Go Triathlete

Six Easy Tactics to Manage Your Weight

Shedding extra weight is a key to going faster in triathlon. Due to the introduction of processed foods, engineered fat and sweeteners into our diet as well as the little excesses that we allow ourselves on a daily basis like the venti non-fat caramel macchiato with no whip (240 calories), it’s easy to gain weight. In fact the Center for Disease Control now lists one third of all adults in the United States as Obese.  

What many people need is not a fad diet that will work for 3 months, but a nutritional lifestyle change. If you can make a minor shift in eating- by avoiding certain foods altogether - when it comes time to actually diet and lose those few extra pounds to get to your desired race weight, it won’t be that difficult.

This article is not for those athletes who already have their nutrition and diet dialed in, but rather for people who are looking for some guidance on how to lose weight by cutting out certain foods.

Do these six things and you’ll be able to begin to control your weight without making huge dietary changes.

1. 100 Calories A Day

One hundred extra calories a day equals a ten pound weight gain in a year.
Control the extra calories you consume. This is a simple mathematical equation. If you want to lose weight, or control weight, you cannot ingest more calories than you burn in a day.

A good friend of mine is a competitive cyclist. His job requires him to sit for long hours at a time, and can be very high stress, two things that can contribute to weight gain. He recently had knee surgery and couldn’t ride for 3 months. Using an App on his iPhone he religiously tracked his caloric intake and began dropping weight while relatively inactive. He continued this trend when he started cycling again. He ultimately dropped about 40 pounds and won the State  Cyclo-cross Championships.  As soon as he started to lose weight he was climbing better and had higher power output than ever before.

The most interesting and possibly most inspiring thing about my friend is that he weighed over 300 pounds in high school.  He dropped all of his weight by watching his diet, cycling, running and lifting weights. No gastrointestinal surgery was involved, just hard work and intelligent eating.

2. Save Your Sugar

Only eat sweets immediately prior to, during or within 30 minutes following exercise.  

Immediately following prolonged exercise, your body metabolizes sugar differently than when it is at rest, and replenishes glycogen muscle and liver stores. The speed at which this happens, decreases with time.  After about 2 hours, your time is up.

Carbohydrates play an essential role in energy production. It’s the most efficient fuel our bodies use. Like kindling for a fire, it’s also the fuel your body will use first. During sleep, your body is in an aerobic state. You’re burning fat. If you consume sweets when exercise has not occurred, like before bed, you will shut off your body’s fat burning system for about 8 hours.

3. Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup at all Costs

Most of the carbohydrates we eat are made up of chains of glucose. When glucose enters the bloodstream, the body releases insulin to help regulate it. Fructose, on the other hand, is processed in the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver, the liver can't process it all fast enough for the body to use as sugar. Instead, it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them off into the bloodstream.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and fructose are not the same, and they are not interchangeable. Fructose is a natural simple sugar found in fruit, vegetables and honey and has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Fructose is much sweeter than HFCS, and less is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness. Unlike HFCS, fructose does not cause a rapid rise and fall in blood glucose levels.

When glucose is consumed, it increases production of insulin, which enables sugar in the blood to be transported into cells where it can be used for energy. It also increases production of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite and fat storage, and suppresses production of ghrelin, a hormone made by the stomach that helps regulate food intake.

HFCS metabolizes in the body differently than other sugars.  
HFCS, however, doesn't stimulate insulin secretion or increase leptin production or suppress production of ghrelin. Therefore, researchers suggest that consuming a lot of fructose, similar to consuming a lot of fat, may contribute to weight gain.

Look at the labels of everything that’s in your refrigerator. What you find may surprise you. HFCS is in almost everything, from ketchup to chocolate milk. Use up what you have, and then replace those items with the same products that don’t have HFCS in them, and then never consume any product with HFCS in it again.

Simply put, HFCS makes your body keep or retain fat.

4. Avoid Trans Fats and Partially Hydrogenated Oil

You wouldn’t smoke a cigarette, because you know it’s bad for you. So why would you eat trans fat?  Trans fat has been likened to killing yourself slowly by smoking, or injecting plastic into your blood stream. Trans fat is linked to increased abdominal fat, higher bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels.  The National Academy of Science advises the following: “trans fatty acids are not essential and provide no known benefit to human health," and says there is no safe level of trans fat consumption.

Trans fat is considered such a health risk and contributor to obesity and all of obesity’s nasty little diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease that New York State has outlawed trans fat in restaurants.

Hydrogenation is the process of heating and passing hydrogen bubbles though an oil. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some hydrogen, making it more dense. Full hydrogenation will create a solid fat out of the oil. However, stopping halfway creates a semi-solid, partially hydrogenated oil.

Partially hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fat.

Remember what the CDC said about Obesity? An increase in the introduction of trans fat into our food supply has been linked to the steady increase in Obesity in the United States.

Trans fat reprograms how cells work, causing lifelong damage.  Trans fats aren't easily broken down in the body. The molecular structure of trans fat is so different and so unnatural, that the body has no way to know exactly how to process it.  Even a handful of grams a day is enough to gum up the workings of a cell. Trans fat interferes with the metabolic process and cannot be metabolized by the body.  

Trans fat is now required to be on food labels, however a loophole allows a label to read a BIG FAT ZERO if there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat.  Trans fat is found in fast food as well as many baked products and cake mixes. Major cake mix manufacturers purport to have zero trans fat, but then list partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient.

The New England Journal of Medicine advises that "from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no apparent benefit."

The Bottom Line? Never eat anything with Trans Fat or Partially Hydrogenated Oil in it. Ever.

5. Avoid Diet Soda and Sugar Substitutes

Two different studies linked weight gain and increased waist size to sugar substitutes.

Researchers discovered that the waists of those that drank diet soft drinks grew 70 percent more than those who avoided artificially sweetened sodas. The people who drank two or more servings a day had waist circumference increases that were five times larger than non diet soda drinkers.

Another study showed that diet soda drinkers had a 41 percent increase of obesity or risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soda consumed per day.
Our taste buds can’t tell the difference between sweeteners, but our brains can. Drinking an artificially sweetened drink often times causes often causes one to follow up with a high-calorie snack. Sweet tastes also promote insulin release, which blocks your body’s ability to burn fat.

If you’re thirsty, drink water or something that’s going to hydrate you like an electrolyte replacement drink. Don’t drink diet soda. Ever.

6. Avoid Processed Foods

Go to Costco and look and the freezers full of easy to make food from famous restaurants and well know food manufacturers.

American manufacturers modify food to make it last longer on the shelf and taste better.  Manufacturers pump their food full of sugar, salt, partially hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, preservatives, dyes, artificial flavors, and a host of chemicals. Our food is almost unrecognizable as food.

These foods might taste good (that’s what they are designed to do), but they’re packed with empty calories that are metabolized in our bodies in such a way that they make us fat.

Popular chain restaurants are guilty of doing the same thing to food. Do you ever wonder why a chain restaurant can give you the exact same tasting food, whether you are in Washington or in Idaho? It’s because of engineered and manufactured food.

Eating salt, sugar and fats make us want to eat more of the same. It’s the way our bodies are wired, and it’s what major food manufacturers and restaurant chains are counting on.

Counter act this by eating real and fresh food.

These are just six small things you can do to easily change your diet without drastically altering your way of life. They are also just the tip of the iceberg on diet and nutrition. If some of the above items are in your diet, remove them and you should see a change in your body composition, and get you closer to becoming a leaner faster athlete.