From the Field


Dear Podium: I’ve been training for years and overall my fitness is good. But I see my potential and realize there are a few things that are holding me back. I could probably lose 5 lbs. to boost my power to weight ratio, but the last time I went on a diet, I overdid it and ended up bonking on the second day of my 1st big stage race of the year. It was very frustrating. Anyway, if I were to eat the way I want to, I’d eat everything in sight. How can I lose these 5 lbs. and manage my diet so that it doesn’t manage me? I want to eat when I’m
stressed, and when I’m hungry, I’m stressed. It’s a vicious cycle. Can you help me keep healthy, fuel myself better and manage the stress of it all?


Dear Almost-there-but-not-quite:

Training and racing to your utmost ability takes discipline. This means having discipline to do your workouts at the right intensities, getting the right amount of sleep, and eating right. The first thing I would advise you to do is to figure out with the help of a nutritionist what your metabolic rate is on a daily basis. From there I would figure out what your percentages are for CHO, PRO and Fat and then make weekly goals for your nutrition. This can all be done easily in an Excel spreadsheet. Also, there are lots of on-line programs that you can use for this.
I would stay away from ‘diets’ and I would work on eating balanced meals at each meal. Work on cutting out the foods that tend to retain water and use all your food groups every day. Creating a routine and having nutritious foods available to you will stop you from going through hunger episodes. I like to see athletes eat many small meals during the day and avoid feeling hunger, which does increase stress levels. A good nutrition program will allow you to have something to follow, keep you organized and keep your nutrition goals attainable. I find with most athletes, that when they have a program to follow its much easier for them to reach goals nutritionally and in training and racing as well. So, get yourself organized and work on that nutrition piece of the puzzle. An engine with a full tank of gas will help you get a lot more miles on race day! Good luck!

Mike Ricci
USAT Level III Coach
Founder and Head Coach
D3 Multisport, Inc.

Dear Almost-there-but-not-quite:

Since you are already in a good state of fitness and want to lose only five pounds, it is recommended that you lose this weight slowly as you increase your training and improve your diet this season. Dieting, which implies a large versus a gentle calorie restriction, does often result in quick weight loss but also produces too much hunger, decreased energy levels, loss of lean body mass, and reduced fuel stores (the predecessor to bonking).

Weight loss does take some focus and if you are a frequent stress eater, finding other methods for handling stress is important to your success. You should take an outside look at your diet and determine where there is some room for steady improvement. Even a relatively mild energy restriction of 350 calories daily can result in a weight loss of half a pound per week. Also, this level of caloric restriction and rate of weight loss should not compromise your nutritional recovery and energy levels.

Some areas where you can improve your diet and cut back on calories include:

1. Substituting a lower calorie snack such as a piece of fruit for a higher calorie snack during periods of stress eating. A piece of fruit may contain 60 to 70 calories, whereas a candy bar has over 200 calories.

2. Looking for sources of hidden fat in your diet and making lower fat substitutions. Some foods higher in fat include many of the carbohydrate sources purchased as coffee shops such as muffins and scones, commercially baked goods such as some crackers and snack chips. You can also prepare meals with less fat to keep calories down.

3. Practicing portion control. A good place to start is to remember to keep your protein portions moderate. Even with your increased protein needs for training, it is relatively easy to obtain enough protein in your diet. Depending on your body weight, 3 to 5 or 6 ounce portions at lunch and dinner should be adequate. Protein portions served at restaurants and delis tend to be larger than needed. Endurance athletes do need ample amounts of carbohydrate for nutritional recovery, so be careful not to cut too far back on these foods.

4. Stop eating when you are comfortably hungry rather than a bit too full. Stopping just a bit short of really full at one or more meals daily can help you reduce your calorie intake without experiencing feelings of deprivation or hunger.

Eat several times daily to control hunger. This eating style often makes sense for many endurance athletes who need to eat before and after training for proper fueling and recovery. Eating snacks can also help to keep hunger under control when you are cutting back on calories, and prevent the overeating that can result from periods of too much hunger.

