Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fueling By The Numbers

This is day 47 of eating according to caloric necessity. I must say, I've marvelled at the changes in my body composition from the simple mathematics involved in eating only as much as necessary to reach a fitness goal. As I mentioned in my other post about the calorie counting, I arrived at the conclusion to start doing this because there was really no other alternative that I could see to get the results I wanted. My food choices were already almost totally organic. I'd adopted and adapted a vegetarian paleo diet with a Warrior diet schedule. I was sleeping more, and more consistently. And my training was good, my intensity varied. I did P90X for Pete's sake! But still my weight wasn't dropping below 156 pounds. And this was about 14 pounds heavier than my prior racing weight.

The idea formed slowly. It came almost as a whisper.

"What if you are eating too much food?"

There was only one way to find out. That was to do the math and look at the numbers. Then I could compare the numbers with what I was actually eating by keeping a food diary. Needless to say the numbers were depressing. But the information was valuable because it was the truth. I think as human beings and as athletes we all can have an enormous potential for self deceit. It isn't something to be ashamed of, but we need to be aware of it and face the consequences squarely if we are to grow both as human beings and as athletes. To me that is what the journey of triathlon is really all about. It is about coming to understand who we truly are in both success and failure.

So what did I find out about myself? I found that I was eating on average around 3500 to 4000 calories per day. This was way too much. For simple weight maintenance on with my normal workout volume 2500 should have been adequate. 3000 if my training became really intense. But not only did I need to reduce my caloric intake, I would also need to lose weight to get back to my ideal size to race well. The math basically says 3500 calories equals 1 pound. So in order to lose a pound a week, I could either work out more to burn an additional 3500 calories. This equates roughly into about an extra 7 hours of workout time per week. Or I could subtract 500 calories per day from my diet, also totalling 3500 calories. Naturally, I took the latter approach.

After 47 days, my results so far speak for themselves. I currently weigh 146.5 pounds. But what I was unprepared for was the incredible increase I've had in both stamina and energy. I'm actually sleeping about an hour less per day. I've also noticed increased flexibility without additional time spent practicing yoga. I noticed a similar increase in flexibility when I changed to a totally organic diet. I don't really have a scientific reason for this but I think our bodies are more flexible and energetic when they aren't burdened with the chore of having to digest the excess food we sometimes tend to consume. I'd also like to point out you don't even really need to drop the additional 500 calories per day if you felt you wanted to lose a pound or two. All that might be necessary would be to find out what the difference is between your current/normal food intake and the suggested caloric intake for your body type, weight and activity level. Just eating the proper amount of calories if you find you are eating to much will have the effect of normalizing your weight. But I will also say, don't do any of this without first consulting a dietitian or your health care provider.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Fred! And we all thought calorie-counting was old-fashioned. But it makes logical sense, the way you tell it.

And the higher energy level is really great - "less is more" in this case. Thanks for sharing.

Marty Calliham

Jason said...

Sounds like it's all working.

I'm curious to know what you used to come up with 2500-3000 calories as your optimal intake.

Jason said...

Thanks for the feedback. Seems to match most formulae that work on out the same type of thing.