Expanding on a blog I recently wrote about recovery, and in particular the role of nutrition to promote recovery, in this post I'll set out ideas for implementing a calorie deficit diet (a diet that actively reduces calories to less than what you burn in a typical day - including training) while still performing well on the bike.
You may have been told that the best way to drop weight from your cycling set up is to lose weight yourself? Throughout this post, I'll give you all the tools to successfully do this.
The dangers of dropping calories
Dropping calories can be safe, but if you drop too much it can have adverse effects on your riding.
Calories are essentially our energy source, we burn them when exercising, recovering, and going about our general day-to-day life. Everything we do consumes calories and we burn an amount of calories even when we are doing nothing. Naturally, on days we exercise we burn more calories than days when we don’t.
An example of calorie deficit
On a typical road ride an individual might burn anything between 500-1000 calories per hour (for example, a 4 hour club ride might see a burn of 2500 calories). This might mean that a full day equates to around a 4000 calorie burn. If this person only eats 3500 calories, they are 500 in deficit.
It is important this person put these back in their body. If they don't, they won’t recovery properly, and the next time they ride, they will might bonk (run out of readily available energy, be forced to slow down, and feel terrible).
To remedy this, look at the type of calories after a ride. Yes, treating yourself with a cake, coffee, or ice cream is nice, but the calories in here are pretty useless aside from tasting nice. While you might get away with having them due to such a high calorie output, you might also consider getting enough protein, carbs, and fats in your body after riding too.
The role of protein in recovery
This is the recovery nutrient that is essential for rebuilding the damage done to the muscle fibres during exercise.
The role of carbohydrates in recovery
This is the transportation system that is used to get protein to the muscles and your energy source.
The role of fat in recovery
This helps keep cell walls supple, aid joint health, and decrease inflammation.
Not getting enough of these nutrients into your body can be disastrous for your recovery, sleep, and riding. You might feel sapped of energy, burnt out, and flat on the bike.
The advantages of cycling in a deficit
Well, you will lose weight. Losing weight (the right type of weight = fat) makes you faster, more athletic, and healthier. It is also a hell of a lot cheaper than the latest frame that’s fractionally lighter than your current bike. Of course, this advice only really applies if you actually need to lose weight.
Losing weight is THE best way to shave weight off your cycling set up, and make yourself a fitter and faster rider.
Everyone has their ideal weight (sometimes referred to as 'race weight') that reflects the best from a performance and aesthetic based perspective. If you don't know yours, you eventually will find it via trial and error, coaching can help with identifying this.
Maintaining a safe deficit
When we want to lose weight, we want to only lose about 1 pound of weight a week. This keeps things maintainable from a psychological and physical perspective.
In order to lose this amount of weight, we don’t need to be in a deficit of more than 500 calories on average per day.
For some, this might be one meal, but let’s put this into context and what else equates to 500 calories:
- 2x chocolate/candy bars
- 5-6 biscuits/cookies (depending on the brand)
- 1x frappe
- 2x small bags of crisps/chips and 1x can of soda
Considering this, it is easy to see how calories can creep up and push you out of a calorie deficit.
Keeping a log, or using a tracker, is an effective way to ensure you are accurately maintaining a healthy deficit.
If you think that tracking calories is too much work, you could consider simply weighing yourself once per week. This might be a more time effective way to ensure your diet is effective.
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