Did you know, that if two people, Phil and Bob, were both lean in 2009 and today Phil is 20 pounds more than Bob, it means he’s eaten 19.2 calories a day more than Bob?  Take a look at this Taubes video explaining this.  Did you also know that:

  1. Calorie and nutrition information can be off by as much as 10% on the label?
  2. We have no real knowledge about EXACTLY how many calories we exert per day – we only have estimates?

If Phil and Bob were both consuming a 2000 calorie diet every day, and Phil is 20 pounds more than Bob – it means Phil ate 2 gummy bears’ worth of calories more per day than Bob.  That’s what the math says.  Does it mean Bob was more active?  Does it mean Bob counted calories better than Phil?  Does it mean he’s a smarter person for making better choices?  If the food labels can be off by as much as 10%, and we don’t really know of our energy expenditures without a physicist on standby – HOW can we explain the 20 pound difference?

Most of you have learned that Phil just consumed more calories than Bob.  Period.  End of story.

What I am going to lay out here is my 3 year adventure with losing 175 pounds – what WORKS, what doesn’t work, the struggles I’ve had, and the easy times I had.  I want to approach this from a perspective of health and longevity.  I’m going to discuss some major phases and conclusions I could draw from each of these.  Finally – these lessons all boil down into what I should be doing moving ahead.

I’d implore any of you wanting to take the plunge to try and do things from an objective and scientific point of view.  Speaking of which, the information I provide to you below is anecdotal – which is the LEAST reliable of scientific data.  This, as opposed to a double blind study, is the best I have to record my data to present to you.

 

My N=1 is telling me that calories are a part of the equation, but the QUALITY of your food and TYPE of motion dictates your body composition.  

 

My baseline….

In every scientific study, you want to observe a system prior to changing anything.  You make a hypothesis, you execute, and then you observe your results.  Then, you repeat the experiment multiple times to improve your confidence in your results.  You then try and replicate your results with other test subjects.   Perhaps you adjust some of the inputs to produce different outputs.  The greater the sample size then comes with an even greater confidence in your hypothesis.   When all of this started in August 2016, it just felt different from the start.

Why was this time any different than any other time I have tried to lose weight?  I had just completed my second graduate degree and this time – THIS time, I decided to perform deep levels of research to apply an understanding of what the hell was going on with me using a graduate-level approach and a scientific method.  I hope you find the results below useful in your journey.  I have probably read about 20-25 nutrition text books and watched an estimated 1200 hours of videos from all kinds of nutritionists, doctors, ted talks, and PhDs.

My beginning weight in August 2016 was 372 pounds.  My resting heart rate was somewhere in the upper 70s.  I was 40 years old.  A few months prior, I had quit smoking for the 232nd time.  I was achy all the time, and walking from my car to my desk at work was a quarter of a mile and everything hurt.  I had spiraled out of control, where I was eating non-stop and HUNGRY all the time.  The low point came when I tried to get life insurance to assist my wife and son if anything happened to me, and they came back at $500 per month for a $10,000 policy.  Look…as a child, I was gifted with math and won some awards – but even your MIT graduate level calculus genius doesn’t need to explain what $500 per month on a $10,000 policy means.  Insurance companies are in the business to make money, and that was essentially telling me I had under 5 years to live based on any kind of tables those bean counters use.

Every time I’ve tried to lose weight, smoking had been in the way of things.  It would mess up my running.  It would keep up until midnight.  It negatively affected my sleep, helped with sleep apnea, and contributed to heartburn and acid reflux.  It woke me up at 5AM.  Smoking needed to go as my first measure of reclaiming my health.  Every time I would quit smoking, I’d also put on weight.  I had quit in February 2016, and at the time of quitting, I was around 350ish.  So the weight I had put on to get to 372 was mostly a result of quitting smoking.  But, as I’d learn later, inflammation is a key player here.  Smoking is a major cause of inflammation in your body.

So any of you out there wanting to lose weight and get healthy – you need to first pull the plug on smoking.  You may gain a few pounds, but this is like take one step back to take 5 steps forward.  THIS began to allow my body to heal by reducing inflammation.   I created the below graphics – didn’t steal this one from the internets lol.

Unlike my 20s, I was now in a place where I rarely drank.  I was a party guy my whole life after being pretty quiet in high school.  My 20s were one weekend of gluttony of parties after another, with weight loss attempts almost weekly.  In college, I believe at one point I had put on 113 pounds.  My identity and friends were all tied to partying.  I had lost touch of people I had considered close high school friends (before facebook/myspace) and my college friends I knew all from keggers and getting wasted.

My identity prior to college was someone who could run 2 miles routinely, someone very active in baseball, tennis, wrestling, lifting weights.  I was just always the pudgy guy on the baseball team that could rake a .400 average but risk getting thrown out at first base from right field because I hit the ball so damn hard to them.  Below, you see some different pictures of me over the years.  I could add/drop 30 pounds in a month or two.  My weight varied greatly over the years.  My high point in high school was 22th grade at 295, and my low was graduation at 228.

 

 

My blood pressure was somewhere like 135/85 – slightly high.  However, I was starting to feel like the end was coming.  It was one of the reasons I also started this blog.  I see my son every other weekend, and the hope was to try and capture a lot of me to paper (prior to writing about a lot of healthy stuff) so he might know me someday.

Suffice it to say, my baseline was bad.  Just look at what my usual breakfast was.

2 big cups of coffee.  Each one had 2 heaping TBSP of sugar and lots of powdered creamer.  I’d then stop at Rutters (a local gas station/food stop) and get 2 ham egg and cheese croissants with ketchup and added hash browns.  I then would buy lunch, which was usually a ham and cheese pretzel roll sandwich with lettuce, chips, and fruit.  I’d also buy an orange soda for the morning and a grape soda for lunch.  Days I didn’t buy my lunch at Rutters, I’d usually be stopping at McDonalds for a quarter pounder with cheese value meal, size large, with a diet coke (gotta reduce the calories, right??) with a double cheeseburger.  This all was well before dinner – which could have been half a pizza, some wings, and maybe fries…..This was the routine after I quit smoking to go from 350ish to 372…for months.

Oh….and the biggest I saw my waist with one of those measuring tapes was 66″ around the midsection.  I’m now at 36.5″.

The tables are set for BIG changes…

Phase 1: The beginning

Food prep….

One problem I had with weight loss programs was the time it took to cook, coupled with the efforts.  Any of you pushing 300-400 pounds know that you are expected to do everything a 180 pound man does, except you have a 200 pound ruck sack on your back.  It takes extreme amounts of energy to even get out of a chair, let alone cook for an hour every night.  It was so much less effort to just get food at the drive thru or order in.

This time around, I decided to watch a lot of food prep.  I went to YouTube and this is where the start of an abundant amount of information began.  Food prep wasn’t just about how to cook some things, but I even learned knife skills, how to cut an onion properly, etc.  I was spending so much time in the kitchen trying to do things like cut veggies.  Even learning cutting methods for food prep significantly reduced the time I was cooking!!

Food prep helped me then plan out what I was eating for the week – IN ADVANCE.

One problem I had with my relationship with food was the relationship with my spouse.  Any guy out there ever hear “what are we doing for dinner tonight?” 18 times in one conversation?  It was a cause of great stress to me.  I’d buy food in bulk, freeze it, and then take out like chicken or something.  The next night, I was going to cook chicken.  My wife hates chicken.  Long story short, most of the time she didn’t want to partake in the healthy foods I planned on eating, and then the compromise was some sort of window food at the last minute.  I felt like I lost all control of what was going into my mouth, and it was literally killing me…

At this time in my life, I realized I only had a few years to live, so I did something a little strange.

I divorced my wife…from my food.  I took back control and accountability of what I ate.

