How to change your diet while training?

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  • #9182

    During intense training period I always eat tons of carbs because I want to maximize recovery times. Since I am a climber (and unfortunately a heavy one),I dont want to gain weight and I usually cut on fat to avoid getting heavier. The obvious result is that I am highly dependant on carbs. I recentley tryed to eat more fat (lot of chocolate, mayonnaise, cheese , red meat, nuts…) but for the same recovery reason I kept eating quite a lot of carbs (although less than I used to). The unfortunate and counter-productive result of this change to my diet is that I gained a few kg of fat in 2 or 3 weeks and my weight is now 87kg. That was a suprise to me since I usually get lighter during training cycles and I always had a low body fat-morphology.
    Hence here is my question: how can you, during a training cycle, eat more fat while being sure that you still eat enough carbs to maximize recovery and without getting heavier? Is it an achievable goal without the assistance of a dietetician?

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    Jason on #9193

    How low are your carbs going and What kinds of carbs? It has a huge difference. Its hard to say without knowing what your eating & how much. Carbs & Protein have 4 calories per gram while fat is over twice that at 9. (Alcohol is 7 empty calories if i recall)

    Nuts are amazingly calorie dense. Its quite easy to eat say a few handfuls of almonds and be close to 1000 calories without even realizing it. (handful +/- is 200 calories?)

    A handful of granola, especially store bought, has tons of carbs(sugars!)/calories in a small handful. Wheres as broccoli is more or less the opposite. The carbs from granola will also spike your insulin MUCH more than the broccoli would, if at all.

    Different cheeses can be highly variable as well.

    Your eating should be more stable on a fat based diet vs carbs as well. As fat should be more filling. If your used to eating incredibly high carbs your body will crave them for awhile.

    Eggs are an AMAZING source of protein/fats. Try to get free range, at least omega-3/6 fed etc. Also not sure about margarine? But actual grass fed FULL fat butter is amazing. I love it on my eggs & can never go back.

    You might need to slowly lower the carb/fat ratio? Try to do morning runs/hikes/etc fasted if possible as well.

    A typical day for me is:

    String cheese(surprising good/portable. 1 carb, 6/6 pro/fat)
    Actual heavy cream powder from a farm/no additives in coffee(amazing stuff)

    walnuts(30g) (180 cal!)
    almonds(30g) (200 cal!)

    16G of Adams natural peanut butter(peanuts+salt)
    low carb tortilla(6 net carbs)

    Salad with mixed greens. small amount of HIGH fat dressing
    turkey/chicken with above

    170g of broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
    52g hummus of some kind

    350-400g of some mixed veggies
    turkey/chicken/steak with above

    casein protein powder or 3 eggs

    Might throw in some full fat pepperoni or extra cheese on eggs at night depending if it was a long run that day, etc. Maybe cook bacon once a month and portion that out… depends!

    The day I pulled the above from had the totals below
    2,378 cal
    75g carb – 32 fiber
    120 protien
    189 fat.

    During a Base week where I’m going 25-28+ miles a week for around 4,000 calories avg daily. I’ll more or less throw in some sort of cheat meal AFTER my big hike or throw in an extra egg and/or cheese on that egg on the day of a 2 hour run/walk/deal!

    Hope that helps some!

    Anonymous on #9204

    Jason has spelled out in nice detail a workable detailed plan so allow me to add some more general guidelines to help you formulate a big picture strategy.

    1) When one is fat adapted-not so heavily reliant on carbs- one depletes them less in daily training sessions so recovery is speedier. A nice benefit which allows you to do more work and more intense work packed closer together. What is referred to as the “density” of training.
    So becoming more fat adapted should be a goal of all endurance athletes but especially ones involved in long duration events.

    2) Not all calories are the same. Fat is harder/slow to break down and requires more calories than do carbs. High blood sugar levels (caused by eating excessive carbs) spikes insulin. These excessive carbs are then stored as subcutaneous fat. The unfortunate effect you are seeing. The more refined the carbs: Sugar, Pasta, Bread for instance the more dramatic the insulin response and the more this potential fat storage problem. It is not the fat in your diet that is making you fat it is the excessive carbs, especially the refined ones.

