Diets, Project Pandora, jobs, ASBO's and lungs.

Storytelling time.  Kind of spit balling this and typing as I work. I have this blog, and recently (Ok, past 6 months or so) I've had a couple of changes in life, employment and attitudes.   A lot of that change is pretty much mundane externally but may be a lot more going on up top.  My blog was for the previous projects of Edinburgh-London and London-Edinburgh-London but my head is still a scientist, and as such, I'm still wanting to push the test buttons.   I am still extremely inquisitive and questioning everything.   Recently (last few weeks), I've started to think of new projects, ideas and futures.   So here goes.

On the Menu for today:
1:  New diet, weight loss and the effects/thoughts
2:  A stupid idea, which is a good new goal.
3:  New roles and responsibilities.
4:  Society contains a lot of twats.
5:  Fucked, but not bloody fucked.

1:  New diet, weight loss and the effects/thoughts

1:  This is going to go along with 2 and 3, but sequentially, 1 comes first.   

I admit that I got fat and lazy and lost some direction in life, attitudes and my body mass.   Not fat fat kind of fat, but fat in the context of 72kg and the slow creep of a few extra grams appearing on the scales.   I know what you're thinking, "72kg at 176cm tall? BMI of 23?   That's not fat!?!   You're skinny!"   Contextually, the average UK male is 38, ~80kg and 176cm tall (BMI = 25.8 and classed as overweight).   I'm around 10kg below "average" but to be clear, as >60% of UK males are overweight or obese so in terms of physical form, I am biologically in the correct bracket.   What I am looking at is movement of mass within the expected BMI 20-25 range for healthy.   Motivation is performance, not to look good in a Mankini.  

**I'm also going to put in here a comment on eating disorders as this is something that has appeared in my reading around the subject and discussions.  There is evidence to back up the concerns [link].  Messing around with diet can and does have serious consequences and a growing theme in (common media) journalistic reporting.   There is growing reporting of the connection between non-elite athletes looking at pro-athletes, listening to unscrupulous coaches and forming potentially life threatening disordered eating (DE) habits.   Bulimia and anorexia are serious disorders.   There are various reports of athletes (junior, amateur, pro- and senior) all trying to improve performance by any means possible, including disordered eating.  For the science, here is a study link [link] concluding "Results from this study suggest that multisport endurance summer and winter non-elite athletes are not particularly at high risk for DE"  Note that the limitation is that this is for this study.   An associated study on cyclists [link] concludes on a performance basis that "DEBs were associated with a lower mean power and performance in a competitive event among male road cyclists, although the same was not true for peak power."   I know changing diets can be perceived as flirting with ED's.   For the general population, if you or you suspect others may have an eating disorder, please seek help.**

So why did my mass go up?
It was more taking my eye off the ball, thinking that I could just eat without consequence and giving in to temptation knowing that I'm still going to be riding 150 miles per week in basic commuting and that I can work it back at some point.   It's the idea of putting off focus today, because I can address it tomorrow, and thinking the same the next day......and the next day...... and the next day........


At my lowest mass in the last couple of years, I'd been around 65kg, spent most of last year in the 68-70.5kg range with more (muscle) junk in the trunk and on the thighs but hey, I was mainly going flat (or at least less VAM per km) which meant that the additional muscle mass and fat I could carry it.   Out of interest back in December 2015 I started the Loughborough University studies was 34 yrs old, 175.8cm, 70.3kg.   My age has changed, height still the same and my mass has fluctuated by +2kg, -4kg since December 2015 [Link]. Without jumping to point 2, I got a new motivation and lower having a lower mass is going to be better.   So how do I get back there?

