Week One: Totals and inferences. Lesson One: Interpreting your data.

Tracking Sheet, on the fridge so I don't forget, lasts a month so I am encouraged to keep tracking (don't want to waste my past efforts)

Let’s start with the raw numbers, shall we?
  • Average Calories (kcals) eaten per day: 2,615
  • Average Calories burned during exercise per day: 544
  • Change in weight (lbs) Monday to Monday:  -1.5
  • Largest fluctuation in 24hrs: 2
  • Distance between heaviest and lightest weights: 3.5
  • Change (one week) in body fat %:  -.2

A one pound loss of fat would equal a loss of 0.25% body fat (based on my starting total body weight and percentage of body fat). So it is reasonable to conclude that MOST, if not all of the weight lost this past week was fat and not water or muscle. This is a very nice thing. In fact, it’s ideal. I don’t necessarily want to lose “weight” but I do want to change my body composition to one that is more athletic and thus will perform better. So if next week the scale said my weight was the same, but my fat % was less, then I would have gained lean mass (erm…muscle), and that rocks! (I am not measuring my waist etc. but if I were you’d likely see a change there in such a case)

Here is how to calculate these figures:

  1. Weigh yourself
  2. Find out your body fat %. If you don’t have a scale or other device that will do this, ask at your gym. You can likely ask a trainer to do it for you. If they are smart and looking to gain clientele, they will do it for free.  (of course, you need to do this weekly, or monthly, so you may want to just purchase a device)
  3. Calculate how many pounds of your total weight are fat. Take your total body weight and multiply it by the percentage of body fat (don’t forget to move the decimal place).  For example, if you weigh 150lbs and your body fat % is 42: 150 x .42 = 63
  4. Further divided that 63 pounds of body fat to see how much weight equates to 1%. Same formula. 63 x 0.1 = 6.3  For every 6.3 pounds you lose, that’s 1% of body fat, gone….or vice verse.
  5. Shift your focus from losing pounds overall to shifting your percentages from body fat to lean body mass….   we’ll discuss this further in the future.
  6. Check my math….I failed algebra twice in school (seriously).

You may have noticed that I eat a lot. I do, it’s no secret, and I do not to feel bad about it. I am not setting a goal to reduce my calorie intake at this point because I lost body fat this week while eating around 2,800 calories most days. Also, I am aware from past experience that when I set a low calorie target I develop a pattern of binge eating and exercise purging, which is very unhealthy and borderline pathological, and I have plenty of pathology to go around, with an eating disorder. That said, based on the data from this week, there is a clear positive relationship between how many calories I eat, and my weight the next morning.

You may be wondering how it is possible that a woman who is (a little over) 5’5″ and of an average physique could possibly lose weight while eating so much! Well, I don’t know, but here are some things that could be affecting my composition (only more data collection will tell):

  • I lift weights, and I like to lift heavy
  • I watch my heart rate, and set in-session targets, every time I do cardio
  • My daily calorie intake is cyclical (I think….we’ll need a couple more weeks of counts to be sure), every 3rd day my intake is at or below 2,000 calories
  • my data collection might be drifting. For the first half of the week I measured and counted everything, meticulously, and calibrated the calorie counter (but still tried to over, rather than under, estimate figures). The second half I was not as diligent (but still recorded in real-time). So, the counts for the last 3.5 days might be inflated. But maybe not, no way to know for sure.
  • I have lymphocytic colitis. So, um, well, I poop a lot. And my body has an immune response to many types of foods, so I reckon there are times when things like fat and protein are not processed at all.
  • I am always hungry! I realized that this week, I really don’t often eat when I am not hungry…I am just very often hungry.

Interpreting your data

All of the information from my tracking sheet is also recorded in an excel sheet and graphed on my computer. It is A LOT easier to see trends, cycles, and changes in graphical form than by staring at a long list of numbers. Also, you can break things up in several different ways to see relationships between you variables.

**As soon as I can figure out how to convert my graphs to image files (times failed to date: 14) I will post them to really help you see what I mean.**

This first week on the graphs will mostly serve as a baseline, but I can see that many of my variables seem to be cyclical, how much I eat, how many calories I burn, my weight…I am looking to see, in the next week if there is a visible relationship between how much I eat and how much I burn via exercise. Also, it will be interesting to see if, as I get stronger, whether I burn more or fewer calories per session.

A few interesting findings from tracking my heart-rate

  1. I always burn fewer calories during exercise when  I workout first thing in the morning versus at any other time. ( I am NOT a morning person, it takes me for-EV-er to wake up and be alert….my boyfriend thinks it’s hilarious, and probably annoying too, how little sense I make before 8am)
  2. When I do my resistance training after cardio I burn more calories (in session) than when I lift first. It is unclear whether this is because I am more warmed up and thus lift better/harder, or if it is an effect of “afterburn“.  I am a skeptic of afterburn theory. I will definitely be looking into this more.
  3. Setting calorie burn, and target heart-rate goals for a workout really helps with motivation to keep going in the face of boredom, stress, or general malaise.

Where to go from here

At this point you have your plan (as discussed in my last post), you have which measures to track, and you have some data (yay!). The next step is to keep tracking and keep working. Look at your data and if anything (depending on your goals) is going in the wrong direction (not completing workouts, weight going up rather than down etc) make a change (calorie goals, increase in exercise duration and so on) and put a note on your tracking sheet that you made a change on that day.

Good luck!



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