We started this discussion of Cycling Weight with an introduction to Functional Threshold Power. One way to increase power output is to decrease weight – your bike’s weight and your own weight, to an extent. Too much weight loss (also too fast or unhealthy weight loss) and you’ll lose muscle. That said, most of us have a pound or two (or ten) we can afford to lose before the heart of cycling season.
Whether you’re looking to hit “race weight” to increase your FTP or you’re trying to rekindle your New Year’s Resolution efforts to look better by bathing suit weather (should we get there this year!), a few simple lifestyle changes can help.
To really know how much weight you can afford to lose, it’s best to start off with an evaluation – like Hydrostatic Weight Testing or a Dexa Scan to know how much fat you have to lose. A Resting Metabolic Rate test will let you know how quickly you can take that weight off safely. No one should attempt weight loss of more than two pounds per week without a doctor’s supervision. Most people can realistically plan to lose 1/4 – 1/2 pound per week safely.
But where to begin?
When creating fitness goals, create a SMART goal for yourself.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Time-specific
Being assessed before you try to lose weight makes for SMART goal-setting, versus believing your college weight is your ideal weight. Knowing how much weight you currently have to lose through an evaluation gives you a realistic, specific and attainable goal number. Knowing how much weight you can afford to lose per week based on your metabolism will give you a tangible time-frame for reaching your goal.
Once you have your goal, it’s time to set your plan. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is about lifestyle choices, not quick fixes.
If you think back, you’ll realize that weight gain did not happen all at once. It was a gradual increase that, for most, happens around the holidays. An extra pound or two each holiday season translates into five to ten pounds of weight gain in just five years.
You were patient about putting on the weight; be patient – and healthy – about taking it off.
Write It Down
Keep a food journal. It doesn’t have to be a full-time gig. Start by keeping a journal for a week or two – or until you learn healthier habits. Key details include:
- What you’re eating
- Quantity of food
- Time of day
- Who you’re with while eating
- Your mood
This basic information will give you clues as to where any problems in your eating habits may be. Perhaps it’s your food choices. Or maybe you’re waiting too long in between meals and are eating when you’re beyond hungry. Maybe you eat well when on your own but tend to let your diet go when out on a business dinner.
You might think you know where your pitfalls are but writing them down will help you really see them. And the bonus? You’ll think twice about a second helping of desert when you have to include it in your food log.
Check out free online apps – like My Fitness Pal – that make tracking portable and easy.
Re-learn Portion Sizes
Think you can eyeball an ounce of cheese or a quarter cup of nuts? Packaged foods and restaurant meals are no indication of what portion sizes should be. Read labels and measure! Time to pull out the food scale from the back of the cupboard. Use it when preparing your meals and measuring your quantities for your food log.
Just like the food log, you don’t need to measure your food forever. But use the scale and the measuring cups until you re-teach your body proper portion sizes.
For meals, choose smaller plates. People tend to want to fill the space on their plates. Smaller plates trick your brain into thinking you have more food. (They also give you less room to fill.) When eating out, ask for a take-out box and pack half of your meal to take home.
Don’t assume foods and snacks are packaged according to serving size. Read the labels. (And know that “100 calories” is a marketing gimmick, not a real serving size.)
Don’t eat on the run. Sit down. Use silverware. And, just like mom said, take time to chew your food. Put your fork down between bites and deliberately pick it back up because you are hungry for more food.
Do you ever walk away from a meal with that, “I can’t believe I ate that whole thing” feeling? It takes the brain twenty minutes to receive a signal from the stomach that you’re full. Eating quickly is a sure-fire method to over-eat. Take time to eat – to give the brain more time to receive that signal before it’s too late.
Think you can eat that second half of that restaurant meal? Give yourself twenty minutes to decide. And check My Fitness Pal to see if you really can afford the additional calories. (Just because you’re still hungry, doesn’t mean you should eat more. Weight loss requires re-training of your mind/body connection.)
Water can also be used to help slow down your eating. Take sips of water during your meal, instead of plowing through your food, again, giving your brain time to read your stomach’s signals.
Start your day with two glasses of water and have a glass of water before each meal. Using water at appropriate times is a healthy, natural way to promote weight loss.
No, not your home; move your butt!
As a fitness professional, I’d like to say exercise is the answer. The truth is that exercise is only 10% of the answer. Losing weight is mostly – 90% – about healthy eating.
Being active does play an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Once you’ve committed to a fitness plan, you’ll start viewing food differently. You’ll see how eating the right foods fuels your body to perform better – on the bike, during play time with your kids and even sleeping at night.
With that in mind, set a fun fitness goal for yourself. Make 2013 the year you do a century ride. Having a mileage goal for the fall (like 100 miles on August 25th) will keep you committed to training all summer for a purpose.
Join a weekly group ride. Commit to cycling with your family. Hire a trainer or a coach. Choosing a group activity, where you’re accountable to others, will help hold you accountable and stay motivated. If hours are precious, commit to cycling to work one day a week.
Ladies who are nervous about group riding or are looking for others to ride with, come to our Women’s Cycling Clinic.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time? How do you ride a century? One mile at a time. Again, remember how you put that excess weight on – one pound at a time. With deliberate and healthy choices, you can take it off – permanently – one pound at a time.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but fad diets don’t work. Diets don’t teach your body healthy habits. Instead, they provide a temporary but impermanent fix. They can also do long-term damage to your metabolism – making future weight loss even more difficult. Stop the yo-yo dieting. Create life-long healthy and realistic eating habits.
Use your food log to determine what changes you can make. Then set about tackling one change at a time. Once that change has become habitual, then set out to tackle another. Taking on too much at once is a sure fire way to set yourself up for failure. Instead, integrate changes into your lifestyle.
For more info about cycling weight, check out Mike Schulz’ article on Training Peaks – Parts 1 and 2.
For those geeking out on power, on Training Peaks you can also find Andrew Coggins’ Power Profiling for cyclists in different disciplines.
For busting myths on weight loss, see Four Fat-Loss Myths for Endurance Athletes from Ironman.com
See Bicycling.com’s Weight Loss Tips for Cyclists.
For more tips on weight loss, check out our Dr. Mercola’s 10 Things That Can Help You Lose Weight.
For ideas on how to improve your cycling, check out the Bicycling.com article, Your Next Cycling Goal.
Years spent working in health clubs, our resident fitness guru, Joy Sherrick, shares with us the wisdom of her years of experience working with people to meet their fitness goals.