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Weight Loss Experimentation: Calories in/ Calories Out in the Real World

Posted by on Jul 1, 2013 | 6 Comments

I love trying new physical adventures. Over the years, I’ve played a wide variety of sports, both team and individual. Each one presented different physical and mental skills which helped me grow as a person. Each one was a unique puzzle that challenged me in a new way. I’ve been looking for a new challenge since the allure of running ultras waned. Shelly and I have been training at an mma gym, which includes Brazilian jiu jitsu. There’s a tournament coming up in October. It seems like a new, interesting challenge.

Like most combat sports, jiu jitsu tournaments are divided by weight class. The goal between now and October is to lose enough weight to get down to the “lightweight” class in the master’s division (dudes over 30.) Yeah, I know. It IS shocking, but I am older than 30. ;-)

Lightweight is 160 and below. I currently weigh 179. The goal is to get down to around 168-170. Since the weigh-in can be done the day before the event, there will be an opportunity to cut weight. An eight to ten pound cut is pretty easy.

I also need to boost my strength and cardio at the same time. High-intensity interval training, a little heavy lifting, some tempo runs, and an occasional long mountain run should do the trick. I’ll be picking the brain of Pete Kemme for more details.

So how can I lose weight and still maintain energy levels for training and recovery?

The plan is to clean up my diet by eliminating most sweets and bread products along with eating more calorie-sparse foods (fruits, vegges, etc.) The goal is to create a slight calorie deficit sustained over several months. A 250 calorie deficit per day will result in a ten pound weight loss after about two to three months, which should be perfect timing. This should give me four to six weeks of training without a calorie deficit before the event.

This weight loss experiment is fun because I’ll be able to apply many of the diet lessons I learned via ultrarunning, but in an entirely different application.

Any suggestions from my readers?

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6 Comments

  1. Karen
    July 5, 2013

    Your plan to cut out starches and sugars and eat more veggies sounds perfect – but not because it will create a calorie deficit, just because it will be a more nutrient dense diet that will avoid blood sugar spikes that would encourage fat storage. If you do that, you shouldn’t need to worry about the exact number of calories. Calories in – calories out sounds like it should be logical but you only have to think up a few special cases to realise that it isn’t that simple. Suppose you ate a really huge amount one day – pounds of butter, say – would your weight increase by that amount? Almost certainly not, because a lot of it would slide through undigested. So it is already not ‘calories in’ but ‘calories successfully digested. Then imagine a type 1 diabetic who eats a meal over and above his immediate energy requirements. It gets digested and converted to sugar in the blood – but his lack of insulin means that his body can’t store the excess calories at fat so they just spin round his bloodstream damaging stuff. So it is ‘calories successfully digested and then properly processed by the body to be used or stored as fat’. So already, there is a whole lot of wiggle room between calories in and calories out.

    Think about it – you aren’t the weight you are because you carefully check your calorie total every day and match it to your output. Your weight is stable because your body does a fantastic and very complex job of prompting you to take in a variable amount of calories depending on past usage and trends (how hungry do you feel? What foods do you fancy?), and then deciding whether to use them, store them or maybe burn them off as a bit of extra body heat.

    You trust your feet; why not trust your digestive and endocrinal system as well, and look at some of the primal diet stuff?

    Love the books and blog btw, thank you.

  2. Richard
    July 2, 2013

    When training for Muay-Thai, the thing that helped me outlast people was doing loads and loads of rounds of pretty high-intensity sparring. Coupling that with long runs meant I had a strong aerobic base.

    Which I’ve subsequently pissed up the wall…

  3. Juha Myllylä
    July 1, 2013

    Higher intensity and lower calories – sounds like uh oh. High intensity is probably “in” now, but how about proven method of slow running to build better aerobic base? That method is still used in older combat sports like boxing – with great success.

    It suits combat sports better because combat sports tend to be high intensity training, and all training can’t be high intensity. So to be able to train combat sports a lot and with some quality, fitness training shouldn’t be too taxing. And high intensity just sucks at weight loss, it’s so much easier to burn lot of calories with low intensity, because you can do it a lot more.

    I would say that you are asking for trouble.

    • Jason
      July 1, 2013

      Previous n=1 experimentation has led me to a good formula- three short, high intensity sessions, one longer, lower intensity session still above aerobic, and one or two aerobic sessions develops the best possible “combat” endurance.

  4. Tuck
    July 1, 2013

    “The goal is to create a slight calorie deficit sustained over several months.”

    The problem with this approach is that your body will interpret it as a famine, and react to it by converting lean tissue into fat mass. So while you may lose weight, you’ll be losing muscle more than fat.

    Be prepared for an extremely cranky period… ;)

    Links to some background below.

    “Fat Mice and the Laws of Thermodynamics”
    http://yelling-stop.blogspot.com/2011/01/fat-mice-and-laws-of-thermodynamics.html

    • Jason
      July 1, 2013

      I should have given a little more detail. I’ll average about a 250/day deficit with a few surplus days mixed in. It seems to prevent that “famine adaptation.” My previous bout with this method netted decent strength gains coupled with moderate weight loss.

      This is what used to do during a weight loss period prior to ultras. I eventually gave it up because the lower weight didn’t really seem to help my finish times.