Weight loss: By the Numbers

Making a chart of the changes you make to get to a better, healthier weight has two distinct advantages. One advantage is purely psychological, a physical reference that can be referred to providing positive reinforcement and proof of a desire to change. In addition, capturing quality data on a daily basis will give direction to our efforts by correlating our actions to actual results. Of course, the more data that we have, the better job we can do.

My weekly chart

If you look at the first column, each row marked ‘Week’ shows the distance that I walked first thing in the morning on the day at the top of the column. The first two weeks I was only concerned with that particular data as I was tracking the increase in distance to my 3 mile a day goal, just in case my intended gains were too ambitious. For Week 3 I decided to also track my morning weight and start logging my calorie intake during the day, mostly as a guide to help me learn better food choices.

As I have said before the weight number is initially going to be used as a tool to examine how my body is handling hydration and it looks like that is working well. Notice that all of the weight numbers are very close together and vary by 5 pounds throughout the week. My hydration is just under 1 gallon of water a day, I am drinking mostly water, no milk yet and only an occasional diet coke, no judging. These numbers do not show any significant weight loss but it does show that my hydration is were it needs to be. Always check the color of your urine at least once a day, yellow is good, lighter yellow to clear means you are getting too much water, brown or red, go to the hospital.

Having all but eliminated bread of any kind from the food I eat, I did have some french fries last week and tortillas for breakfast once, but the rest of the time I stuck to fiber, fat and protein without any difficulty. Bacon was my new best friend the third week, 4 eggs, 4 bacon is 420 calories and very filling. When you consider that my basic breakfast runs around $2.50 and the lunch salad of spinach, zucchini, onion and tuna about $3 a day, changing eating habits are also saving considerable amounts of money as well.

At the extreme right of the table I use columns for weekly totals, distance, calories burned and calculated fat loss from diet and exercise. These will not correlate directly and that is OK, they are references only, as I have said before, your weight will vary with water before fat. The chart will make more sense as more data is added to it, by the time we get into week 7 the weekly numbers will begin to show where the results are headed and changes can be made if necessary. We are changing things and everyone responds differently to stimulus, even if the stimulus is the same.

Making Weightloss Habitforming

When developing new habits there are times that for whatever reason I cannot continue, my daily walk was interrupted the other day by torrential rain. No big deal, until the rain stopped. Getting back on the horse was a very big deal. Motivation can be pretty illusive, the brain can almost instantly conjure many excuses to not continue on course, really the only way through is to put my head down and get on with it, get workout clothes out and put them on one piece at a time, put socks on then shoes, stand up and walk outside. It is harder to not start something once I have already begun doing it.

One of the advantages of keeping a journal containing all of my diet and fitness numbers is the ability to make good decisions when something unexpected happens. Losing a day of walking would impact my weekly numbers but I still end up with more miles this week than last and that is perfectly OK. Progress not perfection as they say.

By logging all of my calories each day I can track whether I am eating too much or not enough. Eventually, with steady hydration, the calories in/out will roughly follow the daily weigh in. This is why it is important to get on the scale first thing in the morning before I eat or drink anything.

Net calories = Calorie intake – (Basic Metabolic Rate + Calories from Work) -1417 = 1280 – (2397 + 300)

Using the equation above I can evaluate where my weight should be week to week and eliminate some confusion caused by water weight variations. It is still not perfect but it will enable me to ignore incorrect assumptions from daily weight numbers.

Just to be clear, I am not writing this blog to tell my readers how to lose weight, I am leading by example, all of the charts that I post and the numbers for workouts, etc. are mine. I am your example, if I am writing about it, rest assured, I am doing it. Any one can write about ‘you can’, I write about ‘I did and you can to, here’s how’. Now, I used to be a real workout junkie, Crossfit addict, Oly lifting geek, but life and work and everything else sort of jammed itself in there and I stopped working out entirely about 4 years ago. And now it is time to get back on that horse and ride like there is no tomorrow, because if I just laze around the house all of the time, there isn’t. The thing is, I can’t motivate you. Only you can do that, it has to be a conscious choice, heck, I can’t even motivate me. When I get up late, or didn’t get really good sleep, or just don’t feel like it, I just have to do it, or it doesn’t get done. Sorry if I said that already but there it is.

