In all my work, studies, and observations the bottom line is that we are an endurance animal, our energy systems are aligned to this hence we can keep going. A few years ago now I was intrigued by the amount of food the Kenyans were NOT eating, they were not matching calorie intake at all but eating a lot of vegetable and pulse diet. Move across to Mexico and you have the same, written about in ‘Born to run’ you have the Tarahamura Indians who seem to run forever in sandals and vegetable paste! The Kenyan athletes have a high VO2 but not the most, they burn better, the Oxygen is used more efficiently for some reason. There was a TV program called Tribes I think with the Scottish naturalist Gordon Buchanan, he trekked with the Kalahari folk in Southern Africa. He tried to persistence hunt with them, bottom line, no way, he could not follow them very well, they appeared to drink far less during their hunt and live on a few berries and roots (high in energy but not 2500 calories!). I can hear you say Genetics, but it turns out that the genetic discussion has been drilled down up in Kenya (again) it turns out that the genetic differences between Kenyans and us are not as big as we think, we are very closely related. The one major difference by the way between Kenyan runners in Iten is their light lower legs and generally small frame that does make a difference. Energy output and weight is important that is nature described by physics, bigger folk need more energy! BUT you can change your system to a degree, hope for us all, I think.
This energy discussion is important because the normalization of the human body to move to an efficient system of energy is a subtle one for sure. Reading further and practicing (more on this later) you can alter your metabolic rate to some degree by slow easy running and other practices as well. Conscious of my body type and overall ‘Diesel engine’ endurance machine frame I was keen to perform some sort of lengthy experiment. Nothing mad, nothing drastic almost questions such as ‘what if I do this……..for…..an amount of time…what will happen….etc’. If I change my diet what happens, will I notice, if I do this or this what happens if…….’ I could go on but the next post, next week will outline post by post some of the changes I made, not on diet (too lose weight) but around energy systems and hence, the change in body mass. To answer some of your thoughts I don’t bonk out, I don’t hit a downer as much, I have more energy now than before for sure. Yes, rest is part of the deal, so I do sleep for the just and know how to stop. 😊
Post 1: what I was doing.
We continue with the weight loss chat, remember it was not about diet and losing weight for body image or other health issues, but I changed the conversation in my head to energy systems and efficiency. It just wormed into my head for the reasons outlined previously. However there were a few things that I was doing before the key changes. I was practicing yoga most days, running around 25-30 miles a week and generally ‘all systems were fine’. This, however, is an important share. My vastly better half menu plans for the week. Yep, writes out the meals and then buys the food for the list. I have tried by the way but every time I get the books out and say, ‘Oh that would be nice’ the usual response is ‘no, not sure I would like that’, ‘how about that, or this’ I reply, ‘no, not sure about that either’ comes the response. I shrug my shoulders, only been married 27 years😊 Hence the menu planning is not me. We are also vegetarian with about 90% vegan diet. Don’t buy prepared foods/meals and of course I bake bread you HAVE to bake sourdough bread folks😊 . We tend not to eat sugary snacks or desserts. I do like dark chocolate. If we make a cake, please eat the cake. Treats are fine in our house. Ok so that is the land described to you. Repeat, this chat is not about weight loss but energy systems. I have this discussion open on my laptop and a pile of marking and assessing to do at the same time, so this little writing break is useful for me. Have a great weekend folks, more to come and I will post this onto a BLOG after I have written this with some references and links.
Please read before jumping to 1st change😊
As I reflect and consider posting these observations on energy/weight loss (please track back if you missed previous posts) the one thing I would like to stress is that I tend to triangulate advice. Reading, Observations, and practice. Also this was an experiment on me, not you, the human body is very subtle, those little responses do need listening and responding to. However, I do meet a lot of runners and other folk who read a lot and then I ask ‘do you do any of this’ answer is usually an informative read and book recommendation and for some reason a lot of the diamonds out there don’t get tried on! I have boxes of books, maybe more than 100 plus books and by now I am beginning to sense some common features underneath the journo books and the mighty gravitas of well referenced science journals. Oh, don’t assume because a scientist has written=quality, a quick check of the ‘dull thud of references’ will give an indication of quality and also note any bias in terms of sharing points of view (just saying😊 ). So here we go first observation based on practice supported by some reading is:- drum roll please.
Post 2: 1st change, get used to running on empty pushing out the time a little each week. Ensure to fully hydrate the day before! If you do this, awesome, well done and I am sure you have found your energy levels zoom through the roof.