I told her that I loved her, but I needed to move on…with my food.  From that day on, she cooks her dinner, I cook mine. Period.  Since that day, I’m down 175 pounds. While I wouldn’t say it is causative, you can plot out that line and show a strong correlation for any of you doing a regression analysis at home 🙂

This is sort of like that whole airplane going down thing where you have to save yourself so you can save others.  You need to take accountability for the food going into your mouth.  Something bad happen to you 10 years ago?  Yesterday?  Stress got you eating?  All of these are ways you justify poisoning yourself in the short term to take away years from your long term.  And you need to find other means of addressing your stress with outlets other than bad food.  Yes, it can be done.  I lived it.  I now have that shit transferred to things like long walks with the dog, hitting the gym, writing, trumpet, reading, movies, running, biking, swimming – the list goes on.  You cannot continue to justify poor choices based on loss of control of your surroundings.  You need to embrace that you can’t control things around you – but you CAN control how you react to them.

So – at this point, I didn’t really have a macro plan – but I was cooking more at home.  I started to take accountability with every morsel of food going into my mouth.  I could now control every macro and calorie going into my mouth.

Running and calorie cutting….

My first big mistake in this weight loss journey may have been the greatest lesson I ever could have learned.  This mistake aided me in losing the majority of my weight.

In September 2016, I now had my food prepped and I was raring to go.  My calorie goal was 1200 a day and I was determined to exercise my face off and run…and run.  Over the course of September, I ran a LOT.  Maybe 3 miles a day 4-5 days a week.  In fact, that I hurt my foot.  I was limping.  I was determined to continue my weight loss, so I then proceeded to walk 4-5 miles a day.

The low calories combined with excessive exercise for a man my size then led me to back spasms, eventually, in late October 2016.  At my weigh in at the first care – they got me at 348.  So I had lost 24 pounds in a VERY short time.

One of the first things the doc tells me to do is to lose weight.  I’m ready to throat punch the fucker.  He doesn’t want to hear what put me in the urgent care to begin with.  Tells me to watch what I eat and exercise more – essentially.  The people caring for me seem to detest me.  As if I had some sort of plague they didn’t want to catch.

As a result of this, I couldn’t run/walk for weeks and was on prednisone.  This made me go back up to 156 almost immediately.

My wife said, “I think you need to get some professional help.  Obviously your way put you in the hospital”.

She was right.  Which then led me to a trainer….

Weight loss plans go through several phases:

  1. Plan
  2. Execution of Plan
  3. Adjustment
  4. Consistency
  5. Execution of Adherence to philosophy

 

Yes, I just made this up now.  Pat on my back.

Plan – I don’t care what plan you pick.  You will see my N=1 methods below.  Generally speaking, most people go for “eat less, move more” as I’ve heard some close to me say.  The problem with this method, ultimately, is hunger.  If you have a giant meal planned with friends on a Saturday night – what do you do to get hungry?  Maybe you try and eat very little during the day and exercise a lot to “build up an appetite”.  I can tell you this.  Both methods I used below addressed hunger.  If you don’t pick a plan that can provide satiety, well, you are going to have extreme difficulty staying on your plan.

Execution – I used to map out what I was eating for every meal for the upcoming week as well as map out exercises.  I don’t have to do this anymore, as I have a good amount of items prepped and ready to go at all times to give me some variety.  I do plan out my training a bit for my races, but as I’m now in my offseason and resting up, I’m doing infrequent runs and lifts.

Adjustment – I’ve used this phrase a few times over the last few weeks, but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.  As you see above, I did take some weight off in phase 1, but I also had some setbacks.  I learned to do meal prep.  I had to make some adjustments to my exercise and calorie intake.  A year later, I switched over to keto when I found I could not control myself around peanut butter eggs.  Each of you will have different weight loss methods than me – but you need to adjust.  Make big adjustments, then follow up with smaller ones.  For instance, I started with 30g of carbs total on keto, then over time, I was able to walk it out to 50g net.

Consistency – This is a very repetitive thing, but it breeds new and better habits over time.  What I needed to do was change my root level behaviors and have a cupcake once every month or two as the exception to my good health.  My problem was, everything I consumed was for TODAY.  I lived for TODAY.  I lost all ability to turn anything down.  Now, turning that stuff down is the norm because of how good I feel, and I may have that cupcake every now and then.  But, that cupcake is also the alternative to the GIANT piece of cake I’d have in a bowl with 12oz of milk around it.  My indulgence has been very small scale and infrequent.  I am consistent on nailing my nutritional goals daily.

Adherence – this is a level beyond being consistent.  This is your own dietary philosophy and framework.  Maybe it looks a lot different than mine.   Your philosophy is tied to your personal fitness goals.  For me, it’s to be 170ish and an endurance athlete the rest of my life with retaining some muscle for power.  This requires getting lean first with low carb, then building endurance and using carbs strategically for explosion and racing.  Someone else’s goals may be to lift refrigerators.   Others may be to see bones or a six pack.  Others may be to body build.  EACH of these goals will have different nutrition and exercise philosophies.  I did change my goals a few times, which then required slight changes to my philosophy.

Phase 1 conclusion – meal prep helped me lose weight.  I had failures with caloric restriction and exercise leading to injury.  Find your PEACE plan and re-work it daily, weekly, and monthly.  

Phase 2: Professional help and dialing it in

At the first weigh in around my birthday November 2016, I was 347 pounds at the York JCC.  SG was my trainer (name withheld) and after a 30 minute consultation, she essentially tells me:

  • Eat 2850 calories
  • STOP RUNNING
  • Eat 40/30/30 (40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein)
  • Weight train

I was very skeptical.  2850 calories??? WTF.

At the end of one month, I had lost 13 pounds.  No running.  WTF is right.

Whatever magic that was happening, it needed to continue.

Calories

I’m not going to fully get into calories here, but the long story short of it…if you have WAY too little calories, your body has a tough time repairing itself after exercise.  Your systems may shut down and make you tired.  Wayyyy too many calories, and you start to store things on your waist.  But seeing what I wrote above, how do you know what the right number is?  This answer I will try to detail much further below, but 2850 for a guy at 350 pounds gave me plenty to eat while also creating a deficit.

But calorie math alone isn’t going to help you lose weight.  Trust me.

What I would tell people who want to take this first step with 40/30/30 is to take your body weight, times it by 10.  Try and hit that number or slightly below if you have a very high bodyfat percentage.  Observe, and make adjustments over time.

What you want to do is have enough that is coming in to be satiated and repair your tissues.

The 40/30/30 was new to me.  I also cut out most of the shit.  What I found was that when doing this (If It Fits Your Macros or IIFYM), I was FULL.  Wow!!!  I was having lots of broccoli, chicken, and rice.  Lots.  I was eating 3 meals a day, and I’d find it hard to get to what I needed.

The 40% carbs were fueling my energy for the gym.  The 30% fats (and cholesterol) were helping with fat soluble vitamins and ensuring my body was producing the right levels of hormones needed.  The 30% protein added in adding/preserving lean body mass needed to keep my metabolism high.

Most of my life, I was having HIGH levels of carbs.  Maybe 70+%.  Lots of breads, pastas, crackers, rices, grains, that sort of thing.  As soon as I dropped my carbs to 40% from 70%, I stopped feeling tired all the time.

I also stopped running.  More on that below as well.  What I didn’t realize was happening was that weight loss was not a numbers game, it was a hormone game.  And…reducing my carbs suddenly allowed my body to release stored fats.

Cheats

“On Monday, my diet starts!!”

How many of you have said that, and how many times?   The problem with that statement means that you are going on a diet, and this means some day you are going off of a diet.

You need to look at this as changing your lifestyle.  Look at it also like moving to the next state.  All of your friends are now 4 hours away rather than 10 minutes.  So instead of going out and doing gluttonous things at the bar every weekend with your besties, maybe you stop in once in awhile to visit.  You do not have to say goodbye forever to your friends, you just cannot visit as much.

This is the lifestyle change you need to do.  I used to think, “ok, shit starts Monday, I can never have x, y, and z ever again”.  THAT is what is not sustainable.  Whatever diet plan you choose, it needs to become a way of living.  I did 40/30/30 for 15 months and lost 70 pounds.  It was very sustainable for me.  I may do it again down the road someday.

