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.



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Main Meals vs Extras : The Sporty-Fatty Diet

Let me delve a little bit more into why my approach to losing weight by physical training and slashing the amount of extras, luxuries and treats you eat, is a sensible and even logical way of going about it.

Most calorie controlled diets focus on starving the body so that it burns fat reserves. Many of the diets which people follow today are commercial, some of them very good, but they want to make money of course.

The ones which have food products associated to their brand,  wage war on main meal times, and sell you a substitute. This is no terrible way of going about things because it makes it easy for you to comply to the calorie controlled diet. A shake for lunch. A bar for breakfast. However for you and I dear sporty but chubby, and for most other overweight people in western countries it is extras outside meal times plus extra portions or extra large super sizing junk food meals which are the culprit, not main meals.

Take a good old British worst in class. Fish n' chips - the fish supper north of the border. A fat and carbo bomb? Well if you take the average portion apparently it is indeed a wacking great big 848 kcal. However even if you eat this for lunch and dinner you may not get very fat at all because that would then be 1700 kcal ,or what a very slightly built, sedentary adult woman needs in calories for a day.  Also, as Dr Atkins pointed out, it is not high fat in diet which makes people fat ,it is high carbos and especially simple sugars and refined starches which cause the insulin response each time you overload the body with blood glucose, and leads to fat deposition when you get too much in a short space of time.

So now take with the fish n' chip dinner,  your  sugary drink and your bar of chocolate which you the Geordie or Scot or Ulsterman consume and you are up to over 1200 kcal for said supper, and you are overloading your blood glucose for a good time as first the sugar hits and then the starch in the chips is broken down to blood sugar by digestion.

Another deamon of the fast food is the quarter pounder cheese burger with large fries. That in itself is between 800kcal and 950kcal. Again no huge issue compared to daily required intakes pf around 2500kcal for adult males, 2k for women. But a large cola adds several hundred calories of the hyperglycaemic type.

On the other side, take a healthy meal high in the trendy omega 3 fatty acids: salmon with spuds and broccoli. This clocks in at an unsurprising 500 calories. Add sugary drinks if it is a bit heavily salted or you are thirsty from training: a typical british or scandinavian well known blackcurrent squash : 220 kcal per half litre thirsty mans glass. How many glasses did you drink when you made a big jug for the family?

European breakfasts tend to be a carbo bomb, which atkins dieters avoid by the trusty egg. But the biggest bomb is in having a large portion of cereal or museli and then having several glasses of orange juice. Given one of these luxury treat yourself breakfasts , a favourite of mine is mini shredded wheat with fruits in them, and just two glasses of orange juice then you are up at 450 calories. An extra portion of that yummy self spoiling treat and you are up at 650 kcal possibly.

Lunch cometh. Often a rushed affair so the sarnie or packed lunch suffices and that is allegedly on average around 300-350kcal, the apple with it is around 60-70kcal. But add a sugary  drink and crisps and you can be up at 700kcal.

Okay so you see that core meals really no matter what you eat in terms of a single portion of that meal add up as follows:
Breakfast ( inc 1 x orange juice)  350kcal
Lunch : sandwich and a fruit 450kcal
Dinner . Main course ,          900 kcal

That adds up to a mere 1600 kcal per day : so if you eat completely normal core meals, even with an unhealthy 900kcal  dinner, then by avoiding sugary things and extras you would be on a really calorie starving diet.

So forget counting core meal calories if you know you eat normal sized portions. It is the sugary drinks, sugary desserts and high calorie per gram extras like crisps, buscuits and cakes which are the real bad guys.

Add then 10 beers after the rugby match at apprx 200 kcal per pint and you see where you have been and where the beer gut came from: once a week binge session with 8 beersx, about what i could down in a big evening for me, and you are at the same calorific intake as from all your meals of that day. Luckily i have never been much of a kebab on the way home man. But that is usually an additional 600-1000 kcal. Okay you are up late on a cold night in Manchester, you need maybe another 500kcal to keep the body going but your net intake is a bit mad. Even if you give up on the taxi rank and walk home at 600kcal an hour on a miserable winter night, then your net intake of a usual saturday night out is well over a thousand kcal. Times that by four for a month and you have put on weight : half a kilo from a typical once a week sporty lad or lass night out on the town.

Half a kilo from sweets and cakes, half a kilo from Sugary drinks ,half a kilo from extra portions of dinner.........
This is why you like me have crept up to being maybe 20kg over weight over ten years despite being 'sporty' and active.

So in my diet I say count up only your extras, but also benchmark your core meals to see if they are about 1600kcal total.

Now you see why i do allow myself some extras, a mix in fact as follows:

1 X 250kcal cake per week
2X. 200 kcal Beer, "pint" p.w.
3X. 80 kcal light beer 33cl p.w.
85g chocolate 350kcal spread out over more than one day
3x ordinary fruit yoghurts@ 145kcal ie with added sugar , per week
2x small additional portions dinner @ ~300kcal each pw
3 x 150ml glasses of wine , @~ 150kcal per glass pw
1X banana per day @ 100kcal
2x other fruits. @ 60kcal each per day
1 x jam sandwich per day @ ~ 230kcal
1x glass squash per day @ ~100 kcal
"".  "".  "".  Orange j.    "".   "~130kcal
50g crisps per week
25g nuts per week

What are the Other Extras to Avoid?

Well they are desserts, snacks, drinks over 20kcal per 250ml glass, extra large portions core meal, additional portions core meals, grapes more than 50g per day, more than one banana per day (if you do not take it as a part of a 600kcal lunch that is, then you can have two.), more than the one 250ml orange juice at breakfast.

Beer and wine are quite limited as you can see, but you can have vodka diet cola or any other very low cal mixer on a clean spirit. The alcohol in spirits does not really all get metabolised to sugar. It is a complex biochemical pathway which uses up a lot of energy underways and spews out intermediate and biproducts underway, which incidentally build up through the night to give you, yep you got it, a hang over.

What's The Down Side of The Sporty Fatty Diet?

Well if you have landed solely on this blog entry, then read further. This weight loss regime does allow you a very nice level of extra wee treats but it is at the expense of exercising three times a week aiming for each session to be 2 hours long with a heart rate maintained at 55-70% max heart rate  ( usually around 120 - 140 bpm depending on your age) .

You will sweat. You will gasp once in a while to catch your breath. You will find it monotomous at times. You will struggle to see the point. You will get exhausted, especiallly at the beginning of your 4 to 12 month programme or in especially hot or cold weather (avoid extremes over 30'C and under -12'C)

However you will get used to the sessions and suceeding to keep your target 5-7 hours. You will get very good fitness benefits from it, and for some like me, much better than even doing say an hour a day five days a week. Most of all you will promote fat burning during and after excercise and you will most likely moderate your appetite as the body gets used to using more fat when sugar stores are depleted.

I will give a footnote to Weightwatchers TM and "the walking diet" who also propose an exercise calorie burn way of counting burnt versus intake. It is just for me, the obvious reason i am sporty yet overweight is not core meals, rather it is due to my appetite for extras and consumer lifestyle.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Some Tricks to Get the Duration of Your Training Up

As I said in my last blog I would help you with some tricks for how to increase the duration of your exercise sessions and more importantly  how to fit them in around a busy forty-something-married-with-kids or thirty something working all the hours lifestyle

Time Bandits

Realise what steals away your spare time. The worst for this in many western countries, especially the UK and USA, is working masses of unpaid, non transferable overtime hours. You are in avoidance if you are fat. You are avoiding conflict by not pushing back. You are often for most average employees working hours which will get your boss promoted and your director a pay rise, not you. Bolchy I hear you say? There are plenty books to make you more efficient at your job by spotting time wasters and time wasting activity and learning to prioritise.

