Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Chubby Triathlete Conundrum

If you are a female, a mother and a triathlete, I highly recommend Meredith Atwood's book Triathlon for Every Woman. This book is bound to inspire you, especially if you are trying to balance family, job and training. Another reason I think so many women identify with Ms. Atwood is because she is a bit on the plump side. I think this was part of Oprah's appeal…women struggling with their weight could identify with her. Oprah would lose weight, celebrate her accomplishment, and inevitably gain it all back and then some…I've done the same thing a number of times myself.

Over the last year, since I began training for and competing in triathlons, my weight has been relatively stable. This has not been without some effort. However, I expected to look like the fit and trim triathletes I've seen on TV…it didn't happen…and that's after covering almost 2,300 miles and burning 193,000 calories. If that won't get you ripped, what will?

Interestingly, Lindsey and I have had this same conversation (a number of times) concerning Ms. Atwood (aka Swim Bike Mom). Lindsey says she isn't inspired by her because of her lack of weight loss. "How can you be that size and do a full Ironman?" is always Lindsey's question…and it's a good question because honestly, I have no idea…that is, until now…

Fitness Confidential Explanation of the Chubby Triathlete

As I reported earlier, I have just started reading Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich. I didn't believe this book had anything to do with triathlons until I got to Chapter 4 "Why Calories In, Calories Out is Bullshit"… Here is a rather long excerpt from Fitness Confidential about the chubby triathlete:
Picture in your mind the type of person that completes a triathlon (he's talking about a full Ironman). I'm guessing you're visualizing a lean, muscular athlete. And, if you look at the top pros features in the magazines, you'd think that everyone who completes a triathlon looks exactly like that. 
But let's ignore them for a second. Let's look at everyone else, the people who complete the triathlon but are not in the top third. Would you agree that anyone who can complete a triathlon is in prime physical shape? Remember, you have to train hard enough to be able to swim 2.4 miles in open water, immediately followed by 112 miles on a bicycle, immediately followed by running a full 26.2 marathon. 
Anyone of these feats by themselves is heroic. Put them together and it's almost inconceivable to the average person. So, by anyone's definition, these contestants would have to be among the most fit human beings on the planet. And aerobically they might be. 
But they don't always look it. 
How do I know? Because I always stay to the end of these competitions. That's where the real human drama is. Sure, we all admire the pros who do it in record time, but what about the regular folks, the people who have trained as many hours as the pros and are in it to prove to themselves that they can do something that seems impossible? At the end of the competition, between the fifteenth and seventeenth hour, you see the true triumph of the human spirit. People who are literally willing their bodies across the finish line just to prove they can. 
I love these people. Watching them is like being in a quadruple feature of Rudy, Rocky, Something for Joey and Brian's Song. So I know what I'm talking about when I say that these folks, the back-of-the-packers, the ones with something to prove, these folks are often carrying extra weight on them. And not just a little. 
How is that possible? 
Can you imagine the amount of calories they expend training for this? Hundreds of thousands. By the pure calorie in, calorie out theory, they should all be rail thin, but they're not. So why the disparity? 
Because what the pros do and what they say they do are two different things. 
Understand this -- pros, in order to survive financially, have to have sponsorships. Gatorade, Power Bar, GU. There's no shortage of companies willing to pay them money to publicly endorse and use their products. And the pros do use their products…when the cameras are on them or the fans are around. But Gatorade and all the other sport drink companies make fundamentally the same thing: sugar water. The only thing that differentiates it from soda is carbonation. 
The pros know this. 
The same thing holds true for Power Bars and all the other sport-type bars. They're full of sugar, not to mention, in many cases, partially hydrogenated oils, which make them about as nutritious as a candy bar. Again, in public, you'll see the pros nibble but, in private, they'll try to get their carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. 
Same holds true for all the goops and sports gels that promise to give you "sustained energy." Again, they're all sugar. The pros eat them for the cameras and during long endurance events, but during training, they eat proper diets. High protein, high fat along with some carbs. 
In fact, if you ate the way the pros pretend to eat to satisfy their sponsors, you could eat healthier at an eight year old's birthday party. If you think I'm kidding, recently the Jelly Belly company started marketing "sports beans" which are just jelly beans with a few vitamins thrown in. The pros won't touch them. Why? (Guess I might as well just be eating Skittles! LOL) 
Because the pros know nothing will shut you down quicker than sugar. 
But let's get back to our amateur triathletes. They don't necessarily know all this. They drink the Gatorade, they eat the power bars and they buy into the concept of "carb-loading" where you eat nothing but pasta, bread and rice for days on end to give you "energy". They've trained like the champions and have brought themselves physically and mentally to a place where they can complete a triathlon, but their diet has left them, in some cases, heavier than when they started, in spite of the fact that they've expended hundreds of thousands of calories during their training. Usually, they themselves are baffled by their weight gain.

OK…if you want to know more…buy the book…my fingers are tired of typing.

Starting Over

After a day (or two) of over indulgence in breads, pasta and/or sweets, I get what can only be described as a sugar hang-over. Sugar is not my friend. Simple carbs bloat my belly and leave me feeling hungry. I know this. I've experienced it over and over and over…yet I keep doing the same thing!

January 1, 2014 is going to be a new start… AGAIN! First off, I've got to finish reading Fitness Confidential. After that, I'm going to examine what I eat on and off the race course.