Weight Loss 2008
It’s the New Year, I’ve been pigging out on cookies and Coca Cola for a week, and now it’s time to clean up. Contrary to what readers of this blog might think, I actually eat a fairly regimented diet coupled with a pretty good exercise plan. At six foot, I ballooned to 200lbs during the infamous 47 Michelin stars in 24 days trip. Over the last year, I’ve fought down to 180lbs (just about right) and now sit around 190lbs. I’ve managed to add a fair amount of lean muscle (thus the weight gain) and my goal is to strive for 185lbs or so this year (with more lean muscle mass.)
I’ve followed the general rules outlined below with regard to diet and exercise. They say there are no “easy answers” but I disagree – it’s not *that* hard to eat a fairly healthy diet and get the exercise you need. In fact, the most effective exercise only requires 25-30 minutes per day if you make it intense. Yes, you’ll have to give up some good stuff (alcohol, bread, and butter) but you can still enjoy everything in moderation. And you can still pig out once a week without much detriment to your goals.
And don’t worry – the ideas below have not interfered with my eating out schedule. Yes, I could probably lose more weight by cutting back on the fancy meals but then life would become dull and pointless. There will be plenty of restaurant reviews in 2008.
And here they are:
Eat Healthy – everyone has a list of “superfoods” but the lists generally turn out to be common sense. Go to your local farmer’s market and buy the fruits and vegetables in season. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I am the typical American who grew up on microwave and frozen vegetables. As a result, I hated most veggies – broccoli, beets, etc. If you can pick it or shoot it, it’s probably good for you.
40/30/30 rule – you have to eat a balanced diet. You can’t forgo fat or carbohydrates – you need both. The golden rule seems to be 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein for each meal. Using a tool like FitDay, it’s very easy to track your diet and activity day by day.
Eat Often – if you starve yourself, your metabolism goes into starvation mode and it will burn muscle before fat. If you eat 5-6 meals per day, your metabolism will burn faster.
Calories – if you eat less, you’ll lose weight to a point. However, you should stay somewhere in the 1500-1800 range if your goal is intense weight loss. If you want to add muscle, shoot for 2200-2400 on the days you work out. If you want to be a body builder, it seems that 3000+ calories per day is not unusual. Just remember to spread the calories over 5-6 meals, use the 40/30/30 rule during every meal, and eat healthy foods.
Cheat Meals – readers of this site are certainly gluttonous to a point and abiding strictly by the diet above would end in disaster. Professional body-builders allow themselves 3 cheat meals per week (out of 35-42 meals.) Obviously, that seems pretty restrictive. My goal? I get one blow-out meal (eating out complete with alcohol), one fun night out (moderate eating out with alcohol), dessert every 2-3 days, and maybe a Coke here or there (a guilty pleasure.) I obviously won’t make 6% body fat any time soon but you won’t succeed with your weight loss goals if you punish yourself.
Lifestyle – everyone always says it, and it sounds like a cliche at this point, but you’ve got to incorporate your weight loss goals into your lifestyle. It takes some planning and work to eat 6 meals every day. It takes some planning to exercise periodically. It won’t come easy at first but eventually you start craving it.
Exercising – finally, you should exercise. This is not as bad as it sounds. You do not need to devote 60-75 minutes/day to exercising; in fact, short high intensity workouts burn fat faster than long low intensity workouts. Aerobic exercising is more efficient at burning fat, but anaerobic exercise burns more fat overall. If you can work out 20-30 minutes/day, and keep up the intensity, you will see dramatic results. What have I done?
1. The Body by Fish Workout – emphasizes full-body movements that will both build lean muscle and provide an excellent cardio workout. When starting the workout, do as many reps as you can. For example, I could only do a pyramid of 7 push-ups when I started but I worked my way to a pyramid of 12 within a few weeks. When you master this workout, there are plenty more that are much harder available on the web site. The other great thing is you can do this workout in your living room (or hotel room) – no special equipment is needed. Even when traveling, there’s no excuse not to exercise.
2. Circuit Intervals – similar to the Fish Workout above. Pick 6 exercises, based on what you want to work out and/or exercises you find stimulating, and do 10-20 reps of each exercise, back to back, with as little rest (preferably none) between each exercise. When you are done with the circuit, rest for one minute. Repeat the circuit. Do this for 20-25 minutes and you should be breathless and sweaty.
3. Interval Running – do this on a machine or find a nice path with hills. On the machine, run full-steam one minute, relax one minute, and repeat for 20-30 minutes. You should be drenched at the end. On the path, run up the hills and walk down. If the path has extended flats, run full speed, slow down, and keep repeating.
Exercise Schedule – depending on your availability and goals, you can exercise every day or every other day. If you can allocate 30 minutes/day; I’d recommend doing the fish workout every other day with interval running on the off days. You will see surprising results in a month. If you can only exercise every other day, do the Fish workout – you will lose fat and build muscle. If you get a free day, throw in some interval running. Replace the Fish workout with the circuits after a month or two of exercising – your body will get used to what it’s doing and you’ll need to throw it for a loop.
Post-work-out Nutrition – you need to feed your muscles after working out. Within a hour after working out, make sure you get a solid meal in. Aim for around 35g of protein (which means 45g of carbs and 15g of fat.) I opt to feed myself 5 meals of these proportions on days I work out the muscles; on running days, I shoot for 3 meals of this and 2-3 meals of 14-21g of protein.
Mix It Up – your body gets accustomed to what you do. You’ve got to change exercise plans after a few weeks; otherwise, they will become less effective. This isn’t very hard since you can retain the same structures – just substitute different exercises. The same goes for your diet. You should eat a very large meal once a week to shock your metabolism.
I gained immediate muscle doing the Fish Workout the first month. I was always very skinny (but with the donut building around the middle) but I built a fair amount of lean muscle, particularly in my shoulders and back. After 2 months, many of my clothes no longer fit because my posture and mass had changed. It was quite remarkable and inspiring.
Interval running works best (for me) for losing fat. I find it very easy to get on the machine and run full speed. I’ve gotten a bit lazy towards the end of the year due to the amazing results of just doing the Fish Workout every other day; but I will being doing the interval running on the off days.
I also bought a kettlebell. Here’s an intense 25 minute interval workout that simply feels amazing by the end. This is my new favorite exercise routine.
You’ve got to want it. It’s very easy to wake up and put off exercising to the next day. It’s also very easy to give in to temptations throughout the day. You’ve got to balance what you want – weight control vs food desires. I’ve found a good balance for myself where I don’t gain weight; the goal for 2008 is to lose 10lbs or so and build a bit more muscle.
My favorite blog for weight loss is Josh Hillis’ Fat Loss And Fitness Articles. He’s a personal trainer that targets women, but his articles are applicable to anyone.