Thanks everyone for the advice. I think I need to adjust my expectations a bit. The event is only two and a half weeks away so best to do nothing at this stage but once it's finished I will be starting a new cycle of training for an event in March (longer, higher). But the start of training is full of long slow distance on easy terrain. I should be able to lose a bit more weight during this stage as most runs won't be over 500 calories burnt. It was the early stage of this training cycle when I lost the last 10lbs.
My concern about the weight is more to do with carting 10lbs extra up mountains. It's hard work carrying excess weight. It's rather silly to carry freeze dried food to reduce weight in my pack but carry unnecessary fat on my bum instead.
And I think the calorie cycling may work well since it's only one day a week when I run such long distances. I also might try using a sports nutritionist for a more specific training nutrition. And find someone to do body fat testing. My gym for some dumb reason doesn't have any calipers or body comp scales...
I'm training for a half marathon, and what has worked well for me is a bit of calorie cycling. Calories stay controlled all week, but on Saturday I do my long run in the morning, burning about 1,000 cal, then I eat up to 1,000 more than my regular range over the rest of the day, depending on how hungry I am. I think this keeps the muscles fed after the big energy expenditure, and I have been losing about a pound a week since doing this.
As a regular hiker and backpacker, I am very aware of how the combination of long distances and substantial elevation gains can lead to very high calorie burn figures.
There are a couple of issues here.
1. There is your nutrition needs for the race/long training run itself. The body has reserves of about 2000 calories of usable energy, and a mountain run of 19K is probably going to burn close to that figure. If you exhaust those energy reserves, then you will find your performance dropping off very substantially, as the body can convert fat to energy only slowly. Marathon runners call this "hitting the wall". So you should aim at avoiding depleting your reserves that deeply. Many marathon resources provide a lot more detail on this, but broadly, they fall in three broad categories * pre-race nutrition, and carb-loading before the event to ensure your reserves are at their maximum. * topping up your reserves during the race through simple carbs (much faster to digest). Energy drinks are one source, many runners carry things like jelly beans, etc. * Increasing your VO2 Max (which allows your body to convert fat to energy faster) through including High Intensity Interval Training as part of your overall training program.
2. Your longer term nutrition needs. It is difficult to train effectively for a long endurance event while simultaneously running a substantial calorie deficit to lose weight, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, your energy reserves (as discussed above) may not be fully replenished between training session. Secondly, when running a large calorie deficit, the body tends to burn protein for energy, and there is not enough protein available to repair/strengthen muscles and tendons to improve performance.
To train effectively, you should be aiming at a much smaller calorie deficit - say around 0.5 lbs per week.
The body can naturally fluctuate by several pounds from day to day due to changes in hydration level changes. I would pay next to no attention to short term changes in the scale to assess changes in body fat.
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While I am not a dietitian or nutritionist, my suggestion is to find a sports dietitian who you can work with. SparkPeople is a great site for those looking to lose weight through general nutrition and exercise, however, when it comes to more specific dietary requirements for an endurance athlete you may need to have more one on one help.
My take is that losing weight during intense training is not the time to do so. The reason, your body is going to require a lot of calories not only to fuel your workouts but to maintain proper muscle repair and recovery, not to mention helping diminish inflammation while fighting off illness. When the body is trying too hard to do all that and then you are short-changing your calories (which means you will be short-changing your nutrients) something is going to give...it could be a greater injury potential, more susceptibility to illness, slower recovery and even a drop in your performance.
I am in the 15th week of a grueling 20 week marathon training and I am eating 2000-2400 calories per day via a Sports Registered Dietitian. While I would love to drop 10 pounds, now is not the time. The reason, when you have a caloric deficit, your body is going to have to get its energy from somewhere and this doesn't always equate to fat as endurance exercise is catabolic (muscle wasting in nature), therefore adding on a bigger calorie deficit can lead to a higher loss of lean body mass. Take it from someone who found out the hard way 3 years ago when I was training for my first...I dropped 8 pounds during training, but that did not tell the whole story, I actually lost 8 pounds BUT my body fat percentage went up by 6%. The reason, I was not eating enough to support conserving my lean body mass.
This time working with a Sports RD, I have maintained my weight, however, my clothes are fitting lose and my goal is to hang onto as much lean body mass as I can.
So here is my dilemma, I'm training for a mountain run (19k) and on Sundays I have massive runs up steep trails. I burn over 1000cal easily. Next weekend I've got 2 hours and over 2000 feet of elevation to run up. That's at least 1500 calories. However I find the nutrition side of Spark difficult. Because Spark wants to smooth the calories over a whole week on heavy training days I feel really short changed on food. It's like I've already eaten those calories on non-intense days. So I have been putting 2000 calories a week into the tracker which gives me 4 X 500cal sessions, a normal 45min runs. Then on my big intense day I allow myself to eat the difference between the 500cal and what I actually burn, say 1000cal. So I get an extra 500 calories if I need them. I generally need at least 300 if not the full 500 extra calories to feel satisfied. I also use electrolyte replacements in my hydration pack so I have to account for those calories (about 300cal). I resent drinking my calories but it sure helps on hot long runs. Now to just add some more confusion to my plan, I'm not losing weight very fast or at all this week. I actually was up 300g (half a pound). I worked back across the week and I calculate that I cut over 5000 calories which if all fat would be 700g of weight loss. But I came in at +300g. Though the argument about muscle gain is appealing I doubt I gained 1kg (2.2lbs) of muscle this week while dieting. If I have then I better patent the method and start selling it!
My questions are: 1. How do people deal with nutrition on intense training days? 2. Is is common to be really hungry doing what I'm doing? 3. How slow should I expect weight loss to be during intense training? Is there some time in the future when all the training creates faster weight loss? I do strength training twice a week as well. 4. Is it a bad idea to weight myself within 24hours of an intense training session? Is there lots of water retained or something non-fat related to the weight gain? 5. What is the size difference between a fit 150lbs and an unfit 150lbs? I feel smaller, trimmer, more energetic, stronger and more powerful. Maybe I'm nothing like my old self now that I'm doing intense training.
I wish it felt better to be taking these actions. I know weight is just the effect of gravity on my body today (great quote!) but I've been between 5lbs (79.8kg to 78.1kg) for over two months now and I'm sick of it. I lost the first 10lbs in one month and now it's taking forever! I've got at least 10lbs more to go.
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