My key target is always/still is/going to be measured by W.kg-1 - the all to important power to weight ratio.  Two sides of the ratio means: (1) up the Watts and (2) drop kg's.   In a "No shit?!" kind of way, excess fat on a cyclist isn't good regardless of anaerobic or aerobic activity [Link]. Upping Watts will kick off through the winter because shitty weather will drop the km's down to commutes only, so now is the time to drop the kg's.   I'm doing it by adjusting my diet; nothing radical, but tweak and keep it going is what I learnt from the nutritional study.   I've seen too many fad diets and FatLogic talks to know that the biggest factor will be making a change, then keeping that change going and wait and watch what happens on the scales.   Cutting, switching, chaotic swings, significant modifications half way through and deviations will only screw it up, so 4 weeks at least and track what's happening.

For those who question "How low is too low?" it just happens Cyclist picked up on my thoughts this week - link. I figure I can potentially drop to around 63kg at the extreme end and still be in the lower region of the healthy bracket.  Based on "not being a pro-cyclist" and doing stuff call "work" and "being a dad", it's not like I can micro manage to the nth degree, so I suspect that pushing into the curve below 65kg, although desirable the impact on life increases while performance return flattens out.   If I went to the extreme of 63kg, this would put me at a 20.4 BMI.  Froome is 1.86m and around 69kg as a reference point with a BMI of 20.1 [link] (and a training team, nutritionist and a shelf of cups).

I do subscribe to a number of feeds regarding diets, exercise and cycling and this is where I deviate heavily from the normal public debates.  

  • KEY POINT ONE:  I'm heading towards middle age; however, I don't have middle age spread.
  • KEY POINT TWO:  I can bypass the generic, commonly blogged and magazine prescribed overweight weight loss methods and jump to performance based body morphology modifications.

I follow a number of feeds which look at diets on performance and none performance perspectives - use food and diet modifications for a functional objective compared to just weight loss.  These days CyclingTips, Cycling, Cycling Weekly, CyclingPlus and all the other magazine offerings have almost gone indistinguishable from Cosmo and Vogue or Mens Health in terms of diet advice with the same monthly repeated format - fat reader, aspiration images, here's an expensive bar and a handful of cooking ideas to help you move towards that inspirational image (bars available from our website, use our discount code!). 

 Pretty much same bullshit, different target market.

So I'm interested in the step beyond those diets.  This subject (weight loss and partial fasting for cardio) has appeared in a number of forums where weight loss communities have been abundant in an obese person BroScience kind of way and the counter logic has been staggering - even in forums which are supposed to be well informed.   To be very blunt, I don't care about weight loss for aesthetic appearance or programs like Weight Watchers and all those derivations who only look at reducing total mass and ignore the muscle and cardio function objectives.   What I am interested in is what sport science professors, performance coaches, academic studies and athlete performance data shows and following through the scientific method behind it for my own objectives.   
  
My more humanistic and altruistic personality is saying "don't be a dick with the world," so as part of personal responsibility to the planet, I want to reduce my meat reliance anyway.   The IPCC report makes a very stark assessment of human activities and habits and the impact of fuel and food use will be my greatest impacts on our world [link 1, link 2].   I already ride to and from work and the family are usually on foot, so my next big sin will be my meat consumption.   I'm not going to go vegetarian as I think/know/believe humans need to be omnivorous in nature - I'm not going to undo a couple billion years evolution in a dinner sitting and a blog post.   Going vegan is not going to happen.  But endlessly consuming meat and the impact meat has on ecosystems, yeah, I can sacrifice ham slices for the sake of my kids (and all of humanities) future.

For the processed foods bit and looking at diet holistically, it would be nice to say "I'm only going to eat this artisan, special food from a recycled brown paper bag" but the food industry is an industry.   By employing industrial killing in the most efficient, effective and humane way, there should be the least waste per human and food source.   A supermarket can churn out waffles far faster, cheaper and quicker than I ever could at home and I'm not going to be a garage butcher for my burgers so instead of losing time and patience to do every task myself, outsourcing tasks to industries is not a bad thing.   And processed food is not all bad if used in the right way.   I certainly will scoff and mock the billions of cupcakes and high sugar snacks that passed through my workplace every day for a largely overfed and lethargic workforce making them even fatter but my personal choices means I can refuse, I can accept and chose my timings of consumption or make different choices.

