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Off-Season - Look Good, Feel Good:
Simple Steps to a New You

By Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS

Off-season. The time to relax a little, have fun with exercise with a little less structure, and most importantly, change the way your body looks-strength training, yoga, Pilates, and of course proper nutrition. But this article isn’t about what you should eat in the off-season. It’s about how to get your body to look good and feel good in preparation for next season. Lose or gain weight. "To early to think of that", you ask? I think not. If you want to successfully change the way your body looks and how much you weigh without it having a negative impact on your triathlon training, then NOW is the time to do it.

In my previous article, I introduced the energy balance equation and all of its components. In this article, I will explain how you can successfully attain any and all of your body weight goals.

As a quick review, the energy balance equation has two sides: the energy in (made up by carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and the energy out (made up by the thermic effect of feeding, the thermic effect of physical activity, and resting metabolic rate). Resting metabolic rate (RMR) constitutes approximately 60-75% of total daily energy expenditure and for this reason is the most important component of the energy out side of the energy balance equation.

Once you have your RMR measured, you can now make a plan to achieve your body weight goals. RMR serves as the basis for body weight changes. Chances are you have not known what your metabolism was or you were one of the "lucky" ones who found one of those outdated equations that you used to estimate your RMR.

No doubt you have heard of the terms "yo-yo dieting" and "weight plateaus". These phrases are so popular in our society but why? Because, we as a society have not had access to all of the tools necessary to be successful and not "yo-yo" or hit a weight plateau. Stated another way-try balancing your checkbook without knowing how much money you are spending-it’s impossible! The same situation applies for changing how much you weigh without first knowing RMR-you have no idea how many calories you should eat and how many calories you should burn because you don’t know how many calories your body needs.

The energy balance equation is based on hard science and can be easily used to change how much you weigh. However, there is a catch-you must take personal ownership in your health and be motivated enough to WANT to make a lifestyle change, rather than a quick fix. So, if you are ready to make that change and you have the motivation, support from family and friends and the willingness to change the way your body looks, then here are the steps that you can follow to be successful:

1.  Get your RMR measured now and re-measure it when you lose or gain a significant amount of weight (usually about 5-10% of your body weight) or you hit a weight plateau where you are not losing or gaining anymore.

2.  Get the help of a health professional, ideally a registered dietitian, to help you set up your individual energy balance equation that is centered around your goals.

3.  Log the food you eat. It has been proven for years that if you write down what you eat, you will be more successful at changing your body weight.

4.  Log the exercise you do. This should be easy since you are a triathlete since chances are you are keeping a training journal anyway.

5.  Re-adjust your personal energy balance each time you get your RMR measured and it is different.

6.  If you find that you cannot do this on your own, join a program that focuses on successful behavior change that is done at your pace.

Let’s take a look at each of the components in more detail.

Get your RMR measured now and re-measure it when you lose or gain a significant amount of weight (usually about 5-10% of your body weight) or you hit a weight plateau where you are not losing or gaining anymore.

As previously mentioned, the first step in any weight management program is to get your RMR measured. RMR must be re-measured at consistent intervals throughout your program because it will decrease with a loss of body mass and vice versa. Once this occurs, you must re-adjust your energy balance to account for the new RMR measurement. This is where all other "diets" fail-they do not account for the change in RMR, which can have a significant impact on the amount of calories you should eat or the amount of calories you should burn.

Get the help of a health professional, ideally a registered dietitian, to help you set up your individual energy balance equation that is centered around your goals.

You must consult with a nutrition professional (registered dietitian) initially to determine the correct amount of calories that you should eat and burn to meet your weight goals. Be sure to keep in contact with this person because you will need to visit him/her throughout this process to re-adjust your energy balance equation. Hint-find a registered dietitian who specializes in weight management and who is also an athlete (triathlete would be best but endurance athlete will work).

Log the food you eat. It has been proven for years that if you write down what you eat, you will be more successful at changing your body weight.

You will be more successful at achieving your weight related goals if you log how much food and drink you consume, guaranteed. This is a great awareness tool. Various software programs exist that can help you accomplish this more easily than the old "pen and paper" method. The benefit to software programs is that you will be able to actually see your daily progress real time and use the software program’s food database and not have spend the time to search for this information in a calorie reference book.

Log the exercise you do. This should be easy since you are a triathlete since chances are you are keeping a training journal anyway.

The same principle applies with logging purposeful exercise as it does with food and beverage. You will be more successful if you keep track of your exercise to help you know how many calories you are burning.

Re-adjust your personal energy balance each time you get your RMR measured and it is different.

As mentioned in the first component, if the energy balance equation is not re-adjusted with each RMR measurement, it will be impossible for you to remain successful at attaining your weight related goals. For example, one 12-week weight loss study1 showed that at week 4, participants lost 8 pounds and RMR decreased by 89 calories. If the participants did not re-adjust the amount of calories they ate and expended, they would not continue to lose weight. In fact, the researchers in this study did re-adjust the energy balance equation at certain intervals and at week 12 the mean weight loss was 18 pounds with a decrease in RMR of 125 calories.

If you find that you cannot do this on your own, join a program that focuses on successful behavior change that is done at your pace.

This is one of the most important components and is often overlooked because you may want fast weight loss or weight gain without making it part of your lifestyle. I hope this is not the case and if it is, I hope that I have been able to change your mind by reading this article. This is the "magic pill" approach, which has never been proven to be successful over time. If you choose this option be sure to look for a person and/or program that will provide you the following:

  • Assessment to determine if you are ready to change and take personal ownership of your health by identifying small, incremental steps that will lead you to attaining their long-term goal

  • Identification of a support network that can be used on a daily basis to help you be successful 

  • Identification of barriers and bypasses 

  • Participation in group discussion sessions

To sum it all up, here are your success principles to focus on during your quest to looking good, feeling good, and being more comfortable with your body:

  • Use the energy balance equation as the foundation of your personal journey to look how you want to look and weigh what you want to weigh.

  • Get your RMR measured on a consistent basis to successfully re-adjust your personal energy balance equation.

  • Take control and personal ownership of your health. You have the power to change if you want to.

References: 1 Alexander, H.A., et al. Efficacy of a resting metabolic rate based energy balance prescription in a weight management program. Obesity Research, Abstract presented at Nutrition Week Conference, San Diego, California, 2002.


Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS is the Performance Director at the Colorado Center for Altitude Training and Performance (ATP Center) in Evergreen, Colorado.  The ATP Center provides training, coaching, physiological testing and nutrition services for all ages, types and abilities of endurance athletes.

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS has been a USA Triathlon certified coach since 1999 and is one of the first USA Triathlon Certified Level III Elite Coaches in the United States. He has worked with beginners to Olympians and currently specializes in working with advanced to elite athletes. Bob was on the Performance Coaching team for Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon Bronze medalist, as he served as her strength coach and sport dietitian during her journey to becoming the first United States athlete to medal in Olympic Triathlon. 

He blends his extensive education with his experience as an athlete, exercise physiologist, sports dietitian and coach to 

Bob has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a concentration in Wellness Program Management, a Master's degree in Health and Exercise Science and a second Master's degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. 

Bob is also the author of the book
Nutritional Periodization for the Endurance Athlete 

Bob can be contacted at coachbob@fuel4mance.com 

 

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