Experts caution against an obsession with the scale

Don't be obsessed by what you see on the scale
Miss part one of this story?

Eating habits
Joe Douglas common-sense, non-scientific approach to food habits works for his elite runners and mirrors the more carefully plotted programs of Dr. Phil Maffetone and exercise physiologist Saul Blaus Health Corp. clinic.

If my runners are overweight," Douglas says, "I tell em to cut back on the desserts and the fat. They can still eat one great dessert a week, or one plate of French fries a week, but not every night. If they like beer, once a week. And no eating late at night."

It may be hard at first, but you can train your hunger as well as your legs.

By late at night, the bodys metabolism has slowed down some 30 percent and the calories stay on. Blau recommends eating the biggest meal at breakfast, having a good lunch, tapering down for dinner and (having) no food three to four hours before bed.

This is because, as he says, Any excess calories, even if they are non-fat carbohydrates, will be stored as fat and will have to be burned as fat. You can put them on quickly, but once they are stored as fat, it is a much slower process taking them off.

French triathlete Benjamin Sanson carried such a policy to an elite athletes extreme and ate no dinner for a month, losing 10 pounds and vaulting to the head of the class at ITGP super-sprint events last fall.

Maffetone stresses that the current U.S. low-fat craze has led to a nation cutting its own dietary throat.

Body fat is necessary for the correct function of hormones and glands," Maffetone says. "Fat protects bone density, and fat pads protect connective tissue and the skeletal system itself."

Accessing fat-burning energy is a critical component of endurance racing. The body normally can store no more then 2,200 calories of glycogen, and a marathon typically requires 3,500 calories.

The greater percentage of fat burning, the easier the load is on the heart, and the faster you can go for a long time.

Measuring success
Blaus Health Corp. will measure respiratory quotient on a cardio-pulmonary treadmill stress test and will match your oxygen consumption to your HR training zones.

Basically, they have a scientific approach to body fat and aerobic function, and recommend training in four different HR zones spread out over the week. According to Blau, case study A will recover peak fitness in a little over 2 1/2 months.

Any faster, and constant temporary water-loss gains of five to six pounds per workout may leave the athletes ego temporarily assuaged. But, with dehydration, your blood viscosity will increase with the loss of water. Basically, you will be pumping sludge.

Maffetone counsels against obsession with the scale. Its actually quite simple to see if you are going in the right direction, he says. Your clothes should fit looser. People at work should comment that you look thinner. The scale may say you have even gained weight, but that is because your muscle mass increased.

The ultimate arbiter of success, says Maffetone, is his MAF (maximum aerobic function) test. Calculate your maximum aerobic function which, in case study As case, is about 150 HR of a max 190 HR. Then conduct a time trial where he runs five miles at 150 HR and finds the pace per mile. In the old days, he could finish those 7:15 per mile. At the peak of his avoirdupoidian adventure, he was stuck at 8:00 pace.

The process of losing fat and the process of getting faster are actually one and the same, Maffetone says. In order to get more endurance aerobic speed, you have to burn a great percentage of fat. When you do that, excess body fat drops off. And a MAF test is the absolute best indicator of that fitness.

Blau stresses that, if the athlete treats any of this as a quick fix, all of the gains will boomerang. And the fat will come back with a vengeance.

We emphasize lifestyle changes, he says. Balanced diet, a regular program of exercise. But if you follow it, you wont want to go back, and you wont see it as an accessory to your life, but a necessity.

Discuss This Article