Fat Burning Secrets Exposed

Type: Easy 20.0 Miler
Distance: 20.00 miles
Time: 1:00:46
Average Watts: 160 watts
Normative Power: 163 watts
Average Heart Rate: 150 bpm
Total Work: 587 kJ
Average Speed: 20.0 mph

Well, if the Monday morning ride was mediocre, this ride may have been a notch below. I don’t want to call them junk miles, so let’s call them base-building miles. If you want to make fun of me for justifying my slacking this week, please feel free. After my entry from yesterday let’s just call this ride a “It was Better than Taking the Day Off.” Man I need to start riding hard so I can get into top form by May.

If it is any consolation, I am going to start doing two-a-days next week. I will be biking in the a.m. six days a week and either running or swimming in the p.m. four days a week. Friday I will have one workout and Saturday will be my long workout. Sunday will be my day off. I used this system successfully during my build-up for Ironman St. George. I think it will serve me well for my 2011 race schedule.

Fat Burning — There Really is Only One Way

This is an important conversation to me because this was me right after I graduated from college…


And me today…


One of my pet peeves about this time of year is the overabundance of articles on resolutions and setting new goals. While I think these conversations are important, I think they are important throughout the year. I would love to see more information published at the end of each quarter about assessing your progress in meeting goals.

Of course fitness goals are always somewhere near the top of every discussion. I think this is an important conversation, but most of the time people will take on a monumental goal and falter sometime about Valentine’s Day because of the difficulty in the process. But the bad news is that if you want to make a significant change, most of the time it requires significant effort.

I think weight loss is this way if you want to make significant changes very quickly. But if you are willing to be patient, there are several small changes you can make that will help you drop weight over several months of effort. But let’s be honest, each of these items also require sacrifice and effort. I practice most of these myself and find that when I do, dropping or maintaining what I call my performance weight is a manageable goal.

I am going to assume that you already run, bike, or swim. We all know that calories out must be greater than calories in. I am not going to insult your intelligence by recommending you spend more time aerobically. If you aren’t running, biking, or swimming right now, get to it. There are no excuses to keep you from doing so. That said…

1. Cut the Coke. I have a love hate relationship with Coke and Dr. Pepper both. The truth is the amount of sugar in soft drinks will pack on the pounds or inhibit you from losing it. If you need the details, check out my post on “Endurance Athletes and Coke“. Even diet soft drinks hurt you — studies have shown the carbonation hurts performance in endurance athletes. The people at Hammer Nutrition have a great Guide to Success out and cutting carbonation is key. The carbonation inhibits your ability to  absorb Oxygen. There I said it. Drink water instead. Your body will be glad you did.

2. Lift Weights. In college all I did was lift weights and skipped purposeful cardio all together. That was bad. Real bad. But as endurance athletes, we cannot avoid lifting. We actually need to embrace it. Focusing your weight routine on muscle groups like hamstrings and core can help you avoid injury. But when you lift, you need to use free weights or kettlebells because of secondary muscle recruitment. You also need to remember that your reps should be slow and controlled. I like to count to five during both phases of the lift — the Isotonic or contraction and the Eccentric or lengthening.

3. When you lift, use a circuit. When Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his study detailing the benefits of using a circuit instead of just lifting or participating in aerobic activity, it was groundbreaking. Since then it seems that many trainers call a circuit just an arrangement of machines. That is not the case. What you should do is design a 30 minute workout with intervals of alternating aerobic and anaerobic activity. What I like to do is start my treadmill and set it at a comfortable pace. I will plan three weight bearing exercises of three sets each. I will do one set of weights and then immediately jump on the treadmill for 60 seconds. I will take minimal rest between sets. This is a tough workout, but studies have shown that when you arrange your workout such that you will burn more fat that if you lifted weights and ran separately.

4. Use recovery nutrition strategies. I know it sounds counterintuitive to eat more, but fueling your muscles immediately after a workout is based in science. For the first 60 minutes after a workout, think of your muscles as a sponge. They need to replace their glycogen stores and the best time to do so is within an hour of ending your workout. If you consume about 150 calories immediately after a workout, your muscles will be better prepared for the next workout. This translates into fewer skipped or shortened workouts because your muscles feel flat.

5. Eat smaller portions. With apologies to my Registered Dietitian friends, you guys know I don’t eat the purest diet. But that doesn’t mean I overindulge either. When you eat foods that are high in fat or calories, limit what you eat. When you go out to restaurants, order the lunch portion or split a plate with your companion. Have the ice cream for dessert, just don’t down the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Be disciplined enough to push away from the table when you are full. You can shave a lot of calories off of your total each day if you just eat less.

6. Limit your screen time. This is a really important component of any fitness plan and for your kids. Screen time is the quantity of time spent in front of the TV, computer, and hand held video games. While none of these are bad, spending three hours a day with these items can be. If you have to watch TV, do core work during commercials. Spend time with your family being active. Spend time reading and educating yourself about the sports you participate in. Both of these investments will pay significant dividends in the future.

7. Keep a food log. What gets measured gets done. If you want to cut unnecessary calories out of your diet, track everything that goes into your mouth. You may be surprised at how many calories that you are eating that are not benefiting you. I use MyNetDiary on my iPad and it is amazing. When I want to keep myself honest, I track my calories for two weeks. It is really an eye opener.

8. Don’t focus on weight. Instead watch body composition. I think this a mind shift for many endurance athletes, making it a very important conversation. Your body composition is a better indicator of how your fitness plan is working. Quit stressing about your weight and instead look at your body fat percentage. This will mean you need to purchase a good body composition scale. Personally I use a Tanita because it is usually spot on. Just like your weight, the readings your scale will give you on body fat will fluctuate, but you will have a good idea of your range. Always measure at the same time of the day as hydration levels, caffeine, the food you just ate, and 100 other variables will impact your reading.

So there. That is my list of the eight things I do to cut or maintain my weight. I am glad to report that I entered the holiday season at 14.1% body fat and I am right around 14.0% as of today. I will need to drop 12-17 lbs. before March 31st so I can go into the season at my goal racing weight, which means I will need to drop 6.5% in my body fat percentage. If you really want to get specific about what you want to weigh and your body fat percentages before the season, I suggest you buy Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. That book more than anything helped me make a decision as to what my body fat should be at so I can race more efficiently.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...