Eating to train.

If you are an endurance athlete then the chances are, you have found yourself losing weight through training. Is this a good thing? Well, as with most questions, the answer is “it depends”.

There is an optimal weight for everyone, and finding it can take a bit of trial and error. When I first started endurance sports I was happy to be losing weight and lost several kilos. I went in to my first Ironman not really having fuelled myself properly after workouts, and not eating enough during long sessions. I did fairly well, but when I started fuelling properly I gained a kilo, or 2, felt stronger, had more energy to train, and recovered a lot better. Ensuring that you fuel properly can have a big impact on how you perform and it is worth taking seriously if you want to take your training to the next level.

There have been some studies done on how people lose weight, recently, and whether it is sustainable. This article in particular is interesting as it looked at people who had lost a large amount of weight in a short amount of time.

You may not want to lose weight but you can still tweak your diet to ensure that you gain the optimal benefit from training. I have outlined some general advice below for anyone participating in endurance sports. I hope you find it useful, and if you are looking for specific advice then I offer a range of nutrition packages to suit your needs.

Losing weight

If you were overweight when you started to train then one of the benefits of training and being more active is weight loss. But it needs to be a controlled weight loss. If you lose too much weight, too quickly, then it becomes unsustainable. Everyone has a RMR (resting metabolic rate) which is the amount of calories required for your body and brain to go about its day normally. If you add extreme exercise into the equation and you don’t put the right amount of calories and balance of nutrients back in, then you will feel unable to continue training, and you may even start to store more fat as your body goes in to starvation mode. It is better to try and lose any excess weight at the beginning of the season when you are not doing a high volume of training so that you are not restricting calories during peak training time.

Maintaining weight

If your BMI (body mass index) is in the healthy range then you would want to maintain your current weight. but possibly to lose fat to gain muscle. This is done by eating the correct balance of nutrients and ensuring that post workout you consume protein and an amount of carbohydrate. Good choices include;

  • Yogurt and Fresh Berries/banana
  • Peanut Butter on rice cakes.
  • Hummus and Pita.
  • Protein Shake or smoothie with peanut butter.
  • Cottage cheese with fruit.
  • Egg on toast


There are many more options, the key is to make sure that you have something in the 30 minutes after you finish an intense workout, or session that is longer than 90 minutes. At this time your body is primed to repair muscle, and needs protein and carbohydrate to do this. If you don’t supply these 2 nutrients then the body will start to use its own stores to do the job, which can lead to poor recovery or even injury.

Gaining weight

If your BMI is low then you may need to gain weight in order to be healthy. To do this you will need to increase your food intake. You can follow the above guidelines and also ensure that you don’t go in to sessions hungry, so have a pre-workout snack. Make sure that you follow a balanced diet and do not cut any nutrients out of your diet. You may also want to snack more often to increase calorie intake, and remember, as with losing weight, it is healthier to gain weight slowly and sustainably.

If you follow these guidelines most of the time then you will definitely see a difference. It is hard, sometimes, to get it right, but as with many things, something, is better than nothing, and making small changes, can add up to big changes in the long run. If you want any specific advice about any of the information provided, then please contact me here


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