Getting in Shape for Hunting Season

Last time we discussed how nutritional supplementation could enhance your hunting experience. Being physically prepared for hunting season can dramatically improve your hunting enjoyment and maybe even your harvest.

There's no time like the present to begin getting fit. We recognize that many of you are already in good physical condition however, a majority could use some help. We're going to refrain from the typical doctor nagging, but instead present some basic facts (and myths) on physical conditioning.

The most memorable line from the movie "A Few Good Men," is when Jack Nicholson blurts out "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" We've found that some of our patients must believe they can't handle the truth about physical conditioning and weight loss as many cave into pseudo-science Madison Avenue manure. That said, we feel our readers can handle the truth.


There are no fast acting schemes to lose weight, nor a super-pill that just melts the fat right off us while sitting on the couch watching hunting shows and eating Twinkies.

Read the fine print on these gimmick diets: they all say to lose weight you must use this product, drastically reduce your caloric intake, and exercise a lot. The worst offenders are powerful laxatives that promise weight loss over the weekend, which assuredly will be right back by the time you re-hydrate Monday afternoon.

We want to share with the truth about weight loss and 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.

LESSON ONE - Calorie 101 A calorie is a measure of energy. Technically it's the amount of energy needed to raise 1cc of water one degree Celsius. We oxidize or burn energy in everything we do -- from thinking, to lifting weights, to digesting food. Our body weight is an energy spreadsheet of input and output. There are approximately 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate and approximately 9 calories per gram of fat. Fat has 225 percent more calories by weight than protein or carbohydrate.

Make sure to check the nutritional food labels on products and compare the fat calories to the total calories for an accurate measure of the foods caloric fat content. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat in the human body.

LESSON TWO -- Weight Loss Takes Time: In general, an average 150 pound person can only metabolize or burn about two pounds of fat/adipose tissue per week. So what does that say about any claim that promises to help you lose 30 pounds in a month's time? You will lose about 22 pounds of water and muscle weight with at most, eight pounds of fat weight. That's why doctors calculate Body Mass Index. BMI is a direct indication of the percentage of body fat make-up. All things being equal, any more then 10 pounds of weight loss per month and muscle mass is being lost as well,

LESSON THREE: Don't Starve Yourself If a person rapidly reduces their caloric intake to a very low level, the body's natural starvation defense mechanism begins to slow its metabolism down till it matches the intake of calories...a process that takes a few weeks. Weight loss slows and out of frustration, dieters go off their diet and resume normal eating. But now the metabolism is at a very low level and the body begins storing all the extra calories as fat, causing weight gain. Unfortunately, the slowing of the metabolism in periods of starvation is a genetically ingrained protective mechanism. As a result, it actually takes longer to speed up your metabolism after it slows down in this manner. Don't go onto a severely reduced caloric diet without proper planning, which we will address below.

LESSON FOUR: Understanding the crux of weight loss To lose weight, one must burn more calories then you take in, period. A simple way to do this is by purchasing an inexpensive pocket-sized food calorie book located in the checkout line of a grocery store and a food scale. Add up everything you eat for a week (paying attention to portion sizes by using your scale) and divide by seven days. Simply reduce the daily intake by 500 calories and there's very little risk of slowing the metabolism. While 500 calories might sound like a lot, this is easier than it sounds...avoiding a big snickers bar or a couple of cans of soda for example would do the trick. After a couple of weeks, reduce the daily caloric intake again and continue to repeat this caloric reduction until more calories are being burned than what's being taken in. A step-by-step, wise approach will not trigger a reduction in metabolic rate. Let's now turn to the part we all hate, if done right, and that's the exercise.

LESSON FIVE: Exercise Exercise is the other part of the spread sheet. Let's dispense with the fallacy that a lot of calories are burned with exercise. The truth is, far fewer calories may be burned with heavy exercise. As an example, the average 150-pound person who runs 2.5 miles in 30 minutes (5mph) only burns 360 calories. That means one would have to run 30 minutes to burn off a candy bar.

In reality, metabolism spikes upwards after 20 minutes of aerobic exercise activity in which your heart rate is in the target zone. By staying in the target zone while performing an aerobic exercise activity, 20 to 40 more calories per hour are burned for the next 24 to 36 hours. The amount of increase in the metabolism spike is directly related to the length and vigor of the exercise program.

That's aerobic exercise, but what about anaerobic exercise like lifting weights? Muscle is a highly active tissue that's always ready and always burning calories. The more muscle one has, the higher the 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.

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. And that's in addition to the calories burned during the actual exercise.

LESSON SIX: What's Good Aerobic Activity? Doctors use a simple formula to calculate what range your heart rate should beat per minute while exercising. It's 220 minus your age, multiplied by (0.7) to (0.8). For example, for a 50-year-old person the formula would be 220 — 50 = 170 x 0.7 to 0.8, which equals a range of 119 to 136 beats per minute.

Any activity that consistently keeps your heart rate in that range for 20 minutes gets the job done. 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 you can think of. The idea that exercise is fun is another Madison Avenue story line. It's not fun if what you're doing meets the above recommendations unless you like being hot, sweaty and short of breath

, but that's what it takes.

LESSON SEVEN: Know Your Diet Type Let's understand that 2500 calories made up of five Twinkies and 2500 calories made up of eight pounds of lettuce is still 2500 calories. So if you're allowing yourself 1500 calories per day, when you get to 1500 calories, you're done eating. Due to certain genetic traits, some people will do better with either a low fat or low carb diet. These traits can be identified with an Apo E genotype test, which is a simple blood test that's run through the 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.

LESSON EIGHT: The most important thing to remember is that before undertaking any new rigorous exercise program, everyone should be cleared for the activity by their primary care doctor. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Half of all people that die of heart disease do so with their first event without ever having registered any symptoms.

So let's put this all together.

  1. Find out how much you are eating per day and reduce it by 500 calories.
  2. Check out your exercise program with your doctor.
  3. Calculate what range your heart rate should be in.
  4. 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.
  5. Incorporate a muscle building component to your exercise program.
  6. Expect to adjust your calorie intake and your exercise program to keep weight loss program maximally effective.
  7. Don't 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's no secret to it. If you follow the above advice, you will lose weight. It's simple math and physics, so don't 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.

Got a medical question for the Hunt Doctors? Ask away by clicking here.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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