Ok so we are two weeks into cake. And it’s been a lot of fun – maybe too much fun! I’ve managed to gain 1kg, but that gain came with a benefit… First of all, last Monday I did an 8 mile run in Breckenridge up to over 10,000ft elevation, without a severe degradation in run pace. That’s the first time ever that I’ve had a good run at high altitude. Secondly, I did an impromptu FTP test during my Thursday ride and had an unprecedented 30+ watt increase in FTP compared to my last test this year. My working theory is that the weight gain and performance improvement go hand in hand. There is no proof of that, and there are a lot of variables, so it really is just a hypothesis.
The one “experiment within an experiment” that I’ve done with the cake phase, is to “eat back” my burned calories. That actually introduces a lot of room for inaccuracy, because measurement of exercise calories is not super accurate. It’s reasonably accurate, but if you burn 3000+ calories in a day, even a 10% variance can impact your weight loss goals significantly. So as counter-intuitive as this sounds, it can actually be easier to lose weight if you don’t do a huge volume of training. That way you just set a daily goal (in my case 2200 calories) and add nothing back in for exercise. However, if you’re training a lot, you need to fuel and recover in order to support that training. My plan is to add calories back once I am no longer focused on weight loss. That way, a gain of 1-2kg here and there is no issue when your focus is on performance, because your priority is on fueling your workouts and your recovery really well. That’s where food quality AND calories become very important. Usually, in that “performance phase” I focus on food quality, but don’t pay enough attention to getting in enough calories. So I will still track calories, but the focus is on making sure I eat enough. I’ll be doing some trial and error to nail down the numbers that I use. In a way, this last 2 weeks has accidentally helped me to define that. I used a baseline of 2200 calories and added back ALL workout calories, so I’ll start with that when I begin to focus on performance. I also learned that during the weight loss phase, it’s a mistake to add back ALL workout calories. I’ve actually lost the most weight when training the least, but sticking to a specific number each day and not adding any workouts back in. It just simplifies everything and (for me anyway) seems like a very good strategy.
So the plan for the next 2 weeks: stay on cake (yay!) but don’t add any calories back. If I have a particularly taxing workout (like a 4 hour ride), I will just fuel that workout itself at around 300 calories per hour, but not add the exercise calories or the workout calories back in.
In a way, I like the fact that this experiment has had a few surprises and things that didn’t work as expected. All of that helps me to learn more about what to expect and be able to tweak my “real life” nutrition and training accordingly. So the longer term view is to get to 73kg on cake, then focus on performance and training for a while and just see where my weight settles (without letting it get much higher than say 75kg). And then at some point I really want to try the ice cream phase again to see if I can repeat that rapid weight loss phenomenon I noticed during this project. I’m mostly expecting that it was just coincidental with the timing of the project phases, but it would be really awesome if it works again!