As a Sports Dietitian I see many frustrated men and women who embark on a new exercise regime and despite training regularly keep gaining weight. This can be very disheartening especially if you are training for triathlon or have taken up distance running. I know from experience that when I was training for 70.3 Ironman Triathlon I was 5kg heavier than I normally weight and I can tell you it wasn’t all muscle. So why does this happen and what can you do to prevent unwanted exercise weight gain?

Increased appetite

Research has shown that prolonged cardiovascular exercise elevates the hormone Ghrelin that is responsible for increasing appetite, especially in women. Hunger and poor planning can lead to you making poor eating choices after a workout. Be organized, know what you are going to eat after your training session and throughout the day. A snack that contains whole grains and protein is the best for keeping post exercise hunger at bay.

Eating too much to compensate

You burn more calories while running than almost any other activity you can do. Unfortunately, while the energy demands of running are high, this does not mean that you can eat whatever you like after training and still expect to lose weight. I see many running, cycling, and triathlon groups meeting up after weekend training sessions and eat more calories in their breakfast burrito and large latte than they have burnt off during their session. The harder you train, the more often you’ll get hungry and the real secret is to refuel with nutrient dense, high quality foods without the extra calories.

Over estimating energy expenditure of exercise

One common mistake we all make is over estimating the amount of calories we burn during exercise. A recent study published in Journal Sports Medicine found that normal weight men and women overestimate their energy expenditure during exercise by 3-4 times the actual amount. “But I wear a heart rate monitor.” they say, research has shown that they can also overestimate energy burnt by 20% especially if you are training in the heat. My rule of thumb is cut your estimated calories burnt during exercise by ¼.

My favorite fall back post training breakfast is wholemeal toast, tomato, mushroom, spinach and poached egg with long black coffee.

What’s your favorite?

About the Author
Kelley Bright

Kelley Bright is a highly credentialed health and fitness expert who holds a Masters degree in Nutrition/Dietetics, Bachelors degree in Exercise Science and a Diploma of Naturopathy.

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