Racing Weight: Beware The Weekend Binge

Don’t reverse a week’s worth of progress over the weekend.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Dieters often dread the Monday weigh-in. On any other day they look forward to stepping on the bathroom scale in the morning. But Mondays are different. All too typically, Monday’s number is larger than Friday’s. A week’s worth of progress toward their body weight goal has been reversed over the weekend.

Studies confirm what dieters experience. A 2008 study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that men and women on a one-year weight-loss program lost weight during the workweek but not on weekends because they binged. While they succeeded in losing 8 percent of their body weight on average by the end of the year, it was estimated they would have lost almost twice as much weight if they had eaten consistently seven days a week.

The problem is not that we tend to eat more of the same foods on the weekends. Rather, we indulge in foods and drinks that we don’t consume during the week: buttered popcorn at the movie theater, a couple of cocktails with a heavy restaurant dinner, and so forth.

What makes runners and triathletes different from dieters is that they do a lot of exercise, and typically do the most exercise on Saturday and Sunday. Because they burn the most calories on the weekend, runners and triathletes often assume it’s OK for them to relax their normal dietary standards and eat whatever they feel like having. The catch is that it’s all too easy to overcompensate.

Suppose you normally run for 45 minutes on Wednesdays and 75 minutes on Saturdays. Those extra 30 minutes will burn an extra 300-400 calories, or thereabouts. Now suppose you reward yourself with a bowl of ice cream after lunch and two glasses of wine with dinner. Those indulges will add about 600 calories to your normal intake. Not good.

How can you avoid letting weekends sabotage your effort to attain your optimal racing weight? Two ways.

Be Aware

Weight management is a numbers game. To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than your body burns each day. And to do that, it’s helpful to know how many calories you’re consuming and burning. Next weekend, use online food calorie resources such as Calorieking.com and online calorie burn calculators such as Caloriesperhour.com to determine if you are in fact taking in more calories than you’re burning over the weekend. If you are, make some adjusts to your food choices to put the totals in a more favorable balance.

Spread Out Your Treats

It’s not that you can’t have the occasional treat such as a bowl of ice cream or a glass of wine. You just need to avoid packing them all into two days of the week. Research shows that the most successful weight managers eat most consistently throughout the week. To improve your dietary consistency, follow the one-in-10 rule: Allow one of every 10 foods or beverages you consume to be whatever you want, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday.

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