I am planning to go up to 3 miles a day every other day next week and every day the week after. This is snail slow progress but it has to be this way to prevent injuries that would bring progress to a grinding halt. Once I get to 3 miles a day I will add cycling to the work mix, I really like it and it will be a new way to burn off some of the padding.

Weight Control Made Easy

A simple spreadsheet to keep track of my morning workouts helps me stay on track and gives me an idea about how I am progressing and where I can fine tune things. I have modified this to include daily weight and daily food intake in calories to get a better idea of how I am progressing. There will be additions to the table once I start to include additional workouts.

As I have said before, the daily weight figure is there for reference only, there is no reason to obsess over that number, the numbers to pay attention to are the daily workout numbers and the daily calorie number. Being consistent is how we control this and get to the goals we have set for ourselves.

As we get older it becomes more important to find ways of staying active that are not as demanding on our bodies and I really enjoy cycling, it is nearly zero impact and I never get tired of putting miles on my road bike. Most larger cities these days have incorporated bike trails into their municipal parks and it is a great way to burn serious calories if you just budget some time for it. Sunup to sundown, except for days with rain or severe wind is perfect for a bike ride. Once you get comfortable putting in a few miles a day, contact your local bike club and see if you can get together with some of their members for a morning coffee ride or an evening no-drop spin. Club dues are very reasonable and can come with some very nice perks. Our local club gets hefty discounts at all of the local bike shops and they sponsor picnics and a yearly swap meet. Believe me when I say this, fresh air is very addictive.

I use a tool from the WebMD website to calculate calories in the food I eat, the address is https://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-food-calorie-counter. I try to do this at home and if I am away from the house I have a notebook to keep track of anything I eat out. Keeping a strict log of every thing that I eat helps me train my eating habits and helps me stay away from things that just don’t belong in my body. It also lets me know when a small treat is in order, it is very important to maintain your BMR calorie intake to keep from getting so hungry that we might be tempted to undo the work we have begun.

A word about fat loss. Being happy in our skin is the goal here. Looking for results can be frustrating and here is why. Fat is stored in the body relative to blood flow, as the level of sugar in the blood climbs, insulin is released to signal fat storage is needed. The areas of increased blood flow also receive the most insulin, so more fat is stored there. The reverse is also true, when your body starts to burn fat, it burns it from the areas that have the most circulation. By walking in the morning we increase the circulation in the legs and torso, a large percentage of the body’s mass, when fat burning occurs as a result of this it is going to be very generalized, only when the fat stored in these areas is reduced substantially will fat start to be burned in other areas. This is why patience is so important to good long term habits, you have to KNOW that what you are doing is working, your eyes cannot see the differences as the changes that occur happen over a very long period, but they are working. Over time you will see the correlation between your caloric intake, the work you do and your weight, that is what the chart will tell you. And in time you will see the results. Best of luck, keep trying to be the best you, every day.

Diet and Exercise?

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You know that losing weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise, right? Well, sometimes is seems more like 99 and 1 to me. Dieting or more specifically ‘calorie reduction while maintaining strict macro control’ is a lot harder than it sounds. So hard in fact that after many years of trying, I finally hit on one approach that is currently working for me, a minimalist approach that occurred to me almost by accident as I was attempting to script another menu in a long list of unsuccessful weight control attempts. I work nights and usually eat when I get home, if I eat during working hours on break I eat too much and I can’t control macros or calories, so what I did was to sculpt the one meal that I had complete control over and virtually ditch all of the other food that I was eating for a bit.
Now, starving yourself is self-defeating, I know this, there are things that your body needs to have and will begin to fail without. So I looked at where I wanted to go and steered myself in that direction. I weighed in at 314, big even by my standards and I wanted to drop some large pounds, but without killing myself in the process.
Looking at the big picture, I put my ideal weight at around 215, but that was a long term goal. A good short-term goal in my mind was to drop 10% of my body weight, mostly fat ideally, and use this benchmark as a jumping off point. Once I had attained the first goal I would reassess where I felt I was at, make sure that I stayed as healthy as possible and make a new and improved goal to start in on. 10% of 314 is, let’s say, 31.5 pounds. In fat loss terms that would represent a dietary caloric deficit of 110,250 calories. Figuring my daily calories for current weight maintenance at around 3250, I designed my diet intake meal as 6 eggs, 1 can of tomatoes/chilies, 16 oz. milk, about 830 calories total, a 2420 calorie deficit. The plan looks extreme but take into consideration that my food intake is mostly protein and fat which, over time will trigger ketosis, which is what I am trying to do and that when I am in ketosis, my body will burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates so external calories will be augmented by internal calories from body fat. Also included in this regimen is daily doses of vitamins and fish oil. I expect at least one cheat day a week, where I may consume some carbs, no potatoes, no bread, no grains of any kind, though. Today is 5 weeks that I have been practicing this restrictive diet and my weight has come down to 286.6lbs. as of standing on the bathroom scale 30 seconds ago. I feel better than I have, I don’t feel bloated like before, my clothes are fitting better, I have started to wear the old 44’s again. Once I hit my target, 3 pounds to go, I will start incorporating daily weight-training into the mix so that I can gain strength and elevate my fitness level, and take advantage of not having to move an extra 30 pounds all of the time. I never would have thought that this would work and I don’t suggest that anyone try this, I tried everything else, this was in fact the last straw for me. I try to live by a few golden rules and one that has gotten me through many tough times is, “Well begun is half done.” Wish me luck, I will be posting more as time, or rather time off, allows.

Too Much Time Off Is A Bad Thing…

front-squat
I’ll just say it, I hate programming my own workouts. Nothing makes me feel more clueless when trying to get back into the gym and back on track than deciding what to do and how to do it. I can find so many reasons why other programs won’t work, don’t have this piece of equipment, can’t perform that movement, whatever, time will just drag on and the weights just get dustier.

Off due to a new job and a new sleep cycle, it has taken several months to get in the swing again. I was feeling apprehensive about my squat technique and other problem areas so I decided to start slow and get some light reps for practice and ramp the weight back up as good form would allow. Since complicated doesn’t excite me, I started with a few main movements and added in accessory work as the opportunity presented itself. Here is what the first week looked like:

Monday through Saturday:
Easy Curl, bar only, add 5# each day, 50 reps
Ft Squat, 5 reps @, 45#, 65#, 95#, 115#, 135#, 145#.
B Press, 3×10 @, 95#, 115#, 105#, 115#, 120#, 125#.
GHD Situps, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

I chose 6 on and 1 off because I wanted to reestablish the gym habit, the small number of movements and the lighter weights were chosen for the same reason. The easy curl bar I picked up at a flea market, never used one before so I thought I would use a high rep scheme and see what weight felt right, by the end of the week 50 reps was about all I could handle. Front squats are all about elbows up and knees out, my technique was spot on and by Saturday 145 felt really smooth. I was really confident that my bench was not horrible so three sets of ten with a light/heavy rotation felt good. I made a GHD machine a long time ago and I never use it so I added the situps for fun, a warning here, you can really mess yourself up doing too many of these at once and the damage won’t show up for a day or more, hence the very slow start.

I have been thinking a lot about muscle confusion and thought that since I had started programming weekly that maybe I should change up the workout each week, not completely but a tweak here and there to hit different areas different ways. Here is what week two looks like:

The easy curl starts at 30# for 30 reps, then 25# for 30 and finally 20# for 30 reps in drop set fashion, just enough time to change plates between sets. The idea here is to work to failure, adding 2 1/2# to each set when all sets are completed in one workout. Fractional Olympic plates are tremendously hard to find, I use 2” construction washers, they are about a dollar a piece and weigh a shade over 9 ounces each, close enough for government work, eh? The squats are now back squats so that heavier weights can be used and more concentration put on body position and keeping the knees out on the way up. I also switched to three sets increasing the weight each set and breaking the work into light, medium and heavy days in a M, H, L pattern. A 5-3-1 scheme 135/145/150, 145/150/155, 135/140/145 Monday to Wednesday and then adding 5# to each weight for the remaining days will help me get acclimatized to increased work in the coming weeks. I went with four sets of six reps and changed to an incline bench to work a different area of the chest this week with weights of 105/110/115/120/125/130, a sort of rest week for bench. My GHD routine will start at 2×3 adding one rep a day and should get me to 2×8 on Saturday.

My suggestion would be that if you are coming back from a layoff for whatever reason, do something but start real slow, the benefits will be there when you get back. Getting hurt or sore just makes it that much harder to keep going to the gym and that is the goal. Be creative, have fun and enjoy life, words to live by.

Stretch Shortening Cycle

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box-jumps

The fundamental elements of human power production are: high-speed strength, low-speed strength, speed of force production, strength-shortening cycle and muscle memory or skill. The first three elements are trained in the gym, the fourth is a gift of nature and the fifth means that you could be the most perfect physical specimen ever to walk the earth and you wouldn’t be able to chew gum and walk, unless you practiced chewing gum and walking, of course. Let’s talk for a moment about number 4.

Do you remember the classic scene in the doctor’s office where the patient is sitting on the exam table and the dr. hits his knee with a rubber hammer and the patient’s leg kicks out? That is a demonstration of the stretch shortening cycle. A perfect example of the body’s defense mechanism against overstretching, when the hammer hits the tendon over the knee and quickly shortens the quadricep muscle, the brain immediately tells the quad to contract and simultaneously keeps the opposing muscle, the hamstring, relaxed so that there is no opposition to the leg’s movement, preventing overstretching. The same phenomenon can be seen in weight training, called ‘bouncing out of the squat’, the athlete lowers the weight under control until, at the very bottom of the squat the pre-stretched muscles rebound to start the weight up again.

The stretch shortening cycle is a built in part of the human machine but knowing what it is and what it does can help us in getting to know our bodies better. Plyometrics is a subject that really embraces the stretch shortening cycle, many of the movements rely on it for their effectiveness. One of my favorite exercises is platform jumping or box jumping. Many people do this in their workouts, but there are two ways to do this and two very different results.

The basic box jump starts with the athlete standing in front of a wooden platform and jumping from the floor to the top of the box, fully extending the hips each time and jumping back down to the floor. If you can do this, awesome. Now think about this, start on top of the box, jump to the floor and spring back onto the box without pausing at the bottom. This is where the stretch shortening cycle lives. Try this ten times with a small box or snatch block, 6 to 8 inches tall to begin with. Rest at the top instead of the bottom if you need to and try to keep your heels from touching the ground when you land at the bottom, this leaves all of the stretch in your legs. The first several times be careful as there is a component of skill and balance involved in getting back to the same spot you started each time. Think unicycle, don’t hurt yourself trying to help yourself.

workout: run 1 mile, no stops

The Pyramids

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classic-food-pyramid
If you grew up in the United States you have undoubtedly seen the “Food Pyramid” that shows the different food groups and how many servings of each we should have every day to stay healthy. Now, if you have been following fitness trends over the last ten years you have also been exposed to the “Paleo Diet” which basically flips the classic food pyramid upside down, contradicting most widely held theories about nutrition and health. The pyramid graphic is a highly intuitive reference tool to simply and quickly outline the concepts of many different subjects. One very interesting pyramid for the fitness enthusiast or serious athlete is The Transfer of Training pyramid.
bondarchuk

Developed by Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, a pure genius in the sport of track and field, the Transfer of Training principles broke all exercises down to 4 basic groups:
1. General preparatory exercises, those movements that utilize different muscles and energy pathways than the competitive event(in the original sense, the hammer throw)
2. Specific preparatory exercises, using the muscle groups and energy pathways of the competitive event but a different movement pattern.
3. Specific developmental exercises, targeting the same specific groups and pathways and including parts of the competitive movements.
4. Finally Competitive exercise, including the event itself and some variations.

