Fat Loss for Triathlete’s


Becoming a strong, lean athlete is a major part of the performance puzzle when it comes to endurance performance. Traditional advice tended to focus on the eat less, move more message but here at Tribal, we like to work out what is most healthful and what REALLY works and then share the love…

Clear out the cupboards. Most of us have foods that we find irresistible, it is an evolutional necessity to eat when food is available or when there is ripe fruit on the tree – Unfortunately, the glut of calories and food availability in the 21st century does not mimic our hunter-gatherer past, the more colourful the wrapper, the more it talks to our brain and says you must consume me, it’s a matter of life or death, just a very different life or death to what it was for our ancestors – So, the easiest way to deal with this completely normal reaction is to not keep convenience, refined carbohydrate foods in the house.


The sensations that trigger the need to grab at food mindlessly come on fast and strike. During the short term, put obstacles in the way (i.e. not having them easily available) of your cravings. On the note of aligning with our ancestry…

Practice fasting. It wasn’t part of our ancestors day to sit down every 2 to 3 hours to feed- instead we would have eaten when we felt the need and when food was available. The metabolic distortion caused by 21st living fuels this need for regular feeding and reliance upon stimulants and sugar pick ups. As your body becomes healthier, you have less inflammation, stable blood sugars; a reliable source of fuel in your fat stores and less reliance upon regular feeding to, apparently, keep your energy up.

When fat adapted and healthy, to miss the occasional meal only has beneficial affects on the body- giving your digestive system a rest and allowing energy to be distributed to other essential bodily functions. In the short term, you may find this difficult- when starting out schedule regular small meals with the appropriate macronutrient ratios discussed below and progress to leaving more space between each meal- here’s the important thing- when your hungry, eat. Here’s how to do it….

Eat Real Food. If you don’t recognise the ingredients on the label, it’s probably best to avoid the food or non-food, whatever’s more appropriate. What’s left?? Here’s a list-

  • Unknown-2
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Fish/seafood
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Healthful fats and oils (butter, ghee, olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

Watch what you drink. Careful of liquid sources of sugar, artificial sweeteners and stimulants (unless it’s a home-made soup, bone broth or a good quality protein shake). Avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks, sports drinks and diet drinks. Refresh yourself with water, quality coffee and teas. I like to add a teaspoon of coconut oil to a fresh ginger tea- you have to try this, it’s awesome…


Don’t follow a low-fat diet. Again, traditional thinking turned fat into the baddie of healthy eating. It’s nine calories per gram, which makes it an obvious one to avoid, right? Not necessarily…. Research has shown that a low carb/high fat approach is beneficial to fat loss (1), which leads us neatly onto…

Eat healthy fats. The healthy fats are natural fats – cook with coconut oil, butter and ghee, use olive oil in dressings, put butter on your cooked greens, and add avocados, nuts, seeds and olives to your big salads. You can also supplement with a fermented cod liver oil supplement to provide much needed A, D, E and K vitamins and promote a health PUFA ratio (see below).

Avoid unhealthy fats. All trans-fats and the man-made fats, such as margarine. Vegetable oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and many go through intense processing and chemical filtration, avoid these too and choose to stick to the fat sources from the paragraph above. Please note, all processed food containing fat, contain the cheaper vegetable oils and therefore high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Balance your Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios. Thanks to the proliferation of vegetable oils in the last 100 or so years, most of us get too much omega 6 fats, compared to omega 3’s (2). Omega 6 fats are derived from seeds; therefore they are found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils – whilst Omega 3s can be found in oily fish, grass-fed meat and pastured hens’ eggs. Steer clear of vegetable oils (apart from olive), and moderate your nut and seed intake.


Up your protein intake, if necessary. Protein has a higher satiety effect than the other macronutrients (3) and eating a higher-protein diet will help you maintain your lean mass whilst dropping body fat. As an active individual aiming to maintain muscle mass whilst leaning up the target is 1.5-2.2g per kg of body weight.

Eat plants, not grains. Grains are not nutrient dense and many people find they can be difficult to digest. Vegetables and fruit, on the other hand, are easy to digest and good for you when combined with high quality proteins and fat. A meal example could be oily fish with a baby spinach salad and olive oil dressing, or cooked chicken legs, home made guacamole and roasted mediterranean vegetables.


Eat a variety of nutritious vegetables choosing to vary your colours as much as possible. Each colour will provide you with different nutrients and the ones packing some serious anti-oxidant rich punch include dark green leafies and dark berries and cherries.

Consider glycaemic load. Consider the Glycaemic Load of your carbohydrate choices, keeping insulin levels in check will do wonders for managing your energy, fuel choice and dropping your body fat levels- Understand the difference between below ground starches and above ground leafy vegetables on your insulin levels, whilst insulin levels are balanced, your using fat as fuel.

At Tribal we believe that your body composition changes should be made out of season when you can appropriately mange your energy expenditure without the need to carb up with starches post training.

Prioritise strength training. ‘The indestructible Triathlete’ is Tribal’s strength training offering and we detail in here schemes and exercises that are appropriate for when you are looking to lean up, the priority when leaning up is to maintain your healthy lean mass and produce an optimal hormonal response to training, therefore we are looking for improvements at the muscular level rather than in the neural system as would be the priority closer to competition, another good reason to change your body composition away from racing season.


Please note- technique and form is the priority when strength training.

Sleep like your life depends upon it, it does. Sleep is a crucial and often neglected part of fat loss. If you are missing out on sleep, this decreases your insulin sensitivity which makes it harder for insulin to move the glucose from your blood into cells and instead it is moved into your fat stores. A lack of sleep will also impact upon your hunger and satiation hormones, ghrelin and leptin (4) meaning you are more likely to feel hungry the next day, on this note, this study suggests that less than 6 hours sleep a night leads to pre-diabetes (5), not a recipe for multi sport or body composition success.

Become aware of your need for autonomic nervous system balance. Your nervous system has two branches, the sympathetic fight-or-flight branch that protects us from attack and your parasympathetic nervous system concerned with nourishing, healing, elimination and regeneration of the body. The parasympathetic branch is somewhat more anabolic, or concerned with rebuilding the body.


Failure to find balance between these two branches normally manifests as being sympathetic dominant, feeling adrenalised or rushy and then tired but wired as you move through your day- another symptom of this sympathetic dominance is a distortion of your metabolic processes to choose sugar, rather than fat as your primary fuel- If you want to prioritise fat utilisation you need to balance these two branches by including parasympathetic activities and interventions into your day- deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi and supplementing magnesium can be great ways of doing this- here’s a great way of supplementing magnesium…

Take Epsom salt baths. Soaking in a hot bath containing 500g of Epsom Salts 3 x a week will really help with maintaining adequate magnesium levels and help you wind down come the evening when your parasympathetic nervous system should be dominant.

Remember, you are all-unique and have very individual needs, it is Tribals’ priority to always have your needs put first- we care and want you to succeed, these guidelines are exactly that- a guide. Would love you to join us on the inside to really help you drill down on how to make you the accomplished life and tri athlete you deserve to be.

Here’s a few of the links used-

(1)   Low-carb diets may beat low-fat options for weight loss. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/09/01/us-carbon-fat-study-idUKKBN0GW33P20140901

(2)   The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

(3)   Thermic response to isoenergetic protein, carbohydrate or fat meals in lean and obese subjects.


(4)   Sleep more, weigh less


(5)   Study Shows Increased Risk for People Who Get Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep a Night




Paul Roberts