Today's been one of those hard days. I struggled all day after consuming a massive-to-me 1030 calories before noon. I'm ending the day a little above my recently-revised 1510 cal goal. I've been cold and getting massive head rushes when I stand up, so I'm definitely in an aggressive energy-depleted state.
This isn't the unexpected bonus that I allude to in the title though, and I want to mention a couple more things before I get to the unexpected bonus.
Two days ago I breezed through the day falling asleep perfectly satisfied with my 1365 calorie day. Yesterday, although I ate 1700 calories worth, I rode for almost two hours, burning off a good chunk of that. My powermeter told me I burned about 900 calories, so that's a huge net loss day since I definitely burned more than the 190 calories I went over my 1510 calorie goal.
My weight's been steadily declining. I started my diet in mid November weighing in at a hair under 179 lbs. This morning, for the second time in the last three weeks, I saw a low 169 lbs reading. I want to be at least another 10 pounds lower at 159 lbs. Based on my current progress it would take at least three weeks, although I expect my weight loss to taper so it may take four or five weeks.
If I could get another 5 or 10 pounds lower, hitting 155 lbs or lower, I'd be super psyched. That would be another three weeks minimum, and realistically it may not happen. I need four to six weeks of training to get to some kind of fitness and I know I'm going to lose much of my training time before the first races of the year.
In 2010, my (recent) banner year, I saw a couple readings at 149 lbs (meaning that was at the low range of my weight cycle if you will), I steadied at a weak but light 152 lbs before I started training, and I hit the season at 155 lbs or so and feeling as strong (or weak?) as normal. I stopped weighing myself regularly after I saw 155-158 lbs every time I stopped on the scale.
If I can get close to that I'll be totally psyched.
So what's the unexpected bonus?
My cycling legs are starting to come back.
See, to make my admittedly aggressive calorie goals, I've resorted to eating a bit more if I'm hungry, then getting on the bike to burn at least as many calories. If I go 200 calories over then I want to burn, as indicated on the powermeter, at least 400 calories.
(How do I get calories from my powermeter? By using kilojoules, which happen to be about the number of calories burned on a bike. Although a kJ is not a calorie, the human body's inefficiencies end up making it so. On a bike ride a kJ of work is equal to anywhere from .95 to about 1.2 calories. Reference stuff here. I figure that trying to use the actual conversion wouldn't be easy, and I'm probably in the "more efficient" side of things, meaning I'm probably using .95 calories per kJ of work. Therefore to make things totally clear I'd like to do twice as many kJ of work as my caloric overages. If I eat 200 cal more food, I want to burn 400kJ on the bike.)
At first, with a 1790 calorie daily goal, staying under my number wasn't very hard. I recalculated after I lost about 6 pounds, using a more aggressive set of variables. I ended up with a much too aggressive 1260 calorie daily goal. After two days of that ridiculousness I redid the numbers using a slightly less aggressive set of variables. This gave me 1510 calories per day. It's aggressive but manageable on the good days.
(The most important variable is goal loss per week. Right now I'm letting MyFitnessPal decide my caloric needs and I'm using a 1.5 lbs/week weight loss goal. The reality is that I'm losing almost twice that number. I'd be happy with 2 lbs/week, but when I used that goal MyFitnessPal told me 1260 cal/day. I revised my goal to 1.5 lbs/week and got 1510 cal. On the intake side I'm very strict about recording everything I eat. It seems to be working.)
On the less than good days I still want to hit about 1700 calories. This 200 calorie overage means I need to do about 400 kJ of work on the bike, and that's about an hour of riding.
What's happened is that with my aggressive caloric goals, I tend to go over regularly. I plan my food, entering the food (and related calories) before I eat them. Therefore when I'm still hungry at 6 PM I know what I am about to eat and I typically choose to eat food after checking with the Missus if it's okay for me to do a trainer ride.
Then I eat my calories and get on the bike.
At first my rides were as pathetic as pathetic can be. I struggled to turn over the pedals, and on one particularly bad ride I actually struggled to stay in the 90-100 watt range. It takes me almost an hour to do 400 kJ of work right now. In contrast I might do 600-700 kJ of work in an hour long criterium or 500 kJ in an hour of training.
Significantly, because of my aggressive calorie goals, I've resorted to riding the bike more than I expected.
Yesterday I had yet another caloric overage day. By early evening I was sitting at about 1400 calories, good if I stayed there, but I had some really strong hunger pangs. I decided to go for it, eat a bit (300 calories), and then get on the bike.
Incredibly I didn't feel horrible on the bike. I found myself holding 160-170 watts for long stretches of time (for me that's 5-10 minutes). I did ease to super low watts, like 90-100 watts, but the harder bits surprised me. With no recent training, with the low daily caloric intake, this really shocked me.
So that's the unexpected bonus - feeling okay on the bike.
I'm not strong for sure, definitely not strong, but better than "weak". Last night I kept going until I realized it was after my self-decided "get off the bike" time. I got in 1:55 on the bike and climbed off feeling fresh and (relatively) energetic.
Bonus? I at 200 calories over but did almost 900 kJ of work. Even using my 2x ratio I did well, and the reality is that I ended somewhere like 600 calories under my goal number for the day. That's a good sixth of a pound of fat worth of calories, give or take.
Back to today. I'm 100 cal over but I think that's all I can expect. I don't want to ride so I'll leave it as it is. Net net, for the last week I've made strong progress so it's all good.
Goal visualization. Me at 155-158 lbs at the end of 2010. In the picture I'm wearing 29" waist jeans. Right now I'm in 31" waist jeans, and I was wearing 33" last winter.
Interviewing Phil Keoghan at Interbike 2010.
Picture by Julie Kelly