    3) The initial fat adaption phase will usually be a struggle for those dependent on a heavy carb diet. You’ll have cravings that will derail your dietary shift. But if you can work through that period (usually over a week or two) you’ll be amazed at the changes in energy level, recovery rates and especially at how much less hungry you are.

    By the way; Chocolate is not a great source of fat because, unless it is very dark chocolate it is also full of sugar.

    I hope this helps.

    Anonymous on #9214

    Also, if you’re doing a lot of intensity, you’ll be hungrier and may over-compensate on the carb side of things. It seems quite common for people to train too hard, deplete themselves too much, over-eat to satisfy their cravings, and gain weight despite training more. A prime example is someone who takes a carb-heavy drink along for workouts less than two hours.

    After workouts, my rule of thumb is to eat when I’m hungry but avoid processed food. My go-to snack, if I have cravings, is an orange or an apple with peanut butter. If I still have cravings, I eat another one. Using real food to combat cravings doesn’t seem to add weight.

    Anonymous on #9237

    Also, how do you know that the weight you gained was fat? Unless you were measuring body composition (instead of weight), I suspect that it’s a mix of fat, glycogen, and water.

    As mentioned, fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat, but excess carbs certainly will. In addition, for every gram of carbohydrate stored as glycogen, the body typically stores 3-4g of water.

    debourgknecht1 on #9296

    Thanks for all these responses… definitiely helps!
    Makes me realize that I was still eating way too much carbs, hence the weight gain.
    I guess a good strategy for fat adaptation would be to limit carbs to a max of 100 or 150 grams/days and compensate the calorie loss with prot and fat.
    Do you guys know the minimum amount of carbs per kg of body weight recommended for endurance athletes during a training cycle?

    Robert on #9302

    You might consider getting an A1C blood test to determine if you are insulin resistant (IR) or potentially pre-diabetic. If you are then a higher fat diet may allow for better results w/r/t weight and recovery since you may be battling a genetic enzymatic profile that allows for substantial carb conversion to fat rather than glycogen. Also you may not be burning as many calories as you might think you are since basal metabolic rates (BMR) vary substantially from individual to individual and as a function of fitness.

    There is a book called “Racing Weight” that attempts to help one understand what racing weight is and how you might attain such a weight. The book is based on an “outcomes” approach where successful international-level athlete diets are analyzed and concatenated into guidance. This approach is similar to that of Seilier in understanding the efficacy of various training regimens for endurance sports. Given the paucity of quality research in the field of nutrition (and endurance physiology as it relates to establishing effective training protocols) such “outcomes” approaches are among the very few grounded, experience-based data that we have to give reasonable guidance. After over 40 years of endurance training for national and international-level competitive endurance sport (cross country skiing, cycling, mountain biking, mountain running, and ultra marathon running) I have found the guidance provided by the “outcomes” approach used in “Racing Weight” to be efficacious for me and virtually all of my fellow competitors over the years. There is a current “cult-like” trend toward low carbo high fat (LCHF) diets as being ideally suited to endurance and ultra endurance sport. Unfortunately the studies that are referenced by such proponents of the LCHF cult are inconclusive at best. Do your own background work but I think you will find substantial deficiencies in the research and much associated criticism of the published work.

    Gaining “fat adaptation” is often highly correlated with high volumes of aerobic work (preferably without significant fueling during the sessions- as noted above) and not with diet. Of course to support high volumes of aerobic work one must have a diet which provides proper levels of fuel for the work and the recovery. Often overlooked is the rest (sleep) requirement that many have difficulty satisfying. There are many dietary paths to fuel your aerobic work and no single one will work for all, but the data show that a high proportion of elite athletes subscribe to an approximate 65/20/15 percent of daily intake proportion for Carbs/Protein/Fat (the ranges can be up to about 10% in carbo and 5% in protein and fat). What exactly will work for you? You’ll have to determine that via experimentation but start with high quality foods that are as unprocessed as is feasible for pleasurable consumption.

