Nutritional Science Pt. 1

Hello everyone,

For those of you who don’t follow me closely, do not be alarmed!  You are in the right place. I typically discuss programming, design, and GameMaker: Studio 1.x and 2.x on this blog. However, I am also an avid fan of weight lifting, nutrition, and interesting/progressive diets.

Us, as game developers sit way too much. We stay indoors excessively. A lot of us aren’t aware of what that is doing to our body, why it’s a problem, and/or what we could be doing to combat that! I am about to start a new diet and weight lifting routine, and thought that this would be a good opportunity to spread some non-development knowledge with my fan base! I hope that this can help you in some way. If you are not interested, feel free to ignore it, but I suggest that you give Part 1 a chance! Thank you!

Thermodynamics
This first segment is more like a physics class, but that’s ok! I’ll do my best to keep it simple. The laws of thermodynamics deal with the conservation, transfer, and entropy of energy. When talking about nutrition, we refer to units of energy as ‘calories’. A calorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C. A calorie is also equal to 1,000 small calories and is what we use to measure the nutrition in food. This is why the labels in some countries use ‘kcals’ instead of ‘calories’ (this distinction is simply to keep the numbers manageable, i.e. 90 kcals in a cup of skim milk rather than 90,000 cals).

Why do we care? Thermodynamics and the ability to count calories is the reason why we can predict how much weight we would gain or lose given a specific diet. The laws of thermodynamics say that if the number of calories that we consume is fewer than the number of calories that we utilize throughout the day, the body will lose weight due to metabolizing fat, muscle, etc. in order to retain that equilibrium. The opposite is also true- if you consume more calories than you burn, the calories will be stored as fat or be used to repair and grow muscle tissue. The body does not care or even understand the source of the calories. If a person burns 2,000 kcals per day, they would lose weight if they only consumed 1,000 kcals per day. That is true regardless of the 1,000 kcals came from a pound and a half of chicken breast or a half-dozen twinkies. In fact, if they continued that diet for a week, they would lose exactly 2 lbs of body mass.

Estimating Fluctuation In Body Mass
How do I know that? Well it takes roughly a 3,500 kcals deficit to metabolize a pound of fat. Given a seven day week, a 500 kcals daily deficit will result in losing 1 lb (500 * 7 = 3,500). The same can be said for a 1,000 kcals daily deficit causing you to lose 2 lb within a week (1,000 * 7 = 7,000 which is 3,500 * 2). And so on.

A 3,5000 kcal deficit is required to metabolize one pound of body fat

Alright, so now we know that we can calculate how much weight we will lose during a week by comparing our daily calorie deficit to the number of calories required to metabolize fat molecules. The hardest part of this process is determining your BMR (base metabolic rate) and taking into account your activity levels and personal metabolism. You can find fancy formulas for this all over the internet, but I tend to use the simpler ones and then adjust as you start to see results.

This calculator can estimate this value for you: http://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html

Ok, so what exactly is this number? It is the number of calories that your body burns each day to keep you alive. This doesn’t take into account standing, walking, or any form(s) of exercise that you may get throughout the day. This is simply the number of calories it takes to breathe and continue bumping blood throughout your veins. From here you can use a exercise calculator of some kind to approximate how much you are burning during your workouts and throughout your day. If you are unsure, just pick a number and record your weight gain/loss after one week of accurate calorie counting. Adjust up or down if you end up having a weight fluctuation that you didn’t anticipate.

Here’s an example: If my BMR is approximately 1,900 kcals per day and after I take into account exercise and metabolism I burn an average of 2,500 kcals per day (let’s keep the math simple here), the following numbers could be used to calculate weight gain/loss.

1,500 kcals/day = 2 lbs of weight loss within a week
2,000 kcals/day = 1 lb of weight loss within a week
2,500 kcals/day = maintain weight throughout week
3,000 kcals/day = 1 lb of weight gain within a week
3,500 kcals/day = 2 lbs of weight gain within a week

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss
You may have noticed that I didn’t specify the amount of fat loss, but instead used the term ‘weight loss’ or fluctuation in overall mass. This is because our bodies can change weight due to water, fat, or muscle gain/loss. When our weight changes, that change is broken up across these different molecules. Our diet can greatly influence which molecules are metabolized! This is the main difference between the pound and a half of chicken breast against the half-dozen twinkies. Protein is an important macro-nutrient that promotes muscle retention (chicken is one of the best sources of protein on our planet). If you do not consume adequate protein while burning more calories than you consume, you generally metabolize equal parts fat and muscle tissue. This can often lead to a body type referred to as ‘skinny-fat’. This is caused by losing large amounts of weight without showing any change in body composition (your ratio of fat to muscle tissue). If you lose just as much muscle as you do fat, you will be indeed be a smaller version of yourself, but you will have the same proportions and overall shape. Often not the desired goal!

