Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MONTH END CHARTS

Since this is the last day of the month, I'm going to post all my charts.

The chart below shows my daily scale weight, my 7-day average weight and my total weight loss:

The chart below shows my actual daily scale weight and my 28-day moving average:

 The chart below shows my 28-day moving average:


The chart below shows my actual scale weight on each Sunday:

One of the things I track is the average weight for each calendar month.  It is not a moving average - I just take my scale weight each day of the month, add them together and divide by the number of days in the month.  It gives me an idea of the overall trend.  Here are my monthly average weights since I started tracking in February 2009:

155.0 - February 2009 - Starting Weight
150.9 - March 2009 - lost 4.1 pounds
148.3 - April 2009 - lost 2.6 pounds
145.8 - May 2009 - lost 2.5 pounds
142.6 - June 2009 - lost 3.2 pounds
141.5 - July 2009 - lost 1.1 pounds
141.6 - August 2009 - gained 0.1 pound
141.9 - September 2009 - gained 0.3 pounds
141.7 - October 2009 - lost 0.2 pounds
140.5 - November 2009 - lost 1.2 pounds
141.2 - December 2009 - gained 0.7 pounds
141.4 - January 2010 - gained 0.2 pounds
143.9 - February 2010 - gained 2.5 pounds
143.8 - March 2010 - lost 0.1 pound
143.6 - April 2010 - lost 0.2 pounds
140.1 - May 2010 - lost 3.5 pounds
140.8 - June 2010 - gained 0.7 pounds
139.5 - July 2010 - lost 1.3 pounds
141.6 - August 2010 - gained 2.1 pound
 142.3 - September 2010 - gained 0.7 pounds
143.2 - October 2010 - gained 0.9 pounds
143.3 - November 2010 - gained 0.1 pounds

The chart below shows these numbers:

The chart below shows my weekly BMI:



The chart below shows my weekly lean body mass in pounds:















The chart below shows my weekly body fat in pounds:





The chart below shows my weekly body fat percentage:


 The chart below shows my body measurements:


The chart below shows my total weekly measurements:




Sunday, November 28, 2010

CHANGES IN BODY COMPOSITION WITH THE SAME WEIGHT

Since my weight is back to where it was after one week on Atkins (back on March 22, 2009), I thought I would see if there was any change in my body composition, and see if that makes me feel better. Here is what I found out:

March 22, 2009
149.6 pounds
39.1% body fat
58.5 pounds of body fat
91.1 pounds of lean body mass

November 28, 2010
149.6 pounds
35.9% body fat
53.7 pounds of body fat
95.9 pounds of lean body mass

So, even though I weigh the same as I did when I started Atkins:

I lost 4.8 pounds of body fat
I gained 4.8 pounds of lean body mass

I lost 1.25" around my neck
I lost 2.25" around my bust
I lost 2" around my midriff
I lost 0.5" around my waist
I lost 3.75" around my navel
I lost 2" around my hips
I lost 1.75" around my thigh
I lost 0.5" around my calf

It's true that the scale doesn't tell the whole story.  And, yes, this does make me feel better!

NOVEMBER 28 - WEEK 89 RESULTS - AFTER THANKSGIVING

One week ago, my actual scale weight was 140.6.
Today, my actual scale weight is 149.6.
I gained 9 pounds this past week.

 One week ago, my average weight for the week was 141.4.
Today, my average weight for the week is 145.1.
I gained 3.7 pounds this past week.

I tracked my food on fitday for the first three days of this past week:

1782 calories
133.6g fat (67%)
102.6g protein (23%)
42.2g total carbs (9%)
19.9g fiber
22.3g net carbs, of which 13.6g were from veggies
2685g sodium


Today is my weekly measuring day. In the past 7 days:

I gained 1/4" around my neck
I gained 1/4" around my bust
I gained 3/4" around my midriff
I gained 1" around my waist
I gained 1-1/2" around my navel
I gained 3/4" around my hips
I gained 1/4" around my thigh
I gained 1/2" around my calf

Here is what I have lost so far, since starting to lose weight in February 2009:

Neck - 13.75" to 12.5" - down 1.25"
Bicep - 11.75" to 11.75" - lost fat and gained muscle
Forearm - 9" - no change
Bust - 38.25" to 36" - down 2.25"
Midriff - 32.25" to 30.5" - down 1.75"
Waist - 31.5" to 30" - down 1.5"
Navel - 38.25" to 34" - down 4.25"
Hips - 42" to 40" - down 2"
Thigh - 24.5" to 22.5" - down 2"
Calf - 14.5" to 14" - down 1/2"


BODY COMPOSITION

AT THE BEGINNING OF WEIGHT LOSS 2/22/09

158 pounds
35" waist
13.75" neck
45.5" hips
28.0 BMI
0.56 waist-to-height ratio
0.77 waist-to-hip ratio
44.8% body fat

ONE MONTH AGO

143.4 pounds
31.25" waist
12.5" neck
41.25" hips
25.5 BMI
0.50 waist-to-height ratio
0.76 waist-to-hip ratio
35.9% body fat

ONE WEEK AGO

140.6 pounds
30.5" waist
12.25" neck
39.5" hips
25.0 BMI
0.48 waist-to-height ratio
0.77 waist-to-hip ratio
33.1% body fat

TODAY

149.6 pounds
32" waist
12.5" neck
40.5" hips
26.6 BMI
0.51 waist-to-height ratio
0.79 waist-to-hip ratio
35.9% body fat

Since my heaviest weight in February 2009, I have lost 8.4 pounds on the scale, 3" around my waist, 1.25" around my neck and 5" around my hips.  I have lost 17.1 pounds of fat and I have gained 8.7 pounds of lean mass.

In the past month, I have gained 6.2 pounds on the scale, 0.75" around my waist, 0.25" around my neck and I lost 0.75" around my hips.  I have gained 2.2 pounds of fat and I have gained 4 pounds of lean mass.

In the past week, I have gained 9 pounds on the scale, 1.5" around my waist, 0.25" around my neck and 1" around my hips.  I have gained 7.2 pounds of fat and I have gained 1.8 pounds of lean mass. 


MY NEXT GOAL

140 pounds
30" waist
12.25" neck
39.5" hips
24.9 BMI
0.48 waist-to-height ratio
0.76 waist-to-hip ratio
32.5% body fat

To achieve this, I need to lose 8.2 pounds of fat and 1.4 pounds of lean mass.  I need to lose 1-1/2" around my waist, 1/4" around my neck and 1" around my hips.

MY ULTIMATE DREAM GOAL

130 pounds
26.5" waist
12.25" neck
37.25" hips
23.1 BMI
0.42 waist-to-height ratio
0.71 waist-to-hip ratio
25% body fat

To achieve this, I need to lose 21.2 more pounds of fat and gain 1.6 more pounds of lean mass.  I need to lose another 5.5" around my waist, another 0.25" around my neck and another 3.25" around my hips.

