Some Answers to Your Questions About the Metabolic Effect Diet

Wow, guys! Over 25,000 people have read (or at least looked at/skimmed; I know I’m long-winded) Wednesday’s post: “I Wanted to Lose Weight by Running, but What I Learned 4 Years Later Surprised Me.”

I don’t know how many it would be if combined that number with Kim’s post “Can Running and Muscle Building Go Together?“!! Thanks to a nice write up and share of our articles on Metabolic Effect’s Facebook page, we got to share our weight and fat loss experiences with many more people than we ever imagined. Thanks for reading our posts.

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Kim, (Just) Trying is for Little Girls, and I are so excited that the topic hit home for so many of you! Like I mentioned, Kim is rocking her long distance running and the weights. She’s doing the Metabolic Effect workouts with 17.5-pound dumbbells. So impressive! I was happy to complete 5 rounds in 20 minutes with 12-pounders today! It’s been nice to have someone else doing the exercises so we can encourage each other.

I know lots of you said you were going to read The Metabolic Effect Diet. I hope you like it as much as we both did. BTW, let us know if you do and are following the ME-style workouts. We both love talking about it.

Like I said in Wednesday’s post, I had to take a break from the ME workouts in Nov., but I restarted them again 8 days ago since I wasn’t getting the results I was after on another weight lifting plan. I was getting stronger definitely. But I want to get leaner, and it wasn’t really happening after several weeks. So. Back to what I know works, right? (I admit, too, that my eating had been a little too “loose.” I believe in allowing yourself little bits of your favorite foods, but not ALL THE TIME if you’re trying to achieve abdominal awesomeness.)

The other thing, I think, I had going against me was that I didn’t have a goal. I was just lifting to lift. Just trying it out. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t really have anything to work for. Now, I know exactly what I want: abs I can see. So, I have something to work for and even an inspiration picture.

Anyway. For the last 8 days, I’ve been doing my ME workouts plus doing some running since I have a half marathon in April to train for. My pants and shirts already fit looser! I also learned how to calculate my lean body weight and fat weight, so I can know whether or not I’m actually burning the fat off or if I’m losing water and/or muscle. (I’ll post about this another day. I find it fascinating!)

I got some questions about The Metabolic Effect Diet, so I thought I’d answer them in case anyone else had the same questions.

Is it an easy read?

Yes. It’s been almost a year since I first read the book, but I remember finishing it quickly. It’s also very readable. Not too heavy on the technical terms.

Is the diet easy to follow?

First of all, the word “diet” simply means “what one eats,” so let’s not forget that. “Going on a diet” is like a made-up thing some copywriter probably came up with in the ’80s. 😉

Like I said Wednesday, The Metabolic Effect Diet is not a “go on a diet” book. It’s not the Zone or anything like that. You can eat whatever you want, but the book will tell you how certain foods may be more effective at burning fat for you based on how your body burns sugar, fat or muscle. First, you take a quiz to see what type of a “burner,” you are. I was one point shy of being a Sugar Burner. I identified more with the description of a Sugar Burner, so I went with that one. It worked well.

Remember: If you want to lose fat and get some awesome abs, you shouldn’t eat an entire bowl of Cheetos for dinner like I did during the Super Bowl, of course. You can eat these things–in moderation–but I think after you read the book and see how food affects the hormones in your body, you won’t want to. (But we all have our moments. Let’s not judge one another, m’kay?)

What’s your goal?

Okay, this wasn’t a question to me, this is my question to you. What are your goals? Do you want to train for a marathon? And do you want abs? Or do you just want to lose fat? Define what you want before you decide what your plan of action is. When you read ME, you will understand why I cut back on my running. Long, steady-state cardio sessions don’t do much to burn fat DESPITE WHAT MAGAZINES LIKE RUNNER’S WORLD AND WOMEN’S RUNNING WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE. They are selling aspirations; don’t buy into it.

Aaaaanyway. Pick a goal and then take the steps that you need to get to that goal. If you want to get lean and you want/need to do a lot of long, steady-state cardio (like you are training for an Ironman or a marathon or something), then just be realistic. Kim is making it work, so it’s not like you can’t get lean and strong and run long distances. Just be realistic about it. It may take you longer to get those abs, but you can still work on it while you train for your race(s). And, hey, you’ll be a stronger runner, too.