Well there are hundred of time bandits every day at work especially and some at home.

Let us though say ok, to hell with that, you must work and/or do family stuff all week and have no time for any long sessions of exercise.  Okay then we are looking at getting five hours out of effectively 30 woken hours from friday afternoon cessation of work week to sunday evening good night story. One sixth of that will be used on your waist line and building a better cardiovascular system.

Firstly to say, moderate intensity exercise is relaxing and recreational!!! The stress of sweating like hell, collapsing on the floor, leaving with acheing muscles is not there. You can start very lightly and build up from your 40 minute current base line as a sporty-fatty dabbler in exercise very easily.

Take saturday morning. Kids at TV, saturday supplement in hand, tens cups of coffee....get your arse out and go do a gentle joggy walky tour for two hours, think about planning the rest of the weekend, gather your thoughts from the week, listen to an interesting radio show or talking book on the mp3 player. Same goes for sunday am> on this regime you will be avoiding drinking alcohol much, limited to two beers a week and half a bottle of wine each day evening on friday and saturday. No hangover, everyone else doing very little, get out.

The other dead time I find is late saturday afternoon after the shopping is done and the kids are picked up.

Squeezing and Stretching
So you see you can squeeze things into those 30 hours at the weekend, and allow maybe a one evening window for a two hour session by letting some e-mail chains answer themselves.

Another big benefit of doing moderate exercise with only 50/65% max heart rate is that you can start exercise much sooner after you eat dinner during the week, or at the weekends. So after a light meal you can be out half an hour afterwards while you arre still digesting your food. Hey presto, a mid week session is in the bag and you can still put the kids to bed or go and read some e/mails for an hour at night. Also your lower intensity will mean that you sleep better than having done shorter, higher intensity sessions which start an hour after your dinner.

So you can squeeze things in even with a 'busy' lifestyle, but for many single sporty-fatties you will need to stretch out more than you squeeze.  You maybe do a couple of training sessions a week and then say play a full 90 minute rugby match or five a side football match, or XC running hack at the weekend.

You need then to stretch out your sessions, while also moderating down their intensity given you know that they have been 80-90% hard work outs . 

The simplest way to do this effectively I believe is to build up over a three week period. Firstly sessions which were 40 minutes in the gymn, get stretched to 50 minutes, then an hour and ten minutes and so on. Commuting work outs get a detour, probably best with some form of circular route or one you can cut short if you do get really tired or bored. Build up is the key there. 

Variation. To keep up interest, especially in the gymn, vary what you do within the session. Also you can vary outdoor sessions by route or type< cycling is very easy for anyone to build up to two hours tours on because it is low impact and you have gears to enable a steady power input over varying terrain. On that topic, use your terrain cycle (MTB or hybrid) on trickier paths and longer gradients, taking it easier and being in the woods so to speak . Then as an alternative, become an accidental tourist and combine various routes to sight see or go places you never bothered to look at before, see how new building work is getting on and so on. 

if you already have a team activity or sociable training session in your weekly plan, then it is likely that this is say spinning or five  a side. You need to talk to the team, coach or mates and explain that you need to take it easier a little during the session because you are aiming for endurance training. Then you can add a warm up and prolonged warm down to the core hour session, and hey presto you have stretched it out to two hours.  Maybe some of your friends will join you. A mid week club sprinty cycle ride may then get a splinter group who do two to three hours of slower steady training.
Take another sport, swimming. It takes a very dedicated athlete to takle two hours of chlorine and so on, but building up to an hour session and maybe that is one and a half miles , 100 legnths of a 25 m pool.  Then combine this with jogging lightly to the pool and jogging home, or cycling, or walking with a heavy pack.

Finally coming back to our modern hectic lifestyle, we go from seat to seat, and I know myself that I have driven as long as forty minutes to get to a gym each way of an evening. In urban traffic this could well be quicker by cycling or even jogging to the gym. Choose then a gym within walking distance or either your work or home, or en route between the two to which you can combine the commute to during the week, mornings or evenings, or at the weekend where an hour in the gymn with half an hour each side commute will whizz by.  The same can be done with team activities, but then that may mean going down to the B team or taking a different position with agreement from the coach where more moderate intensity can be sustained> defence in stead of mid field for example.

Combining with Family

Combining with the family can be tricky especially with small kids who cannot keep going for longer than a half an hour or so. The best way with small kids is to get a bike seat for them or a twins-trailer. However do not expect them to sit there for more than 20 minutes at a time> rather, combine this part of the cycle tour with delivering them to friends or an activity, and then use the bike alone. Commuting once again, or just having some time foryourself while your spouse plays with the kids, while stealing maybe as much as an hour by commuting.

Alternatively for walking or XC ski tours is to carry a pack of 10/15kg or more and do a two hour family tour, where you keep moving about when the family take those little breaks, just up and down in the tracks or on the spot a bit.

As kids get older, some of their sports activities become longer and you can then do the commuting thing and train while they are at the sport at the same facility. Sometimes as in swimming clubs, you will find that there
is a lane for parents you maybe didnt know about (they keep it a bit quiet so it doesnt get too busy) Getting your kids used to physical commuting will set them up for life with a good attitude to burning calories instead of driving everywhere.

Stealing From Base

So you see that this is all about the already sporty, but fatty, who has used the car invariably to go from A to B to sport. What we are talking about is upping the base time by varioous wee cheats as as well as just stretching out the duration in your three weeks of the regime. For me it was easier> I come from cycling and enjoy long tours in the hills or back woods, so I was able to up my sessions to two hours immediately when the XC ski season began, and then build up my cycling to two hour sessions within a couple of weeks of beginning. I prefer to go out on the bike twice a week for two hours when it is dry, and then have one brisk walk of around two hours. I have found that with moderate intensity I often spend a bit longer than anticipated out, especially when walking, while also the reverse, if I have a good run on my bike on a usual route and complete it quicker, I then go round the block so to speak for upto half an hour at the end, or extend the turning point out. As the XC season approaches I am interested in trying roller skis, or alternatively joining a gymn or club with facilities for indoor skiing machines. My local gym is only ten minutes brisk walk away, but I can easily extend that by various routes of upto half an hour without them being ridiculous detours.

Psychology Behind the Sporty-Fatty Plan Training and Diet Regime

Maybe some diets have some hidden psychological tactic behind them. Perhaps those single food type diets, the pineapple diet for example, trick you into liking food less.

Also exercise programmes: perhaps some of those have hidden agendas to awake your inner sports beast. I don't know. I want to be open about why the sporty fatty regime works psychologically.

We are probably born all of us, to be amateur psychologists, working out what other people do and why they behave like they or we as a group do. Some of this sub consciously, we just get to know what is normal and accepted for us personnally, what is different and what is maybe some behaviour we dont like.

However we as individuals assert that we have much more free-will than we actually exercise in our lives. In truth people have two horrid psychological flaws which hinder free will and change in lifestyle.

Beer Bellied Creatures of Habit

Firstly the vast majority of people are creatures-of-habit. We get used to our own routines in life. Worse than that some of our routines are completely counter productive- presenteeism at work is one of the worst. Hopping around in a self imposed super hectic lifestyle is another. Sitting eating crisps on friday night is another bad habit. 

