Often times, athletes will hit a plateau as they begin burning fewer calories with every stride or pedal, as their bodies become more efficient running at a lighter weight. From a training standpoint, then, it’s important to mix it up within your training program – hills, intervals, cross-training, and strength training will all help.
As far as nutrition and intake, it can actually be more difficult to promote fat loss during the “on-season” training than the off-season for this very reason – you need energy to train, yet you want an energy (calorie) deficit to lose weight. Doesn’t seem fair.
Overall, it’s important to distinguish Daily Nutrition from Training Nutrition. Daily nutrition, as you might guess, you eat every day. It makes up your daily portion-controlled meals and snacks, and its main goal is overall health, wellness, and achieving your desired weight. Then, on the other hand, there’s Training Nutrition. You only add this on days you train, or the night before a difficult anticipated training. It encompasses long lasting added nutrients the night before, or more efficient, easy-on-the-stomach fuel immediately before, during, and after training. The goal here? Give your body the fuel it needs to perform.
To lose weight while training:
First, eat most of your calories during the day when you are active, and keep it light in the evening. Eat healthy meals before you train, but still try to whittle down overall carbs – keep it to just 1-2 serving of carbs at meals, mostly from fruits and starchy vegetables such as peas or sweet potatoes rather than grains. Reducing carbs, especially grains, can really help with the abdominal area.
Then, don’t skimp on training fuel. For intense training or any >60 minutes, make sure you get a quick-carb pretraining snack of ~100-150 calories (a gel, a piece bread w/ 1 Tbsp. honey, a banana, ¼ cup raisins, etc.) before you ride. On easy days, you can skip the pre-training fuel in order to burn more fat and train in a fasting state (if you skip it on intense training, though, your training will suffer).
Then, during your ride, if more than 60 minutes, include Training Nutrition in the form of fluids w/ carbs and electrolytes or a combo of fluids and other sports nutrition foods such as gels). Aim for 18-24 oz. fluid, 40+ grams of carbs, 400 mg sodium, and 100-300 mg potassium per hour. If more than 3 hours training, adjust your goals to 24-32 oz. fluid, 60+ grams of carbs, 200-300 calories, 400-700 mg sodium, 100-300 mg potassium, 80-120 mg calcium, 40-60 mg magnesium per hour from the start.
After training, make sure to eat your subsequent meal as soon as possible so that you recover well. After a hard training, you should add a “dedicated training snack” around 250 calories (small smoothie, Clif bar, 8 oz. milk with 2 Tbsp. honey, etc.). You can also add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil to this snack.
Next, don’t skip the supplements. It’s important to realize that RDAs for vitamins and minerals (which is what most people shoot for), are intended for sedentary people. Since you are not sedentary, you have higher needs. Additionally, as you’re operating and training in a calorie/nutrient deficit for fat loss, you’ll likely have some holes that need to be made up by supplements. I recommend a “whole-food” type multivitamin (such as Rainbow Light), monitoring iron needs (see this article), 1000-2000 mg DHA/EPA from fish oil each day, and 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D for most athletes.
And now, to lose weight, cut down on carbs and calories in the meals after you train, especially dinner. Try going for protein, non-starchy vegetables, and a healthy fat (such as ¼ avocado or 1 Tbsp. olive oil) for dinner – no grain or other carb source. Keep it light at night. Don’t let evening hunger become a call to action as you’ve already given your body the fuel it needs to recover.
For both your weight and your energy’s sake, avoid junk foods and sugar/white grains as much as possible (except when using them during training). Unless you are actively using them while you are working out, these will zap energy and promote fat storage.
Make absolutely sure to stay hydrated every day and during training (most women should aim for 48-64 oz. /day and most men 64-80 oz./day PLUS 24-32 oz./hour training).
It sounds like a lot, I know, but with some time and preparation, you can put this altogether in a great fat-loss-while-training-strong plan. And, if you don’t want to have to put it together yourself, I can surely create a winning plan for you!