If I reach this goal, I will have lost a total of 38.3 pounds of fat and gained a total of 10.3 pounds of lean mass since my highest weight on February 22, 2009.  I will have also lost 8.5" around my waist, 1.5" around my neck and 8.25" around my hips.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

NOVEMBER 25 - DAILY REPORT

I did not track my food yesterday, and I overate low carb food, specifically pecans and three squares of dark chocolate.  I was preparing Thanksgiving food all day, and did really well with what I was supposed to be eating, but being around all the food for all that time started getting to me and I started getting cravings.  By late afternoon, I was snacking on small handfuls of toasted pecan, and lost control.  I made a run to the store in the late evening and "found myself" buying the dark chocolate bar.

I gained 3.2 pounds since yesterday morning, and Thanksgiving eating has not started yet!  At this moment, my plan is to not overeat today.  My sister arrived with about 15 pounds of homemade cookies, and, after gaining the 3.2 pounds, my feeling is that is it not going to be hard to resist all of them.  I know that most of what I gained yesterday was water weight, but it has still given me the kick in the butt I need to get me to eat sensibly today.  We'll see how that works out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MY CYBER CHAT WITH TOM NAUGHTON OF THE MOVIE "FAT HEAD"

--> A couple of years ago, in response to watching the movie Super Size Me, I completely stopped eating at fast food restaurants and I've never looked back.  Tom Naughton's response to watching the movie was a little more extreme:  He set out to make his own documentary, exposing the obvious (to him) inaccuracies, inconsistencies and downright deceptions in that movie.

The result was Fat Head, a factual and comic look at Super Size Me, written by, produced by and starring Tom Naughton, a stand up comedian, sit down writer and first time film-maker.  Not only does Tom rip Super Size Me to shreds, but he also shines a very informative spotlight on the whole low carb nutritional movement.  I just got my copy a week ago, after watching all the teasers for the same on youtube, and I loved it.  However, because of the way I am "wired", I wanted to know more about what Tom thought on a few low carb confusions of mine.

I contacted Tom, asking if I could grill him a little, and he graciously told me to fire away.  In pretty short order, I got some very interesting and thought-provoking answers and observations from Tom, which helped me fine tune my own understanding of the way I have chosen to eat - high fat, moderate protein and low carb.

Following are some Q & A from Tom and me. 

Rebecca:  How is fat stored in the absence of insulin?  Most of the things I have read talk about how the over-release of insulin causes glucose to be stored as fat.  I have also read that protein that is not needed by the body is converted to glucose and stored as fat.  But what happens when a person eats overeats fat?  I asked that question of Gary Taubes in his recent interview with Jimmy Moore.  Gary answered by saying he has a problem with the word “overeat” and then he really didn’t answer the question.  He said that what is enough for one person might not be enough for another person.   

So I am trying to rephrase the question so that it is clear:  Say a person is eating a certain amount of fat, protein and carbs (very low carb), and they are maintaining their weight on these amounts of each macronutrient.  Then, they suddenly increase their fat intake only by a large amount.  Do they begin to gain weight?  And if so, why?  If fat storage is driven by insulin, and fat does not provoke an insulin response, then how does that fat get stored?  

I have heard some say that excess fat beyond what the body needs will just cause the body to raise the metabolism to burn it off.  I have heard some say that the body does not use the excess fat, but just excretes it.  I have heard some say that the excess fat is a “calorie bomb” and will be stored as fat, but they do not say by what biological mechanism this happens.  

Dr. Atkins said that we can eat as much fat as we want, because it will not cause insulin to be produced and there will be no way for the fat to be stored.  But then he says that if we eat way too much, it will cause weight gain.  How? 

Tom:  Unless you’re a type I diabetic, your body will always produce some insulin in response to food, and good thing too, or you’d waste away and die.  Carbohydrates generally provoke the greatest insulin response, but protein provokes an insulin response too.  I’m not aware of any experiments in which subjects lived on a diet of 100% fat, so I can’t say whether or not it’s possible to gain weight on fat alone, but we don’t eat fat alone; we eat fat with protein. 

So my guess is that while you’re less likely to store calories as fat if you’re eating nothing but fat and protein, it’s still possible to gain weight if you eat enough, because the protein could provoke an insulin response sufficient to store some fat.   

Rebecca:  What is the difference between “Calories In Calories Out” and “Creating a Calorie Deficit”?  I have heard many people talk about how 3500 calories equals a pound, and that to lose a pound per week, all you have to do is cut 500 calories from your daily food.  Or cut 250 calories per day and increase your activity by 250 calories each day for the same result. 

Many low carb people will say that this theory is wrong, because a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie.  The body will react to 100 calories of high glycemic index carbs differently than it will react to 100 calories of butter.  I know that I, personally, will maintain my weight on 1100 calories of high carb, low fat food, and I will also maintain my weight on 1800 calories of low carb, high fat food.  So I do believe that there is a “metabolic advantage” to eating low carb and high fat.   

Also, many will say it is wrong because the body can adapt through homeostasis or thermogenesis, and keep the body from losing weight.  I heard this analogy recently:  It's kind of like the Borg on Star Trek, where a phaser weapon works against the alien Borg creatures once, but then they adapt, and soon the same phaser blast no longer does anything. 

I started a thread on the Atkins Forum called “My Body is Not a Piggy Bank!  (Do Calories Matter?)” and I posted information that I got off of Adam Kosloff's website Why Low Carb Diets Work.  On that website, Adam attempts (and does a great job, I think) of crystallizing Gary Taubes’ ­Good Calories Bad Calories into an easily read and understood form.  Gary told Adam that he thought it was good. 

If anyone can prove that homeostasis and/or thermogenesis are real,  it is me!  Without changing my activity, I have both gained and lost weight eating 1400 calories and 2000 calories and everything in between.  And all of this high fat, moderate protein and very low carb (never more than 40 total carbs and as low as 20 total carbs). 

Tom:  To lose weight, you still have to create a calorie deficit. The idea behind low-carb is that the fat cells are open for business, so if you create the need to tap them, you can. Otherwise, simply eating less can encourage your body to slow your metabolism.   

Calories In Calories Out assumes the number of calories you burn stays more or less constant. It ignores adaptive thermogenesis, the process by which your body can dramatically raise or lower your metabolism in response to the foods you eat, hormones, etc.  So according to the Calories In Calories out crowd, if you simply eat less, you’ll automatically lose weight matching the equation 3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat. However, if your fat cells aren’t open for business and you simply eat less, your body will respond to starvation at the cellular level by slowing your metabolism. That’s part of the reason so many diets fail, and also the reason some people who try to grit it out end up losing muscle instead of fat. Likewise, people who literally can’t seem to gain weight (my son, for one) have metabolisms that ramp up if they eat more. 

