Tip #9: Do you have to change your diet?

Obesity levels for the senior population in the U.S. are now over 40 percent. If you are a former high school/college/post-college athlete who has been on the couch for the past 20-30+ years, this series of twice-monthly tips will show you how to resume an active lifestyle.

Fortunately, numerous studies have confirmed that it is never too late to resume an active lifestyle. I will show you how to reduce your fitness age, a more reliable indicator of longevity than your BMI, by 20+ years over the next 12-24 months. You will definitely be healthier, happier, and an inspiration for your family, friends, and colleagues. What’s better than that?

Do you have to change your diet?

Probably. If you’ve been on the couch for the past 20-30+ years, you’re no longer the lean athlete of your youth. If you have any doubts, stand naked on a scale or in front of a full-length mirror.

There are federal dietary guidelines that you can look up when you have time. But here are more practical guidelines.

  • Start thinking about food as fuel.
  • Eat three balanced meals plus two snacks daily.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Eat lean meats, healthy fats, lots of veggies, and plenty of water.
  • Eat foods with the fewest ingredients.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Take fast food places off your radar.

If you have a spouse/partner/family, you may have an even bigger challenge because your diet change may require a wholesale change in their diets as well. Or, you’ll have to learn how to prepare your own meals.

How many calories do you need daily? The recommendation for a competitive endurance athlete is a minimum of 1,800 calories. Use an online food diary, like MyFitnessPal, to determine your actual daily calorie intake. You may be in for quite a shock when you learn that your favorite meal at a restaurant or fast food place contains 2,000-3,000+ calories.

And don’t think that you can exercise away that kind of a meal. You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Your typical medium-intensity workout of 30-45 minutes will only burn about 200-300 calories. Multiply by four workouts per week and you’re only burning 800-1,200 calories weekly. It will take two to three weeks to exercise away that meal, assuming you don’t eat a similar one during the next two to three weeks. So, there is no secret to weight loss. Eat less and exercise more. That’s it.

Your goal should be to find a balance between diet and exercise that you can maintain for two years. Why two years? That is the time it takes for healthy eating habits to become part of your routine (lifestyle). Accept that you will suffer lapses (temptations). But, healthy choices will become more automatic the longer you continue to make them.

What have I learned?

I weighed around 150 pounds (70 inches) as a runner through high school and college. After college, I increased my distance training to 100 miles per week. My weight dropped into the 130’s, an unhealthy level that resulted in frequent food binges. It took years to regain a healthy daily weight. But it wasn’t until Tuesday, June 18, 2002, a year after I switched from running to cycling, that I started recording my daily weight in my training diary. My weight that day was 185 pounds.

My weight continued to rise over the years, despite cycling over 6,000 miles annually. On Monday, November 12, 2007, my weight had risen to 196 pounds. I did not make any significant shifts in my diet until October 21, 2013, when I was diagnosed with gluten and peanut intolerance. You can see the progress of my weight loss here: My Lifestyle. (My current weight averages in the 160’s.) It has taken me years to balance my lifestyle with my competitive cycling aspirations. But, it is not an impossible task. It basically requires an athlete’s dedication to a goal, which is the key to living an active lifestyle.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about living an active lifestyle or about your cycling goals, training, racing, or gear, I’d like to hear from you. I may address your questions in a future tip. Just drop me a note.

Tip #10 Preview: What’s the right balance of carbs, fats, and protein?