Subtitled Drop the Weight, Change Your Life, this is US Biggest Loser trainer Michaels’ take on weight loss and exercise. She takes the reader through a three-part process aimed at long-term weight loss. The first section, Self, looks at the psychological aspects of pre-preparation – how to set realistic goals, looking at why there’s a problem in the first place, how to set yourself up for success (removing temptation from the kitchen, for example), and an introduction to behaviour modification.
The second section, Science, explores different aspects of nutrition – the differences between various kinds of carbohydrates and why some are better than others, an overview of Glycemic Index and discussion of Glycemic Load Index, the difference between good and bat fats, translation of food labels, and hints on eating in and eating out.
The third section, Sweat, covers exercise – how muscles work and which is which, what kind of exercise to do, what intensity to work at and for how long, a series of exercises (complete with photos), and a workout schedule. Michaels believes that the best workout focuses on one group of muscles at a time, in a variety of ranges, with a two day break before concentrating on that area again. Her schedule begins with the front muscles – chest, shoulders, triceps and quads and the abdominal muscles – followed the next day by the dorsal and side muscles – back, biceps, hamstrings, glutes and oblique abdominals. The third day is a rest day, followed by front work, back work, a general cardio routine on the sixth day and a final day of rest before beginning again. There’s a lot of variety in her routine, and many of the pictured exercises have variations for beginners and/or advanced exercisers. The schedule runs for twelve weeks, increasing in intensity and duration over that time.
One of the things I found most interesting in Winning by Losing is the idea that there are three different metabolic types, depending on how quickly nutrients are broken down, and that your type influences what kind of nutritional balance you should have. Fast oxidisers, who have a rapid breakdown of carbs and consequently have rapid release of insulin, should eat more fat and protein, to slow carbohydrate release; slow oxidisers should do the opposite to avoid delaying glucose release and therefore energy to exercise; while balanced oxidisers should have a fairly even mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate.
How do you know what kind of oxidiser you are? Take the 48-item questionnaire, which covers topics as varied as your response to different foods before sleeping, how red meat makes you feel, and your response to insect bites. If nothing else, this exercise made me think a lot more, and in a different way, about food – I’d never previously considered whether I concentrate better after eating fruit and grains or red meat and fatty food, or whether certain foods made me feel depressed.
I’m apparently a balanced oxidiser – I should have a 40/30/30 mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat, and only have high purine foods like anchovies or organ meats in conjunction with low purine foods like tuna and low fat yoghurt. However, some of these answers were not quickly apparent, and I put Winning by Losing to one side for a couple of weeks while working out how I responded to different foods, somewhat losing the impetus to follow through in the process. There is a quicker way to find out what type you are – take 50mg of niacin (a B-group vitamin, so it won’t hurt you) on an empty stomach. If you flush immediately you’re likely a quick oxidiser, if not at all then slow, and somewhere in the middle means you’re balanced. Alternatively, take 1g of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) an hour for eight consecutive hours – balanced oxidisers feel less acidic, rapid oxidisers feel more acidic or get gut symptoms like gas or nausea, and slow oxidisers feel nothing.
I quite liked Michaels’ approach to calorie intake. In addition to basal metabolic rate she provides calculation to work out your active metabolic rate, which is a more refined and individualised picture of how many calories you need over a week to maintain your current weight – each pound (approximately 400g) of fat takes 3,500 calories expended to lose, so working out how much food depends on overall weight loss goals, and Michaels doesn’t prescribe a specific intake. She does, however, have two strong suggestions – never let daily calorie intake dip below 1,200 calories for women or 1,500 calories for men, or you risk tipping your body into survival mode, meaning it will hold on to stored energy and decrease metabolic rate. The second caveat is that you should vary your calorie intake every day, to avoid your body adjusting to your new program and slowing metabolism that way. Michaels recommends working out your weekly requirement (say 9,800 calories) then creating a daily diet that swings between a relative high and a low at or above the safe minimum. The example she gives is a weekly intake of 9,800 calories, divided into days of 1,200/1,500/1,200/1,600/ 1,200/1,400/1,700.
This all sounds like quite a bit of work, and I think I might skip that portion of the program. I also think I need to have a little more stamina, endurance, and upper body strength, along with smaller breasts and a more supportive sports bra, before doing her routine. I'm looking at something of a body makeover in the next few months, which is why there's been an uncharacteristic increase in the exercise books of late, and I may come back to Winning by Losing when I'm ready to make a commitment. Right now I suspect that if I started Michaels' program it'd be just another thing I failed - Alex