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Triathlon Training: Managing Your Appetite

  • By Triathlete.com
  • Published Jun 3, 2009
  • Updated Aug 30, 2011 at 7:33 PM UTC

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Appetite is important. It is your body’s built-in mechanism for food intake regulation. Its job is to drive you to eat enough to meet your body’s energy and micronutrient needs, and no more. The appetite mechanism works very well under normal circumstances. Obviously, it never would have survived millions of years of evolutionary testing if it did not work to the benefit of our health.

But our modern lifestyle does not constitute normal circumstances in relation to the environment in which most of our evolution took place. Consequently, our appetite cannot be entirely relied upon to ensure that we don’t overeat and get fat.

The crux of the problem is that many modern processed foods, such as cheeseburgers, are far more calorically dense than most natural foods, such as carrots. Consequently, we can eat 500 or even 1,000 calories in just a few minutes when dining on cheeseburgers compared to scarcely 100 calories in the same amount of time when snacking on carrots. Because appetite is not satisfied instantaneously when food is swallowed (there’s a lag time of 10 to 20 minutes), it’s possible to eat far more calories than you need to satisfy your appetite when consuming cheeseburgers and other such foods. In essence, the modern diet does an end run around our appetite control mechanism.

Exercise is a great way to counterbalance this problem. Exercise increases caloric usage more than it increases appetite, so when you work out regularly some of those excess calories from processed foods don’t end up being stored as belly fat. As a triathlete, therefore, you are in a better position to control your body weight than is the average couch potato, despite the manner in which our modern food environment sabotages our appetite control mechanism. However, even most triathletes struggle to reach or maintain a satisfactory body weight, which we may define as a weight that not only makes us look good but that supports optimal triathlon performance as well. A recent survey of more than 3,000 endurance athletes reported that 54 percent were dissatisfied with their current body weight. Clearly, then, there is a need for triathletes to manage their appetite and avoid excessive caloric intake too.
Following are five appetite management methods that will enable you to prevent a rumbling stomach from sabotaging your efforts to reach and maintain your optimal racing weight.

Eat a Big Breakfast

Research has shown that individuals who eat most of their calories before noon actually eat the fewest total calories over the course of the day. It seems that eating hearty in the morning reduces appetite in the afternoon and evening. In a recent Brazilian study, obese women who ate a large, 610-calorie breakfast every morning lost 21 percent of their body weight over an eight-month period, while obese women on a low-carb, small breakfast diet lost only 4.5 percent of their body weight. The women on the big breakfast diet reported less hunger and fewer cravings throughout the day.

As a general rule, try to consume eat least 25 percent of your total calories for the day within an hour of waking up. Click the #2 below for more.

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