It is surprisingly common for people to put on weight while they are training for an endurance event, or not lose the weight that they were hoping to. This can be incredibly frustrating considering the whole bloody point of the marathon might have been to help with a weight loss programme!
Read on for my 3 top tips for ensuring that your weight goes in the right direction when you are training for your next endurance event.
1. Time your food intake
If you want to lose weight it can be tempting to restrict your food intake during and after exercise, after all, if you eat less you will put on less weight.
However, this does not always work. Firstly, recovery nutrition is essential to maximise the fitness gains that you get from training. If you skip your recovery meal it is like taking 2 steps forward, and one step back.
Secondly, it is very common to overeat later in the day if you don't have a proper recovery meal. After you have exercised (particularly when exercise exceeds 90 minutes), your muscles are starved of fuel. You can avoid food for a while based on your motivation, but this can only last so long. Your low blood sugar levels send strong, almost sub-conscious messages to the brain, and before you know it you are dipping your sneaky little hand into the cookie jar, the lolly cupboard, or, if you're like me, you have wolfed down four pieces of honey toast before you even realised you were doing it.
This is an issue for a few reasons:
a) the food you choose at this point is usually quick and easy junk with little nutrition apart from refined sugar
b) the food is consumed to long after exercise to help with recovery
c) you usually eat more calories and sugar than is needed, and certainly more than if you had carefully planned a recovery meal prior to exercising.
So what is a good recovery meal? You should have some grainy/whole food carbs such as wholegrain bread, rice, beans, or potatoes, with a source of protein and fat, plus a bunch of fruit or veggies. A good example would be a piece of fruit, a couple of scrambled eggs with milk and cheese on wholegrain toast.
2. Fuel your exercise, not your rest
It is likely that your appetite will increase across the board when you are training for an endurance event. Just like you should include a recovery meal, you should fuel all your exercise, but avoid over eating or indulging on your rest days.
Feel free to bump up the portions on heavy training days. Again, this may prevent overeating on junk food later on. But do try to avoid continuing with these bigger portions on your rest days. If you want to lose weight you need to restrict your intake at some point, and it is better to do this on your rest days than on days when you are training.
3. Stick to sensible portion sizes - follow the plate model
So what is a sensible portion size on rest days? A basic approach is to follow the plate model.
The plate model is a concept of dividing your plate in half, and then dividing one of the halves into half again. The plate has three sections, one taking up half the plate, and two quarters. Download a copy of the resource here.
Fill up half your plate with vegetables. Choose a range of different types, and try to get as many vegetables as possible.
Make 1/4 of your plate protein. This can be vegetarian protein such as tofu, beans, or lentils, or animal based protein such as eggs, red meat, fish, or chicken.
Make the last 1/4 of your plate grainy carbohydrates. Real food is best, so go for potatoes, kumara, rice, or pasta.
If you want to lose weight and are training for endurance event, a personalised nutrition plan from our dietitian Tom Shand might be just what you need.
This plan will take into account your food preferences, your training plan, and event day goals. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org,