Weight Loss Monday, Part 8, with weight GAIN!

I crossed a couple of thresholds this workout period. Since starting this experiment eight weeks ago, I’ve ridden over a thousand miles and burned over one hundred thousand calories on those rides. Which means I’m riding an average of 132 miles a week! I think that’s pretty cool, even if. . .

This past week, I rode 132.2 miles, worked out for 120 minutes, burned 15,780 calories and GAINED, yes, gained 1.8 pounds.

It is an object lesson on the importance of diet. No matter how much you exercise, you can sabotage yourself with diet.

The whole week was a bit of a mess, diet-wise. It started with brisket – which means I’ve had a lot of beef this week – and we went out for ice cream not once but TWICE. . . but that’s not it. It is rarely the stuff you do once in a while, even twice a week, but the stuff you do over and over, again.

In this case, peanuts. I ate 3 pounds of peanuts, which is about 2.5 pounds unshelled. Which is the weight gain. If I had eaten brisket, ice cream, and everything else, and just not eaten the peanuts, I would have probably lost 0.7 pounds or so.

Of course, there are likely other factors. Like, did you know that a human bowel can hold up to twenty-five pounds of crap? True story. And peanuts kinna cause constipation. It’s possible that – now that I’ve thrown the remainder out because the food you don’t need to eat is already waste – I’ll purge my bowels in the coming week and come in next week with fantastic numbers. But maybe not. Maybe I just gained 1.8 pound because I ate a lot of peanuts while not watching my diet in other ways.

So, and insane as it sounds, a person can work out twelve hours a week and GAIN weight unintentionally. It is easy to lose control of your diet!

(To the extent that there’s good news, there, it’s that at least some of it were muscle mass. When you work out as much as I do at the weight I’m at, if you’re not losing weight, you’re probably gaining muscle. But make no mistake, the bulk of it is fat with SOME muscle.)

On the other hand, I figured out the reason why MapMyRide logs so many calories, but I lose so little weight (relatively speaking). Primarily, fat is the last thing your body uses for fuel. Even during regular, intense exercise, only about thirty percent of the energy your body uses comes from fat. The rest comes from its normal stores and, well, breaking down protein. Factoring in that reasoning, MapMyRide’s numbers rectify pretty well.

What does not factor in is the reluctance of the medical community to stress the task at hand. Dieting alone, in particular, loses very few fat-based calories. Human bodies will lose muscle mass in preference to fat absent exercise. Which makes a bad situation worse – as your fat levels will increase, and when you go off the diet, you’ll gain back even more fat. In other words, HOLY SHIT. That’s horrible!

The smart plan of action, then, is to diet and exercise. Which is much harder than doing either! You’re going in a calorie deficit by dieting and to top it off you should go to the gym, too? For the very obese, this is a recipe for failure, which is probably why less than 5% of very obese people ever lose a substantial portion of their weight without surgical intervention. Basically, for people who are both very much out of shape and very overweight – as I was – there are no good options except surgery.

After careful consideration, I think that bicycling, swimming, and resistance training (y’know, weights and their kin) are the best choices for exercise. Resistance training is best for muscle strength, while biking and swimming are cardio, and all three of them are “infinitely variable.” By which I mean, all three can be adapted to anyone of any fitness level. There is no bottom, nor top, for the exercises. Whereas for something like, say, running, there are certain preconditions of fitness required before you can do it at all. If you’re fat and out of shape, running will, at best, just ruin your knees. But bicycling, swimming, and resistance training avoid those fitness preconditions. The plan, then, should be to use weights, bikes, and swimming in a progressive manner – y’know, more intensity, longer duration, etc.

And if you’re going to ride, for goodness sake, either do a stationary recumbent bicycle or get an outdoor recumbent. Trust me, if you’re overweight, upright bikes are just murder on your hands, back, and butt. Indeed, if you can afford it, everyone should just go out and buy a recumbent!

And I think it is THOSE THREE exercises where the average person will get the most return. Each one allows a person to start as slow as they need, but there is no upper limit.

(There is a fourth option: walking. But only if you look to turn it into hiking. It is my experience that doctors will tell the morbidly obese to do some walking, but that doesn’t even begin to burn enough calories to be medically useful unless the goal is hiking. But more than any other exercise, it is also the longest in duration. Hikes take a lot of time, ranging from hours to days. . . or even longer. However, it is probably the cheapest option, requiring nothing more than some sturdy boots and outdoor clothes.)

Otherwise, I got my heart rate monitor, a Polar H7. Starting from Monday evening, I’m going to try to use it for all my exercises. After a gym membership or workout gear (y’know, a bike, weight set, whatever you need to do your work), I think a heart rate monitor is the next most important “thing,” because it allows you to get real data about the intensity of your workouts. Instead of just “guestimating” if you’re working out “hard enough,” you can KNOW, as well as get more accurate calorie use data.

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