Remember that a 350-calorie deficit means a caloric deficit in relation to that day’s training. Some training days are more nutritionally demanding than others, so a mild calorie restriction may still warrant an intake of over 3,000 calories daily. Your calorie needs (even for weight loss) do fluctuate daily depending on the intensity and duration of your training ride and training cycle.

Start by keeping a food journal for a week. Take an honest look at your eating habits, including food choices, eating patterns, food timing, and portions. Based on this journal, choose one to two areas of your diet that warrant some improvement.

Monique Ryan, MS, RD is owner a Personal Nutrition Designs with nutrition programs for cyclists, triathletes, and runners described at She is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes from VeloPress.

Dear Almost-there-but-not-quite:

The relationship of stress to eating and food is a complicated one. Not one that I’m going to give you the answer to in 30 seconds here. But, I can get you started and focus you on employing some stress management tools you are probably not using now. I’m confident that the relationship can be modified, but picking your starting place is key.

First off, congratulate yourself on already doing a lot of really good things. Your fitness program is helping you, and, you are feeling good enough that you’re ready to take it to the next level of fitness. So pat yourself on the back. We’re ready to put a plan in place.

To begin with, let’s formalize the goal. Might I suggest: The goal is to progressively and systematically trim 2% body fat from my body mass index (approximately 5 lbs.) while simultaneously increasing and maintaining my level of fitness, power, and endurance.

Now that the goal is defined, make two columns on a sheet of paper and list resources available to you on one column, and, obstacles to achieving the goal on the next. It is likely you can gain access to a nutritionist, shopping assistance, stress management specialist, and supportive family and friends who can help you achieve your goal. In column two, hunger, stress, poor planning, inability to cook, binging behavior and others might play a role and get in the way.

Obviously, we will focus on “how” we can best utilize our support system and resources…while also identifying one or two strategies for minimizing the effect of each obstacle.

Lance Armstrong had an incredible support system. His metabolic rate was calculated daily with adjustments made for time trials, climbing and whatever fitness challenge he was facing that day. He had a nutritionist on staff to determine his protein, carb, and fat intake with various options made readily available to him. Add to that, a great chef to prepare pre-measured everything with a culinary flair and Voila! You’ve got a great set-up. His level of fitness was unquestioned and admired by all.

You don’t have that, so planning is way more important for you. Shopping is a science, and if you’ve got limited funds – this might be where you want to meet your nutritionist. Of course, never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. That will eliminate impulse buying. Plan on a couple of hours to review your normal tendencies, take the time to read the labels and get yourself into a new shopping routine. Once home, preparing pre-measured portions, planning entire meals, and calculating when and where you will make snacks accessible is key.
Have your training schedule in front of you while making these decisions. A four hour training session will serve you less well than consciously utilizing the same amount of time getting this part of the program all together.

Now for the stress hunger “gotta consume everything in sight” piece. I recommend the following:

1. Eat at the table, never standing, and avoid the TV. Keep your focus on the food, and actually “taste” every bite. Say a blessing or give thanks, or for that matter engage in a 1 minute meditation prior to eating so that you can regroup, get your focus in the “now” moment and concentrate on the meal.

2. Chew your food, 5 times, whether you need to or not. Make the “process” be the focus. Slow down so you can actually sense fullness when it is upon you. Stop when you start to feel satiated.

3. When you go out to eat, pick friends who are on your team and will support your goals. Split a meal due to the oversized portions most eateries serve. Be extra careful around alcohol as the calories can be a disaster and taste associations might get you snacking improperly.

At five pounds, you lost that weight in the first week. The idea is to maintain and build your fitness, so do not diet, it will deplete your glycogen stores and that contributes to bonking. Eat well, enjoy your food consciously, and be mindful when shopping and preparing the meal. These things should get you started. I know you will feel just great at the next level!

Dr. Stephen Walker is a sport psychologist and director of Sport Performance Associates in Boulder Colorado. He is also the editor for Podium, and contributing author.

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