Wednesday, July 11, 2012

90 percent of weight loss is simple

90 percent of weight loss is simple


It's July 11th today, which means we're smack-dab in the middle of the Tour de France. Let's make a cycling analogy:


Look at all those riders.. One of them might win this year's Tour; some of them might not even finish.

You know what separates those riders from you and me? The 90%.

These guys spend upwards of 40 hours a week training, with most of that time actually spent riding. They are in superb condition. Any one of those guys could trade bicycles, equipment, and nutrition with us, and still whip us in a race of any length.

Seriously, give me the $10,000 bike, the highest tech gear available, a personal trainer and nutritionist, and a guy riding in a van behind me giving me all sorts of information and encouragement. Then give Lance Armstrong (or any of the riders in the photo above) my off-the-rack road bike, without clips, a helmet purchased at Target, and a loose-fitting t-shirt, and let's race..

5 miles? 25 miles? 50 miles? I'd be willing to bet my next decade's salary that I still couldn't beat any of these guys.

You know what separates those riders from each other - the winners from the not able to finish-ers? The last 10%. (and maybe a little good or bad luck, especially if there are crashes on the course).
  • Training an extra hour per week than another guy.
  • Handlebars being set at a 6% angle rather than a 5%.
  • A gram or two shaved off the bike's weight.
  • The perfect blend of protein, carbs, and fat to consume before, during, and after each day's race.
  • A modified helmet which reduces wind draft by 3%.
  • Not carrying more than 4 oz of liquid up a mountain hill. (the extra weight requires extra energy.)
  • Etc. - you get my point.

We're talking about high-tech, super-specialized, low-bang-for-the-buck parts of the winning equation. Are they required to win the Tour de France? Absolutely - a rider won't be able to win without utilizing every possible technological advantage (the 10%). But, if the rider fails to train properly (the 90%), every other advantage in the world is meaningless.

90% of weight loss is simple

Just like cyclists in the above example, there are lots of options for fine-tuning your weight loss (the 10%):
  • Find the perfect blend of protein, carbs, and fat.
  • Fueling strategies for the right food before, during, and after a workout. (should you carbo-load, or drink a protein shake?)
  • Selecting the right workouts to do - weight lifting, cardio, cross-fit, yoga, etc.
  • Micro analyzing how many grains, nuts, and legumes are acceptable.
  • Focusing on an exercise you read to "give you perfect ... (abs, buns, calves, arms)"
  • Wearing the right workout clothes and shoes.
  • Eating particular foods at particular times of day.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

And just like the cyclists above, every one of those fine tuning items are worthless if you don't do the 90%:
  • Eat less calories than you burn!

If you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Simple, period, the end. It doesn't matter what you eat, when you eat, or where you eat - your body will convert the calories it receives into energy, and if there aren't enough calories to use it will begin releasing fat to burn for fuel. Hell, you can live off Flamin Hot Cheetos if you wanted to, and as long as you ate less than about 10 oz per day you'll lose weight. (you'll probably have other issues long-term, but weight won't be one of them!)

That's not to say the 10% isn't important - analyzing your body and your food intake can help you find the right mix to lose weight faster, and to feel better throughout the day. But focusing on the 10% without doing the 90% is a waste of time, energy, and money.

Bottom Line

Want to lose weight?

1.) First, cut the number of calories you eat, so that you consume less than you burn. You can stop here.

2.) Adding some exercise, even 20 minutes at a time a few days a week, will help you burn calories, speed up your metabolism (which burns even more calories), and make you look & feel better about yourself.

3.) Next, if you really want to, and you're already seeing results because you're doing #1 and #2, you can experiment with the fine-tuning ideas to see which ones you (and your body) like better.

Here's to a healthier, happier you.

-Chris Butterworth