Cardio is not a bad thing. I just want to be clear on that. Some cardio is good. Sprinting is really good, and the ME book even suggests it in between weights days, along with walking. I don’t want people to think I hate running. I love running. I just think that if your goal is to get a lean body like the ones you see on the covers of running magazine (those are usually fitness models, btw), then you need to add weights to your routine, and make your cardio sessions more focused. There is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns, you know.

Okay. I’m going to stop here because a) this is getting too long, and b) I have to pee. I had my very first massage today (I know, I’m 36 and I’m just getting around to it), and I drank a TON of water before and after.

Thanks again for reading me and Kim’s posts, and let us know if you have any questions or stories to share about being a runner who lifts weights! If you’ve read ME, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

I Wanted to Lose Weight by Running, but What I Learned 4 Years Later Surprised Me

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” -Tom Robbins

Ever since I started on my health journey in 2009, my goal was to get healthy and look it. I have been after a lean body for a long time. My plan was to get there by running. It took me over four years to figure out that wouldn’t work.

Today, I’m writing about my quest to get lean and sharing some ideas I learned from Metabolic Effect’s book. In order to reach my goal, I have drastically reduced the number of miles I run, but Kim at (Just) Trying is for Little Girls, who also read Metabolic Effect’s book, is continuing her goal of running a half marathon in every state–balancing a lean lifestyle with long distance running.

We are writing about our two experiences to help other runners who want to lose weight–fat–and get lean. You can read about her experience on her blog today, and my experience is below.

Kim, left, and me in my lounge pants...it's a long story.
Kim, left, and me in my lounge pants…it’s a long story. We decided to write about our experience with Metabolic Effect during this SHORT run in Portland a few weeks ago.

When I started my journey to get in shape, I decided I wanted to run. Why did I chose running? Well, I have always enjoyed running. But mostly I thought that was what you had to do to get in shape. Everywhere I looked (i.e. magazine covers or on TV, etc.), it seemed like running was the way to do it.

A marathon was on my bucket list, but it also seemed like the fastest way to get a lean, fit bod! In 2009, I began my quest. I started with a 5K and then within the first four months of my journey, I ran a half marathon. I immediately started training for the full…but then fractured my shin from overuse in the spring of 2010. (I eventually ran a full in 2011.)

Almost four years laster, I continued to think that adding mileage and cutting calories was the only way to lose weight and get in shape–even though I still hadn’t achieved it after all that time!

Yes, I’d lost some pounds and my heart and lungs were healthy, but I continued to carry an annoying layer of fat around my tummy, hips and thighs (which couldn’t be healthy for my insides either!). Of course, my boobs shrunk down to almost nothing. Typical!

I Wanted to Get Lean: The Knowledge

While I wouldn’t take back all those miles with wonderful friends that I made because of running, I do wish I would’ve known what I know now because I would’ve been able to “get in shape” a lot faster. I wouldn’t have damaged my metabolism by cutting calories. I wouldn’t have fractured my shin.

The difference between then and now, is knowledge.

What started this education transformation was a book called The Metabolic Effect Diet. It completely opened my eyes to a world of health and fitness habits I never even knew existed.

I don’t have to run 20-25 a week to get fit? Whaaaaa? You mean, I can work out for 30 minutes just 2 or 3 times per week and lose weight? And the fat will come off? Whaaaa?

Before you read any farther, know this: I don’t think everyone who loves to run should stop running. Keep running if you enjoy doing it. But running or doing hours of cardio every week to get “in shape” is a myth. (Of course, “in shape” is different for everyone: For me I mean healthy on the inside and looking lean and strong on the outside.)

I feel really passionate about people to get educated about weight and fat loss. Reading The Metabolic Effect Diet is a good place to start that education. So is reducing your running mileage.

Can I Get Lean and Run Long Distances?

I looooove running (although my love affair has moved to shorter distances as of late), and I would not take back any of the races or runs I’ve done over the  years. I made new friends with this blog and with running–wonderful friends whom I cherish.

But last summer, when I read The Metabolic Effect Diet, it changed everything I knew about getting lean and fit. To be fair, I didn’t really know much since I thought I could get “in shape” through high mileage running and hours of cardio, including even last winter on my bike trainer.

