I was trained the same way most physicians are trained in nutrition, and I suspect the same way that most other people in the health care industry are indoctrinated. For years, I thought the equation for weight was simple. Input equals output. If your input in terms of calories are greater than your output, then you gain weight. If your output was greater than your input, you lost weight. Simple. I recited the food pyramid to my patients diligently, and suspected that most people who thought they were following the correct diet and who did not lose weight were really not as strict as they thought. If they only counted calories, they would lose weight. I was the typical 35% cards, 35% protein, 30% fat diet guy. When I started to hack my own diet and exercise, I discovered that at least for me, what I had been taught was all wrong. Now I eat at least 50% of my calories from fat, and approximately 30-35% protein, with the rest being carbs. I don’t eat bread or pasta. I eat sweet potatoes only on a leg or back workout day (large muscle groups). I have lost body fat, my waist size is less than 30 inches, and I am 56 years old (soon to be 57). Turns out there is new science validating some of this information. As we get older, the body does not like to let go of fat. You have to trick it into thinking there is lots of fat around. It really works. If you are a male in your 40’s or older, change the way you eat. Combine it with variations of high intensity interval training. You will feel better, and you will lose the body fat. I should add I suspect the situation is more complex for women.
Monday was my leg day, and after testing the out limits of my quadriceps weight bearing abilities, the last thing I wanted to do was to get on the stair stepper or treadmill and run. So I experimented with the incline and speed on the treadmill. I took my baseline heart both with a stop watch and the machine and it correlated well at around 68 beats per minutes (bpm). Then I started off at 3 degrees incline and at 2.5 miles per hour (mph) on the treadmill. With each change in the variables, I correlated the machine readout of my heart rate with my stopwatch, and they were actually quite comparable. I increased my incline sequentially by a few degrees, and increased my walking rate to 3 mph. at 15 degrees incline and 3 mph, my heart rate was persistently in the 130+ range. At 10 degrees, it was in the 120 range. So I varied the incline every 2-3 minutes, and kept the speed at a comfortable constant 3 mph for 40 minutes. At the end, my legs did not hurt, and I had a good cardio workout. It also did not seem as onerous as pushing myself hard on the treadmill or stair stepper for 30 minutes, and I achieved the same calculated calorie goal. For those who say that they don’t have 40 minutes to do this type of experiment, you can split it up into 2 20 minute sessions, one in the morning and the second at night. In fact, there is research that suggests splitting up cardio into 2 shorter sessions rather than 1 long session boosts your metabolic rate higher than just one session.
So sometimes I get out of work, and my legs just don’t want to cooperate in terms of running or doing significant cardiovascular work. So how to get my cardio in and keep my heart rate above 130 for one minute intervals at least 10 times? I find that if I try and grind it out by running fast on days like this, I get discouraged. Its not my heart rate and shortness of breath withe exercise that limits my running on days tike this, it my legs that just feel tight and fatigued. For example, every Tuesday I am in the clinic all day, on my feet seeing patients. I have been in practice for 25 years, and I see 50-60 patients on Tuesday. So my hack is when I get on the treadmill, I get my heart rate up by running slower on a steep incline, say 5-8 degrees at 4 mph. I usually cycle every 2 minutes, meaning I run at 4 mph at 8 degrees incline, then 4 mph at 1 degree for 2 minutes. I repeat this cycle for 40 minutes, and get a nice work-out. I vary the incline on how I feel. Usually, I will start off at 5 degrees incline, but as I run longer and feel better, I increase the incline on my higher intensity segments. Try it, it really does work.