Monday, January 3, 2011

Back Into Training Mode . . .

Doc: "Faster, Little Mac. Ms. Liberty's watchin!"
Little Mac: "Dammit, Doc -- why'd you have
to buy our training gear at Lady Foot Locker?"

At least, that's what I call it. Now that the holidays are over and done with, and I must return back to the familiar drudgery of my normal work schedule, I'm also mentally shifting back into my super lean, mean, workout mode. I took a little less than 2 weeks off my usual fitness routine, but with all the revelry of Christmas and New Year's Eve behind us now, I can feel my body yearning for a return to discipline.

Yes, you heard me right. I actually *crave* routine, because like most of us I'm a creature of habit.

Unlike most people, however, my workouts are not borne out of guilt of sticking to calendar-based resolutions. I do not do this to look good for swimsuit season, nor to fit into that pair of jeans which has eluded me these past several months. No, I do this for health reasons just to be in great shape. Because I simply cannot abide a body that is not at top physical performance. That's my personal axe to grind with myself.

But, also, recently (over the past month and a half) I've been experimenting with a new diet. And by "diet" I do not intend the more modern misuse of the term, which is as a stand-in for a weight loss regimen. No, my weight is actually fine. Diet in my case simply means a meal course plan to supply my body with the nutrients it needs to survive on a daily basis. My previous diet was already pretty strict, thanks to my own devising. But recently I've begun to explore a new method of distributing calories evenly throughout the day, and not in infrequent lumps that can cause severe sugar spikes and dropoffs.

In other words, rather than eat 3 regular meals a day--and perhaps a late-evening snack when the mood strikes--I've switched to a plan of 6 smaller meals throughout the day and at regularly scheduled intervals. Each meal consists of 150 - 350 calories. None ever exceed more than 400. Each meal is also spaced between 2 and 3 hours apart, with no interval lasting beyond 4 hours.

My ideal intake is 170 calories for my "light" meals, and 320 calories for "normal" meals. In this case, light meals are healthy, high protein snacks in-between normal breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Sometimes I eat less than these amounts. Sometimes I eat a little more. But in the end, I never exceed my total allotted calories for the day.

And, oh yes, I've resorted to keeping track of my calories. Not because I'm obsessive-compulsive about them (I'm really not), but all because of a cool calorie counter app I keep on my iPhone. Because of this baby, I've become hooked on the concept of keeping record of all that I eat. And there's a reason why this a good idea for everyone to do. When you're forced to log in every single amount of food you consume each day, and gradually get into the habit of studying the numbers and charts as each meal is broken down by nutritional value, you'd be surprised how much healthier you force yourself to eat.

For me, personally, it has resulted in cutting out far more fat and carbs than I thought I was already doing. Using the app, I learned that even my normal health-conscious meals needed to be revised. So nowadays I find myself consuming far more lean protein, and a lot less rice and breads.

What this new diet and mobile app has resulted in is a faster metabolism, one that burns calories more efficiently and yet supplies me with just the right amount of fuel to get through my daily workouts. These days, I can actually *feel* my metabolism at work. No, honestly I can. It's amazing.

And as a surprising side affect of this new way of eating, I've learned recently that over the past 7 weeks I've lost 11 pounds! Now, that might not sound like much to you, but realize that I was already at an ideal weight. The upper level of that ideal, sure, but within healthy BMI range all the same. I think what the more frequent meals and high protein approach has resulted in, however, is my body burning more fat despite no major alterations to my workouts. In this sense, the way I eat alone had a profound affect on the way my body stores calories. Somehow I'm getting fitter and leaner without really breaking a sweat.

Well, any more of a sweat than I usually break, I mean.

I'm not going to sit here and espouse a new weight loss secret, however. As someone who was once in a not very good place health-wise, I don't feel like it's my place to tell other people how to go about attaining the bodies they want. However, what I would suggest is that you give serious thought to keeping a calorie log through programs like the one I linked to above. That link might be for the mobile app, but the site the app is developed for -- Livestrong.com -- is available for PC users to login their results via any Internet connection.

Check it out for yourself and devise your own calorie plan. Like me, perhaps you'll decide to try for six smaller meals a day. Trust me, you'll be amazed by the results if you do. As for me, starting this first week of the new year I will return to my routine and continue to decrease my overall body fat percentage while increasing lean muscle mass. It was fun taking a short break from super lean, mean workout mode to relax some over the end-of-year break. . . but now I'm back with a vengeance!

Besides, I think I've eaten enough triple chocolate fudge brownies over the holidays to last me a whole 'nother year! :)

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