A calorie-burning conundrum

If I want to get faster — whether I’m running, biking or swimming — I need to get more efficient.

The more efficient I get, the fewer calories I burn.

That’s what I take away from a day earlier this week when I basically ate twice as much as I usually do — doubled my daily Weight Watchers points target — yet still dropped nearly a pound after a miserable bike ride into the wind wearing a heavy backpack.

If I’d gone for a long run with that same food intake, I would’ve gained a pound or even 2, based on past experience.

My husband would quibble with this line of thinking, arguing that if your weight goes up or down much in a single day it’s a fluid issue rather than a calorie intake-outake imbalance, and he may be right. But I can’t help thinking that the longer you do something, the more your body gets used to it — and presumably figures out a more economical way to conserve fuel in even the most ungainly runner.

I’m still fairly new to cycling, I have no idea how to ride into the wind other than to just put my head down and go, and I’m still pretty clueless about gear-shifting, all of which makes me suspect that my body is still figuring out what the heck’s going on and hasn’t had a chance yet to even consider the question of fuel efficiency. When you add in the backpack — my original plan was to meet Traci at the pool in town, so I was carrying a towel AND a cumbersome wetsuit — that just ramped up the chaos factor.

As it turned out Traci didn‘t feel well enough to swim, so we went for a 12-mile ride. Tack on another 8 miles or so for my roundabout route into town — she wound up driving me back afterward — and it was probably a 20-mile ride, which is the most mileage I‘ve logged since I was a teenager.

This hypothesis may well be crap; feel free to shoot it down. But even if there happens to be some truth hiding in there somewhere, it’s not like I’d give up running just because a 6-miler doesn’t burn up as many cookie calories as it once did.

I want to eat to sustain my running, and not the other way around.

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