Chapter 8 – A Breakfast of Typicality
I am a bodybuilder, by routine, goals and method. At the age of fourteen I would perform copious reps and sets of shrugs and bicep curls with my brother’s 40lb catalogue barbell set. I would grimace under the strain of countless crunches. I consciously gave up crisps and chocolate.
By the age of sixteen I had bought my own bench and barbell set from money which I had earned through crab picking for a small family-owned company.
Def; Crab Picking:
The extraction of the meaty innards of crustaceans killed and cooked for twenty-five minutes via immersion in boiling water by a Lithuanian migrant named Ivor, aka ‘The Ivornator’.
The owner, Mike, was a man of Cornish-Italian heritage, the first, and I would wager last, I have ever met of such a racial hybrid. Other than the obvious handful of crab-meat, he subsisted off of various seeds which you can find scattered about his fish-odoured Ford Fiesta, a love of Ipswich City football team, his whippet dog Rosie and an explicit distaste for bad language. He would often slip an extra five or ten quid into mine and my brother’s wages each week to buy a few ‘tins’ for the weekend. It was the small things that kept me working intermittently full and part-time in the job for over four years.
Despite the desire which went into its saving, I used my hard-earned catalogue bench set seldom at best. Instead, I had begun going to the gym at College once a week during Wednesday free period after basketball practice. Soon the only function of the home-kit became to demonstrate to friends at home the gains I had made during my increasing recreational gym hours. It’s strange that despite the gains I made, I never felt I was “strong”. My goals were always one step ahead of my abilities, and it remains so to this day.
During that time of iron I was egged on by a crab-picking colleague who would run to the gym in his hour lunch break and always return ten minutes late. He wrote me my first gym routine from which my purpose and direction developed until eventually I agreed to begin training at the gym he had been scrambling to during his lunches owned by ‘Viv’, a seventy-year-old bodybuilder. It wasn’t long before I had witnessed seventy-year-old abs, seventy-year-old twenty inch arms, a seventy-year-old 350lb bench press and a seventy-year-old 800lb leg press post hip-replacement; a seventy-year-old man who had found unending purpose in the simple art of sculpting an extraordinary physique. I had been introduced to the infinite trials of bodybuilding. As the sport began to permeate my life, they became one and the same. My diet, my actions, my developing attitude towards determination, consistency and precise execution, my goals and ambitions all began to dictate my daily, weekly, monthly, even yearly routines.
With steadily acquiring knowledge of diet and training I realised I was gaining more and more control over the one thing that could only ever be irrevocably mine; that organic kernel subject to chance, change, and death that is the body. And so I manipulated and changed it with the predetermined formulae of a biological scientist –macronutrient ratios 40:40:20 or 50:35:15, 1.5grams of protein per lb of bodyweight, carbohydrates equal or slightly higher (depending on training stage) from low GI complex carbohydrates to sustain energy release or simple high GI to spike blood insulin, fat percentages of total calories consumed, the stocks of supplements from which I concocted home-blends with an alchemist’s zeal:
20g of Protein from Hydrolysed Whey (pre-digested to prevent bloating and discomfort during workout), 5g added Glutamine for muscle recovery and repair, 5g Creatine Monohydrate for muscular endurance, 1.5g Beta-Alanine to inhibit lactic acid build-up (complementary Creatine counterpart), 5g Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate
(HMB) to prevent muscular catabolism, 3g Taurine to aid protein synthesis and muscular hydration, 2g Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate (AAKG) as a cell volumiser, a teaspoon of dextrose for efficient nutrient delivery.
A 10g blend of Branch Chain Amino Acids with added Leucine in a 4:1:1 ratio combined with 10g of Essential Amino Acids to ensure an immediate and continued delivery of protein to damaged muscles (immediate permeation of stomach lining), another dose of AAKG and teaspoon of dextrose, pinch of rock salt to replenish electrolytes excreted via perspiration.
**Post-workout (within twenty minutes):**
40-50g of Protein from a blend of Whey Isolate and Egg Protein (immediate delivery from isolate, steadily release from egg protein harbouring the most complete amino acid profile), another dose of Glutamine, Creatine, Beta-Alanine, HMB, AAKG and amino acid mix, a 70:30 carbohydrate blend of Powdered Oats and Dextrose respectively to total 1g carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight (immediate replenishing of glucose and sustained release from oats).
