Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Running In....

Running has always been a bug bear thing for me. I love the idea of slinging on jogging shoes and just getting on with it from your doorstep, contra driving via the gym', getting my cycling gear and bike in order or worse of them all maybe, driving and messing about with ski-prep in XC ski. I even quite enjoy the meditative nature of running. However running hates me.

How can people who are quite over weight, big boned or bitty-obese, tackle runninn and its high impact on your body ?

My own story is that i was a bit lazy and anti sport as a small kid and this had a long hangover into my teen years. Not only was I a bit overweight and unfit, I was also hindered by growing pains and small feet. About age 12 or 13 i got growing pains in my heels and my previously quite large feet grew it seems less than they should have done - i endes up with EU 45-GB10 at 6'2" which is decidely the smallest feet to height any of my tall peers had. I even squeezed into a pair of nine and a half heels a girlfriend had who was three inches shorter than me!  Coupled to unusually high arches, running has usually lead to injury and me giving it up having maybe built up to 3 or 4 mile jaunts.

In my late teens I took up cycling and the low impact on the body meant I could build up fitness over a couple of years and really enjoy the sport. By age 21 I was a lythe racing cyclist, had a resting heart rate of 38 and could cycle 120 miles at around 24 mph.

Cycling stayed with me as did that rotten appetite you develop, and of course need to cycle five six hour days. Pasta for supper and breakfast, eatiung when you aren't really hungry because otherwise you will go empty or have to eat more than a morcel underway and end up with stomach ache. These days I don't have the time for a lot of cycling and added to the time it takes to clothe up in our often chilly spring and autumn, I decided to try and crack running for the four months or so of the year which are my desirable or qeather enforced gaps between xc ski and cycling seasons.

Dag Otto Lauretzsen the former Tour de France rider, robbed of the world championship hoops by an idiot in Japan, says in his book "get in shape' he had a mate who was very unfit and quite overweight. Of course he decided to something about it, but unlike a lot of folk with a plan and determination, he set out with modest, step-wise goals. He used 'the lampost technique' in building up his running by combining it with walking and running between lamposts, builsing up the running distance one post at a time. That is probably max' a hundred yards in a residential neighbourhood.

I took a leaf from his book then, and decided to build up very gradually towards a five kilometer cross country run ( or jog for me)  at the end of May. Why only five clicks? I can ski 30 and could get on a bike right nownafter seven months off it and cycle 40! Running is just so much higher impact on your body and also for your or I the life long cyclist , the way it stretches the calve muscles and engages other muscles take adaptation. In the reverse situation, I had a friend who was a Royal Marine but when he started cycling, the whole MTB club left him on the first climb.

Starting low is a good idea if it is Tarmac you have outside your froint door. I live on a grove, or ring access road which is about 480m and very lightly traffic'd. The first day out was just that, a 480m half run-jog affair after once round walking. I doubled it pretty much straight away as I had no ill effects and am fairly fit from the xc ski season just behind us. 200m gentle jogging after 800m walking may be ideal for someone heavier and less fit. Since then I have been building it up by ten percent roughly every five days or so.

Also I have been careful on rest days. I try and be disciplined to run every other day. Rigoruous or challenging exercise will stress your body's systems and actually damage your muscles. And tha is a good thing. Your body learns that it needs to divert resources to repair this and also to prepare the body for the next session- it anticipates more exercise. Unlike cheetahs, we don't retain our musculature and  fitness without significant exercise. We have evolved in societies from the days of first agriculture or even before, where we did not always need to be physically prepared for survival, but rather could survive as a flock. There was maybe even a survival advantage in being lazy and putting on fat, in that we exposed our-ancient-selves to less risk, used less energy in building muscle when we didn't need to, while laying on a paunch for winter come harvest time. Harvest feasting and our positive feedback appetite loops on salty, fatty and sugary foods, rare and aought after in antiquity, couple to give us a horrible predisposition to become obese. A rest day to a fitness fanatic who runs xmas morning, may seem lazy, but it will allow your body to recover, repair and prepare so that you avoid injury and get lasting improvement over time. Furthermore, a lot of research shows that you lose the trajectory of improvement if you don't exercise within 48hrs of your last session.

