Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 8

Cheated today: had chocolate milk for breakfast, and pasta with lunch. Went for a short walk this evening.

My right elbow still hurts. Only when I move it or stress it. I guess I need to work on my form. My plan to do strength training three times this week is out the window. My current plan is to go to the gym tomorrow but only do 1 or 2 reps of each exercise.


I was planning on talking about calories-are-calories today, but there's much better articles out there already. I can summarize what they say, but I think the reader (you) is better off going to the source. If you haven't read Good Calories, Bad Calories, then go do so. Page through Sandy Szwarc's blog (the posts on the Obesity Paradox, especially).

Calories are, of course, calories. A is A. When I say "calories are calories" I'm referring to the argument that usually includes the word "thermodynamics" and the claim that the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories or to burn more calories, and that it doesn't matter where you get your calories -- switching from carbs to fat supposedly won't help anyone lose weight if they maintain the same caloric intake.

We (the "calories aren't calories" people) don't dispute the first half. The claim is that eating different calories changes one's metabolism. Eating carbs makes one lethargic; carbs turn into blood sugar, which spikes insulin, when then stores that blood sugar in adipose tissue. Eating fat doesn't produce insulin, so one maintains a higher metabolic state. I find myself with more energy; I fidget more. My body sees these extra triglycerides in the bloodstream and tells me that it wants to burn them, and so I burn them.

What I'm doing is burning more calories -- but not through conscious effort. The "are" argument assumes that the main way to burn more calories is to exercise more; that's the point that I addressed yesterday. Exercising burns a tiny amount of energy. Really the only way to weight loss in the mainstream ("are") point of view is to restrict calories. But starvation diets just produce starvation. The subjects in Keys' starvation study looked like they were starving; emaciated.

I remember reading a good article about Keys' starvation study and I went looking for it but couldn't find it. :\ So here's a good article on Junkfood Science about "calories in = calories out". That matches what Taubes says in his book: that exercise is fundamentally useless for weight loss. One can gain or lose up to 20 pounds by consistent, constant effort, but any more than that becomes nearly impossible as the body tries to regulate to a set point.

My "set point" used to be 280 pounds. For a while, I got my weight down under 210 pounds. I'm not sure to what extent my changes in set point match changes in my Synthroid dose, since the two periods in my life when I lost the most weight match the two times my dosage was significantly increased. Both also matches times that I changed my diet and exercised more. Did my exercise match a changed metabolism that the Synthroid brought on? To what extent did a changed diet affect my weight?

The experiment that this blog covers is just changing diet. Obviously, I doubt that walking will change my weight much. At 4 hours of walking per week, I'm burning an extra 1200 calories. That'll be 18 pounds by the end of the year, assuming my diet doesn't change any. Eating an extra 170 calories a day will completely negate that walking.

I guess, ultimately, what matters is where I am a year from now. Doesn't matter if I think it will work or not, or how much I discuss it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Running for Weight Loss

At some point, I wrote that I was going to update in the evenings, Sunday thru Thursday, so there'd be a new entry each morning during the week.

I had planned to do some strength training today, but my arms are still sore. Plus, I took my car in cuz the engine light was on (boo hiss), and had a friend pick me up from there and drop me off at the grocery store. So I walked home from the grocery store, and mein gott my feet hurt. I'm taking a couple days off so that my feets have time to heal.

I only cheated a little bit today! I had two crackers with lunch. Breakfast was a carb-fest (halloween candy, a donut, and a can of pepsi), but lunch and dinner were 'sensible.'

And now to running for weight loss:

It's lame.

For a fatass like me, running burns 138 calories per mile, mostly regardless of speed. Walking burns 96 calories per mile, again mostly regardless of speed. Sitting on my ass typing this burns around 105 calories an hour. So a slow walk (2mph) burns an extra 87 calories an hour. There's 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so, assuming that calories are calories are calories, I'd have to spend 40 hours walking to burn off a pound of fat. Say I do my 80-minute walk three times a week -- or maybe a shorter, 40-minute walk six times a week. It'd take me 10 weeks to burn off one pound of fat. If I keep up this six-day-a-week walk cycle, I could lose five whole pounds in a year.

Feh. My "ideal weight" is around 153 pounds. I'd have to spend twenty years at that pace to get to my ideal weight. That's just silly. Alternately, instead of walking, I could cut my caloric intake by the same amount.

Calories aren't calories. In the "calories aren't calories" point of view (PoV), I'd have to starve myself for twenty years in order to be "healthy." Sounds kinda lame to me, given the research that shows that being obese is protective against heart attacks and strokes. More properly, that evidence shows that "ideal weight" isn't healthy.