The body collaborates by having systems of homeostasis> this means that any sudden shock to the body like a crash diet is likely to be fought back by the body wanting to return to its status quo, which may have taken years to establish. In our case, it is simply that we have learned to eat too much and habituated our lifestyles to short exercise bursts rather than the very beneficial long moderate intensity sessions.

So when a crash or starvation diet comes along, we just dont like it. We want to return to our habits. I resented the Atkins diet despite it varying in fact what I eat for breakfast. I just found it a hassle and something I didnt want to do. Also the last time I had a strict regime of long duration exercise and self denial, I felt depressed despite losing a lot of weight. i felt I was denying myself and forcing myself.

The first thing about the sporty-fatty diet is that it does not give you wholly new patterns in which to behave. Rather it modifies patterns  you already have. You already exercise. You can continue to eat some treats. You do not alter your main meals at all if they are healthy and balanced.

Beer Sheep

Of less importance perhaps depending on your social life, people are also terrible for behaving by following the flock behaviour. So in the UK we buy rounds of drinks and end up drinking what everyone else is instead of abstaining or taking a water. This means that many of your weekends, or even mid week post sports "quick wee bevvy" with the lads /lassies become calorie cramming sessions where after  your overloaded blood sugar is deposited as fat while we sleep the alcohol off.

So we don't break all old habits and end up miserable and we dont stress the body out, we rather modify our exercise and moderate our eating.

Having said all this remember that this train and control your treats diet is aimed at sporty fatties,  who have already forged the good habit of going training rather than sitting on the couch or doing more work, or reading the paper, or staying in bed at the weekend. So I doubt that this will be a very succesful regime for the sedentary person, unless they find that they enjoy long leisurely walks, jogs, cycles, swims, canoeing or extended gymn sessions etc etc and are able to form the new habit quickly. For example though as for myself, it was a period of unemployment which I decided to stretch my sessions out to over two hours, and now I find it easier to do this each week as if it was no real time at all, just like doing my time sheet at work or running the kids to school. More on that in the next blog.

Keeping it Real : Be Real Simple

Another fact of life when learning new ways of doing things as an adult is KISS: keep it simple, stupid!  Many diets including the Atkins diet, have differing phases where you alter things or even titrate in new foods or more carbos. Others have all sorts of recipies to keep you interested in eating basically watery salad leaves and cucumber, with tiny amounts of what we actually like and what makes us feel satisfied (which is where the Atkins and low carbo diets score high, you get satisfied by high protein, fat filled food)

Also many exercise training programmes include at least three different types of exercise and at least three different strict durations, and then they alter this week by week towards some presumed event or 'goal'. Basically for anyone who is non training for competition or very focused on a better body, it is complete overkill.

What I say here is keep it all simple and easy to relate to, while also admitting to yourself that you must make some changes. So for the duration of the entire weight loss you will build up to and complete 5 - 7 hours per week of moderate level exercise. You will eat normal meals but you will have normal single portions. You will have some treats and snacks to enjoy or self reward, but these will be very limited with simple arithmetic per week.

Goals Goals  Goals

Simple. It is a game of two halves and it is all about scoring goals, as the cliche of the pretentiously philosophical football commentator goes. One half is exercise, the other half is cutting out extras. The goals are very simple
A goal for 7 hours training per week in three sessions.
A goal to keep control of extras
Individual goals for each type of extra control. You win, but you also have had a nice lilttle treat.
Goals for keeping your intensity and duration of exercise up. This gets a little harder actually as you get better trained
A Goal / Reward for each month that goes, a declining waist line and kg on the scales
A Goal to make your new weight your long term light, fighting weight
A Goal to Get Fit and Use Your Base to Use your lighter body.

Weekly Weigh In, And Weighing Up Your Doubts

I weigh myself every week, but you could well find a once every other week a bit better . Remember to do this naked and first thing in the morning each time so you have consistency - a level playing field - which is important because this diet and exercise regime creates a slow loss of fat which is hopefully long lasting.

As I said I find now that two hours training sessions go quicker, and feel only a little longer than my older one hour sessions. Also I find that I have less appetite and am much more aware of the deadly extras. The key is to allow yourself some treats and a couple of extra portions per week but we conscious to limit these to when you are especially hungry or feel you have earned it. This is why it is important not to split your eating week over the weekend, but have it run Monday-Sunday. This also allows you to put in long sessions at the weekend if you have had a busy week, although I most recommend having one 2 hour session in the week.

My Weigh in: well as I expected it is down again, I know I am eating less and getting a lot fitter, so I can burn more energy per hour when training. I am now under 114kg at 113.8, which corresponds to actually over a  kilo per month, perhaps as much as two. After three months with this type of training combined with treat-and-extras control,  physiologists could expect a peaking in weight loss due to higher VO2.  Whether or not this peak continues is a matter to wait and see for me personally, but in principle it is a 'go-slow-steady' regime.
Okay I am being successful on this 'diet'  what Questions you May Have: 

Will I Have to Do 5-7 Hours A week Forever

The answer is no. Once your target weight loss is achieved or you are happy with your waist line, then you can drop so much activity if you like. The five-to-seven hours gets your body burning off its fat reserves, while the discipline with extras stops it being topped up again. Like the Atkins diet and some others there is a permanent maintenance phiolosphy. This is that a small amount of luxuries and regular exercise will mean that your weight will now vary around this and not around your previous sporty-fatty number.

How Much Excercise Should I do Per Week in the Long Term Then ?

As the sporty right sized person, you should think about doing three sessions a week of more than a half hour as a good way of maintaining your base level of fitness. Ideally  though one session should be  one hour 75%+ intensity, and one session should be longer and at 50-60% while sports coaches recommend one 40 min / hour long interval session including a light warm up and warm down, and also one wieghts or stregnth and stretching session of 20/30 mins.

As the thinner sporty forty something you may feel that  you are more confident with your body and you will find after six months on this light but long training programme that you have a fantastic base and strong, stable body for then reaching higher to start training with the club veterans, youth or even competing.

How Should I Regard "Treats and Extras" Now and In the Long Term ?

I promise to do a more detailed blog and list what type of things extras actually are. I forget myself simple things like I don't take  sugar in tea or coffee, but you should subsitute out all types of sugary drinks bar one per day with artifical sweetened drinks or just good old water, Perrier if you are posh instead of a Cold One or Ice Cold Coke.
Also desserts and snacks can be calorie bombs so really all desserts are extras bar fruit, and then that is fresh fruit and even then there are limits.

For  you dear Sporty Fatty like me, sporty 18 stone, four stones over weight before , it is self-rewarding treats, carbo loading, pre and after sport snacks and most of all weekend beer "chain-drinking" and the 'bab or pizza on the way home which has made us look like a defrosted turkey in its plastic wrapper when we take on lycra cycling clothes, or as if we are pregnant when we don a football jersey.  

If you do go back to your old ways then you will put on a lot of weight again, so this diet like most succesful long term diets is about permanent change in attitude. It is just a lot simpler to focus on extras, treats and luxuries as the culprits for the spare tyre and thundre thighs we have sprouted since we were 28 years old.

Friday, 15 August 2014

update on personal progress

Just a quick update on my personal progress with the "diet" ie fitness and weight loss regime.

Thunder showers this week, but my legs took me out on tour for almost three hours anyway. Then a one hour bike tour is all i managed today, better than nothing if i make seven hours total by sunday. I felt really good despite the high humidity again, and was able to do a nice 75% effort cycle run with soft tyres on the MTB making hill climbing tougher. I felt like i did a few times on my twenties and early thirties when you know you have a long way to go in terms of improvement, but that you are well on the way.

