How I lost 24kg (53lbs) and kept it off
The question I get the most both from customers of HoldTheCarbs and my friends is about weight loss. They usually ask how I did it, how I keep the weight off and how it is possible to train at a high level and lose weight at the same time. I even get these questions from strangers since I won the Hungarian Long-Course National Triathlon Championship overall female title a few weeks ago, which is unheard of from a mother-of-3 who is an amateur athlete in the 45-49 age group.
Disclosure: I'm not a nutritionist or a dietitian, so what I'm going to talk about here is purely my personal experience, and also what theories I personally believe in regarding weight loss and which ones I don't.
To answer the question above is relatively easy. How is it possible to train hard and lose weight at the same time? It is not. That is unfortunately a scientifically proven fact that William Lunn of Southern Connecticut University brought to light with an ingenious study.
He conducted it on competitive cyclists. He divided them into four groups. Group one only dieted, group two only increased high intensity workouts, group three did neither and group four both dieted and increased exercise intensity at the same time. The performance of cyclists is measured by power output per kilogram of body weight, W/kg. The first group lost weight therefore increasing performance. The second group was able to put out more power therefore increasing performance by about the same amount as the first group. There was no change in the performance of the third group. Surprisingly there was no change in the performance of the fourth group either, because although they did lose weight, their power output proportionately decreased so the W/kg didn't change.
So what is the solution? You simply need to prioritize. Are you exercising for weight loss or performance? I started running after my third daughter was born and finished my first ever 10 km race in May 2015 in 1h 18 mins. Between 2015 and 2017 (when I completed my first Ironman) my primary goal was weight loss. I lost 20kg during this time. In 2018 I started working with a coach and performance became priority. I held my weight steady for two seasons, 2018 and 2019. In early 2020 I decided to try and drop another 5kg just to see if my run performance would increase. I got my coach on board with this and it was obvious he can't expect the same results from my workouts in these months but since we were in base training, he modified my program to help with weight loss. There is no point in doing interval training on low calorie and no carbs. The type of workouts that help with weight loss is LSD (long slow distance) runs and rides. We were happy to see that once the weight loss goal was achieved, indeed my performance significantly increased from the year before.
So what do I eat when I'm trying to lose weight? Low carb, of course! I eat a lot of HoldTheCarbs products, mostly the high protein mixes. That is how the whole line came about – there was no high protein, low carb pizza crust mix at all when I developed our mix and I LOVE pizza. I was eating it every day for lunch. I also really like the HoldTheCarbs waffles for breakfast. They freeze well, you can just pop them in the toaster in the morning.
I prefer a high protein, low carb diet as opposed to the currently very popular keto diet which is high fat, low carb. As an athlete, I need all that protein so my body doesn't take the necessary energy from my muscles but rather from my fat stores. Protein helps build muscles and more muscles burn more calories.
I found this diet very easy to follow and I think that is the secret to the extreme popularity of the keto diet as well. It is just so easy to replace your high sugar, high carb food with low carb, no sugar alternatives these days.
When I'm not trying to lose weight I just pay attention to not gain – that is the case usually during triathlon season. I weigh myself every day. I know some people advise against this, but it works well for me. This way I always see if I happen to put on 1-2 kgs for any reason and it is very easy to drop that back quickly. If I didn't weigh myself so often then there might be 4-5kg swings which are much harder to easily drop back.
During hard training periods I eat high carb high protein. When I race I try to race on carbs as much as possible and not rely on fat stores. In ultra running and ultra triathlon of course there comes a point when you have to be efficient at burning fat, but depending on the logistics of the race, up to about 15-16 hours you might be able to go on carbs only. For Ironman distance triathlons you can definitely go exclusively on carbs if the logistics of the race allow for individual nutrition. IM branded races unfortunately don't except for elite athletes, but the Hungarian championship that I won did. Then you just have to be able to efficiently burn fat and that is what eating low carb periodically helps your body learn.
My only trick to keeping my weight stable is intermittent fasting. I really like the simplicity of it. It gives me freedom because I find that it doesn't really matter what I eat during the day, if I don't eat after 4pm, I don't seem to put on any weight. It just takes the thinking out of it and I like that. The only time I divert from this is if I have a late training session because you need to eat 2 hours before a hard session to fuel it. But I don't usually start a hard session after 6pm these days anyway.
What I eat after a session depends on a few variables: how hard the session was, what time of the day I finish and how hard the session will be the next day. If I finish late and it was not a hard session and there is no hard session the next day I only drink BCAAs. Same as a protein shake but with no calories. After hard sessions especially if I need to go hard the next day, I will have a protein shake with almond milk. Depending on the training period, I might throw in some carbs (banana, beet juice) and some other nutrition like spinach, turmeric and ginger so I can keep training day after day.
This is pretty much it, all my weight loss secrets, I hope some people can get a few ideas from this and of course I'm happy to answer any questions you might have.