So there was some science with a dash of heavy ethology - specially for the creationists amongst you. I like the lampost method - my step-up increment being 10% - that is what feels right in my legs and feet.  I tried to really push up with a warm up of 960m and interval training totalling  2.8km , with a short warm down two weeks ago and was out of action for six days with acheing achilles, arches and calves. It was too far, too hard and way too soon on Tarmac and hard forrest trails at least. Your body will tell you - small aches and twinges in you muscles and cardiovascular system are to be expected, and next time out you may still feel a little tender and want to hold to the same distance and intensity as the previous session, or even reduce it a bit. "No Pain, No Gain" is true in as far as that description I just gave , whereas for the quite unfit or those taking a major step-up in intensity, uncomfortable, hundering pain in your legs, joints and feet and especially chest pains or radial shooting pains anywhere on your body, severe dizziness and so on is your body saying STOP. Disclaimer, disclsimer, you should consult your doctore before embarking on an exercise programme or experiencing discomfort during or after training - phew.

As the head strong thirty something I was a wee while ago now, I often forgot that in cycling too, each season or when recovering from i njury, it went softly-softly-catch-monkey when I was younger. I remember with the lighter evenings of March, getting out for just 20 mins, then 30, 40, 50, an hour before building up to the two hour sessions which in Scotland were always challenging for headwinds and hills. As a man with longer working hours I used to expect to be able to do three times one hour sessions a week and get really fit. But I had previously built up to 8-12 hours a week over two spring months, and you really get so much fitter doing two hour or longer sessions on a bike. You too maybe were a marathon runner even in your late teens, and find getting back into running really painful and unrewarding. Step it down a few notches and listen to your body.



Monday, 8 September 2014

Goals, Patience, Bad Habits

I have actually lost around a stone since i started my focus on 2 hour duration exercise sessions in january, ie almost 7kg. That is then above average loss compared to the big diet study i linked to in the last blog, almost double. My goal is then 18kg in one year, so I am about a third of the way in with almost two thirds of the time gone.

To make me feel guilty i have had three weekends of over-beer ration in a row and I have not been careful with extras and portion control the last week, with disrupted days. Some days are very good though with a low appetite compared to my previous gluttony for extras and high calorie travel meals.

Now i have to return to the slog as it seems sometimes, but already i can see the benefits on the scales and in the mirror. This time though i am not resting on my laurels and tightened stomach muscles. Muscle is heavier than fat, but also holds a good stone of fat around my middle in better in the mirror. So i mustnt kid myself on, it is all there as it was when I was ten years younger before i got really bloated. For a long time I looked like a sporty guy on either end with a couch potatoe in the middle, and I just held myself in. Then my weight stabalised miraculously at 118kg, 19 stone uk, given how many extras i considered were par for the course. 99 kg is my target btw. 112 was achieved, may have slipped back a little with the beers?

So dont kid yourself that this approach is quick nor that you can just stop the discipline when you can suck and pucker your stomach in : let it hang out, pinch those love handles, fondle those boobs.

In the long term the diet is a life diet, while the exercise is then reduced although i think i will keep up one long session a week.

By determination i got six and a little hours last week quality training before the surprise monsoon conditions sat it. Now I am looking at doing one three hour session, two two hour sessions and a one hour harder session before the autumn sets in with its dank mists and grey days come along.

I thought I had hit peak weight loss but that was a dip from doing sessions which stretched out more than 2 hours and from being very strict, surpassing my extras prohibition! However I do get that tank empty feeling at around 1 hr 45 on my bike so every minute after that is effectively fat burning, and if I avoid sugary replenishment then fat burning continues until the next meal.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Equivalence In Diets Which Lack Duration Exercise

All diets 'have similar results' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29031985

This is an interesting study, a meta study of long term results, more because it should point to two of my own conclusions about dieting. Firstly, the weight loss takes a much longer time than people imagine or rather hope for. Just under 8kg for a year's atkins or weight-watchers. Secondly you have to comply of course, strictly to the diet, and this research actually excludes those who do not comply, which is actually useful to compare the real efficacy of diets versus each other.

