The Training Corner
Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul
Q: Hi Pat! Should I lose weight? Do I NEED to?
I am 38, husband and father of three very active boys, ages 7-12, working for a tech company. At 6’1” with a muscular build, I have never had to think much about my weight. I grew up on a ranch and did a ton of physical work, along with high school sports, hunting, and every mountain sport possible. I stayed active through college and remain so to this day. For 15 years I worked as a project supervisor, where I was on my feet most of the day. This past year, however, I have been stuck at the ever-invasive screen, with incessant meetings. I still hit the gym twice a week, and run or skate ski at least once on the weekend. I shovel snow, too. Just not sure if that’s enough!
Now, the guts of why I am writing IS my expanding gut. I still weigh around 200 lbs, but despite training, things are shifting. My belt is two notches out, and my pants are baggier in the rear-end. It seems like muscle is shrinking and fat is creeping on. That BMI thing ranks me as overweight.
My wife is a master of healthy meal prep, and doesn’t keep crapfood in the house. I’m overdue for a check-up with my primary care Doc, too. So, is my waist an issue? Or a waste of time and energy to even think about it? Your thoughts? Thanks!
A: Hello Jake. Great question, and relevant to many readers. Screens are time-sucking, movement-killing necessities, that need countering. As for your BMI, don’t get spun up about it. Athletic, muscular males don’t fit the norms.
So, is excess fat a big deal? Some fat is ESSENTIAL, necessary for all organs, nerves and hormones to function well, and for insulation, cushion, and fuel. Body fat is a dynamic endocrine organ, not just dead weight. When fat cells enlarge, especially those located in the gut-visceral region, in and around the vital organs, they spill out nasty substances that can foster chronic low-grade inflammation and insulin resistance, precursors to most of our lifestyle diseases. A steady supply of refined starches and sugars is the elephant in the room of excesses, on top of little to no movement throughout the day, despite a workout.
We are talking health here, NOT aesthetics. Jake, look for red flags.
1. Get that check-up, with all the vitals, and a detailed medical and lifestyle habit Hx. The lab work-up should include all the necessary lipid, glucose and inflammatory markers. You DON’T want ‘high end of normal’ here. You’re only 38. When risk factors, and signs and symptoms of less-than-optimal health appear, you know that inflammatory processes have been brewing for a while. If any of your markers are considered PRE, as in pre-hypertension or pre-diabetes, red flags are waving.
2. Take the grab-pinch-pull test. Less than an inch from your navel, grab a vertical fold, pinch and pull it away from your body. Or, just above the top front of your hip, grab a diagonal fold. Less than an inch? Fantastic! More than 1.5 inches? Whoa, hold the line! If folds are pushing a handful, or the fat is pressed so hard against the skin that you can’t grab it, red flag! There are more scientific methods for sure, but your fingers and eyes don’t lie.
About that belt notch ... It is a great metric, assuming that you wear it where you always did, not in a new-found place. Next, get the tape measure out. Measure your natural waist first. Don’t suck in the gut. Record it. Then measure the largest hips-buttock circumference. Record it. Divide the waist by the hips. This is your Waist-Hip Ratio [WHR]. For a barely middle-aged MAN, a WHR > .95, is considered risky, a red flag. For example:
Waist = 36” / hips = 36”
WHR = 1.00
Waist = 38” / hips = 44”
WHR = .86
3. Lastly, if fat is impeding your ability to crouch, bend, squat, sit on the floor, or to move freely in all your daily activities, chores and sports, red flag!
Got any red flags? Even if you don’t, embrace these practices:
1. As an ADULT 38-year-old male, eat no more than 3X/day within an 8-12 hour window, breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dinner being the smallest meal. NO snacks, even healthy ones, like nuts. Drink water with each meal, and throughout the day. Kick refined carbs and sugar to the curb, and keep the alcohol in check.
2. Eat REAL, minimally-processed food 85-90% of the time, including fresh and/or flash-frozen veggies and fruits of all colors, and heart-healthy PROTEIN and FAT sources. The Mediterranean, DASH and Pegan [Vegan + Paleo] styles of eating hit the mark. For more on portion sizes, PROtein requirements and details for YOU, see www.precisionnutrition.com. It is possible to eat too much healthy food, too.
3. Get your mindset right. We eat and drink to get healthier and leaner. We train and move more to get healthier, stronger, faster and fitter. Of course, one supports the other. But fat loss takes place in the kitchen, at the table [not the desk], at the grocery store, take-out, restaurant or bar, NOT at the gym. Diet IS the sum total of everything we eat and drink; the quality, quantity, and the when, where and why we eat. It is a style and pattern of eating, NOT something that we go on or off. We can exercise ‘til the cows come home, and not lose any fat, if our diet, sleep and chronic distress sabotage our efforts.
4. Break up the seated screen-time every 30:00. Stand up, reach and rotate away from it. Throw in a couple flights of stairs, too.
5. Tweak your training to get a bigger bang for your time. Progress the intensity and complexity of your strength and power training. Include high-intensity interval bouts during your run or ski sessions.
6. WALK briskly, whenever and wherever you can. Got a dog? Track your steps. Shoot for 8K+/ day, 5K on training days.
Bottom line, Jake … Lab results, deep abdominal fat and freedom to move matter. If you need to slim down, don’t obsess about it. Just tweak those habits that facilitate a leaner, healthier you for your game of life. Check those measurements in 3 months. I’ll bet they’re better. Oh, and keep your eyes open for an on-your-feet job, too.
Want to train, feel better and look better, contact Pat through https://www.activeandagile.com or https://www.movingmountainsmt.com. See previous editions of Mountain Grit for more training tips from Pat.