1-99 SparkPoints 16

My n=1 Weight Loss Analysis, Part 1

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I was going to wait to share this data until my 1 month assessment, but now seems as good as any.

A quick recap for readers new and old.

Last year, May 2011, after struggling with weight loss/gain/maintenance for over 10 years, I switched to a low carb diet. I did a lot of self study reading books and web pages.

"New Atkins for a New You" - Dr. Westman, Dr, Phinney, and Dr. Volek
"Paleo Diet" - Dr. Loren Cordain
"Protein Power" - Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Eades
"The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet" (simplified version of "Protein Power") - Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Eades
"Primal Blueprint" - Mark Sisson

Dr. Mike Eades blog: www.proteinpower.

Dr. Mary Eades blog: www.proteinpower.

Mark's Daily Apple (Primal Blueprint author): www.marksdailyapple.com
FatHead Movie (Tom Naughton's blog): www.fathead-movie.com

If you're a long time LCer, no doubt these are familiar to you.

But the most important resource was myself. I used myself as an experimental study. I created a spreadsheet to track my progress.

Here's an example of what my spreadsheet looks like:

It doesn't really take that much time to collect. Adding food into my food tracker is the most time expensive activity. Translating it to the spreadsheet takes just a few seconds.

Many aren't interested in going into the fine grain detail. Few people want to track daily data to the obsessive compulsive level that I do. Most people just want the bottom line. I am going to attempt to do that after explaining my data.

"What can I do so I can lose weight and maintain it?"

SYNOPSIS: Maintain glucose control.

Glucose control is something very familiar to people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. When I started my LC journey, I could not have imagined that this was important to me, too, as a non diabetic.

April 2011, I collected data in a spreadsheet. I thought something was wrong with my calorie in-calorie out math. So I went into fine level detail. I was determined to figure this out. I went to great pains to maintain calorie range perfection.

(I started my diet in February. April is just when I started collecting a much higher frequency of data. That is why it is the starting point here.)

Turned out there was nothing wrong with my calorie in-calorie out math. It's biochemistry, not thermodynamics, that controls weight gain/loss.

Here is a graph of my weight from April 2011 to July 2011. I've marked a red line where I switched to carbohydrate restriction in addition to calorie restriction. I ate the same number of calories and maintained same exercise level. The only variable I adjusted was macronutrients. Less carbs, more fat/protein.

(I'll avoid discussion of the macronutrient details for now because I want to focus on the high level picture.)

From April-May, restricting calories alone made marginal influence on my weight. I lost very little, but mostly maintained.

From May-July, restricting carbohydrates and calories significantly influenced weight loss.

SYNOPSIS: Carb restriction worked.

You can see it took a little while for my metabolic shift to gain momentum in the early stages. This was because I had an issue with candida overgrowth that I needed to eliminate first.

The standard rebuttal is that calorie restriction is what makes low-carb work, just like any diet. Many clinical studies have consistently shown all calorie restricted diets will work for weight loss.

That's great in a controlled laboratory. However, let's look at my real world data.

On a low-fat, calorie restricted diet from April - May, I maintained a very good average calorie differential (calories in minus calories out). As I said, I was determined to stay in my ranges through great pains. It was very difficult as there were many days where I felt starved. The dips with more than -500 calorie difference were due to more activity or partial food tracking for the day, but I did not eat less than 1200 calories.

Average calorie intake: 1420
Average calorie differential: -387

The red line shows calorie in-calorie out=0. The line graph shows I maintained a very good daily deficit over the month.

On a low-carb, calorie restricted diet from May-July, I also maintained a very good average calorie differential. I stayed within ranges very easily. Again, no calories less than 1200, large dips due to activity increase, or partial food tracking. It was easier to manage my hunger levels. There wasn't a single day where I felt starved or had to work hard to stay within my calories. I am not exaggerating.

Average calorie intake: 1293
Average calorie differential: -512

I had very good calorie differential on both the low-fat and low-carb diet. I had better, more consistent results with low-carb. I ate fewer calories on average with LC than LF. That was because I had better satiety control. Hunger and cravings were non existent. It was not a contest of willpower.

It was not just better calorie control that lead to my weight loss, though. My average differential was only an -125 advantage.

SYNOPSIS: Calorie differential where calorie source favored carbohydrates resulted in negligible results. LC resulted in better satiety and lower average calorie consumption.

A standard rebuttal to low-carb is that the better weight loss is due to initial water loss, but then it works no better than a low fat diet.

Fortunately, I tracked my bodyfat percentage, which not a lot of people do. Without that information, it's just a lot of speculation.

My bodyfat declined. Again, I've marked where I started my low-carb diet.

Conventional dietary advice says that I can't lose that much weight without muscle wasting. Was I losing precious muscle along with fat?

My lean body mass INCREASED.