But what I did with visiting old friends here, metaphorically speaking, was to have 3 cheat meals a week out of my 21.  This means, maybe Saturday night I’d have 2 slices of pizza and fries at the restaurant – rather than ordering in and eating 4 slices with wings, fries, and mountain dew.  Those calories were part of my 2850, so maybe I had skipped breakfast that day or had a lighter lunch.  These 3 cheat meals a week allowed me the security blanket of not cutting the cord.  I feel this was my DMZ of going from gluttony to a phase in my life where clean eating was 95% or more of my life.  I feel that anyone that rips a band aid off going from 100% gluttony to 100% clean eating is doomed to fail, at some point.  For ME, I needed that time over months to gradually move off of the sauce, if you will.

What then happened was very interesting.  The foods I started eating instead of the shit were all kinds of healthy veggies and meats.  Suddenly, I felt amazing.  Lots of the aches and pains went away.   Eventually, I cut my cheat meals to 2 a week…then I held on to that Saturday night for awhile as my only cheat meal of the week.  Eventually, that was replaced by home cooked meals like making up a whole chicken and making mashed potatoes with it.  I was CRAVING these salads and healthy foods. I’d wake up Sunday morning feeling like shit after my cheat meals.

Eventually…my cheat meals became once every 2 weeks…then once a month.  Then, by special occasions only, like going to a wedding.

Perfection – don’t have to be perfect.  You just need to start at 80-90% clean and gradually, you will do much better over time.

Progress

At this phase for 15 months, I was losing on average 4-6 pounds a month.  Sometimes 7-8.  But the scale is a tricky thing.  You start to watch the lean body mass climb, along with your water.  You see the fat go down.  On some “slow” months of “weight loss”, you might see 3 pounds of water up, 2 pounds of LBM up, and 8 pounds of fat down.  This is 3 pounds of weight loss, but 8 pounds of fat loss.  So this should be measured as “fat loss” rather than “weight loss”.

I was killing it in the gym.  Getting stronger.  At one point at home, I think I benched 225 3 times.  Not my all time high max, but at 41…and 25 years removed from a max, yeah…it was good.

Gym

The major fallacy out there is that you need to be in the gym 7 days a week.  Truth is, as my trainer told me, you only need to work out each body part 1-2 times a week.  If you are a professional body builder, you might need to do the bro splits.  For example, a push day, a pull day, leg day, rest, and do it all over again.  That’s what I used to do for years.  Same exercises.  I’d get some progress, then plateau.  Every damn time.

This time, my trainer recommended once a week at the gym, and maybe a second session at home if time permitted.  The session would be 1 hour and a full body workout.  Every time I went would be different.  There would be some exercises we came back to, but almost every session I’ve had there over 3 years has been different in approach.

The downside to that approach is you don’t build big muscles.  This is the theory of repeated stress to muscles over time to muscle failure will cause the muscle to grow with increased stimulation.  The problem I had with this over the years was that went weights got heavier, my body tended to maybe get hurt or not respond well to increased resistance.

The upside was the sort of “new gains” happen each week, in a sense.  Your muscles are not getting efficient with the exercise because it’s not being repeated enough.  So there’s a constant building of lean body mass in the major muscle areas like legs and core, but you hit so many different areas that the minor muscle groups don’t really pop out.

Goals

This plays a big factor in your approach, motivation, and types of training you do.  My goals have changed a few times along the way.

Goal 1 – “lose the weight!”

Goal 2 – “fat loss”

Goal 3 – “better body composition”

Goal 4 – “athletic performance”

Goal 5 – “triathlon training”

Goal 6 – “mobility and longevity”

I believe fitness goals change based on each person’s makeup and age.  For example…

  1. A massively fat person like me might desire to be ripped with a 6 pack.  Or fit into a medium or small size
  2. A smallish guy who may have been picked on growing up might want to grow as big as possible
  3. Some people might just like to be big and macho
  4. Some just might want to fight back potential diseases

Your initial goal of “weight loss” might be a good start.  Just know that many people are chronically dehydrated.  If you are obese and dieted a lot, it’s possible you lost a lot of muscle previously.  Between those two items…

Adding muscle and water weight over months while losing fat may appear to have “little or no” weight loss, but in truth, you are losing inches on the waist.

Monitoring

For ME, the monthly weigh in with the trainer on the fancy scale has assisted greatly with my success.  Maybe you don’t need it, but it was instrumental for me.  Going weekly to the trainer also kept me accountable and if I slightly veered, she was able to get me back on the righteous path quickly.

There was this study I learned about in grad school at Villanova, called “The Hawthorne Effect”.  This was a management and productivity study done at a wire making company I believe in 1915.  They brought in experts to assist with productivity.  The first thing they did was increase lighting.  Productivity increased.  Wow!!  Increased more lightly, productivity increased.  And again.  Now, they decided to change lunch times up.  Productivity increased!!  As a control…they decided – let’s cut the lighting.  A funny thing happened.  Productivity increased.  And again.  Productivity increased.  Cut lunch.  Productivity increased.  What they found was that the employees knew they were being monitored.  The very act of being monitored is what led to the increase in productivity, despite the stimulus.

For me – I found the act of being monitored by someone to give me the extra umph I needed to bust it for the monthly weigh in.  This act of accountability then had a little gold star with it.  I would see these print outs that showed my fat loss from month to month.  I’d then post these little gold stars to Facebook or here – and I’d get lots of positive feedback.

It took a lot for me for the first post to reveal how much I currently weighed and what my top weight was.  However, it was an act of accountability – to me, to others.  I didn’t want to let anyone down.  For my personality type, letting others down is the big sin.  And for ME – that is exactly the type of stimulus I needed to be successful.  Do NOT think that shaming people about their size will lead to a productive and healthy mindset for the person you are trying to help.  Being honest about a dangerous condition is one thing – but making them feel ashamed is not productive.

That being said – if you are reading this and WANT to take that first step, I’d recommend investing in a trainer.  I say invest because there’s a symbiotic relationship there.  They are investing their professional careers and reputation on your results as well.  You are doing the work, but they are the jedi knights who are guiding you.  If you and everyone else they are teaching are unsuccessful – it might be a poor reflection on them.  If you and everyone else they are teaching are very successful – that is an incredible reflection on them.

Invest…..

Think about a return on investment.  “A trainer is too expensive.  I can’t afford a trainer and to eat healthy”.

Do me a favor.  Quick.

Look over your bank statements and tell me exactly, to the dollar, how much money you spent on:

  • dining out
  • healthcare
  • movies/entertainment
  • needless shit
  • Big and tall clothing

I can tell you, prior to starting this, my expenses on the above were probably nearing $1400.  This is replaced with:

  • cooking yourself with healthy foods
  • proactive healthcare
  • going to the gym, walking, hiking, running, biking
  • trainer fees
  • off the rack Kohl’s clothing

In the short term, I cut my expenses from before by probably 25%.  My groceries for me are probably about $550 per month.  I cannot even begin to tell you how buying clothing has changed, and the significant cost savings when buying off the rack.

In the longer term, consider that obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and a million other healthcare problems.  This is cost avoidance.  And with the ROI, paying for a trainer for 1-2 years has a significant return.  Think about this.

Maybe a trainer for 1 year is about $2000.  Maybe a little more or less.  Let’s say you do this for 2 years.  That’s $4000.  I was at a time where I felt I had 5 years left to live.

What did that $4000 buy me?

  • 20-45 years of additional life
  • Cost avoidance of perhaps $50,000 for open heart surgery, maybe $1 million for cancer avoidance.
  • Perhaps retaining my feet/eyesight from avoiding diabetes.  This also comes with dialysis, pills, and insulin shots
  • Joy of life…or “joie de vivre”.  I can now do just about anything, including finishing about middle of the pack in any 5k or triathlon.
  • Being able to see my children grow up
  • Buying nice clothing off the rack

So – you can say, “I can’t afford a trainer”.  But I think a better way of phrasing this is, if you are morbidly obese, you can’t afford NOT to hire a trainer.