When I tried to lose weight through lots of running and/or by reducing calories (sometimes to unhealthy levels), I was doing myself a disservice by wrecking my metabolism and by stressing out my body (which, probably, made it hold on to the very fat I was trying to get off!).

I did lose some weight, but what I lost most likely also included muscle. (And you want muscle because it burns fat!) Metabolic Effect taught me that when you get your cardio through weight lifting (20 minutes, heavy weights, high intensity), you build muscle…which burns fat! This is a very short explanation. I’ll put links for more info at the end of this post.

I don't know this woman. I found this on Pinterest and, unfortunately, the link was broken. It's a great comparison. I think all the pictures look great; it just shows that there's a difference, and it's all about what you want your body to look like.
This isn’t me. I don’t know this woman and I cannot confirm whether or not these photos have not been altered with graphic design software. I found this on Pinterest and, unfortunately, the link was broken. But, whether or not it’s real, it’s a great comparison and visually shows my point. Really, I think she looks great in all the pictures; it just shows that there’s a difference in shape. It’s all about what you want your body to look like.

I learned about how stress affects my body, how well (or not well) my body processes starch, how what I eat and how I exercise affects the hormones in my body, and how my hormones affect how I feel and look.

Part of me wants to say that if you are not looking to lose body fat/weight, then The Metabolic Effect Diet may not be for you. But I can’t. I learned so much about how my body works, I think everyone should read it. (No, they did not pay me to write about their book.) It’s just good information to know.

I have one issue with the book: it’s title. Putting the word “Diet” in the title, to me, implies this is just another one of those fad “DIET” books. But that’s not what this is. There’s no “eat this, not that.” You’re not going to get meal plans. It’s simply an educational read about food and hormones and exercise. The book gives you all the information, and then you decide what to do with it.

The book does give you workouts to do. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as sweaty after any run as I get after a ME workout. Just sayin’.

The workouts are important because long, steady-state cardio sessions do not help burn fat. I can just say this after more than four years of doing them and not seeing results. After just a couple of weeks doing ME workouts and making good food and lifestyle choices based on what I learned in the ME book, I dropped 8 pounds.

I had a hard time thinking I didn’t need to run for miles on end. I had a hard time not counting calories and believing “weight loss” wasn’t all about calories in, calories out (there’s more to the equation!). I had a hard time watching my running mileage go down to 6 miles per week or less (sometimes)….at first.

But wearing size 6 jeans and seeing muscle definition in my arms convinced me. And not feeling hungry all the time convinced me. And there was even a faint outline of some–wait for it–abs!

The best part: I felt more relaxed and less ruled by exercise and calories than…ever.

Getting Lean: Making Exercise and Food Work for Me

What the ME book helped me see was that there are certain types of exercise that work for me and there is exercise that works against me. And certain foods that work for me and certain food that works against me. And there are certain behaviors that work for me and certain behaviors that work against me.

I learned my body is very susceptible to stress–both from environmental factors like not getting enough sleep, and from stressful exercise, like long distance running. ME recommends easy stress-reducing walks in between 3 days of 20-minute high-intensity weight workouts.

But stress is just ONE of the reasons my body was holding on to fat around my belly, hips and thighs.

I also learned that what I eat has a lot to do with my body fat, and not how much I eat. I was eating a lot of yogurt and oatmeal last spring, and my body cannot process those foods as efficiently as higher protein foods and vegetables, I have learned. The book helped me to be more aware of how food made me feel. I really started to notice how different foods affected me after I read the book.

For example, my stomach was always upset after eating yogurt. Once I cut back on eating so much of it, I felt better. I like that ME teaches you how food can help you instead of hurting you.

Changing my diet to be more protein and veggie focused with smaller amounts of starch at meals, made a huge difference. I looked better and felt better. AND I was eating more. Right now*, I eat 6 times a day, and I feel satisfied after I eat.

The types of food I was eating was just ONE factor to my soft belly, hips and thighs. Being on restrictive low-calorie diets for so long was also ONE more reason.

Getting more sleep also made a big difference. Eight hours is where it’s at. Not getting enough sleep is just ONE reason my body holds on to fat.

