Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Am I Gaining Weight While Training for an Ironman/Marathon?

I get asked this question a lot.  And have asked it myself from time to time.

Though I'm not a nutritionist, I HAVE read and studied from some of the best nutritionists around.  Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS is a practicing Sports Dietician who specializes in working with endurance athletes.  Bob knows his stuff.  His books Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes and Metabolic Efficiency Training go into great deal about how and why you should incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.  Though the book is technical and scientific, the meat of its chapters pack a punch in the nutrition questions for multisport athletes.

Let me boil it down for you.  As we exercise, our bodies burn fat.  As exercise intensity increases, the body stops using fats and starts using carbs for energy. We have a huge amounts of fat stores in our systems that will keep our body fueled for days.  But our carb supplies are limited and must be refueled by ingesting more carbs, i.e. gels, bars, drinks.

So how do we burn fat?  Simply put, we exercise aerobically, staying below our VO2 Max.  That mean, longer bike rides without sprinting and getting the heart beating too quickly, and watching our heart rates with a HR Monitor as we train.

Then how do we get faster you ask?  The answer: by going slower during certain times of the year. Tri coaches will always outline BASE training for their athletes.  But following BASE training comes the BUILD phase, where you add in sprints and hill climbs as you push your heart rate limits. "An athlete who is more aerobically conditioned can use more fat as energy at higher intensities", says Bob.

The most common culprits for inefficient fat burning include consuming too high of a carbohydrate diet or doing too much high intensity training at inappropriate times of the year.

So today, remember Baloo when he said,  "Man, you're working too hard."  There's a time and a place for strategic high intensity training.  But for now, ease up, enjoy your ride, and turn your body into a fat burning powerhouse.

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