How to avoid weight gain during long-distance triathlon training. Are you finding that despite all your hard work and training, you gain weight every time you train for a long-distance triathlon?

How to Avoid Weight Gain During Long Distance Triathlon Training
How to Avoid Weight Gain During Long-Distance Triathlon Training

This is a common problem that many triathletes face and can be frustrating and demotivating. However, there are several reasons why this might happen and several strategies you can employ to prevent it.

You might gain weight after a long-distance triathlon due to your body’s response to the physical stress of the race.

Your body may be holding onto extra water weight and inflammation, which can cause the scale to go up.

Additionally, you may have high levels of ghrelin in the brain that tell you you are too hungry. This article will explore these reasons in more detail and provide practical tips to help you prevent weight gain after your next long-distance triathlon.

Understanding Weight Gain in Endurance Sports

When you participate in long-distance triathlons, it is common to gain weight despite training hard and eating healthily. This weight gain can be frustrating and confusing, but it is important to understand why it happens.

In a recent study, a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet outperforms high-intensity interval training in lowering body fat.

Fluid Retention

Another reason for weight gain is fluid retention. During long-distance triathlons, your body loses a lot of fluids through sweat and respiration.

This can lead to dehydration, which causes the body to retain water. This water retention can temporarily increase weight. To prevent this, staying hydrated during training and races is important.

High Cortisol Level

High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain through several mechanisms. Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” can increase appetite and lead to cravings for unhealthy, high-calorie foods.


Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can promote fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area, by stimulating the production of insulin, which in turn can lead to increased fat accumulation.

Furthermore, high cortisol levels can slow metabolism and lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy, decreasing overall energy expenditure and contributing to weight gain.

Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can also disrupt sleep patterns, further impacting weight regulation. Overall, the effects of high cortisol levels on appetite, fat storage, metabolism, and muscle breakdown can all contribute to weight gain over time.

High Fasting Insulin Levels

High fasting insulin levels lead to weight gain because insulin is a hormone that promotes glucose storage as fat in adipose tissue.

When insulin levels are elevated, the body signals to store excess glucose as fat rather than use it for energy.

High Fating Insulin can lead to weight gain.
High FASTING Insulin Levels Lead to Weight Gain

High fasting insulin levels can also lead to increased hunger and cravings for high-calorie foods, which can contribute to overeating and weight gain.

Insulin also inhibits the breakdown of fat stores, making it more difficult for the body to utilize stored fat for energy.

High insulin levels can disrupt the body’s natural energy utilization and storage balance, leading to weight gain.

In summary, weight gain in endurance sports can be caused by muscle gain, fluid retention, high cortisol levels, and high insulin levels. Understanding these factors and taking steps to prevent excessive weight gain is important.

Nutritional Strategies for Weight Management

Balanced Diet for Triathletes

As a triathlete, it’s important to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. In a recent study, a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet outperforms high-intensity interval training in lowering body fat.

The foundation of a healthy diet is natural proteins and healthy fats. Aim to eat protein and fats first, followed by any carbohydrates. Studies have shown that protein and fats will lower post-meal glucose.

In my decades of coaching endurance athletes and through my own experience, I have found that most endurance athletes don’t consume enough protein to maintain lean mass, build muscle, and recover.

Simple Calculator for Protein Requirements

A simple calculation is to aim for at least .8 grams of protein per pound of lean mass on rest days, 1 gram per pound of lean mass with an hour to two hours of training, and 1.3 grams per pound on harder training days.

Carbohydrate Management

Carbohydrates are not essential for endurance athletes but will make you faster if you are insulin-sensitive.

The key is to increase insulin sensitivity before incorporating strategic carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can improve performance but damage the body if not used appropriately.

Should you do Keto for Endurance?

Managing your intake is important to avoid excess weight gain. Aim to consume carbohydrates primarily around your training sessions, and choose complex carbohydrates like root vegetables like sweet potatoes and fruit outside of training. Use simple sugars during training to boost performance.