The conclusion is as the title> there is  no actual huge difference over the long term if you manage to stay on the diet. These calorie counting diets and low carbo, high protein diets which achieve the same for glycogen, blood sugar and fat burning then, by in large do not have a component of exercise and those that have, there is a lack of prescription on duration.

Weeks update now is the interesting effects on my own appetite. I have started to get less satisfied by meals unfortunetly, so will need to work on chewing and distractions and water after dinner. I am also more often a wee bit hungry, a bit of a pit in the stomach, but I am less actually tempted to snack or use up my fruit allowance.

I have spread my exercise sessions this week a bit more and will try to get another extra session in the weekend, which may take me up to 7 or 8 hours. Weeks run monday to sunday if you remember, such that weekend allowances of extras are not split !

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Hidden Calories

Today I came upon a trap which you should be aware of.

I train like I sai in my last blog, a little at the top end of the fat burning bpm zone and into the conditioning zone because I have the luxury of middle of the day hours to put in, while I spend evenings and weekends with the family. So the last two times I have been out on the longest cycle route I like to do, I have gone empty and hit the wall about 6km from finishing. Those last six kilometers are hard. The body has exhausted all its carbohydrate stores, and I probably have had the runner's wall, a big imbalance in salts.

After exercising I then allowed myself a small can of italien tuna and some nuts, with a quite low calorie sports drink before hand. I also bought a frappe cappucino. Last time I read the label of these rather delicisous little treats from our national dairy producer, Tine, I saw that they contained about 3 spoonfuls of sugar. Wrong, They are actually 62 kcal per 100g. That confuses it more: is coffee heavier or lighter than water?  So it now means this is nearly 200 kcal.

Thus you can be fooled into thinking a snack is a non event in the calorie count. It could be a drink or a small cake or a sports bar. Dont skim read to the calories. Remember to do this also when you are doing your cathartic calorie count of all your extras in life. Be honest about what you take as treats, luxuries, beer and larger or repeat portions of dinner. Weigh some items if you are not sure, and compare a few different calorie counting web sites to see what they mean by a portion.

Calories are difficult but also there is a really easy rule. Here's why:

Calorific value is calculated by literally burning the foodstuff in pure oxygen, and then measuring a volume of water around the glass bubble the burning happens in, to attain how many kilojoules it has used in rising the water temperature per gram of food. However the body does not digest all foods as well, nor does it metabolise some as effectively as burning in pure O2. Nuts and sweetcorn are notorious undigested left overs in your faeces. So is a lot of longer fibre carbohydrates or those bound up tightly in whole grain foods. You shit out calories. This muddies the waters a bit, but let us not follow that debate.

The easy part as the alternative  then is that anything with a high sugar content and particularily a high sugar and fat content  is going to be high on the hit list of cutting right back on, rationing down to say 150 kcal a couple of times a week. Also crisps and ground nuts which are high simple chain starch based and have a lot of oils and fats in them. Other nuts like hazel nuts are not so bad, but I would say limit total intake of nuts and crisps to between 50 g and 100g PER WEEK. That is not a lot, a small portion. Also then limit cakes or buns to ONE A WEEK, and check that it is under 400kcal. Alternatively cut it up or buy small sized cakes but be disiplined to 350 kcal per week.

There is or has been recently a lot of research going on about training on a very low carbo diet, and I am not an advocate of a high fat, high meat diet. In any case a lot of low carbo recipies in the books or web sites are actually very healthy, for example salmon with asparagus or broccoli. Ketosis, catabolising fat, is not a normal, sustainable form of energy provision in western humans. Ikinuits had a shorrt life expectancy before western medcine came to them. So I am a critic of the long term high fat, low carbo diet, while I can see that reducing starchy calories can help. Training on low carbo is a painful affair I found and due to this and the high colestrol intake, I fell off the Atkins wagon. 

I am proposing that we simply match what the human body is meant to do> go on a long hunting trip , burn up sugars and then wander back home with the kill while burning fat reserves. I say that you have to go out and hit the glycogen wall , sometimes like me today, consciously in order for the body to start catabolising its fat reserves. The low carbo diets make the short cut or starving your body of anything which can make glycogen and forcing the fat system on. I dont believe this is natural or sustainable in the long term, but could agree that sedentary candidates who are in a danger zone for obesity could benefit from this instead of exercise in the short term weight loss phase.

