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Reader Suggests Cross Training for Breaking Through Weight Loss Resistance

Charles J writes:

Inspirational work on the bike!

I am not certain if you want any advice about how to lose those last few pounds, but you could consider cross training.

You have become so efficient at riding that the calorie burn just doesn't take place like it used to. But even that requires incredible efforts to lose weight.

If you are a runner, you need to put in 2 hour runs. But you may have an awesome opportunity. Long distance hiking can complete your physical transformation - and that seems to be in your plans. You certainly have the experience and equipment. The tough part is that stopping to shoot photos will decrease the energy expenditure!

But if you can put in 8 hours of hiking a day for a long weekend you could lose the weight and maintain the cardio-vascular fitness (and minimize injury risk.)

Finally, since you have such awesome cardio at present, the weight loss may be more of a psychological boost than a performance boost. It could be time to put the scale away and just pay attention to speed and endurance.

Advice is always welcome, but comes with a proviso: I have to look at for its truly objective potential, and thus my response might be to the contrary.

Cross training

The suggestion for cross-training is a good one, if only to strengthen muscles differently. Lately I've inserted mountain biking into the equation. The peak-power demands of mountain biking are significantly different than road biking, including more arm and core body strength. I sense that the mountain biking has caused some muscle gain in my legs recently.

Traditionally, inline (speed) skating was my crossover sport; I used to speed skate 30-40 miles on weekends. That has its own issues, such as skin rubbed off ankle bones; it requires some months of increasing effort to let the skin callous up with the racing skates I use. But alas, smooth pavement of any useful distance is now all but non-existent in my area, so it’s not so much fun anymore on rough pavement. And it’s a waste of time to drive back and forth to usable pavement.

Running is perhaps the best suggestion, but so many runners trash their knees or hips; it is very hard on the body, and I don’t enjoy it much, so I’m just not going there. If I were to do so, it would be trail running.

Hiking for 8 hours is not in the cards because the calorie burn for 8 hours of hiking would be quite low relative to cycling, and I don’t have 8 hours a day on weekends or any other day. Today I burned 4200 calories cycling in 5.5 hours— a very efficient use of my time. But that is a longer ride than I generally have time for, by a factor of two.

Finally, 4 weeks before the Everest Challenge is too late to introduce a new sport; the risk of injury from overuse (deep fitness reserves applied to a new sport = injury— I’ve done it before).

Calories burned and body fat and staying alive

Intensive training produces a highly-efficient body for that activity, but my watt meter tells all, and it already assumes 25% efficiency (quite high). So even if I’m 26% or 27% efficient (pro level), it’s of little difference— watts are calories, and I produce a lot of watts on average.

In short, my calorie burn is very high, and I deem instead the problem to be a basic one: appetite: the body did not evolve to allow itself to be starved to death by dropping all body fat, and at present I’m pretty sure that I’m gaining muscle and likely down to about 7% body fat, so the built-in smarts of body physiology are making darn sure that I replace almost everything I burn off.

Click for a larger graph.

Average daily “burn” in Kilojoules (multiply by 1.04 for KCal)

Body weight — Click for a larger graph.

Body weight 2011

Caloric deficit

Read more about the caloric deficit graph on the Training Weight Loss: Caloric Deficit.

The red line in the graph below shows the average caloric deficit: observe its plot relative to the zero line; below the zero line is a calorie deficit, above the zero line is excess calories.

As body fat drops, it becomes much more difficult to control appetite; one just eats back nearly all the calories burned and the trend line (solid black) shows that the caloric deficit converges to the zero line: the body does not want itself starved to death!

Click for a larger graph.

Body weight 2011

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