If your fat cells are open for business, your body can make up for a fuel shortage by burning body fat, so it won’t experience cellular starvation and won’t slow your metabolism. But any way you slice it, you need to give your body a reason to tap those fat cells. I’ve seen people accuse the low-carb doctors of either denying the need for a calorie deficit or just now admitting to it, but Drs. Eades & Eades wrote about the need to create a calorie deficit way back with their first Protein Power book, which was published in 1997.  

Research has shown that people who go on low-carb diets often end up eating less spontaneously. There’s a reason for that: once the fat cells are opened up, they supply a bigger share of your energy, so you don’t feel the need to eat as much. 

Rebecca:  It seems like you are saying that Calories In Calories Out does not work if the fat cells are “closed” but it does­ work if the fat cells are “open”.  Or maybe it works when the fat cells are “open” but you make sure not to drop your calories too low and cause the body to “shut” the fat cells again.

But doesn’t “creating a calorie deficit” also ignore adaptive thermogenesis?  If the fat cells are “open” does that turn off adaptive thermogenesis, or is it still possible? 

If I am understanding this correctly, the difference between Calories In Calories Out and Creating a Calorie Deficit is really only a matter of semantics.  You could basically say that if you are eating high carb and low fat, Calories In Calories Out will not work.  But if you are eating low carb and high fat, Calories In Calories Out will work.  Isn’t Creating a Calorie Deficit really the same thing as Calories In Calories Out, provided, of course, that you are acknowledging that all calories are not created equal? 

Just eating less and exercising more (Calories In Calories Out) will not make a person lose weight IF they are eating wrong.  But if they are eating right, eating less and exercising more will make them lose weight (Calorie Deficit).  Please help me to understand this better!   

Tom:  Well, it’s a big, complex subject, but I’ll try to make it as clear as possible.  The Calories In  Calories Out crowd believes that 1) Body fat is passive and 2) All calories count the same.  Therefore, they make goofy statements such as “If you just cut 100 calories per day from your diet, you’ll lose 10 pounds per year.”

They see the body as a bank which has a set number of daily expenses (your basal metabolism).  Every calorie consumed is a deposit, and every calorie burned through activity is a withdrawal.  So in their view, if your basal metabolism is 1500 calories and you burn an extra 500 calories through activity, eating more than 2000 calories will always cause weight gain, and eating fewer than 2000 calories will always cause weight loss. 

We know this is poppycock because people like my wife and son weigh exactly the same year in and year out.  They can’t possibly be consuming EXACTLY the right number of calories every year.  My son easily consumes more than a million calories in a year.  According to simple calorie math, if he over-ate by a mere 7,000 calories, he’d gain two pounds – yet that never happens.  So unless he’s eating exactly the right number of calories every year – with 99.3% accuracy – his body must be adjusting his metabolism up and down in response to his diet to maintain his weight. 

In fact, my son twice tried to gain weight by eating quite a bit more, but it didn’t work.  Other people have tried to starve themselves thin but couldn’t lose anything close to what the simple Calories In  Calories Out math says they should have lost. 

That’s what Taubes explained in his book. It’s important to understand that despite what some of his critics have said, Taubes does not believe calories can magically disappear or that the laws of thermodynamics don’t apply to the human body.  (We’re talking about a guy with a degree in physics, after all.)  In any system, the body included, the inputs and outputs must match.  However, Taubes believes that 1) Body fat is an active driver of your metabolism, 2) the amount of fat your body wants to maintain is determined by hormones, and 3) the body responds to different sources of calories in different ways. 

Body fat drives metabolism by providing you with a supply of fatty acids for fuel.  To keep your blood sugar level, your body needs to alternately store and retrieve fat – storing fat when blood sugar is high so the blood sugar will be consumed first and brought down to a safe level, retrieving fat as blood sugar drops so blood sugar isn’t over-consumed and pushed too low.  The amount of body fat you need for this system to work depends on how efficiently your fat cells can release fatty acids, which in turn is a function of several hormones.  Insulin, of course, is a prime mover in this system because high levels of insulin can slow down or block the release of fatty acids.  If your fat cells are slow to release fat, your body will work to make them bigger, because bigger fat cells can release more fatty acids, thus allowing you to keep your blood sugar stable. 

So if hormones are telling your body to maintain a certain level of body fat, it will fight your efforts to gain or lose.  It fights by adjusting your metabolism up or down.  So you cut 100 calories per day from you diet, just like the experts suggest, and nothing happens.  Why?  Because if hormones are telling your body to remain fat, your body will respond by making adjustment to the calories it expends. 

The Calories In  Calories Out crowd doesn’t account for those adjustments.  They also don’t account for the fact (despite plenty of clinical research) that the body tends to raise its metabolism in response to certain nutrients, such as proteins and medium-chain triglycerides – the fat found in coconut oil. 

Here’s an analogy:  To the Calories In  Calories Out crowd, the gas I put in my car is calories in, the gas my car burns while idling is basal metabolism, and the gas my car burns while moving is calories expended through activity.  In their minds, this equation never changes.  But of course, we all know you can buy a car that gets 35 mpg, and three years later it’s only getting 28 mpg.  That doesn’t violate the laws of thermodynamics, and it doesn’t mean the energy in no longer matches the energy out.  It means something has changed inside the car’s system and it’s no longer using the energy in exactly the same way.   

There is no getting around the fact that to burn away body fat, you need to create a need for your body to consume the fat – an energy deficit.  But merely cutting calories may not do the trick, because your body can adjust your metabolism down, thus reducing or eliminating the deficit.  That’s what Taubes was trying to explain:  The calories in can cause adjustments in the calories out.  If you don’t solve the hormonal issues first, shrinking your fat cells will simply produce a situation where your body can’t retrieve fatty acids quickly enough to feed your cells and keep your blood sugar level.  Then your body will fight like crazy to avoid shrinking the fat cells any more – again by slowing your metabolism. 

So for the calorie deficit to work in the long term, it must be combined with a hormonal environment that allows your body to efficiently retrieve fatty acids from your fat cells.  That’s where keeping your insulin levels low comes in. 

Rebecca:  If I am Creating a Calorie Deficit, why am I still 36% body fat, even though I eat high fat, moderate protein and very low carb? 

Even though it makes sense, in theory, that I need to “burn” more calories than I take in, I have not been able to make that theory a reality in my body.  It seems that every time I either increase or decrease fat and protein (carbs always staying very low in all cases), there is no rhyme or reason to why I either stay the same weight, or lose weight or gain weight.  

Remember my "Borg" analogy? Well, my body is the Borg, and it wants to weigh 143.4 pounds and Resistance is Futile!  When I decrease my intake of food in order to create a calorie deficit, it will sometimes give up a little fat, but then adapts and starts storing fat again, bringing me back to 143.4 pounds or more.  There was one time that I increased my food intake from 1600 calories to 2000 calories, and dropped several pounds in a week, but then my body adjusted my metabolism (I’m assuming) and all the weight came right back, with a little more just for good measure, to teach me a lesson. 