Some research seems contradictory, but the medical establishment knows that a low quality diet of sugars, refined starches and saturated fats is what is on the menu of the majority of western patients who have heart attacks, even if they arre not very overweight at all. It is most likely the combination of the western super carbo consumer life style which  is so dangerous, although I suspect that long term high fat low carbo diets are going to prove dangerous to mortality and later life morbidity. I stand to be proven wrong of course.

The consumer snack and soft drinks  industry stands in line at every retail food outlet to pump you with high sugar, high refined starch, high fat products and hides a good deal of deadly palm oil in innocious products like even raisins. The drinks industry has been better to respond to consumer demand for low calorie options of course since the 1970s dieting fad. However the snack industry is currently wrapping a whole load of quite unhealthy bars up as ' sports' oriented products and this not good. Read the label about the kcal inhold, and see how much it all weights.

I found the best snack trade off right now is the chocolate Alpen  bar, at 167kcal. less than half a comparable sized chocolate bar, and with mixed whole grains.

The mantra is limit snacks, subsitute in fruit, and avoid super sizing drinks and meal times.

Sporty and Little Thinner. Pre Weigh In Chat

I am a little excited about my weigh in but really I shouldnt be. For any sporty fatty who wants to lose maybe 2 stone tops, it is better to take it off two pounds at a time. In metric, that is 12kg and 1 kg per month, so that makes a nice round year.

I have been suddenly going down at a kilo a week, and in the holiday month I managed a kilo, so I am pretty anxious about the weekly weigh in tommorrow, but actually that is just going against my own philosophy ! Go slow , stay off for good, change for ever.

I have a little higher a figure 18kg which is around 3 stone to lose. Also I am being a house husband for a while so I can train a little harder during the day. This means that I am up in the top range on some of my cycling tours, pushing 75 / 85 % max bpm during a good proportion of my daytime tours between house work and picking up the kids. For people in full time jobs who feel quite fatigued, it is best to be in the lower segment of fat burning bpm, around 50% to 65% as this will tire you out less and require less concentration. It may seem like a lot of work, and sonme weeks  you may not make 7 hours, but if you can do 5 by stretching out sessions, and squeezing more time somewhere, then you will get the benefit of life changes. If you keep to 7 hours a week, then you will probably see a faster weight loss at some point  in your six months to a year programme.

light is at the end of the tunnel. Like a year out to do an MBA or become a firefighter, the investment in time and the discipline with extras should be very worth while in the long term. After the weight loss period the maintainance period means you can go back  to  a more typical varied training calender, but remember that you can never go back to all those extras again, 22 000 Kcal / month in my case.

I feel my appetite is under control, although you have to be weary.

queue next blog

Friday, 22 August 2014

Weighing in this week

Weigh in this morning on the flat line, and a kilo down in the last week.

A fair bit of hard training, 2 hour sessions three days in a row. I don't know if that has a large effect on rate of weight loss, but it would be interesting to find out. I was expecting two things with this diet and training regime, firstly slow steady loss over.time and secondly a peak rate of weight loss at some time into it. Finally i hope for long term appetite effect and self discipline after I move on.

Like the recent 5:2 starvation diet, my regime is based on scientific facts from other sources and is a common sense and logical approach to losing weight for those who are prepared to extend their training sessions to well over an hour three times a week.

Also I feel a very much reduced appetite and much better control of snacking. Some of which is allowed on the diet to keep you from complete boredom.

However as in the 5:2 and many other diets, in particular the calorie starvation type, is that they have not been proven conclusively - statistically that is to day. In diets you cannot compare to placebo in most regimes and so you lose quite a few of the neutralising effects of a double blind trial, where neither researcher nor patient know which group they are in until their alocation of medicine is decoded.  Also there is more variance in how people comply: so if you compared one diet, say taking a chrome salt tablet, to the 5:2 then there would be a lot of people following the simple take a pill a day ,while a significant number of 2 day starvers would be eating anyway. Worse for my regime which combines a strict 5 hour at over 110 bpm heart rate per week minimum plus a restriction in treats then it gets worse.

