Back Away From the Twinkie, Fatty!

I often encounter dietary recommendations by ‘experts’ who recommend endurance athletes focus on achieving ideal bodyweight through training alone, and not by restricting caloric intake. While this may work for a lucky few, there are many who are left dissatisfied.

Now there’s new research which points to dietary intake playing a greater role than physical activity when it comes to being lean.

Researches traveled to Tanzania and examined an indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe to document their energy expenditure and level of physical activity. Due to the tribesmen’s highly active lifestyles, researchers naturally expected that they burned more calories than the in industrialized, Western nations.

Surprisingly, after body size was taken into consideration, these tribesmen burned roughly the same quantity of calories as sedentary Westerners on a daily basis, even though they were much more active. By all accounts they should have burned more calories, but didn’t. Their resting metabolic rates apparently slowed in compensation.

The researchers concluded this points to the typical highly-processed, calorie-laden Western diet as the cause for our rapidly increasing obesity.

Our results indicate that active, “traditional” lifestyles may not protect against obesity if diets change to promote increased caloric consumption. Thus, efforts to supplement diets of healthy populations in developing regions must avoid inundating these individuals with highly-processed, energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods.

This isn’t to say that one shouldn’t lead a physically-active lifestyle. Aside from the abundant health benefits, it’s obviously part of being an endurance athlete. Rather this research indicates our bodies may adapt to high physical workloads by decreasing overall metabolic rate — in essence we get more metabolically efficient as we do more work.

While this is great for those who want to be able to cover greater distances in a shorter time, it’s not so good if you’re trying to get leaner without modifying your eating habits.   

If you’re not as lean as you realistically believe you should be, it’s time you put as much effort into eating better as you do into training. Just look at it as another form of training as your performance will undoubtedly improve.

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