Ask Stew: Diet and Weight Loss in Preparation for Hard Workouts

A food services specialist prepares the salad bar.
Spc. Deanna Mistler, a food services specialist with 215th Forward Support Battalion, prepares the salad serving line before lunch at the dining facility on Forward Operating Base Union I in Baghdad, Jan. 31, 2005. (Sgt. John Queen/U.S. Army photo)

Choosing a diet or eating plan for yourself can be as frustrating as trying to live on the cabbage diet. If you are seeking to lose weight in preparation for harder workouts, consider first focusing simply on progressing into more difficult workouts (time and intensity) and eating a normal diet.

Give the added increase in caloric expenditure a try for a few weeks. If that is not working for you, try reducing portion sizes for a few weeks. If that is not working, try a well-balanced diet that includes all of the macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) in a balanced way so that, when combined with your exercise routine, you can lose weight.

Consider the following question on weight loss and dieting:


I'm trying to lose some weight so I can get into better shape for some more intense workouts. I was looking at this diet where you cut absolutely all carbs and sugar (except vegetables and some fruits), but what do you think? The diet also says I can't even have the bread from a sandwich if I'm eating one. Sounds kind of extreme, but I'm not sure. Since I've been working out pretty intensely and eating a lot better, I've actually lost close to 10 pounds. I've lost weight, but I want to make sure I'm maximizing the amount I lose over time.

Remember that you are eating for energy to train hard as well as lose weight, so your food choices should continue to be rich in nutrients. Do not starve yourself or fail to eat a well-balanced diet. Otherwise, your lack of energy will affect your intensity and ability to train at your desired goals. Often, people group sugar, fruits and vegetables into the same category: Carbs. "Stop eating carbs!" is a common battle cry for many diets.

There are also grains, breads and pastas that are a part of that group. Limiting sugars and grains (even significantly reducing them) has shown to be helpful with weight loss. However, eliminating fruits and vegetables is not a great idea; they are rich in nutrients and will help you with energy for your training goals.

Lowering your carb intake will work to lose weight, but so will eliminating sugar. When in doubt, a big green leafy salad is a great source of nutrients that is low on calories. Mix in some tuna or grilled chicken, and you have solid forms of protein and fat (tuna).

Try this idea: I tend to eat some bread and pasta. If you take off one slice of bread of a sandwich, you cut your bread intake by 50%. Some people call this going 100% Paleo 80% of the time.

Eliminate all soda and replace it with water. If you need caffeine, replace soda with unsweetened iced tea. I have seen people lose 20 pounds in 3-4 months by only eliminating sodas.

Drink more water. Add water to your day -- all day. Sip water and try to consume 50% to 75% of your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water. A 200-pound man could get 100-150 ounces of water in a day. Regardless of weight, there is not much need to consume more than a gallon of water in a day.

Lean Down Plan: Some food options that may work well for you.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues