I decided several months ago to really hammer down on my weight as the holidays really had me seeing new numbers on the scale in a bad way. My plan has been a 500-700 calorie deficit daily, and I expected a big drop in my power numbers and overall energy levels. 3 months in, down 13 pounds and DAMN I feel good! I don’t understand? I’m not noticing any tiredness at work, and I’m seeming to maintain my power during intervals. How can this be? Has anyone else had this experience?
You were eating loads more than necessary before and now you’re in a more reasonable range?
500 cal/day is a non-extreme calorie deficit that can be maintained for a long time without performance impact or feeling restrictive, in my experience and from research. That will end at some point if you get way too lean or if you go for a bigger deficit.
It went from 165 to my leanest at 138 many years ago with a similar deficit over 6 months and was improving power output at the time. I’d already been training for 13+ years so I was well beyond the ‘newbie gainz’ phase. I’ve also lost less weight in a shorter period of time, so higher deficit, and noticed significant power loss and off the bike effects.
The big thing is realizing the things you are doing now to achieve that deficit can’t be thrown out the window when you hit your goal weight. Some of the changes you’ve made need to be permanent life-style changes if you want to maintain the new weight, if you ‘end the diet’ and return to your old one you will most likely gain the weight back.
I suppose there’s truth to this, which is crazy as I’m having to skip breakfast and have a small lunch just to hit my deficit, on top of riding 200 miles a week.
I’m in a similar position…weight down 20 lbs and FTP up 50W from Jan 1. I think eating too much (in my case anyway) actually reduced my energy levels and made me less inspired to ride.
As the weight comes off a bit, and the watts go up a bit, I think that’s a big psychological boost! Maybe thats part of it for you too.
Just saw you’re skipping breakfast too. Lots of folks swear by intermittent fasting and this is one example of how you can get a 16h fast/8h eating window pretty easily.
that sounds great, i’m jealous. last year i was trying to do a 500 calorie deficit, train on the bike, and lift 3 times a week, and it just slowly put me into a hole
Check out high volume, low calorie dense foods / diets. I discovered that approach after loosing the weight and it has helped maintain the loss. I wish I knew about it when I was loosing the weight, just to have other options.
I can eat more volume of food now but still meet calorie goals, not feel restricted, have snacks, not skip meals and feel satiated after meals. If anything its a problem on days with big rides as it is hard to get enough calories in due to the volume and I have to switch to higher calorie dense foods on those days.
Ouch! I started with lifting 2x a week, and that’s the thing I’ve slowly lost my motivation for lately. It’s hard to get motivated to lift wehn you know your’e not achieving any muscle gain.
I think much of the discussion about weight loss having a negative impact on power is with folks who are already pretty lean and restricting to hit a race weight. In my experience, as someone who had quite a lot of excess fat to lose, restricting calories didn’t have much effect on performance (at least not at the volume I was riding).
After a crash in the fall last year I lost the progress I had made in terms of weight based off of solely just riding. The crash put me out for about 10 days and over that time kept eating my normal diet. Leading me to put on around 10 lbs before I got back to my normal riding volume. Two weeks before Thanksgiving I decided that it was the time to make the change in my diet to get back down to my target weight. I started seeing my weight decrease (it stayed pretty consistent around Christmas) and then I was able to make more progress after New Years and into a big week of outdoor base training. I completely agree with @Craig_G to check out high volume, low calorie diets. It still allows me to eat the foods I want, they are just healthier versions. With this I also switched to completely whole grains to get more carbs with protein. More recently, I was able to give up tracking calories because I showed myself over spring break that I was able to eat the healthy foods in my diet until I was full and not see dramatic changes in my weight.
I’ve been developing a theory that if you cut out low nutritious fatty foods that you can still ride without losing anything. I mean that butter, BBQ sauce, fast food, and pizza for example is probably not making anyone faster.
Veggies, lean quality proteins and the fats included with those foods is plenty to power performance. You can top it off with some brown rice or oatmeal if you need carbs for longer rides. Plus you can fuel rides a bit with sugar as needed. A small bowl of non-sugared oatmeal in the morning might give you a few more carbs for afternoon workouts. The calorie content is minimal.
I think a big part of sustainable weight loss and maintenance is understanding your ‘essential’ foods and figuring out how to keep them in some form in your diet. It helps with not feeling restricted.
If its BBQ sauce, look at low calorie / low sugar versions. Or make other adjustments to keep it in while still meeting your goals. I have pizza after most weekend rides. But I make it myself and can control what goes on top so I can keep it aligned with my fitness / nutrition goals. If its ice cream, investigate low calorie ice cream options or different protein ice cream recipes.
I’m good at controlling what goes on top when I make pizza… I’m not good at controlling eating the remainder of the fresh mozzarella while I’m making it
2015 (I think?) I hit an adult low weight and also had my best FTP ever (almost got back once and approaching it again… but up on weight). I kind of burned out just as I hit both but there was more to it than training/eating (hated my job). Definitely lost muscle mass in the process. My current lean mass is roughly what I weighed at the time… That definitely limited my potential I think and since then I have been much better at balancing weight loss and training. My biggest failure during that period was too much fasted high effort workouts, my failure rate or no start rate was high due to lack of energy at times. Fueling workouts and then worrying about restriction at other times of the day has worked much better for me lately.
Depending on your weight/total caloric intake 500c a day cut is not that big as others have noted, it is a good figure for being able to maintain or even gain power when you’re doing it right.
Honestly we’re all (me including and especially) very bad at judging not enough / enough / too much food.
We tend to not eat enough during exercise and over eat after.
I lost 14lbs and got to single digit fat % for the first time in my life in 2020. First 2 weeks I thought I was starving to death. However, none of my workouts suffered.
On the contrary, I bonked miserably several times last year on my 4 hour+ weekend rides. I thought I just couldn’t eat / digest more on the bike. Now I eat double the amount and can push pretty hard for the whole 4 hours.
I still absolutely over eat after long rides though