$1050 is on the line come 10/11/16. Is my workout routine strainful?
September 10, 2016 11:22 PM   Subscribe

We started a biggest loser challenge at work on July 11. All the participants pitched in money, and the grand total is $1050. BMI will be the determining factor. I was obese when I first started at 189 pounds (30.5 BMI). As of right now on 9/10/16, I'm sitting at 174 pounds (28.1 overweight). The challenge ends on October 11, 2016. I'm shooting for 160-162 by the end of the challenge. My current routine for losing weight consists of the following:

1. Going to the gym 4-5x a week and working out for at least a hour. I would jog on the treadmill for the first half hour. Afterwards, I would lift weights for the second half. I'm hitting the showers come the 60 minute mark. Every Sunday, I play basketball for 2 hours at the gym. Sunday is practically my cardio day since I'm running up and down the court.

2. I've been eating better since I found out that I have high cholesterol back in early July after a physical exam. I've cut down on my guilty pleasures (chips, cookies, chocolate, & red meat). I've also cut down on eating white rice, and switched to brown rice instead. About once a week, I'll have a cheat meal when I'm going out with friends. The following day, I make sure that I work out and increasing the intensity/duration.

I am seriously contemplating about waking up 5am in the morning, go to the gym, play basketball by just shooting around for 45-60 minutes, shower, and go straight to work afterwards. After work, I would head straight to the gym and work on my usual 1 hour routine of cardio/weights. I was thinking of exercising in the morning from Tuesday through Thursday mornings. I'll make sure to have a protein shake or something before heading to work. Am I putting too much strain on my body with the extra routine? The reason for also starting a morning routine is to create a habit of working out in the mornings before work. My current job is a hour away from home, and people in my previous post about time management recommended working out in the am. Working out in the am will open things up for other activities/hobbies in the pm. Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated!
posted by tnar23 to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The maximum safe amount of weightloss is 1% of your bodyweight per week, or (more commonly) 1-2lbs. Are you counting calories, using a food scale, etc? Nothing wrong with red meat, fitnesswise, btw.

All in all though, weights are not a good way to lose weight, since they build muscle, which is heavier than fat. You'll look better or whatever, but you'll probably weigh around the same. I'd maybe skip the weight training for the rest of the contest and focus entirely on cardio and diet. Cardio as in not just shooting hoops, but grunting and sweating on the stairmaster, bike, treadmill...making things really hard on yourself.

That said, medically and practically you aren't likely to hit 162 in a month.
posted by rhizome at 11:41 PM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're taking creatine for weightlifting, stop in the last week, because it causes you to retain water.
posted by zippy at 12:11 AM on September 11, 2016

Ignoring the weight loss issue, since I don't think anyone really understands how weight loss works and it varies from individual to individual depending on hormones, metabolism, etc - I think your plan is a good one. Going from half an hour of cardio a day to 1.5 hours a day is a lot, but not, I think, dangerously so, if you are doing light jogging/hoop shooting rather than serious running or something. Many people go from nothing to more than an hour of light cardio a day when they e.g. change to a cycle commute or something, so I think you're okay.

(You might find that the increase in appetite it brings might outweigh the benefit in terms of weight loss, but in terms of cardio health, that doesn't matter, so it's still worthwhile!)

I do think you should keep the weights, counter to the previous poster's opinion, because you want to lose fat rather than muscle, and apparently weight lifting helps ensure that your body doesn't cannibalise the muscle too much.

Keep an eye out for overtraining just in case. Increase in resting pulse rate, difficulty sleeping, large changes in appetite, mood, etc. If you do run into trouble, maybe skip the weekend basketball and take two solid recovery days there?
posted by lollusc at 12:16 AM on September 11, 2016

I don't think anyone should give up sleep for workouts. I mean ok, if you think you're realistically going to go to bed an hour earlier. Because you (and your muscles and tendons and everything) need 6-8 hours of sleep a night, ideally closer to 8, to recover from all this. That's when your muscles are actually growing, is when you're resting. Also when your body's working on clearing stuff out that needs clearing out. Beyond that, working out in a sleep deprived state is going to increase risk of injury due to lack of focus and coordination, which is also going to interfere with the efficacy of your workouts.

