Fat for Fuel

November 1, 2009

I learned a lot about making my workouts more efficient last weekend. This new wisdom came courtesy of a Metabolic test done at Lifetime Fitness in Tempe, Arizona. What is a Metabolic test? It’s measures how your body (uniquely) responds to exercise. Evidently, your metabolism is uniquely yours. Want to burn more fat during your workouts? The key is finding your metabolic base.

My test began with facilitator Amy hooking me up with a heart rate monitor, strapping a VO2 mask on my face, and putting me on a treadmill. With heart rate monitor and VO2 mask hooked up to a laptop running software created by New Leaf, the test began.I started with a walking warm-up. The speed increased to a good jogging pace. At that point the software began to crunch the numbers; the input being presented via the VO2 mask and the heart rate monitor.

Then the fun began. Once my comfortable speed was reached, the incline was increased by 2%. This repeated again and again until my incline reached 10%. At the end of the test I was running for my life up a steep hill and sucking wind. Turns out that’s the point. Simple as that. The data captured showed me my personal metabolic zones and the distribution of fat to carbs I burn in each zone.

I will use this information during my workouts, monitoring my heart rate to keep my body operating in the zone at which it burns the most calories while still using fat for fuel.

In conclusion, I was happy with my results. Turns out my baseline is 163 BPM. That’s a bit higher than I usually work out at so I have some room to make my workouts more intense. Also, and I’ll admit up front that I’m bragging a little, I learned my estimated maximum heart beats per minute is 200. The average is 180. Bottom line, I can’t wait to see the results during the next twelve weeks armed with this intel.

There are a few time gaps to fill since the epiphany about my physical heath earlier this year. First, back to 1997. I graduated from Western Kentucky University and immediately started my first adult job at a publishing company based in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. My good luck! There is a YMCA across the street! I walked over after work, ran a few miles, and lifted weights. Once I started living and working downtown, I would occasionally ride my mountain bike to work. It was around this time that I had the idea to compete in a triathlon. Just needed to learn to swim. Easy, right? Not at all. I enrolled in a swim class at the YMCA but no matter how hard I tried I just didn’t catch on. It was more like torture and I soon gave up.

Fast forward to my Michael Phelps Olympic experience circa 2008. This time I was truly determined to learn to swim. My wife and I joined Lifetime Fitness in Tempe, Arizona and that’s where it began. My “swimming” started with ten little laps all with the aid of a kickboard. I worked up from there.

After a month or two of swimming laps divided between kick-board and breast stroke I decided it was time to learn freestyle. I owe special thanks to The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss for introducing me to the Total Immersion (TI) swimming method usually associated with Terry Laughlin. It took me a few weeks after reading Tim’s post but I eventually went to the book store and bought both the book and freestyle dvd. Based on my experience I can strongly recommend this program. From a few laps on a kick-board, I am now swimming three plus miles per week freestyle with minimal rest between 400 and 800 meter sets.