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Race Fueling

Managing Your Weight Through Food Groups

A clear understanding of the relationship between each food group and body weight will help you make the best nutritional choices.

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Human beings are the most omnivorous creatures on earth. We eat thousands of different foods. But all of this variety can be organized into just a few basic food groups. The simplest classification system contains only four categories: meat, fish and eggs; dairy; grains; and vegetables and fruits.

The foods belonging to each of these categories tend to affect the body in different ways. Some of these effects have a bearing on weight management. Dieters and triathletes seeking their optimal racing weight often manipulate the various food groups, eating more of some and less of others, and sometimes even eliminating one or more.

Some ways of manipulating food groups for weight loss are more effective than others, while there is no single best way to do it for everyone. A clear understanding of the relationship between each food group and body weight will help you make the best choice for yourself.

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Meat, Fish and Eggs

People who consume a lot of meat tend to be fatter than those who consume little or none. Eliminating meat, fish and eggs from the diet—in other words, becoming vegetarian—can be an effective way to lose weight. However, going vegetarian doesn’t guarantee weight loss. A meatless diet that’s heavy on donuts is no better than a hamburger-heavy diet.

By the same token, a diet that includes meat, fish and eggs can also promote weight loss provided you make good choices within this food group (e.g. broiled salmon instead of hamburger) as well as outside of it (e.g. strawberries instead of donuts).

RELATED: A Guide To Meats

Dairy

Triathletes frequently achieve excellent weight-loss results on diets such as veganism that forbid consumption of dairy foods, which are calorically dense. However, research has shown that yogurt in particular fosters a leaner body composition. This is likely because the calcium in yogurt reduces the body’s production of the hormone calcitriol, which promotes fat storage.

RELATED: Dealing With Milk Intolerance As An Athlete

Grains

Grain-free diets such as the Paleo Diet have achieved great popularity in recent years. Eliminating grains from the diet promotes weight loss for three reasons: Most of us eat too many grain-based foods; grain-based foods have a low satiety index, so it’s easier to overeat on a grain-heavy diet; and eliminating grains from the diet tends to make one much more conscious of food choices.

As with meat and dairy, however, grains themselves can promote weight loss when chosen wisely. People who eat more whole grains, for example, tend to be leaner than those who eat fewer.

RELATED: Should You Eat Like A Caveman?

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables and fruits are the only food group that can’t be eliminated from the diet without negative health consequences. In fact, no matter what else you eat, you should eat more fruits and vegetables than anything else. Increasing consumption of foods in this category is perhaps the most effective way to achieve weight loss through manipulation of food groups.

RELATED: Navigating The Health Food Aisle

 

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