Fuel For Sport

Back in November, in the original Fuel For Thought blog, I touched upon the subject of what powers the LifeCycle bike. Now, four months further down the road, I plan to lift the lid on why it works, and explain as best I can how the science that powers the LifeCycle bike can match any weight loss programme you care to mention.

It’s simple, it’s effective and it works.

But first, I need to explain something about the theory…

Every one of us has a unique factor that allows us to burn fuel by simply doing nothing: nothing at all. Zippo. Just sitting about, slothlike. That factor is called your Base Metabolic Rate, or BMR for short. You can calculate it in one of two ways:

If you’re old school like me, then BMR = (your weight [in pounds]) * 0.45    calories per hour

If you’re new school, then            BMR = your weight [in kilos]                     calories per hour

Either way, it gives you a number of calories that you’ll burn, every hour of every day, whether you’re sitting, sleeping or doing stuff. It is the number of calories per hour that your body burns, just to exist.

Now where those calories come from depends to a large extent on my good pal Omega 3.

Omega 3 is the Patron Saint of LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma.

I’ll try to keep this simple: if you have a low level of Omega 3 in your body, and that is by far the norm in the West of Scotland, then your BMR will derive its fuel from stuff called Glycogen. Think of Glycogen as your fuel tank: when it’s full you’re fine, but see when it’s running dry, you’ll feel like shit, especially if you’re trying to do stuff (like sport). Ask any marathon runner who’s ever hit the wall! The wall happens when your Glycogen store runs out and your body has to turn to fat instead. Whilst your fat stores will keep you going for a very, very long time, metabolising the fat back into useable fuel is a very inefficient process and degrades your performance significantly.

So, back to the storyline: if you have a low level of Omega 3, you’ll burn Glycogen at rest. However if you have a high level of Omega 3, you’ll burn fat in preference to Glycogen, and that is crucial, absolutely crucial to the long term success of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

Here’s why…

You use up your Glycogen stores when you’re doing proper stuff like walking, running, cycling, aerobics etc. And thinking. The brain is a big consumer of Glycogen. And those Glycogen stores are limited. They are limited, on average,  according to your weight.

Your maximum Glycogen store (in calories) = your weight (in kilos) * 25.

So if you’re a 12st man, which equates to 76 kilos, your Glycogen store will be around 76 x 25, which is 1905 calories. It doesn’t matter how much you eat, or the quality of what you eat, if you are a 12st man (or woman), you can’t store any more than 1905 calories as Glycogen.

And here’s the killer: once you’re Glycogen stores are full, your body converts any additional calories to fat.

3,500 calories = 1lb of fat.

If you consume 3,500 calories more than you burn, you’ll put on 1lb. Conversely, if you burn 3,500 calories more than you consume, you’ll lose a pound.

I mentioned Omega 3 earlier: here’s the real killer fact…

Having a high level of Omega 3 in your body unlocks your fat stores and enables you to burn fat as fuel more readily.

Having a low level of Omega 3 in your body locks away your fat stores forever.

It doesn’t matter whether you only consume 1000 calories a day and do an hour at the gym every day: if your Omega 3 level is low, you won’t shift that fat. But you will feel like shit while you’re trying.

For the record, I possess (or at least I did at the time I was tested back in 2010), the highest level of Omega 3 ever recorded in Scotland. Why is that important? Because it allows me to burn humungous amounts of fat all day long, while I’m sat about the house or the office, thereby preserving my precious Glycogen stores for the LifeCycle bike.

Now let’s get serious with some proper numbers…

I weigh in at 11st 7lb, which is 73kg. That means that my BMR is 73 calories per hour. Now because I have a high level of Omega 3, I know that at rest, 50 of those 73 calories are coming from fat. I’m burning 50 calories an hour of fat 24 hours a day. And just as importantly, my BMR is only consuming only 23 calories an hour of precious Glycogen, and that’s great news because I need that Glycogen when I’m on the bike.

Why is all of this important?

Because it means I can maximise my Glycogen stores by taking on minimal amounts of food: all I’m doing, in effect, is topping up my Glycogen stores for the bike, and burning fat the rest of the time… the Holy Grail of weight loss!!!!!

My maximum Glycogen store is 73 x 25 calories, which equates to 1825 calories. That’s my limit.

I get up at 5:15am every day and I’m on the bike at 5:30am. I never eat before I leave the house. Research shows that working out in a fasted state burns significantly more fat than exercising after a meal. But what I do do is take a desert spoon of high strength Cod Liver Oil. Sometimes I take the capsules, it’s just a matter of what’s available. But critically it’s high quality Omega 3 and it provides me with 150 calories of fuel, enough to power the first 15 minutes of the new LifeCycle day.

Then I jump on the bike and spend the next 80-90 minutes commuting to work. The time it takes is entirely dependent on the wind direction. The bike burns up 900 calories.

By the time I’m showered and at my desk (normally 7:15am), I’ve burnt up 900 of my original 1825 Glycogen calories on the bike and a further 161 (7 hours @ 23/hr) through my BMR. I’m down to 1076 calories of Glycogen.

Time for some food…

I don’t do the cereal thing for breakfast. I gave that up years ago when I realised that most cereals are sky high in carbohydrate, which merely causes an insulin spike followed by a sugar crash and has you heading for the sweetie machine. So I scoff a wrapper’s worth of oatcakes (six at 45 calories each) along with half a small tin of salmon: more Omega 3. The sum total of my breakfast is around 400 calories, enough to partially top up my depleted Glycogen stores, but most importantly, enough to stop me getting hungry for the next few hours.

Why?

Because the salmon is high in protein and it has been proven that a meal with a significant proportion of protein (30% is enough) reduces the insulin reaction and hence releases the food fuel into your body at a slower rate.

In effect, a mix of 40% carbohydrate and 30% protein in every meal turns your petrol into diesel and it keeps you going for much, much longer. If Duracell did ready meals, they’d certainly make ‘em with protein. Remember the old Marathon Bar advert: “keeps you going with peanut power”: peanuts are heavy on protein.

And so it goes on throughout the day… Grazing.

Something to eat every two or three hours: always small, never big, and with one eye on the Glycogen meter. I know that to get home without discomfort, I need 1300 calories of Glycogen in the tank at 4pm. I can manage that comfortably by grazing a combination of carbs and protein: furthermore, I never get hungry while I’m doing it. It might look like I’m eating like a pig to the untrained eye, but it’s all calculated. It’s fuel: LifeCycle fuel.

The bike home always consumes more calories than the ride in, usually because of the wind direction. I reckon on needing 1100 calories on a good day and up to 1400 calories if it’s blowing a gale against. And I always keep an emergency supply of biscuits or sweeties on the bike in case I miscalculate. That happens, on average, about once every two months and usually involves cake at work (which causes an insulin spike and sugar crash… and burn).

Generally speaking, when I get off the bike, I’m down to my last 600 calories of Glycogen and it’s then a battle of will to avoid topping it up by emptying the fridge before my tea. The fridge nearly always wins but I just console myself with the fact that 2,000 calories has just gone the other way so I deserve a wee treat.

So the moral to this story, and the reason why the LifeCycle project is working so well, is because a sky high level of Omega 3 in my body allows me to burn fat all day long, which in turn preserves my precious Glycogen stores for the bike. And I get by throughout the day by snacking on mini meals of carbs with a high proportion of protein. It’s deadly simple and  it works.

It’s delivering 36 miles every day on less than 3,000 calories.

Fuel  For Sport

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