Safe & Effective Weight Loss
While athletes tend to be in incredible shape as a mere side effect of their intense training and health-conscious habits, getting a competitive edge may sometimes require getting leaner and losing a degree of fat weight. Doing so may result in improved performance with increased speed, strength and endurance.
There is a risk involved in many weight loss scenarios, because if the weight loss strategy is not aimed specifically to heighten performance, athletes on sub-optimum diets may find themselves experiencing weakness, fatigue, decreased performance and even a weakened immune system making it more difficult to heal from injuries and more susceptible to disease.
Below are a few tips that can help provide a safe and effective weight loss strategy, to help maintain or even augment performance:
1.) Reduce Carbohydrate Consumption
Reducing your carbohydrate intake, and replacing what carbohydrates you do eat with the most nutritious and slower to digest carbohydrates is important. These include quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat, barley and oatmeal, to name a few.
2.) Increase Lean Protein
Increasing your protein intake, even slightly, at every meal will help burn more calories through the digestion process, and when coupled with healthy fats (such as oily fish like salmon and tuna) and natural fibers found in fruits and vegetables, you will feel full faster helping to reduce calorie consumption and will help to regulate blood sugar to prevent rapid peaks and drops in your performance.
3.) Remove Added Sugar
Read labels and cut foods with added sugars from your diet. Commonly this includes processed packaged foods, condiments such as ketchup and syrup, granola and protein bars, fruit juices and other beverages, etc. If you journal your weekly food intake, you will have a better view of exactly what you are eating to help you make targeted, committed modification. These added sugars along with simple carbohydrates such as white bread and rice, pasta and potatoes lead to spikes in blood sugar followed by low energy levels and supports weight gain while not contributing much to nutritional input.
4.) Know When You Eat and Why
As mentioned previously, keep a food journal. Most humans can attribute weight gain to emotional eating more than any other issue. Timeline specific times of day that you will eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and snack to help maintain proper metabolism and energy flow. While journaling, pay attention to times that you have cravings and record this, particularly cravings for carbs, sugar and alcohol, and try to identify what emotions or stresses you may be experiencing that could be triggering these cravings. Understanding the source of food cravings can help mitigate the risk of succumbing to the powerful force of cravings. Decide healthier ways to combat the cravings such as exercise, yoga, meditation or just spending time with nature, family and friends.
5.) Time Your Weight Loss Strategy for Off Season
Avoid taking steps to interrupt your habits during peak season times for your athletic activities, competitions, etc. A dramatic change in weight and metabolism may interfere with performance in the short-term, so implement dietary changes gradually and at slower times for your activities.
6.) Food is Fuel, and You Must Refuel
Food helps provide energy, nutrients and effects blood sugar, so eating the best, nutrient-rich foods during regular times throughout the day are key to achieving a balanced weight and performance levels. Plus, eating right after training can help with recovery from an intense workout. It is recommended that you refuels 30 to 60 minutes following exercise to help reduce body fat and promote lean muscles healing and strength.