Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Diet and Workouts

March 9, 2010

Working out is getting to be a habit for me. I don’t really know when it happened, but I do not miss them unless my body tells me I need a break. No I don’t ask it within the last 10 minutes before I leave! It must tell me the day before for a morning workout or the morning of for a night time workout. It can always walk instead of run if it really has a problem but tells me too late, but the block of time is already spoken for.

I think the best thing I have done is to use all that I have learned about sports periodization and applied it for use. It helps with the mental aspect of working out. Periodization is the idea that you need to give the body a stress to improve it and the stress needs to increase for your body to keep adapting to it. If you keep giving it the same stress it will improve less and less. But, it also needs a break. You can’t just increase it forever. So if you graphed it’s like a sine wave (wavy line) plus a sloped line to tilt it upward. (Yeah I know, us engineers and our demented ways of thinking.)

So there are micro cycles which are more like a weekly plan. It doesn’t have to be a week, but let’s face it is there anyone that doesn’t use the week to organize their time? The macro cycle which is usually 3 or 4 weeks, then there is the year plan and the life plan, all these cycles come together to look like a stock market chart. The plan is like the simple examples of how stocks move in patterns as you might find in a book, and recording what you actually do looks like the stock market.

Back to the mental aspect I wanted to explain. If I sat down after the triathlon season was over and planned my whole season for the next year and had it all on paper, it would be daunting. It would be like coming into an operation that was half done and taking it over right in the thick of things. Hello Brian, this here is the half completed pyramid, here is the quarry and the forest and the farms and the workers, enjoy finishing it. A tad bit overwhelming! But then there is the cliché to take things one step at a time and such. This is too small but to keep your mind focused on the one thing at hand, the living in the moment, the zen of it all. I like the macro-cycle. I can plan it out easily, I can commit to it without feeling like I am giving away too much, I can have an idea about what is behind the corner for the next one, but I don’t actually have to plan it until this one is over and I am in the resting phase. It is easy to plan something when you feel like you are not doing much and are proud of any progress you made. That is what I mean by mental aspect.

A review of my last 6 weeks. It was a macro cycle because I had to start out slower and wanted to hit 200 pounds before I took a break. If you look close it is actually two macro-cycles that are 3 weeks long. My darn knee of mine had me lay off a bit. I am now in a week that has not been planned except for key workouts during the week. For example, I got this bike workout on Wednesday that I am working on building my power, it is set up for the next 8 weeks, I have done 4 of 12 so far. I can easily add on or back off the week by adjusting another workout that is more flexible. Just don’t mess with the key workouts! Now have a look at my chart of the last 6 weeks.

First, I must confess this is a hard to read chart. All the units are different. I could have scaled them based on calories burned which might be more appropriate to show the equal efforts, but I didn’t. Instead I will give you samples: The peak run week 5. I burned about 2680 calories running and walking each day: 2.1, 3.8, 3.1, 1.3, 0, 5, and 2.5 miles. I basically just stick a short treadmill workout, or a long one on the end of my other workouts, I never actually went for a run on it’s own, that is how I managed to get so much. The peak bike week 5 I burned about 2410 calories riding : 17, 0, 15.5, 0, 8, 16, and 0 miles. On the chart so these don’t spike upward I divided by 5 so the total is 56.5 miles but is just about 11, according to calories burned it should be close to the run line peak but I do not want to redo the chart. The swim peak was week 5, I swam 0, 3600, 0, 4200, 0, 1850, and 0 yards for a total of 9600 yards which is about 5.5 miles and burned 2020 calories. It is interesting to note that I burn about 12 to 13 calories a minute over the week on all the sports so I could just as easily chart by time instead of calories. The 12 to 13 is the average, each entry is recorded as best as possible based on my effort and ranges from 10-15.

The last number is the calories total. This is all calories burned and saved. By saved I mean that to maintain my weight I need to eat about 2500 calories a day, so if I eat less those are added in the total. So with week 5 as an example, I burned 7300 working out 619 minutes and saved 5900 by eating 1655 calories a day average. The main point was to look over the chart as relative values and see the macro-cycle period climb up and drop off. I am proud of how well I did these six weeks.

