Getting In Shape For Hunting Season

The Hunt Doctors

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Mar 5, 2008
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Getting In Shape For Hunting Season

Last time we discussed how nutritional supplementation could enhance your hunting experience. Being physically prepared for hunting season will dramatically improve your hunting enjoyment and maybe even your harvest. Now deer season opens here in SC on August 15th so if you are not already involved in a regular exercise and diet program then it is a little late to be in top shape by opening day. On the other hand, there is no time like the present to begin to really get fit. Now we recognize that many of you out there are in good physical condition however, a majority could use some help. We are going to refrain from the typical doctor nagging, instead we are going to present some basic facts (and myths) and once you see how easy it really is, then we won’t have to go back to typical doctor nagging.

In a famous movie moment a character Jack Nicholson played blurted out “You can’t handle the truth”. We have found that many of our patients must believe they can’t handle the truth about physical conditioning and weight loss. So many folks cave into so much pseudo-science Madison Avenue manure that it is often difficult to keep a straight face on at work. We hate to break it to you, but feel our readers can handle the truth. Ready? There are no fast acting schemes to lose weight, nor a super-pill that just melts the fat right off us while we sit on the couch watching hunting shows and eating Twinkies. Read the fine print on these gimmicks and they all say use this product, eat way too few calories for your health and exercise a lot and you will lose weight. The worst offenders are powerful laxatives that promise weight loss over the weekend that we can assure you will be right back by the time you re-hydrate yourself Monday afternoon. What we will give you is the truth about weight loss, metabolism and hopefully put all these myths to rest forever. So put the Twinkie down and back away from the kitchen table slowly and let’s start with the basics.

A calorie is a merely a measure of energy. Technically it is the amount of energy needed to raise 1cc of water one degree Celsius. We “burn” (oxidize actually) energy in everything we do, from thinking (not much, less for others) to lifting weights to digesting food. Our body weight is an energy spreadsheet of input and output. Now some basic science; there are approximately 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate but there are approximately 9 calories per gram of fat. Fat has a full 225% more calories by weight than protein or carbohydrate. Madison Avenue execs have a clever technique to obscure this calorie reality from us. Say you read a claim on the front of the packaging that a particular food item is only 30% fat. What is not often disclosed is the 30% is by weight. Now with simple arithmetic (9 vs. 4 vs. 4) we realize this food is actually is 50% fat by calories. If you want the truth, look on the back and compare the fat calories to the total calories. You must remember that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat in the human body.

In general an average 150 pound person can only metabolize/burn about two pounds of fat/adipose tissue per week. So what does that tell you about any claim or advertisement that promises to help you lose 30 pounds in a month’s time? Let me enlighten you, you will lose about 22 pounds of water and muscle weight with at most 8 pounds being fat weight. That is why all your doctors are calculating your Body Mass Index. BMI is a direct indication of your percentage of body fat make-up. All things being equal, any more then 10 pounds of weight loss per month and you are losing muscle mass as well.

If you rapidly reduce your caloric intake to a very low level your body’s natural starvation defense mechanism begins to slow your metabolism down till it matches your intake of calories but this process takes a few weeks. So you slowly stop losing weight and get fed up with the diet. Typically you go off the diet and resume a normal diet but your metabolism is down at a very low level so you start storing all the extra calories as fat and start gaining pounds fast. Unfortunately, the slowing of your metabolism in periods of starvation is a genetically ingrained protective mechanism and will take longer to finally speed up then it took to slow down. How do you think the prisoners of war in concentration camps survived for years on almost no food? Do not go onto a severely reduced caloric diet without proper planning which we will address below.

Understanding that the crux of weight loss boils down to this, you must burn more calories then you take in, period. All that is involved is getting one of those cheap food calorie pocket sized books at the check-out of most grocery stores and a food scale. Then add up everything you eat for a week and divide by seven and you have it. Now simply reduce the daily intake by 500 calories and you are in very little risk of slowing your metabolism. This is easier than you think since 500 calories is not much more then a big Snickers candy bar or a couple of sodas. Then in a couple of weeks reduce the daily caloric intake again and continue to repeat this caloric reduction until you are burning more than you take in. A step wise approach will not trigger a reduction in metabolic rate. Let’s now turn to the part we all hate, if you do it right, and that is the exercise.

