Excerpts from our recent article in Cycling Utah:
Dave and I are receiving an increasing number of inquiries regarding nutrition from potential as well as existing clients. Many are feeling pressure to lose weight now that the event season is underway and temperatures are rising.
Although determining a healthy target weight, as well as a reasonable path to losing it, is part of what we do as coaches, our primary objective for each of our clients is a healthy path to fitness – the real focus is on training fueled by quality foods.
We strive to keep our athletes from obsessing about being “super lean”, focusing instead on a structured training plan – including recovery cycles. Individuals need to sustain high energy levels in order to accomplish quality workouts.
In simplified terms, our nutritional priorities should always emphasize:
- Sustained Energy
“Lean and mean” is a great idiom, and in the context of this discussion I’d like to add some dimension to the expression by broadening the interpretation of the word mean. Look in a dictionary and you’ll find that mean can connote other things, like greed, baseness and even a state of being in between extremes. The implications of those other definitions have particular relevance to our discussion of those three priorities.
Above all we should strive to be healthy. Exercise and training fit nicely into that objective, with the added benefit that a healthy body is generally a more attractive one. Proper nutrition dictates proper consumption of key nutrients through a healthy and well rounded diet. We are looking for a balance, and so are our bodies.
Finding that healthy mean between extremes is not only key to good health, it is also key to being a good athlete. Structured workouts designed to tax an athlete’s physiology and effect adaptations to make it stronger require energy.
Training as the foundation
With those three priorities in mind, our lifestyle will naturally fixate on training. In other words, by following a good training program, weight loss and weight management usually come naturally.
For our coaching clients particularly concerned about their weight or eating habits, we often recommend they meet with a sports dietitian (a certified specialist in sports dietetics, or CSSD) to map out a healthy – as well as realistic and sustainable – diet. Athletes share with the dietitian the goals they’ve set for themselves, or have worked with us to establish. That goes for fitness as well as moderate and gradual weight loss in combination with structured training. Then we help them stay on track as they provide feedback each week along with their completed workout updates.
Energy is the key
Our overall philosophy is one of moderation and balance, emphasizing health and sufficient energy to fuel effective workouts. Some of our clients have taken an aggressive approach to weight loss that we don’t recommend for most athletes. Through a training plan, Garmin HR and power uploads, as well as post-workout interaction via software like TrainingPeaks, we strive to ensure that our athletes are not undermining their well being or energy levels.
A good place to start is calculating one’s Basal Metabolic Rate using a simple online calculator. For a male who is 40 years old, 5’9” tall and weighs 175lbs, for example, his BMR would be about 1,761 calories per day. That is what he would need in the way of nutritional replenishment at a constant state of rest – i.e. just to lay around all day! Typically, he could expect to burn an additional ~400-1,000 calories through modest exercise. He would also want to factor in calories burned through movement at work, keeping busy around the house, etc.
Patience is the virtue
We suggest setting a flexible goal of approximately ½ pound of weight loss per week based on however many hours of exercise an individual is regularly getting each week. “With athletes we generally recommend .5 lb per week by incurring a 250-500 kcal energy deficit by a combination of decreasing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure,” notes Beals.
Read the complete article in the May issue at www.cyclingutah.com.
Katherine Beals is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She is completing work on a new book, Nutrition and the Female Athlete: From Research to Practice.