Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gaining / Maintaining Weight and Long Distance Training

About a month ago I was talking with Sarah about how I was not losing any weight even though I was watching what I was eating and I was scared to see how much I weighed on Monday morning.  What was happening is I would start Friday at 118 and Monday morning I would be 119 or 120.  I wasn’t tracking what I was eating, though.  When I don’t actually write down or somehow record what I actually eat every day I end up lying to myself.  I think that I’ve only eaten the foods that I planned on eating and anything extra was insignificant, especially with all the working out that I do.  Sarah had mentioned that maybe I wasn’t eating enough after I listed off the things that I normally eat during the week.  She was using a free online food, health and fitness tracking program called SparkPeople.  She sent me a snapshot of what she ate during one day with the total calories, fat, carbs, and protein.  She was eating a lot more than me and staying within a healthy range.  I decided to set up an account on SparkPeople and start tracking my food and fitness.  Sure enough, after a couple of days, I realized I wasn’t eating enough during the week and I was making up for it by snacking on nutritient-lacking foods.  I also realized that I was killing all my hard work on the weekends (when I have my really long rides and runs) by stuffing my face with carbs.  I thought it was ok because “hey, I just biked 80 miles and burned 1400 calories or I just ran 15 miles and burned 1200 calories”.  Also, I wasn’t taking into consideration the calories that I was taking in while I was working out.  It doesn’t seem like much, but after eating 4 Gu’s on an 80 mile bike ride and drinking a bottle of Gatorade I’m looking at about 600 calories and close to 140 grams in carbs.  That’s already half the calories I burned.
I love to eat.  One of the benefits of training for long distances or just working out in general is that I get to eat more.  But, I have to be straight with myself.  I can’t eat twice as much just because I think I’m burning twice as much.  Just like a pregnant woman can’t eat twice as much food because she thinks she’s eating for two*. 
Ironically enough, about a week ago, I got an email from Runner’s World with their weekly new posts and articles.  One of them was “Miles and Meals – why marathon training doesn’t always help runners shed pounds”.  After I read the article, I was like, “Yup, that me.  Yup, that’s me too”.  The article has three main points as to why runners gain weight and then tips to avoid the weight gain. 
The first point is you’re hungrier.  I feel like I’m always hungry.  I remember a few weeks ago I had a 1hr swim session after work.  I ate some cheese and fruit about an hour before I left work.  The gym is 45 min. away with traffic.  After I change and get in the pool, it’s been close to 2 hours since I’ve eaten anything.  I was a little more than half way through the workout and I started to get a side cramp.  I slowed down and it went away but about 5 minutes later I started getting dizzy because I was so hungry.  I had to stop so that I could go home and get something to eat. 
The second point is that you’re overcompensating.  I was definitely overcompensating… and letting myself cheat almost every time I saw something yummy because I thought I deserved it.
The third point is that you’re gaining muscle and/or retaining fluids.  I do agree with this, but not as strongly as the other two points.  I don’t think I’m gaining muscle.  But, I could be retaining fluids because of all the carbs in the Gu, Gatorade and other carby-foods I was eating after my workouts.  Plus I generally only drink water. 
Tracking my food has certainly helped.  Over the last month, I’ve lost 3 pounds – from 119 to 116.  My main goal with training is not to lose weight.  But, ideally I would like to be between 110 and 115 for the Ironman and stay within that range.  At the bottom of this article, “What’s Your Ideal Weight?”, it gives a table with a rough estimate of how much faster you could be with a given weight loss amount.  Here’s another site that will do the rough calculation for you, Running for Fitness.  Now, this is just for running.  I don’t think I’ll see any significant benefits on the bike because the B2B Ironman course is relatively flat, but there is most likely going to be headwind.  But, I’ll take what I can get.  And, a 4 or 5 minute reduction in my run time alone could mean A/G placement in the Ironman or even a new PR in one of the marathons that I have later in the year.             

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