There's an exercise researcher at UT-Austin whose name I don't recall, but I remember him saying that a half pound a day is about the limit of healthy weight loss. That's 1750 calories a day. On a pure calories-are-calories accounting, that means that one would have to eat nothing to lose that much. Or eat normally but walk for 20 hours a day, or running (12-minute pace) for 3 hours a day. Can you imagine running over 100 miles a week for a month, just to lose 15 pounds? Does that sound realistic to you?

Some people have lost 30 pounds in 30 days. Let's say they fast for the entire month, giving them a 1750 calorie daily deficit, and then run 15 miles. Every day. For an entire month. Crazy! Can you imagine running 15 miles while fasting? The medical establishment says that one has to do that -- or it's caloric equivalent -- in order to lose 30 pounds in a month.


There has to be a better way to lose weight than the math that mainstream media would have us believe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 6

I've decided to do strength training in my off days. My schedule now looks like runs ('walks') on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and strength on Mon-Wed-Fri. Except, after this week, just Monday and Friday. Or maybe once every 4-5 days.

I'm doing one-set-to-failure. Yesterday was my first day doing that, and it was great. I'm only a little sore today. I think I've started working out a dozen times already in my life. I sign up for a gym membership, go for a few months, and then something happens and I stop going. The next year, the same thing. So I now know to start any exercise program off slowly.

Except one-set-to-failure (1S2F? OStF? OSF? 1SF?) kinda goes for that you-worked-out-too-hard vibe. The general idea is to do 8-10 reps at a weight so high that, at that last rep, one just can't do another rep. Failure. There's a few key points I remember, but I wrote them down on a notebook I left at work, so I'll talk about that tomorrow.

My run today was going to include five 1-minute runs, ie one minute of running, wait until I'm recuperated, then run again. Except my ankles and feet hurt so bad after the third one that I just walked back. The whole outing was about 3km, about an hour on the road. Instead of walking over to Terry Hershey, I just wandered through the nearby neighborhood streets. There are no hills, and the street isn't any more cambered than the trails through Terry Hershey, so for what I wanted to do I think it's a good course.

The diet is... ok. I'm still cheating. I had a couple kolaches plus a can of coke yesterday morning, and some chips and a couple tortillas with lunch today. Dinner was 0-carb. My goal for right now is to reduce my after-breakfast carbs. I'm not doing Atkins, so I'm looking for a lifetime eating plan. Ketosis shmetosis. Hence, no induction period, no letup for maintenance. So I want habits that I can maintain 24-7. I know that if I tried quitting carbs cold-turkey, I'd be off that plan in a month or two, or cheating more, or something. I don't want to do the cheat-one-day-a-week thing that's somewhat popular (Bill Phillips, Jorge Cruise, Timothy Ferriss). I'm not shooting for starvation.

I'd say the three main influences on my diet decisions are Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories; research from the Weston A Price Foundation; and random tidbits from sites such as the Junkfood Science blog.

My next run is on Thursday. I'll grab my notes from work and talk about one-set-to-failure then.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Days 3 & 4

I drove over to Memorial Park on Saturday (January 3rd, day 3). The loop is 2.91 miles and I completed the loop in under an hour, including some stretching and a stop to check my shoes. That's a 20 minute pace, considerably faster than I was billing my local walk. I think my normal route through Terry Hershey is longer than I thought it was; possibly 4 miles rather than 3.5.

My plan was to run a few intervals -- sprint, run, or jog for about a minute, recover, then repeat for a total of 5 times. I didn't do that on Saturday, so I committed to going out again on Sunday.

Sunday's walk was through Terry Hershey again, yet another route, probably about 4 miles since it took me 80 minutes. I've ordered a timer to help make it easier to judge improvements in my speed, but for right now, my 'sprinting' sets last for about 128 steps, probably very close to a minute. So I ran 5 minutes and walked for 75.

I'm still eating a lot of carbs for breakfast. I did a bunch of reading last night and that's convinced me more than ever to go low carb. What's driving me primarily is health concerns, not running itself. My goal is to run to improve cardiovascular fitness, not to win any races. I want to run well but not necessarily fast. For me, that means being efficient in my workouts. The lure of competition is there. I'm driven by improving myself more than trying to beat anyone else at a race. That's where I see competition: beating my previous best time, going further, running faster.

I ate a low-carb dinner after yesterday's (Sunday's) early-evening outing and I felt great. The combination of good food and the walk left me with a lot of energy. I also ate a square of dark chocolate, something I'll continue eating for a couple months, until my performance plateaus and I can try varying my diet alone to see what kind of effect it has.

My next run is scheduled for tomorrow evening. I'll post more then.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lo-Carb and Running : Concerns

Word on the street is that 5K times are limited by VO2max; Half-marathon times by lactate threshold; and Marathons by glycogen storage. How do these factors affect us low-carbers? I am, specifically, a high-fat, meat & egg low-carber. Will I need to modify that diet in order to run long distances?