Protein Intake and Timing

Protein is important for muscle recovery and growth and for weight management. To manage hunger, ghrelin, and leptin levels, divide the protein requirements into 3-6 meals daily. If you have poor hunger control, eat smaller meals more often.

Leptin and Ghrelin Graphic

Consuming protein after your training sessions can also help with muscle recovery.

Healthy Fats for Endurance

Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet and can help with endurance performance.

Choose nutritious fats, such as grass-fed beef, oily fish, pastured pork, and poultry.

Focus less on monitoring daily calorie proportions; instead, consume the natural fats in your food. Avoid incorporating additional fats unnecessarily.

Training Approaches to Prevent Weight Gain

Periodization of Training

Periodization of training and periodized nutrition divide your training into distinct blocks with different goals.

Read more about Periodized Nutrition.

This approach can help prevent weight gain by allowing your body to adapt to the increased demands of long-distance triathlon training while avoiding overtraining and injury. I

n the early stages of your training, focus on building a solid aerobic base through low-intensity, long-duration workouts.

As you progress, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your training while incorporating higher-intensity workouts, such as intervals and hill repeats. This will help you develop the strength and endurance to complete a long-distance triathlon without gaining weight.

Strength Training Benefits

In addition to your triathlon-specific training, incorporating strength training into your routine can help prevent weight gain.

Strength training increases muscle mass, increasing your metabolism and energy expenditure. This means that even when you’re not exercising, your body will burn more calories at rest.

Focus on exercises targeting major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and bench presses. Aim for two to three weekly strength training sessions to increase the weight or resistance progressively.

MAF Heart Rate Training

To mitigate high cortisol levels, spend some time in Maximum Aerobic Function Heart Rate Training (MAF) to lower cortisol. If you need speed and want to lose weight, slow down.

Recovery and Its Impact on Weight

Regarding long-distance triathlon training, recovery is just as important as the workouts. Recovery allows your body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue and significantly impacts weight management.

Importance of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for weight management and overall health. During sleep, your body produces hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. Lack of sleep can disrupt these hormones, leading to increased hunger and decreased metabolism.

To ensure you get enough sleep, aim for 7-9 hours per night. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and avoid screens for at least an hour before bed.

Active Recovery Techniques

Active recovery techniques like foam rolling and yoga can help reduce muscle soreness and improve circulation. This can lead to faster recovery and, ultimately, better weight management.

Incorporate active recovery techniques into your routine 1-2 times per week, focusing on areas that are prone to tightness and soreness.

Rest Days and Weight Maintenance

Rest days are just as important as training days regarding weight management. Taking a day off from training allows your body to rest and recharge and lower stress hormones, which can lead to improved performance and weight management.

On rest days, focus on low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. This will help keep your body active without putting too much stress on your muscles.

By prioritizing recovery, you can improve your overall health and weight management while still achieving your long-distance triathlon goals.

Hydration and Electrolyte Balance

Water Intake Guidelines

Proper hydration is essential for triathletes, especially during long-distance events. Dehydration can decrease performance and cause weight gain. Following water intake guidelines during training and competition is important to prevent this.

The general recommendation is to drink 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise and then 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes during exercise. However, individual needs may vary based on body weight, sweat rate, and environmental conditions.

To determine your personal water needs, weigh yourself before and after exercise. Drink 16-20 ounces of water for every pound lost to rehydrate. Hyponatremia, or overhydration, can be dangerous, so listen to your body’s thirst cues and avoid drinking excessive water.

Electrolytes and Weight Control

Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate fluid balance and are essential for proper muscle function. During long-distance triathlons, electrolyte imbalances can occur due to excessive sweating and can lead to weight gain.

To maintain proper electrolyte balance, consuming foods and drinks containing electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium is important.

Sports drinks and electrolyte supplements can also be beneficial during long-distance events.

Following proper hydration and electrolyte guidelines can prevent weight gain during long-distance triathlons and improve your overall performance.

