Monthly Archives: May 2012

What I’ve Learned About Diet and Fat Loss

After I read 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss early last year, I tried a whole bunch of things: deadlifting, ASR Speed, and…his fat loss diet slightly modified.
4 Hour Body’s diet was actually quite involved. But I didn’t do it all. I only did 2 things: I took the supplements and I removed all sugars and white carbohydrates from my diet.
When I started, it was about a month from the LA Marathon 2011. Normally I drop weight pretty significantly about 1-1.5 months before a big race. After a long period of training, and the build up of distance towards the end as I peak, my body sheds weight like crazy. I usually get down to about 147 lbs. right before a marathon or Ironman. After the race, I gain it back within 2 weeks and I’m back to about 150 lbs.
I discovered something significant with this diet. I dropped weight to the marathon, but then I kept dropping weight through the race and plateaued underneath my typical race day weight!
Since then, I have not trained for Ironman; nor have I kept up significant endurance training either. BUT my weight has still stayed down around 142-146 lbs WITHOUT any kind of long distance training.
What have I learned from this? Something pretty significant.
When I eliminated all sugars and white carbs, I removed all things like soft drinks, candy, ice cream, pies, white rice, bread, pasta – everything processed like potato chips and cookies. I only ate things that were natural and I had to cook in order to eat, or I ate it raw.
I learned that the body can lose the ability to burn fat simply because of the presence of more easily accessible sources of energy. Remember that sugars are most easily metabolized into energy; next comes complex carbohydrates, and then last are fats. If my blood stream were constantly filled with sugars and carbs, then why would my body ever want to burn fat? IT DOESN’T HAVE TO. So it stores fat and it just sits there. However, if I eliminate the sugars and carbs, my body has no choice but to relearn how to metabolize fat more effectively. Thus my weight and my body fat percentage has come down to an all time low.
Think about what is typically filled with sugars and carbs: stuff that is made by big companies with huge marketing machines. Big factories who take stuff and load it up with stuff that only tastes good. You love eating it. In fact, you may be mildly or wildly addicted to it to the point where you can’t even let go of it.
But filing your body with all these easily burn-able energy sources just means that we store fat more and more and then we become overweight and then obese.
A while ago, I had thought that it was all about calories in versus calories out. So yes that is true to a degree. I took my calories out level to the level of Ironman training in order to drop my weight significantly. But now I know that is not accurate – it isn’t quite necessary to burn calories at the level of what you take in, or the other way which is to limit calories in. These can work but can also be very difficult to sustain.
It is much simpler in concept to remove sugars and white carbs, thus depriving your blood stream of all this easily burn-able energy source and thus force your body to find its energy source elsewhere, or relearn how to metabolize fat more effectively.
This is also much harder in practice.
I’ve found that most people just don’t have willpower to enact such a change. They’ve been duped by the marketing machines since childhood and that eating this crap is so natural that they can’t stop.
I read recently that 75% of the US population is now considered obese. This is insane. All I can say is, stop being duped by the marketing machines of big food companies. Build your willpower and eat better by eliminating the crap they are selling you – you’ll be thinner and healthier as a result.