These principles made training programming much easier and more adaptable to the individual. Although developed for the hammer throw, the pyramid can and is working in many other sports, swimming, cycling, running, all one needs to do is to examine a competitive event and break down it’s movements and categorize your training exercises in a similar way. Here is a link to those wiser than I.Link

Crunching the Numbers

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runners

 

Rule 34 states that ‘If it exists, there is porn of it.’  I believe that in the realm of health and fitness, if one person has had an idea, two other people have figured out how to count it, collate it, and quantify it.  One such idea is the Banister Impulse/Response model.  The idea was at first to figure out if, by recording all training efforts, an increase in fitness could be calculated by means of an ordinary differential equation and the answer given in the form of positive training effect, or PTE.  It almost worked.  For every positive training effect there is a negative effect, that being fatigue.  Rather than shoot down the original hypothesis however, this little fact seemed to have perfected it.  When the PTE is plotted against the NTE over time along with actual performance an interesting and quite repeatable effect is shown.

F6.large

Skipping all of the math, we see that at the beginning negative effects, basically fatigue, outweigh the positive effects of training.  As performance starts to improve the positive effects become substantially greater than the negative.  This model has been tested for many endeavors, running, cycling, swimming, and seems to work similarly in all of them.  More here.

 

I have a confession to make. I fell off the wagon, yes, stopped making fitness a priority and forgot about eating right and it got me. On top of not making weightloss goals and feeling pretty low from the lack of endorphins, I got a chronic hip pain. So I am back at square one, actually square zero, I have lost the ability to squat temporarily. I am slowly rehabbing the range of motion while I try to catch up in other areas.

It is iced tea season once again, there is 3 gallons of the stuff in the refrigerator right now, good hydration is one of the very basic things I am concentrating one as the summer progresses. Purging useless carbs, refined flour and sugar, and getting back to fresh greens and such. Baby steps, the goal is not a ‘diet’ but a lifestyle change, a permanent one.

Prying myself away from the computer screen is underway. Walking the dog a mile at a time, up to 3 times a week now to mobilize the hips and get the wind back. Weight training again starting with Bench, Deads, Lat pulldowns and Power cleans until the squat comes back.

Workout:

Dog walking= 1 mile, large dog, his pace not mine.

Food:

8 oz, sausage, 6 eggs Calories 1376 Protein 81.8 g. Fat 95.8 g. Carbs 0 g.

10 oz. Grd beef+ 2 med onions 518 cal Protein 45 g. Fat 31 g. Carbs 11 g.

Chinese buffet Don’t judge me.

 

Cardio-Like it Or Not

bann1305#

As I have mentioned before, respiration is the primary mechanism for removing fat from the body. Cardio training is the best way of elevating respiration to a level that will effect this removal.

The best method I have come upon is HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training. The acronym may be new but the general principles remain the same, small sessions of extreme effort broken up by short rest periods. How does this work? A story to illustrate…

In 1954 Roger Bannister had decided to break the 4 minute mile. To do this he broke the race down into laps, 4 quarter mile segments. Each day that he trained he ran 10 quarter mile laps at a pace just under 1 minute each. By doing this he, in effect, ran two sub-4 minute miles every day for a month or more. His purpose in doing this was to engrain in his muscle memory the pace that he needed to maintain in order to achieve his goal. At a track in Oxford on May 6, 1954 he finished the mile in 3:59.4.

