Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Lots of things we eat are labeled as having zero calories. Some even use it for marketing, such as Splenda.
It is interesting to note that while these items are low in calories, they are usually not devoid of them. The reason they are labeled as such has to do with labeling laws, not science.
According to US FDA labeling codes,
The terms "calorie free," "free of calories," "no calories," "zero calories," "without calories," "trivial source of calories," "negligible source of calories," or "dietarily insignificant source of calories" may be used on the label or in the labeling of foods, provided that The food contains less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving.
In other words, if a "serving" has fewer than 5 calories, then the manufacturer can label the food as "zero calories."
Here's a specific example. A standard 1g packet of Splenda contains 3.36 calories, mostly coming from the dextrose and maltodextrin used to provide bulk to the product. (Sucralose is very very sweet, so only a tiny amount is contained in a single packet, and itself contains negligible calorie content.)
For contrast, a standard 2.8g packet of granulated sugar contains 10.8 calories.
Having a packet of Splenda instead of granulated sugar is saving you 7.44 calories.
I'm not going to get into the debate here about whether non-nutritive sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, or stevia are bad for you. But what I do want to point out is that a "zero calorie" serving of something usually isn't.
So, if you use a lot of these products and you care about tracking your food accurately, then you should assume that a serving of something that labeled "zero calories" actually is 4 calories. And you should track it as such. Just sayin'
How funny. I am listening to old episodes of the Fitcast and in the one I heard last night they happened to discuss this exact same topic with Tom Venuto.
And they brought up the very good point that I failed to make above, that the labeling game for manufacturers is to shrink the "serving" size down to where it's under 5 calories so they can label the whole thing "zero calories."
Thursday, April 26, 2012
I spent a few days this past week visiting my sister HAVASUROSE in Arizona where she helps out at a nearby Arabian horse farm.
Every morning we'd get up and go out there by 6:30am to feed them breakfast, rake up the poop, groom, and exercise a few of them. We'd work until noon (my HR monitor would report 650-700 calories), then go home and change into our swimsuits and eat a salad and hang out in her backyard by the pool, reading and napping until it was time for dinner. I caught up on a lot of sleep and lost some weight. HAVASUROSE said she lost weight too, under my influence. LOL
I wasn't sure how it would go, actually. Years ago in my 20s when I lost the weight the first time I enjoyed taking riding lessons - to pay for an hour of lessons at the college I attended I spent 8 hours a week grooming. transferring, tacking up, untacking, etc. for other people's lessons. I did that for about 2 years, and I loved it. But that was 23 years ago, so I really wasn't sure if I'd even remember how to handle a horse, let alone ride one.
And the horses we used were all warm or cool blooded, older rescue horses without pedigrees. Certainly not jumpy, intelligent purebred privately-owned Arabians. As it turned out, everything went much better than I expected. I surprised all of us (including I suspect the horses) by remembering how to sit a trot as well as post and canter on the appropriate lead, etc. And while I'm definitely no Clinton Anderson graduate, I still know how to maneuver them on the ground, brush 'em, tack 'em up, pick out their hooves, etc. Given my current fitness, no mounting block was ever necessary, either.
I mostly rode/exercised two of them.
This is a nice calm Arabian who will generally trot and canter once you get her going and goes a little nuts once you get her out on the trails:
Here's a sweet but young (and therefore sometimes uppity) Tennessee Walker. Once I got him paying attention he gated and rode in straight lines. LOL
And here's HAVASUROSE with a filly who was born there and turned two on the day we took the photo:
Overall it was a great time, and she said she enjoyed having me around because the chores went faster and it was fun having someone push her on the riding skills in the arena.
So I'm now looking for a place nearby where I can get maybe a lesson a week (on weekdays of course so it won't interfere with my kayaking), and I plan to go back in June.
23 years ago I was as crazy about the horses as I am about the kayaking, now. It feels nice to have something "new" to be excited about again.
Friday, March 16, 2012
A few months ago I wrote a post about how I estimate my total calorie burn given daily calorie intake and scale weight.
At the end of that post I promised to explain how I estimate changes in my body composition (muscle versus fat). I have procrastinated because this topic is much harder to explain and the means of measuring it are much less reliable than a scale and counting calories.
Iím not going to bother going into all the different ways you can estimate % body fat. There is a blog post here that I wrote about that. Please refer to it for background information.
What Iím going to talk about here is how Iím using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) numbers to try and get a handle on whatís going on.
BIA is the method that you find in scales and handheld devices that sends a tiny electrical shock through your body and measures how much resistance there is. The amount of resistance is correlated with how much fat versus muscle you have because muscle contains more water and offers less resistance to an electrical signal.
BIA is very convenient to do but highly inaccurate. The results can be off as much as 8% due to hydration and other issues. James Krieger recommends spacing out measurements 3-6 months apart if youíre going to try using it to track changes over time. And to get around the hydration problem, you need to measure as close to the same time of day, etc. as possible.
