Athletes hire me for performance nutrition personalization, but then to also lose 10 pounds. My clients and I chuckle because, although this is a weight loss goal generalization, most athletes have pounds they want to shed. For example, a common mindset goes like this, “If I could get down to my race weight from (insert year here), when I dominated (insert race here), I will crush 2017.” I get it. You want to be more efficient by meeting performance and weight loss goals, but you also want to look fantastic in your swimsuit and at the New Year’s Eve party. You work hard; I would want to look fantastic too! However, it is understandably difficult to know how to synergistically lose weight and train efficiently to reap optimal results. I will share with you my own experience working with multisport athletes over the years: what has worked and what has not worked as they dance the athletic-aesthetic dance.
Too Much Too Fast
Every process in life that reaps healthy benefits is, in fact, a process. Your brain can easily tell you the plan for weight loss and performance will benefit you if you follow your macronutrient, micronutrient, calorie, fluid and electrolyte consumption goals. Why not make all your changes right now? However, not only do you need to create lasting habits slowly, your body needs to acclimate biologically because of its need for hemostasis. Therefore, practice patience as you make changes to decrease excess body fat and build upon performance goals. Be realistic about your weight loss goal and aim to average a 1-2 pound weight loss weekly. Slow and steady wins the race. This goes for habits you are trying to kick, as well. For example, if you are decreasing five cans per day soda consumption, start by decreasing intake by 4 ounces weekly to meet your end goal.
Inconsistent Eating Patterns
Consistency doesn’t have to mean eating and drinking exactly what is planned daily. Especially during holidays, vacations and special events do your best to eat regular meals and snacks. Allow yourself to enjoy life and the things you enjoy to consume. Consume mindfully, at regular intervals and in moderation to avoid overeating by keeping a clear head. I’ll use an example my client experienced this week: Holiday Cookie Party. I advised her to go about her day normally, don’t skip meals, drink plenty of water and have a snack before the party so she didn’t overeat. Plan ahead and decide what you will consume so you can enjoy each bite, guilt free. Because, of course, ‘tis life!
Consuming a calorie deficit to steadily lose weight is far more effective immediate and long-term when it comes to losing weight, and you decrease the risk of injury, energy depletion and disordered eating patterns. Keep your meals and snacks every three to four hours, but consume more calorie dense meals/snacks around activities demanding energy, whether it be a common time of day you see energy dips at work or when you are working out. For example, if you workout in the morning, focus on getting more of your daily calories in earlier in the day to account for the energy needed while keeping the afternoon snacks and meals less calorie dense. This keeps blood sugar consistent; allowing you the energy needed while also maintaining your energy level, preventing you from overeating later in the day.
As far back as 500 B.C., diet manipulation for performance and ergogenic promising supplements existed. Fast forward centuries later and society is flooded daily with the newest product or methodology promising magical results. And with the constant delivery of wanted and unwanted media enticing you with new products, many of us are confused on what is truth and where to put our trust when it comes to what we do to our bodies. Two things I know to be true: look for the research and trust the “test of time.” I do not recommend you be anyone’s guinea pig. Take care of yourself, do your homework and ask a licensed professional for guidance. What works for you can be very different than your peers based on elements such as fitness level, exercise regimens, weight goals and current and past medical conditions.
Katie Rhodes, owner of OWN-Nutrition, is a registered and licensed dietitian in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a Master of Science in clinical nutrition. Through her experiences training elite athletes and working in the clinical setting at Arkansas Children's Hospital and the Central Arkansas Veterans Association, Rhodes understands that what we are putting in our bodies directly affects our performance, quality of life and longevity. She's worked with triathletes for six years on their nutrition year round as well as focusing on race day nutrition. Rhodes primarily works with clients remotely, through phone calls and Skype for communication, to supplement unique, personalized nutrition plans.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.