Friday, December 1, 2023

Is this universal? (Zero sum-ality of energy for activities)

 I started an intensive language course last month, and my gym attendance really took a big hit.  I describe myself as "chaotically" curious, and am perpetually signing up for (and usually completing) various forms of structured auto-didacticism on sites like Coursera and EDx.

I believe the definition of the term "opportunity cost" is this sense that to do one thing well, comes at the sacrifice of doing another thing.  Picking 'a', means that you no longer have the opportunity to do 'b' well.

There is a real sense of loss when I eventually realize I just can't do all the things that I am curious about.  There is also a need to balance ego-driven pursuits like advanced certification in fields I don't intend to work in, versus outcome-driven pursuits like improving my fitness.  It might feel great and pumped up to walk around with a pro-level Amazon computing certification, but it would be at the expense of my physical and mental-health, and also at the expense of other things I have decided I want to study like languages.

Not to get woo-woo about it, but I have to force myself to believe that being a balanced human being rather than an obsessive, midnight-cramming-session, hunchback computer denizen -- well, is important, and beyond that it's better for the world.  I have written before about how if you look around the room in a group, and all you see is horribly unhealthy bodies and souls, then you should be deeply critical of the work product of said community.

Intermittent fasting as a way to moderate 'boredom eating'...

 One idea I came across somewhere in my travels, is using intermittent fasting as a way to put the kibosh on eating out of boredom at night.   I'm not sure I wholly subscribe to a Jason Fung-ian, or Satchin Panda-ian concept of circadian eating, although what Panda says in particular about "shutting down the highway so the body can make repairs to the road" makes a certain amount of sense. (He is talking about how eating blocks autophagy.)

However, I do recognize that I have a tendency to eat for entertainment, particularly after dinner.  There may be some cases where I am legitimately hungry, especially if I have delayed eating until after noon, or worked out especially hard.  I do think though, that putting a cap in place, closing the kitchen around 8pm, might shave off some otherwise unnecessary calories.  If I get a health boost out of it from a circadian perspective, all the better.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Recovering from Covid, thinking about 2024

 Chicken noodle soup, and mint chip ice cream where critical to my Covid treatment plan. 🥸.   I was planning to re-commit to a stricter version of low-carb than I have been doing in the past couple of months anyway.  Planning to start that in a couple of days when I'm no longer nursing a sore throat.

I bought myself an early Hanukah present in a Polar heart rate watch.  I have to look back over my records, but my memory is that when I did the initial weight loss last year, I wasn't really working out at all.  I'd like to do things a bit differently in round 2, and make cardiovascular fitness a priority.

Morphologically (or aesthetically), I'm still not where I want to be. I haven't quite crossed the Class-3 obesity threshold.  I'd like to lose another 30-40 pounds in 2024.  The way to do that is to re-commit to low-carb.

While I feel at once pretty shitty because of the Covid, I also feel pretty confident that I can lose some more weight and improve my aerobic fitness.  The little break from the diet, backed by a good rationale for doing it, might actually turn out to be a net positive.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Mindfulness meditation at the bottom.

 Let's be honest, we all reach the end of our rope at times.  Options like nihilism ("I just don't care"), or alcoholism ("all I need is a drink"), or binge eating, or even, perish the thought, suicidality -- all of these can creep into our lives if pushed hard enough.

One of the ways that I think about mindfulness meditation comes from the term "zero cultures". Sam Harris uses it to describe cultures that, unlike our American puritanism, are cultures where nothing, as manifest by mediation practice, in and of itself is an achievement.

As an alternative to any of the above behaviors, having a practice that allows you to get closer to cessation that is also positive, healthy, forward moving, not to mention addictive, pleasurable -- being able to say to yourself, "rather than doing something I would regret later (if I lived to tell the tale), let me do something in the present that is both positive but also offers some sense of relief." That is a useful tool to have in the toolkit.

The one caveat I have to say here though is that just meditating in times of crisis hasn't worked for me in the past.  It's not enough to just sit when I really need to.  For me it requires an actual, regular, meditation practice for it to be deployable as a technique in crisis.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

What actually is V̇O2max, and why is it an indicator of fitness?

V̇O2max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption that the body's cardiovascular system can maintain.  Let's break that down:

When a muscle contracts, oxygen is required in the reaction that provides the energy.  If we jump on a treadmill, and increase the speed or incline every couple of minutes, we will see the rate of oxygen uptake also increase -- to a point.  

Oxygen is provided by the "cardiovascular" system, meaning the heart and blood vessels.  There is an upper limit to what the heart can provide.  At V̇O2max, we might increase the speed or incline of that treadmill, but the heart and blood vessels can no longer provide any more oxygen.

Why does this provide a measure of fitness?  

The point of exercise (or one of the points including mental health...etc) is to stress the body in such a way that in the process of trying to maintain homeostasis (I will get to that in a second), the system adapts in such a way that it can provide more capacity in the future.  Think muscles getting bigger due to weight lifting, or brisk walks / runs getting easier over time.

A key to understanding adaptation is the idea that the body has systems that keep its systems 'in working parameters' for safety, like the systems in a Tesla that keep the battery from dangerously overheating.  For example when the muscles demand more oxygen due to increased effort, the body works to maintain the level of oxygen in the blood by increasing heart and respiratory rate (probably chiefly in order to protect the brain if I had to guess.). This puts a stress on the heart, to which it adapts over time.

Locally, Rutgers will test V̇O2max in a lab for less than $200.  Fitness watches also have a test that uses heart rate variability, a subject for a future discussion, once I understand it, as a proxy for maximum oxygen uptake.

--edit: One potentially useful note is that V̇O2max occurs at max heart rate, so if something is calling for exercise (as in a stepped test) at 85% of V̇O2, this is the same as 85% MHR.

-- Note to self: The dot above the V in V̇O2max reflects the fact that it is a rate, and is typed by using the extended US keyboard on a mac and the key combination opt-shift-w after the letter.

Monday, October 2, 2023

I think if I wanted accurate body fat data I would go for hydrostatic weighing or Bod Pod over DEXA.


Google result for "is there any cancer risk with DEXA scans?"

DEXA scans provide some pretty interesting information about bone density and body fat.  My question though is about the radiation risk, particularly if you are going to do any kind of regular testing.  A surface-level Google search yields a pretty definitive clip from CDC.  I think if I wanted body fat data, and particularly wanted to test it multiple times, I'd try to find someone that does hydrostatic weighing.


I'm not as familiar with Bod Pod, but I gather that it uses air volume instead of displaced water volume.  This also seems like a good option.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

I got some pretty bad advice on alcohol on low carb diets, which I think I have figured out.

 The bad advice I got was to drink spirits instead of beer or wine, because spirits don't have carbs.  The problem with that approach is that even a single whiskey a couple of nights a week was enough to completely torque my sleep schedule and my mood.  Hard liquor just has a much more dramatic effect than other drinks.

What I discovered over the last couple of days is the polar opposite of whiskey.  That is, the ultra-low carb, and consequently fairly low-alcohol beer.  The beer I had with dinner tonight had 2.5g of carbs per bottle!

If a drink in hand is a social requirement, or if you just enjoy it, I'd suggest a Michelob Ultra (or another low-carb / low alcohol option) rather than a Buffalo Trace.

