There are so many ways to loose weigh: fast & slow, simple and overly complicated, cool and “sexy” & long, boring…
People find motivation from all sorts of things and reasons that are uniquely different for each individual. We are not going to explore the infinite world of weigh loss psychology, dietary restrictions or any other topics of such matter in this chapter.
Being an athlete, you are motivated more by performance rather than just the looks. It’s obvious, the lighter athlete is, the less weigh to carry, especially in sports like cycling or running.
The ideal weight is the weight, where you perform at you best, WHILE staying healthy. “Race weight” is not to be kept year round and achieved only for short periods of time during competition season or major athletic events.
In this post you will find the information with real life examples to teach you simple and basic approach to a short-term weigh cut. This technique is slightly adjusted to meet demands of high energy expenditures of endurance training, however it can also be adopted by non-athletic population.
This example uses 150 lbs athlete who tries to loose few kilos to meet his/hers ideal race weight prior to major competition.
Starting Weight: 68 kg
Goal Weight: 65 kg
Time: 3 weeks
Loss Rate: 1 kg/week
1. Determine your Energy Intake
First of all, you need to determine what’s your current energy intake level or “maintenance level”. To do so, you will record everything that goes into your mouth for one-two weeks.
There are numerous phone apps and online calculators that will allow to pull up foods nutrition data and estimate energy equivalent of the foods you eat. You need to have a very good idea of how much you eat on a daily and weekly basis.
Below is example of 150 lbs athlete daily energy intake:
Such energy intake allows this athlete to maintain his current weight with current level of activity.
Multiply by 7 and get the following number:
Weekly Calorie Intake : 21,042 Calories
Calories consumed during exercising (sports nutrition, energy bars, gels, chews, isotonic drinks etc) are not to be included in energy intake calculations.
2. Determine you Energy Expenditure
Now that you have a good idea of how much you eat in terms of numbers, next step is to calculate how much energy you expand. Modern fitness trackers, such as FitBit, Garmin, Apple Watch etc. allow you to guesstimate your energy expenditures during your trainings. Keep in mind that this number is far from being precise, however is used consistently it will allow you to get a general idea of what your body expands and have a rough number of calories used to fuel your trainings.
The example below used Garmin Fenix 5 watch and Garmin Connect App to determine energy expenditure:
Average Weekly Expenditure: ~20,500 Calories
Because the athlete consumes about the same amount of energy as what he expands, he is able to maintain his current body weight. To loose weight he needs to create energy deficit.
3. Create Appropriate Deficit
It is estimated that 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat. Therefore we can make an assumption that you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.
We also assume that cutting about 500 – 1,000 calories a day from your maintenance level, will make you lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week.
Sounds simple, isn’t it?
Below is example of adjusted energy intake with a goal of loosing 2 kg of body weight in three weeks.
Adjusted Daily Macronutrient & Caloric Intake:
Because of very active lifestyle and a lot of aerobic type training, given athlete needs to make sure he maintains proper glycogen stores in muscles and more importantly – in liver. The goal here is to keep eating as many carbohydrates as possible, while loosing weight. Therefore fats – is the first macronutrient that will need the adjustment.
Healthy fats are really important for proper body function and hormonal health. About 10 years ago a healthy fat intake was suggested to be 1/2g per 1 kg of body weight. This is when “fat free” products became popular.
Modern guidelines suggest the minimal fat intake to be around 1g/kg of body weight.
For 150 lbs athlete, minimal dietary fate intake should be no less than 70g of dietary fats per day. It is really important not to go below the minimal amount as it can harm your hormonal health!
Healthy protein intake for active people is suggested to not exceed 2-2.5g/kg or 1g/lb of body weight per day.
For the athlete with weigh of 150 lbs (70 kg) its 150 g of protein per day.
The rest, half of your calories, will be coming from carbohydrates. Again, such high carbohydrate intake is necessary to fuel athlete’s trainings.
Ideally carbohydrates will be coming from complex and low glycemic load sources. This is necessary to keep blood sugar within healthy levels.
Maintenance Weekly Calorie Intake: 21,042 Calories
Adjusted Weekly Calorie Intake : 17,010 Calories
4,032 Calories/Week (21,042-17,010)
Energy deficit of 576 Calories/day made our athlete loose 3 kg in one week. Not all the weight loss came from fat, partially it’s a water weight. Anyways he reached his “ideal race weigh” three times faster than expected. This is a very rapid weight loss, not ideal scenario for long term health and performance. Such fast results could also have an impact on nervous system, making the person apathetic, demotivated to exercise and pessimistic about life in general.
In case if you loose more than 1 kg a week, you might want to slightly bump your daily energy intake by 100 calories. This will not stop the weight loss, but it will make it healthier and more sustainable in long run.
Below are few examples of complete meals designed to fuel athlete’s body post-workout with weight loss goal in mind.
These meals come from organic and “clean” foods and contain proper amounts of macronutrients to fuel athlete’s body post exercise activity.
More detailed nutritional guidelines to proper fueling, types of foods and timing discussed in section solely dedicated to Sports Nutrition.