Psychological Factors of Eating and Exercise

Emotional Eating

Regarding long-distance triathlons, the psychological factors of eating and exercise can significantly affect weight gain.

Emotional eating, for example, can lead to overeating and weight gain. Emotional eating is when you eat in response to your emotions rather than because you are hungry.

This can lead to eating foods that don’t meet one’s body composition or performance goals, resulting in weight gain.

It is important to identify your triggers to combat emotional eating. Are you eating because you are stressed, bored, or sad?

Once you identify your triggers, you can find healthier ways to cope with your emotions. Instead of turning to food, try walking, calling a friend, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Stress Management

Stress is another psychological factor contributing to weight gain during long-distance triathlons. When stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that can increase your appetite and lead to overeating. Additionally, stress can lead to poor food choices and a lack of motivation to exercise.

Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is important. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve mood.

Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can also be effective stress management techniques. Additionally, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced diet can help reduce stress levels.

Addressing the psychological factors of eating and exercise can prevent weight gain during long-distance triathlons. Identifying your triggers and finding healthy ways to cope with stress can also help you maintain a healthy weight and achieve your fitness goals.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Strategies

It is important to monitor your progress regularly to ensure you are on track to achieve your weight management goals during long-distance triathlon training.

This will help you identify areas where you may need to adjust your strategies and change your training plan. Here are some tips on how to monitor your progress effectively:

Tracking Tools and Apps

Using tracking tools and apps can be an effective way to monitor your progress. These tools can help you keep track of your daily food intake, exercise routines, and weight changes.

Some popular tracking tools and apps include MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, and Fitbit. These tools can help you stay motivated and focused on reaching your protein requirements. You can also use these tools to track your progress and adjust your training plan as needed.

Body Composition Analysis

Body composition analysis can be a helpful tool for monitoring progress. It can help you determine your body fat percentage, muscle mass, and overall body composition.

This information can help you adjust your training plan based on your body’s needs. For example, if you have a high body fat percentage, you may need to adjust your diet and exercise routine to focus more on fat loss.

Adjusting Goals Based on Data

As you monitor your progress, you may need to adjust your goals based on the data you collect. For example, if you are not losing weight as you expected, you may need to adjust your diet and exercise routine to create a larger calorie deficit. Alternatively, if you are losing weight too quickly, you may need to adjust your calorie intake to prevent muscle loss.

You can achieve weight management goals during long-distance triathlon training by monitoring your progress regularly and adjusting your training plan as needed. Remember to stay focused, motivated, and committed to your goals; you will see the desired results.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Many myths and misconceptions can lead you astray when it comes to long-distance triathlons and weight gain. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Myth: You need to eat a lot of carbs before the race to fuel your body. While it’s true that carbohydrates can improve performance for endurance athletes, consuming excessive amounts of carbs before a race can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Your body can only store glycogen (the stored form of carbs), and excess carbs are converted to fat and stored in your body. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet leading up to the race, with moderate carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Myth: You should eat as much as possible during the race to keep your energy up. While fueling your body during a long-distance triathlon is important, consuming excessive sugar can upset your stomach and slow you down. Your body can only absorb and utilize a certain amount of fuel per hour, so consuming more than that won’t provide any additional benefit and can lead to digestive issues. Aim to consume 50-100 calories per hour, primarily from carbohydrates.
  • Myth: You should avoid strength training to avoid gaining muscle weight. Strength training is an important part of any triathlon training program, as it helps build muscular endurance and can improve overall performance. While it’s true that muscle weighs more than fat, the benefits of strength training far outweigh any potential weight gain. Plus, building muscle can actually increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest.

Understanding and dispelling these common myths and misconceptions can help you better manage your weight during long-distance triathlon training and racing. Remember to focus on a balanced diet, fuel your body appropriately during the race, and incorporate strength training into your routine.

Resources and Professional Guidance

When preventing weight gain during long-distance triathlons, seeking professional guidance and utilizing resources can be incredibly helpful. Here are some resources and professionals you may consider consulting:

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