In your Jimmy Moore interview,Tom, you said that people can look up exactly what you ate and how it caused you to lose a certain amount of weight.  If you were to look at my food diary, you would see no rhyme or reason to the weight I have lost, gained or maintained relative to the food I happened to be eating at the time or the amount of exercise I was getting or not getting.   

I recently just gave up and ate 1800 calories per day for a few months without a change.  My weight stayed the same.  I then dropped down to 1400 calories, and did not lose weight.  I have been doing this now for two weeks, with no change in my weight.  But didn’t I create a calorie deficit?  And 1400 calories for a 5’3” woman is certainly not starving, I would think… 

How can a person (me!) create a calorie deficit when thermogenesis is at work, it seems, to keep my body at a certain weight?   What is the likelihood that a person has no control over their weight, and no matter what they eat or how much they exercise, they will not lose weight? 

Tom:  Okay, this is the answer nobody wants to hear, but here goes:  Short of starvation that would ruin your health, it may not be possible for you to be as thin as you would like to be.  As I explained above, your body needs to be able to store and retrieve fatty acids to keep your cells fed and your blood sugar level.  The amount of body fat required to do that job depends on how quickly and efficiently your fat cells release fatty acids.  Think of it this way:  if you’ve got weak batteries, you need more of them to produce the same charge.  So unless you can make your fat cells more efficient, your body is going to fight you tooth and nail to maintain your current level of body fat – because it NEEDS that body fat to avoid cellular starvation between meals, especially when you’re sleeping. 

You may be able to make your fat cells more efficient through changes in hormones – thyroid recovery, adrenal recovery, insulin sensitivity recovery, etc. – but if you’ve suffered irreversible damage to any of those, there’s a limit to how much body fat you can or should lose. 

I once managed to semi-starve myself down to 165 pounds, but the love handles and bit of belly fat in the front still didn’t go away.  I started burning up my own muscles instead.  My arms, legs and chest got skinnier, the belly didn’t.  At some point, my body refused to sacrifice the body fat it needed.  I just didn’t realize at the time that it did, in fact, need the fat.   

So I can only suggest looking into possible fixes for hormone problems, keeping your carbs low (which you apparently already do), and engaging in hard exercise to improve your insulin sensitivity a bit.  Beyond that, I believe the smartest thing to do is to accept that what matters is health, not body size.  As Dr. Mary Vernon said in a lecture I attended, “From a health standpoint, I don’t care how fat you are.  I care about what you’re burning for fuel.” 

Rebecca:  What do you think of the BodyBugg?  I have a friend who uses one, and he says it accurately tells him how many calories he is burning off each day so that he can create a 20% calorie deficit and lose weight consistently.  He eats high fat, moderate protein and low carb.  I feel that if I got one (out of desperation!), it would tell me that I am burning calories, but I still would not lose weight. 

Tom:  Never seen one.  Since the body will adjust your metabolism to keep you fat if you don’t solve the hormonal issues first, I don’t see the point of counting every calorie. 

Rebecca:  What other processes are at work in the body to store fat due to hormonal imbalances other than insulin? 

Estrogen dominance, low progesterone, low testosterone, low thyroid, high cortisol and low melatonin will all cause weight gain.  Why?  (By the way, I have all of these, and having my hormones balanced with natural, bio-identical hormone replacement has not helped me lose weight.)  Do people with these imbalances gain weight because the imbalances cause excess insulin to be produced?  And if that is so, and a person is eating very low carb, what the heck is the insulin driving into the fat cells?  Fat and protein? 

Tom:  I don’t believe they all work directly through raising insulin.  From what I’ve read, they all have an effect on how efficiently your body can release fatty acids for fuel.  Testosterone, for example, aids in lipolysis – the release and burning of fatty acids. Insulin, however, can block the actions of hormones that aid in lipolysis.  If you can’t release fatty acids quickly, your body doesn’t want to give up the body fat it needs.  

Rebecca:  It's disappointing to me that I am actually a success story in the new Atkins book, A New Atkins for a New You.   

Tom:  I take it you don’t feel successful at the moment?

Rebecca:  The answer to that is resounding NO!  I have done everything right.  I have exercised, I have lifted weights, I have eaten low carb, I have had my hormones naturally balanced with bio-identical hormone replacement.  I am one of the top three contributors on the Atkins Community Forum, where some of my articles are used in the forum “stickies” so that newcomers will see them.  I am profiled in The New Atkins For a New You.  I was interviewed by Jimmy Moore for his podcast this past September.  I have this health and nutrition blog. 

And sometimes I feel like a hypocrite.  I spend all my time telling everyone I know that low carb is the way that human beings were designed to eat, but eating this way is not causing me to lose more than just a few initial pounds of fat.  I started out at 46% body fat and now I am 36% or so, and I am stuck.  I did get down to around 33% over a year ago, but it has steadily been going back up since then.  

Tom:  I hear you.  I’d love to have arms with veins that pop and six-pack abs, like my son.  But it’ll never happen.  I stopped a life-long weight gain and reversed it to a significant degree, but I know I damaged my metabolism as a young man, and it will apparently only recover so far.  I have to focus on the fact that at age 52, I’m stronger than when I was at 25, I can walk for miles in hilly terrain without getting fatigued, I kick my wife’s behind in racquetball even though she’s 14 years younger, my blood pressure is low, my triglycerides are low, my HDL is high, and I’m the only one of my friends in my age bracket who isn’t taking some awful prescription drug. 

You are NOT a hypocrite, Rebecca.  You cannot compare yourself to people whose bodies are happy to be thin.  (If I compared myself to my wife and son all the time, I’d go bonkers.)  You can only compare who you are now with who you would’ve been if you hadn’t taken steps to improve your health.  So I don’t compare myself to my son.  The only person I compare myself to is the one I used to be.

Rebecca:  Can fat tissue be damaged beyond repair?  I have heard some say that the basic problem is that fat tissue function is damaged.  Do you think that there is a possibility that, in some cases, adipose tissue has been damaged beyond total repair?  Is there a chance, when there are no other possible issues at play, that a person cannot be capable of creating a calorie deficit in order to lose weight?  Gary Taubes said something to that effect in his recent interview with Jimmy Moore.  He said that, in some people, there will be excess fat that will not go away, no matter how well they eat. 

Tom:  I think Gary’s right, for the reasons I have already talked about here.

Rebecca:  So you think that a person can be fat and healthy?  In your Jimmy Moore interview, you talked about the difference between being overweight and being unhealthy, using members of your family and yourself as examples:  You are a little overweight and yet you have normal blood sugar, and others in your family are normal weight and yet have Type 2 Diabetes.  Do you believe that being overweight causes disease, or that disease ­leads to overweight?  My father’s doctor has always told him to avoid gaining weight in order to avoid Type 2 Diabetes.  His mother, my grandmother, was overweight most of her life and developed Type 2 Diabetes in her 60s.   

