The bare facts:
If only life were that simple.
I had a nightmare choosing a photo for this blog (who wants to show photos of themselves looking lardy?!) So I chose this one of Emmalou, because its kind of appropriate and she looks ACE.
This subject can become extremely involved, and I’ve merely brushed the surface. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I hope I’ve gone for the ‘informative, jargon free side of simple’….
The Five Second Dieting Plan:
The Real World In One Blog Version:
The short version about is a bit glib, but its true. Losing weight is simple mathematics. A balance of the scales. If you don’t provide enough energy for your body to do what it needs to do, it will burn what it has stored. But if you consume more than you’ve used, the stores get added to…As fat.
But there is a humane problem that gets in the way of pure logic. Hunger and desire. These are powerful urges. Sex, hunger, thirst. These are the key desires that control us. They must be controlled! Humans will instinctively eat what’s to hand, because there wasn’t much to rely on for most of human history. Get it while you can. Except now we can. All the damned time.
So we have to override our base urges. Because if you’re reading this its pretty likely you have internet access, and therefore you can afford to eat well every day. And that’s a fantastic one-up on humanities’ struggle for survival. But also, ironically, a potential source of its downfall. We must use discipline to override instinct. Otherwise we’d be eating, shagging and drinking everything in sight. Which isn’t all its cracked up to be for all kinds of legal, health and social reasons.
Now fat is a much maligned bogey man. Fat is essential for health. It’s not just designed to sit on our flubbly bits annoying us. Its there as our main source of fuel. Most of your day is run off fat fuel, including time exercising. We NEED fat. But not a lot of it. But for decades now, low-fat has been the key to health: Fat is The Enemy, we’ll be ok without it. NO!
Excessive energy consumption is the enemy. We derive energy from fat, carbohydrate (sugars), protein and alcohol. Yes, booze makes us fat.. Fat happens to have twice the calories of carbs and protein, and its the way we store energy, so along the way things have become over simplistic and to stop eating fat has become the solution to weight loss.
That theory should have been chucked out with the advent of STi shifters. You need to reduce your overall intake and burn more. So, so far so dull. Practicalities eh!
Unless you’re doing a constant stage race or Race Across America, you need to have some awareness of overriding hunger. The urge to eat is strong. So if you can’t just ignore it, beat it. Hunger is not assuaged by eating crap. You have to eat healthy whole foods. Not because there’s some in-built smug-o-meter within your stomach which appreciates home cooking and fresh veg. Its just that processed food is easily digested and packed with quick n easy calories. They are little filthy bursts of nothing, except danger. Whole foods fill you up. They take time to move through you, they don’t just melt away.
So, eat whole. Eat simple.
Next up, drinking…Drinking lots of water is good. It fills you, to an extent, and if you get super thirsty you’ll be tempted by a can of refreshing liquid sugar like Coke, etc. Cut the crap out of your drinks. Alcohol is crap, but its also nice. There’s loads of calories in booze. So go easy, count it as food, bad food. A alcohol binge is the same as sitting in a box of Krispy Kreme, smearing the tattered remains of sprinkles and ooze over your exposed moobs.
Don’t starve yourself. There are loads of reasons not to. First up: Starving means you’re hungry. Really hungry, and few people can resist that for long. Don’t punish yourself. Eat properly, but eat small, and eat right. Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. Skip that and you’ll regret it. Mid-afternoon you’ll have to be pulled from the biscuit barrel by your ankles.
The next reason not to starve, is it means your body starts kicking in its survival measures. You’ll want to store more food to compensate. You’re telling your body you’re trekking across the tundra of Ice Age Europe, with not a berry bush or squirrel in sight. Not joylessly spooning cabbage soup in the office.
And the last one is for health/performance. Starve yourself and you’re denying your body all the things it needs. So if you’re not eating balanced meals, you get ill, as you mistreat your body. And for anyone fit, and specifically racers, this also means denying your body protein to build and maintain muscle. You will lose power, because your body will start eating itself!
