The quickest way to make substantial gains in cycling is to reduce weight. You can spend over £10,000.00 on a lightweight road bike and save barely a couple of kilograms, or, you might be able to cut multiples of this by reducing your body weight.
Take my friend ‘Dave’. Dave is 75 kilograms with body fat of just above 10%. This means that he has over 7.5 kg’s of fat clinging to his body. Experts generally agree that you need to have at least 5% body fat to survive (just under 10% for a women) so in reality Dave has about 3.75 kg’s that is slowing him down, or a bit over half the weight of a complete road bike, a lot!
What can he do about it? Well it’s easy to say lose it, but, the problem lies in ensuring you are dropping weight without dropping performance. You don’t want to lose any muscle mass that provides your power, nor do you want to under-feed your rides or races. Conventional wisdom supports the fact that if you eat right and exercise your weight will drop, but, that isn’t the case for everyone. Factors like your body type, your lifestyle, and any medication you might be on, or even how fat you were as a teenager comes into it – the theory goes that the fat cells you “grow” as a child will stay with you until you demise, the best you can do is empty them.
All is not lost… Even pros have to watch their weight. It’s not impossible, but, it requires determination and commitment. It certainly is a marathon rather than a sprint. First, you will want to track the food you eat, get an app that makes this easy and work out where you should be in terms of calories you need per day then add calories burnt via training. Most experts agree that 500 calories eaten less per day than what you need (deficit) is the safest way to drop weight. In my experience this is far too much to drop if you are training, you will tire very quickly, your body will not recover quickly enough, your cycling will suffer.
You need to start by working out what diet works best for your body, this can be achieved by ordering one of our DNA tests. Do you go with a low fat diet, low carb, gluten or dairy free? There’s a large amount we can determine!
There’s no great way to ensure you don’t drop power as well as weight. You need to track your body fat percentage, this will allow you to work out how much of the weight you are losing is lean mass – you will need to limit this loss to maintain performance. Depending on what time of the year you are attempting to lose weight, you will need to track your performance and in particular your power to weight ratio. You can do this via weekly time trials at your local club, you can use a particular route or hill climb to monitor, or you can use regular indoor testing. If you start to drop off on power dramatically you might be losing too much lean mass versus fat. However, you might need to expect to lose some lean mass. Just as long as your power to weight ratio rises your performance will increase.
Focus on losing weight in the off season, then you won’t have the worry about race performance and you will also be able to restore any lost power before the start of the next season.
Time of day will come into it too. Eat your main meals around your training sessions, restrict large meals to the morning when it’ll more likely be burnt off as fuel. Feeding on the bike plays a role, reduce the amounts you feed on the bike to get your body to burn fat as a fuel, eating more healthy fats can have this affect also. But again there’s no one size fits all cure to this problem. I’ve provided some tips but the hard work really does come down to you…
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