The first change and this was an incremental one, over time, was to get used to running on empty. However, I am not talking here about ultra-running or long endurance races where you and I need protein/carb mixes. I am talking about extending some of your running and associated dependency on gels/drinks. You do need to do two things and really do note your micro responses over time, that is important. Things like amount of sweating, running lows and overall sense of energy and even thirst responses. About 5-6 years ago I began running with my buddy every Friday morning (9:30am) almost without fail, but because he was coming back to running from a long layoff, we began real easy running maybe 5 miles. As an aside the joy of running in the working week in the morning made us both smile. We were relaxed old blokes I can tell you!
I had drunk a green smoothie, so I was in a sense running pretty much on empty. We would carry the usual hydration because our intention was to increase the distance by a very small amount each week but keep running, as one ultra-runner shared this piece of advice, run as if you are a ‘bit embarrassed to run’, that runner won a jungle ultra a few years ago😊. This slight increase in distance, running very slowly, matches all the science out there on building an aerobic engine that is for sure (Phil Maffetone, heart zone training (zone 2) 80/20 etc). The body begins to adapt and move into the fatty deposits (Runners World, the runners body book(J Dugas) is very good) , and BIG energy reserves ( 1pound of fat is around 3800 calories!! ) . You begin to re-condition your energy systems BUT you DO need to increase distance, the body adapts so well that it stays at a ‘new normal’ if you don’t. In addition to this we were both fully hydrated before the run, I don’t mean a liter of water tanked down an hour before but a couple of litres of water drank the day before.
As we increased distance over the year (yes, a year!) to around 20 miles, train the body we noted we sweated less, drank less, and had more energy during and after running even though both of us were running on empty with very little food intake in the morning. Put on the spot I would say extend the long slow easy to run to around 1h45 to 2 hours, the fact that my buddy went longer meant we noticed at around 2h 45 mins we were getting hungry, much longer in time than previously though. What is also important to stress is that the physiology of my buddy is completely different to me, I am a Toyota truck he is a Ferrari sprinter. He could happily do and still could if he could be chewed😊 run 43-44 minutes 10K at the age of 56 but we both felt the effect. That was a surprising observation and an important one. You can’t really use ‘the build’ argument, it is there for sure for macro movement but at the micro level adaptions of energy cells etc we are similar enough.
The hydration of my body I noticed is more important than the food issue, energy systems need H2O, slow down to create a more efficient you, train the body with real easy running but don’t think weight refocus, change the lens of objectivity, and focus on energy systems and tap into the human being that already exists inside us.
Tips. Change 1, hydrate, run really slow and run on empty ((almost))
1) Hydrate like a trooper the night before
2) Drink some smoothie (only) for breakfast, we use a blend of spinach and fruit.
3) Carry some hydration and run easy and increase time on feet by a miserly 5 minutes a week
4) I don’t stretch after the run, but I do walk a mile to cool down and drink coffee as well plus hydrate fully over the day.
5) Small increases in distance, don’t think distance think time on feet, check watch for time not for speed, you won’t be going fast.
6) We also do eat after the run, the book ‘good to go’ (Christie Aschwanden) does stress eating after but does myth bust a lot of the fuelling chat! After exercise I have a full pizza panini and coffee.
7) These posts are not pointing to ultra/long triathlon endurance events. You do need to intake protein/carbs over long endurance events of course you do!
8) Minor changes over time, it is a marathon not a sprint.
The last post I pointed to the give your belly some rest time, eat your last meal early evening. change. Now to the next change and linked to the above change in a very considerable way. Always tricky to discuss heart rate but getting into this zone of aerobic training is very important. I have a saying and it is not mine ‘don’t argue with your breath have a conversation instead’. If you are fighting your breath, then the breathing and related and connected Oxygen/C02 system is not working efficiently. You can read more on this via Oxygen advantage (Mckeown) or Breath (James Nestor). Slow everything down so your breathing is easy. There are some heart rate discussions and guiding principles (Maffetone, etc) which I will avoid, and the reason is because I have met some very good runners whose heart rate was very high and runners who heart rate was very low. This challenges a lot of new runners, or those wanting to improve. Some runners I have met, new to running can sometimes ‘bite of more than they can chew’ or as I stated in an earlier post you need to make the cake before you eat the cake. I am not offering paces here but as a point the Kenyan runners real easy pace for recovery IS around 9 min 30 mile! Very surprising and very easy.
I will keep stressing the point that this experiment has been on me, and has taken around 4 years. I was and still am relaxed about the changes, I was not fixated, a change here, a change there but I always asked, ‘how do I feel’ at any moment. I think that is important to share at the beginning.
