Food is good, it is easy access and always tempting. Our modern society offers more and more high caloric processed food, so practical to carry in their individual packages. To stay healthy and lean we have to fight a lot of temptation every day. In addition to aesthetics and health, carrying less weight impacts a lot our performance, for a marathon you roughly gain 4minutes for a 500gr fat loss.
This training topic is not a miraculous approach to healthy eating. Staying healthy and lean is a challenge for athletes who enjoy food. To add a difficulty, we want to get lean and keep on performing.
How do we lose weight?
A person loses weight if they consume less calories than the amount of calories they burn. A healthy diet recommends to reduce daily calorie intake by about 500kcal. You will lose about 0.5 to 1kg weekly.
Why is this diet not optimal for athletes?
As an athlete you train to achieve better. To get stronger you need to adapt to harder trainings, this by improving muscle capacity and technique. In order to improve muscle capacity, you need to fuel and rest after sessions. Your muscles will repair and get stronger, for this to happen you need the right nutrients.
If you do not give the necessary energy to your body, it will need to fuel with his own stock (muscles and fat). As muscles are also an energy storage, you will lose both muscles and fat. Now you understand that reducing calorie intake at the wrong moments can actually have you lose fitness while training.
How do we track caloric needs?
To estimate how many calories you need per day (basal metabolic rate) you can use calculators such as: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bmr_calculator.htm
Then you add your training calorie expenditure (Estimations available with most heart rate monitors). Note that if you have a very active or intense job or day, you might be burning more calories daily.
As an example: I am 32yo, 189cm, 78kg. My basal metabolic rate is 1868kcal. My days are not particularly intense. This morning I ran for 2hr at an easy pace and burnt 1100kcal.
Today I will aim at an intake of 1868kcal + 1100kcal = 2968kcal
Each day, what is the right balance between carbs, proteins and fat?
More or less, these are the guidelines:
How do we lose weight and train?
If you need to lose up to 3kg:
You can continue your training as usual, during training days you will eat the amount of calories your body needs (In my example 2968kcal). You will only reduce your calorie intake during rest days (about 500kcal less, reducing carbs mostly).
Important: Do not to attempt any weight loss during the 3-weeks prior an event, it might impact your performance.
If you need to lose more than 3kg:
If we follow the recommendations as above, you will need an extended amount of time before you manage a weight loss of 3kg or more. This is why you need to reduce your calorie intake in higher amounts. The start of a season is the best timing, as you are trying to increase your training load (the amount you exercise per week), training will mostly be done at low intensity.
On training days, you will reduce calorie intake by about 200kcal (carbs and fat), having your daily carbs and proteins mostly before and after training. You will also reduce calorie intake by 500kcal on rest days (reducing carbs).
What is 200kcal:
A big cookie (40gr)
40gr of chocolate
320ml full fat milk
130gr cooked pasta
It is also:
1.3kg of mixed salad
160gr of black beans
220gr sweet potato
180gr cooked brown rice
How to track your food intake?
On your phone, you can download apps such as www.myfitnesspal.com , you will be able to track easily your food intake. Most supermarket products are registered in their system, you just need to scan the bar code of the products. Invest in a set of cup measures and in a small scale to weight food.
Tip: A great way to reduce calorie intake without feeling hunger is to eat more vegetables and fruits. Plan to always have a low caloric snack (apple for example) to avoid temptation.
Note: I offer nutrition and sports nutrition guidelines for all premium and Ultimate training athletes.