Ask Stew: Middle Age Weight Loss for Better Pullups

Healthy Eating

Here is a very common performance issue many of us have with regard to running better and doing more pullups -- that extra 15-20 pounds. It is no secret that being a few pounds lighter will make it easier to do pullups and will help you to not hurt as much with running. Here is an email from a veteran just trying to stay in the fight:

Stew, I'm stuck... I'm at 207 and I'm feeling the extra pounds. I'd really be better off at 190-195. I do okay with eating during the day as far as portion control.

Here is a sample food day:

Banana first thing when wake up. Workout. Bowl of cereal or oatmeal after workout. 1 sandwich with lean meat for lunch (though I do have some chips -- okay 2 big handfuls of chips) BUT I go off the rails at night. I can't say no to cookies and eat like I'm starving. I know the extra pounds are killing my pullup totals and run times (not to mention joints).

Any suggestions for:

- Better managing portion control - Snacks that won't kill me when I have the munchies

Signed "Fat and Almost 50"

Dear Fat and Almost 50,

I understand. Every year in the spring, I come off a heavy lifting phase and no running winter, and start to run again and do more calisthenics (Periodization = The Key to Longevity). I have to drop 15-20 pounds quickly or my running progressions are slower and more painful. When I first start to run, I feel like I am rucking. Running at 220 when you are used to running at 200 or less makes you feel like you ate your ruck sack. But really it is just added bulk (muscle and fat) weighing you down, so you have to do a combo of higher repetition, lighter weight, or just calisthenics training followed by moderate to easy cardio to burn the calories to lose weight. Since I know you personally, I can say it is not your workouts that are the issue. You nailed it -- late night snacking crushes any weight loss hopes for all of us. I fall victim as well, but have found the following things to help with evening snacking, portion control, and better choices for when you need a snack:

The Nine Line to Reduce Late Night Snacking

1. PORTION CONTROL: I am not making an elaborate diet for you. It is simpler than that. Just don’t eat as much! When preparing your evening meal, make sure you use smaller plates. I am not sure what happened in the last 20-30 years, but dinner plates have gotten as big as a bike tire. Use the salad plate for your meal. First start off with a salad, and then top it off with some form of lean meat or protein. (some ideas)

2. JUST ADD WATER: When you think you are hungry, drink water first or some non-sugar drink. I like unsweetened ice tea but will drink more water throughout the day to curb hunger. It may cause you to get up at night to use the restroom if you drink too late into the evening, but it is better than chowing on 300-400 calories of cookies before bed.

3. BRUSH YOUR TEETH: There are not many foods or drinks that taste good after brushing your teeth. When you start to get that craving, brush your teeth an hour or two after dinner. I even keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in the kitchen to pull me away from the fridge.

4. CLEAN YOUR KITCHEN: After dinner, do not leave any leftovers sitting out. That is an easy way to pile on without a plate controlling your portions.

5. DON’T BUY COOKIES: This is an easy one. If you do not want to eat cookies (and other junk), do not buy them. It is hard when there are kids around, but if you must have the cookies in the house, hide them from easy access.

6. SMART SNACKS: Having a protein source (limited portions) is still adding calories to your day, but your body can use it for the morning workout later and it is more filling and will tend to help you avoid other foods afterward. I find a protein snack or nuts, almonds, or a small piece of meat (not processed) works well for controlling any binge eating. I personally like boiled eggs, tuna fish, or peanut butter. Often, I will put in some hot sauce to spice up the egg / tuna fish combo. If you are into supplements, a small protein drink is not a bad idea, but you do not want to push too many calories. The trick is to avoid the sugars at night, as that can trigger the urge for salty foods and you will grab another handful (or two) of chips again.

7. MIDDAY SNACK: Around 3 pm, grab a fruit or vegetable to help with blood sugar drops, which are typical. Drink more water or tea if feeling tired. I like a banana and a few apple slices mid-day, mixed with peanut butter.

8. START CHEWING GUM: I find a cinnamon, spearmint, or peppermint flavored gum also makes food taste weird after chewing. If the toothpaste did not help and after drinking a few glasses of water, try flavored gum. The act of chewing might help you think you do not need to eat that food you are hiding from yourself. You can find sugar-free gum as well as sugar gum that makes the breath minty fresh.

9. DO THE MATH: Some people like to count calories and treat it like a budget. If you are trying to keep muscle and lose fat, you have to still lift weights, do calisthenics, but add more cardio and focus on keeping total calories eaten lower than normal. A good equation to help you do that is to take your bodyweight and multiple it by 10. That is your total calories for the day. Obviously, that does not work for all bodyweights, but it can be a great place to start for losing the final 10-15 pounds. Add in workouts, and you will have a caloric deficiency, which will mean weight loss for you while keeping muscle to do pullups and energy levels high enough to run.

Workout Ideas: Here is a list of articles with workouts for better pullups and running progressions:

Pyramid Workout (Monday): This is the classic method to building pullups, pushups, sit-ups and any other exercise you like / need to master. Plus mix with running as a “recovery” every 5 sets. Super Set Workout (Wednesday): This is a sub-max effort foundation workout to increase volume of your PT exercises. Add in a ¼ mile sprint for speed work each set.

Max Rep Set Workout (Fri or Sat): If you cannot do pullups, you will have to resort to many of the pulling exercises to reach these kind of numbers After every cycle, add in a short run for recovery.

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