Monday, August 1, 2011

A WEIGHTY SUBJECT...


One of the most comment questions asked by my athletes is about 'weight'.

Wow..that's never an easy one especially with triathletes. You want to lose weight, but you have to eat well to train and race well. It can be confusing. I will start with my own experience with weight last year. When I decided to do my first Ironman last year, I thought 'wow' imagine how much weight I will lose and how lean I will be come race day with all of the training involved. Little did I know then how my body would change during my training. The more training I did, the less the scales moved.  I couldn't quite understand what was going on. I pushed harder, nothing. I got hungrier and ate more, but thought the long rides/runs/swims would take care of it. Boy, was I wrong. Last year on race day...not only had I NOT lost weight, but my body had actually for the first time in my life felt softer than ever before. I was mortified. Seems I misjudged my caloric intake/expenditures and not only that, I made the mistake of always training too hard.

This year, things have gone in a different direction for me. I have given in to my stubborn ways (hubby is pleased) and listened to my coach about the importance of training the right zones.  This alone has made the difference for me this year. My diet remains consistent, same as last year give or take a few things. And for those of you who know me...you know I love my chocolate!! With my Ironman coming up in just 27 days, I have peeked in my fitness and my weight/body mass have changed drastically since last year at this time before Ironman. I have now dropped from a size 6 (US) to a size 2 (US) on my 5'9 frame. Weight loss of 10 lbs. I also had a Dexa Body Fat Scan a couple of weeks ago and am pleased that I am reporting in at  14% body fat. As long as I hold steady at this percentage, I should great. I do not want to drop below 14% so I have to carefully watch this. Female athletes who drop below 14% body fat can be at risk for a number of physiological side effects including loss of menstruation, hormonal disorders, loss of muscle mass and bone loss. The suggested level of body fat for a female athlete is 14 to 20 percent; for male athletes, it's 6 to 13 percent. I have never felt better in my life. I feel faster, leaner and stronger. It only took me three years to learn, but I've got it all figured out now, thanks to my coach for patiently drilling this into my head.

Now back to the question of weight. It's no secret that triathletes need to be in top physical shape to excel, but carrying too much or too little weight can hinder your performance. Learning how to master three sports is tough enough, but improper body weight can have a huge impact on your success. If you carry too much weight on your frame, your speed and times could suffer, but being below your healthy, competing weight and you will lack the needed musculature and stamina to perform to the best of your ability.

My first advice it to know your body type. There are 3 body types and you should know yours! Categorizing your body types is important for you to understand how to lose weight more effectively

  • The ectomorph is small framed and thin and has narrow shoulders and hips. May have trouble gaining weight and building muscle. An ectomorph needs to eat much carbohydates to build muscles. Tends to be very lean. Ectomorphs find it very hard to gain weight. They have a fast metabolism which burns up calories very quickly. Ecto’s need a huge amount of calories in order to gain weight. Workouts should be short and intense focusing on big muscle groups. Supplements are definitely recommended. Ectomorphs should eat before bed to prevent muscle catabolism during the night. Generally, ectomorphs can lose fat very easily which makes cutting back to lean muscle easy for them.
  • The mesomorph is considered to be a normal weight: not fat, not skinny. More of the classic athlete. Packs on muscle easily, can lose weight easily (up to a certain point), and has shoulders that are wider than hips. Legs and torso well defined and muscular. The mesomorph body type responds the best to weight training. Gains are usually seen very quickly, especially for beginners. The downside to mesomorphs is they gain fat more easily than ectomorphs. This means they must watch their calorie intake. Usually a combination of weight training and cardio works best for mesomorphs.
  • The endomorph is what's considered pear shaped meaning hips are wider than shoulders. Can gain weight easily, rounder and softer. An endomorph should eat less carbohydrates.When it comes to training endomorphs find it very easy to gain weight. Unfortunately, a large portion of this weight is fat not muscle. To keep fat gain to a minimum, endomorphs must always train cardio as well as weights. Usually supplements may not be needed as long as the person has a high protein intake in their diet.
Secondly--

This one is common-Athletes misjudging how many calories they burn during the day. You definitely should be eating more of the right kind of foods during higher volume training phases, but this does not mean that you need to eat larger quantity of food every day of the training week. Your energy intake, like your training, should vary during the course of the week.

Also, I find that people have no idea how many calories are in the foods that they are eating/drinking. Next time you come in from the long hot run or ride and you reach for that glorious bottle of ice cold soda--LOOK AT THE LABEL. Check out those calories and sugar! One 20oz bottle of Coke has 240 calories and 65g sugar. You've just ridden your bike 2.5 hours, burned oh, 600 calories and within 5 minutes and a little liquid down...you've just added almost half of those calories back and it's only 2:00. Make sense? Not only that these are empty calories, if you are trying to lose weight---stay away from these.  Also, look at what you are eating. I recently realized that my Special K cereal actually had more calories and sugar than Fruit Loops kiddy cereal.  I eat Fruit Loops now. Don't make mistakes and think that just because the box says it's healthy that it's the best choice. Always, always, check the labels on food and drink!! Also, portion control is very important. Check those portions. I know exactly when I pour my cereal  in the bowl how many calories I'm getting with my breakfast. Measuring your proportions help you to know how many calories you are consuming during the day.

Also, there are no secret calories. I know some people that pick, nibble or sip and think that those calories don't count. It's just a nibble after all!! Oh, yes they do count. Again, make sure you know what you are consuming. If you sneak into the closet, eat that big chocolate chip cookie and no one sees you eat it...do those calories count? Really?

Lastly, maybe you should get your body fat percentage checked.  Whether or not you get your body fat checked depends on how meticulous you are when it comes to your own health and wellness. Some people are perfectly content to just workout and watch what happens. Others want to track and analyze everything and, as a result, like to have a starting point for body fat, amongst other things. If you’re in this latter group, then go ahead and get a test done. Body fat is important for determining fitness. The human body is composed of a variety of different types of tissues including lean tissue (muscles, bones and organs) that are metabolically active and fat tissue that is not.  Body weight does not distinguish between pounds that come from fat and pounds that come from lean tissue (muscle) and therefore is not a clear indicator of health.

So, if you are a triathlete and you want to lose weight. Think smart. Know how many calories you burn in your workouts, know how many calories you are consuming and put the two together. Know your body type and if you can...try and know your body fat percentage. All of these things will help you in your weight goals.

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