You won’t have failed to notice the resurgence of endurance events. There has been plenty in the news recently about incredible feats over challenging distances and terrains. There are more events and more people are doing it than ever before. The great thing is, it encourages people to get out, set personal challenges and be active.
But there are draw backs to training for endurance events. The most common is a higher susceptibility to repetitive injuries. The second, a lack of weight and fat loss.
The first is a little easier to explain. Whenever you start doing anything that involves lots of repetitive movements, you are going to encounter joint issues. For the most part, joint issues can be prevented or resolved by resting, doing mobility exercises and strength training to maintain the health of your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
The second issue…lack of weight loss & fat loss is more complicated. But in essence the problem comes down to the mental and physical ability to sustain a diet that is suited for weight loss and fat loss while doing endurance training.We have looked during earlier blogs at the subject of a diet designed to minimise insulin response being the most effective, when it comes to fat loss. We know that carbs (especially refined carbs like white bread, pasta and rice) stimulate insulin to store fat in your body. So don’t eat carbs and you are good to go right?
When you exercise, you mainly use glycogen (stored carbohydrates) as your primary energy source. And the longer you exercise the more glycogen you need. So training for endurance events requires more glycogen. This is why you will often see athletes replacing glycogen during events with carb-based gels or drinks. So when you are training for endurance events your body prepares itself by increasing your body’s glycogen storage, mainly in your muscles. In fact, it can increase your glycogen storage as much as 60%. This is great when it comes to improving your body to become more efficient at performing endurance activities. However, it is not so great, when it comes to making your body more efficient at burning fat.
We would often see that after a long hard endurance workout you crave carbs because you have completely depleted your body’s glycogen storage. You crave carb dense foods like bread and pasta because it replenishes your glycogen much quicker and get your energy back faster.
The problem in a nutshell:
▪ You train more so you can improve your endurance, but that also means increasing your glycogen storage.
▪ The bigger your glycogen storage, the more carbs your body needs to refuel.
▪ This means you have to consume more carbohydrate dense foods, which increases your insulin level.
▪ Higher insulin level equates to more fat storage.
This is why it can be the case that even though you are exercising more, it doesn’t mean that you are going to lose more fat. And that is not all…you also need to keep a couple of other things to keep in mind…
▪ Glycogen can carry up to 4 times it’s weight in water, so if your goal is to lose weight, it may be more difficult to do as well.
▪ When you increase your activity level, your appetite increases. It is very easy to over-eat and take in way more calories than you need. This will only add to your frustration of not losing weight or burning fat.
This is why, if your goal is to lose weight and burn fat as efficiently as possible, the best method is short high intensity exercise combined with a diet low in refined carbs.
However, even though endurance training is NOT the best way to lose weight or burn fat, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to pursue endurance training and burn fat at the same time. You just need to modify your training and switch to a diet low in refined carbs and moderately high in healthy fats! The transition can be challenging at first, but it is definitely doable if you put your mind to it and well worth the results once your body fully adapts.