To maintain the most muscle during a weight loss diet you should consume adequate amounts of protein, incorporate weight-training into your workout routine, drink enough water, and get enough sleep. Some sites will say quite a bit more, but I find that between 0.6g and 0.8g of protein per lb of your body weight is enough to maintain muscle mass throughout a weight loss period. This amount will increase in proportion to how much heavy lifting you are doing while attempting to lose weight. Body builders need to consume much more protein than sedentary people. This is because it’s not actually your body weight that is important here, but actually your lean body weight (body mass – fat mass).

Example: 200 lbs * 0.6g = 120g protein/day

TLDR;
-Your body weight will fluctuate if your calories consumed do not equal your calories burned, regardless of calorie source(s).
-To metabolize one pound of fat, a 3,500 kcals deficit is necessary.
-A 500 kcals/day deficit will result in a 1 lb weekly body weight loss.
-Body composition is more important than body weight for a healthy body and overall appearance/aesthetics.
-Consuming adequate protein will prevent muscle atrophy during weight loss periods.

Conclusion
Diet is far, far more important than any form of exercise when it comes to losing body fat. Abs are certainly made in the kitchen. You cannot undo a terrible diet with any number of crunches or ab machines. Ignore the myths and the fad diets. The only thing that really matters in terms of body weight fluctuation is the laws of thermodynamics and your calorie consumption compared to your calorie expenditure. If you want to have a healthier body fat percentage, consume fewer calories than you burn, consume adequate amounts of protein, consider a weight lifting routine, stay hydrated, and rest.

In later segments, I will discuss macro- and micro-nutrients in detail, sample diets, more about muscle growth and protein synthesis, how hormones affect these processes, strength training, training for hypertrophy, nutrition supplements, and different approaches to weight training.

Thanks,
Z

Nutritional Science Pt. 1

ZackBellGains #11

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! If you are reading this, you have likely been waiting for this entry for a few weeks. Perhaps you have even heard a few rumors about me going to work for this or that studio. I want to take a few minutes to discuss what I have been going through over the past ~two months and then conclude with my decision(s) regarding work moving forward. Thank you all so much for your patience and support!

Growth
I drove back up to Washington a month or so back because I was approached by a few directors of teams that I admire, as well as a recruiter. I signed a ton of NDAs involving the interview material and the offers that were made, so instead I will speak only about companies that either I had contacted or that had contacted me. I won’t directly say whether or not they made offers or what those offers were. You can presume that yes, I had offers to work at/with one or more of the following businesses: Microsoft, Amazon, Bungie, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Gearbox, Pokemon Company, Sketchfab, and YoYo Games. I have spoken to at least one employee from each of these entities over the past few months and I was quite excited by the result of some of them!

The idea of transitioning from an indie to a AAA developer isn’t something that I had serious considered in the past, but the more that I pondered the opportunities that had arrived, the more excited I was by the prospect. Hell, this journey even got me back into playing games again. I don’t play games too often these days, but I played A LOT of Destiny during the past month or so. I played through Uncharted 4 again, and explored the multiplayer content for the first time. I had a lot of fun and it sort of revitalized my love of games. If anything, this was opening my eyes to new ideas, creative combinations of genres, and away from my typical knee jerk to begin another 2D platformer.

However, there’s a catch. There’s always a catch. Most of these job offers come at the price of a strong-arm non-compete clause and your soul. During the first few weeks, that was ok with me. I would have been more than happy to jump into a big project with a big team and let Spaceboy Games fall out behind me, but this application process had me playing games and had me excited about games again. I have new ideas and I want to make them!

Collaboration
On the other hand, I have my ongoing collaboration with Amazon. I am soon going to be announcing some written content that is being funded by my pals at Amazon. I am incredibly happy to be doing that work, but some of the non-competes would have prevented it! The more I work and the more we discuss details, the more it seems like this collaboration will be lasting much longer than this initial project.

The bottom line is that my current set of collaborators will likely be enough to keep me afloat for 6+ months rather than the initial 1-2 months that I had signed up for. This means that I will likely be able to continue with my independent games work throughout the next year or so. Longer if any of the projects released during that time span perform well!

Today
So what does all of this mean for today? Not a lot, to be honest, and it isn’t quite as exciting as revealing that I am going to be working on a AAA franchise or a household name. It does mean that I am back. It means that I am going to be pouring all of my time into content. It means that I am going to be preparing Patreon content. It means that I am going to be scripting assets for the GameMaker Marketplace. It means that I am going to be practicing and showcasing my pixel art and animation progress. It means that I am going to be writing books about my development process and past projects. It means that I am going to be making games. It means that things are good.