HIIT works by elevating resting metabolism beyond the amount of time that you actually exercise. If your workout is 30 minutes long you don’t have to workout at maximum intensity for the whole 30 minutes, the work/rest cycle follows the formula ‘2x’ on/’x’ off, typically 30 seconds work followed by 15 seconds rest repeated 10 times without stopping or some variation. Movements that lend themselves to this model are sprints(run a distance and walk back), burpees, box jumps, jump rope, bear crawls, tire flipping, you get the picture.

My workout today was a 1 mile run, in 15:38. Before you average guys(5’10”, 150#) start talking smack, think about this, I weigh in at 305, if you think you can run a quarter of that with a 155# barbell on your back then good on you. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was my ‘ab’ but I’m working on it.

Day 32: Diet or Exercise-By The Numbers

sweaty

305#

If you are like me and would like to be thinner you have heard over and over that it is all about ‘diet and exercise’. The more we research and try to do the right thing by our bodies the more we run into a majority opinion that states that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight. I personally have a hard time with diet and I wondered why
exercise is considered to be even more difficult, so I did some math.
Firstly, I researched metabolic fat and the mechanism by which it is removed from the body and after all is said and done fat is broken down to and leaves the body through the lungs as carbon dioxide. This means that you can quantify the amount of fat you are losing in a workout by examining your breathing. The basics are this: at rest the average person breathes 12-18 times a minute, during strenuous exercise respiration rises to a maximum of 45 breathes per minute. Carbon dioxide comprises about 4% of the volume of an exhaled breath. Taking an average of resting breathing rate (15) and subtracting it from the active rate of 45 gives 30 extra breaths per minute, at that rate, considering an average lung capacity of 500ml it would take 425 minutes to exhale an extra pound of CO2. Approximately 36 minutes per day, 7 days a week would get rid of 1 pound of body fat in one week.
Sounds simple, right? Wait just a minute. That’s not a 36 minute workout daily, that is a total of 36 minutes at a respiration of 45 a minute. That’s not doable with weight training or yoga or jogging. Sprinting is good, but not sustainable. Cycling will get you there fairly easily, jumping rope, once you reach a level of coordination that allows you to jump continuously for several minutes, burpees and other body weight movements are more your target.
Lets look at burpees first, universally hated but good for you, you will need to do about 10 burpees in a row just as fast as you possibly can to get your breathing going, then you can start counting them, and by counting I mean counting the amount of time you keep doing them without stopping after the first 10. 15 straight burpees would be good for about 30 seconds toward our 36 minutes. Now to the jump rope, try for 1 minute without stopping, another 30 seconds of max respiration. Barbell thrusters will rapidly ramp up your breathing, 15 reps without stopping will buy you another 30 seconds. 50 yard bear crawl is good for 30 seconds.
Right here lets stop and look at a sample workout and see where we stand:
5 rounds of;
15 burpees
jumping rope, 1 minute nonstop
15 thrusters 65/95#
50 yard bear crawl
1 minute rest between rounds

This workout represents 10 minutes of the 36 minutes daily needed for a 1 pound weekly fat loss. Only 26 minutes to go. You see how much energy goes into this. Obviously, variations are perfectly OK, but the time necessary to complete the same amount of work is substantially higher. Consider jogging, let’s say you are comfortable with a respiration of 25 while running, you would have to spend about an hour and a half at that constant pace. To contrast, a 50 yard sprint full out with a walk back to the start should be good for a full minute of max respiration per lap, 10 laps would be good for 10 of your 36 daily minutes and you could be finished with it in 15 minutes or so. Cycling, with a mixture of sprinting/hill climbing and coasting will also tick down the workout clock rather effectively, although you are restricted by weather and riding environment.
It is not my idea here to prove that diet is always the way to go to lose fat, I am just illustrating the fact that exercise is very involved and very much a numbers game and all about intensity, effort and commitment.