After more than two decades in speciliaizing with athlete nutrition I still constantly come across the same mistakes athletes tend to keep making over and over again.
Most people understand that a calorie deficit is required for weight loss. Its proven science that if you consume less than you are burning off over time you will see a decline in weight. Then weight loss happens and the calorie deficit continues because the individual wants to lose more weight but then it becomes too much of a sacrifice and so the domino effect begins. Lowered metabolic health and lots of rebounds and roller coastering with no stability and progress over time.
Each individual has a unique rest metabolic rate. This is an estimation of calorie burn rate through normal bodily function at rest. Add in some additional factors such as exercise and one can get a pretty accurate estimation of total daily burn rate.
When it comes down to athletes, every day is a different day. Some days an athlete will rest, some days they will have shorter duration sessions, sometimes longer duration, somtimes more intense quality days and then every so often you will find those athletes that train twice or more a day. What this means in simple terms is that a highly active individual will generally have quite a broad differential range of energy expenditure from a day to day basis. This is what I define as an athletes unique daily burn rate.
When athletes come knocking at my door and tell me they want to lose weight the first thing I say is it really weight loss or is it a change in body composition? Shape means more than a scale. Percentage of lean muscle to total mass is what I look for in any individual and this might not change the scale a lot but it can certainly change the centimeters.
With this in mind I need to first guage a number of things.
1. What is your goal and how far out are you from it?
If you are a few months out from a race and you are trying to lose weight you then are making a huge mistake. Weight loss is not a point of focus before a major event. Main focus should be supporting the training from a performance and recovery perspective. This means maintaining an energy balance and not eating in a deficit which depending on the extent of that will over time lead to lack of energy, lack of ability to push pace and power numbers, lack of recovery, lower training adaptations, low and slow progression and possibe decline in fitness and strength and then the higher the likelihood of triggering illness or injury.
2. What is your current Training Routine
Any active individual has a training regime whether maintaining or increasing fitness or strength or gearing towards an event. As mentioned earlier energy expenditure differs greatly depending on the duration and intensity of an exercise session. This means that on a day to day basis energy intake in the form of food will differ. Some days you will need to eat more especially those longer harder training sessions. And some days you can eat less due to lower intensity, shorter sessions or rest days. When thinking about nutrition it always needs to fit the training like a glove. The two should work seamlessly hand in hand to ensure optimal energy, recovery and of course taking your goal into account which is actually fat loss and maintaining or increasing lean muscle.
3. What is you current Health Status
Who doesn’t love a good view of an athletes blood chemistry. So often I come across “healthy active” individuals only to get back a nice batch of bloods which tell me otherwise. Seriously though, when it comes to constantly being active it means placing the body under additoinal physiological stress. Any additional stresses on the body when the engine is less than stellar could spell a lot of trouble over time and in some cases I have actually seen certain metabolic panel markers a reason for an athletes inability to stay healthy, injury free and get into great shape. So yes, show me your blood first and only then will I show you some direction.
4. What do your meals look like?
I love it when people tell me they eat healthy. You know if I had not been doing this for so long I would be far more trusting in what people say. When it comes to nutrition with me its black and white. Diarize what you eat and drink on a daily basis and then let me analyze all those ones and zeros. The numbers speak for themselves. Healthy eating can mean very different things to different people. I mean is a smoothie healthy? In most cases they not. It competely depends on the ingredients, macronutirent composition and the volume of the meal. Most are loaded with sugar and believe me the blood glucose monitors love take off soon after consumption.
So getting back to “weight loss” is it really about that or is it about simply improving your health which will empower you to perform better and at the same time optimze your engine and shell.
Let me get back to this idea of being active and wanting weight loss and then under eating. It just does not work. If you truly want to do this properly then time your calorie deficits, ensure they are not excessive but only slight and gradual over time. Excessive calorie deficits break down the body, lower perfomance numbers, lower metabolic health and leave you in a less than stellar health space and ability to perform.
Place an emphasis on health. Maximize and optimize your nutrition intake and do not aim for quick fixes.
Time, patience, consistency and discipline equates to success.
Yours in Health and Fitness always