Right Now Is The Right Time For Weight Loss
February can mean different things to different people. In Florida, Arizona, and southern California, the racing season begins before Valentine?s Day, while for the majority of North American cyclists, it may be another two months before the road and mountain bike racing seasons begin in earnest. For those still waiting for spring?s thaw, one piece of advice for the coming month: To ride faster in May-August, focus on losing weight right now.
Take a look in the mirror. In late January and early February, the typical American cyclist is 10-12 pounds heavier than during the height of the previous season. By American standards, you?d probably have to pack on another 20 pounds before anyone referred to you as overweight, but you have already noticed your pants are a little tighter than normal.
Following the traditional pattern of bodyweight and training, this winter weight gain is relatively normal, and you would lose the weight by mid-summer. This year, I encourage you to break from tradition and try losing the majority of this extra weight early in the year, specifically in the next two months.
The late winter and early spring are a good time to focus on moderate weight loss because training is primarily focused on aerobic development and the intensity is not very high. In order to lose weight, you have to burn more energy than you consume, but this condition also endangers your ability to recover from workouts and make progress in training. A caloric deficit becomes more harmful to training as the intensity of workouts increases, so waiting until later to lose weight may harm your performance more than focusing on weight loss now.
Most people wait until they start racing or training hard to start losing weight. They believe the increased energy output provides a good opportunity for weight loss because all they have to do is keep their caloric intake constant and let the extra work take care of creating a deficit. The problem with this plan is that you?re depriving your body of energy when it needs it most. Energy, particularly carbohydrate energy, is essential for optimal recovery from strenuous workouts because you burn through carbohydrate stores more quickly as exercise intensity increases. Recovering from workouts near lactate-threshold intensity is challenging enough under normal conditions; depriving yourself of energy in an effort to lose weight inadvertently hinders your ability to replenish carbohydrate stores and recover optimally before your next workout.
Establishing a caloric deficit early in the season is relatively easy, and a moderate reduction in caloric intake won?t be detrimental to your current training goals. By dropping some weight now, you?ll be able to fuel yourself optimally when it really counts; during the late spring and early summer workouts that drive up your sustainable power for breakaways, time trials, and extended climbs.
How to Do It:
Make Small Changes
Cyclists tend to be hearty eaters, and achieving a moderate caloric deficit (about 500 calories a day) is not difficult when you?re already eating a lot of food. You don?t have to eliminate meals, go hungry, or only consume foods that can be eaten through a straw (don?t laugh, it?s an actual diet ?plan?). Try making small changes, such as reducing the amount of sauce your put on pasta, the amount of cheese or mayonnaise on a sandwich, or the number (and type) of lattes you drink:
? Drink 12 ounces of water instead of a can of soda (150 cal.)
? Each slice of cheese on your sandwich is about 90-110 calories. Try one slice instead of two, or substitute with low- or non-fat cheese slices (about 35-50 cal each.)
? Stick to basic marinara or spaghetti sauce, which has about 75 calories per ? cup. Sauces with vegetables are good too, but watch out for the ones with meat and cheese, and avoid the cream sauces.
? A Starbucks Grande Mocha with whole milk and whipped cream has 400 calories. The same drink with skim milk and no whipped cream is 230 calories, or you can just skip it altogether. Just skipping the whipped cream saves 100 calories.
Increase fiber intake
Foods that are high in fiber are more filling, so you end up feeling full faster, which means you tend to eat fewer calories. Fiber is the indigestible bulk in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and it also has significant health benefits. High-fiber diets have been associated with lowering cholesterol and your risks of developing cardiovascular disease and some cancers. You should eat 25-30 grams of fiber each day, which is pretty easy to obtain through meals and snacks. What?s more, increasing the amount of fruit, vegetables, and legumes in your nutrition program also brings you more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Recommended Foods for Increasing Fiber Intake:
Split peas (cooked)
Black beans (cooked)
All Bran Cereal
10 - 13
Sweet potato (cooked)
With longer days still months away, many people must spend a lot of the training time indoors. In anticipation of evening workouts, some people consume much more food than necessary during the day.
For most of us training after work, sessions tend to last 60-90 minutes. While it?s important to start the ride with full glycogen stores, you don?t have to overload on food before a ride of less than two hours. Making some small changes to when you eat may lead you to eat less during the day while still preserving the quality of your training.
Always eat a good breakfast, one that is high in carbohydrate and moderate in protein. If your schedule allows, have a snack in the late morning and eat lunch a little later than normal, say 1:30-2:30 pm. This puts your last full meal closer to your evening workout, which means you won?t feel famished in the hour before you work out.
When athletes feel very hungry an hour or so before a workout, they often figure they?re going to run out of energy before the training session ends. As a result, they eat a lot (400-600 calories) in the hour prior to training. I?d rather see people eat a little less prior to these workouts, start them a little hungrier than normal, and consume more food than normal during the workout.
Aim for the upper half of the 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour range during these indoor workouts. That?s more energy than you?re probably used to consuming for relatively short training sessions, but a bottle of PowerBar Endurance and an energy gel is less total energy than what you normally consumed during the days when you were overcompensating for caloric demands of the workout. Within an hour after your workout, have a meal that?s rich in carbohydrates (.75-1.0 gram per kilogram of bodyweight) and includes some protein to replenish glycogen stores, and drink plenty of fluids.
A few months from now, your training will likely be much more demanding than it is right now. You can wait until then to lose your layer of winter insulation, but that?s going to make that portion of your training year even more strenuous. You?ll be better off making some small adjustments and losing most of the weight now, so you can devote all your energy, and all your food, to getting faster and more powerful.