Before all this corona virus stuff, I had been getting into training up for Bloomsday. I started increasing my mileage and also knew that I wanted to drop a few pounds to make running even easier. I decided I would try a little experiment with respect to effectiveness over a period of 4 weeks. For the first two, I would simply try to eat less while tracking the increase in my workouts and mileage. Then, for the last two, I would track my food intake in addition to tracking my exercise. Here is what I found.
Week 1: Exercise this week was pretty good. I had three run sessions of about 11.8 miles total and two strength workouts as well. Most recommendations for exercise say you should try to make 150 minutes per week. This is good for health outcomes in general, however, for weight loss or muscle building this usually needs to be higher. For this week I hit 223 minutes of intense movement. That's a good number and just means that I dedicated some quality time to exercise. One nice metric that my Garmin will tell me, is how many calories I burned in a day, specific exercise + general activity (walking around the grocery store etc.). You can also see an average for a given week, in this case it calculated that my avg daily activity calories burned was 612.
Food was harder than I anticipated in that avoiding needless snacking was tough. I decided to drink more water instead. WT LOST: negligible, less than 1 pound.
Week 2: Good workouts this week, similar mileage of 11.8 miles for my runs and did another home workout now that the gym is closed, and also threw in some driveway basketball. Intensity minutes for this week was up to 350 minutes, more than double the recommended. Average daily activity was similar at 608 calories/day of activity.
Food was got a little easier, I decided that I would avoid in between meal snacks all together and eat until I was full at meals. WT LOST: again, negligible .5 lb difference over both weeks.
Week 3: Upped my mileage and totaled 16.8 miles for runs. I did some more garage workouts and also a little hoops. Intensity minutes increased for the third straight week to 424 vs the recommended 150. However, I must have sat more in between as my avg daily burn was again similar at 602cal/day.
Started the food tracking via MyFitnessPal app on my phone. Seeing the numbers go in I found that two things happened. First, at meals I stopped eating to fullness and instead at satiety. This generally meant no second helpings. Secondly, I found I was 'saving' calories for later or would try to 'earn' calories for a treat or snack. Tracking is rough at first, navigating for your serving or brand, but gets easier. I did not measure anything except oatmeal, and rice. Everything else was 'eyeballed' in terms of amount. WT LOST: 1.4 lbs hmmm, interesting.
Week 4: Workouts down a little with the weird weather. Only 7.1 miles but 3 strength workouts and another basketball session. Total minutes was 261 this week. Also down was the avg calories burned at only 433 per day.
Tracking became easier, especially with respect to foods or drinks like coffee or eggs that I have regularly. Also, leftover dinners are quick to enter as well, making the tracking simpler. Still not measuring things specifically, just doing the eyeball method. The 'banking' of calories is motivating me for sure. I don't really miss the in between snacks, but my preferred late night munching is kind of a treat that I work towards. It's satisfying to have earned a bowl of chips or whatever knowing I'm still in the negative for the day. WT LOST: Despite being down on total minutes worked vs previous weeks my food logging was on target. -1.2 lbs
Looking back on my numbers, while there was some variance in day to day expenditure, the two, 2 week blocks had similar average daily burns and also mileages and workout numbers. At least as much so that I'm not convinced that I was working out SO much harder in the 2nd block as in the first. No, it's pretty clear to me that what made real difference was in the conscious identifying of what I was eating. Not the content per se, I had bread, cheese, sugar in my coffee, a hot dog, even waffles and syrup one day. But the intake as a whole. Awareness of how much I was eating led me to want to up my activity on a slow day.
Understanding, and even trying to eat less just wasn't productive or sustainable. My progress was minimal and that could be a confidence killer for a lot of people. It wasn't until I knew what I was eating that real change began to occur. So, get out a pen and a notebook, download a new app(even if you later decide on a different one), use your phone to take a picture of what you ate if you have trouble remembering, but track that food.