My formative years (photo tour) elite junior rowing, circa 1995

Even though it was a very long time ago, I don't feel like my current fitness interest would exist without this formative experience. Even if it were just participation trophies for 5k or marathin walk, I would like to get some more current competitive experience.  

Are optical heart rate sensors universally inaccurate?

 TLDR: For weight lifting, yes.  They are universally inaccurate when compared with a chest EEG strap.

TLDR: For aerobic activities like spinning, the answer is mixed.  If you want the best data, use an EEG chest strap like the Polar H10.

In the following graph, a weight lifting session done by Rob ter Horst, a postdoc at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria, aka The Quantified Scientist.  While his conclusion was that the heart rate tracking on a popular optical watch was generally good, during this session the agreement between an H10 and the watch wasn't that great.  Anecdotally, I think this is representative of the type (optical watch), not the model (Polar Vantage).

Also in this spinning test, one of a few, the concordance was again not that great.  Rob doesn't go into why this test is this way compared to other similar tests, and again, his conclusion is that the tracking is pretty good.  

Same video as above.

My intuition is that the wrist-worn optical sensor (watch) is not as accurate as the forearm, or upper-arm worn optical sensor (Verity Sense), which is not as accurate as the EEG strap (H10).  I'm not all that interested in getting even marginally bad data, and I already have a Fitbit to wear as a fashion accessory, so I think I'll be sticking with my Verity Sense, worn on the forearm, for the time being.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Optimize for reducing friction, and data quality, but don't forget about identity.

 In the past couple of years, I have invested in both a FitBit Inspire 3, and a Polar Verity Sense heart rate monitor.   The purpose was to closely track heart rate during workouts so that I could stay in a prescribed zone during training.

What I found with these devices was that the data was OK, but keeping them charged, carrying them with me, wearing them, and wrangling the Android apps that go along with them was kind of a faff.   Over the last month I have found a real joy in leaving them at home, and just using the hand heart rate sensors on the treadmills that I use. 

Over the next couple of days I'm going to try to validate both the FitBit and the hand-sensors with the Polar monitor in order to make sure that the values I'm getting are accurate.  However, beyond that, I no longer see a need to continue to incorporate these devices into my routine.

This in essence is optimizing for 'friction' in the sense that by using the hand sensors I am taking a few steps out of my workout prep.  I can just throw on a pair of shorts, and hop on the treadmill.  I am no longer inhibited by whether the devices are charged, or functioning optimally.

One other factor though is the psychological, or effects on identity, of wearing a Fitbit constantly.  Wearing a Fitbit identifies me, as a heavy person, as someone who associates with people actively working towards health. Mine has a loud orange band, and I feel communicates my interest in fitness through style.  As a fashion accessory it communicates visually one of my main interests, and is therefor still valuable in that role.  

Inspire 3 underreports heart rate versus an ECG strap during running.
(The Quantified Scientist - YouTube Video)

I'm starting to suspect that the Fitbit's heart rate data isn't all that accurate.  This may be a flaw with mine, the way I'm wearing it, or even body hair at my wrist.  This raises a problem though, because I don't actively want to be surfacing misinformation about heart rate when I look at the accompanying app, or scroll through the display on the device.  The fashion/identity role is not worth polluting the metrics with bad data.  No data is better than bad data. dashboard modified to remove bad heart rate data.

I haven't quite reconciled these two roles, fashion/identity, and heart rate tracking, other than to potentially invest in yet another device that is both beautiful and also accurate.  Again though, if I were purely optimizing for reducing friction, I wouldn't wear a device at all.


I validated that 2 different Lifefitness treadmills and the Polar Verity Sense agree with each other and agree with my perceived exertion.   The Fitbit was consistently low, sometimes up to 20bpm low.  

Furthermore I realized I don't like the motion of checking the wrist while on a treadmill.  I would feel differently if I did more MAF work outdoors where checking the phone is slightly inconvenient although not terrible. 

Conclusion: optimize for friction, continue to use the hand sensors on the treadmills from the previous pattern.  They don't require any faff with charging, or having equipment with me.  Use the Polar Verity to validate when I think there is an issue or I want more continual tracking. 

Keep the Fitbit as a fashion accessory as long as I don't get sucked into checking it's erroneous  heart rate data. Use it as a step counter.   Unfortunately you can't turn off heart rate tracking altogether, and it looks like a piece of tape over the sensor would get in the way of charging. 

Friday, September 29, 2023

On HAES (Health at Every Size) -- Fitness as a Behavior not an Outcome

If health is an 'outcome', for example a pants size, we run into a problem with natural differences between people making access to that outcome uneven.  There is a lot of material on really unhealthy skinny people, people who smoke, people who do cocaine, people who's labs are way off...etc.  There is simultaneously a lot of good science about the heritability of weight problems.  There is also a strong link between poverty and obesity, I would argue a causal link.

Is there a difference between actual measures of health like V̇O2 max, and pants size? If I have a poor V̇O2 max is it immutable? Am I permanently in a class of people who are going to die younger, and have a shorter health-span?  The reality may be that due to genetics, or economics, or what county you live in, some specific metric of health may in fact be largely immutable.  

However, as a person with a poor V̇O2 max, starting to gently do aerobic training, can _vastly_ improve the situation for health and longevity, miles and miles and miles before the actual outcome (the V̇O2 max value itself) moves at all.  If I have to shop at the big and tall store, but I also really try to control my blood sugar with good nutrition and meal timing, I am in fact healthy  (or healthier), in the sense that I am doing what I can with the body I was born with.  I am miles and miles and miles healthier even before the scale starts to move.

This is health as a behavior, in the moment, working with the cards you have been dealt, doing your best, maintaining hope.  This is the argument for the concept of health regardless of size.

Where I acknowledge that Health at Every Size has gone off the rails -- and keep in mind I was deeply immersed in the originator of the movement, Lindo Bacon's work, as well as the work of Sandra Aamodt a few years ago -- is this idea that you are automatically healthy at every size.   

Let's prove this by looking at the extreme:  If you take a heavy person who smokes, and a heavy person who doesn't, one is healthy, for that specific metric of smoking or not smoking, and one is not.    Extend this logic to how you eat with the resources you have, and how you move within your abilities, and you can clearly see that there are healthy (or healthier) ways to be heavy, and unhealthy ways.  

The high order bit is that you can move the needle on your health, long before the needle on the scale moves.  I would even go so far as to say something as radical as you can embody health as a behavior, even if the scale doesn't move at all.

Monday, September 25, 2023

A problem with fitness on social media going forward (Semaglutide, SARMS, Testosterone, Truth in Labeling)

 Youtube requires a badge when a video represents advertising for a product.   They do this to comply with FCC rules about paid promotion, and that badging is useful for identifying who is being authentic, versus who is being (to put it uncharitably) a shill.

With the rise of Ozempic, Wegovy, and other Semaglutides, and the continued prevalence of exogenous Testosterone used for largely aesthetic purposes, we are going to have an analogous problem with fitness videos:

If someone is claiming to have an approach that works, but is secretly using Semaglutide or Testosterone, their content should come into question.   I am straightforward about the techniques that I use -- primarily carbohydrate reduction and exercise. The new substances (in the case of Semaglutide) and the old bro-science (in the case of 'T') represent a shortcut. 