A note about the calories burned: we are all told that 3500 calories is a pound, but then to accurately measure them, especially regarding workouts, is nearly impossible. The total calories burned and saved that I recorded is 49,300 and that divided by 3500 estimates 14.1 pounds. The weight I dropped was from 212.6 to 198.8, or 12.8 pounds. Close enough! If I really wanted to I could test which is off by doing the same workout times or by eating the same amount of food and vary the other side. But like I said it is close enough for me.

Anyone that wants to figure out these for themselves I had some posts about basal metabolic rate and METS that should get you started. Just remember it is all relative, if you are bigger it is easier to get the deficits. My wife cannot eat nearly as much as me and must then work out for more minutes to get the same numbers, just not easy to do unless you got sent off to a ranch somewhere. So don’t worry about the size of the numbers if you are attempting the same goal, it takes a bit of time to get it down. There is no way I could have done this last year, I did not have a handle on the eating part. I am only barely starting to honestly.

Another benefit of the macro-cycle it the light at the end of the tunnel. You get to have a moment like I am having now as I look over all my progress. I keep a food log to track the calories, obviously, so I can go back over it and make some nice realizations. In the thick of things last year before triathlon race season, I was more worried about all of the nutrition that goes around working out and making sure the recovery period went well. I peeked back and found a week that I had a day I ate 3100 calories and averages 2200 for the week, the week of my first 10k race. Last week, the worst day I had was 2720 calories, and I averaged 2024 for the week. For the six weeks I averaged 1957 calories a day. I am improving.

I highlight my mistakes in yellow or red depending on if it was controlled or total all out neglect for the plan. I have red and yellow every single week. How well I could do if I was actually able to control myself for weeks at a time? About the best goal I have accomplished is making the 800+ calorie meal a rarity. Last year I made it a goal to not eat out as much and if I do don’t eat more than 800 calories in the meal. I ate 1000+ calories in one meal 10 times in the last 6 weeks, 7 of which while out of town for work. The reason I have been doing so well in spite of this is to not worry about it as it happens, once it is going to happen there is only extra stress to worry. Instead I pledge to remember how full my belly is over the rest of the day and the next day if it was for dinner. I frequently have a big day now followed by a little day when this happens. Examples: 3260-1250, 2400-1390, 2720-1200. Each of these second days was easy because of the full belly from the day before coupled with reminding myself to only eat healthy filling foods so as not to get any empty calories that I had already used up from the day before.

I hope some of these comments help you in some way. I am now planning my race season and will share that next time. These races are what keeps me working out now, I do not want to show up this summer and collapse across the finish line after taking a good hour and 15 minutes longer than the winners and 30 minutes longer than the middle of the pack.


Post Exercise Recovery Drink

April 8, 2009

 A Post exercise recovery drink is something that someone who has depleted their muscle’s glycogen stores by working out for a long time drinks to recover faster. I have personally found that 90 minutes is not quite enough to “need” one but two hours is. This from a person that still has enough fat stores to help me through a 90 minute workout better than the fit athlete that has nothing to spare. I would imagine someone with a lower body fat percentage would hit this point sooner (that would be me in 90 days).

How did I figure this out you ask and where did the 90 minutes to two hours come from? I recently increased my Saturday workouts to two plus hours of pretty intense work from ones that were not more than 90. What I found is that when I get home I am tired and want to nap. OK, no real surprise there. But, we are not talking about a nap like those my dad used to take where he would turn on the golf tournament and proceed to drift in and out for then next 3 hours. I am talking about I can’t hardly keep my eye lids open I feel like I didn’t sleep last night I need to go to bed. And then find myself under a few blankets hours later feeling like I just woke up after surgery in the recovery room straining to lift my drool covered face off the pillow and focus on something in the room. Which just happens to be about 3 hours later, not really a “nap” in anyones book. I chalked the first week up to not sure what is wrong, maybe I am a little sick and just didn’t know it. But the second week sort of made me think it had to do with burning more than 1500 calories while only eating a 300 calorie breakfast and a 100-200 calorie energy bar afterwards. Also a point I must make, my typical 60-90 workouts always includes me eating a 100 calorie mini-cliff bar at a minimum. My guess is that it may have been some help but not enough and with no food I would hit the wall sooner. With this study consisting of one it is all anecdotal evidence anyway.

