Getting leaner will be the best thing you do to go faster at your next event but did you know that if you do this by exercising harder and not eating enough, you risk losing muscle and sabotaging your training results? Let’s look at how you can avoid this common mistake.
Often when endurance athletes decide they want to get leaner, they want instant results and so they take drastic measures. They exercise harder and eat less in the belief that the calorie deficit will take care of everything and that the weight will drop off them. Well it might but they will lose muscle as well as body fat.
Your body is built for survival and will do everything it can to ensure that’s what happens. When you get leaner by drastically cutting calories and exercising, your body will try and hold on to your fat stores and so it will use your muscles to satisfy its energy needs. This isn’t good news particularly as an endurance athlete when you want to use your muscles to power you forward in your training and racing.
Muscle loss will occur because the body increases the rate of protein breakdown (catabolism) in order to provide fuel for the body.It gets worse…… if you are eating less, your body will also make less muscle so you won’t replace what is being used as fuel with a resulting net loss of muscle. This equation explains why:
Muscle mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown.
When the rate of protein synthesis in your muscles is equal to the rate of protein breakdown, you won’t gain or lose muscle. If the rate of synthesis exceeds the rate of breakdown, you gain muscle. When the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of synthesis, you lose muscle. If you’re dieting, you might be increasing muscle breakdown and reducing protein synthesis.
Training will also magnify the metabolic effects of dieting. The leaner you become, then the more lethargic you might feel. Decreased energy intake and decreased glycogen stores mean that training will feel a lot harder. If you’re too tired or weak, your muscles will adapt and become more efficient so they won’t use as much energy to get the work done making it harder to get leaner.
So how do you avoid falling into this trap?
- Make sure that you eat enough to cover your basal metabolic rate (BMR) . This is the amount of energy you need to make sure that all the processes in your body can continue to tick over. It doesn’t include the energy you use on a day to day basis simply moving around or training and racing. If you are training hard and only eating to your BMR calorie requirement, you will lose muscle.
- Make sure that you know how much protein you need for maintenance, endurance athletes need more than sedentary people. Eat the amount of protein you need spread across at least 3 meals per day. There is no gain in eating more protein than you need and the danger is that excess gets stored as fat which is not what you want if you are trying to get leaner.
- Finally Make sure that you consume good quality proteins so that you supply your body with all the essential amino acids it needs to be able to build muscle. Good sources of amino acids include Meat & Fish, dairy products, eggs, nuts & seeds, pulses, soya and quorn.
If you’d like to get more tips on what you need to eat as an endurance athlete to stay healthy and injury free then come over & join my Facebook community Eating to Win.