I think of myself, and realize that I have low triglycerides, good HDL and slightly high LDL, but normal blood sugar, and low inflammation markers, like C-Reactive Protein and Homocysteine,  and yet I am 36% body fat.  If I stay this fat, will that lead to developing Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease, or can I stay fat and remain healthy, as long as I eat right (low carb) and exercise?  Should I only care about my health, and not try to lose weight, and if I do that, will this fat, healthy body of mine lead me down the road to ill health? 

Tom:  My father-in-law is lean, athletic, and a type 2 diabetic.  My maternal grandmother is on the skinny side, but also became a type 2 diabetic.  Clearly, body fat is not the cause of type 2 diabetes, or we wouldn’t see lean type 2 diabetics.  It’s far more likely that many people eat diets that both make them fat and create insulin resistance at the same time.  Others can eat the same diet and become insulin resistant without becoming fat.  

Having said that, there is some evidence that the fat that accumulates in your liver may accelerate insulin resistance through the production of inflammatory cytokines. 

Rebecca:  So basically, does staying slim keep you healthy, or does staying healthy keep you slim (chicken/egg)?   

Tom:  Proper diet can aid in keeping you both slim and healthy.  Losing weight may assist in keeping you healthy by removing inflammation-producing visceral fat from your liver. 

Rebecca:  Tom, why do people get fat?  I know that Gary has a book coming out about this, but I am interested to hear your take on it.  I have heard it said (maybe by Gary) that we don’t get fat because we sit on the couch and eat too much – we sit on the couch and eat too much because we are fat.   

In other words, we aren’t fat because we eat too much and don’t get enough exercise. We’re not just lazy gluttons.  It’s not just Calories In Calories Out.  There is actually something wrong in the adipose tissue that is driving us to eat (specifically carbs) and causing us to stay inactive and keeping our metabolism slow. 

I know that I did not change the way I was eating or exercising, but when I hit thirty, I just started gaining weight.  I now blame hormonal imbalances, of which I’m sure insulin was one.  I was also eating a high carb and high fat diet, except when I was trying to lose weight, and then it was high carb and low fat. 

What do you think? 

Tom:  Metabolic derangement happens first.  The result is weight gain and lethargy.  When Dr. Robert Lustig treated kids for cancer, they nearly all become fat and lazy soon after.  Realizing something hormonal must’ve happened, he tested them and ended up giving them a drug to suppress excess insulin production.  Bingo; they lost weight and became active again, without anyone harping on them to eat less and exercise more. 

Rebecca:  I've been doing a lot of reading lately about cholesterol, because my husband's is high.  Based on what I've been learning, I am beginning to wonder:  Does serum cholesterol even matter? 

Since starting low carb 20 months ago, my cholesterol has gone from around 200 to around 220.  I’m sure it would not surprise you to know that my doctor wants me on statins.  I refused.  I did agree to start supplementing with red rice yeast, but now I am wondering if I should even be trying to lower my LDL.  I have been reading a lot of things in books and on the internet that say that as long as triglycerides are low, and inflammation is low, you could have a high LDL and it doesn't matter.  Some doctors believe that, ten years into the future, cholesterol will not even be considered a marker for heart disease.  What do you think? 

Tom:  Don’t try to lower your LDL.  High LDL protects you against infections and cancer.  It’s only a problem if you’re producing small, dense LDL, which is unlikely if you have low triglycerides and high HDL.  Also, LDL isn’t usually measured; it’s calculated.  If you have low triglycerides (below 100), that calculation will nearly always overestimate how much LDL you have.  Your doctor probably doesn’t know this, but there’s never, ever been an association shown between high cholesterol and heart disease in women.  In senior citizens, those with high cholesterol have the longest average lifespans, primarily because they have a lower rate of cancer.

Rebecca:  Thanks, Tom!  I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!   I know that we all hope that low carb wisdom will prevail - and hopefully in our lifetimes!

To visit Tom Naughton's blog, click here.








BRANCH CHAIN AMINO ACIDS - THE MAGIC BULLET FOR MY WEIGHT LOSS?

One week ago, I started taking Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA).  It was suggested in the book The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle by Drs. Michael A. and Mary Dan Eades.  I tried doing the diet, but gave up after only a few days, for reasons I talked about on this blog.  But I did not stop taking the BCAA.

I bought this at GNC.  Here is what I take every day:

With breakfast - 2500mg L-Leucine, 833mg L-Isoleucine, 833mg L-Valine
With lunch - 2500mg L-Leucine, 833mg L-Isoleucine, 833mg L-Valine
Before bed - 2500mg L-Leucine, 833mg L-Isoleucine, 833mg L-Valine

I have done this now for seven days.  Without changing what I am eating or the amount of activity I am getting, I have started losing body fat and inches and have started gaining lean mass.

I have lost 1.2 pounds of body fat.

I have gained 0.2 pounds of lean mass.

I have lost 1/4" around my waist.

I have lost 1/4" around my neck.

I have lost 1/2" around my hips.

I have lost 0.6% body fat, going from 33.7% to 33.1%, which is the lowest body fat percentage that I have had since starting to lose weight in February 2009.  Even when I weighed less than I do now (summer 2009), my body fat percentage was not this low.

So I am definitely changing my body composition.  Can I credit the BCAA for this?  It might be too soon to tell, but I'm sure not going to stop taking it!

You might think that my changes are not that drastic, but this is coming after a stall that has lasted over a year, and my body fat has never been this low.

NOVEMBER 21 - WEEK 88 RESULTS

One week ago, my actual scale weight was 141.6.
Today, my actual scale weight is 140.6.
I lost 1 pound this past week.

 One week ago, my average weight for the week was 142.9.
Today, my average weight for the week is 141.4.
I lost 1.5 pounds this past week.

I tracked my food on fitday every day this past week, and here are the averages of what I ate for the first four days of the week:

1412 calories
85.8g fat (54.7%)
132.1g protein (37.4%)
27.9g total carbs (7.9%)
17.4g fiber
10.5g net carbs, of which 6.3g were from veggies
1749g sodium

Here are the averages of what I ate for the last three days of the week:

1622 calories
120.2g fat (66.7%)
95.1g protein (23.5%)
39.9g total carbs (9.8%)
19.9g fiber
20g net carbs, of which 12.1g were from veggies
2318g sodium

Today is my weekly measuring day. In the past 7 days:

I lost 1/4" around my neck
I gained 1/4" around my navel
I lost 1/4" around my hips
I lost 1/4" around my calf

Here is what I have lost so far, since starting to lose weight in February 2009:

