Every year, I see my body composition change as I prepare for my peak races. But my race weight is unintentional as it is simply the weight on my body that I bring to race day.
Body composition changes can be a direct result of fueling your body properly before, during and after workouts, staying consistent with your training plan, getting good sleep and eating a healthy, balanced diet to support metabolic/energy demands throughout my season. A change in body composition does not have to require extreme approaches unless you call eating before a workout, fueling during a workout, recovering after a workout and eating a healthy diet throughout the day, extreme.
In my opinion, intentional weight loss strategy like don't eat these foods, don't eat more than this many carbohydrates, fast before workouts or consume less than this many calories during long workouts are unhealthy for athletes. I believe that weight/body changes can occur naturally as a result of making sure that athletes properly fuel and nourish their body at all times.
And guess what, with this approach performance improvements happen naturally as well.
It is important to understand that body composition or weight changes may not be ideal for every athlete and above all, the strategies that athletes employ to change body composition may increase the risk for eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.
Athletes are already known to demonstrate extreme behaviors to improve performance so it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that many athletes see extreme eating behaviors as "normal".
Do you have a healthy relationship with food?
-Avoiding certain foods termed "bad" like dairy, legumes, nuts and grains
-High fat diets
-Calorie deprivation during workouts
Hmmmm. Those habits sure resemble the habits of dieters who seek rapid weight loss results:
-Skipping meals and snacks
-Avoiding certain foods
-Abiding by an off-limit food list
-Using energy drinks, energy pills or laxatives
-Extreme calorie deprivation
Let's now explore some of the primary symptoms of eating disorders:
-Intense fear of being fat
-Resistance to maintain a healthy weight
-Inability to recognize (or feel good) in a comfortable at a healthy weight
-Loss of menstrual cycle in women, cardiovascular and hormonal issues in men and women
-Distorted body image
-Feeling out of control with eating behaviors
-Lack of control around food
-Feeling ashamed by eating behaviors
-Extreme concern with body weight/image
-Obsession with calorie counting, weight control and food intake
Now I want you to imagine what happens when you take an athlete who wants to improve performance or/and change body composition, who has yet to master a healthy relationship with food, has never learned how to eat mindfully and has poor body image thoughts and now this athlete consults a professional to help improve performance and/or change body composition and that athlete.
And the professional says "I want you to workout on an empty stomach, don't consume carbohydrates during the workout, only eat x-calories per day, cut back on carbs and avoid these foods. And by following these rules you will lose weight, performance will improve and you will be healthier than ever."