Paul Butzi |||

Losing Weight — Part Two: Mid Effort Results

Continuing with the thread started in Losing Weight — Part One, we’ve reached the end of the caloric restriction phase of the first cycle of our weight loss efforts, so I’ll summarize our mid-effort results. (By mid-effort, what I mean is that we’ve lost a bunch of fat, and now we want to learn how to adjust our diet to achieve a stable weight.)

Weight: lean weight, body fat

At the end of the caloric restriction phase, I’ve lost 33 lbs, about 18% of my starting body weight.

Or, to put it another way, just a little under 4 times what we would have lost using a less radical approach of trying to lose a pound a week, so that we’ve telescoped what would have been a seven and a half month effort down into a two month effort.

I’m not a believer in BMI as a measure of any serious utility other than comparison to population wide statistics, but this moved me from a BMI of 28.2 (just below threshold for’obese’) down to 23.2 (which is well inside the healthy’ range).

My body composition, measured by the highly suspect body fat readings of a Withings Body+ body impedance scale, dropped from roughly 32% body fat (well into the health risk category) down to around 17% body fat (which is in the excellent/fit’ category at least according to some health pundits). This is a pretty dramatic change in body composition, as I am now not just a lot thinner and lighter but also dramatically more lean. My coach told me when I reached this point, I would have entered what he jokingly called stud muffin’ territory. I wouldn’t say I’m looking ripped, but I will claim that I am sufficiently lean that visually it’s very apparent where I’m muscular and where I’m not. That is, there’s visible muscle definition in my legs, so that I look less like a very tubby guy who happens to be wearing tight fitting running clothing, and more like what you might envision when you think of someone who’s about to attempt running 100 miles in 24 hours.

Improvements in body composition notwithstanding, the same scale suggests that of that 33 pounds lost, roughly 5 pounds were muscle. So clearly I’m going to need to work to regain that muscle mass.

Again, all this stuff about body composition is based on the estimates of body fat, muscle, bone mass, &c produced by my scale. Those estimates seem to be very noisy, and I have no way to verify them, although I suppose I could go and get a DEXA scan to find out more accurate numbers. But since it’s not clear to me what I would do with more accurate numbers, it hardly seems worthwhile to go to the trouble and expense.

Regardless, this puts me in a position I’ve been striving to reach for years: at a weight and body composition from which I can start to make a realistic assessment of what weight I’d like to be at, and what body composition I want. In other words, I’m close enough to the goal line that I can now more accurately assess exactly where the line should be drawn. My guess is that I will want to weigh slightly less than this (maybe five pounds lighter) but with even lower body fat. But time will tell, as I plan on test driving things at this weight/composition for a while before making any decisions about weight, and it’s not clear to me at this point whether it would be better for me to lose more weight first, or gain more muscle first.

Heart Rate

Before the weight loss effort, my overnight/sleeping resting heart rate would be between about 58 and 62 most nights.

This dropped more or less continuously as the weight came off, and now my overnight/sleeping RHR is down around 48-52.

This came as a surprise me, although in retrospect it seems obvious this would happen.

More on heart rate in the Running’ section below.

Blood Pressure

Just before I started the caloric restriction, as we returned from an indulgent extended vacation, my BP was high enough that I contacted my doctor to get the dosage of the medication to control my hypertension adjusted to get it back under control.

As I lost weight, my BP fell steadily and continuously. About halfway through the caloric restriction phase it was low enough that I contacted my doctor again, and the dosage was lowered. Despite this adjustment my BP continued to drop and is now low enough that I need to again get the dosage adjusted.

It doesn’t seem impossible that I just wont need medication to keep my BP low any more, especially if I decide that I want my maintenance weight to be, say, 10 pounds lower than it is right now.


Apparently I’m now burning fat to fuel the runs, instead of glycogen, because I’ve stopped carb supplementation on short runs (and by short I mean sub 2 hours) and not felt any problems. This fat adaptation wasn’t something I had in mind, nor a motivation for any of this, but for someone who engages in ultrarunning, it seems like it should be damn handy. (on a good day while running I can generally manage to get down about 200-250 kcal/hour without provoking nausea and gastric distress. Since that’s quite a bit short of the caloric burn rate, if I can cover the bulk of the shortfall by metabolizing fat instead, that’s a huge win for longer efforts.)

In the past I’ve been skeptical when reading about fat adaptation’ in endurance athletes but my experience has convinced me that there’s something real there, and it’s not just hype. Whether you can get that fat burning adaptation without a dramatic caloric restriction or the elimination of essentially all carbs from your diet for 60 days, I have no idea. How long the adaptation lasts if you relax away from a calorie limited zero carb diet remains to be seen.

Beyond this change to fat metabolism, there’s the fairly obvious benefit that I’m simply not carrying as much useless (from a running perspective) weight as I run/jog/powerwalk down the trail. If you’re unclear on exactly how dramatic the effect is, you can try it yourself by picking up 33 pounds of dumbbells and walking around for a few minutes, then put the weight down and repeat the walking. It feels exactly that dramatic.

Beyond simply not trying to schlep 33 extra pounds down the trail, it’s pretty obvious that the way in which weight is distributed in my body is different. There’s less weight around my middle, sure, but there’s also less weight on my legs and arms, and that’s making a difference in running style. That doesn’t seem to make much difference in running form at slow paces (between, say, 12:30/mile and 11:00/mile) but as I push for a faster top speed I expect it will make a bigger difference.

Beyond this change in weight distribution, just getting much of the excess fat off my body has made a significant change in my flexibility and mobility, so that I can now do a deep squat without my belly getting in the way, and there’s a smaller but not insignificant improvement in rearward hip mobility (leg extension) as well.

I’ve not really been off caloric restriction long enough to know fully what the effect on running at speed will be, but it’s going to be interesting to find out.

The result of all this is that at what used to be a sort of comfortable easy’ pace, a pace where my HR would have been in the 130-140 range, my HR is now in the 120-125 range, with a corresponding drop in my level of perceived effort. Lest that seem like an insignificant change, let me assure you that 12 hours of effort at a HR of 123 tires me so much less than 12 hours at at HR of 135 that I’m guessing it will be an entirely different ball game. Will that put running a sub-24 hour 100 miler in reach? I don’t know, but it surely is going to help. I suspect I will find out for sure when we run Across the Years at the end of this coming December.

Depression control

In general I’ve felt that my depression is less of a problem, and all the usual tools I use to manage it are more effective. My general mood has been better and I’ve been quite a bit more productive as well.

This effect started only a few days into the caloric restriction, and continued to get stronger for pretty much the entire 60 days. How much of that is eliminating alcohol, how much is eliminating carbs and restricting calories, and how much is losing weight, I have no way to determine. Some of that I suspect I will find out as we reintroduce carbs and modest quantities of alcohol.

Up next Losing Weight Part One As part of my efforts to improve as an ultrarunner (and advance on my goal of running 100 miles in under 24 hours) I’ve embarked on an ambitious Mt. Si 50k 2023 This past weekend I ran the Mt. Si 50k. This race, in 2017, was the first ultramarathon I ran, so it was a bit of a full circle homecoming to return
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