Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Training, hunger, and weight loss

I train a lot. I actually train more then I really need to for an olympic triathlon that is still 15 weeks away. I didn't want to drop my run volume too much after the half marathon and I swim more then most plans call for, since I feel I still need so much technique work. I do 9 workouts a week, the majority of which are in the hour time range. One of those is a long run and one is a long bike, both of which are nearly 2 hours.

With that much cardio, you would think I'd have no trouble at all dropping weight. Except for one thing:

I am hungry all the time.

We're talking about a legitimate hunger too. It's not a mild nagging that I know I can ignore, wait for my next snack and it will help my weight loss goals. It's more like a wild beast inside of me that starts tearing apart my insides when it's not fed enough.

Sunday I did a 15 km (9.3mi) run, with some serious hills involved. It took me about 1 hour, 45 minutes. Afterwards, I had a glass of chocolate milk (my normal recovery drink) and a giant salad. Then I headed out shopping for a few hours. I didn't bring any food along.

By the time I came home, about 3.5 hours had passed. I had a massive headache and my body felt like it was shutting down. I was feeling nauseous and weak. I needed food. Pure and simple and I hadn't given my body enough.

Now, this isn't always the case. More common is the similar hunger and poor planning (of not bringing along food) and I grab something on the go. The something on the go doesn't tend to be the best choices. While I do try to avoid cookies or pastries, it's commonly a cheese bun or a muffin. Still not the best choice.

So, my weight has not been budging.

Having said all that, I would feel pretty good about my eating habits if I didn't want to lose weight. I eat pretty well and basically balanced overall. I have a high level of activity, and I need to fuel it. Yes, my weight hasn't budged, but it also hasn't budged in the upwards direction. I've spent most of my life on a weight gain/loss yoyo, so the fact that it remains stable and I am actually eating to my needs is kind of cool.

But, I feel like I have some free speed inside of me that wants to get out. Some people spend thousands of dollars on their bike to get more carbon and shave a couple grams. I have the ability to drop a couple dozen pounds and automatically improve my bike and run.

The plan for this week? Simply to track everything I eat. I want to get a better sense of where I am in terms of my intake so that I can look at where to tweak it. I also need to find the balance of how much I can cut without negatively impacting my training. The intention is not to actually cut calories this week; just to observe.

I believe that I can continue to lose weight while training for an olympic. That may not hold true when I start training for longer events, so I better get on it now. I plan to get to a healthy weight over the next few months, and when off season hits, I'd like to figure out what my optimal weight is.


  1. Oh I am in the EXACT same situation!!! My 1st Olympic Tri is in July, so as training increases so does my hunger pains. I have decided it is either train hard and eat.....or train and have no energy trying not to eat;)
    Eat and train day we MAY slow down and lose something. Maybe;))

    Happy Training!

  2. Such a fine line--- hopefully the food journal will help you figure it all out.

  3. I don't really know for sure, but maybe you could try adding protein powder - like a whey isolatate or something - to your chocolate milk. The additional protein might help with recovery and the powders I've looked at in the stores aren't super fat or calorie heavy, as long as you check the labels.

    It might also be a good idea to talk to someone about nutrition for athletes - because that's what you are!

  4. Many, including yours truly, have challenges with body composition while training. There is a school of thought to only try to lose pounds during the so called off season. Fitzgerald's racing weight is a good read. Speaking to a RD isn't a bad idea too.

    I'm refocusing on my weight loss now too. My plan will be to separate the day into two, while training and while not training, and to manage my eating that way. Tracking is a key component (I use

    Good luck and keep us posted. Sorry for the rambling.

  5. I've got the same problem!!! I would love to get rid of 10lb or so but don't have the will power right now to do it. The really hard part comes when your exercise slows down and not your food. :)

  6. I feel exactly the same way, and I've found that I can generally only lose weight when I'm not in a training cycle because then I can scale back on the food a bit more and not feel get the symptoms you are talking about. I need the food when I am training hard. It's frustrating because you feel like you are working so hard and should be losing weight. I actually ususally end up putting on about 5 pounds when I'm training really hard....that's obviously eating more food than I need, but I am always just sooo hungry. Good luck getting it all figured out.

    Michael @