Exercise is the other part of the spread sheet. First of all, let’s dispense with the fallacy that you burn a lot of calories with exercise. The truth is that you actually burn many, many fewer calories then you think even with heavy exercise. As an example, the average 150 pound person who runs two and one half miles in 30 minutes (5mph) will only burn 360 calories. That means you have to run 30 minutes to burn off a candy bar. The reality is this; you spike your metabolism upwards after an aerobic exercise activity in which your heart rate is in the target zone for at least 20 minutes. Basically, for the next 24 to 36 hours after an aerobic exercise program you begin to burn/metabolize 20-40 more calories per hour then you were previously without doing any more activity. Now the amount of increase in the spike of your metabolism is directly related to the length and vigor of the exercise program you undertake.

That is aerobic exercise, but what about anaerobic exercise like lifting weights? Muscle is a highly active tissue, always ready and always burning calories. The more muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate. An exercise program that includes both aerobic and muscle building anaerobic exercise will get the output end of your caloric spreadsheet where it needs to be. So add it up. If you burned just 20 calories more per hour for a week that adds up to an additional 3360 calories which is almost one pound of fat doing nothing extra and that is in addition to the calories burned during the actual exercise.
Ladies, you will not turn into “The Hulk” because you exercise or lift weights. You simply lack the amount of testosterone needed to gain very significant muscle mass. “The Hulk” excuse for not exercising is lame.

A simple formula that we all doctors use to calculate what range your heart rate should be in while exercising to ensure a good aerobic activity is as follows: 220 minus your age x (0.7) to (0.8) and that equals the range your heart rate should be in per minute. Example a 50 year old person would be 220 – 50 {which is 170} then x 0.7 to 0.8 equals a range of 119 to 136 beats per minute. So any activity that you can consistently do for 20 plus minutes and keep your heart rate in that range will work. This means anything from digging a hole with a shovel and then filling it back in to running to backpacking with a heavy load or any other activity that meets that criteria is fine. The idea that exercise is fun is another Madison Avenue story line. It is not fun if what you are doing meets the above recommendations unless you like being hot, sweaty and short of breath (with your clothes on) but that is what it takes.

So now with this knowledge it is easy to see that all it takes is to burn 500 calories more per day total (20 per hour) and reduce your intake by 500 calories per day and that after one week you will lose 7000 calories which is two pounds of body fat.

Let’s understand that 2500 calories made up of five Twinkie rolls and 2500 calories made up of some eight pounds of lettuce is still 2500 calories, you just get to eat a whole lot more lettuce. So if you are allowing yourself 1500 calories per day when you get to that you are finished eating for that day. Now we acknowledge that there are certain genetic traits that have been identified and can be tested with a simple blood test from your doctor’s office that can tell you if you are one of those people that will do much better with a low fat or low carb diet. The test is an Apo E genotype through Berkley Heart Lab in California. About half of the population will do better on a specific diet but all will do well on a reduced calorie diet as defined above.

The most important thing to remember is that before undertaking any new rigorous exercise program everyone should be cleared for that activity by their primary care doctor. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Futher, half of all people that die of heart disease do so with their first event/MI without ever having any symptoms.
So let’s put this all together. First, find out how much you are eating per day and reduce it by 500 calories. Second, make sure your doctor says it is OK to undertake the exercise program you are considering. Third, calculate the range your heart rate should be in. Fourth, set up an exercise program that will maintain your heart rate in that range for at least 20 minutes and plan to do it every other day. Fifth, incorporate a muscle building component to your exercise program. Sixth, expect to adjust your calorie intake and your exercise program as you get used to it to keep weight loss program maximally effective. Seventh, do not try to lose more then 10 pounds per month so you not only maintain all your muscle mass but actually increase it.

The bottom line to weight loss and physical fitness is that there is no secret to it. If you follow the above advice, you will lose weight. It is simple math and physics so do not let anyone tell you any different. You might as well start now since it will only make you healthier and hopefully live longer so, you guessed it, you can hunt more.

As always be safe, enjoy the outdoors.
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