Training to Lose Weight

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  • #36308

    I am lost in this conundrum. I need to lose weight to be a better athlete – climber, runner, skier. I want to train to be better at all these things while at the same time losing weight, which seems to be really hard to do without risking injury or poor health. How in the world do I balance these two things?

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    Scott Semple on #36314

    If it’s a healthy choice and for the sake of performance, do it slowly.

    Training is a big enough stress on its own. If you try and also lose weight quickly, the combined stress will probably be too much. Losing training time to illness is never worth it. A more gradual “ramp rate” for fitness (and de-ramp-rate for weight) is more effective in the long-term.

    I think of weight in four (decreasing) contexts:

    • Lifestyle weight: What I weigh when I’m not training and not caring;
    • Training weight: What I weigh when training;
    • Race weight: What I get down to before an important event but do not stay at;
    • Ego weight: Some kind of fantasy number that hurts performance rather than helps it.

    Most people spend too much time thinking about the last two…

    For more specific advice, I recommend hiring our nutritionist, Rebecca Dent. (You can connect with her in the second-last section of our Coaches page.) I had Rebecca during my last year of skimo racing, and it was a big help.

    Diana on #36660

    I too have struggled mentally with this concept. I know that training and losing weight should not be done at the same time, but especially when rock climbing was my primary activity, I knew that my strength to weight ratio needed to be improved for performance.

    For me I was able to shift my body composition to increasing muscle and decreasing fat very slowly over a year or two by doing regular strength training and shifting my diet from a standard high carb diet to a more balanced moderate carbohydrate, higher fat ratio. I also brought in intermittent fasting over that time (moderate, 12 hour “fasts” every night), which I believe has also helped my fat adaptation for endurance pursuits.

    Even now, it is something I regularly think about, because most of our female bodies want to hold on to fat at any cost, which can be frustrating when training for performance in uphill pursuits. I am curious what Rebecca or another nutrition expert might have to say on the topic.

    Alison Naney on #36694

    I get this question so often from men and women I coach, and of course deal with it myself. I too have a fantasy number, which is usually only achieved as my race weight for a week or so, or if I get sick and am too weak to do anything. Still, it’s hard to let go of those. When I first started running ultras in 2003 a friend told me to “eat as much as you can, as often as you can” for longevity in sport and to keep from getting injured. In the 17 years I’ve been taking that to heart, it’s worked like a charm. Eating enough to feel good for workouts has served me and athletes I coach well, so I recommend the same advice my friend told me years ago. If you’re training well (spending the vast majority of time at or under aerobic threshold, adding intensity and strength as appropriate) and feel good for it, the weight tends to take care of itself. Women definitely are designed to carry more fat than men, so I am very conservative when it comes to any form of fasting as I don’t want my body to think it’s starving and hang onto more. I’d recommend reading the book Roar by Stacy Sims, who has done a lot of work in training with the cycle (certain times in our cycle we need more protein, vs. more carbs, etc.). Timing meals and snacks around workouts, however, can be a really good way to ensure your body gets the signal that things are a-ok. One last thing, I see more women not eating enough MUCH more than eating too much, even if they’re trying to lose weight. Tracking what you eat for a few days might be illuminating. I once did this and was shocked to see that I was eating much less than I thought. MyFitnessPal works great and syncs with Training Peaks as well, if you use that platform for your training. I know Rebecca is working on an article about REDs (relative energy deficiency syndrome), which will probably address this issue as well. I echo working with Rebecca is hugely beneficial and we’re lucky to have her on our team. Good luck!

    deadpoint on #37064

    I can honestly say I’ve never lost weight from training, only by being mindful of what I eat, and by being mindful I mean not consuming a the “Standard American Diet” (SAD).

    A couple years ago I read Chris McDougall’s “Natural Born Heroes” book and went down a rabbit hole that introduced me to Phil Maffetone’s take on carbohydrate intolerance. I did his two-week test, removed all carbs from my diet, and promptly dropped ~10lbs. I slowly introduced carbs back into my diet which eventually led me back to eating SAD and gaining the weight back. In hindsight I don’t view this as a failure, but rather an introduction into understanding how what I consume effects my body.