Also this week especially today I noticed how much more control l have on my appetite and how aware i am of "extras" all the time. Gone is the "shark frenzy" eating of the weekend and post training. I dialled in one of my two beers and drank cabronated qwater from 33cl cans from the fridge for the lion's share of my "cold ones".

I think then that l am through my adjustment phase and am habituated to positive habits and thought cycles. I am still convimced that this is just a kilo a month regime, the aim being lasting change after diet phase, but i susåect that in fact l could be about to go into a more rapod weight loss period. Many diets talk of a kilo a week, and when i was last laid down with influenza dor a whole week l lost ten kilos.

The point leading from the last is that i put those ten back on quite quickly, and each time i have consciously dieted or gone down as a side effect of activity , l have rebounded. Ao now i am making a big mid lofe adjustment to appetite and using training now to burn fat. Once down to 100kg trainjng can be shorter and for more effect, but i must say that i feel the long slow way is right for my body.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My Own Experience So Far

So far three months into the regime I have to say I really notice the difference to my health.

Firstly I am thinner and trimmer: trousers are getting too big for me. Muscle forms are reappearing. I have lost three kilos, one per month, plus three or four more from just training without a focus on cutting out life's-little-luxuries.

Secondly when I compare this regime to my many, many years of training since I reached about 30 and went over to smaller, more intense training sessions, I find that I am more comfortable: I have actually had fewer sports related injuries and although I get some of my stiffness, especially in the feet/heel tendons and calve muscles, I feel a lot better.

Today was a wet forecast and I got out in the morning actually and without knowing it I was up at two hours, and had to think about what time I actually started, ending up with a 2 and three quarter hour yomp through woodlands.

On my bike I am feeling like I did when I was about 29 ( when I did about six hours cycling per week, one long session at the weekend around the lanes of Cheshire and then some one hour or shorter "bursts" of intensity or burn up interval training)

XC skiing is a fortuity I have for the winter months, otherwise it would be offroad cycling and walking in the mountains for me when there is salt on the roads. I am very prone to injuries from running and only do run on soft wooded paths or treadmills.

Psychologically I find a very big benefit in having both more energy and usually getting a better night's sleep ( I am a bit insomniac ). As said I tackle two hour sessions well, and really it is a time to reflect on life, listen to music and so on. Also to relieve boredom I vary routes and activities, and concentrate at some points on technique, or heart rate, or breathing or what ever in the sport. This is a big fortuity too with XC skiing because it is very technique sensitive and there is always ways to improve or use the terrain differently.

I also do include some natural interval training, which is the nature of the beast with cycling and XC skiing in the wooded hillbilly county I live in. You go up a hill, give it some gusto, and then ski or freewheel down, recovering. Your heart will be in the intense zone a while, but it will slow down and anyway you are then using up a bit more sugar. My typical hillclimb here of note is half an hour on skis or the bike, and actually there is very little non active down hill after that. Sometimes I feel like backing off and doing the hills steadily at mid intensity breathing. Sometimes I break them up into mini intervals.

I actually think I am hitting the sweet spot for VO2 max versus fat tissue break down and may actually lose more than a kilo a month forward to the early winter time, when we get short days and slushy, cold weather of no real use to anyone outdoors. Then I will have to consider using a gymn and what a two hour aerobically demanding session will be! I am in it for the long haul and prepared for a possible set back or slow down at this point and at the xmas feasting time.

On the diet side though, I am very much more aware of all extras and have better self discipline than before. The thing is I know I have treats to look forward to, it is not all black, even though the luxuries are far reduced. As for ordinary extra portions juice, dinner, sandwiches I am very on top of that because I am not a super endurance multi marathon runner or tour de france rider: I do not need to carbo load!!

What I will blog on next is the "maintenance" period ie the rest of life, which I hope will have a major rub off in different ways on both firstly being slimmer, then attitude to diet, and then how effective training becomes for shorter time.

I admit that I see it hard to maintain 6 hours a week training in three two hour sessions  if I am to get promoted and spend more time with my kids. However today I noticed that my legs just wanted to go, so to hell with the weather, after a short walk I changed clothes and went out for almost three hours. This could be Saturday morning when the kids are lying in or watching TV. It could be sunday evening while dinner is in the oven on slow cook. It could be friday night when the gymn is deadly quiet. I dont' go out to the pub anymore which is helping keep the beer to a minimum, and maybe as a fitter, faster person I will be able to train with the slank crowd.

The Long Road Ahead, No Short Cut Slimming for Sporty-Fatso!

Endurance training has long been associated with losing fat, but it is not often associated to the dieting by the slimming industry. Why? Because the industry wants to sell you quick fixes: a book you can read and do something consumerist from, a meal substitute you can eat, a low calorie drink you can guzzle, a trimming cycle you can install at home. Also the gym 'industry' as it has become, do not set out to encourage you into doing several hours exercise at a time, partly because they aim to please by making easy to follow, easy to fit in your 'hectic lifestyle', and partly because they want to downsize staffing levels after 7pm at night.

Your lifestyle is basically consumerist and that is maybe bad from many points of view, but it explains why so many people either rebound from commercial diets or don't comply to their regimes. You are looking for a quick fix, a benefit trade off which passes into your modern notion of a reasonable lifestyle which is so hectic and fixated on earning and spending money. Also, the rat-race is really all in a little treadmill: most people become habituated to fairly low risk, low effort cyclical job -home -hobby life styles which are I know myself, difficult to break. Especially when you are at the workplace more than seven or eight hours a day. You need to free up more time for training, and avoid the habituations to being tired after dinner and being sedentary, or doing a burst of exercise and eating rather too late in the evening.

Plenty of people are sedentary, job obsessed, car obsessed and resulting-ly obese. Whether in private or public health care systems, they later in life view heart failure, diabetes, arthritis etc as something which also has a consumer oriented quick fix: drugs and surgery.  It costs individuals and nations unbelievable amounts of money to cure the precocious illnesses of the self inflicted.

You, the sporty fatty are not obese but the extra weight you carry is both symptom and causative agent of potential later life diseases such as the three mentioned, plus stroke, plus other heart complaints, wear on joints, bad backs and so on. In fact though some sporty fatties are actually really very fit, they just have an issue with the errors I discussed in the last couple of bloggs. Put simply the wrong training and the the wrong attitude to life's little sweet luxuries. You need to train longer. You need to reorganise your consumer life style and change your attitude to training for a period of up to a year.

Duration is the Key

Why then is "endurance" training important in losing fat then? Endurance:  that is training more than an hour per session at medium intensity. The effectiveness is simply one of only a few reasons we evolved to lay down fatty tissue (adipose tissue). We evolved to be able to use fat reserves to move ourselves from areas of depleted food resources to pastures new so to speak, or to evade danger, which in the modern world is the main way these reserves are used outside any conscious slimming regime.

Why fat? Well it is simply a much more compact way of storing energy believe it or not, than storing glucose as the polymeric glycogen. Glycogen must be surrounded by water and has a finite amount of energy per gram. Fat stores nicely,  is also useful to the body as 'padding' round harder tissues, and has a far higher calorific value per gram. It is a biochemical compression of energy into a state which is dense though light and self supporting as drops of fat within adipose cells.

As Dr. Atkins and many other researchers rightly pointed out, in the western world the main cause of obesity - large adipose deposits of that compressed energy - is actually a very high carbohydrate diet, in particular sugars and processed carbohydrates and starches in alcoholic beverages.

