Help! Training for a triathlon is making me fat!

Dear Amy,

Is it possible to lose weight while training for a major endurance event? The calories in all of those gels and sports drinks add up!

Amy:

Yes, it is possible to lose weight while training for a major endurance event. However, gels and sports drinks have quite a bit of calories so it’s best to know when to use them and when to eat more “real” foods.   Consuming sports drinks and gels on a daily basis could cause some unwanted weight gain. I’m not saying that sports drinks and gels can’t be part of a healthy diet, but there is definitely a time and place for them.

Below are some helpful tips on how to best fuel our bodies to keep them lean and mean.   (Disclaimer: I’m not a registered dietician but like most women, I tend to be conscience of “weighty” subjects!)

  • Water is the best way to hydrate your body when exercising for 90 minutes or less. If dehydration is a concern, add electrolytes by dropping in Nuun tablets. You get the flavor and sodium you’ll find in sports drinks but without the added calories.
  • If you’re working out for more than 90 minutes, consuming sports drinks and gels can help you maintain energy levels and hydration. You might also want to opt for this kind of fuel if your workout is particularly intense and/or if you tend to sweat heavily. Or if you’re working out in extreme heat””sports drinks and gels can prevent muscle cramps and reduce fatigue.
  • Drinking sports drinks or recovery drinks immediately after long or hard workouts will help rehydrate and promote recovery
  • On days off from training or relatively “easy” training days, skip the sporty stuff and focus instead on eating “real” food in the form of well-balanced meals. On these days, sports fuel is just unwanted calories.
  • Try not to use sports drinks and gels as meal replacements even if it is convenient. This is where the calories can really add up. Eat often and plan ahead if you have a busy day.
  • Focus on eating more carbs before and after workouts, but then lessen carbohydrates as the day goes on and instead increase fruits, veggies and protein.

Remember, a combination of exercise and eating a healthy well-balanced diet will ultimately be the most effective way to lose weight.

Amy Marsh is a four time Ironman champion, two time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.

Team Marsh

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com.

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About Team Marsh

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com.

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2 comments on «Help! Training for a triathlon is making me fat!»

  1. Jorie says:

    This is great advice. I’m going to try those Nuun tablets for sure! I hate to “waste calories” on sports drinks because most of my runs are an hour or less, but water doesn’t always do the trick! :-) And congrats on your Hermann win, BTW!!

    1. Muna says:

      I had the same experience with my innile marathons last year. I avoided energy gels all season training. In Duluth I got by on 2 and felt like I could have gone for another 10 miles. It will pay dividends for you I think.

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