As athletes, we tend to obsess at least a little about our weight. What is my ideal race weight? How much faster would I be if I lost a couple of lbs/kgs? Why am I not much lighter if I’m training eight hours a week? As a coach, I field a lot of these questions on how to lose weight (or keep it off). Not being a nutritionist, I generally shy away from the subject, but when pushed I will sometimes offer my own personal “life hacks” for day-to-day weight management—athletes are persistent buggers! Here are the eight general rules I’ve found can help athletes maintain a healthy weight:
Have a clear goal.
Don’t be vague about it: If you say you want to lose weight, make a realistic and specific goal. It could be 10lbs or 2kg before your “A” race—whatever it is, you need a target, or else it is too easy to fall back into your old habits.
Monitor, monitor, monitor!
Once you have your long-term goal, break it into smaller weekly/monthly goals and track these. An easy one is to get into the habit of weighing yourself—knowing you have to step on the scales every 3 days or so helps focus the mind when making good decisions!
There are also some great apps to help in this regard: MyFitnessPal helps with calorie counting, and the metrics functionality in TrainingPeaks allows you to graph weight fluctuations.
Set positive goals, not restrictions.
Set positive goals, such as eating 3 pieces of fruit a day. These intake goals are a lot easier to track/keep to than goals based on restrictions, like avoiding chocolate for 2 weeks.
I find that positive goals are even more effective when I add in a “streak” aspect. So to use the example from above, “How many days in a row can you eat the 3 pieces of fruit?” Make it a little competition for yourself, as we all know competition brings out the best in us.
Be honest with yourself.
Yes, endurance athletes typically will need more carbs/fuel that a sedentary office-dweller. But nobody can out-train a straight-up bad diet.
Eat more green, less brown.
Simple, yes. Scientific? Not even close. But this is a helpful principle I apply to my restaurant/hotel choices when away on business trips. Yes, the triple club sandwich with fries/chips might look tastier, but there is also a chicken caesar salad lurking on that menu if you scan further down.
We train a lot, and we do need calories—we just need to make sure they are good calories.
Head off the office snack attack.
I worked in an office environment for 20 years, and every day was akin to running the chocolate gauntlet; there was always someone leaving; someone joining the team; a promotional chocolate cake in the break room… It was the greatest test of willpower, and one I would regularly fail.
The only way I managed to get around gorging myself on Hershey’s kisses (I thank you and curse you at the same time for these, America!) was by having a bowl of nuts and fruit on my desk each week. Yes, it took some time (and still does) to persuade myself away from the cake, but by having healthy alternatives, I am giving myself a fighting chance.
Even without a goal of weight loss, staying hydrated is key for performance. It also helps keep some of the midday hunger pangs away by filling the empty space in your belly.
Set cut off times for grazing.
I like to have a cutoff time for eating, usually is around 9 pm. By juggling session start/end times to meet this deadline, I give my body time to digest food, so I never go to bed with a full stomach and wake up with a good appetite for breakfast.
Again, to be clear I am NOT a qualified nutritionist, nor am I trying to be. So please “consume” these “nuggets” as intended: As a “buffet” of strategies. You are welcome to pick and choose the ones you like. Okay, enough of the food puns, and good luck with your training!