Eating better but gaining weight

Hi, Im new to the forum. I am getting older, and realized I can no longer rely on youth to maintain my speed. Over the last few months I have been listening to the podcast, reading the endurance diet, and other resources. I feel like I have fallen into the category discussed where I dont fuel enough on the bike, and have probably lived in a calorie deficit for the past several years off and on depending on my riding schedule. Ive noticed some weight gain, problems sleeping, overall lack of motivation. I started tracking calories in my fitness pal, and would often eat around 1500-2000 calories, and a 1.5-2 hour ride each day is quite common in the summer months. Im usually around 140lbs in the summer, and usually bump up to around 145 in the winter. Anyway, for the last 2 months I have been really focusing on getting enough calories on my indoor rides, and my off the bike nutrition has consistently been around 1800 calories. Ive been really eating clean off the bike. Lots of chicken, veggies, rice, oatmeal, protein. The positives are that I am sleeping really good again, Ive got more energy through the day, my bike rides have felt great, and holding a fairly good ftp for me of around 260 this time of year. The big concern I have is that I have put on a fair amount of extra weight up to 152lbs over the last 2 months. Part of me feels like my body is getting adjusted to the new calories, and over the next couple months my weight will settle back down a bit to the 145 range, or Ill stay a bit heavier, but add some muscle? Do you think that I am on the right track, do I need to cut back calories off the bike while maintaining on the bike calories, or try something else completely? Any advice or tips would be appreciated.

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Hi,
Possible solutions (sometimes same issue, 46 y.o):

  • Consume 50% of calories burned during exercise, this helps reduce post-exercise hunger. If you do 1-2 hours of endurance training, then consume about 30% of the burned calories (while exercising)
  • Change the amount of macros so that protein is somewhere around 30% of the macros consumed (e.g. 50% carbohydrates, 20% fat and 30% protein)
  • If it’s a rest day, don’t consume more calories than the daily norm prescribes. Do not consume significantly fewer calories that day, otherwise you will eat more the next day
  • Consume a protein shake before going to bed, it helps burn calories while you sleep
  • Keep in mind that the body has to get used to the load, so a temporary weight gain is perfectly fine
  • If you have home scale that measures body composition, focus on reducing fat, not losing pounds. The main mistake is to try to lose weight, not fat mass
  • no alco :slight_smile:
  • focus on the good feeling
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Seems like you might just be fueling properly for the first time and adding muscle! If you feel good I wouldn’t risk it all to lose a fairly small amount of weight.

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I noticed a few things when reading your post:

  • Your overall calorie intake seems very low. 1,500–2,000 calories covers the basal metabolic rate of an adult of your weight. At the lower end, it likely wouldn’t! Even 1,800 kCal just cover your basal metabolic rate, but not exercise. A 2-hour outdoor ride at endurance pace (relative to your FTP) can easily add 1,500 kCal as well.
  • Your self-reported symptoms, lack of motivation, problems sleeping, are also indicative of a lack of calories.
  • You only seem to be tracking weight, but not body composition. Big red flag. At your body weight and given the amount of sports you do, it is extremely unlikely that you are gaining fat mass.

Here is what I would advise:

  • Focus on performance and not weight. Higher weight ≠ bad. You might gain muscle or you might gain weight until you are an overall healthier human being. As long as you stay active, I don’t think you will be in danger of being overweight.
  • Stop tracking weight only. For athletes that are not obese (and you are not), you need to measure body fat to put these numbers into context. Look at trends, i. e. averages, rather than daily numbers.
  • Re-double your effort to get your on-the-bike nutrition dialed. Aim for 80–100 g/h, no matter if this is an endurance ride or a hard VO2max day. Fuel your rides.
  • Learn to eat intuitively, i. e. don’t use fixed portion sizes in recipes. For athletes that is useless as our caloric needs depend on the workouts that we have been doing lately.
  • Do not cut back on rest days. Let me repeat that: do not cut back on rest days.
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It is a bit difficult to give advice with the information you gave.

For example the recent increase in weight is a result of eating more calories than you were burning. And being older and if not lifting weights, this weight gain will probably mostly have been body fat. But if this is a good thing or not totally depends on where you are in your body fat%.

In general, if you weight stabilizes again and you feel good and are training hard, there should not be too much worries.

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@gibsonval I’m paranoid about weight change but reading your post instantly puts my mind at rest. So you’ve gained a little weight in muscles (nothing really, your body will fluctuate by a few pounds during the day anyway!) and you feel great, sleeping well and performing well for it there’s no need to worry any further and it certainly isn’t worth risking those positives for a few pounds.

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.

???
Is that supposed to be some gotcha moment? Otherwise I don’t get it.

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Just found it funny that you are totally rigid with what you eat on the bike and then totally flexible for what you eat off the bike.

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Well I have the same problem as OP really, although a few years down the line. I’ve had a really bad relationship with food for most my life - used to be fat until my early 30s, then started training and racing while dropping from 110kg to 70kg in approx 2-3 years. I’m 189cm/6ft2 so was really skinny at 70kg and my weight would yoyo back and forth all the time (70kg in race shape to 78kg in the winter/holidays).

With all the recent focus on better nutrition I kind of followed all the advice already mentioned by others above - I fuel all my workouts, eat well off the bike, pretty clean-ish, sleep and recovery sorted out etc. Also added strength training. The thing is, my weight just went up to 81kg and stays there - I think the first time in my life I have a stable weight that fluctuates by just +/- 1 kg regardless of time of the year.