This little experiment on myself is about energy systems and the effect on the human body rather than a focus on ‘race weight’ which is a thing for sure or weight loss for health. These other considerations were not an issue for me, emotional or otherwise.
So now to the next change, remember the first change was to practice running on empty, a little longer each time, ensuring you are fully hydrated the day before. This next change is a linked one and I think probably, on reflection, more challenging than the first, but it was and still is a game changer for energy systems, quality of sleep and rebalancing your system or at least mine😊 This change is all over the internet, but I don’t like the term it is bolted onto it can feel quite ascetic and intense to be frank.
Change 2:- make sure to eat your final meal of the day before 7pm in the evening and do not eat anything else after this time. I know, right, you are out for the evening with some friends what do you do? You DO eat with them and enjoy the time, this is not a hard rule but a guiding principle, when at home we plan our menus and times to eat for around 6:30pm, therefore by the time I eat again my belly has been empty for at least 14 hours if not longer. Avoid sugary snacks in the evening, your pancreas is having a snooze after 8pm, your energy system is not geared to deal with food intake at this time of night. You can read a lot about the need for sleep, what your body does during rest and why it is not a clever idea to eat late at night. Yes, this is called intermittent fasting but to be honest I noticed the effect before I came across the term! It has been around for thousands of years, referenced in Yoga literature and Ayurvedic advice. I do meet folk on retreat who have work patterns where this is a difficult one to follow, or partners who do eat late at night and happily munch on a takeaway. Retreat meals are usually at 6pm and breakfast at 8.30am so there is a good 14 hours between last and first meal. The bottom line and a report on my own experiment is that my energy levels have ramped up, I only start getting hungry about 18 hours after my last meal and in that time I might also have included a 13 mile run so something has happened for sure hence the share.
I do know there are ‘apps’ that you can buy into, it might be worth researching and this change does take discipline. I am no monk though because we do eat cakes, I do bake and eat well but the time I eat treats it is not late at night and of course, in moderation. At my age I would rather fall ill for a few days and pass away rather than have poor health for 10 years. I suppose I am trying to bias in my favour being aware that my mother lived a super healthy lifestyle but was hit with strokes and vascular dementia compared to my dad who smoked and drank most of his life but lived to 90! He did do a few things namely drink a LOT of water (he was Greek, Greek’s drink a lot of NERO😊 ‘) and he loved Olive Oil and Greek salads, and REST boy could my dad sleep for Greece or the world for that matter! makes you think right, makes me think as well.
I could go on, ‘How not to Die from’…..Michael Greger is a good read on diet and disease.
Change 2:- eat your last meal at or around 6:30-7pm, try to avoid snacking late at night.
If you have been following my posts on energy and weight loss well done and thankyou😊 the next change is probably the most difficult to rationalize so I am not going to try and rationalize anything. It comes straight from the east, as B K S Iyengar states in his book ‘Light on Yoga’ (a hefty tome) ‘eastern minds, western thoughts’ is the blend I am aiming for. Firstly I like and enjoy wellness chats, the exchange of information, the reports, and the discussion with reading all super interesting and of course it makes you think a lot about the human body and, well, how simply amazing it is!
I do think, sometimes, we can get lost in the maze of podcasts, books, and journo articles it can become ‘have you read this or this….’ You try something for a few months/weeks and then gradually move back to earlier habits. Change can happen for sure, that is what, after all, I have been posting about.
This change is not really a change, more of a change of viewpoint, a subtle sense that the background of the mind has shifted a sense of how I engage in these ideas I meet and practice the suggestions.
As some of know I do meditate every morning and have written a list of noticeable outcomes based on meditation, which I might revisit as I have been reflecting on this for some time now. There is, however, one word I don’t think I stressed enough and was always the central message in the sessions led by Indra Mohan during the lockdown sessions. That word is peace, to find peace, stillness and calmness which can be carried throughout the day. Running can be a peaceful and joyful practice, those Kenyan and Ethiopian runners do smile a lot in their training! you can move in a balanced and a breath centred way. Your yoga practice and hopefully mine to, is not one of only training the body but also finding that inner connection, promoting and cultivating (one of my favourite words) peace, clarity and an ease of focus.
How does this connect with change and weight loss? I think that the ideas I have tried and pursued have not only been based on reading, observation and practice but also based on a peaceful and reflective standpoint. ‘They work, they don’t work, promising idea, bad idea’ no stress. I don’t get on my soapbox, something I think I used to do. Meditation seems to have created a calm and reflective background of engagement when considering and trying out ideas and practices. More reflective, less reactive, more proactive, more contentment, more generosity with the ideas and with the Self (capital S). As Ganesh Mohan stressed meditation is not only about THE act but encouraging a change of mental landscape, the mind wants to move to a quiet place, not a busy distracted place. A place where the mind can focus and concentrate for extended periods without effort is an important quality for sure.
