I’m about 6 weeks out from IM Hawaii and I’m a few pounds over my usual race weight. I’m about to ramp up and do my big specific prep race rehearsals, so I need to be plenty fueled! But I also need to lose fat, so I need to make sure I’m not “over fueled,” so to speak. I know how to lose fat. I know how to fuel myself for big training. But the problem is that I’ve never successfully done both at the same time! It’s down to the wire and I have no choice but to “make it work.”
Here are the 5 principles I’m going to rely on to be strong and fueled while losing fat and getting to my race weight:
- Fuel Your Lean Mass. Eat enough variety and quantity of healthy protein, fats, fruits and vegetables (and drink enough water) over several meals per day to maintain your health and lean mass and to get all the nutrients you need. As you train more, your needs for these types of foods (for health and maintaining your lean mass) goes up moderately. This is all you need for general health, but if you work out alot you’ll need to deal with #2.
- Fuel For Training. Eat enough additional carbs (primarily fruits or starches) to make sure you always have enough glycogen for your training. Break this rule and you will bonk!
- Don’t Replace The Fat You Burn. Exercise burns a combination of fat and carbs. If replace the carbs (glycogen) you burned (#2), but don’t replace the all fat you lost then you will lose fat. In other words, if you burn 500 calories of body fat and 500 calories of glycogen during a ride, you’ll eventually have to replace those 500 calories of carbs, but you do not need to replace the other 500 calories. Remember to follow rule #1 so you don’t lose muscle or get sick.
- Insulin is the Enemy… High insulin causes bad things such as: (1) triggering your body to store available carbs as fat instead of making it available as fuel for exercise; (2) making you ravenous for carbs (making it difficult to follow the above principles); (3) compromising fat burning during exercise;(4) making you generally tired, grumpy and groggy; (5) impeding the release of HGH.
- …So Avoid Spiking Your Insulin by: (1) never eating too many carbs at once (eat many small meals); (2) choosing lower glycemic carbs; (3) eating your carbs together with protein and fat to slow their absorption; (4) eating carbs during and after exercise when the body is primed to sock away carbs as glycogen instead of as fat; (5) opting for “real food” instead of sports nutrition; and (6) eating starches earlier in the day rather than at night.
In other words, I need to eat enough to be strong and healthy and to stay fueled for exercise. But I can’t eat so much that I’m replacing too much of the fat I’m burning during exercise or spiking my insulin.
Sounds easy, but it can be a delicate balance. If I’m too aggressive about following principles 3 & 5 and limiting my carbs to make sure I’m not spiking my insulin or gaining fat, then I’ll violate principle 2 and I’ll setting myself up to be bonked 50 miles from my house searching dizzily for a Coke machine. However, if I’m too aggressive about fueling for my workouts (principle #2), then I’ll be violating principle #3 by replacing the fat I burned in my workouts and people will wonder “who let the fat guy in” at Kona.
Of course, general principles are not worth much unless you turn them into a plan where the rubber hits the road (or where the fork hits the mouth.) My next step is to turn this into a plan that I’ll use to fuel and get down to race weight in time for IM Hawaii on October 9th. This will be the first installment in my “lab rat” series where I perform real life experiments on myself, because I believe in testing things on myself before asking anyone to try it themselves.
To see how I put these principles into practice to lose weight going into Kona read My 30 Day Endurance Weight Loss Experiment.