There was another study in my Villanova grad studies, this one in operations management.  It was a study about how recalls were done with cars.  As the saying went, “you pay for quality.  You either pay for it in the front end or the back end, but you pay for quality”.

What this meant was that an automobile manufacturer would spend maybe an additional $10 per car for a safety feature to avoid a multimillion dollar lawsuit down the road.  The same happens with your body.  In the short run, you spend $7 for a McDonald’s meal rather than $8 for a home made salad that is massive.  It’s cheaper to eat carbs in high volume.  That is like not putting in the $10 safety feature.

Exercise

During this 15 months, I didn’t run.  I walked the dog a lot.  I hiked.  I got my bike out and rode the rail trails a lot.  This took me from 372 down to 296, then back up to 302 when my carbs started getting up to 50%.

Phase 2 conclusion: You need to define goals, understand them, and execute.  You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be consistent.  You may need to seek professional guidance for a path if you’ve struggled before – and you need to understand the return on this investment in terms of life and fortune.  Be OPEN to their suggestions, even if it sounds crazy to you at the time.  Your body composition can change over time with the right inputs and outputs.  You don’t have to kill yourself with exercise, just do moderate work.

Phase 3: Advanced concept in weight loss, training, and baking your noodle

At this stage of the game, I had already taken off 70 pounds.  But the best was yet to come.  This phase then had me take off another 105.  The end of phase 2 was marked by my trainer talking to me about keto.  I thought it was some sort of gimmick.  I had done atkins before a few times – and yes, weight did come off, and a lot.  But it had a way of finding its way back on very quickly after going off of atkins.  Initially, I shook it off.

Christmas 2017, I ate a whole box of peanut butter eggs in 24 hours.  I still didn’t have impulse control, and I didn’t know why.

Keto

I’m not going to go too far into this here because most of my health blogs are about it.  Long story short, is it flipped the food pyramid on its head.  I began another deep dive on YouTube December 2017 and wow…just wow.  If you want a few people to look up to get started, you need to really understand that everyone will be eating like this in a few years.  In my world, I have shown this path to maybe 30 or so on facebook.  Not only have many of them lost a lot of weight, but it’s now having cascading effects where family and friends of THEM are now being influenced and losing weight.  Many people have linked my blogs and I spend a good amount of time coaching some people on the side (for free, of course).  I don’t do this for money.  I do it because every person out there like me – who has tried dozens of times and failed – need to understand the missing link.

Here’s the big picture….

The “big picture” from above is:

  • All of our modern dietary principles that all of you have known to come and love through the food pyramid was built off of something called “The seven countries study” by Ancil Keys.
  • This led to the food pyramid adopted in the 1970s to help feed our population and prevent heart disease.  Many doctors and scientists warned against the food pyramid.  It was ignored.  Another big issue was the food pyramid was never tested to see if it would work.  The big concept was stay away from fat because it clogs your arteries and kills you.  Problem is, they had it wrong.
  • What you see is low carb diets actually are much healthier for you, assuming you also reduce inflammatory agents like sugars, trans fats, margarine, “vegetable oils”, grains, etc.  The seven countries study was actually 22 countries, and Keys left off the countries that didn’t fit his narrative. Some of those countries have extremely high fat intakes and virtually zero heart disease/diabetes.  Instead of trying to understand this, he removed it from his studies.  For example, the inuit.
  • Smoking kills.  This was also around the time in the 1950s where they still didn’t want to admit smoking was bad for you.  This all started because Eisenhower had a heart attack and everyone was trying to find out why.  He was an avid smoker.  We now know that smoking leads to heart attacks, strokes, cancer.  Smoking is HIGHLY inflammatory.  Fats under the conditions of high inflammation is a problem.  Which is why they essentially say not to mix fats with sugars.  This is also why those with the low fat diets can reduce heart disease.  They may have lots of grains/beans, but they have virtually no fats.
  • To add insult to injury to the vegans, there’s no such thing as a required carb.  None.  Zero.  You can go the rest of your life with zero carbs and have no ill health effects.  However, you need fats and protein to live.  Your hormones are made from fats and cholesterol.  Your brain is made from cholesterol.  Your body produces a ridiculous amount of cholesterol all by itself.  If you don’t want to mix fats and carbs, and you need fats to live and no carbs to live….which one should go?
  • If you look above, most of the food companies out there are owned by a select few.  85% of all packaged goods have added sugars.
  • 120 years ago, diabetes happened in one in every 5000 people.  Today, it’s 1 in 7.  Cancer was 1 in 30.  Now, it’s 1 in 3.  I eat very similar today to what people ate like 120 years ago.
  • Processed foods are convenient, but should either be avoided or eaten sparingly.

With keto, the below happened to me:

  1. I instantly felt better.  I removed all of the processed stuff and boosted my green veggies.  Removed all oils other than olive oil and avocado oils.  I have butter over margarine. My insides feel 100% healed.
  2. I lost strength initially for the first 4 months, then over time, it gradually came back to a point.
  3. I had so much energy it was ridiculous
  4. Sleep improved within a week
  5. My hunger disappeared.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to calorie count anymore.
  6. I craved fats and carbs now seemed to act like a drug more than anything to me.

Fasting/OMAD/3 day fasting

Apparently, all major religions have some form of fasting protocols.  A concept called “autophagy” won the nobel prize in 2016.

When I started keto, about 3 weeks in, my appetite dropped off of a cliff.  This allowed me to start messing with intermittent fasting and one meal a day (OMAD).  I also do 3 out of 4 Fridays a month where I eat nothing at all.  3-4 times a year, I do a 72 hour fast.

What they found is that when you don’t have food in you are you are in ketosis, your body will not only burn fats for fuel, but it grabs old dead parts of cells and recycles them.  Good parts are re-used, and old parts are sent to a hopper to be broken down into glucose and amino acids.  So…yeah…if you eat nothing in one day, your body can actually create protein it needs from recycled dead cells!!!!

This is fascinating to me.  It also is something that is recommended for things like cancer prevention.  These old, dead cells can mutate and create cancer if you’re constantly feeding them sugars.

So why did all religions have fasting protocols?  It seems it was an ancient means of cleaning the body.

So….bro science says you need to eat 6 small meals a day to be constantly anabolic. need to grow, bro!!  Well, you are also growing cancer cells when doing that, bro.  MTOR!!

 

Influencers

I think some of the leading people below, and why, can help you understand the big picture.  Spend a few months on YouTube watching these people and you will understand why obesity rates are out of control and why the medical establishment has no real means of addressing other than fat shaming you to eat less and exercise more.

  1. Gary Taubes – explains the ludicrousness of calories and physics and points to this as a hormonal function.  He has a few really good lectures on YouTube you need to watch.
  2. Dr Phinney/Dr. Volek – low carb and athletic performance.  Most low carb studies done before them were done after a few days/weeks of low carb rather than waiting several months and being fat adapted.  They created a lot of the metrics which show how low carb improved all health measures.
  3. Eric Berg – a chiropractor, but very knowledgeable on food sciences.  What has been revealed to me over time is that doctors get about a semester of school in nutrition, and this is based on 1960s science models.  Doctors are required to follow guidelines, and therefore they tell you what they’ve been taught – at risk of losing their license if they advise you otherwise.  See below.
  4. Dr. Tim Noakes – Dr. from South Africa and PhD.  Former marathon runner.
  5. Dr. Robert Lustig – childhood obesity doctor who showed how he was able to solve childhood obesity by treating it from a hormonal standpoint rather than a calories standpoint.  Rails on processed foods.  Shown that fructose and alcohol are metabolized the same in the liver, which is how people who do not drink can get non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  6. Mark Sisson – former marathon runner and creator of “primal”.  Uses keto as a tool to lose weight, but advocates a more neo-flexible-paleo lifestyle to keep carbs under 150 and live “an awesome life”, as he puts it.
  7. Jonathan Bailor – author of “The calorie myth” and one of my heroes.
  8. Dr. Ken Berry – Dr. from Tennessee who is a straight shooter and a keto advocate.  Explains how doctors are not taught much on nutrition, and what they do learn is outdated.
  9. Dr. Dom D’Agostino – shows that brain cancers can be kept in check with the keto diet and shows that some cancers feed on glucose.

