Triathlon and the Fight against Fat

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

TransformationIt’s not unusual to gain weight doing triathlons if you’re training correctly. Usually you’re doing all your cardio in Zone 2 or 3, doesn’t burn a lot as much as working in higher zones. The key to losing weight is to train your body to fuel off fat not carbs.

Carbs are touted as great for performance but IMHO it’s better for your body to be fueled by fat for endurance. (Disclaimer I’m no nutritionist I just hacked my body to lose 110 when Ironman training)
In fact, we have enough energy stored in our fat no matter how thin we are to do five Ironmans in a row.. Most carbs aren’t complex and are simple sugar. This results in a limited energy output and use for your body. It’s not your food it’s your brain. Your brain is telling you carbs because it wants sugar. You really don’t need it. You really have to retrain your brain. Seriously, you can do an Ironman on relatively little calories per hour. I did mine on about 350.

Again I’m no nutritionist, and I can only speak for me, but I literally ate less than I thought I needed on my long endurance workouts!

Hacking My Body

When I signed up for my Ironman in June 2013 I was 250 lbs. I had already slimmed down from my highest at 285 pounds in 2012. Over the next six months from June to December 1 on race day I lost 75lbs.

Yes, I was training between 20 and 30 hours a week but I kept my food intake clean – no dairy, lean meats, more veggies, no wheat and no soy and cut out sugar as much as I could. During my training I used gels, but switched more to Luna bars, real food and a drink concoction from ClifShot that was mostly for electrolytes, and sodium not carbs. In the end, I did my Ironman taking in only about 300 cal an hour on the bike! But I trained that way for 6 months! Also most of my workouts were in zone 2! I didn’t carbo load per se though I did increase my caloric intake a week before the race so I had good glycogen stores. I never starved myself I just ate to sedate and didn’t overeat just because I had a long training ride of 6-7 hours. There’s a lot if ways people have done it. The trick is to experiment in a safe way during training and document your results.

Try reading  this  to get started with understanding fueling on fat.

Go Slow to Go Fast

Hanging with my besties in China TownIt’s called the go slow to go fast method! But it also takes periodization you have to know when to train in Zone 2 and in Zone 4-5! You can’t just do Zone 2 the entire time! It gets a bit complicated which is why an expert coach can help! But you’re reprogramming your body on how to use energy! That takes some art and craft!

To TRULY get your max heart rate you need a FTP test (Functional Threshold Power). This will determine exactly when your body begins to stop using oxygen to run and start depending upon your glycogen reserves to fuel itself. Knowing your FTP will give you a point where you want to stay below. This will set your HR Zone 5 level and then you subtract from there to get your optimal Zone 2 level. Knowing this all helps with calculating what HR you want to train in that will allow you to burn fat not carbs. Ideally it’s Zone 2.

You will have different max heart rates for each leg of the race. So my max heart rate for the run, was different than the bike and was different than the swim. So I had an FTP test where you basically go as hard as you can for 20 min in each sport while your HR is measured in intervals (every 5 min or so).

But as you train, you can use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) it’s not as accurate as FTP because we tend to have bad perception on how hard we’re going but it will give you a good range. I know this is a lot of info thrown at you.

Airport ride to Playa de CarmenSo don’t stress about it. A good coach can incorporate all this in your training plan and you won’t have to think about it.

Know thy Enemy

Yes, you are fighting a war with a very, very, well-honed opponent. Your body has had millions of years of evolution to build it’s cell structure and can fight you when it comes to weight loss. I mean when I read that fat has a memory…as in the fat stored in your body remembers how to survive and will invade other cells where fat wasn’t there before when you start trying to burn it….My Lord I cried. I”m like, “My enemy is strong. Too strong.”

But like the Tzu says in the Art of War “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Making fat part of your fuel plan turns an adversary into a partner in crime.
Ovetta Happy Bike TransitionAgain HR training is good to know but don’t stress over it…especially doing sprints, unless you plan on going to Nationals. LOL. Start out with a HR monitor and just keep track of how hard your heart is working when training. The toughest part is slowing down. My coach called it “IronTurtle..” I mean literally I was riding so slow I thought I’d never make the bike cutoff for Ironman. But miraculously on race day I averaged 18 mph (minus my stops) and felt awesome for the marathon. So it really works but again it takes expert guidance sometimes to get it right. 🙂