What do we mean by Weight loss?

Weight loss is a top worry for a lot of athletes, individuals and fitness enthusiasts, and as a coach it is always a very grey area. Many, many athletes have gone public on their issues around body image or how previous comments by a coach has affected their outlook on their sport or professions. 

At a time where self image, and in many instances self confidence, are at the forefront of so many aspects of our life it is so important to be open and raise these points when important to do so, but when is the ‘right’ time?

Athletes are usually their own worst enemies. In a sport where power to weight or W/kg plays such an obvious role in performance, it is hard not to get sucked into the concept that actually you need to lose weight. However, weight-loss itself is probably the single worse descriptor to use for an athlete, trumped only by the methods people use to try and reach this elusive goal.

"The average human is about 60% water"

The weight of a human consists of a lot of water, drink less the night before you go to sleep, go to the toilet and weigh yourself…remarkably you have just saved a few kgs! Therefore, how reliable is this metric? If you spend enough time being “professional” about your performance – you have a new bike, you invest in wheels, a coach, gym membership, race entries then let’s be serious about weight management as well.

In reality, there is only a certain amount of weight that can be reduced which can help the power to weight ratio. Take an 85kg male athlete, with a body fat percentage of 15%, the reality is, for training he probably only has about 4.5kgs to lose on average through the season, maybe dipping no lower than 6-9kgs for the race period. (For females we would want to stay above 13% body fat for essential bodily function). And this loss should only look at coming from fat (unless they had a history of a previous sport with increased muscle mass which was now deemed obsolete). 

That is easy – surely 1kg per month, or 0.25kgs per week through the season will reap that reward? Sadly, it isn’t that straight forward. Especially for the average triathlete.

So we see now, that actually weight has very little to do with performance, but body composition is a lot more...interesting. In some instances actually putting on weight, training more intensely, more consistently could result in better performances. What if that kg/month was actually muscle, not fat due to incorrect combined method of dieting and training without consulting an expert? People would jump at the chance to "lose 5kgs" without knowing where that loss would come from. If they saw the scales showing a smaller number but the body composition remained the same, would they actually be happy? The 85kg athlete's body composition would have a larger influence in performance than the less-than-80kg "improved" self.

“That which is measured is improved”

As a coach with (literally) thousands of data points on many, many, different metrics given to us by an athlete, we have to pick and choose one which works for us. Weight just isn’t one of the important ones. Yes, it has many different aspects that it influences, yet we just don’t use it to measure performance. The lightest athlete on the start line (if they make it to the start line) doesn’t win the race. Yet people and sadly athletes, are still obsessed with losing weight, choosing vanity over performance.

In reality the answer could lie in so many different methods which are dictated by each individual athlete that there simply is no right way to do it. You could introduce the latest diet/fad, eat more, eat less, change the quality of your food away from "lazy" eating habits, change the ratio of you fuel, eat before training, don’t eat before training or even do nothing and let the training lean you up naturally. But it all is only dependent on you: Are you targeting weight loss at the right point in the season? Do your eating habits (calorific intake) match your training regime appropriately? Are you being too extreme, heightening the chance of injury or binges?

There are many opportunities and arguably conflicting advice and methods that could leave you feeling overwhelmed confused, demoralised and fundamentally in a worse performance position than before. [Read this blog on the psychological effects on an athlete]

So how can we help?

As you set yourself up for New Year’s/Season's resolutions, almost certainly there will be a goal around fitness and there will be at least a thought around weight loss, or leaning up. That is great and may well be the right call for you – but you must include your coach and the advice of a nutritionist to work alongside you to achieve these goals. Together they will help you lose weight (if that is the right call) at a time which suits your training cycle by using optimised training sessions. With the coach and Nutritionist communicating, the coach has the opportunity to assess performance changes which are down to nutrition and the nutritionist can ensure that the athlete is getting adequate nutrition at times when reducing intake could be risky. Together they can create the best plan for the athlete.

As an athlete remember it is the power to weight ratios that can make a difference. Focus on overall picture rather than focusing purely on the bathroom scales!

Do you want some help with improving your Nutritional Intake?

Follow this link to see how we can integrate your coaching package with the correct nutritional program and improve the efficiency of your training. Alternatively, talk to your coach who can help you set up a full 360º coaching experience where our nutritionalist and coach work together to provide the best plan for you.