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Understanding Your Hunger for Weight Loss & Gain

When you better understand your own true hunger, you can better understand how to lose weight and how to pack it on to meet your goals.

This excerpt is adapted from the Introduction to The Feed Zone Cookbook by chef Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim. The Feed Zone Cookbook offers 150 athlete-friendly recipes that are simple, delicious, and easy to prepare.

How Hungry Are You?

Most of us know when we’ve had too much to eat. Most of us know when we’re hungry. The pros don’t eat their meals with a scale on the table to measure their portions. We don’t follow our athletes around with face masks or make them sleep in hermetically sealed rooms with temperature sensors to measure metabolic rate. Like you and me, pro athletes look at themselves in the mirror, twist and turn, and maybe even jump up and down a bit to see what jiggles and then wait for the narcissism or self-loathing to begin (as if it weren’t already in full bloom).

At the end of the day, your gut is the best barometer for how much to eat. As a general rule of thumb:

  • When you’re in a period when you’re not training or are training very little, it’s okay to be hungry.
  • When you are training, be a little hungry.
  • When you’re getting close to a major competition or event and when you are competing, make sure that you aren’t hungry.
  • When you are racing in any endurance sport, one of the last things you want to happen is to bonk, to hit that point where you’re out of muscle glycogen, chewing at your own flesh, totally disoriented as your blood sugar drops like the stock market in the middle of a Bernie Madoff–induced crash.

Hunger’s Reality Check

To make sure that your hunger barometer is on track, it’s also a good idea to get a body weight scale and track changes in your weight over the long haul. A scale offers consistent and objective feedback, which can help us to better understand how our training, rest, and diet affect our performance and our body.

Another good reason for a scale and frequent weighing is to understand the natural fluctuations that occur throughout the day and season. Depending upon our hydration status, there can be big peaks and valleys in our body weight. The extra power that you gain from an increase in body water always improves your power-to-weight ratio. In contrast, a drop in power caused by dehydration is not offset by the drop in weight, leading to a decrease in your power-to-weight ratio. Getting used to these daily fluctuations in your body weight allows you to gain perspective on your actual race weight rather than getting fixated on what might otherwise be a lot of noise.

Making Weight

If you are interested in losing weight, I recommend that you make it your goal to lose one pound per week. One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 Calories. This amounts to a 500-Calorie deficit each day, which means you will be going to bed a little hungry.

In the meantime, some additional things that might help the process of controlling body weight include:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Exercising before breakfast
  • Watching fat intake
  • Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to take the hunger edge off
    drinking lots of fluids or eating more bulky, high-fiber foods, which can help you feel satiated on fewer calories

The Feed Zone Cookbook offers 150 athlete-friendly recipes that are simple, delicious and easy to prepare.