Friday, February 15, 2008

Solving the heart rate mystery

Happy belated Valentine's Day everyone! Hope you got to spend it with that special someone!

Last two days at the gym:

1 mile on treadmill
20 min on elliptical
20 min on bike
2 x Fish Game! on rowing machine (about 1600 meters, 10 min)

30 min elliptical
30 min bike

So, I don't know about your gym's machines but at the gym I go to, each machine has a little heart rate chart on it. On the left side of the chart is a set of values that correlate age and optimal heart rate for "fat burning". On the right side of the chart is a set of values that correlate age and optimal heart rate for "cardio". The reason I'm going to the gym is to "get healthier" and more specifically to lose this damn gut! So, while the "cardio" side of the chart seems intriguing and is useful, I should probably be more interested in the "fat burning" side of the chart.

Well for my age, it says that I should be at a heart rate around 130-140 for fat burning and 150-160 for cardio. At this point I usually tilt my head to the side and give a hearty "Whaaaa?". See, when my heart rate is at 130-140 I'm barely even moving in my opinion. My breathing is only slightly heavier and I definitely don't even break a sweat. At 150-160 I'm starting to "feel it" and start heavier breathing and sweating, which to me feels like I'm doing an actual workout. So where's the discrepancy?

After reading multiple websites about heart rates and the many heart rate "zones" I feel like I finally understand the low rate. It turns out that at the lower heart rates your body burns a higher percentage of fat and a lower percentage of carbohydrates (sugars). The actual number varies widely from site to site, but that's the general consensus. A couple of examples with made up numbers:

In your "fat burning zone" you burn 100 calories. Lets say 50 of these are from carbohydrates (immediate energy source) and 50 come from fat (stored energy).

In your "cardio zone" you burn that same 100 calories. Let's say 70 of these are from carbohdrates and 30 are from fat.

So you can see the "fat burning zone" is more efficient at burning fat. However, the point to note is that while the fat burning zone is more efficient, you will generally burn total calories much slower than in a "cardio zone". Take this example from this website:

So, let's say you're exercising at a fairly low intensity that burns, oh, 100 calories in a half-hour. Let's say that 70 percent of those calories come from fat. Your neighbor, however, is working out much harder, outside the magical "fat burning" zone: She's burning up, say 300 calories in that same half hour, but only 50 percent of those calories are from fat. Now do the math. You're burning a higher percentage of fat, but 70 percent of your 100 calories equals 70 fat calories burned. Your neighbor, on the other hand, is burning a lower percentage of fat, but she has burned up 50 percent of 300 calories, or 150 fat calories, more than twice what you've burned in the same period of time!

So you can see thats it really a personal preference. It makes sense that they balance out. Work long and easy and burn fat. Or work short and hard and burn fat. Either way, it goes back to my original mantra which was -- "as long as you are getting your heart rate up, you're doing well!". It's just a matter of how high you go and what your time schedule and preference is. In any case, I am glad to have that mystery solved!

Sources: (1 2 3 4 5 6)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I forgot how much I love the gym!

Went to the gym last night for the first time in a long time (probably about 5 months!) and all I have to say is ... wow! I forgot how much I love the gym! Now, maybe it's the OSU gym that I love so much. There's 4 levels, hundreds of machines of all types, and lots of lovely ladies!

Going to the gym is great because there's always entertainment for when you are working out. The place is always teeming with life, and even though there are a lot of people there is always a machine you can use. There are two types of people at a college gym: those who are incredibly fit and those who are unhappy with their bodies. I guess that's kind of a cop out, but it's true when you look around the place. Also, it does remind me of my favorite nerdy joke:

There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary, and those that do not.

In any case, looking around while I'm at the gym (I can't find my mp3 player dang it!) gives me inspiration to keep it up. I could look like that guy, or be able to do the exercise that guy is doing, or have the confidence to ask out that girl. It's all great inspiration. Plus I just feel better being there. It's warm and cozy in there, and everyone is friendly. No one can be a grouch when they are working on their glutes! Or maybe they are just too tired to be grouchy, who knows!

Being at the gym really makes me into a butt man (dunna dunna dunna dunna butt man). I don't mean to be chauvinistic, but it's not my fault! The girls always wear those black workout pants that show off the nice butt they are trying to get rid of (Stop! Keep it please!). If they didn't want me to look they'd wear something more moderate, right? Right?!

