By Laurel-Lea Shannon
Okay, so maybe you’ve put on a few pounds over the winter. No big deal. It’s easy to do. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, not to mention hot chocolate, lattes and desserts are very appealing and easy to load up on in the cold weather. But unfortunately these foods are calorie-packed and have a high glycemic load. If you’re physically active in the winter that may not be a problem, but if you’re not, you can experience a slow, steady crawl toward weight gain.
This is how it works: your body breaks down the foods you eat into glucose, which is used for energy. Glucose not immediately used by your body is converted into glycogen for storage. That’s a good thing because it means your body can draw on those energy stores to do the things you need to do to live your life, including exercise. But here’s the clincher: excess glucose, beyond what’s needed for immediate use and storage, is converted into fat.
Too much additional fat not only slows you down on the bike and makes your jeans hard to zip up, but it isn’t good for your health either. So if you’ve put on a few pounds in the off-season you may want to start thinking now about what kind of shape you want to be come spring. Sure, you can spend the first two months of the cycling season trimming down and toning up but consider what it would be like to start off the season at your optimum weight and improve on your fitness from there. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1) Keep track: I know, I know, there’s nothing more boring than keeping a food diary. But keeping track of what you eat for just one week can give you a lot of insight about your dietary saboteurs. We all have them, those irksome calorie-packed cravings for sweets and junk food that sabotage an otherwise healthy diet. Replace your dietary saboteurs with healthy, nutrient-packed alternatives and you’ll lose weight and minimize your cravings. For example, rather than reaching for a super-sized muffin, have a handful of trail mix and half an apple.
2) Load up on vegetables and fruit (but not too much fruit): Raw vegetables, steamed vegetables and fruit are loaded with micro-nutrients that not only give you energy but help protect you from diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Eat at least one large, raw salad a day but don’t slather it with calorie-laden commercial salad dressing. That’s fattening and it’s usually made with soya oil. Instead, make your own dressing from cold-pressed olive oil. You can easily find healthy, fast and easy salad dressing recipes online.
Fruits like berries, apples and bananas are a good substitute for dessert but they’re also high in fructose, so if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t eat more than three servings of fruit a day.
3) Eat smaller more frequent meals: By eating three small but nutritionally balanced meals and a couple of snacks a day, not only do you keep your blood sugar at an optimal level and prevent energy slumps, but there’s less of a chance that you’re going to take on more calories than you can burn off between meals. Depending how active you are, aim to keep meals between 300 – 500 calories. If you get hungry between meals, have a snack. For healthy snack suggestions read, “Healthy Snacks for Less Than 180 Calories.”
4) If you have trouble losing weight you could have either a gluten sensitivity, or candidas, an overgrowth of yeast in the intestinal tract. You may want to find a doctor who practises functional medicine and get tested for those. When I found out I had a gluten sensitivity and started a gluten-free diet, I effortlessly lost weight and I’ve never gained it back. But it’s not just about the weight. Untreated gluten sensitivities and candidas can seriously compromise your health. Unexplained weight gain and an inability to lose weight can be an early symptom of other health problems. In that case, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor.
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