Even if the only downside of Wegovy is the long-term cost, it is still worth labeling fitness content that is being achieved with exogenous compounds.  This problem is analogous to when a young person sees a ripped Hollywood performer and tries to attain that aesthetic -- often resulting in disordered eating, or the abuse of substances like SARMS.  These actors are a) working out with professionals each and every day leading up to a film, and b) are, in many cases, likely using exogenous compounds like Testosterone to achieve their results.

I want to know when someone is "natural", I want to know when someone is buying thousands of dollars in medication every month, and I certainly want to know when someone is using steroids or SARMS.  It is my belief that the truthiness or integrity of fitness content directly effects the health of their consumer.  If the expectations are unreasonable, and the methods are hidden, the result is bad health for the viewer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Thinking, mindfulness, fitness, and nutrition.

My meditation teacher always encouraged us to frame thinking as "thinking was happening', rather than the more agency-centric, "I was thinking".   There is a quality of thoughts that is similar to the experience of other senses -- they come and go, as sounds or smells do, sometimes with rhyme and reason, but sometimes randomly. However, some thoughts, if not recognized as such, and if allowed to, can cause psychological pain.  Holding onto an argument long after it is over, or guilt, is not particularly pleasant and can do real damage.  

I like the phrase, "tail wagging the dog".   When I am sitting around angry, 'am I angry', or 'is anger happening'?

I always recommend that the takeaway from reading material from people talking _about_ meditation like that  should be to start or continue a regular mindfulness practice.  This prose, but unsupported by a practice, is of little value.

So, can I make a connection to nutrition?  Is hunger 'just happening' or is it a matter of willpower and self-control?  

The way I like to think of it, with a certain eye towards adaptability, and against rigidity, is to think of the willpower and self control going into the implementation of wise practices. With avoiding starch and sugar, or smart aerobic exercise, one builds capacity to handle the stuff we largely don't have agency over. What this does, like meditation for taming a monkey mind, is create a milieu in which hunger can be tamed, and which forward progress towards health can be achieved.

For this reason I don't like the idea of cutting calories or portion control, any more than I like the idea of just stopping thinking.  It isn't wise advice, it's a recipe for the problem getting worse, not better.  Better to be smarter about what we put energy into.

The meditation allows us to start noticing what is happening, and creates the conditions for a better psychological path through life, or at least a more conscious one.  The exercise and nutrition practices  create the conditions for managing when a bad food environment is happening, or when stress is happening...etc.  Rather than going straight for 'reduction', they represent a wiser approach.

So..  the beginning of meditation for me is coincident with coming to the place where I could lose weight.   I recommend it as something in the toolkit, and just generally. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

How to cap off an evening or a meal.

--edit: On reflection, it's probably better to avoid snacking.  I acknowledge that a later-night snack can sometimes help people fall asleep, so if you are going to do it go for the lower carb stuff.  My weight loss seems to progress better when I don't eat late though. 

-- original post below:

TLDR?  --> Cup of decaf, or a couple of pieces of cheese!

I decided to stop fighting my usual urge to have some kind of snack later in the evening.  If you follow people like Jason Fung, this is a sacrilegious statement.  However, my feeling is that if you don't spike your insulin at 8pm, and you don't take on a monstrous amount of calories, there is little problem with scratching that snacking itch.

I was doing this pretty well in the winter and in the early Spring.  I would head down to Wawa (it's also nice to take a ride in the evening and get out of the house), and get 2 or 3 pieces of string cheese, and/or a smallish cup of decaf coffee.  However, as the seasons started to get warmer, Wawa started carrying little individual servings of strawberries and blueberries.  Up until that point, I had had to go to Whole Foods to get that, but now it was there all the time.  My weight loss stalled.

Dr Westman reportedly has a sign above his waiting room that says "fruit is nature's candy'.  I was in essence, eating candy every night before going to bed.

I'm reverting back to the previous pattern.  Rather than trying to clamp down entirely on having that snack, I'm going with what worked in the past and returning to the very low carb snack or coffee drink.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

"If you miss a session, it is truly missed, don't imagine that you can somehow make it up."

 This was another nugget of wisdom from my junior rowing days.  This philosophy, and a whole lot of peer support kept me showing up to practice even when I didn't want to.

I'm not in a no-pain-no-gain camp, and I fundamentally believe that you _can_ overtrain and hurt yourself.  Simultaneously however, I also recognize that there is (for me at least) a fair amount of fantom "I'm too tired", or "I don't wanna" energy in coming to train every day on my own.  Pushing through this (smartly) yields pretty good results.

I am a big fan of having someone else manage your training.  If you can't do that, program in breaks, and active recovery days, and be wise about when you feel overly sore, or overtaxed.  

There are probably some indicators of overtraining that you can legitimately pay attention to, and it's worth googling around for them.  However I also feel like experienced athletes (even over-the-hill, fat, old ones), should have a pretty good sense of what is a sane workout program, and what is overreaching.  The goal here isn't to hit it like a marine at bootcamp for 2 months, and then never go to the gym again, the goal is to be able to train on a regular basis, for life.

All of that being said, if you have the means to engage a trainer, or go to a regular, structured class, I highly recommend it.

If you 'handicapped' your MAF pace, how do you know when to go full bore?

MAF pace, or Maximum Aerobic Function, is a pace that both builds cardiovascular capacity, but is slow enough for low-risk-of-injury and high volume training.   The general formula is 180 minus your age, however Dr. Maffetone suggests 'handicapping' that value for a number of reasons like a recent illness, being overfat, or overtrained.

I am 45 years old, so the baseline for my pace is 180 - 45 or 135, however because I am overfat, and started largely sedentary, I subtracted 10 points for a target of 124-125.   Since I have been regularly training in this zone, I decided to de-handicap my pace by 5 points, and start to train around, but under 130bpm.

I did a workout at this pace yesterday, and just felt amazing.  I was bringing in more air, able to let go of the control a bit, and just kind of air out my walk.  I'm still not jogging due to the extra weight and a desire to protect my joints, but I can easily reach this pace by walking up an incline.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Identity and weight loss

 I have written before about how the social history of an overweight person, in terms of bullying, or relationship problems, can affect how they feel once they have made some kind of nutritional and/or physical modification.  Put simply, once we lose the weight, it is very easy to apply the language applied to us -- "fatass", "slob" -- to people who have not.

I'm watching an interesting podcast by Andrew Huberman and Layne Norton, and another phenomenon around this came up: that is, that to make a sweeping modification to morphology, health...etc, it requires essentially a "new identity".  They are talking about how people like David Goggins, and Ethan Suplee, two individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight, and adopted fit identities, seem to focus on "killing off" previous identities.

Norton brings up addiction, and the necessarily different treatment for food addiction from say, gambling.  One cannot abstain from eating.   Could we then say to a gambling addict, "play this slot twice a day, but only that much", without some kind of radical change, essentially to their identity?   Alcoholics stop hanging out in bars, and change friend groups when sober.  It's not unfathomable that a high order bit in people who have had the ability to sustain weight loss, is their ability to effectively change their identity.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Progress Pic (Not there yet, but getting there)


The picture on the right was taken on July 10th 2023 (285lbs) , on the left was from 2017 when I weighed around 320.  I started a no sugar / no grains diet around November of 2022.

