Now less than a month before the Great Britain Age-Group qualifiers in Chester on June 4th, I’m fully in the swing of cutting down towards what could be called a ‘race-weight’. I use the term loosely as I’ve never really paid close attention to my weight before I started on the MAF method. For a majority of the year I float between 70 and 72kg, (154-159lbs) but I’ll try and aim to be around 68kg (149/150lbs) for my races. There hasn’t been a particularly sophisticated method of working out what my ideal weight should be, I’ve just had a look at myself and decided that there is no need for me to be over 68kg – there appears to be enough of an excess of ‘stored energy’ for me to lose a couple of kilos without making myself unhealthily thin, or not have enough fuel to carry me through a race.
Basically, by paying more attention to what I’m eating over the next few weeks, the aim is to get to about 68kg. If I’m under 68kg, and I still feel energetic and have enough energy for my training and racing, then great! We’ll see how much I can shed before my races without making myself unhealthy. It is important to remember that the overall goal is to perform better on race-day – if you cut too much you may feel lethargic and empty out on the course.
Why bother slimming down?
You mean other than looking even better in Lycra? Weight and not carrying any excess for you race is something I’d never really considered before I started on the MAF method. I didn’t consider myself to be over-fat, or like I was carrying much excess weight. Sure I could become super-lean and skinny but it seemed like a lot of effort, for what I thought were mainly aesthetic benefits.
However, after researching the area, I’ve discovered the effect of weight on performance is significant and not something to ignore. As well from the added stress a few extra kilos puts on your knees and feet over the thousands of steps you take whilst training, there is an effect on your speed too. In one article, a marathon coach and author of Build Your Running Body, says he tells his marathoners that ‘one minute slower per one pound overweight’ over the 26.2 mile distance (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/your-fastest-weight).
One great website, below, provides a calculator in which you can input your race times and how much you weighed at the time, and then provides a time estimate had your weight different at the time (all other things being equal). Although this is not necessarily an accurate indicator of weight on running speed, it does highlight an important trend. Here is mine based on the 5k I ran at the end of a sprint triathlon last week: http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/your-fastest-weight
The calculator, above, suggests that I could have made a 20-30 second performance gain over the 5k distance had I been at my ‘race-weight’ and not a couple of kilos over like I was. That’s a crazy difference! You can train for weeks, and put in hours of hard miles in the pool, on the bike or on a run and not find 30 seconds – all it takes is not taking an extra bite of Mars bar for a few weeks. The gains aren’t just for running either, a similar effect would be found swimming and biking too. Essentially, the less of you there is to carry, the easier things get.
How are you cutting calories?
Personally, using the MyFitnessPal app, I’m recording the foods I eat and aiming to be 200-500 calories a day below what my Garmin Connect app is telling me is my target number of calories for the day. If you don’t have a fitness tracker watch (get one, they’re cool), then the MyFitnessPal app can give you a calorie target if you tell if how active you are on a typical day. Although calorie counting can seem dull, ultimately weight loss or fat loss comes down to there being an overall deficit between calories consumed and calories used in the day.
With a week before Chester Olympic Distance Triathlon I’ll stop the calorie deficit and be eating my target number of calories again (whatever the app tells me – it seems to work). The body performs best on a full tank!
No, I mean what are you eating differently?
I set up my diet so it’s easy for me to succeed – I’ve made an a strong, emotional decision to do everything I can to succeed in my goal of qualifying for the triathlon Age-Group World Championships; I’ve found out that saving weight could save me a significant amount of time; I know I couldn’t live with myself if I missed my goal by 30 seconds or something, after all the hours of training, all because I couldn’t say ‘no’ to that extra dessert in the work cafeteria. With this being strong in my mind, adjusting my diet and sticking to it has become relatively easy.
Regarding specific foods, I’ve just slightly reduced what I’ve been eating throughout the year, and have been training with since starting on the MAF method. No major changes, just slight reductions so there is very minimal pain associated with the trimming down and dieting. If I’m not cutting anything out, or starving myself of the nice foods, what am I losing? All I’m getting is performance rewards.
A few of the dietary changes:
- I have stopped putting sultanas on every bowl of porridge oats, and only had a few with oats after tough, anaerobic workouts.
- Only using half a banana in smoothies, rather than a whole one.
- Not putting milk in smoothies, and using water instead.
- Only having one piece of chocolate, instead of two
- No milk or sugar in tea or coffee
I’m already starting to see progress. Although weight can vary depending on how dehydrated you are, or whether you’ve just peed, I weighed myself at 69kg a couple of days ago, down from being 70.5kg a couple of weeks previously. I will be regularly weighing myself, as soon as I get up in the morning, to measure whether my diet tweaks are having the desired effect.
But what’s this got to do with the MAF method?
With the high fat-burning state you develop in MAF method training, weight loss is relatively easy as all you have to do is reduce the amount of excess sugars you’re eating that can impair fat-burning. You’ve been training the body to burn fat, and so your excess weight (as stored fat) almost melts away. The other exciting aspect of the MAF method is that because the diet is primarily consisting of high-quality fats, you need to eat less of them to feel full. With sugars you need to eat lots of it to quell your hunger but it’s a different story with fat. I’ve found it much easier to regulate my weight, and drop a few pounds for races when I’ve needed to – plus most of the flavour is in the fat – it’s brilliant.
One thing to bear in mind is that if you are cutting calories, you could find yourself with a slightly reduced immune system. Adjust your training accordingly, stay hydrated, and remember to put the season ahead of the session. If you’re feeling unwell then just take the session off, recover, and get back out tomorrow. Soldiering on, while it seems epic, can just result in you missing days of training instead when the illness catches up with you.
That’s all for this week, remember to #trainsmart
To follow my training more closely, follow me on Strava at https://www.strava.com/athletes/4115074
For more information on the sugars vs. fat, check out last week’s post about race nutrition
My training week:
|Tuesday:||Run: 4M easy jog||Swim: Easy 2k|
|Wednesday:||Swim: 2.1k, leg drills||Bike: Drill session|
|Thursday:||Bike: Commute to work||Off|
|Friday:||Swim: 1x2k||Run: 10M low-aerobic|
|Saturday:||Bike: Recovery 45mins||Run: 1hr low-aerobic|
|Weekly Totals:||Run: 24.6miles||Cycle: 73.3miles||Swim: 7,437yds|