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What Has Been Working For Me....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The following information is basically my opinion and my experimentation and is in no way an absolute science, take it with a grain of salt but I feel that since so many runners struggle with their weight, including myself, that I should share what has been working for me so far and why. Maybe through this, someone might get an idea how to modify what they are doing and a slight modification is many times what is needed to get the ball rolling.

-About me:

I am a big, fluffy Teletubby that somehow developed a love for running. I am no where near my ideal weight so the problems experienced by those near goal weight do not apply here.

-My Problem:

At 285 lbs, my BMR is still quite high so getting in a satisfactory caloric deficit shouldn't be that tough...right? However, I have noticed that since I started distance training, my weight loss went from practically falling off to practically non-existent. From my reading in Runners World, the forums here and elsewhere, this is a pretty common complaint.

-My Conclusion:

There is a difference between running for weight loss and training for performance. They are two totally different worlds. For weight loss, neither pace nor distance matters, only intensity and duration. When preparing to master a distance, you are training for endurance and performance, training for endurance/performance is extremely difficult to do and maintain a caloric deficit. its like doing the Indy 500 on a 1/4 tank of gas... a low fuel light is your constant companion.

For me, unless I am willing to totally devote my life to mastering calorie cycling and other tricks of the trade, race training and weight loss are incompatible bed fellows for me (this is strictly my opinion).

-Where I feel the issues lies...

1) Fueling. I really started looking into fueling once I started going beyond 8 miles because i would get done with a long run and would eat anything in sight. This was the product of not enough fuel / low blood sugar condition which drove my appetite out of orbit. Once I started fueling, the problem went away like magic. The big problem with this is that while my performance improved dramatically, I was not tapping much into my fat stores. with appx 90 min of glycogen onboard then start adding gels, I was basically burning sugar rather than getting my body to tap its fat stores for fuel... a very unpleasant feeling BTW.

2) Balance. - In a nut shell, there was alot of unconscious eating going on during training. The body does not respond well to a negative caloric state or rigorous training, so it will try to compensate by upping the appetite. Remember the purpose of fat is to sustain us during a crisis. Caloric deficit is a danger and the body tries to compensate to gain equilibrium. The body is always looking for balance and stability. Imagine your shock when you see huge sums of money being drawn out of your bank account everyday. That account is your security. I promise you, you will be in a panic. Large energy expendatures and dramitic, quick weight losses throws the body into a tizzy. Your body is going to call the fat police on you.
With the exertion of training and the shift work, I was out of balance and feel that I was unconsciously compensating.

The Solution.

1)Nutrient Timing / Eating In Context To Activity

- I used to believe that if you stayed within your allotted calories, that it should not matter when you ate it. I believe I was totally wrong on this. I believe that when you eat those calories is just as important as what kinds of calories you consume (ie.. eating before bed / late) I try to eat according to my day with the majority of calories consumed during the times of highest activity. The tough part is that when I get home, I want to "let my hair down" and let it all hang out. Big relaxing meal, couch time etc.... this is incompatible with my goals. I dont do it all the time but I do it enough that run or no run / the timing of the meal is that of a state of slower metabolism / heart rate. My body is slowing down and will pack away the extra calories.

2) Creating The Conditions For Proper Food Metabolism.

What I mean by this, based on solution #1, is to create the environment for the food that I eat to be used for something other than storage ( at least in part) if it isnt used for metabolism / body functions.
- HOW -
As runners, we all know that there is a "magic window" of around 30 min to an hour where what is consumed will be put to use rebuilding muscle / restocking glycogen etc... While I can pare down my consumption at dinner, there is no way in hell I am going to munch celery and sip chicken broth after a hard day at the mine. My solution lies in making the 30 min concept work for me.

Usually around 30 to 45 min intervals between the indoor cycle trainer and treadmill before dinner medium effort is enough to get the ball rolling. I usually achieve a 300-500 cal deficit maybe more depending on intensity and how I am feeling at the time.

I create the state where there will be more food being utilized for repair as well as a heightened state in my body where it will utilize more calories at rest.

So far it is working.

3) "Weight Creep" in reverse.

