Evidence-Based Nutrition Advice for Strength Athletes
To answer this question, we're going to look at a study published in 2011.
The aim of this study was to compare changes in :
All athletes included 4 resistance-training sessions/wk in their usual training regimen
The average amount of weight lost was 4.2kg for both groups. The fast weight loss group did it in 5.3 weeks, the slower group took 8.5 weeks.
Let's looks at some specific results now.
Changes in lean body mass:
Change in fat mass:
Changes in performance:
While both groups lost the same amount of body weight, their body composition changes were significantly different. This study suggests that slower rates of body weight reduction are better for preserving/gaining muscle mass as well as losing more body fat.
In terms of performance, we saw an increase in performance for both groups for most of the tests, as we should. These are elite athletes that are continuing to train, so improvements are expected. However, the percent increase in performance across all measures was significantly higher in the slower weight loss group.
This suggests that quick weight loss does not allow for as much athletic improvement as does slower weight loss. If your goal is to continue to improve while in a caloric deficit, you are much better off losing weight at a slower rate.
I will argue that I still think 0.7% of body weight loss per week is still a bit aggressive for most athletes, particularly strength athletes. In my experience, I start seeing a decline in performance for most people above 0.6% loss per week, and for some strength athletes, even that is too aggressive and we have to go with a more conservative 0.4% of body weight lost per week.
What have your experiences been with weight loss as an athlete? Have you seen a decrease in strength and performance?
At FFN we specialize in managing weight cuts for athletes to preserve their strength (and usually gain strength during the process). If you want expert help with your next weight cut, you can work with us here!
Author: Dr. Kristin Lander
A lifelong athlete, Kristin has competed at the international level in both weightlifting and powerlifting. She specializes in helping strength athletes reach their full potential through evidence-based nutrition methods.
Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite thing: CARBS!!!! We work with athletes to help them improve their performance in the gym as well as improve their physique (usually either fat loss or muscle gain, often both). To do both of these things at the same time we have to implement a whole lot of science; and guess what?!?! SCIENCE WORKS!!!!! We're a huge fans of giving our athletes ALL the carbs, and lucky for them, there’s a lot of evidence to support doing so. It has to be done at the appropriate times for it to be favorable for performance as well as body composition.
If you follow me us Instagram, you might know that I ask all my athletes to strive for 30% of their allotted carb intake in the 1-2 hours prior to training, and another 30% starting during training (if needed) and up to 2 hours after training. This means that 60% of your carbs will be surrounding your workouts. I call this the 30-30 rule. This is where the science comes in. Sugar is your muscles’ preferred energy source. We all know that carbs are broken down into SUGAR, hence why everyone freaked out in the 90’s and 2000’s and went on crazy low carb diets. This was favorable for body composition for the average person, but it greatly hindered athletic performance. As I was saying, your muscles prefer to use sugar as energy, especially quickly digestible sugars so that your body can do little to no digesting and use all that energy to making you a badass during training.
Ok, so that’s why I want 30% of my carbs before I train. But why on earth would I want that AFTER I train?!?!? Are you trying to make me fat?! Unused sugar gets stored as fat, according to bro-science,” I know that’s what you are thinking right now!
Short answer: NO! I mean, unless you don’t care about your recovery or if you perform as well as a wet noodle during tomorrow’s training session.
A la, this guy:
If that’s what you want, then yes, please skip the post-training carbs.
Oh what’s that? You are trying to IMPROVE your sports performance? Well yeah, then you need to learn about this sneaky little bitch of a substance called cortisol that your body likes to produce when it’s under stress. Even though training is good for your body, it still sees it as a stressor and loves to release cortisol at that time. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex (the outer portion of the adrenal gland which is situated on top of the kidneys) in response to physical and emotional stress. For athletes, this happens during training which is AWESOME because it stimulates the making of new glucose in the liver (gluconeogenisis) AND the breakdown of glycogen stored in muscle cells (glycogenolysis). On top of which, cortisol causes all the sugar that has just been created or released to be free floating in the bloodstream for easy use, due to the way cortisol inhibits insulin from bringing the glucose into the cells. Basically, this means that cortisol released during training directly provides you with more energy to train hard! Pretty awesome, right?!
The downside, is that chronically elevated cortisol lowers immune function, limits muscle recovery, decreases bone density, raises blood pressure, and causes you to retain water. Not to mention that long-term effects can cause reproductive problems, decreased testosterone, and adrenal fatigue. So, we definitely want to minimize cortisol IMMEDIATELY following training. How do we so that? By eating simple sugars (carbs) immediately following training. You also want to replenish glycogen supplies (stored sugar in your muscles) following training so that you can live to fight another day.
Here’s an example of pre and post training meals using the 30-30 rule:
Notice these are all high-glycemic carbs. Eating these away from training doesn’t go a long ways to stabilizing your blood sugar and keeping you full, but that is not the point of peri-training carbs! One last note: you want the meals surrounding your training to be low in fat to maximize uptake of the carbs and protein.
[This post contains an affiliate link. This means that when you click through to buy the product, a portion of the sale goes to me. I never recommend products I don’t use and love!]
Author: Dr. Kristin Lander
Kristin is head sports nutritionist at Fiercely Fueled and has been coaching athletes on proper nutrition for a decade, she is also an accomplished Olympic weightlifter and elite powerlifter.
Using the most current nutrition research and years of experience as athletes ourselves, FFN coaches will give you the tools you need to succeed and never feel held back by your nutrition or recovery again.
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