Finally as I mentioned previously a relaxed body and mind is a more efficient system. Energy systems, etc are more in tune. Why Zebra’s don’t get ulcers is an engaging book, one of the chapters talks about stress and the links to weight gain/loss. Cultivating a relaxed and content mind is at the heart of this point and change. Bottom line I suppose is really do try and find that time to meditate in whatever form you find engaging and works for you not me, it is about developing a personal practice not just rolling out a script. I find myself smiling as I write this; A G Mohan has a saying ’if you find it difficult to meditate for 10 minutes, you need to meditate for 20!’
Enjoy the weekend folks.
Change 3:- meditate, practice and cultivate peace, you may be pleasantly surprised by what happens over time and in time
I have noticed if I DO eat late (link to intermittent fasting) and try to meditate first thing in the morning, I notice the mind is not calm, not steady, it almost feels preoccupied with the night before! Sleep was not good, food not quite right. You get the idea, right? If you approach from a completely different angle you can arrive at the same point. The same logical conclusions written from a holistic viewpoint.
There are three key changes to my lifestyle that I think have had a profound effect, not just a peripheral change here and there but on renormalizing my weight, note my weight is now at a steady 82kg it is not going down anymore by the way.
The three key changes are:-I am fully aware of the eastern practices on fasting.
1) Hydrate fully the day before your long run and run on empty, a little more each time probably aiming for at least 1 hour time on feet making sure the perceived exertion level is easy.
2) The last meal is usually around 6.30pm, no snacks and no sugar, having breakfast at or around 8am
3) Breath work and meditation.
From a runner’s body chat this is still too heavy for endurance running and really to ‘nail hills’ my understanding is the cut off is around 75kg. Where did I get that figure from? Listening to the tour de France commentators. It is to do with energy systems and watts output supposedly hence those big sprinters do not like those days in the alps and can sometimes get cut from the race. I think body type does matter but at my little level not as much😊 and to be frank losing a few kg’s is possible for many folks rather than buying super expensive shoes.
My last point is to bring this all together about weight loss and energy systems. Where does the weight go? If you create a more efficient body, that is a more energetic system with less lows you are burning fat for sure. If you keep reaching for sugary snacks all day and have crashing lows or often tempted by the ‘sweet cupboard’ that is a sign that your mind/body is a glucose/sucrose machine. This is detailed out in science journals. Fat holds C, H, and O, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. The two by-products of fat burning are water and carbon dioxide. If you eat your last meal before 6.30pm, fully hydrate and run on empty once a week up to 2 hours max for a long run you create a fat burning energy efficient system. However considering atomic masses (I know right😊 ) H20 is released through sweat, wee and poo however the heaviest element, carbon, is released through exhalation only (Co2), which surprised me and accounts for 83% of the weight lost!! (I have been researching this one, can you tell). So these three points about meals (I am predominantly vegan in diet, I believe in the power of veg, protein is protein not animal or otherwise), hydration and running real easy creates the conditions to allow you to become a more efficient human being. In fact, I am going stress what the human machine is designed to do from birth. You renormalize your energy systems and physiological responses. Meditation is a core practice, creates the conditions for a balanced approach, an ease to the practice but also the breath work element I am pretty sure made me more of an efficient breather and energy burner(this needs researching to be frank, I need to do a PHD for this one ‘study of various breath patterns on the aerobic energy systems of the human body when running’ !!)
That was always central to my personal experiment. If you are performing of course, then you do need energy and carbs as you will bonk out. I hear that a lot when following the ‘tour de france’. Remember I was not performing this experiment as ‘diet’ but as an energy experiment, the outcomes are more profound and connected than only losing a few kgs.
However intermittent fasting (from TedX chat) is not for over 70’s, diabetics and children in particular, you would need to discuss this with your doctor. I am not sure all doctors are up to speed with lifestyle, but the British Society of lifestyle medicine (BSLM) is, check them out. The one thing that I reflected on was that you do need a healthy relationship with food, I think fasting might fuel the negative relationship to food. That gut feeling was backed up by a nice youtube clip from a nurse discussing fasting as a tool to improve overall health etc.
That is it from me on this topic, all views are based on practice, observation, reading and reflecting over a three-year period. That might be regarded as enough for some folks of course.
Take care folks.