I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
I started working with a male ultra-distance trail runner in his late 40’s in early 2021. This awesome dude does year-round high-volume training. You’d think that he’d have no trouble keeping weight off. But alas, over the past two years he’d been experiencing gradual weight gain. About 20 pounds total. He reported that he’d been watching his eating, but his weight continued to trend up.
I calculated his nutrition needs and with his training load his body needed about 3,000 calories/day.
And he was averaging about 1800 calories/day.
How do you gain weight on a 1200 calorie deficit? Well, the answer has to do with metabolic adaptation.
Yes. Our bodies our highly adaptable, including our metabolism. When the body enters into a calorie deficit, our body is really smart about finding ways to survive and will shift into a starvation response, including:
In the case of my trail runner, I put him on a reverse diet. We worked his way up to 2,800-3,000 calories/day. To eat that many calories day-in and day-out is a lot of work. It takes dedication from morning until evening to fuel your body well. And the results have been spectacular. Within the first month, he lost about 5 pounds. By the 2nd month, he’d lost 10.
The best part? He was running faster and stronger than he has in years. Partly because of the leaner body composition, but also because he’s changed his mindset and composition of his nutrition. He’s fueling for his training, not training so that he can eat more. He’s eating balanced meals and snacks from breakfast until bedtime. Adequate protein. Consistent hydration.
How is it possible for him to eat 1,000 calories more each day and lose weight? Let’s talk about it.
Shifting from under fueling to aligning your calorie intake with calorie output, the body can adapt back out of that starvation response.
So to answer the question, can you eat more without gaining weight? Yes, it’s possible. But, to achieve you need to work through this process gradually to restore that metabolic output.
It’s not a perfect process. Here are a couple other key factors that can help with success:
Are you afraid to gain weight? Don’t be. There is a balance between fueling adequately to perform well as an athlete and not see weight gain.
Do you have follow-up questions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask! Seriously, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re an endurance athlete looking to get started in having more energy and better performance while eating more, you’re in the right place. I’m so proud to be part of the journey of endurance athletes who are able to reach new levels of performance and no longer restricting their eating through my nutrition coaching program. Fill out the application and let’s talk more about where we can take your nutrition.