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Case Study: Burning 16926 Calories in 7 Days to Drop 4+ Pounds of Fat
Related: body fat, double century, exercise, heart rate, metabolism, training, ultra endurance exercise
Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.
This page documents a 7-day intensive training regimen with the goal of dropping drop 4+ pounds of body fat in 7 days. Quick facts:
- One pound of body fat is 3500 calories (body fat contains water, so it is not pure fat).
- Four pounds of body fat is 14000 calories. Hence to lose 4 pounds of fat, 14000 calorie deficit must be achieved.
- Intensive training degrades muscle tissue by catabolic processes that “eat” muscle tissue up to 10% of calories for long endurance exercise. Thus some of the lost weight will be muscle unless adequate protein intake is maintained and even then full recovery and muscle growth will start after the intensive training is slackened to something less demanding.
- Climbing speed is linearly related to the power-to-weight ratio. Hence getting body fat down to 8% or so is a huge win over 10% or 15%.
- The body has a “set point”, gradually adjusting appetite so as to protect fat stores from being depleted to zero. This is a survival mechanism and it is why as there is less and less body fat it becomes harder and harder to lose fat—a demanding hunger sets in. There are tricks to deal with this, like doing a double century, eating to satisfaction afterwards but at a large deficit, and then eating to caloric parity on subsequent days.
<a few days after recovery following this 7-day effort, insert graph of weight over time>
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The graph below summarizes the 7 day effort for each day, plus the average for all 7 days (the rightmost triplet of bars). A basal metabolic rate is assumed to be 2100 calories per day, a figure that has proven itself as accurate over many years.
Miles in 7 day: 412
Ascent in 7 days: 27533 vertical feet
Calories Consumed in 7 days: 17464
Exercise Calories in 7 day: 16929
Caloric Deficit in 7 days: 14164
Theoretical fat loss in 7 days: 14164 calorie deficit / 3500 calorie/lb = 4.05 pounds
There are 3 bars for each day of the effort: (1) calories consumed, (2) calories burned, (3) Caloric deficit. Caloric deficit is simply the difference between calories consumed and calories burned.
Following the summary graph, each day’s food consumption and workout graph and comment.
Calories consumed is as accurate as can be done, weighing most foods to the gram. Mixed meals are harder and a best effort is made as to estimating the caloric content. The thermic losses in digesting food reduce the actual caloric intake; these losses are not accounted for.
Calories burned is extremely accurate (about 1/2%), translating kilojoules from the SRM power meter to calories, assuming a 25% metabolic efficiency for muscular effort (25% is highly trained). For myself, the assumption is made that basal metabolic requirements are 2100 calories per day (without any exercise).
How I did it without going hungry
For calculating daily deficit, a basal metabolic rate of 2100 calories per day is assumed (as I have done for years, it has proven itself to be a solid figure).
How I did it without going hungry? One answer is “darned if I know”, which is true enough in some ways—it surprised even me. I thought that a 2000 calorie per day deficit would result in intense hunger pangs—not so.
I think the lack of hunger my be the result of relatively low exertion levels that allow most of the energy production to be aerobic (fat burning)—combined with unusually efficient fat-burning mitochondria in my muscle cells, ehanced year after year by 10K miles a year, along with 34 double centuries over the past 5 years—double centuries all have to be done with fat as the primary energy source.
- Late breakfast (10 AM to 11 AM) of 300 to 600 calories depending on how hungry in the morning. This leaves 1500 to 1800 calories remaining to eat for parity (2100 calories assumed as basal metabolic rate, a figure that over time has proven itself).
- Do not allow any hunger pangs to start while riding. At the first sign of even a faint hunger pang, take about 100 calories of Hammer Gel or GU. This kills the hunger pangs indefinitely, just as in a double century. If you screw this up, you’re hosed. It is especially important to ward off hunger towards the end of the ride.
- Upon return, immediately consume 1 scoop of Hammer Recoverite and optionally a scoop of Hammer Whey. This starts some recovery and makes me not hungry for 30 to 45 minutes.
- After showering, eat a dinner, ideally first with some bulk (salad, kohlrabi or cabbage, fruit). Then eat 1/2 to 2/3 of pound of lean red meat, which takes calories to digest (winter “protein starvation” is why primitive peoples took only the fatty parts of animals). So the actual calories in lean red meat are reduce by metabolic costs. The meat delivers badly needed protein along with iron. Dinner should include a modest amount of carbs (500 calories or less, spaced out over an hour).
- Get a good night’s sleep.
To each his/her own but I’m a firm believer in lean red meat as appropriate for endurance athletes—it seems to work well for me (one of my daughter’s is vegan, another nearly vegan, but red meat tastes good, is high in protein and iron and low in fat—and it’s a lot simpler than carb-laden vegan stuff).
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Days summary notes
I don’t think I could have tolerated even 3 days of this in 2017 (this early in the year). My body had not been working right for 3 years going. I attribute this to a mangled gut biome from the Metronidazole that took years to heal But in early 2018, I sensed that my body was primed and ready to function like it had back in 2011/2012.
This 7 day workout proves with hard data that this intuition was spot-on, meaning the fact that I could perform day after day. This might be the highest weekly caloric burn I’ve ever done, even with weeks including a double century. Or, at least, it is easily a personal best for a week without a double.
Click each workout graph for a larger image (up to 5112 pixels wide).
Further below, each day has summary notes for that day. Toggle over the days in this single image below to get a quick look at the 7 workouts.
The impetus for this 7-day hard-core “super burn” formed in my head while doing a long calorie-burner workout. I wondered whether I could sustain a similar effort for 7 days and speed up by 6-8 weeks the process of dropping body fat so as to achieve high climbing speed (by fitness and low body fat) for the first of the 2018 California Triple Crown series double centuries, that is, Devil Mountain Double. Climbing speed is the #1 factor in a fast time for all three of the 2018 California Triple Crown double centuries. And so it began.
I wasn’t sure if my body would tolerate burning 14000 calories in one week (final figure 16,926 calories), particularly so early in the season. But I knew that if I could do it, I’d make a huge fitness leap and burn off a lot of unwanted weight in short order.
An “energizer bunny” day with a good amount of climbing. Strength stayed high through the entire ride. While I could feel my quads being pummeled by continuous effort, I was able to keep that crank turning at a nice RPM and with good torque (high power) at low RPMs. Days like this are a tremendous positive feedback loop—when the body just soaks up the beating it is getting, and yet keeps performing well.
A relatively light workout after a hard Day 2. As with Day 5, the next day results reflect more recovery, allowing greater power and distance and calories burned—a sort of oscillating difficulty regimen.
Totally awesome energizer bunny day—my legs just kept spinning almost as if I set a dial in they just did it on their own, even though I could feel the latent fatigue—it’s a strange sensation but one familiar from double centuries: tired legs but they still cooperate and put out good power.
This day was not so good. I was all amped up from the most excellent Day 4 ride, and could not fall asleep until 1 AM, then woke before 6 AM. That seems to have taken a toll, as Day 5 was the slowest day with the lowest power and the lowest calorie burn and lowest caloric deficit.
Much better than the prior day with substantially higher (and normal) power output. The relatively light workout the day prior clearly helped my body recover enough for a terrific ride.
My quads were sore, which had not been the case on prior days, where they had been just not at full strength, but not sore. Setting out, I wondered if I would have to “ride through” legs that were clearly not recovered as during the first ascent of Alpine Road my quads were not real happy. But as has happened on rides before, the more I rode the stronger I felt, with a very strong last two hours. The soreness disappeared about 90 minutes into the ride.
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