Neck - 13.75" to 12.25" - down 1.5"
Bicep - 11.75" to 11.75" - lost fat and gained muscle
Forearm - 9" - no change
Bust - 38.25" to 35.75" - down 2.5"
Midriff - 32.25" to 29.5" - down 2.75"
Waist - 31.5" to 29" - down 2.5"
Navel - 38.25" to 32.5" - down 5.75"
Hips - 42" to 39.25" - down 2.75"
Thigh - 24.5" to 22.25" - down 2.25"
Calf - 14.5" to 13.5" - down 1" - lost fat and gained muscle


BODY COMPOSITION

AT THE BEGINNING OF WEIGHT LOSS 2/22/09

158 pounds
35" waist
13.75" neck
45.5" hips
28.0 BMI
0.56 waist-to-height ratio
0.77 waist-to-hip ratio
44.8% body fat

ONE MONTH AGO

142.5 pounds
31.25" waist
12.5" neck
41.25" hips
25.3 BMI
0.50 waist-to-height ratio
0.76 waist-to-hip ratio
35.9% body fat

ONE WEEK AGO

141.6 pounds
30.75" waist
12.5" neck
40" hips
25.1 BMI
0.49 waist-to-height ratio
0.77 waist-to-hip ratio
33.7% body fat

TODAY

140.6 pounds
30.5" waist
12.25" neck
39.5" hips
25.0 BMI
0.48 waist-to-height ratio
0.77 waist-to-hip ratio
33.1% body fat

Since my heaviest weight in February 2009, I have lost 17.4 pounds on the scale, 4.5" around my waist, 1.5" around my neck and 6" around my hips.  I have lost 24.3 pounds of fat and I have gained 6.9 pounds of lean mass.

In the past month, I have lost 1.9 pounds on the scale, 0.75" around my waist, 0.25" around my neck and 1.75" around my hips.  I have lost 4.7 pounds of fat and I have gained 2.8 pounds of lean mass.

In the past week, I have lost 1 pound on the scale, 0.25" around my waist, 0.25" around my neck and 0.5" around my hips.  I have lost 1.2 pounds of fat and I have gained 0.2 pounds of lean mass. 


MY NEXT GOAL

140 pounds
30" waist
12.25" neck
39.5" hips
24.9 BMI
0.48 waist-to-height ratio
0.76 waist-to-hip ratio
32.5% body fat

To achieve this, I need to lose 1 pound of fat and gain 0.4 pounds of lean mass.  I need to lose 1/2" around my waist.

MY ULTIMATE DREAM GOAL

130 pounds
26.5" waist
12.25" neck
37.25" hips
23.1 BMI
0.42 waist-to-height ratio
0.71 waist-to-hip ratio
25% body fat

To achieve this, I need to lose 14 more pounds of fat and gain 3.4 more pounds of lean mass.  I need to lose another 4" around my waist and another 2.25" around my hips.

If I reach this goal, I will have lost a total of 38.3 pounds of fat and gained a total of 10.3 pounds of lean mass since my highest weight on February 22, 2009.  I will have also lost 8.5" around my waist, 1.5" around my neck and 8.25" around my hips.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A CASE AGAINST CARDIO - MARK SISSON - MARK'S DAILY APPLE

From Mark Sisson of Mark' Daily Apple:

We all know that we need to exercise to be healthy.

Unfortunately, the popular wisdom of the past 40 years – that we would all be better off doing 45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity – has created a generation of overtrained, underfit, immune-compromised exerholics. Hate to say it, but we weren’t meant to aerobicize at the chronic and sustained high intensities that so many people choose to do these days. The results are almost always unimpressive. Ever wonder why years of “Spin” classes, endless treadmill sessions and interminable hours on the “elliptical” have done nothing much to shed those extra pounds and really tone the butt?

Don’t worry. There’s a reason why the current methods fail, and when you understand why, you’ll see that there’s an easier, more effective – and fun – way to burn fat, build or preserve lean muscle and maintain optimal health. The information is all there in the primal DNA blueprint, but in order to get the most from your exercise experience, first you need to understand the way we evolved and then build your exercise program around that blueprint.

Like most people, I used to think that rigorous aerobic activity was one of the main keys to staying healthy – and that the more mileage you could accumulate (at the highest intensity), the better. During my 20+ years as a competitive endurance athlete, I logged tens of thousands of training miles running and on the bike with the assumption that, in addition to becoming fit enough to race successfully at a national class level, I was also doing my cardiovascular system and the rest of my body a big healthy favor.

Being the type A that I am, I read Ken Cooper’s seminal 1968 book Aerobics and celebrated the idea that you got to award yourself “points” for time spent at a high heart rate. The more points, the healthier your cardiovascular system would become. Based on that notion, I should have been one of the healthiest people on the planet.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t – and that same mindset has kept millions of other health-conscious, nirvana-seeking exercisers stuck in a similar rut for almost 40 years. It’s time to get your head out of the sand and take advantage of your true DNA destiny, folks!

The first signal I had that something was wrong was when I developed debilitating osteoarthritis in my ankles…at age 28. This was soon coupled with chronic hip tendonitis and nagging recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. In retrospect, it is clear now that my carbohydrate-fueled high-intensity aerobic lifestyle was promoting a dangerous level of continuous systemic inflammation, was severely suppressing other parts of my immune system and the increased oxidative damage was generally tearing apart my precious muscle and joint tissue.

The stress of high intensity training was also leaving me soaking in my own internal cortisol (stress hormone) bath. It wasn’t so clear to me at the time exactly what was happening – in fact it was quite confusing, since I was doing so much of this so-called “healthy” aerobic exercise – but I had no choice but to give up racing, unable to train at anywhere near the intensity required to stay at an elite level.

To make ends meet, I became a “personal trainer” and I refocused my attention on training average “non-athletic” people to achieve reasonable levels of general fitness and health. Of course, we lifted weights as part of the overall plan (and I will go into greater detail on that important aspect of fitness in a later post), but for the aerobic component of their training, I started doing long walks or hikes or easy bike rides with them. My many clients got the benefit of me actually working out right along side them and I got the benefit of 3 to 5 hours a day of very low intensity aerobic work (well, very low for me anyway). It was refreshing and really didn’t take much effort on my part, but I knew I had to be deriving at least some small benefit from those hours.

Since I didn’t have much time left in the week for my own workouts, once or twice a week I would do a very short but very intense workout for my own benefit, usually sprints at the track or “hill repeats” of 2-3 minutes each on the bike. Lo and behold, within a year, my injuries were healing, I was rarely sick and I was even back to occasionally racing – faster than ever. Something “primal” was happening and it made total sense in the context of the DNA blueprint. I was training like my hunter-gatherer ancestors, building my aerobic capacity slowly and steadily without overstressing my adrenals or my immune system, training my body to derive more energy from fats (and not glucose), requiring far fewer carbohydrate calories from my diet, and building muscle with occasional quick bursts of speed and intensity. I was suddenly both fit AND healthy. My Primal Health system was kicking in and it all made perfect sense.