After all that, what "nudges" am I making?  What does this miraculous diet look like?   What should you Google to find it more or what book should you buy from Amazon to copy it?

It is remarkably low key, doesn't have a big banner brand name, no headline celebrity endorsement to say "I'm doing the XYZ diet" (although I know that a couple of pro-cyclist have used the same method to huge effect) and no concise book - although I'm sure one will be out for Christmas in all good Amazon bookstores shortly.   What I am doing is based on a couple of simple changes to habits based on various scientific studies I've read and case studies I've seen in performance cycling.

First thing I'm doing is reducing breakfast and moving some of those calories to my office desk.   This means that in the morning ride to work, I'm doing an hour of cardio partially fasted.   This could bucket the diet towards the Intermittent Fasting group of diets or Partial Fasted Exercise diets, but there are deviations and purists will contest it.  Now the science here for sports performance is controversial and (from what I can tell), contested [link 1, link 2link 3, link 4, link 5, and link 6 ].  Now I'm no special snowflake and don't have a magical metabolism, therefore sample size n=1 and I may not respond any differently to just calorie reduction, however there have been a number of notable successes [link ] which I would like to follow.  The theory is that my muscles will be hitting glycogen depletion during the ride to work therefore shifting from carbohydrate metabolism to fat oxidation during the ride and stimulating the access of these adipose tissue energy stores due to the lack of free sugars coming from breakfast digestion.   Once at work, I can then pick up the calorie deficit with carbohydrates to replenish depleted glycogen stores.   If managed in balance, I will then use carbohydrate through the morning from my "second breakfast" while reducing total mass.   I should preferentially lose fat, and some protein (muscle mass).

By dinner time (lunch if you're posh) I have my normal dinner, but I've switched meats to nuts and dried fruits.   Bulgar wheat is still my King Carb by choice during the day and I'm keeping to my 1/3 of a cup which I've done since 2016.   As always, this keeps me going through the afternoon until late afternoon.   I sometime have the soup from work but keeping this to optional and not every day should prevent being over filled going into the afternoon work load - breaking a social habit.   If I am souping, then think about "do I really need an afternoon snack, or is this habit?"
At the end of the day, I ride home partially depleted, eat normal tea, try not to gorge on everything for the sake of it, and that's the day done.    Simple!

Is it working?   Yes, but I did have a kick start.   A few weeks ago, I had a reaction to some drugs/pain killers after breaking my toe the day before a half marathon.  OD on painkillers to do the run = bugger up digestive microflora = feeling like death and having to go home from work ill.   Cue 24 hours minimal food and lost some weight straight away.   Post illness I noticed the loss and took advantage and stopped myself regaining that weight (making sure I had recovered well first!) and then started to think more critically about choices and the weight loss trend.

Is it affecting me?   Yes and no.   Physically, I am lighter, which is the objective so yes it is affecting my physically.  Today I pushed the scales at around 67kg.   At my weight and previous percentages of body fat, my next questions is: 67kg of what?  What am I missing if there's not much to miss?

If I was 100kg (BMI = 32.3, BF% = ~33%) at the start and lost 5kg, I will reduce by 5% (BMI = 30.74, BF% = ~30%) and likely to have lost both fat and water because there will have been an obvious excess.  Still obese, but almost just overweight -CyclePlus/Cosmo diet for the win!  At my 65-70kg figure (BMI 21.03 to 22.65, est 12-14 BF%), I was previously around 12% body fat when at the lower end [estimation taken from this graph and previous 2016 studies with Loughborough Uni. with Lynsey].  If I lose 3 to 5kg (5 to 9% of my starting mass), what proportion of that mass loss is fat, water or muscle?  If I lose 3 - 5kg of fat, I would potentially be at low single digit %BF territory but if mass loss is proportional (except I'm not going to lose skeletal mass) my fat percentage will be higher with fat and protein mass loss.  At 63kg, by resultant mass would give a 20.4 BMI.   Without the more details study (time and access!) I cannot determine this.  

