The Good, The Bad, and The Tubby
We are fast approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas … again. That special time of the year spent with family and friends, when we give and receive gifts, and tons of different FOODS sit before us, ready to be consumed! It’s freaking everywhere! Big dinners and parties that have huge dinners and enough deserts to feed an army. All out on the table, ready for you to stuff yourself and then regret it the next morning!
Before we “dig in”, I want to differentiate between two terms – weight control and nutrition. This article doesn’t address nutrition. You can lose (or gain) weight by eating hostess cupcakes all day, but that doesn’t mean you have sound nutrition. The bottom line – to lose weight you must expend more energy than you take in – period.
As a simple experiment, track your total calories consumed per day for two or three days, ideally including a mix of both weekdays and weekends. Write down everything you eat and the portion sizes (e.g. 2 tbls peanut butter). There are plenty of sites online that provide counters such as www.caloriecontrol.org. Remember not to change your diet or it will defeat the purpose of the test! The point is to get an honest understanding of where your calories are coming from and give you the ability to eliminate unnecessary food intake. You may be amazed as to how much jam or butter you are putting on your toast in the morning!
When we test at the camps, there are two test results that are directly calculated by your current weight and these two parameters are a direct correlation to fitness and something we strive to improve on:
Wattage per kilo at your threshold – When either your ventilatory or lactate threshold is determined through increasing wattage during the tests, the threshold wattage is then divided by your weight in kilos. This value is often used as an indicator of climbing potential.
VO2 Max – The maximal capacity for oxygen consumption by the body during maximal exertion. (aka. aerobic power). Because individual needs for energy vary with body size, VO2 max is generally expressed relative to body weight:
As you can see, these two all important numbers are directly affected by weight, which mean in theory, you can improve them just by unloading some of those extra pounds, more specifically excess body fat. Essentially, body fat is dead weight that does not contribute to moving your bike down the road faster, and means more weight for you to haul up the hills.
Other areas of cycling and training directly affected by having those few extra pounds:
Climbing (the obvious one) – Probably the most requested area of improvement is the ability to climb faster. Very simple here and I think pretty much everyone knows that if you weigh less, you climb faster. As an experiment, take 10 lbs and go climb a flight of steps and you will see what I mean.
The Early Season – One the greatest benefit of keeping the weight down in the early part of the cycling season is you don’t waste precious workouts trying to lose extra fat. Instead, workouts can focus and benefit on the important areas needed to be successful during the season. The best example was Jan Ulrich back in the late 90’s. Remember, how he came into the season over weight and struggled so much. Compare that to this past year, where he was super lean and could focus on trying to win the Tour (and almost did!).
Riding in the heat – I know it’s a long way away, but think forward and project yourself to those super hot days. Having less fat will allow the body to function better in the heat. Extra fat provides a layer of insulation not needed by endurance athletes.
It’s all about quality of life. We do what we do for a many different reasons, but as I always tell athletes, think of what we do in all the different areas of training as making the quality of your life better and keeping the weight down is one of the best ways to achieve not just improved performance but overall health! We are in this for the long haul, so keep everything in moderation, especially in the next several weeks as you look at all those desserts!
Check out Frank Overton’s perspective on weight control
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com