I have the results from the Reclaim Your Body Himalayan trek project and they’re surprising…..
First, to review, I modeled this “test” after a Colorado man’s 29-day , 480 mile trekking experience (in Colorado) and the drastic changes he saw in his biostats and health.
My own trek was ultimately only 9 1/2 days on the mountain, but was consolidated and more intense as I covered 17.9 miles per day to his 16.8 miles. Also, I was operating at between 2,500 -18,000 feet of elevation, whereas Colorado peaks only go as high as 14,000 feet and I don’t know his exact elevation. Elevation increases metabolism. Another unknown variable is what weight pack he was carrying. I was carrying around 22 lbs.
The stats are below, but before plunging in, I will say that I feel partially successful at “reclaiming my body” if weight loss and smaller dress size is the goal. However……….at what cost? You will see that I lost muscle mass. Hard to believe, after the intensity I put into each day, and certainly undesirable, especially at 52 when it is harder to regain. I also put myself (and Marla, my friend) through an extreme experience which culminated in tears and dangerous situations at times due to the difficulty. Was this necessary?
The answer is, not really. Anyone at home can realize the same results, maybe in a slightly longer period. The real solution is this –
1) I shut down the alcohol consumption and continuous snacking I was doing in the US. Instead, I focused on getting 3 meals with 2 snacks in between.
2) I was getting regular (and very hard, in this case) exercise. I specifically believe hill climbing, or anything HIIT (high intensity) for 45 minutes a day will do this.
3) I got out of my environment. For me, this was the game changer. I tried something different. I stepped out of my comfort zone of the home gym and forced myself to go hard for a defined period of time. The element of change – getting out of your regular routine – and really focusing for 2-3 weeks will get you results. I promise! Try a new class, or take up something new – like hiking, or boxing.
And now for the results:
Weight Loss: My first surprise was a 7 lb weight loss, and that it was evenly split between muscle loss and fat loss. I had assumed most of my loss would be fat. In fact, I only dropped from 24 to 23% body fat. Upon further evaluation, however, this makes sense as there is little protein on the Nepal trail, so I was existing on carbs: toast, coffee, jam, vegetable lo mein, granola bars and others. I also wasn’t getting enough calories in to compensate for 8-11 hours of exercise per day, hence my body was eating into my muscle to keep going.
Metabolic Shift: Interestingly, before the trip, I had been almost evenly split between burning fat versus carbs, as a source of energy. Upon return, I am now sourcing 76% of my energy from fat and only 26% from carbs. This is a positive, and what “keto” dieters are striving for. This happens, again because my carb reserves are so low, due to calorie depletion, that my body has turned to fat as a source of fuel.
VO2Max: This was a shocker but after research and analysis, I’ve found some possible culprits. My VO2Max dropped significantly from 56 to 39. As a reminder, VO2Max is a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise. I was expecting this to increase significantly. After taking a step back and outlining my previous 48 hours of activity, I’ve become more comfortable that this is likely a temporary setback. I landed Friday night, after a 16 hour direct flight, and a total of 22 hours of flying. Flying has many influences on the body – including pressurization on the lungs. There is less oxygen in the cabin when flying. Even after pressurization of the plane, oxygen levels still sit at the equivalent of 6,000-8,000 feet of elevation. Said another way – for 16 hours straight, I was breathing in less oxygen (and, of course, was further compounded from 10 days of trekking at altitude. This was just another hit on my body, from which I’ve likely not recovered). Secondarily, flights distort hydration levels, so I was dehydrated coming off 22 hours of flying, which causes our organs (heart) to pump harder as our blood is thicker. Many other things happen, such as swelling of limbs due to poor circulation for sitting long periods, and (yes) gas bloat as gasses expand in our bodies when we fly. For all of these reasons (outside the fact that Kathmandu is 11 hours ahead, so essentially my days were completely turned upside down), I believe my VO2Max declined. Net-net, I should have given myself more than 48 hours to recover from flying before testing my VO2Max.
Anaerobic Threshold (AT): Anaerobic threshold is a measure of long-term performance ability as it represents the highest performance intensity that can be tolerated for relatively long periods. When the threshold is exceeded, accumulation of lactic acid in muscles may cause fatigue. My AT increased from 144 beats per minute (BPM) to 165 BPM upon return. This is an improvement, as it now indicates I can operate for long periods with a heart rate of 165. Hm……..maybe Ironman IS in my future again 😊
So – ultimately, I didn’t see the same results that my Colorado counterpart did, as he saw great VO2Max improvement and massive body fat loss. But I believe had my diet been more protein-based allowing for less muscle and more fat loss, and had I given myself more recovery time from long haul flying, I would have seen similar results in VO2Max improvement.
Overall, hiking and hill climbing are great ways to stimulate weight loss and fat loss.
I feel better, upon return, and am holding at a 7-8 lb weight loss. I tried to run on Saturday morning, after landing Friday night, and found it almost impossible. My heart rate felt like it was at its peak so I continually stopped to allow it to come back down.
In the near future, I’ll be working on a hill climbing program that will include both indoor and outdoor training elements. I have historically found hills to be THE defining game-changer in my prep for races and for just basic fitness.
I’ll share my plan in the next few weeks for incorporating hills into my workouts, for those interested.
Next up – Vegas Longevity Conference in early December!
Next year – maybe an Aconcagua summit in Argentina (22,000 feet; 3k higher than I’ve been).
Namaste and thanks for following the Nepal, Reclaim Your Body!