I think you'd be better off keeping that hour of sleep (if you're unlikely to go to bed earlier, which I'm assuming) and eg cycling for half your commute, if that's possible. Or doing a full hour of *either* lifting or cardio when you go in the evening. (How are you completing a lifting routine in 30 minutes, are you on some kind of crazy split?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:32 AM on September 11, 2016

What is more important to you - winning the money or getting healthier? If it's about the money, increase your cardio without increasing the amount you eat. Put yourself on a restricted calorie diet where you weigh everything you eat and cut out the treats/cheats completely. Before the weigh in itself go to a sauna and sweat out as much water weight as you can. Don't eat anything the day of the final weigh in, just take sips of water and definitely no caffeine. And cut down on salt leading up to the weigh in - or even better, go very low carb (ketogenic) the week leading up to the weigh in. And quit lifting weights now. Note that this stuff is not sustainable and you shouldn't do it if you aren't very healthy with no pre existing conditions. You will dehydrate yourself which isn't great but won't hurt you as a temporary one-off.

If your health is more important, keep doing what you're doing and completely ignore my advice.
posted by hazyjane at 2:03 AM on September 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

Everything you've described sounds fine, but make sure you're getting enough sleep. It will be hard to get the most out of your workouts if you don't get enough sleep, and I know when I'm sleep deprived, it's a lot harder to control what I eat. I think studies show that lack of sleep adversely affects weight too.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:41 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think this is a very inspiring question, you seem very dedicated so I am going to try and give as much practical advice as possible towards your specific goal.

First: Getting enough sleep is critical to ensuring you have the willpower and mental ability to maintain your fitness activities and diet. You need at least 7-8 hours sleep a day - if you don't think you do need that amount, you are probably wrong.
To quote the US Army: "To summarize, when humans are unable to obtain 8 hours of sleep per day, the result is a sleep debt that accumulates until alertness and performance suffer significantly. Long periods of continuous wakefulness are also undesirable and equally dangerous. The bottom line is the average Soldier will suffer substantial, operationally relevant performance decrements due to modest sleep restriction or sleep deprivation, which should be considered unacceptable for Army personnel."
You are not in the army - but the implications are the same, don't cut back on sleep. It would be great to workout in the morning (something I am working on doing more reliably myself) but make sure you are going to bed earlier as well.

Second: Weight loss. The body is an incredibly messy complex system that we don't understand. In a messy complex system making small tweaks like - for example - switching from eating white rice to eating brown rice is just going to get lost in the noise.
For short term weight loss you should monitor the largest, more fuzzy factors and adjust the principle inputs to them. In terms of losing weight, the most significant factor - and the easiest to program for - is having a calorific deficit.
What having a calorific deficit means isn't as simple as "calories in, calories out bro" because as the article notes: "Such a calculation fails to account for how an individual’s energy expenditure adapts to the energy deficit and decreasing body weight" However, you only have a month so you don't have to worry about this so much as you just need to set an aggressive goal and stick to it. In your situation - calories in, calories out is a reasonable rough estimate - which you can adjust later when you are more experienced and less urgent in your fitness goals.
It would be good to get a calorie goal (which you would update every month) - use If it fits your macro's. It is not a perfect formula but a good start and baseline.
Next you need a system to track your calories more precisely, at least to get a clear estimate of what you are eating each day. The best way to do this I have found is the myfitnesspal app for your phone - which has very extensive food database - don't worry about being perfect, but try your best to set the calorie goal with IIFYM and put it into MFP and try and stick to it. I know from experience that two days that feel like I am eating a similar amount can be drastically different overall, so this will ensure you can be confident in your diet and exercise changes. (Don't track exercise in MFP - put your exercise into IIFYM and create custom Protein/carb/fat goals in MFP to meet your IIFYM Macro's). Also the advice about not taking creatine is good. Muscle growth between now and Oct is unlikely to be significant so you can probably keep weightlifting if you like it esp as you are not doing a very intensive program.

Third: Pre-weigh in. It sounds like you are in a competition to meet the lowest weight at a very specific time, what your actual normal bodyweight is not so important for winning the money. I instantly thought of another group of people who have to do the same thing. Professional fighters. Boxers routinely lose 20lbs before a fight to "make weight". This is a difficult thing to do and requires medical supervision. But if you are determined to win, will probably produce more dramatic losses by far than anyone else in your group will see. Here is an article and specific schedule about losing water weight for a one time weigh in. This is not going to be fun, and you may decide it is not worth it. But if done correctly it is probably the thing that would give you the single largest chance of victory on the day. It is something I don't have much knowledge about but if you decide to research and implement before october may give you a massive advantage.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:35 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Shooting for nine hours a sleep a night is going to be more effective in the long run than an extra hour of cardio. The majority of your weight loss is going to come from eating less, not cardio.

