by Ilana Katz
Many recreation athletes have a difficult time with weight management, especially those that took on the training as a reason for weight loss. It perplexes them when they then discover the weight gain, instead of expected and anticipated weight loss. Don’t feel alone, this actually a very common phenomenon. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, athletes tend to build denser muscle as they are losing fat. Remember density shows up on a scale, it does not necessarily mean you are “fatter” just because the number on the scale is higher. It is better to monitor progress by body composition rather than a scale. Monitor your clothes and how they are fitting, and get a body fat test done every few months.
Okay, then after your body becomes adaptive to your exercise, and body composition changes slowly stabilize, then yes, the scale should start shifting somewhat (but never drastically, because although the muscle begins to burn fat, it is still getting denser). If, at this point, you feel like you are “gaining, rather than “losing” it may be time to monitor the calories in and calories out budget system.
Many endurance athletes tend to over compensate for workouts. Does this ring true “well I ran 17 miles today, so I deserve to eat the house down” ? On the other end of the continuum, those that do not eat enough, will adaptaviely become efficient fat storing machines. Always keep in mind, human physiology is a mechanism of survival. This means that if you are not providing the required fuel essential for life, your body will store every minute grain that you DO give it. It also adapts and moves into survival mode by using the store fat very very efficiently, and that translates to “slowly” !! So if you are perplexed as to why you cannot lose a milligram on a scale,yet you have increased on work out intensity and time, and you are not eating very much… then its time reassess your metabolic efficiency.
So here are my 10 Best Sports Nutrition Tips to help avoid these pitfalls…
1. Rev up your metabolism by eating within 30 minutes of waking up, even if its pre workout. If you have a hard time eating before a work out, start off with half a banana to get used to it, its easily digestible, high in carbs and low in fiber, which contribute to a more efficient work out.
2. Recover with a 3:1 carb to protein ratio combination as soon after your work out as possible. Some good examples of this ratio is a protein shake with 1 scoop of protein and at least 2 servings of fruit and some milk or yogurt blended together, or low fat chocolate milk, or a Mix OneT and a fruit. Do not forget to use protein as part of the recovery meal. It begins the rebuild and recovery of muscles as well as makes you feel more satisfied, decreasing the temptation to eat anything not tied down to the table, after many hours of intense activity.
3. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables throughout the day. These superfoods are high in antioxidants which combat off the build up of free radicals from exercise, as well as high in vitamins and minerals that keep your metabolic pathways working efficiently and effectively.
4. Keep a food log daily. Patterns of issues will be evident thus providing you with valuable data. A problem cannot be fixed unless you have the data to get to the root of it. Furthermore, logs make you self accountable to your goals and your current focus.
5. Always have a sports nutrition strategy, for both training and racing. Plan in segments eg. How many grams of carbs either mile by mile or in 15-20 minute blocks. Plan textures and products, eg. Liquids (GatoradeT, acceleradeT), solids (sports beans, shot bloks) or semi solids (gels). Research has shown that those athletes that fuel correctly and don’t avoid sports nutrition because of their high caloric content, actually land up eating less the rest of their long work out days, than those that avoid sports nutrition, trying to save calories.
6. Know your carbs. Fuel accordingly. Pre work out and post work out carbs can be higher in (GI) Glycemic Index compared to the rest of the meals in a day, where slower burning carbs would be more appropriate. If you are not sure of the different fuel burning rate of carbs, good examples of fast are sports drinks, gels, and shot bloks, also banana and potato. Slower burning would be whole grain products, whole grains themselves (like brown rice, barley, quinoa), legumes, oats (more fibrous carbs slow the fuel burn rate). See other articles in this regard the MY sports nutrition article library too (www.onforlife.com/blog/)
7. Stay constantly hydrated. Goal pre workout is to be hydrated, goal during workout is to keep replacing losses, goal after workout is to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes from sweat loss.
8. Experiment with nutrition during training. Never try new products during a race and do not regress from the sports nutrition strategy you had designed for a particular race.
9. Use safe and effective carbo loading strategies starting about a week before a race. Tapering exercise and switching carbs to a higher percentage at least 3 days before a race, leading up to the race is the most effective way of carbo loading. Do not over eat the night before or the early morning before a race.
10. Eat nutrient dense food (rich in color and fiber) versus calorie dense food with limited nutrients (such as sodas and candy). Body stores carbs in limited amounts therefore eating smaller meals more often throughout the day will aid in maintaining well fueled muscles constantly, rather than 2 or 3 big meals a day which just slows down the metabolism.
Ilana Katz is a private practice sports dietitian, with a master’s degree and specialized certification in sports nutrition. She enjoys working with athletes from the elite to recreational. She specializes in body composition and weight management specific to individual goals and needs. Ilana participates in many endurance and team events herself, in order to relate personally to her clientele.