One of the things I've seen about fat metabolism is that it requires more oxygen to burn fat than it does to burn carbs. But I've only seen that claim; not the evidence behind it. Is it (practically) impossible to achieve world record times at 5K races as a low-carber because of that?

To what extent is lactate reduced by burning fat instead of carbs? This is one place where a low-carber might benefit. But I have no idea.

Glycogen storage is, of course, not an issue at all.


Unless a long-distance runner needs to burn carbs when running. I've seen many runners mention that they eat a lot of carbs before running, including carbo-loading before long races. They're only eating a low-carb diet whenever they're not running -- and depending on how often they run, that might mean low-carb only five days a week. Or four. Which isn't really low-carb, to me.

I've also seen many runners mention that they do just fine running long races.

An unanswered question among all this is how competetive the low-carbers are. If one maintains a strict low-carb diet 24/7, how competetively can you run?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 1

The route I 'run' is about 3.5 miles. This is the first day I actually ran any of it. I've got Rodger's and Douglas's Complete Idiot's Guide to Running, and in it they suggest that we fatasses start off slow. Specifically, a 30-minute walk that includes five pairs of 1-minute-run, 1-minute-walk in the middle. ie 10 minute warmup, 10 minute of run/walk pairs, then 10 minute cooldown. This trip took me 76 minutes, about 5 minutes faster than my last trip. So It was sorta 30 minutes warmup, 15 minutes of run-1-minute, walk-2-minutes, then 30 minute cooldown.

3.5 miles in 80 minutes is 2.6 mph. At that pace, it'd take me 10 hours to complete a marathon.

I had fajitas for lunch. I think I can do em 0-added-carbs next time. This time I had a handful of chips (I was feeling low blood sugar by the time I ate lunch) and one tortilla, so I know I can cut that to 0 next time. Not necessarily 0-carb, I have no idea how much is in the various other foods; my goal is to cut out the chips and tortillas and bread, etc.

Dinner's coming up. I've been eating several meals each week at home. Some months I cook interesting stuff, other months I just get lazy and eat cold cuts. Tonight, it's gonna be salami, hummus, olives, and cheese. I bought some raw-milk cheese (emmentaler) and some olives at Whole Foods, so there'll be more of that in the coming days.

Happy New Year!

New Year's Day seems like a good day to start a blog about diet and exercise, right?

I've been eating a generally low-carb diet for the past three years, but I cheat. Alot. Cokes now and then, pasta, potatoes, bread, etc. Not all the time, not at every meal, not every week -- but way too much. So one of my new year's resolutions is to stop cheating.

I also love snowboarding -- but I live in Texas. I don't get out to the slopes that often. I've decided to take up running because what I want to improve is my cardiovascular fitness and stamina. I stay fairly busy either at work or with friends, so I wanted to find a sport that would fit a solo exercise regimen.

I live in Houston and I live about a quarter mile from a park trail. I don't have any good excuses to not get out and get exercise. I just bought a good pair of running shoes, and I plan to pick up a chrono watch here soon so that I can time my running.

I'm a guy in his mid-thirties, 5'10" tall, and I weighed 253 pounds this morning. My goal is to hit 180 pounds and be fairly muscular. Runners tend to be scrawny :) but that's not the physique I'm looking for. I have a feeling I'll wind up pursuing short runs -- 5k races, for example. But we'll see. Getting to this goal will require losing weight and putting on more muscle.

My plan is to blog daily, Sunday through Thursday nights, with what I eat, how I work out, thoughts, and plans. That means you should be able to check this blog every day, Monday through Friday, and catch a new update.


Today I slept in! It's national hangover day so I felt like getting a few extra hours of sleep. I'm normally up in the mornings before 6am (because of my job). For breakfast, I had an ounce or two of smoked raw-milk cheddar, 4 ounces of bacon, and a green (sugared) Monster energy drink.

I know from Nutrient Timing ($4 at your local GNC!) that after fasting is the best time to consume sugar, since glycemic stores are low. This is one of my cheats -- I know it's the best time to consume sugar so I do. I'm going to have to stop drinking sodas, even if my glycemic stores are low. There's sugar in milk, but there's also lactase and/or maltase in raw milk. I'll have to find a source for raw milk -- more on that on Saturday.

I'll be going for a 3.5-mile walk this afternoon, and I'm going to try to integrate spurts of running into it. I don't know if walking that much is the best use for my time or not. If I haven't been exercising much, would a 30-minute walk be just as effective? I've made the same walk a couple times before (most recently two days ago), so I know I can do it. Again, my goal is stamina, not just aerobic fitness. I want to get the most from my snowboarding trips, and that means being able to handle a full day of exercise.

I'll post more when I get back from my walk.