Phase 3 conclusion: It became abundantly clear to me during this stage that carbs, or rather extreme excess of carbs, had been the leading cause of my obesity my whole life.  The root cause was that not only were these things extremely energy dense, but due to the insulin release of these things, I was tired when taking carbs – and a few hours after I’d be hungry.  The removal of carbs also allowed me to be sharper.  It was at this point in my life the calories in/out model had been thoroughly disproved to me – I had vigorously tracked these numbers, and they never added up at the end of the month.  Calories MATTER, but they aren’t why I got fat – it was my hunger, which was controlled by my hormones.  

 

Phase 4: Adding advanced training

Most of my life, I have loved physical activity and competition.  As you get older, you get less “cut throat” competitive and you want to challenge yourself, more than anything.  As mentioned above, I’ve been this outlier fat guy who could do amazing feats of athleticism.  People see you, and yes, you get a lot of judgment.  At the root of a lot of it was some sort of deep hunger I couldn’t possibly cure until recently.   Once the hunger problem took care of itself, the athlete started to come out, as if I took a fat suit off suddenly.

Swimming…

I started with running, as I mentioned above, and then added some biking.  Additionally, I also added swimming at the time I joined the JCC – because I could not run anymore.  With swimming, I then learned a technique where you could essentially swim all day and you don’t utilize your legs as much.  It’s not terribly fast, but I was able to do it for long periods of time.  My mom had also gotten me a system to listen to music while in the water.  Cool!

I had grown up loving to swim and be in the water.  About 12-13 years ago, I did an “indoor triathlon” where I decided I was not to finish last.  I finished second to last at approximately 320 pounds.  This past year I did it as well, and finished middle of the pack!  I was about 225 for that event.  If I do it again this year, I should be in the mid 180s.

Biking….

I started slowly with this, and over the course of 3 years, I can bike about 45 miles or so.  I started off with a bigger bike that could hold my weight.  One problem I had was that the tires weren’t inflated correctly, which made it feel like I was biking on quicksand.  I started at 3 miles of biking, and over time, just gradually built up.  I did a 15.8 mile segment on an triathlon this past year in 1 hour on an extremely hilly course, so I was able to really push it.  I think I was about 205-206 for that event.  Next year for it, I plan to be in the 170s and push it around 19mph.

Running….

I’m obsessed with it.  I just feel amazing after doing it.  But, I need to caution people to not use running for weight loss.  More on that below.  I now have my workouts so varied in intensity, distance, hills, and speed that every workout is pretty different.  I have a goal of what I want to get out of every session.  This has helped my cardiovascular health tremendously!  My first 5k at Thanksgiving last year was a 36:01 in 13 degree temps.  I was roughly 238 pounds.  Since then, I have run a 5K as part of a triathlon at 33 mins, another 5k at my old high school the week before at 31 minutes, and then one recently at York College after tons of interval training at 29:31 at around 200 pounds.  I feel with another 20-35 pounds off, this time can improve greatly over the next few years.

Hiking/Walking…

This is supremely overlooked by everyone.  If you want activity to lose weight, do very low intensity work for long periods of time.  I started by doing lots of walking with the dog.  Over time, this wasn’t very challenging so I started hiking.  There are a lot of trails near me, and the hills added levels of intensity that drove the HR up a bit.  I’d go out there for 2-3 hours with the music on and just be at one with nature.

Substrates….

There’s something called “zone training”, which breaks down your HR levels into different zones.  Zone 1 is like a very slow walk, and zone 5 is your hardest sprinting.  You can walk at zone 1 for hours and zone 5 for maybe 10-30 seconds.  The theory goes that zone 1 and 2 are “fat burning zones”.  I have to say that in my 3 years, zone 1 and low zone 2 are fat burning zones.  What does this mean?

Think of your body energy as things like candles or rocket fuel.  When you need to walk long distances, your body might sip rocket fuel here and there for some hills, but it will slowly burn like a candle for hours – this is your body burning fat stores.  Additionally, if you are sprinting, your body will gulp the rocket fuel and may never really get a chance to touch the candle.  This is your glucose.

But where does your body get this energy???

This was a big question I had for years.  Never knew until maybe a year or two ago.  Your body can burn a lot of different fuels which are called substrates.  Let’s go over a few, and where they are found.

  1. glucose.  Your body prefers to burn this, depending on the type of work you are doing.  Carbs were not exactly plentiful thousands of years ago.  If you are chasing game down and need bursts of speed, your body will want this.  It can store about 400g of this, or perhaps 1600 calories of it in your glycogen stores – mostly in your muscles, and some in your liver.  When needed, your liver will dump glucose into your bloodstream and with your breathing oxygen in, will oxidize this for fuel.  The byproducts of this in your body are kind of dirty.  However, this is needed for speed, strength, etc.  You do not need any glucose exogenously, as your body can produce this itself as it needs 600 calories of it per day for your brain to work.  That’s about 150g.  Your body can store carbs as glycogen for later usage.  When you do the work, your body then fills back up the glycogen stores.  You can get this from sugar or leafy greens.
  2. Creatine/Phosphate system.  Your first heavy lift or two is done with this system, and then your glucose takes over.  When I started keto, my rep range for heavy lifts may have went from 10 to 2-3.  That’s because early on in keto, your body depletes your glycogen stores.  More on that later.  Just know that your first few lifts are not your glycogen stores.
  3. Fat/ketones.  Apparently, you have a very tough time burning fats when you have glucose available.  Thousands of years ago, carbs were not very plentiful.  Maybe you were in Europe 10,000 years ago and it was green a few months a year.  You might gorge yourself on berries and fill up your glycogen stores.  You continue to eat – and these carbs are stored for later in cells.  The carbs are turned into triglycerides which are stored on your body as fat.  This is to be used later in the colder months when berries are nowhere to be found.  Your body, in the absence of glucose, naturally breaks down the fats back into triglycerides and then into ketones to burn for fuel.  This is “clean” energy.  The hormone insulin locks cells open to receive nutrients, and when that happens, you cannot release fats from the cells.  The hormone glucagon is released when your blood sugars dip and will trigger the release of glucose from the liver glycogen.  If not present, it will then draw fat from cells to break down.  I believe the liver stores 100g of carbs, or about 400 calories.
  4. Protein – your body can convert protein into glucose, at a 3:1 ratio.  For example, protein and carbs are both 4 calories.  If you have 100g of protein available, it will convert to 33g of glucose – if needed.  This can happen if your body is doing intense work and is not “fat adapted”.  The protein will come from your dietary protein or from your muscles.

 

Training…

Walking/hiking/slow bike/slow swim/slow jog – this would primarily use zone 1-2 and would be great for burning fat.  The occasional hill will then utilize some of what’s in your glycogen stores.  Your body will first burn glucose in your bloodstream and liver, so this is an activity best suited for being on keto, fasting, or eating a low carb meal before you do it.  If FAT LOSS is your goal, this level is a great activity.   Additionally, doing things pretty slow and light like this can also help reduce injury.  It’s also less stressful on your joints.  This might be what I call a recovery run or something that gets the lactic acid moving around.

Jogging/moderate bike/moderate run – this is in the zone 2, but might touch zone 3 at times.  This will mostly split the load between fats and glycogen – and this depends on the level of training and body composition.  This might be a pace I do a long bike or long run.  When I was 300 pounds, this might have taken more glycogen than it does now.  When doing training for races, many people don’t tell you that zone 2 is where they do most of their training.

racing

Race pace? I figure this is high zone 3, low zone 4.  Race pace changes for different distance races.  For example, a 5K is mostly all out zone 4 for me.  However, the longer the race you go, the slower the pace in respects to HR zones.  A marathon might be a zone 2 for most trained athletes.  Their zone 2 just happens to be a hell of a lot faster than mine.  This is going to use a TONNNNN of glycogen stores.  They say you go through about 20g of carbs in 20 mins or so of activity.  You do not need giant pasta bowls the night before a 5K.  This pace is also where I do a lot of interval training.  Something like 2-4 minutes of hard effort, then 2-3 mins recovery, etc.