So there is an issue with finding out which diets are best for the public. You can of course take people into a hospital or the like and control their every bite and step, but then the diet is just as much about the artificial discipline as much as the content of the diet regime. Diets have to work in everyday life to be relevant to the western human condition.

What you need to smooth out the variances is firstly to just report those who dont comply as failures, and secondly to have a large enough group to make a meaningful average.  That means two things: we see a standard distribution in weight loss for the group, secondly when we compare to another group then we know that these two averages are comparable and the difference between them is large enough to have occured by effect of the different regimes, and not random chance. Look up clinical trials if you dont know about them, and a two tailed t-test for statistical significance.

That is why infact dieting is not like treating many of the diseases obesity and high calorie intake leads to. We can treat or as consultants like to say "manage heart disease" because you eventually die from it. They use pills, they use surgical procedures they even use clinically controlled exercise regimes. All are proven to work because they have to be by law. That is to say all those mentioned above have been subject to infact numerous clinical trials. We "cure" heart disease.

Propriety, branded diets by in large have not gone through the type of clinical trial that shows on average that they are effective enough to bother with. Most are based on controll of calorific intake which is scientifically proven to reduce fatness, in the short term at least. However the variations of people's long term response to the diet and actually the measure of how easy they are to comply to, are  usually not proven in a comparative way to other non branded diets.

There is as yet no magic pill for dieting which is both effective and first and foremost, safe to take.   Stomach stapling surgery of course is proven to be effective. But that is only afforded in morbidly obese people.  This is one reason why a new diet appears every couple of years as the next magic thing, because there are always people who have failed on other diets.

Atkins was a welcome departure because it was genuinely unique and novel, while being based on scientific observation.

Really though what all the low carb and calorie controlled diets should make we in the west aware of is that we take far too many additional sugar based calories which are surplus to our daily requirements, and are sometimes eaten and drunk in a short time span leading to fat deposition due to blood sugar overload.

On the calorie controlled diets i hear people speak and write of the hell week or fortnight. This is within a month of starting the diet usually and it is when you hit a wall of feeling low on energy while thus craving treats and gratification. For me when i last lot more than a stone on exercising and dieting a bit more drastically, hell week was every week. I was depressed by the diet.

This time I did find a bit of a hill to climb. Luckily or not as it prove to be, i had started my longer duration training in january before deciding to cut out beer and extras in june. So i was through the barrier to getting out three or four times a week was broken. The hell was mild when i came to stamp on extras.

There we have the grounds for at least five longtidunal and comparative studies, with varying control groups which could be conducted with some degree of statistical significance if the regime is actually effective for larger groups of sporty fatties.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Why Do Diets Fail ?

I must admit to have only 'been on a diet' four or maybe five times before in my life. Otherwise I have eaten what I wanted. However as like many of you readers I did not get any long term benefit from the diets. Statistics have been flouted about which show how many people either fail or rebound from diets, but of course the people who invent the diets or market them by in large are  not interested in a long term clinical trial. (It has to be mentioned that some diets have been tested in as near to a clinical trial, that is giving statistical proof of efficacy, as is possible ie single blind, compared to a base group and perhaps compared to a different regime in the same study). This rant on proof of not eating the pudding so to speak, put to one side, why do so many of us not continue with a diet or rebound after the diet is over?

Do we set out with good intentions and then just can't break through the 'peckish 9pm' barrier during or after a diet? Do we exit a diet with largerr cravings for food and especially calorie bomb luxuries? Or does our body not like being starved and develop a propensity to lay down more fatty tissue around our middles after being in a 'starvation' diet?

