Well, here we go folks. “New Year, New You”, as they say. I gave some real thought as to whether I would want to write about this on Manporium, whether it would fit in with ‘my brand’ (darling) and so on. Ultimately though, I thought back to a piece I wrote a few months back, and decided that if it was something I wanted to write about, then what the hell was stopping me. So here it is – Operation Body Fat 2017.
The final sprint to the end of 2016 was a tough one. Work was extremely stressful, and I had used up all of my holiday moving house and going on honeymoon in the first half of the year. As a result, I was lazier when it came to the gym, far more liberal with food and a little too enthusiastic when it came to alcohol.
This, I’m sure, is something to which many of you can relate. Which is, in part, why I decided that it would be worth writing about.
So, let’s dive in.
I’ve always been active, sometimes more than others. In my teens I was competing nationally and training eight times a week. More recently, the trappings of work and a hectic social life, and some measures of laziness have taken hold.
This year, I plan to change that, and also prove that it’s not that difficult.
The aim Get down to 10% body fat.
Why body fat? Why not weight? Well, simply being light is no indication of health. No, I’m not too fussy about what I weigh, as long as I’m healthy. So, shifting extra pounds for me is secondary. If those pounds of fat lost are replaced by the same mass of muscle, then I’m good with that.
This is the first key message, and one I’ve heard echoed many times. Measuring progress from your scales alone is only one small part of the story. For the extremely over-weight, its significance is greater than those who just have a few extra pounds and some squishy bits.
To that end, and because I’m an engineer at heart who just loves data, I’m going to be tracking several different measurements:
- Resting Heart Rate By far the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness – this is how often your heart needs to beat per minute when you’re completely at rest. As you get fitter, your heart becomes stronger and doesn’t need to work so hard to, well, keep you alive.
- Body Fat Percentage Just what it says on the tin. This is the percentage of your overall weight in fat. Now, some fat is healthy. You need it to survive. It insulates your organs and is a key ingredient in your nervous system.
- Water Percentage This is a bit of a new one for me, in terms of tracking at least. Water is good. It’s one of those fundamental building blocks of life, and our cells are full of it. But, salty foods and booze can all cause your body to retain more water than it needs – all of which will contribute to weighing more and looking and feeling more bloated.
- Muscle Mass Percentage Again, something I’ve not tracked before, but its particularly pertinent to my previous point re weight. Muscle is denser than fat, so a given volume of muscle will weigh more than fat. Along with my body fat percentage, this is going to be my other major way of tracking progress.
- Inches The final piece of the puzzle. I’ll be keeping track of my biceps, chest, waist and thigh measurements, too.
The how, put simply, is easy to write down and far harder to do in real life. Eat less, move more.
Again, this is not as accurate as it should be, however. Your body needs food, particularly if you’re exercising more. So, simply starving yourself is a false economy. If you stick to it, you’ll lose weight for sure. But you’ll end up ‘skinny fat’. You’ll have lost a tonne of muscle in the process, will have got no fitter and your metabolism will have hit the floor.
Like everything in life, it’s about balance. You will need to eat fewer calories than your body needs. This is what will force it to start burning fat to make up the difference. At the same time, though, you need to eat enough to give you the energy to burn the calories through exercise than create that deficit in the first place.
I’ll start by working out what I need to eat just to keep me alive. Get your calculator out.
Basal Metabolic Rate
The first piece of the puzzle is the Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This tells you how many calories your body burns per day, just by existing. I mean, by doing literally nothing. Not even walking to the fridge and back. Breathing, digestion, thinking and more, all require energy.
There are a multitude of calculators on the internet that can work it out for you. Some use different equations to do so. I’ve used the calculator on the myfitnesspal website.
This tells me that I need 1,991 calories per day to just keep ticking over.
Next, I need to calculate what I need to eat to fuel my day-to-day activity, which is where it gets slightly more interesting. See, I have to make a judgement based on my activity level, which multiplies the number above by a factor.
This factor, which comes from the Harris-Benedict Principle, is estimated from the below options:
BMR x 1.2 for little to no exercise
BMR x 1.375 for light exercise (1-3 days per week)
BMR x 1.55 for moderate exercise (3-5 days per week)
BMR x 1.725 for heavy exercise (6-7 days per week)
BMR x 1.9 for extra heavy workouts (twice per day)
Right at this minute (and for much of 2016, arguably…) I probably sat somewhere around the 1.2 mark. Maybe 1.375 if I was making an effort.
That’s going to change. I can’t expect to get results if I don’t put the work in. I therefore intend to work out at least three times a week, and more if I can manage it. I’ll be pushing myself harder than I have in years. So I have to recognise that I’ll need to put that fuel into my body to keep it going.
For that reason, I’m going to go with a 1.55 multiplier.
So, my total calorie needs to maintain the same weight, for said activity level: 1,991 x 1.55 = 2,986.5kcal
I’ve now calculated how much I need to eat to effectively stay in the same place (albeit with some more exercise). But to force my body to burn fat, I’m going to have to starve it a bit (sorry, love handles).