A little aside then on Herr Doktor Atkins (RIP). "Eskimo" is actually what lower lattitude aboriginal Canadians called Inuit tribes and it means "meat eater" : One thing Atkins was interested in was that these people eat hugely calorific diets fuelled by fat and protein, but very low levels of carbohydrates (in traditional villages still with the original diet). The tribes need to have a very high calorific diet due to the climate and being active in the cold, but in fact they are not obese if kept away from the modern consumer carbo diet. What factors influenced their previously quite low life expectancy (quoted as 45 years for males) is difficult to conclude- there are however signs that older Inuit men live longer and healthier lives than their children when they adopt a western high sugar lifestyle.

Atkins is an interesting diet which I actually found to be very expensive, time consumer and in the end I fully rebounded from it. However if I had persevered or done more training of over an hour, then I could have had a larger benefit. I failed to really get a grip on reintroducing carbohydrates before I then started training much longer 1 to 3 hour sessions and had reverted to a high complex carbo diet to give me energy.

What I was left with was that joke I had made about the Atkins diet, being that you have to cut out beer, cakes and sweets then why not just cut those out and see what happened? That as you should have read lead to my calorie arithmetic - extra intake in 'luxuries' versus extra burn off in training. So in effect I did the calorie counting for you: concentrate on that equation , reducing the one side in the areas you can easily target as 'extra unnecessary' calories versus the key longer duration calorie burns.

Back to endurance, why is it so beneficial to weight loss? Why though, can it take so long to loose weight? Which metabolic processes are involved?

The key factor is that the body switches on two biochemical pathways when we exercise in durations over one hour, and then there is also a nicely synergistic  long term anabolic improvement in how much fat we can burn per hour. Firstly when we exercise such that glycogen is depleted at a constant rate, when we come over an hour for most of us, then our bodies start to mobilise fat from adipose tissues, which is a catabolic (break down) pathway. Fat breakdown products (Free Fatty Acids, FFAs)  travel slowly into and around the blood stream. Secondly we further catabolise FFAs into smaller fatty acids and then again down into biochemical products which enter further downstream in the normal sugar metabolism cycle (Kreb's Cycle you will remember from school biology)

What is interesting is that we switch this adipose release pathway on after moderate intensity training after this typically one hour barrier (longer in some, shorter in others) but we keep on burning sugars from glycogen. If we train harder, then biochemists found we can actually burn more fat in the muscles but release less from the stores. This is because there are two other smaller stores of fats: one is the background level of blood FFAs, and the other is a small store in the muscle tissues. Further reading in this rather good scientific review article from sports physiologists, if you have a smidgeon of biochem' in your background.

Humans are a bit unique in their metabolism and omnivorous diet ie eating plants and animals. It is difficult to find animal models and unethical really to go doing muscle biopsies under intense training for either animals or human subjects: it hurts and causes bleeding and damage. So we do not yet know exactly when we engage these local stores or FFA from blood. Suffice to say though we know the net effects of endurance training - we mobilise fat stores and burn them off in our muscles.

This process is most efficient for losing weight then when we train at 65-75% max heart rate (as an index for VO2 max, is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption in exercise , or you could say vice versa, but it is easier to measure your pulse than sit on one of those machines with a breathing apparatus and nose plug! Many other people have done this for you as lab rats or proffessional athletes under selection and training efficacy studies) This efficiency is simple arithmetic, minutes x burn per minute and this is why it is so important to come up in two hour training sessions and to avoid your old 'cram it in sweat sessions' of under an hour.

There is then a net shift of fat out of store and into burning, but in a normal healthy diet we are still burning mostly sugar. Maybe the adipose fat is released and burnt a little, but like a kind of slide puzzle it moves to hold up the blood's base FFA level, and moves to replace the local intermuscular triglyceride fat reserves. This is why it is so slow, it is a parallel process alongside glycogen breakdown and glucose metabolism.

Evidence does suggest though that the exercise regime with a calorie controlled diet is the most effective long term means of eliminating fat cells. Fat cells also lie around waiting to be fed when they are emptied. If they are emptied out by a typical "starvation" diet, which just means you eat less calories than your body actually needs even in a sedentary life style, then they often lurk there because they have had a starvation signal to stay alive. After a longer term endurance training schedule, more cells are gone for good: the body has burnt fat and is finding a better balance.

Also another key factor in taking a long term ( 6 to 9 month or more) regime of endurance exercise ,ie 2 hour sessions, several per week, is that you increase your VO2 - your body can burn more calories up with oxygen and go faster, stronger. It is very likely also that this happens hand in hand with the ability to burn a higher proportion of intermuscular fat and FFA from blood, which is all about shifting the slide puzzle forward.

You could then expect a peak weight loss after your VO2 maximises (which will vary greatly and actually for some people training for 6 months, the line will be linear in nature and the max will be at the end point) This has been an arguement for mixed forms of training for many years and is valid for sports people. However for the sporty-fatty your aim is to lose weight and in a modern job - family environment, doing short one hour sessions are wasting your time. There are no doubt some complex training routines which reach a VO2 max for your age and hours put in quicker, but they will all involve shorter high intensity work outs which burn little fat. Also you may just be maximising your ability to burn glucose not the mixture of fats and glucose you burn in longer duration sessions.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Simple Arithmetic Deal Making for the Slimmer Sporty-Fatty

In my last blog i did some simple calorie counting arithmetic, adding up JUST the calories from high calorie treats, beer, snacking and extra normal food portions per week, and then multplied by four to get a short month's worth.

The pre amble here for you dear also Sporty-Fatty, is that I do not binge eat or snack frequently,  i just know like anyone that i have some beers some nights, some chocolate after meals, a cake or two here or there,  and so on and so on. All small offences, and anyway I train so I should get some freebies right?

Well that sum of lifes wee luxuries came to an astonishing 22,000 kcal per month. That is around 3kg ,half a stone of fat from what i considered a perfectly reasonable allowance of goodies. Put it another way:  It is almost ten extra days worth of eating per month.

However by in large when i was training short and often,  i wasnt putting on weight, but did put it on at xmas or on holiday. When i set out on  fat-burning longer duration sessions january this year, 2014, I very slowly then, over five months,  lost three kilos (half a stone)

Simple arithmetic: i was doing arround 24 hours training exercise a month  @ 600kcal per hour on average, so was burning off around 14 000 kcal per month in addition to just being alive.

In net effect then compared to intake of just extras as the enemy, i should have been losing the battle by 8 000 kcal per month and therefore putting on a kilo. But I was slimming a bit, at about 650g per month. That is about 5000 kcal equivalent.

So then I thought, wait up here, the longer training sessions are switching my fat catabolism on at last, since coming off the atkins a year before and putting all that diet loss back on. But compared to my bad habit calorific intake , I am getting a net better net negative effect anyway (???)

The reasons for this discrepancy in my calculations could be several or a combination: Perhaps as a big bloke i burn more like 1000kcal per hour on skis or the mountain bike. Perhaps my treats actually in part constitute  say 500 kcal per day of my non training calorie needs. Perhaps my body has learnt to catabolise fat and does this after exercise when I am recovering,  or maybe at night ?

What ever the causes,  I was slimming ever so slowly without actually changing underlying diet : i was not going crazy in comparison to the excesses of Christmas 2013 and last years vacation in cheap beer and wine land, Denmark. However per month i was going mental in taking ten extra days total intake in treats and extras!