Sprint – this is your zone 5 and pure rocket fuel.  This is pure glucose/skeletal system.  You can really only hold this pace for short bursts.  This also falls into your HIIT training realm.  The calories here burned are usually small up front and have a post exercise burn.  Different studies say how much, but the point is there is more emphasis after exercise.

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The muscles you are using on the slower end are the slow twitch and the muscles used on the faster side are the fast twitch.

When I do training, I have specific purposes.  My general training of a muscle group is usually 1-2 days a week.  With my running/biking/swimming, I try for 3 times a week in each.  That being said, I really have slacked on the swimming over the last year due to ability to get to the pool.  With my runs far out from a race, I do a lot of zone 2 runs.  Every now and then, I might have a “progression” run where over the course of a distance, I slowly get faster and faster until the last half mile or so is high zone 4.  The closer to the race, the more intervals, hills, and speed work I do to build that engine.

All of your favorite people on Instagram are not busting their ass in zone 4 for hours a day.  They show you the highlights of how hard they can be.

Too much???

Dr. Phinney and Volek did research of marathon-trained runners, and had them run on a treadmill for the length of a marathon.  He had two sets of athletes, set A who were fat adapted and keto, and set B, who were your regular carb burners.  What they had found was that while set A started at a significant disadvantage with glycogen, that both sets of athletes ended with the same amount of glycogen over the distance of a marathon.  This was HUGE.

The findings with this then pointed to oxidation rates of fat were VERY high in the fat adapted athletes.  These guys were thin, but were able to use their available fat stores to then convert the energy to ketones.

My findings….

  • the more running I do at faster pace, the more fat I hold on to.  I’ve done two major blocks of training with running
  • When in strict keto, zone 1-2 training melts fat off of me.
  • When dialing up the carbs for higher intensity workouts, the carbs DO help me with speed and hills and improve my times in 5K.  However, weight did not drop.  It’s almost as if my body signaled to hold on to the fat for my next run because I might need it down the road.
  • I have biked 45 miles this summer, and over 30 half a dozen times.  In the last 4-5 months, I’m only down about 9 pounds.  This has been VERY active with running/biking very long distances.
  • The months where I lost the most I never got anywhere near running.  It was weight training twice a week, strict keto, and long walks/hikes.

Too long?

Something I’m going to share with the audience here.  When on keto, I have experienced an ammonia-like smell when I do very long distance of running and biking.  I brought up Phinney and Volek’s study here for a reason.  They did this experiment with marathon-trained athletes.  These people did not have a ton of muscle to start with, and they already were good with fat oxidation.

I also brought up my long distances for a reason.  I LOVE to do long distance.  LOVE it.  But it is NOT for weight training.  It feels like it reduces my stress levels.  It helps center me mentally.  In reality, my 200 pound frame or so might not be meant to run 7 miles or bike 45 miles – yet.

I looked up the ammonia smell a LONG time ago, and the research told me that it was a byproduct of converting protein to glucose for energy.  Now, maybe I have a smoothie for breakfast.  My glycogen stores were empty prior to that, but I have a 250 calorie smoothie which has a scoop of whey protein.  I THINK I’m getting protein in my body with this, but it’s possible that my body is taking that protein and converting it to glucose at the 3:1 ratio of loss.  So my 24g scoop of protein is converting to 8g of glucose.  I know that I can burn about 60-80g of glucose per hour with training.

So I know I’m burning protein.  But on my LONG runs/rides, I’m also burning away my muscles.

Keto is “muscle sparing”.  When I’m adding carbs for training, and I’m going really long distances, Phinney and Volek didn’t have a 200 pound “Clydesdale” running.  They had finely tuned athletes with virtually no muscle on them.  In BOTH of my blocks of running, I had gone down almost 10 pounds of lean body mass.  In my first block, I eventually stopped running for 4 months due to a back injury.  My fat dropped significantly while my muscle improved dramatically.  I’ve now been running in training since end of May/early June.  5 months.  My LBM dropped maybe 8-9 pounds in that time.

What this is also telling me is that my “long runs” and “long bikes” are too long.  Someday, I may want to bump my race distances up.  But get this….

I need to lose weight in order to run long distances efficiently; I shall not use long distances to lose weight efficiently.

This is HUUUUUUUUGE.

One of my buddies sent me something that I knew in my heart, but seeing it in writing was profound:

In order to get faster, you need to get lighter. 

Anyone who has done 5 minutes of training also know about power measures.  If you are a lighter biker with a major powerhouse of leg power, your watts per kilogram of weight are high.  This is how you measure efficiency with training.

The mistake heavy people make repeatedly is trying to use cardio training like I mentioned above to lose weight.  Go to the gym and you will see people on treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals to lose weight.  Hours on end.

I need to remind the audience that I know this, and have for 2-3 years.  However, I do this because I LIKE it.  The question then arises –

“How much endurance training can I do before I am being counter productive and destroying my lean body mass?”

Good question, and one Phinney and Volek did not answer.  They weren’t caring about “weight loss” or “fat loss”, they were interested in athletic performance for the low carb athlete.

They were successful in demonstrating that a low carb athlete then is more efficient at using fat as a substrate over carbs.  However, none of these studies ever dealt with someone losing muscle mass when they have 30-100 pounds to lose.

After my race for Thanksgiving, I plan on taking 3-4 months off of running.  Why?

In order to get faster, you need to get lighter. 

All of these triathletes I’ve been watching – they are all lean already.  They are building speed on a lean frame.

Let’s just say I hit 195 for my November weigh in.  I have legitimate knowledge now that if I stop running until maybe March, I may lose 4-6 pounds of fat per month.  That could take me to 171-179 before April.  And this has a possibility of holding on to my lean body mass as well as keeping my metabolism high.

Phase 4 Conclusion:

Keto is a weight loss tool, and when mixed with zone 1-2 training as well as weight training, is an explosive combination for fat loss.  Additionally, adding in intermittent fasting and OMAD helps improve autophagy.  If you train too hard or too long with zone 3-4, you have a potential of not only holding on to fat, but you may lose lean body mass.  While you may, in the short term, improve your 5K results and athletic performance – WHILE you are still overweight, you need to prioritize diet, walking, and reduction of inflammation.  I can indeed add some carbs into my diet to get faster, but at the expense of suspending weight loss.  Carbs help with power as well, especially for hills and bursts of energy.  Whenever I have weight to lose, I will use low carb/walking/hiking.  When I get to a point where I feel “trim”, I can then add back some endurance sports.  Lastly, “over distance” training should not be utilized when you have excess weight on you.  I feel you are adding cortisone in stress, which holds on to fat.  Meanwhile your body knows that it is more efficient when it weighs less – so while it’s holding on to fat, it will then tend to find protein to burn.  Having whey protein in your smoothie prior to a hard effort might bump up your insulin levels too high and thus lock the fat in your cells – forcing your body to look for protein to convert to glucose. 

In order for me to do the long distances I love to do, I must lose weight first.  I must not think that “burning calories” through long distances will lose “fat”.  It may help lose weight, but this weight may be precious lean body tissue.  Therefore, I will look for a periodization of a ketogenic diet and walking/hiking to reduce my fat stores further to then allow me to do endurance sports – and do them faster.  

Phase 5: Dialing carbs back in for training, life

I have done Atkins a few times in my life dating back 20 years or so.  I took off a lot of weight each time.  However, when I’d “go off” the diet, the weight would creep back on quickly.  One time though, the weight stayed off for almost 4 years.  Anyone who has ever done keto/atkins and had a cheat weekend or the like, you look at the scale and you gain like 5-7 pounds back immediately.  This is mostly just water weight, and the day you go back on the diet, you start peeing all of that water weight out for 3-4 days.

