Before I dive into today’s topic, I’d like to point out how much I absolutely despise click bait titles that use “This” as the first or second word. Examples:
1) “This couple totally shocked her parents with this adorable pregnancy announcement”
2) “Watch this man attempt to jump his bike off his roof. You’ll never guess what happens.”
3) “This terrifying fish, named Xiphactinus, used to reside in what is now Kansas”
That last one was Nova. Yes, what used to just be limited to Buzzfeed has now taken over Nova and other science-y, seemingly legitimate news sources. The sad thing is that it must actually be working, since so many business and media outlets are now using it. My theory is that it makes whatever title it’s used in seem more relevant, more timely, more more. It gives some notion of immediate action taking place by putting this man, this one right here directly in front of you, as opposed to letting him remain a 4×4-inch, pixilated image on a screen with a few lazy, sloppily written words describing his lame attempt to jump off his roof.
We, as humans, must be pretty dumb to get duped into clicking a link that we otherwise wouldn’t, solely because the author added in the word “this.” Also, I’m really beginning to hate numbered titles. Example “37 Alternative Rock Songs You Haven’t Thought About Since The Late ‘90s.” Okay, that’s enough rant for now. Onto more important things, marginally.
“You know what the doctor said? Doctor said I was too healthy. You know? In too good of shape. Don’t even know how. Too good of shape.”
During my intensive investigation of the endocrine system over the last two months, I decided to self-diagnose myself with a disorder: too low body fat for too long. Sounds like the sort of thing someone who just wants to eat cake would say, right? Right!
While my weight used to fluctuate throughout the season, being highest in the fall and slowly creeping down over the winter and spring, for these past two seasons I’ve been at almost the same exact weight year-round: about 161-158, depending on how full of shit I am.
This year I got leaner than I’d ever been, tipping the scale at 156 a handful of times. Of course I didn’t have any power to propel me up the hills, but at least I was light, for a behemoth anyways.
I use a pair of body fat calipers to monitor my skin folds throughout the season as well. Just like my weight, the skin fold calipers have shown very little variability throughout the last two years. Throughout it all I was pretty stoked because I never really had to watch what I ate or starve myself very much since 2013. Up until (and during) 2013 I had to starve myself like crazy to stay under 168. But being able to see every vein in my stomach for two years seems to have taken its toll. Or so I’ve convinced myself. Could still just be the thyroid bullshit.
The internet says that being under 6% body fat for long spells at a time has many negatives, and there are plenty of stories of cyclists and other athletes getting too lean and losing power, stamina, and the will to continue training and racing. Assuming an athlete is not taking steroids, testosterone, and HGH, the endocrine system takes a huge hit from sustained ultra low body fat levels. Some of the messed up side effects include:
Low to nonfunctional thyroid (hmm…)
Poor recovery from training, due to lack of hormones
Getting sick all the time, also due to lack of hormones
Shrunken organs (WTF?)
Being hungry as shit all the damn time
Sounds a lot like my thyroid issue, as well as just being a cyclist in general, so I don’t really know if lacking body fat is an issue for me or if it’s just my thyroid problem.
Skin fold measurements only serve as a good personal baseline fatness level. Skin folds don’t give an accurate body fat percentage since the calculations are all based on population averages. I know they’re off for me and most other lean people since I’m fairly certain I’d be dead if I was really 2.5%.
I went in a DXA machine, which are accurate to within 2%, way back in 2007 when I first started riding and was 8% body fat, and thanks to years of dedication, I’m much hollower and gaunt now than I was then. I’ve never been able to lose as much muscle mass as I’ve wanted but I have gotten quite lean. While I don’t know my actual percentage, I do, however, have a detailed training log along with me weight every morning dating back 10 years, and skin fold measurements dating back three years. The best turnaround seasons (the biggest improvement from one year to the next) were when I was at my fattest during the fall/winter.
A few months ago I made a vow to forgo any mirror vanity and eat like a glutton. Not to be confused with a gluten, which I no longer consume.
Over the period of almost a month without training (about seven to eight hours of “light activity” per week) I gained one pound. One single pound, and I was eating as much as I wanted with zero thought of dieting. After all those years of eating dinners of jalapeno/serrano stir fries without meat or rice–just peppers, dinners of cabbage soup, pico de gallo without any chips, popcorn, chicken broth, or simply nothing at all and going to bed aching for food, sweating over the thought of sneaking a fucking peanut, after all those years of not eating past 7PM, now when I’m actually trying to gain a little weight I can’t?
I decided to tackle this problem like any other problem, with overtraining, I mean overeating. I vowed to get fat and for the past two weeks I’ve eaten till well past full almost every day.
One issue is that we don’t have any unhealthy food in the house, and despite my best efforts, I can’t bring myself to spend money on junk food. So far I’ve bought a few things of cheese, a six-pack of soda, and one box of Hot Tamales. It’s hard to get fat on rice, vegetables, nuts, and eggs, which account for 90% of my diet. But I managed, as evidenced below:
I swear, the scale says I’m only up five pounds.
Now that November is almost over and I’ll have rested for a full six weeks, I’m getting fairly antsy to start training again. Unfortunately December will primarily be swim workouts without many rides or runs. I promised myself that I wouldn’t start training in ernest until January. My hope is that with so many months of rest and just moderate training, I’ll beat my fatigue and be ready to train hard once and for all. By then I’ll probably be 270lbs and it’ll take me four years to get back down to race weight again. But you know what they say, “Once you have exercise anorexia, you don’t go back.”