    This eventually lead me to reading Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint” which provided me with the understanding and knowledge, and eventually the path, for getting my diet dialed and breaking away from eating SAD. By slowly moving to a primal diet, unlike when I did the two-week test, the carb-withdrawl symptoms where minimal, and I’ve regulated my weight in a more healthy manner. I was already fairly fat adapted from training for an ultra last year, following the Luke Nelson training plan , and that process continues even though I’m not training. I honestly view this book as the diet companion for TFTNA and TFTUA, there’s a whole chapter devoted to exercising aerobically at MAF.

    Good luck

    deadpoint on #37074

    I didn’t realize this was the female uphill athlete forum, thought it was the nutrition forum…doh!

    Alison Naney on #37088

    We don’t discriminate. 🙂

    uphill_dhamma on #37239

    this is a crucial topic among our sports and lives. thanks for opening this thread.
    I’ll try to give my contribution (and thoughts), hoping to help somebody and understand something for myself as well.

    33yrs old, male, started running just 4-5yrs ago with the crazy approach of switching from half/marathons to ultras in just a few months.
    all went good and in 3 years I also got several decent to good results with podium or near podium performances in some discrete races.

    in my last year of races I embraced the crazy “too soon too much” approach in terms of diet: constantly under fueling, with daily low calories intake and being way too obsessed with my weight.
    (compared to my usual healthy weight) I was like skin and bones.

    short term results:
    I was flying. at the end, especially in sports which involve elevation gain, its all about gravity: being light helps.

    long term results:
    injured, unhealthy, and constantly dead tired.
    out of the games for almost one year.

    advice: DONT DO THIS.
    if you really do want to lose weight, do that with the help of a professional.
    and please, do that with a conservative approach.
    when in doubt, err on eating more than less than you think you need.

    my final thought about this.
    we are not pro runners and we have loads of other stressors in our lives in addition to training: jobs, families, daily obligations, inconsistent sleep patterns, etc…
    adding up another (big) stress on our lives is nonsense.
    and if at the beginning you’ll be tempted by all those Strava KOMs and kudos, at the end you’ll regret this stupid decision while being injured on the couch.

    being light helps: gravity and physics won’t change.
    BUT long term approach always pays out.
    if you want to do that, do it wisely.

    I think we would all reap much more benefits from focusing on training consistency and quality rather than those stupid digits on the scale.

    (sorry for my bad english).

    julievargo on #37815

    Thank you all for the replies! To be clear, this is not about vanity weight. It’s a real health concern and affects my ability to function athletically. I’m not looking to match some magazine figure, but climbing with an extra 20 lbs on my back is hard. It’s hard on my joints when I’m running. It takes extra energy to do a jump turn. I have so many years of dealing with an old back injury, there’s no way that I want to risk any more pain from any new injury. After my first year of really training systematically, I expected to be 3-5 lbs lighter than at the beginning of that year. Instead, it came out as the opposite. I don’t eat the SAD diet or stuff myself until I can’t move. I’ve always thought that I follow the rules pretty well, but for some reason I just can’t get down to a good athletic weight for myself. I am now engaging a professional to help me with this and I’m excited to see what comes of it! Nonetheless, I hope this discussion continues and helps others as well.

    Eric T on #38120

    I will say that I am in the same boat. But without having to restrict calories, I have had some success with intermittent fasting. It really makes you aware of when you are truly hungry vs bored. And since I consume all my meals in an 8 hour window, with black coffee before and water after the window, it makes it so I am done about 4 hours before I goto sleep at night. I have been at the same weight for about 3 years after slimming down 70 lbs and seemed to have plateaued.

    Hope you find success.

    biabo on #40165

    Great to see this topic. I am interested in learning more about nutrition and came across this today, just after coming across the Fasted training article yesterday.

    Since I was a teenager (I am 45 now), I have always been above my ideal weight, but feel healthy where I am at the moment. Those extra kilos do interfere with my climbing performance though, and it can’t be frustrating. I do have a very slow metabolism and I don’t need a lot of food to keep me going (which can be really good when on a mountaineering trip, but really frustrating on a daily basis, as I have to watch everything I eat).

    What made me want to write this reply was the comment Allison made about doing Fasted Training. I had just read the article yesterday and assumed that this might be what I’ve been doing wrong, but her comment about not wanting her body to think it is starving and holding on to fat does ring a bell. Now I am confused as to if I should give fasted training a go, or should I not?

    Any ideas?


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