There has not been any really concrete research I can find at least, which has been done around the physiology of starving your body by a calorie controlled diet and then in the long term actually laying down more fat. There are studies from emaciated groups who are then fed and there have been studies on the effects of polar conditions where a net negative calorie result can be experienced : but I remain to find studies which show that a typical calorie controlled 'starvation diet' leads to the body actually laying down more fat when you come off the diet. It would seem to make sense, but let us lay this also to one side until I or one of the readers in the comments below, feel free, points to something conclusive that does not end with "further studies" or " a larger group of subjects would need to be studied " ie not actually proof, just some initial and interesting findings, as in fact 90% of scientific research consists of. (Hence I gave up a promising career boring myself to death as a scientist)

I think the clue to why nearly all diets have such a high long term failure rate is in the very term 'diet'. Calorie controlled diets are far too focused on food! That may sound like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that they focus the person going on the diet onto the food they put in front of themselve. Everything suddenly revolves around food, and denying oneself food, at every mealtime. It becomes a source for stress to anyone who has a large appetite for meals and whom snacks in between meals. We are creatures not only of habit but when there is a move to break habits, particularly core habits , down the Maslovian pyramid, then if we can, we fight back. In a famine or a concentration camp, you cannot fight back and the body burns all its fat and spirals downward into catabolising protein. In the modern world, you make a conscious effort to spite the diet and you either move slowly back to snacking or you just plainl;y pig out. I think in fact that calorie controlled 'starvation' diets work best for people who were not all that bothered about food in the first place, but had gone a long in fact with other people's habits and our general high carbo at point of sale  at every opportunity.

On Atkins dieting in particular I found that much MORE time was spent thinking about food in order to try and both keep to the super low carbo plan, while having some degree of variety. In fact I habituated on my second attempt to a very dull diet with a lot of eggs, salad leaves, asparagus and both fresh and smoked salmon. I did loose about 5 kg or maybe as much as 8kg, but put it all back on within a year. I think I could have continued with the diet without a huge problem, and titrated back in those carbo as you do, and drunk light beer and so on and so on. But I started training on skis and needed the energy and fell completely off the low carbo wagon, going the other way. I was snacking before and after exerciseing an hour to two outdoors. In fact that winter it was so damn cold that I may have actually put my body into storing more fat, which is a proven result of exposure to low temperatures. But the extras crept in, as if I was an athlete training 5-8 hours a day, the sports calorie boosters and replenishments and the sweets, and those salty nuts and chips to get my salt back in....Been there?

Electric Extra Land. Sports food and drink products were fringe stuff until the arrival of Lucozade Sport which was actually pretty healthy and much lower carbs than most other fizzy drinks. Then came things like the power-bar TM and the Cliff BarTM and then bananas got remarketed as a sports product and so on and so on, until now a milkshake with a bit of fancy ingredients and 160 Kcal is sold as an after sport essential before you go eat your dinner.  In fact for anyone just training for fitness and especially those wanting to lose fat, these calorie replenishment or extension products should only be used when doing real endurance exercise, like 3 or more hours cycling or over two hours running. Otherwise they can stand in as a meal substitute in part or whole. Milk race and Tour de france riders get bananas and fancy drinks because they cycle up to 8 hours a day at high rythm and have very little fat to burn in reserve.

What I propose is more successful for the sporty fatty is to forget stressing about main meals. As  I said in the last blog, if you think you maybe eat a lot for your core meals benchmark your calorie intake for them. If they are the 300 -450 -800 breakfast-lunch-dinner then you can forget about all these meals, just eat as you did, ration yourself to very few additional portions, and ration down OJ and sugary drinls. Be careful though that breakfast is not a super sugar bomb. "of Which Sugars" is a good guide for cerials and ready meals for example, and this means that you may be taking too much simple suigar in one go, more on that in a later blog where I will read som up to date. Anyway after a quick benchmark, you can forget your core meals as anything to stress about.

The focus instead for the sporty fatty is something else you have some habitual behaviour establihsed round" training and training quite hard. The target is then to midify established babits by training longer and less intensely, while having a killer insinct on extras. Extras become a focus as the only negativbe thing, and even then you have an allowance, so it is not a cycle of being depressed about all the denial. Instead you get the physiological benefits of longer duration training plus an easy discipline to follow with a logical focus on all that is extra.

I would say for the non sporty fatty., that many people get great benefit from the branded, calorie controlled dietts and some people have reversed their obesity on low carbo diets.Howeever since you are a sporty fatty if you have read this far, and not gone " sod this, 7 hours a week getting sweaty?!!" then the health and long term weight loss benefits coupled to hopefully a lasting self discipline and a physiologically/psychologicallly double hit on your appetite will help you and I keep it off even if we revert to shorter training sessions once we reach our target weight on this regime.