Fasting Panic

Even during a lightweight fast of 24 hours (dinner to dinner), I have noticed that hunger manifests not as just a growling of the stomach or hunger pangs, but actual anxiety and panic.  I had some experience with alternate day fasting a couple of years ago, and what I found was that once you got through the first fast, subsequent ones were much easier.  I think what is going on there is that you have to, in a sense, prove to yourself that you aren't going to die from not eating for 24 or 36 hours.   You are overriding your brain and your bodies intense desire to eat, even when it manifests as a deep feeling of dread and panic.

Consult with a fasting expert like Dr. Jason Fung, or your physician before taking on a fast.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The phrase "everybody is different" is a cop out.

In discussing my weight loss with people, and the addiction model I use for sugar, I am constantly met with a really annoying cliche, "everybody is different".  I can pretty universally say though, that if you have a BMI of 45, _universally_ you should not have the caramel goo on top of your Starbucks drink.  I can confidently say you should _never_ have it.  

The "everybody is different" crowd gets offended by this, and it's tough to draw parallels between sugar and say cigarettes with them.  The result of this is that sane nutrition advice gets diluted, or outright rejected.  I have said over and over again that the weak strategies put forward by this crowd, like having a regular cheat day are actively counterproductive.

If you are intelligently proposing other approaches, then fine.  Veganism can work, calorie restriction can work...etc.  However the blanket, brain-dead application of "everybody is different" is bullshit.  All you have to do is look around the room at a restaurant.  "Everybody is different" is part of the prevailing wisdom, it's part of the bad advice that doctors and media are supporting.   All you have to do is look around to notice that whatever the prevailing wisdom is, isn't working.

So where does body positivity come into this?  I don't really have a problem with someone making a conscious choice to be fat.  I think though, that if you dig into most people's feelings on this, the vast majority of body-positive people have just given up because they have received advice that doesn't work throughout their lives.   Doubling down on body positivity because you don't have any other option -- you don't have any experience with approaches that actually work -- it's just sad.

Monday, July 31, 2023

The TLDR as I see it right now (end of July 2023)

 1) Trade sugar, grains, and starch, for rich meals of meat, fish and chicken.  Indulge in fat, protein, spice, salt, and umami, rather than sweetness.  Treat this with a 'food addiction' model, don't have cheat days.  Recognize that it can be incredibly difficult to get back on the wagon if you fall off.  (But also see "treats" in #6 below.)

2) Eat lots of above-ground-growing plants, if only as a way to keep "regular".

3) Don't avoid the natural fat that comes with your food, even saturated fat.   However adding extra fat can get out of control.

4) Watch out for triggering foods that otherwise might conform to the above rules.  For me these are raw almonds, and that popular NJ shore summer dish, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

5) Eat more protein.

6) Avoid artificial sweeteners, let your palette adjust.   It's 100% helpful to have some kind of treat in your arsenal, but you are better off with a few berries than something artificially sweetened.

7) If you find willpower, executive function, or the capacity to change bad habits in limited supply -- and most people do -- focus on changing your diet rather than working out.  If you are massively overweight, there might be a biomechanics argument to make here as well.

8) Being able to do mindful eating effectively is predicated on the diet not being full of addictive foods.  If you have made that change, consider a mindfulness practice, and learning to tune into your bodies own satiety signals.

Structured Compassion, Compassionate Criticism

The last six months, and the last 55 pounds have represented a real shift in outlook for me.  When I started out at 330+ pounds I thought that it was balanced to eat a desert a few nights a week.  Now I go out in public and watch people in similar bodies eating ice cream and think "how the heck can they think that is a good idea?"  

It wasn't so long ago that that was me, but now that feels like "other". It's really easy to be coarsely critical of people still carrying the 55 lbs that I lost, to use words like "fat f*ck*, or "fat a**" and the like.  Maybe it comes from an insecure part of myself, the part that knows you can always recede.  It feels more important to have some kind of compassion as a default mode, and apply it to everybody, not just people eating the right foods.

I write about how the concept of "not denying yourself" on a diet is less about permitting lapses, and more about learning that it is OK to indulge in the areas where it is safe to indulge.  I have written about how I believe "don't deny yourself" means eat luxurious foods like well-seasoned (often well-salted) steak, it means embracing spice, and umami, and letting go of sweetness.  Similarly though, having compassion doesn't mean being permissive about bad behaviors. It means reinforcing the things that work, being compassionately critical of the things that don't, sticking to your guns when it comes to what you think is good and right with respect to nutrition, but also not being a dick.

I also have a ways to go, at 280lbs I can't make any claim to inhabiting a healthy body.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Why is my goal weight in the "overweight" BMI range?

Weight presents a "J" shaped curve in terms of overall mortality.  The heavier you are, the higher your risk factor, but under a certain weight, it also goes up.  The question is where is the nadir for risk of dying?  One would think that it is squarely in the "normal" weight BMI, but it may not be.

Excerpted from the Science News piece above.

A reminder on where the reference ranges are from a post on

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the healthy weight range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range. [The BMI with the lowest hazard ratio in the Danish study was in this range]
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obesity range.

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “severe” obesity.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Making working out less of an "event"...

 I'm a firm believer that really effective aerobic training has to be done at a pretty specific level of exertion.  That working out lower than that just juices your appetite without much training effect, and working out higher than that leaves you prone to injury.  However, I'm trying to reconcile this with a shift towards interleaving workouts at various points through the day, rather than doing it all in one shot at the gym at 8 am.

I mean -- if you had the option: a stationary bike or treadmill, or park easily and safely available, would you do 45 minutes of sedentary desk work followed by 15 minutes of something that requires a higher heart rate? 

I don't want to have to faff with my heart rate monitor to do this, and I know I'm not really working out at exactly my MAF pace or Zone 2, or whatever your target is.  I just think that sitting literally all day, isn't effectively countered by 30 or 45 minutes of aerobic work at the gym.  You just can't sit that much without movement and be healthy.

I'm well aware that a lot of people, particularly in my field (software engineering) don't have private offices, don't work at Google's campus with omnipresent nap, workout, meditation, and culinary spaces.  When I did that work I was in a cube in a cube farm, and it would not have been looked at too kindly to escape for that 15 minute movement break with that frequency.

It makes me think of the Pomodoro method, where you set a timer for some period of focus, with a programmed-in break, in order to break through procrastination, and spur creative work.  This is kind of the same thing, but maybe the period is a bit longer, and the break isn't spent looking at your phone, it is spent moving.

You think what I'm eating is decadent? I'm subsidizing your desert.

 You've got to think that the difference in meal cost between steak and eggs at a diner, and whatever crap breakfast everyone else is eating isn't that significant to begin with.  I mean, how much do blueberry pancakes and home fries cost compared to my petite sirloin?    That being the case I have a hard time ditching this sensitivity that I'm being decadent, or flexing, or whatever the modern language is.

I had a waitress reinforce this once by mocking me for ordering steak and eggs frequently, so it's not entirely in my head.

The thing here is, and I've written about this before, is that there are some health externalities to that "cheaper" breakfast.  These health externalities are being paid for by everyone with health insurance.  The cost of all of that obesity is averaged across the whole population, healthy or unhealthy.