Hereís my justification for using BIA:
1) I measure % body fat on my scale every day at the same time (when I get up).
2) I can average it to smooth out fluctuations just like I do my weight (see original post about calorie estimation above).
3) Iím only using the BIA numbers to look for trends. They donít need to be 100% correct in order to see a trend.
4) I am comparing BIA measurements three months apart. That is the smallest gap in time you can possibly use (otherwise the daily fluctuations and noise will swamp out the signal).
Armed with at least 3 months of daily weight and % body fat BIA records, I can generate a graph like this to see how Iím doing:
You are looking at the slope of the curves for lean mass (blue) and body fat (red). The numbers Iím comparing are the date listed and the measurements three months earlier. The units on the vertical axes are # pounds gained (or lost) over a three month period.
When a line is above zero the amount is increasing. When a line is below zero the amount is decreasing. So for example you can see that in 2009 while I lost 160 lbs I was losing both muscle and fat, but I was losing fat faster (the red line is more negative than the blue line).
On January 28, 2010 the blue line crossed zero. That means starting January 2010 I began gaining muscle compared with three months prior. Fat was still being lost until May 21, 2010, when the red line crossed zero and went positive. At that point I was gaining both fat and muscle. On June 8 2010 the red line crossed the blue line and I was gaining fat faster than muscle.
Between November 2010 and March 2011 I was in serious trouble - I was gaining fat and losing muscle!
This story corresponds with my weight and what was going on at the time. I got to goal in late January 2010 and started trying to maintain. Slowly I lost my grip on calorie and exercise tracking (I was having so much fun whitewater kayaking and partying with friends on the rivers during the weekends). I gained both fat and muscle. In fall my exercise habits began to slip and I still was tracking only halfheartedly. I became pretty indulgent and had treats often, not tracking them. During this period of less restricted eating and minimal exercise I lost muscle and gained fat.
Hereís a blog post written in early January 2011 expressing my dismay about the regain.
I didnít manage to reverse this trend until about February or March 2011 (by which point Iíd regained 30 lbs from January 2010). I started tracking carefully again and working out regularly, even sometimes twice a day, and things got better.
The rest of the story on this graph also makes sense, but I wonít go into it because this illustrates that my method seems to track trends pretty well.
So there it is. I have found a nice way to track my body composition using BIA data. It makes sense, and I find it helpful because it reinforces healthy behaviors like eating right and exercising. This tool is helping me build a stronger, lighter body, from the inside out.
Iím happy to report that ever since February 2012 Iíve been gaining muscle and losing fat. It tells me that what Iíve been doing since the three months before that (starting November) is working for me in terms of improving my body composition.
This is an amazing place to be, because not only is my definition increasing but strength and muscle bulk are too. Iím all about a high strength to weight ratio to support my weekend activities (kayaking, snowboarding, road cycling, etc.).
In case youíre wondering, hereís what Iíve been doing:
~ 150g of protein per day (at least 20g post workout)
~ 40g of fiber per day (to keep the protein moving)
~ 1600-1800 calories per day on average
M - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Body Pump Class in the evening
Tu - Spinning in the evening
W - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Body Pump Class in the evening
Th - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Spinning in the evening
F- Rest, stretching, sometimes a deep tissue massage
Sa - Playing outside (kayaking, snowboarding, road cycling, etc.)
Su - Playing outside and 4hr kayak rolling / skills session
I should mention here that in Tae Kardio I strap 5 lbs to each ankle and wrist to add resistance to the workout. And in Body Pump I lift as heavy as I can without losing form. Sometimes I even do drop sets. At the moment I use the 10 lb and 8 lb dumbbells for everything (our class uses only dumbbells). I double them up for things like squats, lunges, and deadlifts (18 lbs in each hand).
I am always looking for ways to increase the intensity or difficulty of a workout when it starts to feel routine. Recently Iíve begun removing the seat of of the spin bike and riding the entire class standing and hovering. I try whatever it takes to keep squeezing the most out of my workouts, as my strength and endurance improve.
You might notice that my rate of putting on muscle has slowed a little lately while my fat loss rate has also decreased. The slowing of fat loss might be because lately Iíve been eating more like 1800-1900 calories per day on average. The slowing of muscle gain might be due to relying mostly on lifting heavy in Body Pump rather than just having regular weight lifting sessions. (Body Pump has an emphasis on many reps, which some argue is counterproductive when youíre trying to build muscle.)
Still, the fat is decreasing while the muscle is increasing, so Iím OK with that. Both are still going in the direction I want.
The rest of this post contains nitty-gritty details about the calculations in case you want to try and replicate my system. There is a lot of number smoothing. Maybe too much to please mathematical theorists. Iím no statistician. I just tried to find something that kind of works.
