Last week was amazing in terms of my workouts. I did every one of them as planned and even exceeded mine and my coach Ben Bartlett’s expectations. That’s only part one of this post. There’s a back story.
Ben has been working with me for several months on my nutrition. When we first started tracking every calorie I ate and burnt, it was slow going, but the scale finally moved. That was the plan. Get me back to my goal weight. Then I upped my training, still watching every calorie in and out, and the scale moved — this time up. Just like when I started training for half marathons several years ago. And now I’m not just running, but doing duathlons and triathlons, so it’s the previous situation with training times three sports!
“It’s muscle” friends have been saying, “and muscle weighs more than fat” [don’t get me started about this statement]. “You don’t look like you weigh that much”when I tell them my weight. “You look great” – thank you, but that’s not the point. It’s hard to carry around this much weight, especially when there’s a layer of fat on top of the muscle. Most of all, fat isn’t healthy. And I’m talking about fat in terms of body fat percentages. You can be lightweight and still have a high percentage of fat (it’s called skinny fat).
So of course I’m frustrated, but not defeated, because this time I have a secret weapon — Ben and his knowledge of nutrition and training. Ben is relentless when it comes to find solutions for situations. He’s the one who suggested I have my resting metabolic rate (RMR) and VO2 max tested last fall; and he suggested I have it tested again. The results kind of blew me away.
Last fall my endocrinologist told me that I have a metabolic syndrome. It’s not uncommon and many people probably have it without knowing it. Before I had this information, I got a baseline for my daily expenditure of calories when we did the RMR in October. When Ben and I reviewed it, we discovered that 60.8% of my kcals were from carbs and 39.2% were from fat. My respiratory exchange ratio (RER) was 0.88. [RER is the ratio between the amount of CO2 produced and O2 consumed in one breath (determined from comparing exhaled gasses to room air). Source: google.com]. Then with the VO2 max results, we knew how many calories I burned in an hour at a particular heart rate. Excellent information to complement my weight goals and his nutritional plans for me.
When the test was run last week, we discovered that 36.9% of my kcals were from carbs and 63.1% were from fat. Huge difference. My respiratory exchange ratio (RER) was 0.81. This is more science than I understand, but the bottom line is I use fat as my primary fuel source, not carbs. In other words, I wasn’t consuming enough fat in my diet so my body was holding on to the fat it has. I’m already consuming a lot of protein in my diet, but to lose weight I have to stop eating low fat foods. I have to make a major diet overhaul as I’ve been eating low fat for a really long time. The upside is I get to eat butter!!
Butter = yummm!!!!
Then we did the VO2 max test, but this time on the treadmill instead of the bike. Ben said we would get a better read on my calorie burn running since I’m more efficient on the bike. These results were (in my mind) even stranger. Obviously I burn more calories running – we already knew that. However; it seems that I’m burning anywhere from 77% to 100% carbs when my heart rate is between 130 and 150. The results are similar to those on the bike test, however that RMR had me burning more carbs. Now I’m burning more fat. So I have to get carbs before long workouts and get a mix of carbs and protein right after workouts, but not as part of my overall food plan. So this is another twist in the nutrition strategy.
Are you confused? Maybe disinterested because it’s science mumbo-jumbo. If you’re having problems losing weight, you may be in the same boat as me. Long term, I’m not worried because I know Ben has the situation under control. He calmly answers my questions (all gazillion of them) and doesn’t get frustrated when my response to food suggestions is “‘I’m allergic”, “it’s not kosher” or “I don’t like that food”. We’ll get it worked out and will keep trying until we find the right mix. Healthy isn’t just a destination…it’s a journey!