12/21/15

Athletes, please don't diet.



A few things are going to happen in the next few months.

In a few weeks, you will see and hear a lot of people trying to kick-start a new way of "healthy" eating in order to lose weight. People will say they are ready to get "back on track" and may say other things like "I'm going to be so good" "I'm so tired of being fat" "I ate so bad over the holidays" "I need to get beach body ready."
Sometimes, people will talk about making a lifestyle change for a health improvement.

In a few months, I can assure you that most of these people will find it difficult to maintain their "healthy" eating plan if the plan was not realistic, flexible or non-extreme.  But if the plan was extreme and strict, they will likely say "I couldn't follow it any longer," feeling like a failure (crazy how diet plans make you feel like that) and move on to the next diet plan.

But for you, the athlete, you don't need to do anything drastic and you certainly should never ever think like this.
Why?
Because your lifestyle choices keep you healthy. Even if you indulge a bit, eat too much at times or occasional stop for fast food, in general, you probably live a lifestyle that is conducive to health improvements.

But if you think like the normal population and try to diet (restrict food, mega calorie restriction, don't fuel/hydrate properly), as you advanceyour training, your body may not be as healthy as you think.

So let me remind you of one very important thing before you begin to bash your body and seek a quick fix to feel better in your skin.
First off, your body is amazing. Don't forget to thank your body every now and then. You ARE allowed to to experience a change in your body composition throughout the year and you should NOT be going into every workout seeing it as a weight loss intervention.

Secondly, in a few months, you are going to experience an increase in your training intensity and volume as you begin to prepare your body for you upcoming races. Guess what, without even trying, you will be burning more calories than you have been in the last few months and there's a good chance that if you fuel and eat according to your metabolic and health needs, your body will change naturally - without dieting!
In order to experience the performance gains that you aspire to achieve this coming season, it is critical that you stay healthy and not get injured and you can do this with a healthy diet and understanding how to fuel properly before/during/after workouts.

Only consistent quality training will take your fitness to the next level so if your body is not fueled properly, you are not going to sleep or recover well, have the motivation or energy to train, strength to keep good form or energy to tolerate your training load.
And if you aren't fueled well, you will find it hard for your body to respond well to training and get faster, stronger and more powerful (because this is what you really want, right?
I hope you aren't signing up for racing just to try to get lean???)

So in all honesty, any diet plan that you are thinking about following in a few weeks will likely increase the risk for inconsistency in training as you need a very healthy, strong and well-fueled body to tolerate all of your planned training stress.
And you DO NOT need to change your body composition in January (and even if you tried, you probably won't see results for several weeks and this may leave you frustrated, forcing you to make more extreme choices with your eating and working out).

So, if you want a change with your health, body composition, performance or quality of life, why keep doing the same things over and over and over and over again?

If you want a different result, you have to make a long-lasting change.
Respect your sport.
Respect your body.
You are an athlete.
Not an exerciser who needs to diet.

Are you ready to make that change?

No more diet plans.
No more quick fixes.
No more body bashing.
No more just getting by.

Don't you think 2016 is a great year to see what you are truly capable of achieving as an athlete AND stay healthy and strong?

If so, start thinking about how you can make 2016 great for you and your body.

If you don't know where to start with your diet in order to make sure that you are not over/under eating, that you maintain a healthy relationship with food and your body all season long and that you fuel properly to support your training load, consult with a sport RD who can help.