ASK A TRAINER: Why am I a fat triathlete?

Dear Deanna,
As an athletic 29-year-old man, I have recently begun training for my first triathlon. I run hills intensely, ride my bike and or/swim almost every day. I have noticed that my abs have disappeared and my stomach is getting a little fat, it even shows a bit through my shirt. WTF?

Your fan, Formerly Hot Guy 
 Hello FHG,  
Thanks for the great question! This is something that I have seen happen to many of my clients, (and even myself) when they begin to do high volumes of cardiovascular training for events such as a triathlon, or half marathons. It may seem strange that when you are doing so much exercise and burning so many calories that you would start to gain body fat right?? Well, the answer could be 1 of two reasons…..A) Diet, or B) Stress hormones due to overtraining
NO matter how much cardiovascular training you are doing, if you are eating too many calories (especially carbohydrates) you will start to gain weight.  Are you eating more to compensate for these long workouts? A lot of people assume that since they ran/swam and biked for 2-3 hours, they can just eat whatever they want. This is not the case, though you will be hungrier due to the amount of energy you are expending. When I trained for my last half marathon in Hawaii in 2009, I was soooo hungry that I would get up in the middle of the night to eat. I was doing 1-3 hours of exercise a day and also gained 8lb! When I cut back and started lifting more seriously for my 2010 figure competition, my body fat dropped as I didn’t feel so hungry and was able to eat lower carbs due to less cardio training.
I will also touch on how stress can negatively impact body composition, when you are stressed (training is a form of stress on the body) and you are not taking proper rest days, eating right or sleeping enough. Stress increases cortisol levels which can lead to weight gain, especially an increase of fat in the abdominal area. Stress can take two forms: psychological and physical. Overtraining could result in one or both types of stress as in 1) fitting in the high mileage while managing work or school can give you psychological stress or 2) the high mileage can make your body “stress out” by putting all that physical pressure on it.
I hope this helps!

Deanna Harder

Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer), and Figure Competitor

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About fitbabe

Deanna Harder is a college-certified, highly knowledgeable personal trainer, with over 20 years of experience. In addition to running her own business in Edmonton, she has competed in 6 figure competitions, and is always ready for a new challenge. Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer)

2 thoughts on “ASK A TRAINER: Why am I a fat triathlete?

  1. I am floored at the amount of people who don’t understand how much diet determines how fat they are. The amount of food you eat along with your macro ratio largely determines your size and what you DO largely determines your shape. Period. This is a generalization, but I will happily stand behind it.

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