So to that waitress who made fun of me -- I'm in effect paying for the guy who waddled to his seat, sat down with a huff, sucks air through his mouth for the effort, and orders a shit-tonne of carbs, and wolfs them down with maple syrup on top.  So by extension, I'm paying your salary twice, once for my meal, and once for his.

This is obviously emotional, but it's also economic.   The $10 price difference in the meals might be the difference between needing to be on exogenous insulin for the rest of your life or not.  It might mean the difference between being able to conceive without help, or between staying healthy and having to engage the services of a cardiologist or cerebral vascular specialist.  All that shit is expensive.

There are other externalities too -- imagine the societal cost to everyone running around with low energy and depression because of their diets?  Imagine the loss of productivity when a huge majority of workers are eating carbs for lunch and then fighting the need for an extended nap at 1pm.  Imagine the kids growing up essentially latch-key because their parents are too metabolically wasted after work to give them any attention.

People say, "oh, I can't afford to eat like that, you must be really rich."  I was going to end this post with a cliche like "can you really afford not to", but that seems unnecessarily glib.  It's frustrating to simultaneously have no views on my writing, but walk through the world with eyes wide people who complain that the world has gone to shit, but can't see that a large part of the problem is on the plate in front of them.  Or the sack in their car.  Or the plastic cup with the Starbucks "classic" (sugar syrup) and caramel sauce.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

It's interesting how this gets reversed...

 If you had a problem with alcohol or drugs, and you walked into a bar or flop, rejecting an offer to join in, it would be pretty clear that the "good" behavior was coming from you, and the "bad" influence was coming from the environment.  Nobody could sanely make the assertion that the "normal people" would have the whiskey or cocaine, and only esoteric, overly controlling, type-a people would abstain.

However, in nutrition, that gets flipped around.  I walk into a house where someone is baking bread, and my behavior (abstaining) is the esoteric behavior, and their behavior (indulging) is the norm.  I'm the special one for electing to pass on the cocaine, they are behaving totally normally, even lovingly, by serving it up.

There is a lot that goes into this: First off is this persistent feeling that obesity is a problem of sloth, of the will -- something that is a failure of the person suffering from it.  If you can't "handle" a little fresh baked bread or apple cider doughnuts hanging out on the counter, then that is on you. "That is your problem fatass."

The second thing that feeds into this is that as a culture, we haven't figured out how to express love outside of serving food.  We don't know how to connect, except at the table.  Modernity has removed other modes of connection like joining in song at a congregation, reading out loud with each other, playing a sport in a playful way, going fishing, or whatever.  The daily automaticity just lands us back at the dining table.

Both of these things, blaming the victim, and a culture of fattening each other up out of love are problematic, but both of them are deeply ingrained in our society.  The only way forward is to be the "weird" one that just says "no".

This keto snack almost de-railed my whole nutrition plan

 First thing I will say before I get to it, is if you are going to fuck up your diet, there's a good, recoverable way, and a bad, hard-to-recover way.  I was driving down the road last night looking for a supermarket where I could buy a bunch of cupcakes or brownies.  Where I instead landed was at Wawa, where I had an admittedly very large portion (to the point of potentially it being a binge) of meatballs, and some watermelon.  Really having a huge id-driven meal of stuff that is nominally on the diet versus falling off the wagon and eating a bunch of sugar has the same satiating feeling, but very different implications for your future on the diet.

So, what put me in this position in the first place?  I think the culprit was this thing called a "Keto Bar", that I can get at the local Rastelli's market.  Unlike the Whole Foods "Keto Cups" that I have written about before the "Keto Bar" is intensely, albeit artificially sweet.  Where the Whole Foods product tastes a little bitter, and is an acquired taste, the Rastelli's product just tastes like a piece of candy you can get anywhere.

The difference is that the Whole Foods product doesn't lead to crazy cravings the next day.  It hasn't triggered any kind of addiction mechanism, it's just a nice little treat that still feels religiously part of the diet.  The Rastelli's product feels like you are getting something for free -- which you are not -- and which ultimately leaves you wanting much more.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Mindfulness isn't about sitting on the floor - in fact it can be counterproductive

 If you are looking at getting into a mindfulness practice, and are searching Pinterest for how to set up a meditation space, I might gently suggest that you might be doing it wrong.  It's key to have a quiet space, but that can be a couch or a chair, just in a regular old room -- no Buddha statue, falling water fixture, or aromatherapy.

I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, what reinforces a mindfulness practice is just sitting down and having a mindfulness practice.  I meditate on my couch, in my car, when I am falling asleep..etc.  If I had to sit on the floor cross legged, with my legs going numb, and my back aching, I don't think I would ever actually practice.  In fact I know this to be the case, because for many years I was into buying special meditation pillows (Zafu and Zaibuton?) and timers, and cordoning off space in my apartment -- but never actually practicing.

One thing I will say though is that quiet is important.  There used to be a meditation class at a co-working space I attended, and it was right outside of a noisy meeting space.   Having people talking in the background isn't really productive for me.  However, even here, I'd say just use your headphones and earbuds to put on a guided meditation or background noise.

I learned to meditate primarily with Joseph Goldstein in the 10% Happier App, and I'd highly suggest finding some kind of guided approach to begin with.  A couple of years in I basically just use a timer.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

I graduated from the Big and Tall store!

 I tried on a pair of jeans at the Big and Tall store, which where too big.  Sam, my regular sales attendant for the past 10 years said, "well, it's bitter sweet, but I think you have graduated to the mall."  

I bought a shirt at LL Bean, and a pair of jeans at the Levis store.  I have to say that just feels amazing.

Monday, July 3, 2023

It is not uncommon for people who have normalized their weight to be exceedingly critical of people who haven't.

 One of the defining characteristics of growing up with obesity is being mocked and tortured by your school peers on a regular basis.  This gets internalized in such a way that we now have our own internal version of those voices saying horrible things to ourselves about our bodies and our behaviors.  This isn't kind, productive coaching, this is just angry, superior, grotesque (because it is now an internal thought process and no longer coming from a bully)...  One way to quiet that internal monologue is to double down on it, externalize it, apply it to others, in the hope that our internal milieu will quiet down, become more positive, allow us to have more self confidence...etc.

This is a defense mechanism.  We were hurt, so we want to hurt others.  A better approach to be more compassionate to others because we know what the opposite feels like.  It is very difficult.

Watch your language...

 I've talked before on this blog about the concept of "not denying yourself" on a diet.   When people say "you can't deny yourself", often it is interpreted to mean that a regular cheat meal or cheat day is necessary.  I have talked about how I follow a model closer to an "addiction model", and entirely abstain from processed sugar and starch.  "Not denying yourself" means that I regularly indulge in meals from people who are more expert chefs, and that I don't consciously limit portions -- although they do get limited as a function of the diet's macronutrient composition.  This can mean eating salty or more flavorful food, with spice, salt, and umami replacing sweetness -- something that it's not always easy for a bachelor chef to come up with.

So when I have a conversation with someone about insulin, or satiety in the context of favoring protein and fat over carbohydrates, and their response is "what has always worked for me is portion control", my hackles get raised a bit.  For me, there are two classes of nutrition and exercise advice, one is useful, one is akin to fat shaming:

1) Advice rooted in function, science, and effectiveness.  Advice that works.

