I’ve written in the past about the many benefits to an endurance athlete of being leaner and lighter. You may have tried in the past to get leaner but it just hasn’t happened. In this blog I look at 5 of the reasons why you might not have made progress and make some suggestions to help you to move things forward.
- You set yourself unrealistic goals
You probably find it easy to set your training goals to make sure that you can go the distance on race day. Do you do the same to get leaner? Having a clear vision and a written down goal describing your target body fat percentage and weight loss is critical to your success. Even if you have done this, many people give up when trying to lose body fat and weight because they expect instant results. When these don’t happen, particularly if they have a lot to lose, they quickly give up.
Tip: If this has been the case for you in the past, break your big goal down into smaller short-term achievable weekly targets. A kilo a week is a good target to aim for.
- You think weight loss is all about training hard and starving yourself.
When trying to get leaner, many athletes skip meals and train harder in the hope that the large calorie deficit they create will help then get leaner and lose weight faster. The danger is that by doing this your body goes into survival mode and protect your fat stores by breaking down your muscles and using them as an energy source instead. In addition your metabolism will down rate by as much as 25% which means you will potentially put weight on more easily when you go back to eating normally.
Tip: A small calorie deficit of between 200 and 400 calories less than you Daily calorific need is all you need to start losing weight in a sustainable manner.
- Overcompensating with food for the exercise you have just done
We’ve all done it, we go out and train for a few hours and then think that we must have burnt up so many calories that we need to eat large quantities of food, particularly cake, to make up for it. These ‘reward’ snacks often contain more calories than you have actually used when you were exercising and that will potentially lead to weight gain.
Tip: I’m not going to say don’t eat any cake but make sure that you measure how much energy you have used and are sensible about what you eat either during the training or immediately afterwards so that you are not taking in more energy than you need on a daily basis.
- Not eating enough protein
Protein is the secret ingredient you must use if you of want to get lighter and leaner. If you eat enough it will fill you up and it will protect your muscle mass. In my experience people eat fat too much or too little.
Tip: Know how much protein you need for your weight and activity level and eat protein at each meal throughout the day.
- Eating too many refined carbs
Refined carbohydrates include anything which is white and heavily processed. On the list is white bread, white pasta, white rice and sugar. Although these products may have their place on race day as a readily available energy source, they shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities the rest of the time. Due to their heavily processed nature they are low in nutrient value and they play havoc with your insulin levels. High insulin levels will drive fat storage and switch off the hormone which tells you to stop eating!
Tip: Eat foods which are as close to their natural state as possible and choose brown pasta, bread and rice where possible.
If you’re serious about getting leaner for this race season, come and join the Eating to Win Facebook community and find out more.