One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories. So, logic says that you need a net deficit of 3,500 calories per week to lose a pound. Which is all well and good. However…
In truth, your body doesn’t necessarily just burn fat to get its energy. It does, at time, like to use a bit of muscle too. The trouble is, muscles are great at burning calories. It takes a lot of energy to move, and takes more the more muscle you have. So, as your amount of muscle increases, so will your basal metabolic rate (I’m afraid there is a slightly more complicated way of calculating it, but as we’re just starting out, and my lean body mass is pretty normal, we’re safe to use the simple way. I’ll save the complicated way for another time).
If you just starve yourself, you’ll lose fat and muscle, but your metabolism will also slow down. So, you’ll get to your target weight, and start eating ‘normally’ again. Except you’ve reset your body. It now doesn’t need as much as it did to keep going. So you’ll start to put on weight again. This is why depriving yourself of calories alone is not an effective, healthy, or sustainable to lose weight and keep it off.
I said my target was 10% body fat. I’m also going to give myself a target of 8 weeks. It’s certainly ambitious, but, aim high and all that. Well, you’ll see in a bit that my current body fat is 19.8%. I also know how much I weigh. So, I can calculate how many pounds of fat I have.
I weigh 15 stone and 3 pounds – which is 213 pounds. 19.8% of that is body fat. So, 213 multiplied by 0.198 tells me of my 213 pounds, 41.6 pounds of that is fat.
Now, the tricky part is I will lose weight in this process, so I can’t simply just find 10% of my current weight. I’m going to assume that I’ll be hitting the gym hard and putting on some muscle. So let’s say, for the sake of a target, that I’d be happy at 14 stone 7 pounds. That’s 203 pounds in total.
I want to get to 10% body fat. So, 203 multiplied by 0.1 is 20.3. If I want to get down to 10% body fat at 14.5 stone, I’m going to need to lose 41.6-20.3=21.3 pounds of fat.
21.3 pounds of fat, multiplied by 3,500 calories to burn each pound gives a total calorie deficit over those eight weeks of 74,550. That’s 9,318.75 calories per week, or 1,331 per day.
This isn’t achievable. It’s important to set yourself challenging targets, but not impossible ones. There’s absolutely no point in setting yourself up for failure. You’re only kicking yourself when you’re down. It would also put me below my BMR, which is all kinds of madness.
So after all this rambling, I’m going to revise my target. 12 weeks of those 74,550 calories is 6,212.5, which equates to 887.5 per day. Based on my calculation of my calorie requirements, that still leaves me with 2,986.5-887.5 = 2,099.
Is it challenging? Absolutely. Based on the fact that my body needs 1,991 calories just to exist, I’m only putting in an extra 108 calories to fuel all my extra exercise.
I don’t at this point, however, think it’s impossible. I do think that I’ll need to closely monitor my intake, however. If I find that I’m too tired to work out, I’m not recovering fast enough and become too achey to go to the gym, or my moods slip, I’ll have to increase it.
The target is going to have to be fluid. I know life is going to throw me curveballs, and I’m going to have to deal with them. If I aim for ten percent body fat after 12 weeks and hit 11%, will I be unhappy? I doubt it.
You want to lose weight? You’re going to have to get sweaty. I’m going to target working out 5 days per week. Three of those will be weight training, two will be cardio.
Why that way round? For one, I hate cardio. Two, I keep talking about my metabolic rate. The best way to increase your metabolism and keep it there is to increase your muscle mass. I do want to get fitter, too, however – and getting your heart rate and breathing up is the best way to do that.
I’m going to largely stick to the big muscle groups when it comes to weight. They’re the easiest to add mass to, and so will provide the biggest hit to my metabolic rate. Whole body exercises such as squats and deadlifts will feature heavily. More on this in future weeks.
My cardio will focus on intervals. Intense bursts of exercise interspersed with short periods of rest. I’ve previously had a lot of success with intervals on the rowing machine, and will likely use this as my go-to machine.
Ok, I’ve wittered on quite enough for this week. So, I’m going to close with a gratuitous shot of me without my shirt (sorry) and my current measurements. I’m also going to take a stab at my target measurements too.
|Resting Heart Rate||64bpm||55bpm|
|Weight||15st 3lb (96.6kg)||14st 7lb (92.1kg)|
|Body Fat Percentage||19.8%||10%|
|Body Water Percentage||54.9%||60.0%|
|Body Muscle Percentage||38.1%||43.0%|
|Chest||104.5cm (41.1″)||106.7 (42.0″)|
|Bicep||35.5cm (14.0″)||38.1cm (15.0″)|
|Waist||103.0cm (40.6″)||86.4cm (34.0″)|
I’ll be keeping you updated on Twitter and Instagram, and will absolutely need your support. I’d love your feedback, and if you fancy joining me in this little experiment, then the more the merrier. I’d love to hear your experiences, too!