Calorie Count or How Far Can I Go?
Vic Denwood provides an overview of how you might use calorie counting to manage your weight.
I have a brand-new exercise bike. It tells me how fast I am pedalling, how far I have gone, power output, duration, pulse rate, and how many calories I have used. It was this last reading that has caused me a problem since it was showing that after a 10-minute session at 100 watts effort I had used about 250 calories.
At first, I trusted the computer - don't we all? However, after my daughter bought her exercise bike, she commented that I must be working incredibly hard because she was getting a report of 30 calories used in 20 minutes activity. This started me thinking, if I use 250 calories in 10 minutes, then that is the same as 1500 calories per hour! Even Polar Explorers dragging sleds, and channel swimmers do not use calories at that rate. There was something wrong. I trained in the RAF as an electrical engineer, so I know all about Joules and Calories. So, I did some sums for myself:
If I work at a rate of 100 watts for 10 minutes, then that is:
To convert to calories, DIVIDE the number of Joules by 4.184. In this case, for ease, I divided by 4 and got 15,000 calories. However, since all the food ratings use Kilo Calories (Kcals), then my computer should have shown about 15 Kcals used.
What has happened is that my computer has been incorrectly programmed and is MULTIPLYING the number of Joules by four instead of dividing by 4; accordingly, it is a factor of 16 times out in its result. I have written to the manufacturer pointing this out; they agree about the problem, and have compensated me for my trouble, and informing them of the hitch.
An Interesting Train of Thought
In my 10-minute session, at a pedal rate of 60 rpm, I was working at 100 watts, and achieving 20 Km per hour speed, and used 15 Kcals. So, if I carried on for an hour, I would have used 90 Kcals and covered 20 Km. This made me start to realise just how efficient the body is in using its food, and how much exercise would be needed to burn up the calories in food.
How Far Can I Go?
Remember the "baseline" for me is: 100 watts for 1Hr uses 90 Kcals to achieve a 20 Km distance. So I looked around the house for some common foods and also the NHS website for a food calorie listing, and produced the following results table.
Table 1 - Sample Food Listing
What did I Save?
When I retired in 2011 to look after my wife, my activity level dropped, and my weight gradually crept up. This was not helped by regular intake of Chocolate Digestive biscuits each afternoon with a cup of tea, and an evening snack of a mini pork pie (or two), or a crisp sandwich when my wife was fast asleep. By the beginning of 2014, I was 15st 7lbs and distinctly obese. So, I decided to take matters in hand and stopped coffee whitener, my snacks and cut out all buttered bread, cake, and biscuits.
Table 2 – Drop Outs
I am so astounded!
I have only just produced this table as part of writing this article, and I have never done this analysis before. We are told that the average man needs 2000 Calories per day. From the table above, you can see that I have saved four days' worth of calories per week. I was effectively eating 11 days of food each week, no wonder my weight crept up!
Since stopping the foodstuffs above and adding reasonable light daily workouts on an exercise bike, I am now, ten months later, weighing 11st 6lbs.
Table 1 shows that basic fats, such as lard, and edible oils all have the same high-calorie count (9000 per Kg). That is why Orcas, Polar Bears, and Eskimos love to eat Seals - lots of blubber to keep them warm. That fat that is so sought after is also the same, in calorie terms, as resides in us as a food store and energy reserve. So, from Table 1 we see that 100gm of Lard or Oil will take me 200 Km - so to lose 1Kg by exercise alone, I would have to cycle for 100 hours and 2000 Km. From this, it becomes obvious that exercise alone cannot get your weight down.
As a matter of interest, the planners for a recent polar trekking expedition worked out that the explorers needed an energy budget of 8000 Calories per day. This is virtually impossible to achieve with normal rations - eating 1Kg of pure fat a day is not viable due to the appalling effect it would have on the lower gut! So, their solution was for the explorers to build up body fat reserves before the expedition, eat highly nutritional balanced rations when on the ice, and let the body draw on the inner fat reserve as necessary to make up any energy deficit.
What Worked for Me?
I am 68 years old, and "traditionally" it is difficult for us to lose weight. However, I seem to have found a solution that worked for me.
A possible suggestion for you:
Diabetes 2 - Vic 0
Despite annual medical tests while in the RAF, it was not until a year after I retired that it was discovered, by accident, that I had Type 2 diabetes. This has been controlled by tablets ever since. And since then, my tablets have been increased every three years or so.
In January my HbA1c was 69. This means that I was close but not entirely down to the level that the doctor would have liked. By June, having stopped most of my snacks in the evening, and lost one stone in weight, it was 54 - the doctor approved but still wanted better. So, I cut out all the stuff in Table 2 and started a moderate exercise regime. This week, in September, I am a further two stone lighter, and my HbA1c is now 39. This is a massive improvement, effectively, at that level; I am very low borderline diabetic, or even possibly disease-free.
It is now early November, now 11st 10lb. I have seen the Doc about my blood levels at last. He is very pleased with the weight loss, but my blood levels are too good! So, he has reduced my tablets by half and will be taking another blood test in January to see how things are. I gave him a copy of Table 2, and the NHS website reference, which seemed to interest him greatly.
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About the Author
Vic Denwood is a retired RAF Engineer and IBM Business Analyst.