Example: Reduce starch and sugar.  You would do well to break your sugar addiction.

Example: Protein drives satiety.

Example: Fat accumulation is a hormonal problem of too much insulin.  Avoiding insulinogenic foods is more effective than cutting calories which inevitably just suppresses metabolism.

Example: Longer duration, low-intensity training (such as MAF training) is a safer way to exercise for a lot of people than joining CrossFit, but you can't out-exercise a bad diet.

2) Advice rooted in puritanism, in effort-ing, and in castigation.  Advice that feels right, but who's underlying ethos is about blame. Advice that doesn't work.

Example: Eat less and move more.

Example: Portion control has always worked for me.

Example: Why can't you just go for a run / join CrossFit.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Once you see how fat Americans are, you can't unsee it.

Sitting at a Starbucks, giving myself permission to just look around at the bodies.  I think as a function of both being massively overweight, a little bit shy romantically, and constantly wary of objectification, I never really did this.  

What you see is just a horror show of what we used to call "beer bellies".  These round, fat, sloppy, grotesquely pregnant-looking, middle-aged male body types (and whatever the female equivalent is).   Once you see that, you start to see how prevalent it is.  You start to see them everywhere.

I think of global warming when I think of this.  Global warming is difficult, because outside of the increasingly frequent draughts, fires, and superstorms, its a slow and gradual process that sneaks up catastrophically over generations.  This obesity thing is different.  You can literally see its fingerprints all over society.   

I tend to picture these folks lying on a gurney with an IV in, or with someone crouched over them doing chest compressions or bagging them.  

I think of my ballooning ACA insurance payment, and wonder how much of it is going to their diabetes care.

We can, and have to fix this.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A desire to work on real problems.

 One of the defining characteristics of my software engineering career was a sense that we were always beholden to the marketing department. Some or all of our work existed essentially so the organization could do a press release containing the latest tech buzzword or highlight some kind of fake-o organizational partnership with Apple or Microsoft.

I'm sitting here writing in a Starbucks in Evesham, thinking existentially, and distracting myself by looking at the bodies that are passing in front of my table.   

I would say that a full 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 4 bodies is morbidly obese.  Bellies overhanging pants, waddling rather than walking, people struggling to breathe.  In their hands are pink and caramel Starbucks venti drinks.

The thing I like about writing in Fat Fitness Nerd is that it addresses an actual problem that you can see out in the world.  Unlike software I talk about solutions to problems that exist, not solutions in search of problems.  There is no sense of valuing an approach or technique because it is cool, or hip -- everything I write about here is towards functional, effective fitness.

Of orthorexia, addiction, catastrophic failure, and raspberries.

I have fairly good body mass data going back almost a decade.  What you notice looking at that is that it is punctuated by weeks or months longs regimens of weight loss, followed by a slow upward creep.

Why then have I been able to relatively easily maintain a program since last November?  There is a lot that feeds into it -- stress reduction comes to mind first. 

What tends to happen to me, and I suspect a lot of people, is that we fairly orthorexically (strictly, or overly strictly) hit a diet for a month, but then we consider the first deviation a catastrophic failure.  A single candy bar, plate of Chinese food, or hoagie roll can de-rail a lot of otherwise good work.  In that single moment we are "off" the diet, and it is very hard to get back on.

One of the things I have done differently this time is to use an addiction model for those foods.  I know, and don't resist the fact that its exceedingly hard to get back on a diet if your psyche is telling you that you have "failed".  To that end, I treat processed carbs and sugar as a drug, and just abstain.  I also abstain from artificial sweeteners for a similar reason involving the adjustment of the pallet. 

I do have a secret weapon though --  I have found a treat that my brain doesn't consider a psychological failure:  Many people talk about berries as being the lowest-carb fruit.  Sites like DietDoctor give permission at various levels of carbohydrate to eat a few here and there.  For that reason, a half pint of raspberries, though with my new pallet exceedingly sweet, is not considered a discontinuity in my progress.

My weight loss would probably stall if I engaged in this every single day, but the capacity to have a treat that is "on" the diet feels hugely important for long term sustainability.

An interesting more advanced effect of this is that if something sneaks into my diet that I don't have control of, I can compare that to my berry desert.  I was on the road last week, and had a dinner of chicken wings at the hotel I was staying at.  They came out breaded, though not heavily.  Orthorexically I would have sent them back and made a scene, but they looked and tasted really good, and after an 11 hour drive I just didn't have it in me.  The psychological perspective shift from "catastrophic failure" that I'm now able to do is to compare a little bit of panko breading to the nutritional composition of a tin of berries.  I don't do it scientifically, it just feels similar.  

This idea that if I eat something, my weight loss will probably stall for a day, or at most a couple of days is important.  If it provides a relief, without triggering compulsive / addictive behavior, then it feels like I can carefully tolerate it.  

For me, this manifests occasionally as Sag Paneer at the local Indian joint, a box of strawberries if they look great, the raisins in my favorite Whole Foods curry chicken salad, or a keto chocolate bar/cup.  However it does not manifest as diet soda, desert, ice cream, cupcakes, brownies, candy bars, bread or tortillas.   The important thing is recognizing that its not something to engage in every day, and to recognize that overdoing it could pull me back into a food addiction.  It's a balance.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Logic would say, mistrust the work-product of unhealthy processes.

 If you look around the room at a company and notice that all of the employees are massively overweight, it probably makes sense to be suspicious of the work-product of that company.  This makes sense in the abstract:  if there a behavior (sedentary-ness) leads to a condition (metabolic disorder) that we don't like, then we shouldn't monetarily encourage the behavior by buying its product.

I don't really have any specific examples in mind.  I have worked with really fit engineers, and really unfit engineers.  

One point is more personal -- if the only way you can do a job is to have no time/energy left over to spend on cooking real food, working out, mindfulness practice, and friends and family, then find another job.  Maybe I'm just saying I'm not enough of a hard core math-head to make software engineering work and still have something left over at the end of the day.  Maybe the intro to this post is a comment that the way we demand output, nobody is (at least without severe risk of burnout.)

I spent the weekend down in North Carolina learning how to build a vintage guitar amplifier.  About an hour into inhaling acrid solder/flux smoke I was thinking about getting a different hobby.  8 hours into it I was feeling a certain amount of solidarity with factory workers everywhere, Chinese or American or whatever.  I'm starting to look at electronic devices in terms of how much I am asking of another human being to neglect their health in order to feed their families.


Dialing back the frequency, and the tracking.

 I'm back from a short road trip where I got fuck-all exercise.  Before I left I was hitting the aerobic training harder than I have in months.

Honestly, before I left for the trip, this was feeling like too much.  My muscles were getting more and more sore, and I was looking forward to working out less and less.

Dr. Maffetone recommends 3 thirty minute sessions a week if you are severely de-trained.  Somewhere around 3-4 seems right.  I feel pretty recovered now, so I'm planning to get back into it this week.

The other comment I will make, is that it can be fun to have the diary calendar that I included above, but the danger is that you are completely orthorexic for a couple of weeks, and then any kind of deviation feels like a catastrophic structural failure.   I think if I were _not_ diary-ing, I would just work out when I wanted to work out, or when I felt like pushing myself.  There wouldn't be this abstract "make all the cells in the calendar red", or match an absolute number of days to be consistent with previous weeks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Currently training 5 days a week (Mon - Fri)... Mondays are hard after the weekend off.

