Sunday, 1 April 2012

Diet Report 10: A Couple Of Messages And Some Nervousness

Core (huh), What Is It Good For?

Quite a lot as it goes. I am, of course, referring to the core muscle groups, the infamous abdominals. As you know I have been engaging in a fight against loose skin by working out my core muscles. It's not something I've really done before for many reasons. I've never been one to want to quest for a six pack. I heard somewhere that exercising stomach muscles did nothing in particular for stomach fat. I have engaged in exercise in the past but never had that area in my sights as an essential one to strengthen or pay particular attention to.

This turns out to have been something of an error on my part. First of all I have discovered something rather strange about the abdominal and oblique groups. It's probably something that athletes and other sporting professionals are well aware of but I had never realised it. So I share it here in case you should need to know it.

I have always been a fellow broad of shoulder, I'm near enough two feet wide at the top. I've always had natural upper body power, never even needed to exercise. (I have never played rugby, much to many rugby enthusiast's chagrin.) What I never understood was that if you're naturally ox-like of aspect your core muscles often get the shoddy end of the deal.

Since engaging in a programme of belly tightening (the shrinking being aided by aerobic conditioning and diet of course) I have become aware of a number of fringe benefits. I am suddenly much more flexible. The idea that having stronger abdominals would make you more able to touch your toes, or bend deeper, or aid in sitting cross-legged is possibly obvious to others, but it never seemed so to me. I just thought I was too big to sit cross legged. In fact my stomach muscles were just too weak to keep me bent at the appropriate angle.

I'm also noting that I can lift my legs higher and I just feel more... er... bendy. It is definitely news to me that being of the stature to be compared to a brick outhouse could have put me at a natural disadvantage when it came to the core muscles but it's the only explanation. Those with slimmer shoulders obviously have to use their abdominals more to just do stuff, I've been brute-forcing my way through strength tasks and putting my back and shoulders to more use. I have had a history of some back pain possibly because my back had been put to work when my abdominals couldn't help out. Nobody ever suggested this.

So I am a sudden convert to core strength. The benefits of healthy, well-maintained abdominal muscles (even if they are prevented from six-pack-hood by the intervention of seven or eight stone of remaining flab) are not to be sniffed at. You have a strong arm what do you have? Well, a gun show to offer tickets to. But if you have a strong core you become bendier, more graceful and your back hurts less.

The message: Don't neglect your core, you don't need to aim for a rippling stomach to benefit from having some strength in what is surely one of the key areas of the body.

The 500 Calorie Question

So, last week I asked the question why do both men and women have to eliminate 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week? Well, the answer is actually really simple and comes to us courtesy of this article from The Independent. The article is all about how the science of dieting evolved.

In a nutshell all of this stuff about calories was the result of work for the US Army. The research was intended to establish what was the most economic foodstuff to give to troops to keep them energised and working well. The economy aspect was to make the foods cheap and also compact to make the logistics simple.

Obviously carbs came out the winner in this battle of the foods-as-fuel. The research made its way into the public domain and was used as the basis for slimming plans the world over. The problem being that when you flip research designed to find out how to keep a man going on its head and use it to determine how to lose weight via controlled starvation the results come out... a little hinky.

Let's return to the calorie question. A pound of soft tissue holds 3500 calories within its mass. So you cut 500 calories a day, that's 3500 cals a week, that's a pound a week, right?

Well. Not quite. The article above is quite vague but the thrust is that part of the calorie research determined how calorific a food was based upon how easy it was to metabolise those calories. So, for example, sugar metabolises like greased lightning, a little too fast for most people to actually make use of the energy released in the normal course of things. On the other hand oats are similarly calorie rich but the calories are much harder to metabolise. This is why people bang on about oats having "slow release energy" and that.

Protein and, indeed, fat are also actually harder to metabolise in the body than carbs (obviously some carbs are harder to metabolise than some fats, proteins seem to be a chore to metabolise one and all). The article concludes that it's "not as simple" as juggling raw calories, it points out that eating protein makes you feel fuller for longer because the body is spending so much time breaking it down. There are other factors, as you know from the weekly tidbits here.

Anyway. Given the logic of the 500 cals a day thing it means that you can aim for losing 3500 cals a week and have monk like days and blow out days and stuff, it should have the same effect.

The message is: Calories aren't the be all and end all of weight loss. But we knew that right?

Back In The Saddle

A short one. I took my new bike out today, 80 minutes of cycling records a massive burn on my calorie chart. As I went out for a bit of a birthday blow out at a well known tapas chain last night we shall see if that has been enough to make a  positive weight change by the weigh in about sixish.

Off The Reservation

Next week I will not be doing my daily recording to its usual degree as I am on holiday. We shall see how I master portion control without the benefit of online calculators as I shall retroactively add all of my foods into the diary when I get back. It is fair to say that I am nervous about this.

No comments:

Post a Comment