Here’s a weight-loss plan I think Ashtangis can handle, no problem

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a short piece on new findings about how people can drop body fat pretty quickly, and keep it off — for months.

There’s this, though, from the story: “The catch, of course, is that those four days are pretty grueling.”

Since “pretty grueling” is an easy practice in the Ashtanga world, I figured this is tailor-made for all the Type A practitioners out there. (Note: Not that I’m advocating a diet.) Here’s how the Times describes things:

Researchers in Spain and Sweden had 15 healthy but overweight Swedish men restrict their calories to about 360 a day, a reduction of approximately 1,800 calories. What calories they did ingest came in liquid form: Some men drank mostly sugary carbohydrates, others a high-protein drink. The men also exercised — a lot. Their days began with 45 minutes of cranking an arm-pedaling machine for an upper-body workout. Then, as a group, the men strolled foreight hours across the Swedish countryside, with only a 10-minute break every hour. They were allowed as much of a low-calorie, sports-type beverage as they wanted during their walks.


After four days, the men had each lost almost 11 pounds, with nearly half of that coming from body fat; the rest of the loss came primarily from muscle mass. The researchers had anticipated that the high-protein drink would protect people against muscle-mass loss. In fact, the losses were the same, whether the men had been given sugar or protein.

Aside from subtly offering you a challenge, my real reason for linking to this study is that some of its fundamentals strike me as similar to those of the physical Ashtanga practice. Lots of exercise — 90 or 120 minutes, for some of us — and some level of calorie restriction, if only because there’s the need/tendency to eat less at night, in anticipation of the morning’s practice.

Put another way: Does something in this study suggest similar benefits to Ashtanga? Can we draw any conclusions, see anything that might argue for the “intelligence” of the practice?

Sadly, no. But that’s just because researchers are basically baffled by their findings:

But given the doleful statistics on weight loss — most people regain everything they lose dieting and more — these results are startling. They also, at the moment, are inexplicable. “The only explanation we can offer” for the sustained loss, Dr. Calbet says, is that the men were inspired by their hypercompressed success to change their lifestyles. The men moved more and ate less than before.

I wonder if any took up Ashtanga.

Posted by Steve