    Robert on #9303

    Forgot to put up the recommended carbo consumption/weight as a function of training hours that is outlined in the “Racing Weight” book. The guidance is very general and should serve only as a starting point from which a carbo consumption “dialing in” can be achieved. I tend to be on the low side of these recommendations for my typical 15-20h per week training load but I know others who are on the high side for similar training loads.

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    debourgknecht1 on #9387

    Thanks Robert,
    This is very helpfull material.
    Interestingly, since I created that topic I have dramatically changed my diet. I now eat about 300g carbs/day and 120g of prot (powder proteins isolate) and almost no more fat. I can see that my body fat is going down (and the same for my upper body muscles) but I went on the balance today and the result was a staggering 89kg ! I have never been so heavy in my life, but I must say I start feeling preety light while training (hiking uphill). I think that the body weight that I am gaining is probably muscle mass in the legs. Is that a typical response to training below aerobicc treshold hiking uphill?

    Anonymous on #9397

    I would be careful with the idea of “racing weight”. I don’t think that race weight is maintainable over the long-term. My cynical take is that “race weight” is often a euphemism for “beach weight” (the weight we’d like to be at the beach with our shirts off).

    I think a more healthy approach is to think in terms of:

    * Lifestyle weight: without training or a food strategy, this is the weight we’ll gravitate to because of our habits and environment;
    * Training weight: the stable weight we’ll be because of our training, nutrition and fuel strategies;
    * Racing weight: a short-term goal weight that we can healthily achieve just in time for a goal event or competition season. But after the event or season, we need to go back up to training weight (at least) for rest and recovery.

    : If you’re gaining weight after starting endurance training, I think it’s safe to safe you’re over-fueling. It sounds to me that your carb intake is too high and your fat intake is (way) too low.

    Check out this article by Mark Allen. When I read it, I hear “protein, water, nutrients, and LOTS of fat.”

    Rebecca Dent on #9420

    Hi @debourgknecht1

    I am the Dietitian for Uphill Athlete. I just wanted to try and answer your question and provide a bit more structure. I would try to keep this whole process of dietary change as straight forward and simple as you can.

    From your initial post it sounds like you were simply just over eating on calories. When we are in a calorie surplus we can gain weight regardless of dietary composition. It is fantastic you have been trying to adjust your diet intake to match the energy demands of your training.

    As others have highlighted we are all individual due to e.g. age, fitness level, training volume and load, sport, main event goal and these will all have an influence on diet composition.

    When I start to work with any uphill athlete client when I provide custom nutrition plans I will reduce carbohydrate intake if I feel carb intake is higher than necessary to support adaptations to endurance training. I would reduce carb intake to around 150-200g / day that is approx. 2-3g/kg/bw of carbohydrate per day. Or more simply you can reduce your intake of carbohydrate on a day to day basis and just include carbohydrate in the one – two meals before a high intensity/strength/climbing session and in the meal following this session. I would also encourage carb intake in the meal/snack after a fasted session / long day on the hill. Some good tips to reduce carbohydrate is increase vegetable intake and swap portions of carbohydrate for lower carb starchy vegetables such as carrots/beets/parsnip/squash/pumpkin. This will still allow you to have a nice portion of food on your plate whilst reducing both energy and carbohydrate intake.

    What is also important is to make sure you include a source of protein at every meal, post training and pre bed (as I think some one has also highlighted). Aim for approx. 25g of protein at each meal (1 x chicken breast, salmon steak, 40z steak etc) in recovery and 30g pre bed. Protein is the most satiating of macronutrients and this will not only help with muscle recovery but also help keep you feeling full and satisfied when we reduce any foods in our diet.

    Eating fat will enhance fat oxidation but it is not a necessity to eat a high fat diet to improve performance, ultimately you need to do the endurance training to gain the physiological adaptations that will enable your body to burn more fat as a fuel source and obviously get better. Naturally when you reduce carbohydrate, to maintain weight you will increase fat intake. Increasing fat intake is absolutely fine but even eating lots of fat, if you are in an energy surplus this will cause weight gain (as you have discovered). You do not necessarily need to go all out on the low carb high fat diet to achieve your training and fitness goals, particularly if you are a climber I would certainly recommend including carbs around your climbing training and climbing performance.