Anyways, here's what I did:

20 minutes on stationary bike
20 minutes on elliptical machine (love EM, and I don't care who knows it!)
0.5 mile on treadmill (a weak spot for me still, wanted to get at least 1 mile in)
10 minutes (2000 meters) on the rowing machine

All in all, a pretty good first workout. I'm going again tonight because I feel great (not too sore at all- guess that means I should push a little harder). I feel like I could just stay at the gym for 4 hours at a time. It's just a good feeling being there! I forgot how much I love the gym!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Maybe we can work it out (work it out)

One of my goals now that I've stopped playing World of Warcraft is to eat better. When you take a look in the mirror and get a surreal feeling like you're looking at someone else you know something is askew. I'm not chubby, husky, pleasantly plump, or any other niceties. I'm fat. Plain and simple. Let it all out. Yeah, see that there? Looks like a 8 month baby waiting to get out of my belly.

So to lose the weight, what do I have to do? Two things. Buy some HydroxyCut and wait. No wait, that's if I want to fail miserably at losing weight and keeping it off long term. What I need to do is very simple, and it's time tested and true.

1) Watch my intake
2) Increase my output

That's it. Simple, effective, and straightforward. I've read a lot, talked to a lot of people, and seen results in people I know. The ONLY way to lose and keep weight off you is to watch what you eat and exercise. It's a lifestyle commitment, not a one time journey.

Here's how your body works. You eat food, which contains energy. Throughout the course of a day you use energy. If you eat more food (consume more energy) than the amount you expend each day you have a surplus. What does your body do when there is a surplus? Well the human body came prepared to deal with a surplus, and it stores it away in fat cells. If you expend more energy than you take in a given day, your body grabs some of the stored energy out of storage to compensate.

Very simple and easy to follow. Eat more food than you need, gain fat/weight. Expend more energy than you eat, lose fat/weight.

Watching intake
People make two common mistakes when starting a "diet". If you can avoid these two pitfalls, half of your work towards getting healthy is done.

Firstly, they shrink their portions to almost nothing. Your body needs food to survive. If it does not get this food it can not function properly. You've heard it before. If you starve yourself, your body will think it is starving! It will feel the need to immediately store any food it does get, and this will lead to slower results and unhealthy weight loss. Also, you'll be cranky because you'll always be hungry. The important thing is not to eat tiny, but to eat moderately. Eat a portion which will make you feel satisfied. This does not mean full, but it also does not necessarily mean the "suggested" serving size. Everyone is different and has different serving sizes that will make them feel satisfied.

Secondly, they stop eating foods they like. People seem to think that once they start watching their intake they have to start eating like a rabbit. Sure broccoli, lettuce, and celery are good substitutes for potato chips, fries, and nachos but they aren't the end-all when it comes to eating more positively. You CAN still eat cookies, beef, and your favorite sugary cereal (hello Golden Grahams!) it's just all about moderation. Become aware of what you are eating. I like both Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies and Fig Newtons. I choose the latter because when you check the nutrition information, the Newtons are an order of magnitude better for you than the Oatmeal pies. Choose the lesser of two evils when you have a choice. If there is no alternative, don't sweat it. Eat what makes you happy, and if its terribly bad for you make up for it in another area.

Remember, it's not about eating tiny or eating foods you hate. It's all about moderation and taking in fewer calories than you expend. Which leads me to the other half of getting a healthier body.

Increase Output
So the second half of the equation is to increase your caloric expenditure. The most important thing to exercising is to get your heart rate up. It does not matter how you do it, just that you get it up. I hate swimming. I can't do it very well. I get tired after one lap and my head hurts. Instead, I go running, rowing, or biking. I actually enjoy doing these things, and they all get my heart rate up. Hell, if you can get someone to have sex with you enough and that gets your heart rate up, go for that! Whatever you choose, aim for a certain amount of time each day that your heart rate will be elevated. Don't worry about calories burned or total time spent each week. Just get that heart rate up. In time you'll find your comfort zone of how long to go and how much to push yourself. Just remember to keep on pushing.

If you aren't motivated enough to do a full workout, just take it in steps. Tell yourself that you only need to go for 10 minutes, and gauge if you should continue after that. My guess is you'll feel good after those first 10 minutes :)

As long as you take in fewer calories than you are expending each day you'll meet your target weight in time. Remember, its not a race to lose weight and a healthy loss should be anywhere between 1-3 pounds per week. With time and consistent behavior you can reach your goal. Remember it's a lifestyle change, not a temporary inconvenience and as long as you stay committed, you'll start to notice very positive results. You can do it!