We have all heard about 100 cal a day over our calories is all it takes to gain around 10 lbs a year. If this is true, then according to logic, the opposite is also true. 100+ cal a day extra burned should result in a weight creep in the other direction, ever so slightly. I have been making it a point to get up earlier for work and get in 200 cal on the indoor cycle trainer before I eat or do anything else. Nothing high impact, just get the system revved up for the day. Doing it in a fasted state causes my body to take more of my breakfast and use it to replenish the glycogen depleted during the night. I dont notice any difference in my hunger satisfaction, the length of satisfaction stays the same.

4) Workout to the point of a reasonable calorie burn but not to the point of provoking a hunger rampage.

- For me, I am a chronic overachiever. If I can get 1200 cal burn, I will shoot for 1500. If I get 1500, I will shoot for 2000. If I burn 2000 but then consume 1500 in a driven hunger attack from the deficit, what have I gained???. I would rather burn 600 and keep the loss than to hit the big #'s and compensate.

My burn limit is around 800-900 calories. any more than that and I am going to kill something and eat it in a big way. Basically I stay under this caloric burn limit and I eat normally. If I am more aggressive in my workouts, I will eat more and because it takes 20+ min to register that I am full, this is a problem unless I am very careful.

I would rather keep it simple for now. The less thinking and restraint, the better.

So far this is working for me and has broken my long standing plateau. I hope this helps someone or at least gives someone some food for thought to improve what they are doing.

A final thought. Weight loss is much like embezzlement. You dont drain money from someones account in big amounts or you will trigger a reaction. if you take it out in small unnoticeable amounts, you will steal more in the long run. That is why thieves only make $1.00 transactions on a compromised credit card. It doesnt raise alarm unless someone diligently checks their statements. So long as the bills are paid and things dont bounce, people dont investigate and thieves know this and take advantage of it. You are slowly stealing fat, a little here, a little there, without provoking compensation, overeating, or starvation mode.

I think there is big results in thinking small.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
EMMANYC 11/28/2011 7:56PM

    Very interesting post. I was thinking that what you've learned might also be relevant as you design your race training program for 2012. I've recently been bitten by the racing bug, too, and I know that it's very tempting to fill up your year with races. Maybe it's worth considering breaking your year up into a endurance event training periods and weight loss periods.

For example, maybe in an ideal world you'd do two marathons (one spring and one fall) and a triathlon in the summer. But you also want to lose some more pounds. What if instead you trained for a half marathon in the late spring, a triathlon in the summer, and a marathon in the fall. Then you could focus for the next four months (e.g., Dec-March) on weight loss. You'd keep logging aerobic activity but with shorter workouts, which will still keep you in good shape to launch a half marathon training cycle around March. Once you got mid-way into that training cycle, you'd start focusing more on endurance, and just try to maintain your weight (or achieve that 100 calorie-per-day deficit) until the end of an October-ish marathon. Then once you've finished the marathon, do another weight loss cycle again through the winter.

(Since losing weight will probably help your time in the end, the weight loss periods probably will contribute to improved performance, even if you're not doing a lot of endurance-type training.)

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APRILAUTUMN1 11/22/2011 2:28AM

    Love it! Thanks for sharing! As a newbie runner, I found this very informative. I have been on a plateau for quite some time now, and its frustrating when I feel I have been sticking to my caloric range and creating defecits(except for the last two weeks where my cheese slid off the cracker harumph)I used to work night shifts in a bakery, and it was a very active job, but I never lost a significant amount of weight until I changed to day shifts. My body just did not cooperate, and my mind didn't like it. You made me laugh a few times with the teletubby, fat police comments. Thanks:)

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GREYLOCKES1 11/19/2011 9:48PM

    Great analysis. I think you are right. I have started running shorter distances, more often and it seems to be working not as ravenous in the afternoon and evening time frame . Also lost weight although one week isn't a trend although it does start them. Or it could be that I am tracking food really close again and before I eat so I know where I am at and can make the informed choice do I want to reach my goal or not. As far as exercising before eating. I do it almost all spring, summer and fall ( I run before work to avoid the heat.) and in the winter on weekends . The only exception is when I race HM. Then I will get up 4 hours before the race to eat. I know it is much harder for you to maintain a schedule due to your shift work so good luck and keep sparking and writing.