    Your plate at each meal should compose of:

    – 1/2 full of vegetables (go for the green ones more so too e.g. spinach, kale, cabbage)
    – 25g of protein
    – A serving of healthy fats e.g. nuts/seeds/avocado/oily fish/olive oil/olives (you will also get some fat from your protein containing foods).
    – A small portion of nutritious carbohydrate around high intensity exercise e.g. brown rice/sweet potato/quinoa/oats (portion size will depend on energy demands/type of next training session but go with approx. one fist size amount). You can replace for lower carb options e.g. veggies/beets/parsnip/squash at other meals.

    Making these dietary changes you should also naturally start to feel a desirable adjustment in your body weight/body composition. If there is a goal weight you would like to achieve that is realistic for your climbing goal, then a safe weight loss strategy can be employed to get you to that race weight. As someone again has highlighted it is quite difficult to maintain race weight all of the time, therefore it is good to start to get used to your training weight/off season weight/racing weight variations. Our body weight adjusts naturally through out the year and it is understanding what and how brings about this change.

    In terms of your recent body weight gain, It is unlikely you have gained this much muscle mass in 2weeks (if this is since your initial post). I agree with Scott above that due to the increase in carbs it may be additional weight from water (for every 1g of carbohydrate you store in your muscles you also store approx. 1g of water). You do also in fact need some fat in your diet so cutting it out completely is not perhaps the most ideal approach. However making drastic improved changes in your diet quality will certainly have had a positive impact on how you feel. I would need to take a look at your current diet intake and training plan to determine what is really going on and what are your specific dietary needs with out trying to guess.

    I hope this has been helpful.


    hafjell on #9422

    Rebecca, thanks. Very helpful details especially the plate arrangement, and grams to size of food visualizations.
    For the 30g of protein pre-bed:
    1. Should that be consumed right before bed, ie after you’ve put on your pajamas?
    2. What would you recommend for those 30g? Is cheese ever a good source?
    3. Can smooth peanut (or any other nut) butter replace the nuts?

    Thanks again.

    Rebecca Dent on #9431

    Hi Hafjell,

    You are welcome, I am pleased you have found it helpful.

    In answer to your questions:

    1) Consume approx.30mins before bed.
    2) Caesin protein shake (simply purchase a stand alone casein protein powder, myprotein is a reputable company, inexpensive and good quality. Casein is a slow release protein (a derivative of milk, similarly as is whey and both just like milk powders/food ingredients so certainly no detriments to health). Cheese would be an ok source because it will contain casein but research has shown that 30g of casein per se support muscle recovery overnight. Also if you chose to consume 30g of protein from cheese you would need to eat 120g of cheese and it would provide nearly approx. 480calories (if using cheddar cheese). For a 30g scoop of casein powder this only provides 117calories.
    3) All kinds of nuts fine, yes by all means variety is key. Nut butters are great e.g. peanut/almond/cashew. Make sure the nut butter is a good quality one so no added sugar/palm oil/oils. The ingredients list on the nut butter should simply be nuts (and perhaps a little salt).



    hafjell on #9528

    Thanks, Rebecca, for the detailed recommendation and the source. I’ll check out myprotein.
    1. Do you recommend anything to eat along with the nut butters? I’m a Triscuit addict but have avoided them for the last ten days as I transition into training and dietary changes.
    2. Do you have a simple recovery shake for post-fasted workouts? I much prefer eating a real meal, but today, with sick kids and work, that wasn’t easy or even possible. I’ll read the Recovery posts in the forum to see if this has already been addressed.
    Thanks again. Very helpful.

    Anonymous on #9532

    I could be wrong, but:

    1) I recommend peanut butter on apple slices. It’s a tasty combination.

    2) I usually use chocolate milk for a recovery drink. It’s cheap and has a 3-4:1 carb-to-protein ratio which (I think) is the recommended amount. Things like Muscle MLK seem too protein heavy. I assume they’re geared toward bodybuilders?

    done.ponys on #9823

    I would recommend you to go to the doctor, maybe he can give you some tips. As for me, just do it slowly and i think there is wont be a problem

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