But the question then comes up – is Atkins/keto sustainable for life?  I know Jeff from Athlean-X asks it all the time when people choose their diets.  The short answer is I’ve been on keto/low carb for almost 2 years.  It’s very sustainable – with the right recipes, mind set, prep work, the occasional cheat meal, and a good deal of weight watching prior to going on a ketogenic diet.  For example, I did 15 months of a 40/30/30 prior to going keto.  I had also used MyFitnessPal to watch my calories and macros.  What this did for me was allow me to understand what was in all foods – and what portions to have – so when I did go keto, it was easy to eyeball and plan.

I’ve talked on my blog about my keto off-ramp.  What this looks like is a low carb lifestyle, where I’d generally have 100-150 carbs per day.  The carbs I’d have would more or less be introducing more root vegetables, more fruits, etc.  For example, in my pot roast recipe I just made with carrots, chuck roast, celery, beef broth, and cabbage, I’d be able to add a few potatoes and maybe up the carrots.  I’d like the idea of having a sweet potato here and there.  And – I like the idea of having a little more fruit in my week.

None of this means I’m adding regular bread back, cookies, cakes, pies – none of that.  To me, you might as well label that shit with the skull and crossbones.  Mark Sisson does something called “Primal” which is a paleo-light, and with this, he laid out about a general rule with carbs.  It’s not a HARD rule.

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The past 4 months with all of the running, I’ve slowly upped my daily carbs to maybe 75-125 a day.  The higher days are usually some intense running.  The keto police out there will point to my 100g of carbs and tell me that because I’m not in ketosis 24×7, I can’t lose weight.  I’d like to remind them I lost 70 pounds prior to starting keto with 40% carbs in a day and 2500 calories per day.  What I’m trying to do is avoid a 10 pound gain and insidious weight gain when “exiting” keto.  Which, in reality, won’t really be an exit.

I’ve used these extra carbs for performance with hard runs, bikes, weight training.  They work extremely well for the top end, I’ll give you that.  What a lot of the ironman athletes are doing these days are doing exactly what I’m doing – they train their bodies in low carb to get fat adapted.  When they train hard, they have some carbs, or not.  When they run the race, they fuel as normal – but now they are “bonk proof”.  Apparently, most ironman noobs (and even a lot of experienced athletes) hit the marathon after the swim/bike and a few miles in it is a murder scene of people puking everywhere, crawling, pooping, etc.  For so many years, people have been taught (incorrectly) that if you are doing endurance sports, you need to fuel with carbohydrates.

One of the people who literally wrote the book on this called “The Lore of Running”, Dr. Tim Noakes, is also one of keto’s biggest proponents these days.  He apologizes to crowds and anyone who will listen about how he was wrong.  And all of those marathons and carbs ended up giving him type 2 diabetes.  Essentially, it was at the early stages of studying glycogen and how it all worked.  The problem you run into with a lot of ironman types of athletes is that there’s an energy problem.  When competing at these long distances, you only have so much glycogen.  Therefore, people need to get fueling in with carbs.  These carbs may also come in forms like gels, and people get rock guts and poop themselves – when you are pressing yourself that hard, a lot of the blood is going towards running/biking – not digestion.  Eventually, their glycogen tanks run dangerously low and their brains start to run low on glucose – and you bonk.

By training with low carbs, you teach your body to use your fat stores.  You still fuel in races with carbs for power, but you then end up oxidizing fat for fuel in addition, which has an ability to not only spare glycogen, but provide ketones for the brain.  You have pounds of stored energy around your waist, even if “trim”.  Why would you ever “bonk”? The truth is – you need to train your body to use both glucose and ketones as a fuel so when you are doing these long distance races, your body can seamlessly use fats and carbs without you even knowing it.

But if you are not doing high levels of training daily, do you need to “carb up”?  Not really.  No.  People do a form of “carb cycling” where maybe one day a week they have higher carbs to top off the glycogen stores, but to each their own.  I’ve heard of this mostly with the lifters.  I’m not much of a lifter – what I do lift is to try and preserve lean body mass for some power, mobility, strength, and help my metabolism.

A lot of these marathon and long distance guys from the 80s and 90s now have type 2 diabetes.  They would have the 400g of carbs per day for the 100 mile weeks.  Punished themselves.  Now, just consider the people out there who aren’t active and having 300-400g with sodas, cookies, pies, pastas?

I think being active and eating an 80-90% clean diet is best for longevity.  I feel my low carb ways of eventually landing at maybe 75-150 carbs per day (after I reach my goal) is the way most of us should live.  The occasional treat.  That is the exception, not the norm.  The problem I had was that the “occasional treat” would happen 3-10 times a week for me in my normal life, and that became a norm that led to insidious weight gain.

Phase 5 Conclusion:

Using some carbs for training or performance is just fine, as long as the quality of the carb is mostly lower on the glycemic index and is not punishing your body with insulin all the time.  Mass volumes of carbs for training is now no longer the norm for the most elite athletes in the world, and they are all being taught to train with low carb, then only use higher carbs for the race or event.  In my life, I find a low carb diet extremely easy to maintain after I broke a lot of the addictions and find joys here and there with the occasional cheat meal.  I tend to use carbs in moderation for high energy training or racing, such as adding a banana to a smoothie or using Gatorade Endurance for my triathlon.  Prior to a 5k, having a smoothie with some fruit 2 hours in advance gives me all the energy I need and then some, so no “carb loading” is needed for an event so short. 

 

