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Fat Loss/Lean Mass Progress - Need Opinions??

Sunday, August 05, 2012

First of all, I finished the foundation work on Friday - the last big project I had to do on the house!! With that and then packing to go out of town, I had 3 1/2 hours of sleep before running 16 miles on Saturday and then driving 6 hours... was exhausting!! Therefore I am taking a lot of R&R before leaving for Florida tomorrow. Feels good to have made it through a tough week.

I've been looking at my bodyfat and weight results. Since making changes about two months ago including more protein (raised to 25% of total calories), 2 strength workouts a week (bodyweight exercises only) and starting marathon training, I've gained about 5-6 lbs of lean mass and lost about 4 lbs of fat. My bodyfat % is at it's lowest of the year. I am tracking changes in a 7-day average of my weight and bodyfat #'s, which takes out the highs and lows, and has been comparable to lab testing in the past.

So, I am glad I am making progress, but to reach my goal I need fat and weight loss for sports - not lean mass gain - and that loss has been going slowly - like a half lb a week. I look better, am stronger and due to conditioning can run farther and faster than earlier this year, but the scale remains the same, whereas according to the calorie deficit I should be around 8 lbs less than I am now since I made changes mid-June. If I look at my results since early April I should actually be 13 lbs lighter.

I did not intend to gain lean mass, but that's how my body is. My friends in college used to joke that I could gain lean mass by lifting a pencil, LOL, but it would seem like it.

That being said, I don't think the lean mass gain is all muscle. Increased endurance training will cause more carb and water storage in the muscle, so some of it is probably that. However, if I don't exercise, I get thin, probably due to lack of stimulation to my muscles.

So, I'm debating about what to do? I'm considering cutting out my strength workouts, keeping my marathon training (of course) and cutting calories by another 200 or so per day - maybe cutting some protein too? My average calorie deficit over the past month has been 581 per day, so it would seem that would be adequate, but perhaps with less calories it would be easier for my body to burn off fat mass and not build lean mass?

Most sports nutrition books advise athletes not go more than a 400-500 calorie deficit per day. But, I am not seeing the type of results I want with that - meaning more fat loss and less lean mass gain.

I also wonder if my Bodymedia armband/calorie calculator could be off, though it says 90% accuracy. I have been burning an average of 2,650 calories a day. So if it is off by 10% on the high side that is 265 calories too many. That would mean my calorie deficit would have been closer to 300 a day, which would translate to the 1/2 lb lost per week. Even the automated adviser built into the program suggests I take a higher deficit per day.

However if the armband is off on the low side... meaning my actual deficit has been closer to 850 a day - cutting calories by 200 more a day could get me in trouble. A too-high deficit could explain the slow fat loss, but not really the lean mass gain, which is harder with a high calorie deficit. When I look at calorie calculators online for my activity level, it seems to be in a correct range.

I dunno - what do you think??


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I'd advise seeing a sports nutritionist/specialist. Your average GP doesn't have a lot of training in nutrition (last year my GP told me that I probably have studied nutrition more than she has -- though I use textbooks rather than the internet), so a specialist in sports medicine and nutrition would be your best bet. They're unlikely to try to push prescriptions and will hopefully have worked with other athletes in similar circumstances.

    I also agree with Stessedout27 that your insomnia could be working against you. Maybe working on an effective treatment for that will help as well. Good luck!
    2133 days ago
    I've been thinking about it and I think I am going to lower calories when I get back. Lean mass or no, there is no way with as hard as I work I should weigh the same as what I did in March. For real.
    2140 days ago
  • BOB240
    Athletes bodies do what they want!

    If you're 50 pounds overweight then counting calories is an ok first guess at what is happening. With your body if you cut calories your metabolism may compensate. i.e you may sleep longer - heart rate will drop - digestion will slow. under those circumstances it may be hard to improve. By working with low calories you may simply be hitting performance.

    My experience was only with athletes up to 1k and mostly sprint so I have no idea about real endurance training (I did a few endurance events - e.g 30 miles over hills but that was for fun).

    All coaches do this:

    1] log/test frequently. You should be going to failure about once a month in a selected set of exercises. e.g One month - deadlifts - next month = vo2 max, you probably need lactic threshold measured with a view to improvement
    2] Focus on improving one aspect of performance over any one month. Measure it to see if your training to do this has been successful.
    3] Periodize to competitive events with a years plan. ie.g fall/ winter training. At a high level we were told never to train outside the coaches plan.
    4] Recovery periods were training sessions at very low intensity rather than rest days.

    By and large this is about having a plan that adapts......

    2142 days ago
    you may want to seek advice from a professional. i think the advice that is kicking around online is often targeted at 'average' people who are not burning thousands of calories per day... perhaps a personal trainer or someone can give a bit of advice? they don't generally charge if you just have a quick question like this...
    2142 days ago
    I think it's important to remember that these rules are meant for the general population and based on averages --- some numbers higher, some lower. Guidelines that may provide the best answer for many folks may or may not work for you as an individual. I try to remember this myself when I get frustrated while doing all the right things and not getting the desired result. I'm still trying to figure out the best plan for me. I think you are going to need to continue to use trial and error approaches to figure out the best plan for you.
    2142 days ago
    I would think that with the heavy work that you did all week has caused some water gain in the muscles, esp. since you were really pushing your self. The heat also was adding water. It is only Sunday and I think you should give it a few more days to adjust to not doing any strenuous work. How are your clothes fitting? Also insomnia plays a part in not losing as well. I would adjust only to what your exercise now is going to reflect, without any reno added in.

    Best of luck dear and just give that body a good rest and you should see change.

    2143 days ago
  • LYNNA1968
    Have you recently seen your Dr for a physical? From what I've been reading (on sp of course) if you cut the calories too much and for too long your body will go into starvation mode. I hope you get your answers. Good luck!
    2143 days ago
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