it gets harder to lose fat / gain muscle as one ages. The time to get in my ideal condition is now. I've got years before I'm a senior citizen, and I want to ensure that I am in excellent condition in my later years to be as happy, healthy, and productive as possible.

The good news: I started working out hard very regularly, about 3 years ago. I lost fat, added some solid mass, and reached a point where I could fit into the clothes I wore at our wedding 30+ years ago. Since starting the Body Beast program 8 months ago, I've added 13 pounds of solid mass (as measured with our Omron body fat monitor)

The mildly bad news: Along with adding muscle, I added some fat. Any bodybuilder will talk about the phases of bulk and cut. Add muscle and then focus the workouts to keep the muscle and cut the fat. While I have zero desire to join the over-bulked bodybuilder corps, I do want to keep the solid mass and dump some of the fat.

The plan: 

  1. Continue to lift weights a couple of days a week
  2. Do a plyometric workout once a week
  3. Do one or two cardio workouts daily. This will often be a few miles on the treadmill. I'll also incorporate High Intensity Interval Training ("HIIT"), and some shorter Tabata routines.

The timeline: My target is to dump a pound of fat a week. That seems like a very moderate and attainable pace. I'll post progress here. BTW, I did a Chest & Triceps lifting routine today and hope to be able to move tomorrow :)


My favorite hombrews so far

I started homebrewing (making my own beer) in October of 2012. I've had a few experiments that yielded sorry results, but overall am extremely happy with the fruits of my labor. Here are the labels for the three beers that are my favorite of what I've brewed so far:

Squirrel Nut Ale :) ...The first batch a very tasty nut brown ale. The second batch (which I started drinking a couple of weeks ago) was improved by soaking some oak chips in a little vodka and Crown Black, and adding that for the second week of fermentation. The result is a mild oak aroma, and a litle smoother flavor / finish compared to the first batch. The top part of this image, with the curved pink lines around it, shows the "necker" - the part of the label that goes around the neck of the bottle; the larger oval is the image that forms the main label on the body of the bottle.

Beelzebub ...A chocolate coffee stout. I start with a recipe for a dry stout (similar to Guinness Draught). Then in the second week of fermentation, I add some organic cacao nibs, and a lot of coffee (1/2 pound organic French Roast, soaked for 24 hours in filtered cold water, then filtered into the fermenting beer). The result is a dry stout with a little bit of coffee scent /flavor, and a hella nice punch of coffee!

Frisky Bunny IPA ...Lots of hops. An IPA should smell hoppy, have some hop bitterness, and have loads of hops flavor, and I am extremely happy with this one!

I love the flavors of these beers, it's great fun to share them with others, and it's quite a nice bonus that the cost per bottle of beer ends up a little under US$1. Good fun, good beer, and saving money!


One-gallon brewing: rubber stopper MUCH better vs screw top

I could see that the beer was fermenting, since the glass is clear and the bubbling is obvious. But by this morning, the bubbling had all but stopped. So I prepped some more yeast and added that (which did get fermentation cranking again). However, I noticed that the sanitizer (added to the airlock) was leaking out at the base of the airlock where it meets the screw cap. That meant that I did not have an airtight seal, and that meant that oxygen could be getting into the beer, which is not good.

Obviously, my jury-rigged attempt to secure the airlock to the screw cap was not yielding a tight enough seal. So off I went to my favorite homebrew supply shop (Southern Brewing & Winemaking here in Tampa). They have a great stock of most any item a homebrewer would need. I bought three #6.5 rubber stoppers and some new airlocks. Once home, I sanitized one of the stoppers and an airlock and my hands), unscrewed the earlier cap/airlock attempt, and then pushed the stopper firmly into the top of the jug, filled the airlock with sanitizer solution to the marked fill line, and inserted that into the rubber stopper. It was immediatly clear that this was the way to go, as CO2 started venting through the airlock within seconds. Whew! I do believe this batch is saved :)

Here's how the one-gallon batch is looking now:

I feel much better.

Cheers :)


Gluten Free Beer: experimenting with one-gallon brewing

Extract brewing is the style of beer brewing I've done for my first four batches. One adds malt "extract" - the result of processing some grains, but that someone else has done. It saves time versus "all grain" brewing. The batches I've brewed so far have also all been 5-gallon batches. Well, I was fortunate to have been given a copy of Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book, and this book is geared toward all-grain brewing of one-gallon batches. What a wonderful way to experiment! If I try something new and it turns out horribly, I've not wasted all of those materials. If I try something that turns out wonderfully, then I can brew a larger batch. Or I may just brew small batches of a number of beers. Experimentation is a big part of what makes homebrewing fun!

SO ...I was curious about gluten-free beer, since I know a number of people who need to avoid gluten, and others who prefer to at least minimize their intake. And frankly, I really wondered just how the heck one could brew good tasting beer without using barley or rye or yeast that contains gluten.

The first pic (click on the image above to see larger) is my first foray into small-batch brewing, and also my first attempt at all-grain brewing. Oh, and, of course, the first try at brewing a gluten-free beer.

The first step was to assemble the supplies. I picked up a couple of one-gallon jugs, some caps, a couple of airlocks, a large funnel, and the most expensive item of all (by far!) was the 10" fine mesh strainer (that sucker was about $35!)



Normally, one would use various malt grains - "caramel", "biscuit", etc - roasted to different darknesses, and then milled (crushed). These are then steeped (sort of like tea) to extract the sugars. For gluten-free beer, I used a recipe from the above-mentioned book. This recipe - instead of using standard malt grains - uses grated carrots, basmati rice, quinoa, and some rice hulls (to help filter the mash).

Mash: Those 2 1/2 pounds of carrots and grains were then steeped for an hour in 2 1/2 quarts of water.



Sparge: The mash was poured through the large strainer, then another gallon of heated water was poured through. And then all the liquid was again poured through the carrots/grains.



Boil: The liquid from the carrots/grains was brought to a boil, and hops added at 5 points during the 60-minute boil (now it was starting to smell like beer). At the end of the boil, more hops and a cup of sugar were stirred in. When that was done, I used an ice bath in the sink to cool the pot of wort down to 70F before straining and pouring through a funnel into the jug (as with any equipment after the boil, the strainer, funnel, jug, etc - and my hands - were sanitized). The (gluten-free) Nottingham yeast was poured into the jug, I covered the jug opening with my (sanitized) hand, shook the heck out of it to mix the yeast, and sealed that baby up.


As the beer ferments, the yeast will put off alcohol (which we want to keep - duh!), and CO2, which needs to be released. So before putting the beer (and yeast) into the fermenter (the one-gallon jug), there needed to be a cap with an airlock. I did this before starting the brewing. Caps are cheap ($0.15) plastic. My first attempt at drilling a hole for the airlock was too aggressive and I broke it. I'd bought an extra cap, so this time went much more slowly, first drilling a small hole and then using ever larger bits and going s-l-o-w-l-y, finally had a hole the correct size to give the airlock a snug fit. A bead of superglue was used to secure the airlock to the cap.


And now, the next morning, I've taken a peek and can see that fermentation is starting. With a little luck and some work from the yeast, I should be ready to bottle this gluten-free hoppy beer in 2 weeks, and ready to sample it 2 weeks after that. It's not going to be a strong beer (expected to come in around 3.5%), but that's fine if it tastes good! I'll post an update as fermentation progresses.