Your interest in losing weight may be for general improvement in health and fitness. Or, it may be to reach 'optimal race weight' and optimise performance.
Whatever your reason, it is important to understand that in order to train well, you need to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for health and the fuel it needs for training. If you don’t give your body what it needs for health, you will lose training time to illness and injury. And if you don’t fuel well, you won't optimise your sessions to get the most benefit for improved performance.
Losing weight should be thought of as improving body composition (the percentages of fat, bone, water and muscle in the body). It can be more useful than simply measuring weight alone.
Muscle weighs more than fat, so you can improve body composition without losing weight as you train. Increasing muscle mass also increases your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body uses at rest).
Optimal weight is individual. BMI charts are not necessarily useful to athletes, and weight charts don’t take into account the relative weights of muscle versus fat. Charts which give age groups and professional athletes’ body fat percentages at various ages can be useful - but may be based on small population groups, and your optimal percentage may be higher or lower.
Genetics, age, gender, and your chosen sport's demands will affect your optimal body fat percentage.
Fuel Your Training
As sports coaches, we can advise on how to fuel your body for training and offer general guidance on how to eat sensibly to manage weight. However, for specific support, dietary plans and professional advice, you should seek guidance from a sports nutritionist.
You need to eat enough to sustain your training performance. You cannot successfully train and have a calorie deficit, and the latest research into weight loss suggests you do not need to do so.
The best long-term weight management strategies come from making changes to the quality of your diet. Eat foods that help with appetite management, optimize available nutrients, and eliminate what isn't needed.
Research shows that if you improve the quality of your diet, primarily by adding more plant-based foods, you will increase the fibre in your diet, which can help you feel full and satiated. The advice to aid weight loss without reducing food intake includes these tips:
- Increase fibre content and avoid eating processed, refined, and convenience foods
- Reduce consumption of calorie-dense foods (often also processed foods)
- Increase the variety and volume of fruits and vegetables
- Include a variety of beans and legumes
- Keep hydrated, including also adequate electrolyte intake to aid absorption
- Minimise consumption of meat and dairy products
- Timing; fuel during the day when you need energy and less in the evening
These tips, consistency, and patience can help you reduce excess weight. Remember, gradual and steady weight loss (1-2 pounds per week) is most effective for future maintenance of your ideal weight.
Focus on adding quality foods rather than restricting or denying foods - for sustainable positive life-long changes to your diet and eating.
If you are looking for a resource for finding out more about this, you could take a look at the book 'How Not To Diet' for an evidence-based exploration of the subject.
You may also wish to see other relevant nutrition information from the MyProCoach help articles.
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