Energy Systems

I first learned about the different energy systems in the book 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. He had inserted an ultrarunning/marathon program by a Crossfit practictioner named Brian MacKenzie (see Super Running: Is Crossfit Endurance The New Way To Train? who had crafted his training program based on training the 3 energy systems present in everybody. Crossfit founder Greg Glassman wrote about it in one of his Crossfit Journals entitled Metabolic Conditioning.
Then in the course of roaming around the net, I found reference to it in a presentation by Joel Jamieson, a MMA fighter trainer based in Washington State. Check it out in his post Truth About Energy Systems FREE Video. He also discusses it in his interesting book Ultimate MMA Conditioning Guide to fitness for MMA, Jiu Jitsu and Combat Sports by Joel Jamieson.
Is it Alactic or Phosphagen, or Lactic or Glycolytic, or Oxidative or Aerobic, I’m not sure which terms are the right ones. But it’s interesting to see people developing athletes with all 3 energy systems in mind and how they interrelate.
The one thing to note is in Joel’s presentation, which was about how the aerobic system kicks in to supply energy pretty quickly, within 15 to 30 seconds. He found that without bringing back roadwork and other similar types of training to develop the aerobic system, his fighters were running out of steam in their fights. When he brought that training back, his fighters did much better and were able to maintain higher intensities for a longer period of time.
There is a lot of controversy about high intensity intervals and whether or not they can develop your aerobic endurance for a given length of time without actually having to put in that much time. Crossfit’s position is that you don’t need to train for that long; you can get there with their training methods by taking their classes. Joel tried it and it didn’t work; his fighters needed more classic aerobic work.
Still Joel’s book and Crossfit principles are very interesting in developing more overall body strength and designing the training to reflect stimulus of each energy system. In looking back through my training, I can see where I’ve either left out stimulus of 1-2 energy systems, or I haven’t trained them properly, meaning I did train them and then the energy system atrophied by the time race day came because I moved on towards aerobic system development.
There is much to learn here and when I get the chance I will apply them in my own training.

Barefoot Running: The Beginning

OK so I’m a believer and now I’m going to give it a try. For the last 4 weeks, I started barefoot running, or more accurately running in Vibram FiveFingers. My favorite is the Sprint but it doesn’t look like they make those any more since they are not on the Vibram site – they may have been replaced by the Seeya.
The Sprints are great because they are easy to get my feet into and have the strap across the instep to give a little assurance that they do not fly off when I run. Otherwise, I would have bought the Classics. Well, we’ll see when I have to buy new ones…
So I chose to start out REAL slow. I went out running 10 minutes only, with 30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking. I did this only twice a week. It was definitely enough to start – I was already having minor adaptation issues.
My sports medicine guy and I have been talking about the potential adaptation issues that may come up when starting barefoot running. Of course I began to exhibit some of those issues.
The arch of my foot began to be sore intermittently. My flexor hallucis longus (click on the little 15) was very tight on and off, starting from my foot arch, running around my ankle, and up the back of my lower leg up and into the calf.
My sports medicine guy and I talked about springs. Recent research is starting to show that we store a lot of energy in our muscles and utilize it to help us move when we release that energy. When we run barefoot, we want to run on the balls of our feet. This makes our arch structures work harder, harder than they are used to because we’ve been walking in shoes for decades. Plus, we’ve probably been heel striking so much and our nervous systems for walking have totally wasted away. So I’ve been waking the nervous system up in my feet and legs, to get them slowly to adjust to running barefoot. But during that adaptation process, it can mean tight and sore muscles. And if I ran too much too soon, then it could mean all sorts of problems that could take weeks or months to recover from.
I read The Barefoot Running Book First Edition: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running by Jason Robillard which had some great advice on how to start out. But I chose to start out even slower than that. But also, they advised staying as relaxed as possible.
After 4 weeks I’ve managed to get to 15 minutes of running, with 1 minute of running and then 30 seconds of walking. When I ran, I focused on relaxing to the max. I ran with my feet just gliding over the road, with each step I made sure I placed my feet gently down to the ground to minimize contact forces as much as possible. I made sure my legs were moving exactly the way I wanted them to.
Every week I see my sports medicine guy who works my muscles with ART and Graston technique. He gets my tight muscles to release and make sure they are loose and functional again. My enemy is the buildup of this tightness with no release, which will surely cause problems later. When I cannot see him, I hit my muscles with rollers and my own Graston-like tools.
After only 4 weeks, I feel that I am just gliding fast across the road. No more stomping, or relying on the cushion of my running shoes to compensate for muscles which refuse to absorb shock any more. In fact, I feel that my stride has improved a lot when I do not run in shoes, meaning the path that my legs move through when I run.
I will report back after a few more weeks of this. I hope to be running upwards of 1 to 1.5 hours by the end of the year, and also hitting the track for sprinting as well.