Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Weight loss for Athletes

March in New York is the beginning of spring training for outdoor recreation athletes, particularly cyclists, runners and triathletes.

The number one rule for weight loss if training for an event or race is lose the weight during the winter when you are not in serious training mode. But now it is too late and you want to lose 5-10 pounds. What do you do so that you can train without bonking, properly recover from the ride and lose weight?

Weight Loss Facts
Here are a few weight loss facts to consider. To lose one pound, you must have a deficit of 3500 calories. Sounds like a lot, but if you stretch the calories across one week, that is a reduction of 500 calories a day. Do not try to lose more than 1 pound a week, otherwise you will be sacrificing the nutrients necessary for training.

Weight Loss Tips
How do you reduce your caloric consumption of 250-500 calories a day when you are trying to maintain your glycogen stores?
1. Cut down on liquids and foods that is high in processed sugar and fat. Some examples are soda, sweetened drinks, potato chips, candy, regular salad dressing, mayonnaise, pastries (cookies, cake and cinnamon rolls) and ice cream. For that sweet tooth, consume fruits which have natural sugars.
2. Do not consume anything fried or sautéed in large quantities of oil. Preferred cooking methods are baked, broiled, steamed or sautéed lightly oil.
3. Eat low-fat dairy and protein foods. Drink one-percent or non-fat (skim) milk. Eat low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese. Eat fish, chicken or turkey without skin, and lean cuts of meat. Trim all fat off of meat before cooking meat.
4. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grain foods (such as whole wheat bread), beans and legumes. These high fiber foods are healthy and may give you a feeling of fullness. This may help you to avoid overeating at or between meals. Add high fiber foods to your diet slowly if you have not been eating high fiber foods. Adding many high fiber foods to your diet too quickly may cause bloating, gas and stomach discomfort. Avoid eating high fiber foods before a long ride if you are worried about bloating, gas or other stomach discomfort.
5. Cut out alcoholic drinks. Alcohol contains empty calories and increases the appetite. 12 ounces of beer is 150 calories, 4 ounces of wine is 77 calories, an ounce of hard liquor (gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, or scotch) contains 64 calories for 80 proof varieties, and 80 calories for those that are100 proof. If you add a mixer, the calories may soar. One cup (8 ounces) of orange juice contains 111 calories, regular cola or lemon-lime soda has about 100 calories, and regular ginger ale, tonic, or quinine water has around 80 calories. And you don’t usually drink just 4 oz of wine – that’s a small pour. Nor are you getting just 1 oz of hard liquor. Think of all the calories that you can save by not drinking those beers, in addition to the nuts and pretzels that go along with the drinks.

Do you really need to lose weight?
But what if you don’t drink alcohol, eat a high fiber, low-fat diet, and need to lose those 5-10 pounds? First of all, congratulations because eating healthfully may be more important than losing those stubborn pounds. I would like you to determine if your goal weight is realistic – have you ever been at that weight as an adult. If not, I recommend that you continue eating healthfully and focus on training. You may want to get your body fat measured to determine your body composition. You don’t want to risk losing muscle.

Reducing calories during spring training
To lose those stubborn pounds gained during the winter, on the non-training or light training days, reduce your caloric intake by 250-500 kcal. This will be accomplished by reducing portion size and following the suggestions listed. I do not recommend caloric restriction on a day of a race or a long training ride. Since your body requires adequate carbohydrates and protein, now it is time to determine your minimum needs. Carbohydrates intake should range from 7-13 grams per kilogram bodyweight. Protein intake should range from 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight. (To calculate kilogram bodyweight, divide your weight by 2.2.) Calculate your minimum needs using the lower end of the range. To determine carbohydrate and protein calories, multiple the number of grams by 4 (there are 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate and protein, and 9 calories in a gram of fat.) The remaining calories should come from fat which should range from 0.8 to 1.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight. Avoid foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats. “Good” fats are in foods such as fish, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.

Body Composition
You may notice at some point you stop losing weight, or you may have possibly gained weight. Get your body fat measured now so that you can see changes in your body composition. If you belong to a health club, ask a trainer for a body composition measurement. If your body fat has decreased, the extra weight is muscle weight. Remember, you are exercising more and your muscles are getting larger while you are losing fat as you improve your diet. Do your pants fit you better? If so, you may want to reconsider your goal weight. The number is not as important as how you look and feel.

It is not recommended to go below 5% body fat for men and 12% for women. Elite male cyclists’ body fat range from 5-12%, and elite women from 8-15%. If you are too thin, you will be at a disadvantage. Excessive leanness (below essential body fat levels), and the processes of maintaining an unrealistically low body fat level through calorie restriction and excessive training can predispose an athlete to eating disorders and increase the risk for muscular injury, stress fractures and menstrual irregularities. The ranges of body fat for optimal health and fitness are 16-25% for women and 12-18% for men.

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