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PAYJAW 11/18/2011 4:21PM

    Thank you so much for this blog!!! Wow...I just finished my first HM on Sunday. I haven't dropped a lb in months. I too have been going over my allotment to compensate. Your "method" makes sense, now to implement....which is going to be the difficult part. I think for me trying to remember that this started as a lifestyle change and it was about getting healthy, not that running doesn't help that process along but instead of being the SOLE focus it has to be Miss Runner Up and Weight Loss gets to be Miss America!


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DARKTHOR 11/18/2011 10:44AM

    Like so many things, there is a lot of information on both sides, but my understanding is it wasn't best to workout on an empty stomach. Of course, exercising at all is the best choice.

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CCHELLEZ 11/17/2011 3:50PM

  Thanks for your analysis. I like your approach. I think it is sustainable. Also, it doesn't trigger the mad eating. Retraining my mind and body to live in moderation.

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REALLY_ROBIN 11/16/2011 3:13PM

  Awesome blog...and very true. Small changes created big results when we started losing weight, and the same is still true today. We don't have to kill ourselves and make our lives unbalanced to return to a healthy weight! Thanks for you insight and excellent analogy at the end!

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EVER-HOPEFUL 11/16/2011 12:59PM


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YESKATIECAN 11/16/2011 9:41AM

    Great post, but you are not a teletubbie :P

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NIGHTSKYSTAR 11/16/2011 8:39AM

    you should patent that!!

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RUBY_TUESDAY21 11/16/2011 7:42AM

    Embezzling fat, I love that. You've inspired me to wake up just a little early and do 15 or 20 minutes on the elliptical in the morning. This is exactly what I needed, thank you!

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BILL60 11/16/2011 7:16AM

    Well done, my friend. As usual, a masterful analysis.

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EDWINA172 11/16/2011 6:07AM

    Great blog! Thanks for posting.

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KITHKINCAID 11/16/2011 12:31AM

    Totally going through this right now - stress at work, plus training for Half Marathon means I'm binging like 400-800 calories over my daily allotment every day to compensate for the loss. Argh! I don't want to give up my running goals, but something has to give here.

Definitely "Food for Thought" - thanks Robert!

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RUNNER12COM 11/15/2011 11:44PM

    What a great post, thanks. I know that my own eating went crazy during my marathon training, so I think you really are on to something here.

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LISAINMS 11/15/2011 11:34PM

    Robert, I could have written these very words! Well, all the technical stuff, but I have to give you credit for the anology of embezzlement- love that! We share the same discoveries, the 8-mile/90 min weight loss killer, chronic overachieving. I hope you continue to see success with these strategies. I have been doing exactly what you describe -up until I hit 9 miles -and I have not lost the last two weeks. I'm backing down my speed on the long runs and keeping it a lower burn. The high burn is definitely the panic button for my body and I don't want to face another months long plateau. Thanks for blogging what I have been expiramenting with. I think you are right on track!!

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CAMROLA 11/15/2011 9:56PM

    Your blogs are like a master class--I've struggled with my loss since running more, too. Thank you for continuing to teach the rest of us as you continue to learn along the way.

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APIRLRAIN888 11/15/2011 9:20PM

    Wow just my question today thank u!!!!! Love the bank comparison

Comment edited on: 11/15/2011 9:22:02 PM

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AIMLESS07 11/15/2011 9:11PM

    Good thoughts. I am kind of going in the opposite direction. I gained some weight over the summer and started marathon training again. I have lost 24 pounds during the training and now at the leanest I have ever been. I am definitely more into watching calories and what I eat then I did at my last marathon when I ate whatever I wanted. This time I am eating a little more freely on long run days but for the most part, I stick to trackig my calories, carbs, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

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ACTIVE_AT_60 11/15/2011 9:06PM

    Robert, you write blogs packed with information. You are a great wordsmith, and your humor shines through your writing. Thanks for writing this.

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MOMONTHERUN1 11/15/2011 8:41PM

    Thank you so much for this blog! I am having some of these same issues although my problem lately is that I feel that I can eat whatever I want after an intense work out. I am glad that you took the time to write this and I know that it has helped not only me, but others as well.


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LIV2RIDE 11/15/2011 8:38PM

    Sounds like you figured it out! GOOD FOR YOU!! I also have that after work munch attach but have recently tried to pay more attention to what I'm eating, when and more importantly why. As a fellow overachiever, I also have to pay attention to my numbers. I'm always striving to go farther and longer than I did last week. I think my indoor trainer will help me pay attention to form and least I hope. Good luck with your plan. It seems effective.

