Some of us do sports for the fun of it, some of us became addicted to it (in a good sense), to keep us fit and to be healthy, to get rid of stress in order to cope with life, some of us train to manage our weight well. For what reason you are training, it is important to be at a normal weight or aim to reach a normal weight over time. Your will just enjoy the sport a lot more if you don’t carry that extra kilo’s with you and your performance will definitely improve! For every 1 kg weight loss, there’s a 4 kg reduction in knee joint stress and therefore less impact on the knees. Researchers say that even modest weight loss may significantly lighten the load on your joints.
The biggest advantage of training whilst eating healthy and making an effort to lose weight, is that the body fat % comes down a lot quicker than a person who is eating healthy and is not training.
To lose weight while training sometimes can be a challenge in order to find a balance about eating slightly less energy than what the body needs daily, and with the increasing training we can become hungrier! We know that we need to eat less food or energy than what the body uses for the day, but sometimes if we eat too little, then we are hungry all the time. That causes cravings and that’s when we eat unhealthy snacks or food - all gone with all the good intentions of eating healthy and losing weight!
There is a very fine line between weight loss and starvation. If one cut back on too much food and is eating too little, the body goes into a negative energy balance which is starvation and the body keeps back fat and will break down muscle for energy. It seems like for a week that you are losing weight, but then the second or third week, nothing on the scale is happening… if you monitor fat, the fat percentage increases, and that we don’t want.
As dieticians, one of our expertise are that we can work out your average energy intake according to your age, gender, height, ideal body weight and activity level. We work out an individualized healthy eating plan according to the calculations, which is restricted in energy intake (you eat less than what the body burn in energy daily) in order to lose weight, but not so restricted that it puts you in starvation. No quick fad diets, they don’t work on the long term anyway!
A lot of people start eating snacks or use sport drinks high in energy when they start training even for like 30 minutes daily. Or they drink a smoothie every day after their gym session, which won’t help at all, if they are serious about weight loss. A very important fact is that we don’t need extra energy drinks, high protein bars, energy bars etc. when we train for one hour only per day.
Additional snacks, supplements become important when training for more than 90 minutes, that is when the glycogen (energy stores) in the muscles and liver becomes depleted and we need additional food.
Sometimes people want to lose weight and therefor use no additional nutrition during strenuous exercise more than 90 minutes, one will get tired and will hit that wall, or maybe you feel pretty okay during the session, but it has a negative effect on the rest of your day for example struggling with headaches, cravings and hunger.
We usually help our clients to estimate how much energy they burn through their training sessions, in order to replace half of that energy through nutrition during training and recovery, they usually feel great and they still lose weight! A good guideline for weight loss during sports training, is for sessions longer than 90 minutes, have 30g of carbohydrates per hour in order to keep the balance of feeling great, having enough energy and achieving weight loss. This guideline is different than the guideline for races and optimal performance.
One of the most important facts to lose weight during sports training, is to focus on specific meal times according to your training time of day. This will help to stick to healthy meals without getting cravings and become hungry which causes eating more food, because of training harder. So as easy as it can be to choose wisely WHEN you eat, this can impact the whole day HOW YOU FEEL. For example when you get up at 5:00, train at 5:30, back at home at 6:30. Have your breakfast immediately before taking a shower, otherwise the period from waking up until breakfast becomes too far apart.
If training at 16:30, have your snack like a fruit and yogurt or a hardboiled egg or 30g of lean biltong or 30 g of nuts at 15:30 (allows 1 hour of digestion prior to training). If training at 15:30, have your snack at 16:30, this will help you to not eat everything that comes around prior to supper time.
Summary of important guidelines for losing weight during sports training:
• Mealtimes and training times are important as discussed above
• Do not eat additional snacks and food if not training longer than 90 minutes per session. Ask your dietician to help you with ideas of what, and how much to eat during long training sessions or race day.
• Drink enough water, also take into account additional water during your training session daily. The better your water intake, the better your centimetre loss. Additional water also needed if having coffee. Decrease coffee intake if not reaching a good water intake daily.
• Avoid alcohol. Alcohol will be directly converted into fat in the body and will interfere with weight loss. If one eat healthily and drink water, and still continue drinking alcohol, you won’t lose weight or you will lose slower.
• Recovery meals are very important after training sessions/ races longer than 2 hours. Have a glass of milk in 30 minutes time afterwards, instead of a Steri Stumpie (save almost 500 kJ without depriving yourself and not having nothing which is not good either).
• Eat a variety of food, the more variety you eat, the better your weight loss results for the body doesn’t get use to the same food every day. Have a variety of different breakfasts for the same reason. Stick to ¼ plate of protein, ¼ plate of starch and ½ plate of salad and vegetables for both lunch and supper.
• Have a variety of green vegetables and don’t get hooked on salad only. People that eat more green vegetables, have quicker and better weight loss results.
Therefore: Focus on all three aspects during sports training for optimal weight loss:
• Get a healthy balanced weight loss plan worked out by your dietician, every persons needs vary
• Nutrition during training/races longer than 90 minutes need nutritional intervention, but which is different from nutrition during maximum and optimal performance.
Recovery meal/drink is important after 2 hours and longer training sessions, also during weight loss.
Weight loss during sports training is a science…..ask your dietician for assistance!