Humans, like all mammals, evolved two primary energy systems that powered the skeletal muscles of our hunter-gatherer ancestors 40,000 years ago and that would keep us all well-powered the same way today, if we weren’t so bent on circumventing them with our ill-fated (literally) lifestyle choices.

The first energy system relied heavily on the slow burning of fats, keeping us fueled while we were at rest or sleeping, yet also allowing for continuous or intermittent low levels of aerobic activity (think of our ancestors walking across the savannah for hours foraging for roots, shoots, berries, grubs, insects and the occasional small animal). It makes sense. Fats are very efficient fuels that are stored easily in the fat cells and burn easily and cleanly when lots of oxygen is present (as when we are breathing normally). Even if there’s no food in the immediate area, a well-trained fat-burning hunter-gatherer could continue walking and foraging for days without compromising his or her health or efficiency.

The second major energy system we developed through evolution was an ATP-fueled system that allowed for intense loads of work to be done in very brief bursts (think of our hunter-gatherer ancestors sprinting to the safety of a tree to avoid being eaten by a lion). ATP is always sitting right there within the muscle cells, available in a split second, and it is the highest octane fuel we have. In fact, it’s ATP and adrenaline that allow the little old lady to lift the front end of the Ford Fairlane off her husband when the jack fails. Unfortunately, the muscles can only store about 20 seconds worth of this precious fuel to complete life-or-death tasks. If our ancestors survived that quick sprint to safety, their ATP reserves were filled again within minutes using the other energy systems.

Furthermore, that brief burst of intense energy sparked a small “growth spurt” in the muscle, making it even stronger for the next encounter with the next lion – a true survival adaptation.

(Note: While our energy systems are actually quite complex, varied and interrelated, I have simplified things here to make it easier to “digest”.)

Bottom line: Fats and ATP were the two primary energy sources for locomotion: we either moved slowly and steadily or “fight or flight” fast, and we became stronger and healthier the more we used only those energy systems.

But here’s the real take-home message for us: We did not evolve to rely heavily on a carbodydrate-fueled energy system, and yet, carbohydrate metabolism seems to rule our lives today. Yes, carbohydrate (in the form of glucose) can play a major role in the production of energy in skeletal muscle, but it turns out that the heart and skeletal muscle prefer fatty acids (fat) as fuel over glucose.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t regularly ramp their heart rates up for over an hour a day like so many of us do now. Even when the concept of organized hunting came along, it would appear that our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied more on superior tracking ability (using our highly evolved and exceptionally large brains) and walking (using our superior fat-burning systems), rather than on actually “chasing down” their prey. In fact, squandering valuable energy reserves (and increasing carbohydrate [glucose] metabolism by a factor of ten) by running hard for long periods of time was so counterproductive it would have likely hastened your demise (imagine chasing some game animal for a few hours and – oops – not succeeding in killing it. You’ve spent an incredible amount of energy, yet now you have no food to replace that energy. You have suddenly become some other animals prey because you are physically exhausted).

So, what does all that mean for us in the 21st century seeking to maximize our health and fitness?

Well, we know that this current popular high intensity aerobic pursuit is a dead-end. It requires huge amounts carbohydrate (sugar) to sustain, it promotes hyperinsulinemia (overproduction of insulin), increases oxidative damage (the production of free radicals) by a factor of 10 or 20 times normal, and generates high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in many people, leaving them susceptible to infection, injury, loss of bone density and depletion of lean muscle tissue – while encouraging their bodies to deposit fat. Far from that healthy pursuit we all assumed it was! What, then, is the answer?

Knowing what we know about our hunter-gatherer ancestors and the DNA blueprint, we would ideally devise an aerobics plan that would have us walking or hiking several hours a day to maximize our true fat-burning systems and then doing intermittent “life or death” sprints every few days to generate those growth spurts that create stronger, leaner muscle.

However, since allocating a few hours a day to this pursuit is impractical for most people, we can still create a plan that has a fair amount of low level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint (or cycle or do anything intensely) for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week.

If you are willing to try this new approach, but haven’t sprinted for a while, you may want to ease into it. Start with maybe three or four the first time, resting two minutes in between and, after a few weeks of doing this, work your way up to a workout that includes six or eight all-out sprints after a brief warm-up. An easy few minutes of stretching afterwards and you’ve done more in less time than you could ever accomplish in a typical “80-85% Max Heart Rate” cardio” workout. That’s exactly type of the plan I do myself and that I give all of my trainees now.

Let’s recap:

The benefits of low level aerobic work (walking, hiking, cycling, swimming):
- increases capillary network (blood vessels that supply the muscle cells with fuel and oxygen)
- increases muscle mitochondria
- increases production of fat-burning and fat-transporting enzymes
- more fun, because you can talk with a partner while doing it

The benefits of interval training (sprinting in short intense bursts)
- increases muscle fiber strength
- increases aerobic capacity (work ability)
- increases muscle mitochondria (the main energy production center in muscle)
- increases insulin sensitivity
- increases natural growth hormone production

The costs of chronic (repetitious) mid- and high-level aerobic work
- requires large amounts of dietary carbohydrates (SUGAR)
- decreases efficient fat metabolism
- increases stress hormone cortisol
- increases systemic inflammation
- increases oxidative damage (free radical production)
- boring!

To read the full article and comments, click here.

MORE CHRONIC CARDIO TALK - MARK SISSON - MARK'S DAILY APPLE

From Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple:

Why wouldn’t anyone want to hear that real exercise doesn’t mean endless hours on that torturously boring treadmill? News like this is like sunlight bursting in, choirs of children singing, shackles collapsing open and crashing to the ground. Hordes of celebratory folk parade through the gym, penny whistles and fiddles playing, ale mugs in hand, goats and cows in the merry mix. Get off that treadmill and join us, for the love!

Truly, how many people give you great news like this on a random Tuesday– permission to leave the life of chronic cardio for the promise of less time, more muscle, better health? Of course, I’m certainly not advocating giving up all training – just that certain problematic, unnecessary type. I’d encourage you to reread all of the discussion and great comments offered up. Here’s a sampling of my contribution to that post conversation.

It all comes down to this: fat loss depends 80% on what and how you eat. Retrain your energy systems to burn fat and not glucose. Cutting out all simple carbs is the key. It’s about insulin management. If you can readjust the diet to encourage the body to burn fats, you won’t need to replenish lost glycogen every day. You’ll always burn fats and you’ll always have energy. The low level aerobic stuff becomes “filler”…so you only do it if it’s fun, like a hike or walk with friends or golf or mountain biking. The real muscle growth will come from the short anaerobic bursts like sprints, intervals or weight-training. I’ll do a piece on this later, but check out my friends at http://www.crossfit.com . They get more done in 20-30 minutes than most of the gym rats doing 90 minute weight sessions. And because it’s a “circuit training” concept, they get plenty of heart-training (cardio) as well. And growth hormone release and insulin sensitivity, and….you get the point.