I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by dieting again and going into the vicious cycle of weight loss and gain but I sure do miss the time I could just launch myself up a hill. I’m getting close to hitting the same power numbers I used to be at 5 years ago, but 330W at 81kg is a completely different ball game than at 70kg.

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I’ve been trying to bite my tongue hard but a few of us locally have reached the same conclusion- that fuelling every ride with such stupidly high amounts of sugar is not only not necessary but actually detrimental to Z2 endurance performance.

Having now done a few months fuelling everything (+10lbs!); a few months fuelling nothing (-12lbs!) and a few months being very cautious- going forward, I will ONLY still fuel with 90-120g/h when I’m expecting to burn over 1000kj an hour.

Otherwise it will be 30-60g/h for Tempo-Threshold and 0-30g for Z1/2.

Just. Eat. Plenty. Of. Real. Food.

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I have also a bad relationship to food. i am always trying to keep my weight down to race weight.
which is 75kg on 186cm. i am currently on 78-80kg but hitting the gym hard in the winter months. so it is just normal to have a few kgs more. i am also supplemeting creatin for better health gains overall.
my recovery is good and i am sleeping well. my diet is mainly clean and pleny of real food.

BUT my power is the same as with 74-75kg. so everday there is the deal with the devil in my head “drop weight” . i know i should ignore this and be happy that i was never sick the last years… can ride over 20k kilometers per year.
sadly its not that easy and i could not get rid of these dropping weight mindset.

so sometimes i restrict too much kcals and after a few days my hunger goes through the roove. then it happens that i binge on shit food which i can not decline in that specific moment.

so i know how you are feeling guys and i hope we get through this somehow together.

to note: i fuel my z2 rides 40-60g and hard stuff 70-100g (especially over 4-5h)
after that i do not have any binges.

the binges happens on rest days when i restrict my self to eat becuase i didnt do anything.

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Thanks for the insights! I feel like I have incorporated a lot of this into my new system, but definitely some things to play around with. Im really liking my new energy, and ability to sleep, so dont want to mess with that too much. I just feel like Im gaining the wrong weight somehow right now, at least in my mind.

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This is great! Thanks for the tips. I probably need to figure a better way to measure body composition. Im going off weight, and I feel like Im gaining fat. Hard to say, but totally mental. I havent been necessarily limiting my calories, but tracking them to get an idea of where I am. Ive been eating non processed foods, and eating till I feel satisfied, and filling snacks with fruit or an occasional protien bar/drink. Ive just been tracking it to see where I end up at the end of the day. Seems like Im usually in the 1800 calorie area for my base, then If I have an hour planned on the bike at a moderate effort I am usually around 500 calories, so I try to get a few extra calories in before my ride, and then a few more calories in after my ride with dinner to get that 500 back. I hope that makes sense. It could be totally flawed in the way Im doing it, but I had to start somewhere. On rest days Im confused, I just eat my “normal”, which is in the 1800 range, I just dont try and get that extra bit in me to cover the workout. Are you saying to add a bit in? Any easy ways to track body composition? Thanks for the insight! Super helpful!

You perfectly described what I fear is going to happen this summer. Normal weight of 140, and a higher summer ftp made me pretty quick up the hills. Where I mostly mtb its a big deal. If my weight stabilizes at say 155, but my ftp doesnt increase that extra bit Im gonna be slow. Maybe all the other benefits are worth it through, but in general I do feel large, like it isnt muscle weight, but fat weight, and Im hoping its just my body adapting to the extra calories, and having enough to fuel the rides, so Its packing things away for a rainy day so to speak, and if that day doesnt come it will let the extra weight go? Probably just a dream, but this is my hope.

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This is really what I am trying to do, but I think habitually I eat less than I should, so Its a bit of a struggle to eat more at the moment. I dont think I am eating extra sugars for my hour long efforts, but rather trying to increase my lunch portion, or have a couple extra snacks to fill the extra calories Id burn on the bike. Those snacks are usually fruit, nuts, or an occasional protein bar/drink. Not necessarily eating on the bike to get those calories back, just fitting it in through the day with my “real” food. Im doing my best to stay non processed, and doing a lot of cooking Sunday to have good lunches for the week. Im in the same boat as you. +10lbs

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Without info about body composition you can’t come to any meaningful conclusions here.

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Any good ideas on how to measure composition easier? Im just going off how I feel, and I feel fat, not extra strong:)

Dexa
Calipers
Garmin Scale
w/kg
… try googling??

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To my mind, the ethos perpetuated in this ‘fuel everything’ trend is kind of the worst way to go about it. Because, if you are wanting to cut some weight, and you eat a ton of kcals of sugar on the bike, you have to then modify your meals and eat less healthy food off the bike.
And be the ‘diet guy’.
And weigh every last sandwich.
And restrict yourself when you ought to be getting a load of protein in and… etc :sleeping:

Also, I think for me, when I’m in an exercising state on low intensity rides, I’m sooooo very good at absorbing glucose and fructose (rubbish diet since I was about 8 years old so a lifetime’s worth of gut transporters) that I’m getting 100% of that energy into my blood. Whereas people who have been eating much healthily forever may only be getting 60-70% of that energy.
We know you need to ‘train your gut’ to absorb massive amounts of carbs therefore it figures that not everyone gets the same percentage benefit of the 80,90,100g of carbs entering the mouth.

If fuelling low intensity exercise leads to weight gain for you then it’s probably a good sign you are already well adapted and can a) fuel less and b) really get the performance gains of high carb intake but keep it for when you absolutely need it.

/Broscience