It looks more complicated written down that it does as various unsuspecting white powders on digital scales.
A typical non-training day at home I wake up at a respectable hour and eat a hearty breakfast to repair and fuel the coming day: starting with one small piece of fruit to help digestion, 100g of rolled oats are weighed and sprinkled with cinnamon and sweetener for flavour – skimmed milk is added. Whilst eating through my complex carbs, I crack seven eggs – two whole and five whites – into a bowl, whisk, scramble, and eat. My macros are 55g carbohydrates and 13g fat from the oats, 10-12g fat and 27-35g protein from the eggs (size dependent) and 3.5g fat, 8.5g protein from the milk and 12.5g carbohydrates from its lactose. I don’t count the fruit. Or the cinnamon dust. Or the olive oil which I heat then wipe out of the frying-pan with kitchen paper.
It’s a typical non-training day.
On this particular morning, the carton tells me by breakfast consists of 14g Protein, 64g of Simple-Carbohydrates, and 16g Fat. My breakfast is one 500ml Lactasoy chocolate-flavoured soy milk bulk-purchased from the Seven Eleven in Ao Nang, Southern Thailand. Quite clearly it is not a typical day, let alone a typical non-training day. I’m so desperate for the morning’s nutrition that I tear open the carton with un-brushed teeth whose bed is the famished face of a man barely awoken; I drain the last drops where a straw falls short. Surveying the room with partial focus there are wire-mesh windows, wooden-slat floors, the sound of bulbous drops from rains spilling in bursts, sporadic and often for only seconds; the curtain of a tropical stage. An ever-pervasive odour of damp fills rooms that never dry in the incessant humidity and the air is so thick you chew it throughout the day and well into the night. Natural smells amalgamate with artificial ones; the strong stench of deet still lathered into skin to ward off mosquitoes – those intravenous leeches – feeding whilst asleep, layers of sunscreen grease perfumed with the aroma of a package holiday; reapply after towelling.
I hang a mosquito net from a brass hook screwed precariously into a leaf woven ceiling as Luke looks to unpack his own; Josh and Aaron, I assume, are still in their stilt hut sleeping off the day-and-a-half’s travel. Ao Nang is located some ten miles west of Krabbi, towards the coast, and we are relieved that our reluctant booking with a suspect Bangkok-based “Tourist Information” centre has delivered on the price. Despite bartering an inclusive one-month visa for Vietnam we would need come Christmas time, we still felt it had taken us over-budget. Passed the breaches of locks, straps, zips, cords, Luke retrieves his mosquito net and begins fully unpacking as a matter of habit already acquired. Packing and unpacking will become a regular activity until we operate the process with military precision; my backpack is currently twelve-and-a-half kilograms and my day bag three. Josh, Luke and I had shed over six kilograms each during a last evening of bag condensing at Ronald’s before we left England and my itinerary of possessions was now as follows:
- Four t-shirts, one shirt, three vests
- Three pairs of shorts – two normal, one pair board shorts
- One pair of jeans, one pair cotton trousers
- Two pairs of socks, six pairs of boxer shorts
- One bandana and two sweatbands
- One pair of shoes, one pair of flip flops
- One belt, one skinny tie
- One mosquito net, one travel towel
- Toiletries, medicines, glasses, contact lenses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent
- Two cameras, two mobile phones, one 500gb hard-drive, one 8gb USB stick, one torch
- One bag of cables, adaptors, chargers
- Candles, matches, lighter
- Maps, documents, reservations, credit cards, 50USD, tickets and information
- Two books: Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry; Henry G. Bugbee Jr, The Inward Morning
- Two pens
- One travel journal
I decide to write during the mornings when the face of a four-hundred-foot cliff set just behind our humble lodgings leans across the ocean sky, formidable tectonic wings reaching out to spread a cloak of cooling shadow. I look up and see vertigo, I smell the sun-sweetened air and there is as taste of the sublime. There is a humbling realisation that this will outlast us all; they are more of this planet than we shall ever be or could ever believe ourselves so. It is Gaia herself. We are ephemeral rock dwellers who can change the salty taste of the seas no more than we can the heat of a sun which scintillates like the sugar-crystals of a wet lemon sweet.
As beings having acceded to consciousness, we have othered ourselves and thus shall forever be nature’s tourist number one.