If you're a serious athlete, or just one who monitors their weight consistently, a few pounds here or there can mean a big difference in confidence, attitude and especially performance.

Many athletes can go to the extreme by cutting out meals entirely or making a dramatic change in diet, which can actually have a detrimental affect on performance and, in some cases, even cause weight gain. If the body feels it is deficient in some nutritional areas it can horde and hold onto the things it feels it needs to conserve.

The body is a system that likes to maintain a homeostasis, and thus, dramatic changes to diet, climate, sleeping and stress patterns are always more taxing than if the changes were moderately introduced. With this in mind, here are five tips for losing those last few pounds you want to drop:

Try to stretch your food intake out throughout the day, rather than in big meals where you can spike blood sugar levels. This will keep you feeling alert more consistently, and probably not as hungry when you do sit down for a meal.

Start a food log for a few days and write down what you ate and when. Keeping track will help you see if there is a pattern of dieting which could be improved, such as eating before bed, skipping meals, or not getting enough calories.

In your food log, also write down why you ate each item. If you can't name a good reason for eating it, maybe you're nibbling out of boredom or as an emotional response instead of hunger. If this is the case, those are some easy calories you can cut out. Perhaps you're eating out of peer pressure, and therefore need to consider the peer group you're around, or the timing of when you're with them.

Try drinking water instead of sugary drinks. It's amazing how many calories can be consumed in liquid form.

Don't be afraid to rest and recover from training for a few days. Many athletes lose a lot of weight during recovery weeks because the body doesn't hold as much carbohydrates during these times, due to not needing it. For every gram of carbohydrate the body stores, it must store about three grams of water. That's a lot of water weight to carry!

Take inventory of yourself and your eating habits-as well as training regimens-and with a few simple adjustments you can shed those last few pounds you want to get off. Best of luck!

Jim Vance is a USAT Level 2 and Elite Coach for TrainingBible Coaching, and a professional triathlete. Questions or comments can be sent tojvance@trainingbible.com. You can also follow his writings and training advice at his coaching blog, CoachVance.blogspot.com.

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