What does it take to become a bariatric athlete? High quality nutrition and regular physical exercise is where your training begins!
Making the decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle can come with many challenges, and it includes making lifelong lifestyle changes. Whether you are considering weight loss surgery in Kansas City, or you have already had surgery, it is important to note that committing to a physically active lifestyle while maintaining healthy eating is crucial for long-term success. Following surgery, weight loss may seem effortless in the first year. However, without the incorporation of physical activity, weight may return within two to three years. While weight loss will be your primary objective initially, it is important to remember that the goal is not necessarily becoming thin, but rather becoming healthy and active for improved lifelong vitality.
When beginning your journey with physical activity, it is recommended that you start out slowly. Gradually progress by starting with increasing your daily activities such as washing dishes by hand, cleaning the house, parking farther away, etc., and work your way up to cardiovascular activities until you are up to 60 minutes per day for 6 days per week. Try aerobic exercises that are low to moderate intensity, which are best for weight loss. Focus more on increasing your duration rather than intensity. When you are ready to graduate to sports training, it is highly recommended that you begin working with a trainer or coach, who will assist you in maximizing your performance while teaching you to prevent injury from occurring.
In time, you may feel the need to branch outside of your home or gym and begin to embrace more physical endurance activities such as 5Ks, triathlons, and marathons. With these commitments you might find yourself asking, “How do I fuel my new body?” Learn to prioritize food as your fuel, and find sports nutrition products that are tolerable. Recognize that as a bariatric athlete, you will not be able to eat the same volume as a non-bariatric athlete.
The goal with fueling your new body for athletic training is not to significantly increase your calories or begin “carb-loading.” The timing of replenishing your body is important, and to maximize your energy, you will only need to “top-off” during the day rather than overloading, so as not to stretch your pouch with larger meals. For the most benefit in energy and muscle restoration, you should eat carbohydrates and protein within 20 minutes after finishing your workout. Choose carbohydrates that are nutritionally valuable as well as tolerable, such as fruits, beans, and quinoa. Sports nutrition products are typically high carbohydrate and made up of simple, concentrated sugars, which could trigger dumping syndrome. More tolerable products in bariatric athletes have shown to be those with maltodextrin and chia seeds.
Dehydration, cramping, and hyponatremia can occur when not enough fluids are consumed. In addition, a great amount of fluid can be lost from sweat alone while training. Leading up to your workout, it will be important to stay hydrated throughout the day so that you assure you are going into the workout well hydrated. Continue to take small sips of water or sports drink throughout your workout as well.
To prevent sodium loss from sweating, replenishing electrolytes during or after your workout is critical. Bariatric athletes need low sugar or sugar free sports drinks, such as G2 or sugar free Powerade. Salt tabs or electrolyte tabs may be used for electrolyte replenishment, but some bariatric athletes may be more sensitive to their effervescent effects.
Adopting a physically active lifestyle and committing to an exercise program is the key to your weight loss success. Always remember that bariatric surgery is just a tool to help you maximize your weight loss. Maintaining your nutrition and activity will help you remain successful in achieving and maintaining your weight loss goals. Always follow the recommendations for nutrition and exercise that are provided to you by your surgeon and dietitian, and continue to monitor your exercise program to ensure continued success with your weight loss and maintenance.
1. Weight-loss Surgery and Fitness: The Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Exercise Program. Julia Karlstad, Med, CSCS. http://www.obesityaction.org/wp-content/uploads/WLS-and-Fitness.pdf
2. Nutrition for Bariatric Athletes: Part 1. Lea Crosetti Andes, RD, CSSD. http://wmdpg.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Nutrition-for-Bariatric-Athletes-Part-1-Fall14.pdf
3. Emergence of the “Bariathlete.” Lea Crosetti, RD. http://www.obesityaction.org/educational-resources/resource-articles-2/weight-loss-surgery/emergence-of-the-bariathlete
4. Becoming a Bariatric Athlete: Maintaining Nutrition. Michelle Adams MS, RD, LD