1) Calculate your trend body weight for every day. See here for the specific formula.
Iím doing all of the weighted moving average smoothing this way.
2) Calculate your trend % body fat the same way.
3) Calculate your estimated lean mass from each dayís trend weight and trend % body fat.
4) Calculate a trend for your lean mass.
5) Using the same steps, calculate a trend for your fat mass.
6) Subtract your trend lean mass for today from your trend lean mass from three months ago.
7) Smooth your trend lean mass difference. This is the blue line on my graph.
7) Subtract your trend fat mass for today from your trend fat mass from three months ago.
8) Smooth your trend fat mass difference. This is the red line on my graph.
As you can see I do all of this in Google documents. It requires having an ability with spreadsheets and formulas. Once youíve got it set up, though, you just have to put in your daily numbers and the graphs will draw themselves.
Thanks to BREWMASTERBILL and GRACEFULIFE for their comments and suggestions on this post.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Well. That's different.
It's what I saw on Monday morning when I weighed in.
Yesterday morning it was 148.0
This morning it was 149.4
It looks like I might actually solidly be under 150. Wow. Holy Carp.
The lowest I ever got on this most recent journey was 151.0 on March 12 2010 a few months after reaching goal (159.4)
So here I am, 2 years into a bumpy maintenance ride wherin I even regained up to 30 lbs at one point, now staring at new frontiers in the weight department.
(To see a graph of the whole thing, go here: docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=
I haven't seen a number under 150 since I was in my 20s.
And here's the really amazing part. In my 20s when I lost over 100 lbs the first time, the lowest weight I ever saw on a scale was 144. And I'm likely to see it again in the next month or two, because I'm in a weight loss challenge at work, which is adding extra accountability.
There is no danger of losing too much weight, BTW. My "healthy" BMI range is from 121-160 lbs, so I'm at the upper end at the moment. I lift heavy and have approximately 19% body fat. If I can use this contest to get down closer to 17% that would be awesome.
If/when I end up seeing anything below 144 that will be a new all-time low weight ever, for my entire adult life. Even my high school and college years were spent in the 150s and 160s.
So being under 150 is a Very Big Deal for me. It's going to take some adjusting.
I love how I feel - strong, light, unencumbered. I like what I see in the mirror. I want to hang onto it.
But now I have to talk about the other part, the mental game. Because there's a reason I was 149.4 this morning despite being 148 yesterday morning.
I sabotaged myself.
It started with feeling just fine yesterday afternoon, and having about 200 calories left to spare after hitting my 150g of protein for the day. I noticed I was a little low (under 40g) in fiber and made a mistake.
I reached for some sugar free jelly beans. I usually keep them around in case the large amounts of protein need a little help getting through the system. I wasn't having that problem and didn't need them. And now I wish I'd reached for an apple or two, or some grapes, or something like that.
Because I ATE those sugar free jelly beans and not only did I get the uncomfortable gassy bloat associated with them, but before I called it a night I ended up eating about 500 extra calories of almonds and about 100 extra calories of grapes, bringing my daily grand total to about 2300 calories. Which is Too Much. Especially considering I didn't feel well enough to go to spin class due to the bloaty discomfort.
So I shot myself in the foot by eating extra calories and not getting in one of my usual cardio /calorie-burning sessions. Not good.
I've been using my weight and calorie intake to estimate my total calorie expenditure and it's around 2400. (See here for a more detailed explanation of how I do that: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Given the inaccuracies of food measurement I don't like to go over 2000 even on a refeed / trying to maintain. So this was too much.
I hope I've learned something from this:
1) Save the sugar free junk food for when I need its medicinal properties. New low weights do not entitle me to indulge myself with crap.
2) It's OK that I've been under 150 for 3 days. Really. And I don't need to cause the bounce back that usually happens after a new low weight. It'll probably happen by itself. I feel fine. I'm not losing weight too fast. It just happens to be finding its own new set point.
3) I'm not a fraud, being under 150. If I like it here, I can decide to stay here. It can become my new "normal." And I'm the one who gets to decide that. ME.
Sure it'll feel weird at first logging a weight that looks like "14_" every morning just like it is seeing a "6" and occasionally "4" on the pants I'm getting from Salvation Army, but I can get used to it. I actually LIKE it here.
Why don't I feel like I deserve to be here? Just because I've lived my whole life in either the 150s or 160s (or wishing I was there) doesn't mean I can't live the REST of my life, starting NOW in the 140s.
So yeah. Here I am, after keeping off 50% of my body weight for 2+ years, STILL having to work on myself internally.
I AM worth it, dammit.
Saturday, March 03, 2012
The local coal-fired power plant on Cayuga Lake dumps the warm water back into the lake in a way that is super convenient for us white water boaters to play in.
We went there today. That's me, in the orange boat.
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