It seemed though a lot of training hours for 3kg and vulnerable to putting it back on if injured. I considered a back up plan of atkins again. Then i went back to my joke of comparing atkins to a diet with no beer and sweeties!

So here  I saw the opportunity to grasp my appetite and lifestyle while demands of work and family allow for 5-7 hours training per week in two to four sessions.

Basically i can eat a few treats to keep myself sane.

Here is what i decided to allow myself since  i was going down in weight a little anyway without limiting my extras well:

Two beers a week, 400kcal
100g chocolate.     450kcal
1 cake bit / muffin 400 kcal
50g nuts/ crisps.    250 kcal
Two extra portio.   600 kcal
Total per week.      2100kcal
Per month c.         9000kcal

Versus calorie burn:
                              14 000kcal per month

Net effect.           - 5000 kcal per month

The last three months I have lost a kilo per month with fairly good levels of "compliance" say around 90% for the cut back on extras,  and reaching 7 training hours per week.

This is as noted above, a kcal net minus less than the theorised 7000 kcal /kg . This does not trouble me ! There can be some tissue fluid loss. More likely i am burning a training relating 20 000 kcal per month because i use more per hour and i go onto burn fat in particular upto an hour after training.

So in effect i have decided to ONLY count the extra calories on top of what I usually eat. I actually avoid desserts, but have a yoghurt twice a week and maybe an ice-cream dessert. As long as I train and avoid extra portions of these I can continue then. 

Also i take fruit and wine as "free" calories because I consume them in moderation. Exclude more than one banana a day or one 50g portion grapes though. Wine means a bottle per week of normal red or white. Avoiding doing it all in one night that is!

Another change I made was being careful not to snack before or after exercise by planning out meals to take, or planning to eat at a time where i avoid snacking in between. Alternatively,  the snack is healthy and replaces a meal. Or i count the snack as one of my two extra portions dinner allowance per week.

Also on the point of extending your fat burn after a two to three hour session, in recovery modus , avoid simple sugar sources like the plague for an hour. A banana gives quite slow blood sugar release as it is digested so is ideal for example, right after exercise. Two bannanas ,some nuts, and an apple would constitute a meal post session.

So it certainly isn't monastic at all, but the key is to keep the training to over two hours for at least two sessions a week, and then avoid snacking and adhere to the weekly quota.

Now into my fourth month and having had a mixed active /sedentary holiday, I am still on track 1kg per month but also i am starting to find it much easier to conform to the avoid-extras-dieting side, and my appetite is starting to go down.

In essenced what i present above is a target of 7 hours duration exercise per week and a limit to my extras to 2100 kcal.

By default i have counted the calories for you ! The fatty calories are all in our extras and luxuries, not from a 'staple, balanced diet' which includes usual single plate portions of protein, fats, green vegetables and carbos.

For your own sporty-fatty calculation, I bet you that you were like me and taking in currently a net surplus on paper of about 5000 to 10,000 kcal/month verus exercised hours at maybe 800kcal per hour but short duration.

For me the bug bear was beer, 10 to 12 a week before. Here I have totally decimated intake. Poor me? Well no, wine and clean spirits are free and i take a chilled fizzy water or diet cola as an alternative "cold one".  Everything else is ' halved' but more over to that, it is controlled while still being a nice treat to look forward to.

The other bug bear for me was what i once called my post exercise "snackette", which filled in during the time it took to arrange dinner. With planning I now avoid this unless the "snackette" replaces a meal, or if i downsize the meal ,or if I count one of my weekly extra meal portion allowance. Also a snackette should be healthy: a whole meal bread sandwich, a fruit bowl, 50g of nuts and raisins.

My final general black dog on the shoulder was justifying a lot of additional intake of calories by actually having exercised in forty minute to one hour sessionsp, two to five times a week. This plagued me for years and gave me a super-appetite. Also this was a hang over from old cycling days where carbo loading for a four or five hour training run, or a race, was a necessity: stuff yourself or go empty.

I think there are many sport forty somethings or even younger folk for whom this is hitting the nail right on the head. Also for the  onlh wee bit chubby sporty, who is maybe at a  competitive level but still carries a bit of unsightly lard.

My point of view is that if you are going to count calories then start with your sociable drinking in the pub ,then sweeties and cakes ,then salty snacks, then any more than two juices / 500ml sugary drinks per day, more than three desserts or starters per weekx, then also extra portions at meals. Your regular diet as the lay person and sporty type is likely to be a healthy balanced diet which you do not need to alter the core of. Also if you change your duration up to two hour sessions, two to three times a week you can live easily with some wee luxuries and loose weight in a sustainable and healthy way.

Sports diet supplements (which are over 200kcal per half litre or 250g)  are a trap: they are for endurance sports or if you train very regularly and hard, with a total of over 10 hours per week. Despite being healthier than sweets or cola, they are extras, to be considered as such in the 5-7 hour week plan.

Why We Are Sporty Fatties ?

The answer to why a person can train hard three to four times a week but still be fat is that on net, we in western countries are eating way too much.

Diets in the traditional starvation sense, are both counter productive and outright boring for many. I tried atkins amongst others and found it a bit dull, but more over it was really expensive and difficult to coordinate with family meals.

But I did loose a good few kilos on the atkins, putting them straight back on though after i got bored with it. And the Atkins diet got me thinking : okay all the naughty luxuries i eat and drink are high in simple carbohydrates. What if instead of atkins you just cut out the beer and the sweets?

Another reason i came off atkins was because i wanted to train cardiovascular condition and frankly i believe it is not a healthy combination.

So that got me thinking after i had put all the weight back on. I trained then five months in fat burning duration and intensity and lost maybe three kilos. This seemed pretty poor effect from 7 hours a week training in long sessions. It would take me several years to get down to 100kg. Also what if i couldnt train?

I went back to thinking about the atkins diet and cutting out sugary extras. What if I just cut them out and did nothing else (apart from my training)?

I decided then to count up my extras and got a shock which both explained why I wasnt losing weight and why back in the late 90s I had managed to put on an unwanted 3 stone despite being quite fit.

Take beer for starters of course. 150kcal per pint appx (c. Half liter) Beer is not so evil, in fact the sugars in beer are short chain starches and without the alcohol in it, beer would be a good endurance sportsdrink or liquid breakfast with medium to slow release carbo's. However many beers doth a beer belly consist of. So eight beers a week is 1000 kcal. Doesnt sound so much?

But then take the higher calorific nuts and crisps we take with said beer. That was about 200g at a wacking 500kcal per 100. Another 1000kcal per week. Hmmm.

Then take a regular "extra" - an additional glass of OJ in the morning and several glasses of squash with dinner. We can also round that off to 1000kcal per week.

Now chocolate and cakes or buns:  one 250g bar per week @ 450 kcal/100g per week and a couple of cakes @ 250kcal each. That is for point of arguement 1500kcal per week.

You start to see the sudden awakening I was having to my theory, which started in fact as a joke about atkins compared to just cutting out beer and sweets.

Now i could find the last culprit for luxuries or extras and that was simple: extra portions of dinner. This was happening three to five times a week because i was feeling hungry from training or the food was just there, in the bowl or pan on the table which is how we like to have a family dinner or candle light for two.  So that mysteriously enough I could approximate to 1000 kcal per week.

Now here comes the shock : i had been looking to train up condition gradually with long 2 hour sessions, and expecting weight loss to be best measurable  as per month.  So i then added up my weekly "extras and luxuries"  times four, and this is how it went:

1000 extra dinners
1500 choco/cakes
1000 exta juices
1000 crisps /nuts
1000 beers
5500 kcal per week

A staggering 22,000 kcal per Month!!!!

