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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weight Loss and Nutrition

As an old wrestler I know a thing or two about weight loss; both healthy and unhealthy. As I have been biking my weight has stagnated and then risen 5lbs from 2 years ago. The rise is mainly due to all the muscle I have added to my legs from hill climbing. More importantly is my vitals. I was a little concerned about my metabolism so I had it checked. The symptoms were mainly that I am chronically hypothermic. My body temperature runs between 93F and 95F (34C-35C).


I am 35 years old and not getting younger.

My Blood Pressure is 130/56

My Resting Heart Rate is 47bpm

My Weight is 67-68kg (148-150lbs)

My Height is 170cm… about 5’6” tall.

I would like to lose the last little bit of fat I have clinging to my body and it is tough. I know… vanity. It is so much cheaper taking it off me than off may bike.

What can I do about it?

1. Rest, Sleep and Recovery: Sleeping is something you can do when hungry and not feel uncomfortable. The body can then start raiding the fat stores. Sleep can also curtail the cravings for complex carbohydrates/ simple sugars; sweets. Get a little more sleep than you normally do if you are finding it difficult to resist cravings for crap. Simple sugars represent energy that is ready to instantly enter the system without really making the body work for it. Pure Energy is the smallest of packages i.e. a recipe for disaster.

2. Know what you’re putting in your face. Count calories, evaluate fats, track simple sugars, understand your fuel supply. The fewer calories in the most space is a good rule of thumb. You can fill yourself up better without overfilling your fuel tank. ¼ cup of nuts could be the equivalent to three cups of berries. Nuts have some good fats and berries have some good sugars. Avoid sauces like mayonnaise, butter, mystery Mei Er Mei honey butter. Lots and lots of calories in the sauces.

To track intake and exercise you can use: or to see what you need to start doing. It takes a little discipline to not lie to yourself.

3. Eat plenty of healthy fats -- almonds, avocados, walnuts (if you can), fatty fish like salmon. These foods are filling, full of energy and the body won’t feel hungry 20 minutes later as with just veggies. The main idea is to eat a little bit (say a 2 oz of salmon or a quarter cup of nuts) and then understand that is the stopping point. Slow down and you will feel full.

4. I am a really boring eater because I learned a long time ago to eat for the content and not for the taste. That is not to say I don’t have chocolate lust periodically or need a burger on occasion, but to really lose weight, find some nutritionally balanced foods that work, and eat the same types of foods every day. That way you don't really have to think too hard about the diet. For example, I have some cereal and yogurt for breakfast with a banana if I feel really tired, fresh vegetables (steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli), peanuts or seeds or for a snack, some people recommend nuts, but I am allergic. I then try to have some sort of lean protein and veggies for dinner. I may have some fruit if I'm getting some cravings for sweets. Taiwan is excellent to get fresh fruit. Last night was watermelon, which is in season. Just make sure to wash everything really well, especially the broccoli. I have found a little more protein than I bargained for on a few ears of broccoli. Think about eating like Phil Donahue’s Human Animal might; basic meats, raw fruits and veggies and few refined carbs. Cut the potatoes and corn. Sweet potatoes are ok and sweet potato leaves are even better. Have some good fat every day. Good fats come from eating fish, or from seeds. What is simplest though is to use a flaxseed oil or fish oil supplement. 500mg a day I think. Good fats actually help the body process calories. Be sure you are drinking lots of water too. The body needs water to metabolize food.

A big problem is that Taiwanese food is cheap and easy to get on the street. It is often drowned in oil or deep-fried. The traditional Taiwanese diet still reflects a diet of sustenance where fat is prized for its caloric content. Taiwanese food is often high in sodium as well. It takes a little disciplined selection to avoid the bad stuff. I rarely have food from the fried chicken stall for these reasons.

Another problem is the availability of the good stuff. It is hard to find unsalted nuts, seeds and unsweetened dried fruit. There are a few places that sell what I need and they are spread all over town, so I stock up when I can. Though a good, cheap sushi place is an excellent source of lean protein.

5. Let’s face it… we are not 25 forever and as the body starts to deteriorate (sorry folks!) we need to make more of an effort to eat right to maintain good health. You don't work hard to get in shape and then stay there by doing nothing; you have to keep working at it to stay fit. Maintaining a healthy weight is like cycling. You have to continue to work at it to make it work.

6. Reduce long sustained workouts and increase sprints and anaerobic work. Throw some intervals in your weekly schedule. Intense efforts stimulate hormone production. Now that I am done with a project, I intend to get back to my night rides, where I do sprints and intervals for 45min. in a loop around my district and on the hill behind my house.

7. Cut out the crap. Artificially sweetened juice, sport drinks, pop, energy bars, candy and excessively processed foods have to go. On a ride I will have the occasional sport drink, energy gel or Snickers bar, but sometimes these can be valuable DURING a ride.

8. Avoid Taiwanese bread. Taiwanese breads are full of sugar. Even wheat bread should be moderated. If you want sandwiches or something then use whole grains. Finga’s in Taichung makes some good breads and salads for training FYI.

9. Take your daily food intake and sprinkle in around the day. Eat six or more small meals spread out. Don't go more than 5 waking hours without eating. Don't eat any huge meals. Eat a small meal within an hour or two of bed, and eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, unless you do a mid or low intensity ride first thing in the morning.

10. Watch the rewards and recovery. After we finish a physical task we want to celebrate and often use exercise as an excuse to gorge on sweets. I like ice cream as much as the next guy and it is healthy to treat yourself. Treats should be in moderation. After a ride I drink chocolate milk to help my muscles recover and then I might have a good meal while my body is still running hot. At this point my glycogen stores are depleted and I am running in deficit. A little food couldn’t hurt. The celebrations should stop there and not continue into the next meal and the next day. Lots of people think, “Oh, I rode 80k two days ago. My muscles are sore so I can eat anything.” Wrong. The first hour after a work out is the most important for filling the body’s glycogen stores and setting the table for recovery. After that the effects of food intake drastically diminish. Sure, a beer after a good ride. An ice-cream. But then stop and get back on the wagon.

11. Cut the booze. Alcohol is like super concentrated calories and those calories are very easy to consume.

12. Get a partner to help you. As I stated before, I am a simple eater. I don’t need the big production, I need the vitamins, minerals, calories, sugars, starches and micronutrients that make up our food. It is hard to find other people who think like this.

Many of us have other people in our lives with whom we enjoy and use meals to embrace their company. This makes it hard to eat simply when they are not with the program. They may want to eat when you are not hungry. I know this and it sucks. I took a road trip with my Taiwanese in-laws from Seattle to L.A. They wanted to eat all the time and I didn’t. I also wanted then to try food, so as a good host and son-in-law, I ate with them and consumed far more than I was comfortable consuming. It took me over a year to recover… if I have fully recovered at all. I used to be able to pop back into fighting weight after a couple weeks. Not any more. A sympathetic partner can help a lot, but managing calories around shared eating schedules is another way to embrace the company without making the other person or people feel like you are cutting them out or criticizing their lifestyle. See if it can be a whole lifestyle thing. It couldn't hurt to ask.

BONUS: A little weight training can help burn the fat real fast. Creating new muscle taps into the fat stores real fast and can strengthen the core muscles for good riding posture.