I’ve been thinking a lot about ironman triathlon diet and weight loss recently. When I come to think about it I am always thinking about diet…well food at least. I love food and everything about it; the preparing, the cooking, going to nice restaurants, the social aspects of sitting around a table or a BBQ. This is probably the reason why weight loss is so important to me during my preparation for an Ironman due to all the weight that I put on in the off-season.
Time for my usual google search to see what I can find around the subject of diet and healthy living which will hopefully help, especially coming up to the xmas period. I have come across a couple of articles in the last week or so and will take the main points from each of them below.
Diet for Surfers
There is a great article on thesurfingsite.com titled The Surfing Sites Diet for Surfers. The article starts by listing the six major classes of essential nutrients and their basic functions stating that Carbs and Fats are the main source of energy. The article then goes on to say that complex carbohydrates are a better choice than simple sugars, fat should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and protein is important for building muscles and other soft tissues.
This information is provided on most sources of such information. What does, however, make this article stand out are the examples of what you should eat before and after (surfing in this instance) and what you should be snacking on. This is a good list for anyone to print or make a note of as a day to day reference point to remind you of the choices that you are making with your food. The last paragraph covers the issues of eating fast food. The sentence which had the biggest impact on me was “The average fast food sandwich contains approximately 50% of its calories in fat.”
This is good article and reference point and who wouldn’t want a surfers body anyway?
Another article on the ironman.com website is one titled Four Fat-Loss Myths for Endurance Athletes. To summarise the article the four myths are:
1- You must exercise in order to lose body fat
2- If you train for a marathon or triathlon, your body fat will melt away
3- The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose
4- You should exercise six days a week to lose weight
The main point that I get from this is the fact that if you want to train to lose weight you will turn training in to a chore that you must do and by doing this you risk taking all of the enjoyment out of training and hence will be less motivated to get out there and train. This is something that I have been guilty of but hadn’t realised before I read this. What I need to do is go to the gym, go running, biking or swimming because I genuinely enjoy doing them and enjoy the endorphins associated with the health and fitness gains I am making. If I want to lose weight, which I do, I need to “eat one less cookie a day”.
Body Weight Management
Lastly an article by Joe Friel on the training peaks website. The initial consideration is how heavy is too heavy? This is calculated using your body weight in pounds divided by your height in inches; for me 212/70 = 3.0. In comparison a competitive male triathlete would be about 2.1 to 2.3 with high-performance women triathletes usually in the range of 1.8 to 2.0. Men who exceed 2.5 and women above 2.3 are best advised to find flat race courses if their goal is to be competitive. I am at 3.0 at the moment and at my lightest of either of my seasons so far I have been at 2.8.
Now that I have established that I need to lose weight if I want to knock an hour of my PB Ironman finishing time the question is, do I eat less or train more? It can be found that a reduced-food-intake will lose a greater percentage of muscle mass than increased-exercise but you will have less muscle to create power, the trade off is not a good one. If you are going to go down this route the most effective way is to reduce carbs whilst maintaining protein intake.
In summary of the above, and other sources of information that I have found, the big things that I will be taking away with me is to:
1- learn the types of foods that I should be eating so as I can make smart choices when choosing what I eat regardless of the situation,
2- make more of an effort to keep tally on the food that I am eating during the day (maybe use an app such as myfitnesspal) and make a conscience effort to reduce the amount of “cookies” that I am eating, and
3- do not use exercise as a way of losing weight. Exercise because I enjoy it and want to constantly improve my fitness trying to make improvements in every session as discussed in a previous post.