Again, I did not change my exercise routines. 3-5x per week, 30 minutes on the elliptical. I did not pick up any significant weight lifting program during this time. I simply started feeding my body more protein and fat, and it responded.

SYNOPSIS: Low-carb weight loss was not due to water loss, and did not result in muscle wasting. Weight change was due to losing bodyfat and gaining lean body mass.

I stopped tracking my data at this granular level in August. In October, I stopped tracking info at all going into the holidays. At the beginning of the year, I started college work and preparations for my wedding in May, which left me little time to focus on my diet. This is typically when people regain the weight they lost. Typical rebuttal about low-carb diets is people will gain it all back and then some.

So what happened in my case? Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode...

Edit: Fixed error with Avg calories calculation.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Very cool. I'll check out those meters. As nice as it would be to visit a bodpod, a quick snapshot will be fine for me too. It's like my bathroom scale - I know it's not accurate down to the ounce, but as long as it's consistently off then I have some idea of where I stand. =)
    3140 days ago
    DOWNEASTB: I was hoping to send my story to both MDA and Tom once I got my bf% down to a certain level. :)

    My tracking data from this time period was measured at the gym.

    These days I use a handheld Omron bodyfat monitor (same one used by Tom Naughton's doctor in FatHead!). I know lots of people are down on bioimpedence monitors, but it's easy and gives me a quick snapshot on progress. That's all I need.
    3141 days ago
    Wow, very impressive job with the tracking. You should send this to Tom Naughton.

    What do you use to track lean body mass?
    3141 days ago
    DRB13_1: Thanks for you comment! Just a question: where did you hear about giving up fruits? I share my food tracker. You're welcome to take a look at what I eat. The only thing I gave up was wheat, grain, breads, pasta and starches. I stick to low glycemic fruit, but I eat fruit mostly as a 'dessert'. I couldn't give up my blueberries!
    3141 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/26/2012 11:44:38 AM
  • DRB13_1
    I'm so impressed with your spreadsheet!
    Congrats on all you have accomplished! Most of all of your healthy lifestyle of staying active and being aware of your nutrition.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I have often looks at these "diet" options but I cannot give up my fruits. Low carb is not for me.
    3141 days ago
    Agreed, You got to do what feels comfortable for you. I guess people's bodies just process things differently. If you try something and it doesn't feel comfortable you're far less likely to stick with it, meals become a chore rather than a pleasure.
    3141 days ago
    These are the variables I'm tracking:

    Exercise Minutes
    Calories Burned
    Heart Rate Max
    Heart Rate Recovery
    Resting Heart Rate
    Calories Burned (Total: Exercise + BMR)
    Carbs (g)
    Protein (g)
    Fiber (g)
    Net Carbs (g)
    Carb %
    Fat %
    Protein %
    Calories Eaten
    Calorie Differential

    Lean Mass
    Waist/Hip ratio

    Heart rate and Waist/Hip items are tracked at intervals. I was planning on doing a heart rate recovery test next week since I haven't done that one in a while.
    3141 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/25/2012 6:23:03 PM
    Ooh, I wish I could see that spreadsheet better....
    3141 days ago
    My carbs come mostly from veg and fruit, with an occasional bread roll or petit four dessert. When I shifted to lower carb, all I did was stop following the advice to eat 3 whole grain servings a day. That was a killer for me.

    If eating whole grains works, great! But if not, then don't force yourself to eat them because some nutritionist or food plate says so. That's what I did for far too long. Since that is what I changed, I feel pretty comfortable that was the responsible party.
    3141 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/25/2012 6:17:40 PM
    Isn't it funny how different things work for different people? I eat plenty of carbs, mostly whole grains and vegetables but the occasional plate of pasta or roti, and my weight loss so far is 21 kilos (47 pounds) in less than 5 months.

    It just goes to show that you really need to try to find what works for your body and there really is no one-size-fits-all diet.
    3141 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/25/2012 5:55:44 PM
    Fantastic post, Vhalkyrie! emoticon
    3141 days ago
    emoticon blog - I'm early into my journey with LC but have already noticed a tremendous difference - here's my stats:

    10/09 to 11/11 - lost 16 lbs after 25 months on 'low fat/balanced' food plan following calorie guidelines

    11/11 to 5/12 - lost 7 lbs after 6 months on lower calorie, higher protein, no sugar, low-fat food plan

    5/12 to 7/12 - lost 18 lbs after 2 months on low carb foods [with increased calories no less!!]

    All of these periods had similar exercise patterns so it's extremely obvious to me that the carbs have been much more of a problem than I thought! Even if some of the lost poundage has been water weight, it's still less stress on my feet, joints, etc, so I'm happy with that!
    3141 days ago
  • CATH63
    You are amazing! Your information is SO informative and motivating. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    3141 days ago
    Elegant! I love it!
    3141 days ago
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