In our cardio addicted culture, it can sound too good – too simple – to be true. But the science and the research is there, folks. Short “interval” exercise, like sprints or strength training, can offer the same fitness benefits (and then some) compared with traditional endurance training. Take this study via Science Daily via McMaster University. In the context of six training sessions during a two week study period, half of the college aged subjects did 90-120 minutes per session of a continuous moderate-intensity cycling routine while the other half did between four and six 30-second intensive cycling bursts. At the end of the two week study period, the endurance cycling subjects had each invested 10.5 hours. The intensive interval subjects had invested just 2.5 hours. Yet, the improvements in fitness performance and muscle parameters were the same.

Interested in hearing more?

A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period. The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise. The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group. (An interesting note: the interval group’s loss in body fat came mostly from the legs and buttocks area.)

The study’s organizers, in their presentations to the Heart Foundation and American College of Sports Medicine, discussed the role of sprinting in metabolic response. Intense interval training, they said, results in higher levels of catecholamines, a compound related to fat oxidation.

More yet?

Another collaborative study organized by universities and health institutes in Denmark and Japan highlighted the same distinction in fat oxidation between prolonged, continuous exercise and shorter, intense interval routines. In addition to additional fat oxidation, the study’s results linked interval exercise with lower plasma glucose, increased epinephrine response, lower insulin concentration and increased fat oxidation during the recovery period.

Don’t you just love this stuff?  Folks, this is ground breaking stuff. Now I just scratch my head at why we keep running ourselves ragged!  The message is out there, but it’s not reaching people.

To read the full article and comments, click here.

CHRONIC CARDIO - MARK SISSON - MARK'S DAILY APPLE

From Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple:

Dear Mark,
I’m still having a hard time understanding what “chronic high level training” is, exactly. How much is too much? Is there a heart rate zone you guys can give me? A time limit? Am I overthinking this?

Thanks, Charlotte, for posting this question last week. As is so often the case, another MDA reader (hats off to you, Mike OD!) offered great advice. We thought the question was well worth revisiting. First off, let’s investigate the concept of chronic cardio. Intense cardio as we commonly think of it today means long stretches at a sustained heart rate in the 80+% range.

The fact is, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t ramp up their heart rates significantly for over an hour every day, and I don’t think we should either. They walked at a very low level of exertion, burning almost entirely stored fats. Once you get into the zones where less fat is burned and where there’s a big dependency on glucose to fuel muscles, your body goes into a less efficient mode of fuel oxidation. There are biochemical costs associated with this shift. Your muscles and liver can only hold 500-600 grams of precious glycogen (stored glucose) at any one time, which means about 2 hours’ worth for the best trained individuals and less for most people. That means that to come back and work out hard the next day requires at least 600 more grams of carbs every day. That’s just too much glucose and insulin to deal with every day.

I don’t recommend pushing this limit or even approaching it. Why bother? This kind of training (and diet) raises cortisol levels, increases oxidative damage, systemic inflammation, depresses the immune system and decreases fat metabolism. About the only thing good it does is improve cardiac muscle strength – and even then you get too the point of diminishing returns fairly quickly.

As you know, I recommend a different approach that more accurately mirrors what we evolved doing. In those simpler (but not really “good old”), primal times, we spent several hours a day engaged in low level activity. A few times a week, caveman/woman life required brief spurts in high intensity anaerobic mode to run from various predators, hunt down dinner, engage in “play” etc. Each of these modes resulted in its own unique and very positive growth response.

This pattern, for most of us, isn’t easily replicated as a result of our busy lives. Instead, I suggest anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of low to moderate level aerobic movement such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling, etc. It doesn’t need to be every day, but at least a few times a week is important. The goal during these sessions is to maintain the zone that burns mostly fat. For very fit people, this could be as high as 70-80% of your maximum heart rate, but we’re really talking 60-70% for most people. The benefits of exercising at this zone are numerous and the risks minimal. It’s the ideal level of activity for decreasing body fat, increasing the capillary network, and for lowering blood pressure and reducing risk for degenerative diseases, including heart disease.

Add to this routine a few anaerobic, “interval” workouts once or twice a week. Weight-bearing, anaerobic bursts are the best training for building muscle, and lean muscle mass is critical to health. It also increases your aerobic capacity, natural growth hormone production and insulin sensitivity.

Traditional running sprints are one option, but we presented several others last month for your perusal. Put your all into it for 20-40 seconds and then rest for two minutes or so between “sets.” You can start out with three or four bursts and work your way up to as much as eight. As always, get in some warm up time and stretches afterward. It’s no fun pulling a muscle.

Finally, working all muscle groups through dynamic strength-training sessions (ie: lifting weights) a few times a week helps further build and maintain muscle mass, insulin sensitivity and growth hormone release.

Finally, let me add that I’m not trying to squash anyone’s passion for competing. As a former competitor myself, I totally “get” the drive to compete. Do I think that mode of existence is healthy, particularly in the long run? Not really, but I still understand what brings people to it. I simply want to convey that certain and sometimes significant health compromises are inherent to competition training. If anti-aging, longevity and robust excellent health are your primary goals, high-level training isn’t the best way to achieve them.

Now, for those who aren’t into the competition mission, you have the advantage of making your fitness routine and health about ideal balance. And I’m a true believer in achieving the balance that allows people to live the longest, healthiest lives possible. Thanks for your questions, and keep them coming!

To read the entire article and comments, click here.

TURBULENCE TRAINING BEGINNER LEVEL WORKOUT B


TTFL BEGINNER WORKOUT B from Turbulence Training on Vimeo.

Warm-up Circuit
Go through 2 times with no rest between exercises. Rest 30 seconds between circuits.
Prisoner Squat – 10 repetitions
Push Up or Kneeling Push Up – 8 repetitions
Stability Ball Leg Curl – 8 repetitions

Rest 30 seconds, then move on to Warm-up Superset.

Warm-up Superset
Go through this one time with no rest between exercises.
1A) DB Chest Press – 8 repetitions using 75% of the weight you will use in your “real” sets.
No rest.
1B) DB Step Ups – 8 repetitions using 75% of the weight you will use in your “real” sets.

Rest 1 minute, then move on to Superset #1.

Superset #1
1A) DB Chest Press – 10 repetitions
No rest.
1B) DB Step Ups – 10 repetitions per side
Rest 1 minute, then repeat 1 more time for a total of 2 supersets.

Rest 1 minute, then move on to Superset #2.

Superset #2
2A) Elevated Push Up or Kneeling Elevated Push Up - 6 repetitions per side
No rest.
2B) 1-Leg Hip Extension – 10 repetitions per side
Rest 1 minute, then repeat 1 more time for a total of 2 supersets.

Rest 1 minute, then move on to Superset #3.

Superset #3
3A) Plank - 30 second hold
No rest.
3B) Bird Dog - 6 repetitions per side
Rest 1 minute, then repeat 1 more time for a total of 2 supersets.