In the next four weeks, you may be able to control your eating theoigh will power. The less you sleep, the less will power you're going to have. Especially if you have other stesses in your life. Lack of sleep also programs your body to store fat. I would not give up the sleep. I'd consider moving or a new job first.
posted by Kalmya at 5:47 AM on September 11, 2016

Working out in the morning prior to eating gives you the biggest bang for the buck
posted by Ironmouth at 6:27 AM on September 11, 2016

For maximum total calories burned, you need to get up to max calorie burn *rate* as many times as possible. This is not scientific, per se, but this worked for me in a Biggest Loser contest a few years ago.

Your metabolism ramps up when you start exercising (which is why you have to warm up a little). Once you get up to your max burn rate for that exercise (you can have a higher burn rate for swimming, than, say, cycling), it stays up until you stop exercising. Once you stop exercising, though, your metabolism doesn't drop back down to resting immediately. (That's why if you go for a run, then jump in the shower, you sometimes start sweating again when you get out of the shower.)

That tailing-off period after exercise, as your metabolism drifts back to resting rate, is the secret weapon. (Again, completely unscientific-) based on heart rate and feeling warm, it generally takes me 1.5 hours to completely cool down. Unless you're a professional athlete, you can't maintain continuous high output for long periods of time. You want the maximum caloric expenditure with the least actual wear on your body.

So: Go to the gym in the morning. Jog, get up into the zone for five minutes, get outta there. At lunch, do whatever you can (gym, stairs, jogging outside) to ramp up your metabolism again. Then again after work, and (assuming it won't mess up your sleep) again later in the evening.

I was obsessive - in the month before my contest ended, I was swimming an hour before work, running three miles at lunch (I find running to be the hardest from a body wear standpoint), and cycling 30 mi after work. I lost 9 lb that month, and my 50-mile bike ride before weigh-in dropped another six.

The biggest problem with this method is that it does not teach you how to eat properly, so once you stop exercising like a nut, you really have to keep an eye on your food intake.
posted by notsnot at 7:07 AM on September 11, 2016

If the workout change is just temporary, I'm sure it's fine.
It's not like you're running a marathon and then competing in pro water polo later in the day. Your body will tell you if it's too much.

But if you want to win the contest on weight loss, in these last weeks you might want to alter how much water your body is holding. Bodybuilders and wrestlers do this kind of thing. If you ever see a picture of a bodybuilder on contest day and then 2 days after, you'll see there are ways to strip out tons of water. It's very not-fun and you won't feel well but you will drop a ton of water weight.

Here's a basic guide: 6 day bodybuilder prep
posted by littlewater at 7:55 AM on September 11, 2016

In my experience, dietary modifications are WAY more important to weight loss than exercise. Exercise will make you stronger and healthier in innumerable ways, but it will not particularly make you weigh less. Running a mile will burn about a hundred calories--which amounts to about a tablespoon of peanut butter. Running the mile will also make you hungry. If what you want is to lose weight, it's a great deal easier to just not eat the tablespoon of peanut butter in the first place than it is to 'exercise it off.'

Trying to at least somewhat accurately estimate your caloric intake is important. Just switching to foods that you don't feel guilty about is unlikely to have any effect. In terms of weight loss, the difference between 100 calories of brown rice and 100 calories of chocolate chip cookies is likely to be negligible. This is not to say that it doesn't matter what you eat: you might want to read a bit about High Glycemic Foods. Tl;dr: starchy and sugary foods can leave you feeling hungrier than you were before you ate them. This is why it is not actually possible to stop eating pizza until it's gone (anecdotal).

I would advise figuring out how many calories per day constitutes a modest caloric deficit for you, and then eating only that amount. It'll be easier if you eat more nutrient-rich, slow-to-digest foods (like vegetables) that make you feel satiated for longer periods, and don't have lots of calories.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2016

The majority of your weight loss is going to come from eating less, not cardio.

dietary modifications are WAY more important to weight loss than exercise

This is a very important truth. Exercise is for making you stronger. Specifically, lifting weights makes your body muscles stronger, while cardio makes your heart muscle stronger and improves endurance. Neither of these will make you lose weight by itself.

