Even if you train hard and right, you still might be carrying around a few extra pounds, which could be slowing you down just enough to impact your performance. Shedding that weight the right way will enhance your training efforts without compromising lean body mass or resulting in muscle loss.
Fuel your muscles
If you eat to fuel your muscles first and drop body fat second, you're on the right track. Many athletes looking to lose weight drop too many calories from their diets too fast. This eats up muscle mass.
Drop no more than 500 to 1,000 calories per day. This will help you lose one or two pounds of body fat per week while maintaining lean muscle. These calories are easy to drop. Just skip that 20-ounce soda and bag of chips each day, or eat grilled food instead of fried. You'll drop at least 500 calories if your fast food order is two grilled chicken sandwiches instead of a double cheeseburger, large fries and soda.
Eat on a schedule
To provide your body with consistent energy, eat a meal or snack every three to four hours throughout the day. This keeps your body in a "fuel-burning" mode. Focus on high-quality food sources such as whole grains, corn, peas, beans, fresh fruits and veggies, nonfat milk products and lean meats.
Eat one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. This ensures adequate protein intake for lean muscle mass recovery and strengthening, and will help you maintain a balanced diet. A 200-pound athlete needs 200 grams of protein a day, which could break down as follows:
4 oz. at breakfast: omelet made with 1 egg, 2 egg whites and 2 oz. of lean ham
6 oz. at lunch: turkey sub with extra meat
6 oz. at dinner: grilled sirloin
Eat well on the weekends, not just during the week. Remember, every day that you eat for muscle and not fat, your body becomes more fit.
Susan Kundrat, MS, RD, LDN, is a sports nutritionist and owner of Nutrition on the Move, Inc. She is a consultant to teams from Northwestern University, Bradley University and the University of Illinois. The author of 101 Sports Nutrition Tips, Susan is on the web at www.eatnmove.com.
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