At the start of April I realised it had been a long time since I had weighed myself. It’s not something I do regularly but I thought I would jump on “just to see”. I have always seen myself as being about 170lbs and would say that generally speaking I have had a fairly consistent weight and body shape for quite a few years. I have never found old clothes and thought “I would never get into that now” or when I go clothes shopping I don’t seem to be buying different sizes to what I was 10 years ago. So when I jumped on the scale and it put me at 179lbs I was fairly surprised. Not shocked as 9lbs is not a “problem” at all but none the less I was surprised. I’m guessing that I have probably just put some weight very gradually over a long period and in places that I didn’t really notice.
I decided that I wanted to do something about it. I’m taking part in a few mountain bike events this year and want to give myself a good run at them. Added to that, people pay big money to save 5lbs on the weight of a mountain bike so to take 10lbs off me for little more than a bit of discipline seemed to me to be a no brainer.
I pleased to say that over the period of about 35 days I lost 10.6lbs. My weigh-ins went like this:
April 8th – 179lbs
April 15th – 175.2lbs
April 22nd – 173lbs
April 30th – 171lbs
May 7th – 169.8lbs
May 13th – 168.4lbs
How did I get there?
My weight target was to get to 170lbs. I wasn’t in a huge rush to do this and thought that losing 1lb a week was a realistic and very manageable goal. This is roughly eating 500calories a day less than my TDEE. In order to do this I was going to have to calorie count and keep a food diary. There are a lot of online tools, free or otherwise, that will help you do this and I happened to use My Fitness Pal. There may well be better diaries or more modern sites (the app is great but the site is lacking features to be honest) out there but for me it was about getting going on doing it, not spending weeks reviewing the best tool to use.
So after inputting my height and weight etc. it calculated my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) to be 2200 calories. TDEE is the number of calories I would burn everyday if I just went to work and didn’t do any exercise. So eating this amount would mean I would maintain my current weight. To reach my goal of losing 1lb a week it was calculated that I would need to eat 1700 calories a day. This seemed like a reasonable amount that would be fairly easy to stick to as long as I kept to a healthy diet. Plenty of vegetables, whole grains and no cake. 🙂
One problem I did foresee was that as someone who does a pretty high amount of exercise I would certainly be in danger of under eating. This made it very important for me to track how many calories I was burning whilst biking so that I could eat back all those calories to still end up with a net intake of 1700. For example if I eat 1700 (my target) but then burnt 1000 mountain biking then that would only leave me 700 net which is a long way from a healthy amount. If I eat 2700 though I would still have a net of 1700 which was my daily goal. I tracked my calories burnt using a heart rate monitor and my Garmin Edge 800.
The Learning Curve
You will notice that over the first 2 weeks I had the largest loss which was actually much greater my goal. I believe the reason for this was my 2 big days of mountain biking each week. 5 days a week I ride my bike to work and burn 400-500 calories in doing so. Adding 500 back into your day’s food is pretty easy. A mid morning and afternoon snack will do this easily, as would even just a small bag of cashew nuts. However on a Wednesday evening I will do a decent ride mountain biking and burn in the region of an extra 1000-2000 calories. Trying to eat that back during the one day I found pretty tough and it wasn’t until the day afterwards that I realised just how much this had effected me. 2 Thursdays in a row I felt awful, very tired and light headed. Not quite full “bonking” symptoms with seeing spots etc. but not that far off. Considering I have done mid week rides for years and never experienced this, it lead me to believe that previously, I must have (over the week) been eating a sufficient surplus that these rides were catered for. My big ride on a Saturday (often in the 3000-4000 cal range) would not be so difficult to catch up on as I would normally get a massive pizza take away (best post ride food ever at a whooping 1200-1600 cals) and Sunday is my rest day and normally being at home it would be far easier to get as much extra as I needed. Also Sunday being “Sunday Roast” day means I was always going to be over 1700 for that day. If I’m being totally honest (and I really am trying to be here) I would concede that I never really did actually get enough to make up the whole difference but I would get enough that I wouldn’t be feeling any ill effects.
When I have mentioned to people about losing some weight there general response has been “from where?!?”. Before I embarked on this I hadn’t really thought about where I would be losing body fat from. When I look at myself in the mirror I would have said that the only place I can really see where I was carrying anything extra was round my middle. I have certainly lost some round my gut; I have had to make new holes in my belts and my abs are starting to be visible. However I have really noticed it in the places you don’t really notice that you have put it on. My arms and legs now have so much more muscle definition I was actually shocked. I can really see the different heads of my quads now and the separate parts to the muscles around my fore arms, biceps and triceps. My shoulders and chest look more muscular even though I clearly haven’t put any muscle on. I have cheek bones again and my naturally chiseled granite jaw (hahah :p ) is now on show.
On a completely different tact. I’m not 100% sure if calorie counting like this is for everyone. There is 2 reasons for this.
1. Firstly its quite a pain in the arse. I now either scan the bar code of everything I eat with the iPhone app or weigh everything before I eat it. This means weighing every ingredient you cook and if you are making a sauce from scratch then working out the calorific content can be tricky. It takes a decent amount of discipline to continually do this every day with every meal and snack you have. Luckily for me I’m the type of anal obsessive that kind of gets off on it. 🙂
2. Secondly I can appreciate that the fact I do so much exercise that it may make it easier for me to stick to a net calorie target. I think this needs some explanation.
Lets take 2 normal work days for me, 1 where I ride to work and one where I don’t. On the day I don’t ride to work I can only eat 1700 cals, where on the day where I do ride to work I burn about 400 cals more and so get to eat 2100 cals. Now the important thing here is that the days I do ride I don’t really feel any more hungry, but as I’m “allowed” to eat more, the food I have makes me feel more satisfied, therefore making it easier to keep to that amount.
For someone who does no or very little measurable exercise I can see it being much harder to be satisfied by their intake.
I made it to my target quite quickly and ahead of schedule so where do I go now? Well my long term goals are to improve my power to weight ratios for mountain biking. The lighter I get the less there is for me to pedal around but there again the stronger I get the faster I can pedal that weight around. Clearly as you get stronger you also get heavier as you put on muscle mass. Equally the reverse is true. It’s very difficult to loose just body fat when loosing weight with a calorie deficit. You will always loose some muscle with it so working out the balance between the two is always going to be the goal…. and the hard bit.
I’m now going back to my TDEE calories. I aim to spend a couple of weeks (or longer if required) fine tuning what that figure is whilst doing more strength training and monitoring how things go. I really need to monitor via body fat percentage and other body composition measurements now though rather than weight as if everything goes to plan pure weight will be pretty much meaningless. I would hope to maintain a very similar level of body fat percentage whilst very slowly increasing muscle measurements and power. Depending on the results in the next month or so I may then try to increase my calorie intake by something like 10% and see what happens.
I don’t know for how long I will keep up this level of anal obsessiveness, but in the short term it has been an interesting experience for me to learn a bit more about my body. The whole process has got me looking at nutrition as well and this has played a big part in improving the condition of my IBS.