My N=1 conclusions based on my 3 year study

  • Weight loss is a hormonally triggered event, it is not based in physics.  Physics may get the math somewhat close, but it is not the CAUSE.  It is an after observation.  As Taubes would say, Bill Gates is not rich based on a money imbalance issue where he took in more money than he spent.   Events happened to create the wealth, and the accounting is just means of observing the money imbalance.
  • If you solve the hunger problem, you can solve being overweight.  Different foods are digested differently by the body, creating different hormonal outcomes which affect insulin, glucagon, lipase, ghrelin, and more.
  • Fat loss is the key, not weight loss.  You want to find means of preserving lean body mass (or even adding) while finding means of burning fats and adding water.
  • I can lose weight in a variety of ways, and have.  For me, using anything other than a low carb diet required me to measure food and calories to limit portion control and “calorie count”.   Low carb allowed me to listen to my body and not count calories for over a year and still lose 45 pounds.  Low carb also was key in keeping insulin low and this positively affected my ability to curb my appetite.
  • 40/30/30 is a great intro tool for anyone wanting to lose weight, but everyone’s macros are different, their energy needs are different, and their expenditures are different based on their unique body compositions.  40/30/30 was great for my initial weight loss, but I hit a plateau for 3+ months despite driving down calories and exercising more.  I had taken my carbs inadvertently back up to 45-50%.  Because I felt something was definitely off with this, I investigated other ways of eating for MY body type.
  • 85% of all of my fat loss has been attributed to my attention to detail with my diet.
  • 10% of my fat loss has been from exercise.  Moderate weight training along with zone 1/2 exercising like walking, hiking, slow jogging, slow biking, slow swimming is the preferred exercise to burn fats.  Ironically, when I dialed up my exercise to extreme levels, the calorie math never supported the level of expenditure out I was doing – and also I’d experience plateaus.  I’d only break these plateaus when I dialed back the levels of exercise and not create such a significant calorie deficit.
  • 5% of my fat loss has been through research, meal prep, and supplementation.  Understanding what I’m putting into my body holistically has significantly helped with my body composition and performance while also helping me understand hunger pangs.
  • Calories are a general guide.  You have “under caloric needs”, “meets caloric needs”, and “over caloric needs”.  I would highly recommend you find “meets caloric needs” – for you – nutritionally and use the exercises I listed above to create the deficit.  I strongly feel so many people fail because they “diet” and then land in “under caloric needs” which leads to significant hunger, fatigue, and injury.  I feel that the type of foods you eat really then affect how many of those calories your body consumes.  I strongly believe that calories from foods higher on the glycemic index tend to be absorbed more than the foods lower on the glycemic index.  For example, 100 calories in watermelon may be a 100% hit, where 100 calories from steak may hit you at 60%.  Maybe this is the thermal effects of food digestion, but I have found that 2000 calories of watermelon (or cola) does not equal 2000 calories of a salad and chicken when it comes to the scale.  These calories are units of heat, when burned.  It does NOT mean your body is efficiently burning/storing all of them.  I believe this is the fundamental misunderstanding with the “calories in/out people”.  Just because you took in 2000 calories, it doesn’t tell you how hungry you are, nor does it tell you how many calories may not be absorbed and expended in some form of waste products.
  • Food quality is a big deal.  For me, my life changed a lot when I dialed back carbs from 60-70% to 40%, then 15 months later to 10%.  There is no such thing as an essential carb, yet we tend to feed ourselves 70% of our diet with this, then wonder why we get sick.
  • You will feel better almost immediately by removing a lot of the processed foods, vegetable oils, and other inflammatory foods from your current means of eating.  If you try for 80-90% of your meals to be “whole foods”, you will start the internal healing processes.  The rare cupcake will not hurt you.  The problem is eating that stuff every day is what is leading most Americans to a premature death.
  • Running and biking long distances do not lose weight on fat people.  Or, if they do, these effects are very limited.  For me, it had an effect of perhaps suspending weight loss.  If you are heavy, you are significantly stressing your body with this, causing all kinds of inflammation and cortisone to flow through you.  This may have an effect of the body thinking it’s in danger and preparing for the next long run by holding on to fat.  Our bodies were designed to do long periods of running and short bursts of sprinting.  Yet everyone wants to run in zone 3 and wonder why they have problems losing weight.  Until I am down to 165-170, I shall dial back on my long distance running/biking and emphasize weight training, walking, and hiking.
  • Carbs can be consumed by a trained athlete, in moderation, at certain times, and utilizing low or moderate GI foods.  I have been able to have 100-125g of carbs in a day and stay in ketosis, mostly.  For example, on a Saturday where I may have biked 43 miles and had 125g of carbs, my body was able to burn a lot of that and store some in my muscle glycogen and I’d be in ketosis a few hours later.
  • Goals change over the course of weight loss.  You might first just want to “lose weight”, but as time goes on, your goals may change.  Do not fight this.  Adapt.  My goals are high levels of fitness, being trim, having flexibility, and longevity.  You may want to be a 350 pound muscle bound goon.  Maybe you are a female and want to be a 130 pound fitness model on instagram.  These goals require different nutrition approaches, different types of activity, and much different levels of training.  Not all “weight loss” is created equal.  For the goon diet, it looks like it’s a lot of protein and carbs with hours in the gym every day lifting heavy weights and some walking for cardio.  For the instagram fitness model, I’d recommend a 40/30/30 and lots of HIIT and weight training with little LISS.
  • Keto is a weight loss tool.  I will most likely go into the 50g or carbs or less model for Thanksgiving through February every year with a cheat day or two around Christmas.  This should lean me out a little prior to starting my race season training sometime in February/March.  The rest of my time will be a low carb approach with using carbs here and there with training.  I will have a cheat meal occasionally, maybe once or twice a month.
  • I use OMAD and IF for longevity.  From what I have learned about insulin resistance, it’s sort of like an alcohol tolerance.  Everyone on the planet knows if you drink a few beers, you can get a buzz or drunk.  But do that repeatedly, for weeks or months, and it might take you 6-10 beers before you really start to feel that buzz.  It’s the same with insulin.  If you are eating 6 small meals a day consisting of mostly carbs, you are pounding your body all day long with insulin.  Eventually, your body gets desensitized to all of this insulin, and you need more and more to shuttle the nutrients to the cells and clear the glucose.  This then creates “insulin resistance” which is….type 2 diabetes, or perhaps “pre-diabetes”.  This is the precursor, essentially, for all western modern diseases that are not seen in populations where no carbs are consumed.  Using a form of IF and OMAD I use to moderate my body’s usage of insulin.
  • OMAD and IF can fight cancers.  Many cancers use glucose to grow.  Take a look at Dom D’Agostino’s research with brain cancer.  All major religions have fasting protocols.  The 2016 nobel prize for medicine went for autophagy, which is where, in the absence of food, your body will recycle old cells, malformed cells, dead cells, and even cancer cells.  It takes useful parts and recycles, but the rest of the cell is then thrown into the wood chipper and out comes amino acids which is protein.  So if you fast for a period of time, you trigger autophagy.  Fasting means you have depleted your glycogen stores and your body is in ketosis.  Those who are non-keto, it takes about 72 hours of fasting to get to this point.  Those in keto, about 12-16 hours.  Those who are low carb/keto can reap the benefits of autophagy by eating one meal a day (OMAD), taking a day and fast here or there (I usually fast 3 out of 4 Fridays a month), or doing a longer fast of 72 hours or more (I do a 3 day fast once every 3-4 months).
  • When doing weight training, I was able to lose about a pound and a half to two pounds a week while eating 2200-2600 calories.  When doing long distance running, my loss could be .5-1 pound per week, and often this could be lean body mass loss. When doing major efforts in distance, the weight would not move.  It appears to me that the body is stressed in such a way that it wants to hold on to fat stores and will burn protein and muscle to save the energy stores.  The calorie math most definitely doesn’t hold up here, as I’ve done efforts of running 5-7 miles routinely along with biking 30-45 miles routinely.  My calorie expenditures on these days didn’t go more than 2500, yet my weight would not really move.  This is not a math error on my end.  It is my body using hormones to regulate weight and burning different substrates that I’d like.  “You have 200 pounds?  You want to run 5 miles?  Maybe we don’t need all of this muscle mass – but we do need this massive battery on the waist because I think you will try to run 5 more miles tomorrow”.   It is clear to me that as much as I love long distance sports, I must significantly dial them back until I lose fat and get to a weight that is more reflective of distance sports.
  • Nick Bare just ran a triathlon in Florida.  He was eating in the upwards of 6,000 calories per day.  He went from a JACKED 220 down to a JACKED 191.  He lost a TON of muscle.  But he had fat stores to draw from and ate 6,000 calories daily.   This just cemented my understanding of how endurance sports tell your body to use muscle.
  • Just because you CAN run 7 miles, or bike 45 miles, doesn’t mean it’s a GOOD IDEA.  I have found that, for me, it was mentally satisfying to do these distances, but they significantly stressed my body to do them at my weight.  This last time I ran 6.25 miles a few weeks ago, I felt drained for almost a week.

 

From here, I’m able to adjust my goals in the short and long term….

  1. Take 3 months of structured running/biking off.  Do lots of walking, hiking, and the occasional slow jog for maybe 2 or 3 miles.  I had been running in upwards of 15 miles per week, which is not a ton for my killer runner friends out there, but when you are 200+ pounds, there’s a ton of stress on your body which will force you to burn muscle.   During these 3 months, do mostly keto and stay with very low intensity activities, along with strength training.
  2. Try and take off 6-8 pounds per month like I did when not running for those 3 months.  I anticipate I will be 194-195 at my November 16th weigh in.  This has a potential to take me to 170-178 by March.
  3. In March, start some endurance training again, but keep strength training.  Do not go for crazy volume.  Work down another few pounds until at 167-170.  This is where I switch from keto back to low carb and introduce some carbs for training again.
  4. Once at goal weight, train for my sprint triathlons.  Do this for 2 full seasons (season 2 and 3), with an Olympic at the end of my third season.  This is low carb and 9-10 month training seasons with the occasional re-feed of carbs.
  5. Season 3 do Olympic triathlons.  By then, I should be a solid 165-170 and have built up the engine over several seasons.  The distances I can do TODAY, but I’d like to be able to do these distances at a solid race pace and be competitive, not just finish.
  6. Season 4, do Olympic triathlons with end of season doing a half ironman.  I enjoy the longer distances and zone 2 activities. that a half offers  The longer races are zone 2/low zone 3 and they are about energy conservation and volume training.