For weight loss, what you need is a calorie deficit. That's why people say that you lose weight in the kitchen, not the gym.

(For long-term weight loss, building muscle through exercise is still useful because muscle tissue is much more metabolically active than fat tissue. All body tissues burn calories even when at rest - that's why you need to eat even if all you're doing is lying in bed all day - but muscle tissue burns 3 times more calories than fat. So the more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn, regardless of whether you're exercising. But for short-term weight loss, building muscle is besides the point.)

For maximum weight loss, I'd focus on finding a way to maintain a calorie deficit that is sustainable for the next month. There are a number of strategies to do this:

- calorie counting (get a food scale, measure and weigh everything you eat, don't go over your target number of calories, and it helps to portion out a day's or even a whole week's worth of meals ahead of time)
- make all your meals at home, so that you know exactly what goes into them
- limit your cheat days
- find foods that make you feel fuller longer, and focus on eating those (for example, I found that bread made me ravenously hungry about 20 minutes after eating a slice, whereas fatty foods like cheese made me feel full; this is in line with low-carb Atkins-type diets, but ymmv)
- find a type of exercise that decreases your appetite (high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is well-known for this effect, so try some HIIT running workouts)
- find a time of day when exercise decreases your appetite (for many people, that's in the morning before breakfast, but again ymmv)
- keep getting enough sleep, 8+ hours a night, to make all this stress on your body sustainable so that you don't injure yourself or feel too crappy to keep going (sleep is sometimes called the fourth macronutrient)
- the week before the weigh-in, consider doing the "lose water weight" procedure linked above that is practiced by boxers and bodybuilders

Try any or all of these strategies. Find what works for you. For the biggest bang for your buck, go for the things you can see immediate results from: try a HIIT running workout and try working out (of any kind) before breakfast to see if it indeed decreases your appetite. Once you know how to use exercise to make yourself less hungry, you'll have a solid base for maintaining a calorie deficit for the next month.

All of Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory's advice is also excellent.

Good luck! It sounds like you are dedicated and have already made huge strides towards your goal. Keep going.
posted by danceswithlight at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're dong well and I hope you keep it up. The exercise and diet changes make a big difference in your quality of life and health. Since the final weigh-in is so important, give up salt for the last week, and increase fiber. That should help you reduce any extra water and any weight from slow bowels.
posted by theora55 at 11:17 AM on September 11, 2016

"too much" is a relative concept. There are people who work out 10+ hours a day and its not too much for them.

My advice is to try it, and listen to your body, if you start getting excessively hungry, tired or irritable, or if you're more sore than usual and recovering more slowly, then its too much. If you feel fine then its not.

If you're really looking to win the money though, I'd lay off the weights and cheat meals in the last 1-2 weeks. Restaurant and takeout food is loaded with salt which will make you retain water and I find that I lose more raw weight on a rest week - which I put down to being less "pumped"
posted by missmagenta at 11:40 AM on September 11, 2016

I think your plan to add more exercise that you enjoy is a great one. That is sustainable and will last you far beyond your challenge so it's a good habit to get into. I can't see or think for a few hours after I wake up in the am and I have to get up early these days but I do walk the stupid dog every morning and it really does get me set up for the day in a way that coffee and sitting slumped in the corner whining for a couple hours can't.
posted by fshgrl at 12:03 PM on September 11, 2016

I'm surprised there isn't more about HIIT here. A couple people have mentioned it, but it's a big thing. You'll get more out of the time you spend working out. If you do continue to do strength training, use slightly lighter weights and execute your Eros faster, making lifting more of a HIIT thing.

And, very basic, take a dump before weigh-in.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2016

Exercise really doesn't do as much as you think it does. One cup brown rice has 216 calories. You need to jog for 25 minutes to burn that off, so you're almost breaking even. I don't know what else you eat but I bet it's got more calories than the rice. Track everything you eat using an app. You will be surprised.

By the way, I put on weight while weightlifting 3x week and lost body fat, so my clothes fit more loosely, but my BMI stayed the same.
posted by AFABulous at 7:14 AM on September 12, 2016

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