What works for me:

  • Sleep 8 hours.
  • 20-25 minutes of high-intensity exercise with heavy weights 2 to 3x/week (metabolic workouts)
  • Optional 20-minute sprinting interval sessions 2x/week
  • 30 or more minutes of leisure walking every day
  • Lots of protein and veggies at every meal with 5 bites of (high-quality when possible) starch, and lots of water
  • Eat 4-6x/day (don’t let myself get crazy hungry/hangry)

That’s it. That’s the basics of how I am getting leaner. You’ll notice there is no running aside from the optional sprinting…

How I Became a Diet Detective

Despite knowing all of this, I had to step back from the metabolic workouts in November. My lower back, which has a bulging disc that sometimes gets aggravated, was bothering me. I tweaked it somehow and it just wasn’t getting better so I had to rest. Surprisingly, when I rested and continued to eat well, my weight and inches did not change much.

But then I started following a new lifting routine, just to see if I liked it. The routine was more strength-focused than metabolic. So, I was lifting even heavier, but it wasn’t getting my heart rate up much, and my eating wasn’t so clean. For various reasons, I was binge-eating chips and junk food in between meals, and toward the end of December to mid-January, I went up 3 pounds and gained an inch or more on my belly, hips and thighs. (All in all, not that bad considering I was eating so much junk.)

The best way to show you what happened with me is to share a graph of my weight for a year. (Note: Before I read the ME book, I had read Bob Harper’s The Skinny Rules, which was basically just a lesson in eating cleanly. Again, not really eliminating anything, just eating better. But, my yogurt and starch consumption was much higher.) Okay, here’s what my weight journey over the last year looks like:

Weight over the last year.
Weight over the last year.

Can you see how I was stuck last spring? Can you tell where I started eating and exercising according to the knowledge I learned from Metabolic Effect? It was last May.  Can you tell where I strayed? December and January.

Weight is not the only, or even the best, way to measure your progress, but it is the one thing I had kept track of consistently.

One of the best things about Metabolic Effect and ME trainers (such as Jill Coleman of the blog JillFit), is that they stress that a lean lifestyle is all about finding what works for you. Setbacks are not failures. I only found a way that does not work!

I consider myself the Sherlock Holmes of my own lean lifestyle. I keep tweaking and trying different things in line with what I’ve learned from ME (and other books, see below). Long runs aren’t going to get me the abs I want. Running two hours and then telling myself I can eat whatever I want won’t help me get my goal.

Now, if I run, it’s because I enjoy the act of running. But I will never again confuse it as a good way to lose weight or fat.

Get The Metabolic Effect Diet on Kindle here or in paperback here.

Another book on fat loss I like:

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle on Kindle or in paperback by Tom Venuto

More about the Metabolic Effect:

A couple helpful articles about cardio and weight loss from Jill at JillFit:

A podcast on fitness and nutrition I’m really enjoying:

The Fit Cast hosted by Kevin Larrabee, CSCS

*I’m a “diet detective”! Six seems to be working for me now; it could change.

I’m Going to Nashville…with Abs

My 5K PR might have to wait. The thing is, I know how risky it is to train for distance and speed at the same time. But…

I got an opportunity to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville at the end of April with one of my BRFs! I’m super excited to run this race…especially with Zoë (Run, Zoë, Run).

I’ll be giving her some help with the Nuun booth at the expo, so if you’re going to be there, come say “Hi” to us.

The only thing is…I’m not in half marathon shape. I haven’t run over 5 miles (and that was in December) in a long time. So I need to build my endurance. I know (from research and from experience), that working on increasing miles and pace at the same time can lead to an injury.

So I’m going to have to lay off the speed for a bit. I hope I can anyway. See, I’m on a mission to get some abs–the kind I can see. To do that I’m lifting weights, but I’ve also been sprinting. I think as long as I keep my sprints short (and not do them on days I’m building mileage), and as long as continue to stretch well and foam roll (which I’ve been pretty religious about doing), I should be okay. Most of my ab work is being done in the kitchen anyway (with what I eat).

Ab inspiration – MMA fighter Meisha Tate

A word about the photo: This is just for inspiration. Something for me to work toward. I have always wanted a defined stomach. It’s a goal of mine. I will work toward it…in a healthy way. It’s like training for a Boston qualifying time, right? Sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t, and so we keep trying.

I like Meisha’s abs, because they are defined, but not crazy ripped. And also, she looks strong and lean, but not skinny. I want to look like an athlete. When I was looking for an inspirational picture, I saw so many disgusting photos of super skinny women with crazy six packs, and with veins popping out and stuff. That’s just gross to me. It makes me wonder if they eat enough.