Power up, Watt Watt.
The other factor of the W.kg-1 equation will be my power.   As I lack a PWM, I don't have a reliable metric to plot against as on the road there are a million variables - wind, rain, route, who I'm riding with/after, mood, motivations and temperature.   As the bike goes into winter and due for refurb, resistance is increasing in bearings and grit clogging the chain so speed/hr doesn't factor in all these variances.   Turbo time will tell as Zwift will give me reasonably accurate and reproducible power data, but who wants to be there when you can be on the road??  If I am losing mass, there will be time this winter to rebuild the mass I require at a higher power density.  

And what is all this doing mentally?   4 weeks in, and I wish I had an army of RA's to track my biometrics and a whole suit of devices to attach to me.   I'm resigned to the idea that I won't be able to blog/track all the details, but the brain is firing a little sharper.   I'm feeling some of the similar phycological effects to doing the carbohydrate study in 2016 and things are popping back into focus, pretty much in the same time frames.  I'm think more deeply, more critical, more pointed and my concentration has become more determined both at home and at work.   Interests, enquiry and intrigue gains a bit, thinking becomes a bit faster and more critical questioning.   My work focus is more determined.   My motivation of "lets do this, and lets do it right" is becoming stronger again, all from restricting a few calories and forcing my metabolism to shift.   I'm feeling better than I did previously as sugar release is more managed through the day – although there have been a few mornings where I've been able to tell that muscles were running in empty.

Point 2:  Now for the secrete squirrel stuff behind the sealed door.  

Photo credit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/eustaciahuen/2016/09/30/the-worlds-10-best-secret-bars/#184e281bb6e3
Let's start some stupidity.   Point 2 is the stupid idea and new goal.  PBP is pretty much off the cards at this point, so my mind has been unsettled on what to look at.   My mindset for the last don't know how many years has been "do what the $ can't."   Any MAMIL can buy a £5k bike if they have enough disposable income (or credit score).   Any MAMIL can buy a PT to get them to do 100 mile sportive without much effort.   For the vast majority of the human population, that doesn't make them a remarkable cyclist.   My racing days have gone, my income (and wife/family) won't support me buying and destroying kit in Cat4, 3, 2, 1 crit racing, and although TT's interest me a lot of hairy legs with £10k bikes hang around there.   Pissing competitions over aerodynamic carbon fibre frames and 80mm deep rims doesn't float my boat but without the expensive TT bike, I doubt I could climb the ranks.   At some junction money, aerodynamics and training interject and a strong cyclist on a brick of a bike will beaten by a MAMIL on an extremely aerodynamic (and insanely expensive) bike.   Some aspects of cycling have the distinct influx of the golf crowd and the cost have escalated to a point where I'm priced out.   So ultra-distance and hard rides fire my imagination; one cyclist on a bike against a distance, an elevation and (by far the most important factor of all) their own limits.   The imagery of the remote self-sufficient cyclist, fighting the climb in the dark, out in all weathers with snot streaming, wind whipping around the spoke, breathing hard and steely eyed determination of not being beaten by themselves is far more emotive than the Saturday morning 50km club run impeccably turned out with the lightest and latest equipment (nothing more than a season old), box fresh shoes and apparel sweetly smelling from the laundry.  I'm interested in how far I can go before the crack becomes I cave in and I have to climb off.  