I might need to re-evaluate what I'm doing here, and/or do some more 'active' recovery on off days.  

I took Saturday and Sunday off to let my leg muscles recover.  On Monday I noticed in myself a lot of "I don't want to do this" energy.  I had to drag myself to the gym early in the day, because I was sure that if I waited until later, I wouldn't do it at all.

As per usual when I don't want to do a workout, but do it anyway, I was literally singing to myself afterwards.  It felt amazing.

Same energy today, Tuesday.  I did the treadmill yesterday, because in many respects it is easier psychologically than the bike because your pace is set digitally.  I don't want to do that two days in a row, and I'm kind of dreading trying to keep my RPMs up and stay in my heart rate zone on the exercise bike.

I'm sure if I just do it it will also be amazing.

Traveling at the end of the week, going to take my heart rate monitor with me.  At the very least I should be able to find a place to walk, but hopefully my hotel has a gym.

Coming up on my first real weight milestone...

It's pretty dumb that the following means so much to me as a milestone, given how stupid BMI is, but it does...

The CDC classifies weight into a few categories such as under, normal, over, and obese classes 1 through 3.  Class 3 obesity is what was referred to as "morbid obesity" previously. 

The threshold for Class 3 obesity is a BMI of 40, for me that represents a weight of 267lbs (121kg).  My current weight is 283lbs, and I'm losing at the rate of a few pounds per month.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Nerve compression on the exercise bike - It's OK to stand up for a minute!

 I've been hitting the recumbent exercise bike over the last two weeks.  I prefer walking on a treadmill, but I am still carrying 285 pounds, so I'm trying to save wear and tear on my lower extremities.  The non-weight bearing exercise helps with that.

My goal is a regular 60 or 90 minute ride, but right now I'm at 30 minutes.  One of the challenges is that my left leg (for whatever reason only my left) gets a bit tingly 15 minutes into the ride.  

Now, I come from a tradition of sitting on a rowing machine for north of an hour at a piece, and I have a little bit of a built in resistance to taking breaks in the middle of workouts.  This is especially true when I'm tracking heart rate -- I like to be at my target, and getting off of the machine drops my heart rate.

However, it _has_ been productive to take a 60 second stretch break every 10 - 13 minutes or so.  I press "pause" on my heart rate tracker, and just stand up and stretch.  At first it was a mental hurdle to allow myself to do this, but now it feels great.

There are different types of pain or discomfort when training -- my feeling is that nerve compression is a kind of mildly 'bad' pain.  It's not productively strengthening anything, it's just discomfort.  There's not a lot of reason to work through it.  I would say though that there is not a lot of reason to focus on it either.  The discomfort is mild, and there might be a tendency to make a bigger deal out of it than it is, beyond just taking a 60 second stretch break.

Heart rate tracking can have a built in incentive not to warm up / cool down -- Here's a solution using Polar Flow

 The problem with tracking heart rate over a workout is that there is something of an incentive built in to jump right into the target heart rate without a warm up, and terminate the workout right when the work is done, without a cool down.  If you don't, your average heart rate over the piece won't be representative of the actual work done.  If you don't track the beginning and end of the workout, then you aren't getting credit for the total minutes.

What we want to do is take the entire graph of the workout, and clip off the front and backends, where we are warming up and cooling down.  You can do just that in Polar Flow.

You actually _can_ export raw heart rate data from Polar Flow


Self-defeating Common Wisdom, Cheat Days, and Stress

 I was talking with a bartender about my diet yesterday.  He was congratulatory about my weight loss, but he also seemed to have some concerns centering on orthorexia -- or a diet that is overly restrictive.  After I told him about being essentially 'keto', and cutting out sugar, he asked if I took a weekly cheat day to eat whatever I wanted.  I gave him a bit of a dissertation on the 'addiction model'  to which he made a face, and walked away. 

You can't have a little bit of heroin, or a little bit of cigarettes.  Why should we think that refined sugar is any different?  There is so much cultural impetus wrapped up in a brownie sundae that we just aren't wise enough to say 'no thanks', more or less permanently.

I think the key to understanding why this modification feels possible for me centers on stress.  I have gone to huge strides, financially limiting strides, professionally limiting strides, to reduce stress from my life.  I used to go right from work at a high power technology consulting firm to a Chinese buffet.   I don't think I'd be able to just limit myself to a few sporadic half-pints of berries if that were still part of my life.

While there is an American puritanical tendency to value effort-ing (to use a word from the mindfulness community), and to feel lazy if we aren't revved to the max at all times, the health impact of this is terrible.  If I have a heart attack or stroke at 55, am I really going to value all the time I put in killing myself (literally) for my career?  Won't I at that point wish I had dialed it back and spent more time thinking about my health?

Thursday, June 15, 2023

A2 v.s. MAF

A bit of a pivot here away from A1/A2 towards MAF:  

Click to zoom

The two white lines in the graph are my MAF range.  Showing a bunch of work above MAFmax, which is probably counterproductive.   I felt somewhat depleted after this A2 workout, which is not how you should feel after MAF.  The point of MAF being volume over a long commitment, rather than burning yourself out after a couple of weeks.

Once I've got a good base (3 - 6 months of MAF), _then_ weave in work that flirts with anaerobic threshold a bit more like the upper parts of this A2 workout. The other way to think about it is that once I have been doing this for 3-6 months, I can remove the 10 point handicap from the MAF calculation. (see this post:

If I really want two ranges, shift from A1/A2 to MAFlow and MAFhigh

MAF : 114 - 124
MAFlow: 114-119

See previous posts or

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A strong memory of 165...

 I have this very strong, I think accurate memory of spending a lot of time at or around heart rate 165 when I was training for rowing as a teenager.  I credit this approach (with a lot of other coaching wisdom) with winning a junior national championship and an olympic festival.

I just picked up a snipped in Maffetone's e-book on the MAF method:

For athletes 16 years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Very interesting and validating of the memory.  I wonder if Todd Jesdale (my coach at the time) had read Maffetone?

My MAF number (in June 2023)

 The MAF 180 Formula: 

Determining your MAF HR 

1. Subtract your age from 180. 

2. Modify this number by choosing one category below that best applies to you: 

a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (including any operation or hospital stay), are in rehabilitation, have been prescribed any regular medication, or are chronically overtrained, subtract an additional 10. 

b. If you are injured, have regressed or not improved in training (such as poor MAF Tests) or competition, get more than two colds, flu or other infections per year, have seasonal allergies or asthma, are overfat, are acutely overtraining, or if you have been inconsistent, just beginning or returning to exercise, subtract an additional 5. 

c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems mentioned in a) or b), no modification is necessary (use 180 minus age as your MAF HR). 

d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, have made progress in your MAF Tests, and have improved competitively, add 5. 

The resulting HR is the high end of the HR range with the low being 10 beats below

I selected category 'a', because I have been proscribed statins, and because my general physical fitness level is quite poor.

180 - 46 - 10 = 124

MAF range: 114 - 124

How does my previous conception of A1 and A2 fit into that?