As I am sure you know, I am trying to lose weight by triathlon, and have now reached a point where I can work out longer and this eating like a bird does not work if long workouts are the order of the day. I can have my 300 calorie breakfast no problem, but then to work out and burn what is approching 1800 calories in 150-160 minutes of working out without more energy is a problem. I need to consider what my body needs not only after that workout but during it as well. I decided to eat a 100 calorie mini-cliff bar between the swim and bike and bike and run. I also tried a gel pack during the bike instead. I think I need to skip the bars, they have too much chance to upset my stomach, and the gel is kind of pointless cause you need to swash it all down with a ton of water anyway. Instead I am going to try a gatorade equivalent this Saturday. I will start drinking it after the swim and finish it off at the end of the bike to head out for the run, since that is the easiest time to drink. Last Saturday I made a post exercise recovery drink using the protien drink powder, some milk, and a packet of hot chocolate to boost the carbs and make the stuff tase better. I don’t think I had the ideal mix yet, but I did have 25 grams of protien and another 40 grams of carbs. This is about 260 calories and although this might be a little bit light on the calories and carbs, it sure did make all the difference in the world. I had no overwhelming tiredness, and I felt later in the day and the next morning like I hadn’t even worked out. Most all of the weeks in the past I felt a little tight Saturday evenings and the next morning I knew the day before was a big workout. I also did not have the chew-chew-train of eating urges that normally follow a big workout. I made sure I had the drink ready and downed the thing about 10 minutes after I got back from the run over a 5 minute period. So I didn’t even flirt with the time frame recommended to get something in you within 30 minutes to an hour. I also ate my lunch within 90 minutes of the workout, so I did not stop at 260 calories. I am trying to lose weight as well, so I am trying to find the balance between endurance workouts and running a daily calorie deficit.

My last thought on this is that the commercially available drinks that cost $2 a serving are a rip off. I am sure they work and do the job, don’t get me wrong. But, it’s not like they have some magical ingredients that only the right mix of rare earth compounds mixed with special a slew of special chemical reactions can conjure out the healthiness. I mean what can possibly be in these drinks anyway that makes them so expensive? There is protien. There are carbohydrates. They also name off several amino acids which are super duper mondo important, in a way to make you feel impressed with all the studies and research that went into the development of their drink. The problem is that these amino acids have another name. They are called protien. Protien just refers to the whole group, and I can’t argue against what may be the drink manufacturers point that maybe it is benficial to have slightly more of the ones specially required for the recovery process to be more abundant in the drink. In fact I will go along with that as an assumption. So what are the ones that are more important? Hint, hint, they list them for us on the label. Nice! And if I make my homemade drink to also have more of these than the standard protien then didn’t I accomplish the same thing as them?

OK, back to the list. They also have some vitamins and then some electrolytes. Well these should be easy to add in too. Even if we have to resort to special powders for some of the ingredients, as long as the powder isn’t being sold as a “recovery drink” then it is probably much cheaper anyway and I can hopefully still add it in and keep the cost under a quarter. As a quick example, the electrolytes are probably going to be had from salt and salt substitutes. Salt is so cheap you just buy it if you need it and we could care less if they doubled the price. What is it like 25 cents a pound or something?

Now before we go any further let’s consider this drink. Protien drink with lots of carbs, a few vitamins and electrolytes. Call me crazy but this sounds like chocolate milk, or better yet fortified chocolate milk as in “more ovaltine please”. A few sprinkles of various salts and voiala we have a delicious drink. Uh, maybe, or we can call it an equivalent drink anyway. So I will probably take this direction for my first homemade drink, including a version with a shot of espresso and maybe blended with ice to make it frozen if I am at home. Although I can certainly see how a fruit juice and soy milk smoothie might also fit the bill once a dash of electrolytes are added. Nothining like going all natural, I think the key there would be to keep the fiber out as the whole point is to absorb the thing fast and leaving in the fiber will slow things down. There might finally be a point to breaking out my guy-with-the-big-fat-gray-eyebrows-that-sold-me-the-juiceman-juicer on tv juicer from the back of my cupboard collecting dust. I always knew that thing had a purpose.