Thank you,
Z

ZackBellGains #11

ZackBellGains #10

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! The job search is nearing its end. I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to have a quick chat about ZackBellGames. I have decided that I am going to continue making independent games. In fact, I am getting back into the prototyping process tonight and I am incredibly excited about that.

I have a LONG list of mechanics, twists on genres, concepts, and stories. I haven’t completed this process in awhile so it is a bit jarring and I am having a hard time committing to one or the other. My plan is to make a quick demo (one or two evenings of work) for 3-4 of the game ideas that I am most excited for. I have taken the opinions of friends into account and I hope that all of you can be happy about the decisions that we have made.

For now, this prototype is just me: ZackBellGames. I am not yet sure what will happen with Spaceboy Games yet, but I just wanted to make this post to inform you that I am not going anywhere. I am still making games. Regardless of what happens to my studio, Zack Bell will continue to create. I will begin tweeting GIFs of prototype progress later this week. I will also begin discussing the new job.

Thank you,
Z

ZackBellGains #10

ZackBellGains #9

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! Today was a great day. Late tonight (early this morning…?), I finally finished all of the design tests and interview materials that I had acquired over the past two to three weeks of applying for AAA games studio positions. I suppose that I can expect some followup interviews within the coming week, but for now, I feel this renewal and freshness that I honestly do not recognize. I feel that everything I have worked on until now has either shipped or found closure. I am ready for the next leg of my career.

Pepper Grinder
The future of Spaceboy Games is uncertain at this point. Sandy is working at Yacht Club Games (congrats again, brother), Fellipe has some awesome projects in the works, and I am talking to some large studios. However, Spaceboy Partners is STOKED about working on Pepper Grinder with Riv Hester. I cannot commit to my initial release window, but I can say that you will see this game on Steam by Q1 2018. It is going well, and I am excited to be a part of it. I will let Pepper Grinder speak for itself.

It’s fucking great, right?! Pepper Grinder is an action platformer designed to be alot like oldschool Nintendo titles like Donkey Kong Country, Yoshi’s Island, and Super Mario World. Pepper uses her drill (Grinder, obviously) to plow through layers of soft dirt and launch herself into the air as she maneuvers herself across the landscape of each level. Riv is beginning to incorporate new mechanics like a grappling hook, water levels, and large floating balloons to ricochet off of. I am beginning to plan our PR/marketing strategies and will soon start talking about the project more aggressively. Feel free to reach out to myself or Riv if you’d like to know more, want to request an interview, or if you are a member of the press in need of an early build. Regardless, please keep your eyes peeled for more of Pepper Grinder, by Riv Hester.

INK
In 2015 I made a game called, INK. It was a small project with a brief development timeline. However, it was far more successful than I could have ever hoped for. I am incredibly appreciative of that and my experiences during development and the aftermath definitely shaped me as a developer. Recently, I partnered with Amazon on a project that is quite new to me. I am going to be writing a series of eBooks about INK! This content will cover the development process, my approach to design, a peek inside of the code and how I created some of the effects, and the process necessary to work with Amazon and port the game to their Fire TV platform. I cannot tell you much else about this today, but I am incredibly excited for the opportunity. I will update all of you with details and release information as soon as I am able!

The Future
For now, these are my focus. I am working with Riv on Pepper Grinder and I am working with Amazon on this book about INK. I have a pile of prototypes that I am tinkering with, but have yet to pull the trigger on any of those. One of them will likely become the next Spaceboy Games project, but that has yet to be seen. Another update very soon with results of the job search and how that relates to the projects that I am taking on! Thanks, everyone.

Until next time,
Z

ZackBellGains #9

ZackBellGains #8

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! In case you hadn’t noticed, I took a week off from this series of blog entries. I wanted to talk about why that is, and use it as an excuse to talk about what I view as the entrepreneurial mindset.

A Look Back
To understand why I took the last week or so away from the blog, you have to understand why I wanted to start this thing to begin with. Rewind and you’ll see that my project HackyZack had launched on Steam, I had reached a fork in the road as far as my career was concerned, and I wanted to write about my relocation to LA and what it means to/for me. Over the last week, I haven’t been in LA! I have been back in my home state of Washington. Initially, I had been back to visit my family for a late Easter, but because of the volatility of the independent games industry and entrepreneurial job stability, I took some time off to really step back and consider my options.

A few things happened that really sparked this mini vacation.

1) Spaceboy Games’ co-founder and animator, Sandy Gordon, accepted a full-time position at Yacht Club Games! I want to wish a huge congratulations to Sandy for taking a huge step in signing onto such an amazing team. We wish him the very best!