My A1 target is about 113 - 121 bpm, and my A2 target is about 121 - 130 bpm, which corresponds to targets of about 65-70% HRmax and 70-75% HRmax using the standard 220-age formula.

When you’ve finished each workout, you should feel great — not tired or sore, and certainly not ready to collapse on the couch. Nor should you crave sugar or other carbohydrates: aerobic workouts program your body to burn stored fat, not sugar. Craving sugar during or after a workout may indicate it’s anaerobic.

That leads me to think that the upper range of my A2 target might be a bit high, not by much, a few points.   

Decades ago I discovered that it is necessary to take a period of three to six months to exclusively develop the aerobic system. A heart rate monitor is an excellent tool to monitor aerobic development, when paired with the MAF 180 Formula---

Interestingly my instinct was to put the weight lifting on pause for a while before I read this.

The source of the MAF info is Maffetone's e-book The MAF Method(v1.0).pdf.

Recovery Rides and Training Effect

 I want to strike a balance here between journaling and writing stuff that is relevant to other people. I don't think I really have any readers at this point, so journaling seems fine...

I did an A1 recumbent indoor bike ride today at a bit after noon.  I didn't sleep that great last night, but I slept in a bit, so I feel rested.

The ride felt the way it usually does -- not exactly easy, but not so taxing that I want to quit at every moment.  Afterward though I just feel great.  

I have maintained that the 65% HRmax rides are kind of a mix of 'recovery' ride and aerobic training.  I'm certain I'm getting a training effect out of them, but they generally feel regenerative rather than depleting.  I'm sure there is more training effect from the 70-75% rides, but those _do_ feel more taxing.

Goal for the rest of June ('23) -- strap in, hold on tight, be consistent with the aerobic base training and turn this calendar red!


Also -- try not to overdo it, get injured...etc...

What I mean when I talk about A1 and A2 training.


A1 target around 65% HRmax 
(maybe 70% HRmax if you are very fit)

A2 target around 70% HRmax 
(maybe 75%-80% HRmax if you are very fit.)

Doing long pieces (30-60 minutes most days) in these ranges represents a significant commitment.  The goal of splitting them into two ranges is primarily psychological -- on 'a' days the workout requires a little bit more than on 'b' days.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Some pretty sane sounding answers on Heart Rate, Anaerobic Threshold, Training Effect, and the "220-age" estimation formula from ChatGPT.

Is there a significant difference between regular training at 65 percent max heart rate versus 70 percent?

(I'm primarily interested in the impact on the cardiovascular adaptation here...)

When you exercise at different heart rate percentages, the main differences lie in the intensity and physiological adaptations that occur. Here's a breakdown of the potential effects of training at 65 percent versus 70 percent HRmax: Intensity: Training at 70 percent HRmax is generally considered a moderate intensity level, while training at 65 percent HRmax is on the lower end of the moderate intensity range. The higher intensity of 70 percent HRmax may lead to slightly greater cardiovascular and metabolic demands during exercise. Caloric expenditure: As exercise intensity increases, so does the number of calories burned. Training at 70 percent HRmax may result in slightly higher calorie expenditure compared to training at 65 percent HRmax. Aerobic capacity: Training within the moderate intensity range, including both 65 percent and 70 percent HRmax, primarily targets aerobic endurance. Both levels of intensity can improve cardiovascular fitness, enhance oxygen utilization, and promote efficient energy production. Fat burning: During exercise at lower intensities, a higher percentage of calories burned comes from fat stores. Consequently, training at 65 percent HRmax might elicit a slightly higher proportion of fat burning compared to 70 percent HRmax. However, the total number of calories burned, including both fat and carbohydrates, tends to be higher at higher intensities. Anaerobic threshold: The anaerobic threshold is the point at which the body's energy production shifts more towards anaerobic metabolism. Training at 70 percent HRmax is closer to this threshold than training at 65 percent HRmax. Therefore, exercising at 70 percent HRmax may better challenge the anaerobic threshold, improving your body's ability to tolerate and delay the accumulation of lactate during exercise. In summary, training at 70 percent HRmax generally represents a slightly higher intensity level compared to training at 65 percent HRmax. The differences in physiological adaptations may include slightly greater cardiovascular demands, increased caloric expenditure, and a closer challenge to the anaerobic threshold. However, both intensities can contribute to overall cardiovascular fitness and are beneficial in their own ways. It's important to consider your individual fitness goals, preferences, and any specific recommendations from a qualified fitness professional when determining the appropriate training intensity for you. What percentage of max heart rate generally corresponds to anaerobic threshold?

(An important point is that anaerobic threshold is determined by anaerobic metabolism and can be measured by the bi-products of that process -- i.e. lactic acid. It is a physiological phenomenon, and while you can use a percentage of HRmax as a proxy, it's not a direct measurement of the physiological phenomenon of lactate build up.)

The anaerobic threshold, also known as the lactate threshold, is the exercise intensity at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be cleared. It is often used as an indicator of the transition between aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. While the anaerobic threshold can vary among individuals, it typically occurs at approximately 80-85 percent of maximum heart rate (HRmax). It's important to note that the anaerobic threshold is not solely determined by a specific heart rate percentage. It is influenced by several factors, including individual fitness levels, training status, genetics, and other physiological variables. Therefore, using a heart rate-based approach alone may not provide an accurate estimation of the anaerobic threshold for everyone. To more precisely determine your anaerobic threshold, there are other methods available, such as lactate threshold testing. This involves measuring blood lactate levels at various exercise intensities to identify the point at which lactate accumulation significantly increases. Such testing can provide more accurate and personalized information regarding your anaerobic threshold.

Would it be unusual for anaerobic threshold for a 46 year old male to occur at around 70 to 75 percent max heart rate rather than 80 to 85 percent in a fit person?

(An important point here is the emphasis that the "220-age" formula for estimating HRmax can be wildly off, so in effect you might see the kind of variance in AT value that I was asking about.)

While the anaerobic threshold can vary among individuals, it is generally considered unusual for the anaerobic threshold to occur at around 70 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate (HRmax) in a fit person. In most cases, the anaerobic threshold is expected to be around 80 to 85 percent HRmax or higher.

The anaerobic threshold is influenced by various factors, including individual fitness levels, training status, genetics, and physiological variables. Generally, individuals with higher levels of aerobic fitness tend to have a higher anaerobic threshold. Fit individuals often have well-developed cardiovascular systems, allowing them to sustain higher exercise intensities before reaching their anaerobic threshold.

However, it's important to recognize that there can be individual variations, and some individuals may have a lower anaerobic threshold due to factors such as genetics or specific training adaptations. Additionally, methods used to estimate HRmax can sometimes be less accurate, leading to potential discrepancies in determining the percentage of HRmax at the anaerobic threshold.

What is generally accepted as the margin of error in the "220 minus age" formula for estimating maximum heart rate?

(A 20 point difference in HRmax could account for a 17 point difference in AT.)

The margin of error associated with the 220 minus age formula for estimating maximum heart rate (MHR) is a topic of debate. While the formula is widely known and used, its accuracy and applicability to individuals can vary significantly. Research suggests that the 220 minus age formula may have a standard deviation of around ±10-12 beats per minute (bpm), indicating a potential margin of error within that range.