I have decided to use this blog post to discuss something heavy. 10 kilograms to be specific. I am happy to say that I am 10 kilograms lighter than I was at my heaviest ‘out of training’ weight. To celebrate this I thought I would take some time to discuss the issue of weight loss.
All cyclists knows the importance of weight, particularly when they are going uphill. Cyclists also know that if you’re able to lose weight without also losing power, it will make a significant difference to your climbing.
I’ll give you an example: if a 70 kilogram rider climbs a 23km hill at 5 percent gradient, it would take approximately one hour at 280 watts. If this rider loses 10 kilograms, they will climb this same hill a massive 6 minutes faster. And the steeper the climb, the bigger the difference.
Getting lean can also provide minor gains on the flat by improving aerodynamics, or reducing your frontal surface space. Meaning you act less like a sail.
Between my two surgeries in 2016, I tipped the scales at just over 94 kilograms, which is pretty much as heavy as I have ever been. I have always struggled to control my eating when injured, so putting on weight was no surprise to me. Now I weigh in at 83.8 kilograms, about 5 kilos above my race weight goal for the Para-nationals (78 kilos).
What follows is a bit of advice, from my recent experience.
How to pick a goal weight
Goal setting (in anything) creates essential motivation. At this point, setting my goal weight is easy; I’ve lost weight enough times before, and I know that I can manage 75-78 kilograms as a target. I am aware that I will struggle to maintain anything lower than this for long periods. I was a sprinter, so being a bit heavier was more acceptable.
If you haven’t lost weight before, setting a goal weight can be very difficult.
Firstly, this process is completely individual and you should consult a health professional (e.g. your GP, and/or a sports dietitian). That said, my advice is to pick a challenging yet achievable task. I find a sensible aim is around 1 kilo per week to begin with, and when you are within 5 kilos of your goal, reduce this to 0.5 kilos per week. This should allow for realistic weight loss in a realistic amount of time, but then, it very much depends on how much you have to lose.
If you can, set a goal weight that you have previously been in your adult life. Generally, you can get back to something you have been before a little more easily than trying to break new ground. It also has the added benefit of being a reachable goal, so you are less likely to abandon the task.
How to lose it
Again, this is very individual, and advice from a health professional is important. These are general tips based on my experience and provided to me by a dietitian that I had consulted in the past for the specific purpose of managing my own weight loss. Your needs may be different, but this might give you a sense of what you could be in for!
Firstly, calorie counting.
Though out of fashion, I like calorie counting. I don’t do it forever, but in the first few weeks it gives you a good idea of your portions and how many calories are in what you eat. It’s amazing how easily you can forget (repress) how many calories are in certain things. For calorie counting I use myfitnesspal (it has a website, and Android/iPhone apps) and find it pretty user friendly. This helps you to get in the rhythm. After 2-4 weeks I stop counting (it does get tiresome, and by now you should have a pretty good idea of portion sizes etc).
After this, I just continue to use the techniques I used to cut down your calories (for me, this means cutting down serving sizes and cutting out snacking).
Secondly, don’t beat yourself up (you will see this as a theme across a few of my approaches!). No one is perfect. No one expects you to be perfect. You will never be perfect, so being hard on yourself about it is pointless. You may as well be hard on yourself for not being purple. It is as likely as you achieving perfection. In fact, replace the word perfect, with the word purple and you will see how ridiculous the whole concept is. Trying to be purple will just cause angst and feelings of inadequacy because you don’t look like an eggplant. Resulting a negative spiral that may well lead to binge on rubbish food. A no-one likes a fat plum. See? Ridiculous.
Thirdly, eat plenty of vegetables. You will see when calorie counting the enormous quantity of vegetables you can get in for your calories. They’re the best bang for buck when eating well; use them to fill yourself up. There are plenty of good options out there. Even eggplant.
Fourthly, drink plenty of water. I always find when I get thirsty, I eat more. There’s a lot of water in food and it’s a major way the body gets it’s fluid, so it follows that if you’re thirsty you will also crave more food. If you are hungry, you can try drinking some water first and see if that eases it slightly.
Lastly, it’s important not to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. There are plenty of cyclists out there who have developed eating disorders and a skewed body image in their efforts to lose weight. If you’re worried about your health (or are already at a healthy weight) I really do encourage you to talk to your GP and sports dietician before embarking on a weight loss program. Being skinny won’t help you go up hills or enjoy life if you don’t have the fuel to make your body work properly!
There are plenty of other techniques to help you lose weight, but these are just a few that have helped me. It’s important to find the right balance for you.
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Leave your weight loss experiences at in the comments!