2) Given that, our plans as a studio needed to change since our ability to produce games that focus on high-quality pixel art has now vanished (for the time being). We need to either hire a new artist or figure out an alternative.

3) As a safety net, I tossed my resume out into the world to see if anyone would bite. I applied to work with the following companies: Bungie, Gearbox, Pokemon Company, Sucker Punch Productions, and Vayner Media. I am talking to a few of them, but due to NDA(s) I cannot go into detail at this time.

Curiosity
 To me, the spirit of the entrepreneur and the spirit of most independent developers that I relate to comes from this special form of undying curiosity. It’s an unquenchable hunger for knowledge, answers to questions about how things work, and finding solutions to problems that people didn’t even know they had. I am looking at all of my open programs and browser tabs and I am realizing that I have found my way back to that special place. I have codecademy open, where I am teaching myself HTML and CSS to further my ability to share content. I transcribed all of the rhythms and rhyme schema from Kendrick Lamar’s new album, Damn. I am listening to Dorian Yates discuss high intensity training via podcast as I type up this blog entry draft. I have been playing the hell out of Destiny DLC, Borderlands, and Infamous as I carefully fill out gameplay design tests for their respective studios. I am watching all of the GDC content put out by their employees, as well. I am prototyping new multiplayer content for INK 2 and discussing funding options with a potential new publisher. I am doing familiar things and new things. I stumbled my way back to what feels like the beginning, but also further along than I have ever been.

Find out what inspires you to think, and then you go and you feed that. Dependent on a few factors I will either be moving back to Washington (Bungie or Pokemon Company), remaining in Los Angeles (working on my startup, full-time), moving to Austin, TX (Gearbox), or moving to New York (Vayner Media). I am not really leaning in any which way because I am not sure which doors are open to me. When I find out, all of you will know, too. I want to remain transparent and accessible whether I continue to stick with my indie roots or I venture off into AAA games territory. I would be more than happy to talk about that end of the industry just as openly as I have about what I have come to know so far. Be patient, but there will be more from me on this very soon!

Until next time,
Z

ZackBellGains #8

ZackBellGains #7

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! It’s funny because yesterday I tweeted that I would be wrapping up a week’s worth of daily blog entries last night, then I completely spaced and broke the habit. Oops! However, I did begin two new ventures last night that I figured that I would share.

  1. I updated my resume. Ok, it was more like my first actual resume. To be honest, I have never had a job. Over the last ten years (I am twenty-six), I have either privately taught drum lessons, played drums, worked on game contracts, sold game assets, and ran my own game studio. I have never applied for a job. Now that I have successfully shipped a few titles, AAA games studios are reaching out to me with work, so I figured that having a resume was a good idea! I talked to a few people about a job that I might not be able to turn down. Perhaps more to come on this topic very soon…?!
  2. I began teaching myself HTML and CSS. I want to have the ability to create, modify, and maintain my own websites/pages. WordPress is great and it is very simple, but I can feel that with this blog and the other articles series that I am interested in that this page will get very cluttered and difficult to navigate very soon. I am going to spend an hour or so each night going through the free content on Codecademy. When I complete that I will pick up a book or two and continue to tinker on my own. If I can muster the energy, perhaps I will blog my progression and learning of these topics, as well.

Thank you to everyone who reads these, follows me on Twitter, and supports my journey. I have a lot going on right now and I couldn’t do it without that emotional safety net. It is Ludem Dare weekend AGAIN and I have still yet to participate. I have way too much going on elsewhere. Tonight I plan on finishing up a demo of the potential Frog Sord revival project and then work on HTML/CSS stuff until I get tired.

Until tomorrow,
Z

ZackBellGains #7

ZackBellGains #6

Hello world,

I hope that you are making the most of your day! Today was my first official day with what I am considering a completely full work load. That means one in-house game, contract work on a game, a ‘job’ working on my startup, and a non-gamedev contract gig. I haven’t quite started that last one, but overall, things are pretty cramped, crowded, and chaotic! I am not including this blog and my work over on Patreon.

Today I focused on two things, for the most part. I worked on an in-house prototype for what might become the next, smaller Spaceboy Games project, while my assistant worked on my startup business. We have a lot of busy work to do; non-technical work that just requires raw time in front of the computer. I am having my assistant bust out a lot of that while I am working on code, then later in the day I join him on that side of things and answer any questions that he may have ran into. It’s 1:00AM and we are both going strong. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a long night! I haven’t enjoyed one of those in awhile.

I will keep this short because I am in a groove with lots to do. Keep your questions, suggestions, and whatever else that you have to say coming my way! I hear you and I am liking the back and forth.

Until tomorrow,
Z

ZackBellGains #6