Not me, but maybe one day……….
Motivations and events have shifted - or at least extended and evolved from EL and LEL.   I'm not going to declare all - yet - but the numbers 2, 36, 400, 8848 and 10,000 and the term "grey stripe" are all floating around my head.   I don't really want to publicise it all and wide and detail the exact thoughts I have so far (yeah yeah, I know, I see the massive irony alert as I write this on my public blog for all the internet to see).  Over the past few years I've become increasingly sceptical of social media therefore I'm not interested in the Facebook updates, explaining what I want to do using emoji charactors, the idea of being skinny but wanting to modify my mass, chasing likes, emojis, kudos and follows.   Is the post social media space now retro-media and the returning to personal blogs instead of social media platforms??   I did do social media and blogs for Edinburgh-London.   The Facebook support for LEL kept me going through some tough times, but this new idea I feel is more deeply personal and I don't really care on the opinions from people I don't know across the internet and if the course is only going to be mapped through the Top 20 Instagram story locations.   My motivations for this one is to do it because it is damn fucking stupidly hard, has high probabilities of both failing and causing my extreme physical damage and success would put me "in-the-club."  But most importantly I want to do it for my personal reasons without destroying my own family life.  My intention is to put up this post up and hopefully some more in the coming months but just as a (public) personal account and record of this next phase.



Project PANDORA

All cool projects need cool project code names.   Maybe I missed out on "Project: Road to EL" in 2016, and "Project: LEL" in 2017 was cool in a "yeah! I'm doing LEL!" kind of way.   This project probably needs a cool secrete project codename/term.  I'm currently favouring "Project Pandora"; not because of sparkly jewellery, but in Greek mythology Zeus gives Pandora (the first mortal woman) a jar containing all good and evil.  Pandora releases all evil from the jar (pithos), reseals it leaving only expectation (hope) behind.   It's debated if Hope is the master of all evils as it's at the very bottom of the jar and last to leave.  In releasing all pain, Hope is what you cling to to get through but opening the jar to reach out for Hope, you fail to the final option and the evillest of all evils.  But as all resolve ebbs away and despair kicks in, clinging to Hope is a fools option and only prolongs torment.  One way to read this is that only by opening Pandora's box and succumbing to Hope do you give up on all personal will to survive; alternatively, by Pandora keeping Hope in the jar, it is protected from the world of evils and man is hopeless - if all goes to wrong, at least hope is preserved.   The moral of the story and tactic to take should always be to work, train and prepare to make sure success isn't pinned on Hope - this is a challenge to release a world of pain and evil on the legs and cannot be completed just by riding on Hope.   Also, my Paincave PC is called Pandora.


The idea is germinating, a fledgling physical change is taking place and a project name is top picked for 2019.  But at the moment it's a pretty much a closed community of a close circle of people to bounce ideas off.  You've been introduced to the hidden door, seen it has a low-key door room name sticker of "Project PANDORA" but the imposter restraint is keeping you out.

Point 3 on the list. "New Roles and Responsibilities"

I'll gloss over most of this at this point, but roles are in flux.   I have a good boss who giving me stimulating ideas, areas to think about and discuss.  Always have a boss like this because it keeps the brain active and thinking.   Don't sit in a rut.   Hopefully, if I get chance, I'll blog some of the less sport, more science areas I've been touching on.

Point 4:  To sound like a grumpy old man, point 4 and societal twats.   

I've been moving in and out of areas of interests for a couple of years and had mixed foci.   Sometimes I've been pretty much inward looking at my own work, sometimes in ring-fence academic communities, sometimes in more niche interest groups and not looking around at more broad society - the daily looking at what your employer is asking you to do/your niche science and sports interests and not having much time to "observe."  In downtime and some of my new areas of work, I'm getting the opportunity to look out more, think about personal and population behaviours, reading more about current affairs and different literature sources and without sounding down (but I will), society doesn't half contain a lot of twats.   I mean, there's Trump, but day-to-day blinkered twats wrapped up in their own little self-observed crap not doing basic thinking appears to be pushing society towards Idiocracy.



Finally, Point 5 and everything in perspective.

Yep, still riding to-and-fro for work and linked to Point 4; people in planet killing cars are pretty much destroying the atmosphere for all while stilling sit in queues.   Getting to work, my lungs are wheezy.   Sitting at my desk, I can feel my breathing is shallower than it should be so I message Anna "my lungs feel fucked."   Based on previous history, I had to caveat that with "Not bloody fucked, just pollution fucked."  Her reply "Never can tell with you, relieved there's no blood xx".


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