What was staggering was that I could easily allow myself all those extras without thinking much about being a candidate for obesity! Read again- they probably seem a reasonable set of little luxuries to you, and if you are from east coast usa, a paltry amount.

Now dieticians and physiologists disagree a little on aboslute quantity of calories per kilo of fat deposited (7000 to 9000 kcal per kilo) so let us bet on the high deposit side, and that means that i could be in theory larding up 3kg per month. (About a half a stone )

The fact is I wasnt laying on that much weight usually. However my weight probably did peak at 120 kg and was often around 118kg ( over 18 stone) and my waist line was pushing out of size forty trousers.  The fact was, as we will see in my next blogg, that I was exercising and trying to be "grey calorie burn" active, walking about and so on. The fact also was that as i exercised longer, so crept in more snacks and more extra portions of dinner and OJ to the level above, because i was hungrier and I was thinking i should keep my blood sugar up to avoid exhaustion ( fat chance!! Excuse the pun).

At a level of five to seven hours training a week, averging maybe 24 hours per month, then my weight was creeping down a little but the trouble being that my appetite was creeping up! So the danger is when I get an injury or holidays and xmas come that bang, three weeks go and i eat 18000 kcal in extras and put almost half a stone on again.

I decided then upon a compromise as you will read in the next blog.

The Midlife Spare Tyre Road to Damascus

Now you have read the introduction you know you are in the target audience so to speak: You are the cyclist with the beer gut encapsulated in lycra like a defrosted turkey in plastic. You are the rugger-bugger who wears an XXXXL rugby shirt and has thighs as round as average women's waistlines.  You are the jogging soccer mum who has extra love handles where you really don't want them. You are the five-a-side veteran sitting eating chips over a beer every time you finish an hour or so on the pitch.

There are several big realistaions you are going to have to make on your road to Damascus:

1) I am too fat , I really am going to do something about it

2) I am eating too much

3) I am not exercising correctly to be thin

Do you want to lose weight?

Look at yourself in the mirror and look closely at photos of yourself when you were young, trained and slank. You are over weight and you may look a bit ridiculous in sports clothes. You can though get a much better body by slimming and training, it does not need to be perfect or as good as you were when you peaked in your twenties. For some semi sporty types, they may end up with a better level of health than they have ever had though on this regime!

Most of we the sporty-fatty would like to loose weight but basically we are eating and drinking in two ways which are keeping us fat. More on this later.

Now admit also that the beer gut or thunder thighs are at least 10kg , two and a quarter stone over weight. For an average formerly sporty woman that means you are around 75-85 kg, for a sporty man that means you are around 85-115 kg depending on your build. Your ideal weight by BMI is probably 20kg lighter, but muscle and bone mass is not well accounted for in the current system. You can refer to it and see if you are in the range if the graph has a range that is, some are just lines.

For me I was 18kg over weight and am now 14kg over weight: I have decided that. My goal is 100kg and to sustain a weight below 105 kg (unless I suddenly take up major body building for a 115 kg meat mountain!) That 14kg is almost forty pounds, like carrying a typical overnighting rucksack around. I enjoy mostly cycling and xc skiing with some swimming and other stuff, and that means I am lugging around extra weight and wind resistance which slows me down on the surfaces and in the water.

Here in lies a good thing about training : when you train from your  higher weight, having been sporty and with a base fitness, you burn more calories and build more muscles if you sustain that training, and the process becomes more self fulfilling (there can be a phase of peak weight loss where the rate of fat burning is highest because you have more muscle and a higher VO2 and therfore burn more off for a period)

Set yourself a goal then which is likely to be weight, but could as well be waist line : it could be you are a light, sporty, running woman and you want to really burn off about 5 kg of fat and maybe in fact the net muscle gain will just mean that you lose null weight but are thinner on the waist and thighs. Don't kid yourself, man of 125kg (20 stone) that muscle is heavier than fat: in this training regime you will gain only small amounts of muscle in the level of a few kilos over six months. Alternatively if you are moderately overwieght, 10 - 15 kilograms and a 40 minute three times a week gymn burster, then you want to actually check your resting heart rate which is probably infact over 60 for men, 70 for women. Your goal could be to reduce this by 30%.

Did I mention this was going to be slow?  Yes, we are talking about a regime which is six to nine months long followed by a life long regime and attitude to food. This would correspond to the period perhaps you had earlier in life when you trained up towards a goal such as a major athletic event, or when you first caught the bug for a sport and it was all consuming

Eating Errors!

 As I wrote above, most of we the sporty-fatty would like to loose weight but basically we are eating and drinking in two ways which are keeping us fat. More on this later. Firstly entertainment eating. I wouldn't call it comfort eating. We are eating for the pleasure of it. We are eating for the sociability. We are eating for the ethos of fine food and luxuries. Secondly we are over-compensating. We eat snacks or larger portions because we train, and after training or at the weekend we eat more treats than were actually 'earned' by our calorie burn.

The later version of Weight Watchers ( which is one of the best commercial systems for losing weight by 'starvation' dieting, or limiting your calories and is effective and sustainable for many) did include the fact above that you exercise at around 400-500 calories per hour, so an hours exercise can earn you a few glasses of wine on Friday. I think that is great for those who can also understand the discipline of total calorie intake PER DAY, but it can be counter productive for many.

For the sporty-fatty who was super trained as a twenty something, then we have from that time learned a tendency to on the one side eat extra to perform higher, while on the other when we were used to being able to have quite a few beers, cakes etc and burn them off. In general back then we  probably did more training hours than we bothered to count. Also we  had more active lifestyles in general at the side of sport and we walked or cycled around the place, and we just went out to meet people at nights by foot, we maybe had a more physical job. For cyclists and other endurance athletes we learned something worse in compensation eating- we learned to stuff ourselves in 'carbo-loading' and to eat while out on long runs before we were hungry.

Eating when you are not actually hungry and eating beyond your actual satiation of appetite are the two major causes of a calorific intake which is higher than burning. Couple this rightly to Dr. Atkins assertion we live with super-sugar, carbo loaded, quick available, calorie marketed times. Refined sugars and carbohydrates make up not only a major part of our diet, but a major part of our western problem of obesity. Coupled to the salt-fat-sugar mega reinforcement loop in our lower brains then we have a perfect storm to become obese in a sedentary lifestyle, or if we hold on to some sportiness, then we just are a bit on the silly looking side of chubby.

In the next entry I will look specifically at the realisation of just how much extra we eat, how to approach this realisation and what way to look at doing something about it without having to go on a counter productive starvation diet or give up some small rewards, or replace them with other, healthier options.

It's Training Jim, But Not As We (Should) Know It....

This is the third realisation you will have to make if you are training now and want to loose weight. Basically you are training too short and too intensely. Simple as that: as said in the introduction you are actually never reaching fat metabolism and worse you are topping up with carbos (read blood sugar) as snacks soon after or before exercise. We are in effect never even using up our half kilo of glycogen reserves and not going into fat metabolism.

Sports physiologists assert that there is a best 'fat burning' heart rate which is 65-75% max heart rate, for most of us 120 -130 bpm a little lower as you get older. This is true only when we do sustained longer training sessions. What happens is that the body senses glycogen depletion over time and starts the fat metabolism / catabolism process up. Allegedly this does not happen through more intense exercise over 75% max heart rate, but really I think this is probably a function of sustainability of that intensity,  and glycogen bottom out rather than there being a magic bpm number: you can sustain a 65% level for very long periods if you build up to it.