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LIVE2RUN4LIFE 11/15/2011 8:21PM

    This all makes a lot of sense. Another thing I have read is that, with running, if you want the body to burn fat to fuel the exercise, you've got to run long and SLOW enough to keep your heart rate fully aerobic.

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JERSEYFLOWER 11/15/2011 8:19PM

    Absolutely genius. Sort of a light bulb, "Well, duh!!!" moment for me reading this - so clear and makes so much sense!

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IMIN2GENES 11/15/2011 8:09PM

    Wow! That just makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing! Great blog!

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HEATHERSTEW 11/15/2011 7:00PM

    HOLY CRAP! That makes so much more sense!
I am training for a half and since I started doing longer runs (over about 7 miles) I have near stalled in weight loss. I feel like I gained weight after a 9 miler the other day.
I cannot thank you enough for this and plan on trying some of your tricks.
Thank YOU!!!!

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HOLLYS_NEW_LIFE 11/15/2011 6:57PM

    I've been having the same thoughts about keeping my calorie burn down. This last week, instead of burning 700+ at every workout (5 days a week) and starving all the time (and not losing any weight) I cut it back to 300-400 per workout and eating normally. I feel better about my food intake and I'm not so drained. I'm just starting y second week, so we'll see how it goes! ps - I like the embezzlement analogy!

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GETFIT2LIVE 11/15/2011 6:28PM

    Very reasonable and well thought out--and what matters is it is WORKING for you! Some things I am going to have to consider trying for myself in there; thanks for sharing what you have found, Robert!

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TYKXBOY 11/15/2011 6:25PM

    Glad you're find a way past that plateau, and thank you for sharing!

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PIXIEMOM13 11/15/2011 6:06PM

    Hmm.. I may have to give some of your ideas a test there.. past few months I've been -1.2, +1.4, -2, +etc. (I'm sure you get the picture)

I like the idea of small withdrawls to fool the body.. heheh

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JANESSMI 11/15/2011 5:34PM

    Yesterday I noticed something similar. I was diagnosed with Diabetes 3 months ago. I could not workout with any real intensity for a while because my sugar was just too high. Now I am trying to add intensity but I need to make sure my sugar is high enough when I start exercising (ie eat before). So I went to a step class which burned over 700 calories. Then went home and could not stop eating......So like you I need to find the sweet spot for intensity\calories burned to prevent.

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CBAILEYC 11/15/2011 5:30PM

    I think you're onto something - you knew this already of course!
When I was busting my patoot and killing it, day in and day out, running and other cardio, hard weights, lots of calories burned, I was at a standstill because my appetite was voracious. I've scaled way back, and I'm losing again, because my calorie intake has come back under control again. No more justifying overeating, even on healthy foods, because I'm a runner.
I'm glad to hear your logical thoughtful approach is working for you. Here's to continued success!

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KKINNEA 11/15/2011 5:23PM

    I like these ideas and they sound like they're working for you!

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WENDYSPARKS 11/15/2011 4:59PM


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BABASI 11/15/2011 4:52PM

    I just want to say wooow!! Running 10 k at weight 285 is amazing!! You Rock!! When I started exercising I was 210 and I was not able to run to the mailbox not 10k!!
I read an article on spark - or somewhere else - saying the calorie you burn is the calorie you took in days before. And it is good if you eat before and after your workout, just eat smart. Eat almonds, fruit or veggies and 2 hours later eat more. And 3 hours later again. I`m not expert, I`m just saying what I learned so far since I am dieting and try to lose weight, but I`m pretty sure you can do it! But of course do what works for you already!! Good Luck!

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BABASI 11/15/2011 4:51PM

    I just want to say wooow!! Running 10 k at weight 285 is amazing!! You Rock!! When I started exercising I was 210 and I was not able to run to the mailbox not 10k!!
I read an article on spark - or somewhere else - saying the calorie you burn is the calorie you took in days before. And it is good if you eat before and after your workout, just eat smart. Eat almonds, fruit or veggies and 2 hours later eat more. And 3 hours later again. I`m not expert, I`m just saying what I learned so far since I am dieting and try to lose weight, but I`m pretty sure you can do it! But of course do what works for you already!! Good Luck!

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