If you get to this stage, you will smell. Your brain accepts only sugar to work. Without sugar, you become unfocused, lazy, you lack will. But also you’re breath and body smell because you start breaking down other sources of fuel to create sugar. And the byproducts are ketones. Stink bombs of the starving. And also of the Atkins Diet. You’ll smell like an alcoholic. Seriously.
Just eat normal healthy food, but less of it.
Don’t binge as a reward. 6 days on 1 day off won’t work. Apply your rules every day, but give yourself a break, or your morale will collapse and you’ll give up/binge. Treat yourself to something like a Gin & Tonic, or a small chocolate bar. And that’s it. As you lose weight, you’ll start seeing the weight loss as the reward. Once you gain momentum, it becomes easier. And habits change.
Now cycling is extremely useful for losing weight because its so accessible and the risk of injury is so low. You can cycle for many hours and burn a huge number of calories. Not that it need be that long. Any cycling is good cycling.
The great thing about cycling is it is low-impact. You can do hours and hours with no ill effects, as long as you’ve built up to it. You can’t just jump on a bike and do five hours from scratch. That way injury lies. You need to get your position right and your body used to longer distances. But once there, you can tick over for a whole day! This is a huge boon for weight loss.
But you can’t just ride and ride food-free. That way you’ll BONK (more on Bonking here *safe for work*)…Cyclist’s slang for hitting ‘The Wall’, in other words running out of carbs. Your body can’t store much carbohydrate at all. So keep your body topped up each hour via energy drinks, gels, bars, banana or a bit of the old carrot cake. The harder you work, the more you rely on carbs. So if you’re really tonking along, eat more carbs, and vice versa.
One great temptation is to get home and fill your fat (or thin) face with anything that you fancy after a ride. Unless you’ve done a massive session, this will negate your good work. So eat normally and bank those calorie-losses big style.
One way to prevent the massive hunger crash after a long hard ride (and its also better for training anyway) is to eat something directly after a ride. This should be easily processed carbs and protein. I have a pint of milk after long rides. Its not the perfect [carbs/protein ‘ratio’ but I like it, and I’m no pro, so it doesn’t matter. Chocolate milk is good, or of course a mixed recovery drink powder. This gives your body what it needs when it is most ready for it and can make best use of it, and knocks that initial raging hunger on the head, while you shower and prep the roast spuds!
Don’t rely on your actual scales weight too much. Muscle is far denser than fat, and one very useful side effect of exercise is muscle growth. So you may lose fat but actually get heavier in real terms! This all relates to BMI. I personally think its a terrible measure, as you can be very athletic and be considered fat, because your weight is high versus height. Brad Pitt will have the BMI of James Corden.
Muscle also has very useful side effects: People want to have sex with you. You look more shapely/buff. And muscle isn’t inanimate like fat, which is merely a chemical store. So it needs energy to live. So the more muscular you are, the more calories you burn.
Regards all these magical dieting drinks, pills, bars, books, fad diets and so forth, they are just smoke and mirrors, processed branded rubbish. They’re expensive and no substitute for Real Food. Losing weight still requires effort, consistency and discipline. But make it easy on yourself. It need not be grim.
Here are the key points:
- Eat less, exercise more.
- There are no magic bullets. Buckle down.
- Ease right off the booze. Alcohol has more calories in it than sugar.
- Avoid processed food.
- Eat fibrous whole foods and drink water to fill yourself up.
- Eat a proper wholesome breakfast. Pop Tarts don’t count.
- Eat littler, often.
- Don’t starve yourself.
- Gain muscle. Muscle still burns calories when idle. Fat doesn’t.
- Don’t get obsessed by fat. Worry about total intake.
- Liposuction is wrong!
- Eat small amounts of carbs when riding over 1 hour.
- Have some sort of recovery food/drink directly after exercise.
- Don’t binge eat after a big effort. It’ll just undo your hard work.
- Ride as long as you can, and enjoy it! But short rides still count.
- If you must weigh yourself, do it first thing in the morning, after going to the toilet. Only do it once a week.
- Don’t go too fast. 1 pound or half a kilo a week is perfect.
- But muscle is heavy, so watch how you look, not your scales.
- Don’t go for a ideal weight, go for what feels and looks right to you.