Energy Consumers

Last week, I explored the idea that perhaps fat isn’t such a bad guy.  Not in all cases at least.  Furthermore, if bodyfat is at an unhealthy level, perhaps the way to manage it isn’t to exercise more but to eat the right amount of calories.  It’s difficult to burn off a 4,000 calorie meal, much tougher than it is not to eat a 4,000 calorie meal.

What I didn’t discuss is how we know how many calories we should eat.  Hopefully, you wondered about this and perhaps took a crack at figuring it out yourself.  Not to worry if you didn’t.  We can quickly get a rough idea of how much energy we need to consume to support ourselves.

Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR

This is the metric describing the energy demand our body has to support normal day-to-day functions.  Plenty of calculators are available on the internet (I like this one), and I get that based on my height, weight, and age I need around 1,800 calories per day or 75 calories per hour just to keep my body running.
note: these are a best estimate, not an exact number.  

Burning Cals

We saw last week that it would take me a significant amount of running to burn of my hypothetical 4,000 calorie meal.  Intuitively, this is sensible.  My body needs those calories to support my BMR.  Our bodies aren’t metabolically inefficient, meaning if I had to hunt/gather my 4,000 calorie meal (without grocery stores or restaurants) and I expended large amounts of energy doing it I’d quickly starve to death.  It’s not as easy as we think to just “work off” excess calorie consumption.

There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of body fat.  How long would it take me to “work off” an extra pound of bodyfat?  Lets keep it very simple and assume I eat exactly my BMR of 1,800 calories.  Spending 30 minutes on a rower at about a 2:00/500m pace will burn about 400 calories based on my weight.  So, it would take about 9 days for me to burn 1 pound of body fat by eating my BMR and rowing 30 minutes a day.

Burn Cals by Having Muscle

It turns out that this is even an overestimation.  Rowing (like running or stair steppers or treadmills) is what is called steady-state activity.  Steady-state activity doesn’t place high demands on our muscles, which is precisely why we can perform these activities for such extended periods of time.  These exercises engage a small portion of our weakest, slow twitch muscle fibers, and therefore force our body to adapt by causing the body to shed muscle mass.  Our body’s logic is straightforward, i.e. if we aren’t using but a small percentage of our muscle, additional muscle is perceived as un-needed.

Why’s this bad?  Well, since 1 pound of muscle costs our body about 50 to 100 calories per day to keep around it happens to be a valuable calorie burning resource.  If instead of rowing I focused on strength training and added 5 pounds of muscle, I’d burn an extra 250 to 500 calories per day.

Aging Sucks

When you were 18 could you eat anything you wanted and not notice a difference?  Many people make this comment to me.  What if at 30, we ate like we did when we were 18?  Not good right?  What happened?

Sarcopenia happened.  As part of the aging process, our muscle mass starts to wane post 25 years old.  We typically slow down in physical activity as well, which doesn’t help us keep muscle.  As we know, muscle is metabolically expensive.  We want it around because it keeps our resting metabolic rate high.

Put Weight on to Lose Some

It’s counterintuitive.  Gain weight in muscle to help lose weight in fat.  It is however very effective.

In the end, what I’m NOT saying is that rowing, running, and steady-state activity is bad.  Part of being a well rounded human is being able to handle anything life throws at you.  If you have to chase down a guy that stole your wife’s purse, or have to outrun that Larry guy nobody likes so the bear eats him and not you, running well is going to be of benefit (most non-practical examples I could think of).

The point I want to make is that the notion of working off our over-indulgence in food is a LOSING battle.  Take a crack at the problem like this instead.

1) calc out your BMR now, and when you were 18 or 20.  Compare the two.  If you’ve gained weight, your BMR will be greater, if you’re about the same it should be slightly less.
2) track calorie intake for a couple of weeks (tedious at first, but you get pretty good at eyeballing it after a while).  Easiest way to figure out calories is this: Google
3) Are you consuming more than you’re using (store bodyfat)?
4) If yes, look for ways to radically eliminate calories you really don’t care about.  Do you really care about the Starbucks frappa-whatever?  How about that 4th cocktail (I’m mainly talking to myself here)
5) Relish the opportunity to pick up something heavy (albeit with good technique) at CPM.  Because when you do, you’ll stimulate those muscles hopefully causing their growth to their once youthful glory.

Next week, I’ll offer some optimization strategies to really get the bodyfat ball in our court.

The Oboard Says…

For Time:
12 days of XMAS
1 HSPU (10 sec HS Hold)
2 Pistols
3 Toe To Bar
4 Box Jumps
5 Double Wallball
6 Kettlebell Swings
7 Power Cleans
8 Wtd Walking Lunge
9 Burpee
10 Ground to OverHead (w/Plate)
11 Man Makers
12 Cal Row

Posted by: Stets