Cycling is a great exercise for burning calories if you're looking to get fitter and lose weight. But if you've been inspired by the pros during this Tour de France, to step your cycling up a gear and start competing, losing weight takes on a whole new meaning.
As the elite are heading through the gruelling mountain stages of the Tour, the issue of weight becomes clear. The less you weigh, the less weight you've got to get up those steep mountain sections and the faster you can power into an acceleration, and that can translate into vital seconds gained.
When it comes to your bike you want it to be as light and strong as possible, and it's easy to spend a lot of cash to make fractional savings in the hope it will mean less time on the clock. But the same goes for your body. Achieving your optimal cycling weight will make you faster accelerating and uphill. But what is it and how do you reach it? It's not as simple as just losing as much weight as you can. The key is to get the right weight to power ratio, because if you lose too much weight, you'll notice your performance and health decline.
In the past Bradley Wiggins has talked frankly about his weight loss and how that has helped him claim his victories. During the 2009 Tour, Wiggins said: “Compared to the 2007 Tour, my weight loss means I'm carrying the equivalent of six bags of sugar less up a mountain. Shedding that weight is all that I can do to give myself the best chance on the climbs other than taking drugs, and I'm not going to do that.”
The elite riders work closely with their team of nutritionists and physiotherapists to stay as strong as possible while maintaining a healthy light weight. It's not about overnight weight loss but gradually and healthily losing weight over many months without compromising on strength. And there's no magic number to aim for as everyone's optimum power to weight ratio varies, and whether you're an endurance or sprint cyclist also affects the balance.
In theory, losing weight is simple. You need to burn more calories than you consume. Take in more calories than you use up and the excess is stored in your body as fat. Use up more calories than you are taking in and the body has to make up the deficit by taking it from your fat stores. But starving yourself isn't the solution. If you're not giving your body the fuel it needs when you train, your performance will suffer. You won't have the energy you need to exercise effectively and the body could start to break down muscle mass to provide energy, which will affect your performance even further
For the elite, that means rigorously counting calories and weighing food to make sure that they are taking exactly the right amount of fuel they need to perform their best. Understanding how foods release energy can complement your exercise programme and can make a big difference. A nutritionist can help you to devise a healthy eating plan which will enable you lose weight safely for optimum performance.
A half hour daily cycle trip could quickly build up to significant weight loss. For example if you weigh 70kg, 30 minutes cycling will burn :
- Recreational, <10mph: 140kcal
- Moderate, 10-12mph: 210kcal
- Vigorous, 14-16mph: 350kcal
Weight loss requires careful consideration and should not be done on a whim. Elite athletes work with some of the best sport scientists in the world to make changes to their diet and weight. Before making any amendments to your diet or training programme, speak to the experts at BMI Healthcare. From devising a healthy eating plan to help you reach your optimum weight to strength ratio and physiotherapy to help you target body areas and build strength, to assessing your current state of health, BMI Healthcare can help you reach you goals.
To book your consultation call us on 0800 533 5091.