When you’re trying to drop body fat for race season, do you find that you’re always hungry and at risk of grabbing the wrong foods? When this happens, it can make it difficult to drop the weight.
When I work with clients, I usually find there are 3 main reasons why this is the case. Once these are addressed, the hunger goes away. I thought I would share them with you along with some tips on how to avoid them.
You’re not eating a decent breakfast
What are you eating for breakfast? Is it heavily carbohydrate based? Cereal, toast? These foods which are high in sugar cause a large and rapid increase in the insulin. This hormone acts to remove blood glucose from the blood, and also regulates hunger.
TIP: Replace these with satiating proteins for example eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese, milk or even lean meats. By doing this, your blood glucose levels will remain more stable meaning there will be fewer insulin spikes resulting in better regulation of hunger. Protein is also more difficult for the body to break down and digest so the food takes longer to exit the gut resulting in you feeling fuller for longer. As an endurance athlete getting enough for breakfast is even more important, particularly if you have been training first thing. You need to make sure you are consuming adequate protein to rebuild and repair your muscles.
Too few calories for the training you’re doing
Often we are attracted to endurance sports because we seem them as a way of losing weight. We start training and while simultaneously reducing calories. While doing so can lead to weight loss, it could be that training too much and not eating enough could adversely affect your muscle mass which would be a real shame when you’ve put in the training.
When attempting to lose body fat your goal is to create a negative energy balance meaning you consume fewer calories than you expend.
If your need to reduce calories by 300 calories a day, you could do that through reducing what you eat. However, if add you exercise on top of that you might be adding another say 400 calories to that resulting in a 700 calorie deficit every day.
This wouldn’t be too bad if you have a daily calorie requirement of 3000 calories, however if you are someone with a 1500 calories per day requirement this is more than a 50% reduction which can means your body could go into starvation mode. This results in a reduction in your the metabolic rate as your body goes into survival mode.
TIP: For this reason you need to make sure that if you are going to reduce your calories & train you take into account your individual calorie expenditure when deciding how much to eat. This is so important that I walk you through how to calculate your calorie requirement based on your activity in my ebook Leaner, Lighter and Faster
3. You’re not eating regularly.
Ghrelin is a hormone which when secreted creates intense feelings of hunger causing you to search for food.
Ghrelin is typically released just prior to when you normally eat and once you have eaten it declines fairly rapidly. However with if you restrict calories, the levels of ghrelin released can actually increase.
If you’re not eating regularly your body is likely to produce excess ghrelin secretion, making you hungrier, more often.
The cells which secrete ghrelin also have their own rhythm according to when you normally eat.
For example, most people have a schedule of when they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to the schedule, these ghrelin secreting cells secrete the hormone just prior to when you normally eat. That’s why usually you can expect to be hungry around normal eating times.
When you eat regularly, ghrelin secretion will occur just before when you normally eat making you feel hungry around these times. However, if you begin to eat sporadically, it causes these cells to secrete ghrelin sporadically, making you hungry at strange times and often to a greater extent than usual.
TIP: If you find that you are hungry all the time try eating at similar times every day so that your ghrelin secretion is then regulated rather than sporadically producing excess quantities of it.