So now you have the ideas behind my research and my roadmap of the next few posts. Links follow to some of the research I am looking into.


Here is an entertaining article written by a certified marathon coach, Wendy Bumgardner, that pointed me in the right direction on a chocolate milk drink.

Here is the research, completed by Jason Karp, that Wendy mentioned in her article that completed a study comparing chocolate milk vs Endurox vs. Gatorade as a recovery drink. An excerpt of the study follows for those not inclined to read the whole thing: 

In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that, chocolate milk, with its high carbohydrate and protein content, may be considered an effective alternative to commercial FR (fluid replacement drink= Gatorade) and CR (carbo replacement drink = Endurox) for recovery from exhausting, glycogen-depleting exercise.

Here is a nice  blog entry about post exercise nutrition by Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS. So many letters… he definitely knows what he is talking about.

And an article about post exercise recovery drinks by Jessica Seaton, D.C.

Finally, one last article by Erica Lesperance, RD, LD.

100,000 calories to burn

April 3, 2009

I have not posted lately but am still going at it. I am in the mode to try and increase the amount of training and have found a few problems with my plan. Today I also hit my milestone of needing to burn/save 100,000 more calories to hit my estimate of what I need to do to burn off my excess weight. The starting number was 240,000. Iam currently hitting my low weight again, but I have been seeing other goals reached even when the pounds didn’t drop. I must have been in a lose the inches mode by switching out fat for muscle and as a few of my scarce posts indicate I was having trouble on the food side of the equation.

I am doing a triathlon every Saturday with unrealistic transition times because I go change in the locker room. So there is about 10-15 minutes between each workout.

I start out with a half iron man swim, 2100 yards. I time myself for 1650 of it which is an olympic swim, and use 250 to warm up and 200 to cool down. So in this sense its also unrealistic as far as race conditions go. My best 1650 time so far is 30:50, I am trying to get it under 30 minutes and am so close I should bust it any week now.

The bike is a spinning class with a gung ho instructor. I go about 15 miles according to the bike, but I am not sure I believe that thing. This is a hard workout that has me making a big sweaty mess on the bike and floor. I am sure the person in the yoga class that follows that gets my little area on the floor is not too happy about it. Weather has stopped me from getting out on the road, and laziness I suppose. I should be able to get a much better sense of how the spinning class intensity equates to real miles on my bike.

A few of us in the class then go for a run of 3-4 miles. I am sure that as we go further along in the year we will be increasing the distance. We seem to run at a group pace of 9:00 to 9:30 per mile depending on the group which is perfect for me at this point in time. Although I hope to drop to 8 minute miles, I still have my best 4 mile time at a 8:50 pace and don’t see any huge strides coming in that area, only measured increases over time.

Now I know it is important to get in a post exercise recovery meal. I typically have a water bottle in my locker and eat a mini cliff bar or two as I am still cooling down (100 calories per bar). This seems to work fine for my other classes like when I just swim, or just run. But for this longer workout which is about 2 hours 10 minute of workout over a 2 and a half hour period just doesn’t cut it. I get extreemly tired and wind up taking a nap in the afternoon. Now I am not one to be scared of a nap, but taking one because I feel completely wiped out after a good nights rest and a good long intense workout seems to be signalling some problem. My working hyposthesis is the post exercize recovery meal is not adequate.

I have been looking into finding a good recovery drink that doesn’t have me spending $50 for a bottle of powder or $2 per single serving packets. The stuff out there just seems so expensive. The simple fact of the matter is there just has to be easy ingredients to “build your own” recovery drink for less than a quarter per serving. The one thing I seem to have found is that part of my problem might be not getting enough calories for a good recovery. Now I do the 100 calories and then go eat a meal, but I am in weight loss mode which is at odds with optimum performace mode. I think I need to use a recovery drink that has the protien and carbs and gives me at least 300-400 calories. That seems to be the right target. I will be doing some more research on the topic and will try and figure out how to make my own drink, that is as good as the “engineered” ones from separate ingredients to cost much less. We’ll see how that goes. I hope to post my research results sometime next week.