From my own experience and that of others, the key is to be able to break free of the 40 minutes to one Hour effective aerobic gymn or quick run work out, and get over the hour barrier as soon as possible and up to two hour sessions. For a fit fatty, this means decreasing the tempo.

In fact when I decided to try and burn more fat through exercise I managed an two and a half hour session on xc skis first time out. Previously my sessions had been maybe upto an hour, or an hour and a half but with sociable breaks. When you do these longer sessions one thing you will notice to begin with is that your recovery to absolute base heart rate is longer than it is from the short intense burst sub one hour sessions.

Duration training is often used by various athletes as part of a wider plan and often in the early phase of the pre-season or after injury. The intensity is far lower than they will endure in competition, in the 50-65% max bpm for fit young athletes, so about 90 to 130 bpm. For cyclists traditionally this has meant long, slow runs in early spring or winter. For boxers it has been long hours out running in the fells.

Although there are more recent training regimes which concentrate on building up an intensity and being 'over-intense' in terms of actually having peak durations longer than in competition, low intensity duration training is proven over a wider range of humans to be beneficial to cardio vascular condition: VO2 max, resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, better insulin response: all the factors which make for a good base fitness for competition and a good quality of life in the long term.

In our modern, rushed lifestyles from one seat to the next seat, we think we can only squeeze in those short after work sessions. Also  people in less unionised western countries now work longer, often with little productivity. Finally we all find excuses or distractions,TV is the old one, now like facebook, twitter,  blogging for that matter to just waste time . However I have seen plenty 50 something business men or women and hard worked school teachers, who have endless time with a long term sick line ! It seems we think we can invest lots of time in impressing bosses or grinding our way through admin we could have maybe delegated or failed to do, showing the department is under resourced. Time exercising moderately is like meditation and requires little concentration compared to working more than eight hours when most people's productivity in a dull or hectic job falls completely off. This is where Scandinavians score highly - they don't believe in long working hours, and the corporate culture is often that long hours are associated to eventual down time and worse, mistakes which lead to accidents.

I advocate a target of two hour sessions three times a week. This is less than amateur atheetes put in when they are in their twenties, but 6 hours is a lot more than say a weekend warrior footballer achieves. If you have been going along with the three times half an hour effective burst training in the gymn or jogging, then it will be a major life change. At that level you are actually not sporty: you are just ticking over, raising your fitness above the heart attack cases.

More on all these points of where you are going wrong in subsequent blogs.



This is a new blog for people who are just a bit like me: sporty but a fatty.

In this blog I will try and help people who are 'struggling' to lose weight aged over 30, while they have been keen sporty types or even very competitive athletes previously in their 20s.We still train but we are lugging around some extra baggage under our lycra and we are not getting thinner.

What you need most of all to do is to realise the errors in your ways, while also forgetting a traditional calorie starvation diet which so many people either become energy-lose or bounce back to fat gain from anyway. Also we will look at this problem as being something which is quite slow to fix, has lasting changes to appetite and lifestyle, and of course involves effort. Null Virtue Sin Labor.

In common with most diets - when you bother to read the whole book and pay attention to what it is saying at the end - then diet is a phase after which you have a new lifestyle ie you eat less for most food related diets, and continue to eat less.  The lasting change in lifestyle do not really happen, that is why dieters fail so often.

Starvation diets fail for many people because they can rebound in two ways: many dieters develop actually a poorer appetite control  while some people prime their bodies to replenish the fat as soon as they finish the diet. Due to the starvation when the body reacts by expecting more starvation and laying down fat.  Also many people fail to go through with the diet because they are so boring and restrictive in what you can and cannot eat.

In this approach to losing weight I propose that we -the sporty-fatty - can firstly realise why we are carrying around a lot of lard on our middles, and then do something to lose weight and tackle our appetite. This takes what I call an effort phase followed by a maintanence phase, which is basically the lifestyle change. However what we are talking about is peaking in the dieting phase and then coming to terms with what we can maintain in our life balance beyond the diet.

Some diets like the "walking diet" are aimed at the sedentary couch potato.There are some former sports personalities who have written on the subject, Ian Botham and George Formann spring to mind. However here is my take, and experience actually underway.  I will warn you now that this is probably the slowest diet for the most hours put in training possible, but in being so it is the most sustainable and has the longest lasting effects for the sporty-fatty.

What we are going to look at are two main very simple factors which will help you lose weight and keep it off, and make you motivated to follow this long term course.

Prologue and Philosophy:

I was about 3 to 4 stone overweight for my own satisfaction. There in lies a first major tip- for your own satisfaction:  throw out body-mass-index BMI if you are sporty and do any sport which puts muscle and bone mass on. If you do an endurance sport like long distance cycling, marathon running or longer triathalons then BMI can be a reasonable guide, but it is based on historical data from before the pumping iron, getting tattooed craze started in the late eighties through the nineties. My ideal weight is 2 stone under my desired weight, at which I think I would look emaciated and ill: as 6'2" I would look like a lanky long distance runner with hollow cheeks and tiny sinewy muscles.

Also I was training actively all year round, a bit up and down with how many hours per week and the intensity and duration of the training, and frankly a bit aimless. Too heavy to race, not a gymn animal enough to get a body builder or gymnast's figure: no real goals, just the knowledge training at least three sessions a week was good for the heart and soul. I enjoy training a lot, like any sporty fatty, but not in huge amounts and not every day. However I do not enjoy being fat, 14 kg of lard.

We tell ourselves a good few lies about eating and exercise, and we fall away from discipline easily without setting goals. The core of the dieting side of this series of blog notes is that we eat and drink way too many extras. Life's little luxuries. In fact our training can be totally counter productive on appetite control because of its form and the time point we do it: we snack before or after training, we drink sugary drinks as a treat after training, we eat extra portions of dinner because we are more hungry after training.

The two worst factors for training which contributes to fat gain or fat status quo are

1) We 'carbo load' or snack to allegedly keep our energy levels up

2) We end up eating dinner late into the evening after training.

To tackle the first, and this is one we must tackle: Training effectively one hour aerobically in the gymn, or a 5-aside match, or a cycle, ski or run takes up more time and we think we need to either load up with additional calories the day before or take a snack before, during or after. This type of squeeze it in training often is effectively even shorter if we actually time "an hour in the gymn"- we maybe only get 40 minutes training. In that time we have barely used up available blood glucose and tickled muscle glycogen stores. We have burnt little if any fat. Worse the 40 minute burst can adversely affect our appetite as we get that blood sugar low before glycogen release from the muscles and late liver balance out our energy supply. "no pain no gain" means a lot of anærobic activity which is the worst for burning fat because not only does it only use sugars, but also it is only short time sustainable and you need to use a lot of oxygen to clear out the lactic acid before the body can then start metabolising fat, which is actually a more aerobic process than burning sugar.

Training in the gymn takes up time and we often do it straight from work or say weekend mornings before we have a lunch and treats with friends or family. Coupled to being more hungry immediately after we finish and not pushing our bodies longer towards liver glycogen and eventually fat break down, if we eat late we over compensate in calorie intake, late at night when we are more likely to lay down any extra calories or simple sugars from the meal as fat....   and lose no weight, despite being a bit fitter.

The new mantra of peak burst and intensive super aerobic weight lifting work outs is actually very good for many who are trained as it can help maintain a higher average VO2 max , anaerobic threshold and strength. However these max out bursts are pracitally useless for losing weight in the first place as above.