As long as we’re on the topic, I saw an article that interviewed Rachel from the Biggest Loser and she said she was working out six hours a day and eating 1,600 calories. That is crazy. Not healthy. I bet she severely damaged her metabolism. The only way to keep up what she has created is by continuing her unhealthy cycle: eat 1,600 and work out six hours. Ain’t nobody in the real world got time for that!

And who wants to look sickly skinny?

Biggest Loser Rachel

You cannot fuel six hours of exercise on 1,600 calories and still feel well–I don’t care how short you are (she’s reportedly 5’5″–that’s only 2.5 inches shorter than me…I don’t consider that petite). Ugh! I don’t know the whole story, so I don’t want to criticize her too much. But, from the pictures I’ve seen, and in my opinion, she does not look healthy. I realize she wanted to win the prize. I hope it was worth it.

Let me tell you about the time I was eating 1,100-1,200 calories a day and working out and running like a crazy person. It was a couple years ago. And guess what? My weight didn’t even budge: I stayed at a size 10. My body thought I was starving it. I couldn’t run very fast. I felt tired all the time; and I was super grumpy.  I did not look lean. I still looked 3 months pregnant. My metabolism was completely destroyed, I now know. It’s been such a learning process and I’m just now figuring it all out at 36 years old. So, maybe, Rachel will figure it out, too.

Aaaaanyway…my (original) point was that I may have to set my PR aside for a while. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll surprise myself at the Hot Chocolate 5K, which is coming up quick: March 2.

I really need to have goals, though. So here they are:

1. Build endurance

2. Build a defined mid-section

3. (After the half) Get my 5K PR

Some people do better living by the seat of their pants; I don’t. I need set goals, but I am flexible. I won’t lose my mind if I need to change my goals on the fly. What about you?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about Rachel’s body vs. Meisha’s (keeping in mind this is just one photo, one moment in time–nobody stays the same–bodies change).

What do you think about having an inspirational photo to work toward? (I’ve never done that before.)

Races I’m (Thinking About) Doing

I’m planning my 2014 racing calendar! I need some goals, people. I think having some races in mind will help motivate me to set those goals. I do, so far, have one for the first part of the year and it is to PR in the 5K. But first…

Hot Chocolate 15K on March 2

Running this with friends. I have not been training for longer distances, so I just plan to “run and see.” I’ve heard this race is super fun, though! (Plus, chocolate. Duh.) If you sign up, check (Just) Trying is for Little Girls first–she has a promo code for a cute free mug.

5Ks

I want a 5K PR. (I am aiming for a sub-24:00 5K and I think that is realistic. I got a 25:04 at the Santa Runs at the beginning of December and I didn’t even train. It was all strength training.) I have a few 5Ks on my radar:

Ruston Way 5K on April 19: Could I PR here? Who has run this before?

Or

Bellevue 5K on April 28th: Looking at the map, I know there’s one big downhill. Trying to remember if Bellevue Way from 112th up to Downtown Park is slightly uphill. I feel like it is. It may not be a PR course. Would be fun to run there, though, as I worked in Bellevue for many years and even lived there for a few. Anyone run this before?

And

Seahawks 12K/5K on April 13: Ack! Why are all the races in April? I definitely have to do this one after they won the Super Bowl! I suspect a huge crowd at this one, though, so probably will not be great for PR. Because of that, I’m thinking I’ll just run the 12K so I can wear my costume longer. Who’s doing this one this year? Do I even need to ask that?

Are there any good 5Ks in June? I’d prefer to stay away from downtown Seattle.

Triathlon

Women’s Triathlon on June 14 (formerly Dilettante Tri): My first tri last year, I feel like I want to redeem myself and not spend 5 minutes in the first transition.

Half Marathon

You Go Girl! on September 14: This is my absolute favorite half marathon around here. Could I beat my PR, which I got there in 2011, of 1:52? I might want to try. It will depend on if the hubs wants to drive aaaalllll the way to Pullman for a football game against Portland State. I’m thinking I might get to run this! I’ll make it my birthday present to me.

Edited to add:

I always consider the St. Paddy’s Day Run in Tacoma on March 15. The 5K, not the half.

I forgot to add the Rainier to Ruston Relay on June 7. We always do this one!

What races are you running? Any MUST RUN races I should look at?