I’m a 43 year old male with a body fat percentage of about 30%. I know body composition is very individualized but I’m wondering if it’s possible for me to get down to 15% body fat without sacrificing fitness on the bike.
For me this would be dropping about 30 lbs in 6 months. Do you all think it would be possible to drop the weight at this speed without losing muscle?
A lot of questions like this lately. Yes I think its possible to drop weight, retain muscle, and get faster on the bike. Requires a good bit of discipline. Personally I think 5lbs/month is too aggressive. Most recently before turning sixty last month, I started a 6 month push to drop weight in late summer 2021. Targeted 3lbs/month at the beginning, plus 8 hours/week on the bike and another 2 hours/week of stability and core work. 6 months later (February 1st) my weight was down 20lbs, increased my FTP and pretty much the entire power curve, and had more muscle definition (the tape shows small muscle gains). In the kitchen followed basic macros to support cycling, and stuff like eating protein 6 times a day for muscles. Did some calorie counting the first week, to recalibrate my mental model of portion sizes. Then simply used daily weigh ins in the scale to tweak portion sizes based on how many calories I burned on the bike that day. We’ve always eaten a lot of raw fruit, vegetables, and lean meat in the house. The trick with cycling is estimating calorie and carb requirements, to add onto your basic calorie needs. And knowing that carb loading will add 2-3 pounds of water weight. Just look at trends on the scale. Hope that helps.
How tall are you?
To go from 30% to 15% is pretty extreme. I was about 34% the first of the year. I’m at 29% now and that’s with over 25lbs loss. If I lose another 30lbs I’ll still be well over 20% body fat.
I lost 27lbs in three months but have really stagnated the past month or so. I do some light weights 3x week with just a few lifts (upper body) to maintain muscle.
During those 3 months my FTP “increased” only because it was low after time off. It’s not like I actually increased above what it’s been before.
How much weight you lose is entirely dependent on how you’re eating now. I eat like a disgusting fatass…and get what I deserve. Any minor changes for me results in loss.
If you’re at 30% that basically obese. I’d not worry about any cycling number to be honest.
Your goal should be your health and getting down to an acceptable BF percentage. Ride your bike as much as you can but I wouldn’t expect any gainz (outside of nice increases to W/kg).
I wish you the best of luck! It’s been a long struggle for me that really has me down. I hope you’re able to get where you need/want to be, in a healthy way.
Don’t forget your mental health either.
You can definitely loose the weight and keep or increase your performance on the bike. You probably want go from 30% to 15% in one fell swoop though. I’m considering 30% as decently fat and 15% as no visible abs but appears in shape in clothes, too btw.
You will want to learn to count calories
Skip the diet foods because it will make it impossible to eyeball calories later when eating out, at a bbq, etc
Use a moderate deficit somewhere in the 400-600 a day range, you possibly could handle a steeper deficit while you are bigger but listen to your body.
Don’t focus on the long goal but instead just try to be a little leaner each week
Fuel your bike rides properly and use other meals throughout the day to create your deficit.
Don’t alienate “unhealthy foods, carbs, fats, etc” just eat like a normal person while minding your calorie goal otherwise eating out will be impossible
Start with 15x your body weight -400 to -600 and on days you are on the bike add your bike ride calories back to that as your calorie goal.
Practice eating maintenance level calories every now and then on your journey and lock your new body fat down for good. It’s a critical skill and you still will feel like you’re on a diet for a while.
TL:DR use moderate deficit, learn to eyeball calories so you can eat out by avoiding low calorie diet foods while you’re weighing food, don’t be so in love with getting lean now that you sabotage yourself
That amounts to a ~600 daily deficit.
You will probably want to either lower your goal or extend your timeline.
But yes, it is possible to achieve body recomposition, as a general matter.
Eat a lot of protein and lift weights.
You want to lose (body) fat (OP title), or body mass? As you speak about both.
Losing fat is relooking at what types of food/drinks you consume, losing mass is relooking at how much food/drink you consume.
Bodies are created in the kitchen, perfected in the gym (on the bike, training etc).
Calorie deficit is a sure fire way to lose mass, an eating lifesyle (not a diet as a diet is a fad, one must make a lifestyle change) of protein (protein alternatives - I am vegetarian and it becomes dull but it is my choice) and some basic weightlifitng will definitely aide in helping achieve this goal.
Putting a time frame to it is not a good idea, being consistent in your day to day achievements of your goal will realize your goal. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Start today, be consistent.
This sentence is funny: I can guarantee you that you’ll be fitter on the bike with a lower body percentage and training.
I got a lot of value out of Matt Fitzgerald’s book “The Endurance Diet”. The TL:DR is basically eat lots + eat healthy.
Instead of having chips and ice cream in the cupboards, have a load of fruit and nuts and seeds. If you can re-frame how you see junk food like do-nuts or supermarket cakes as “urrgh, i’m not putting that crap in my body” and instead say “I’m hungry i’ll have an apple dipped in a load of almond butter” then the problem takes care of itself.
I distinctly remember seeing a research piece which studied the impact of different types of exercise on body fat. The conclusion was that weights had the most impact on decreasing body fat. Obviously, that won’t make you quicker on the bike. I suspect that the rate of loss of fat is a function of the amount of fat to lose, and that if you are 30%, any exercise will cause your fat percent to decrease. However, the rate of loss is probably proportional to the amount of fat, less some baseline threshold like 6%. This would mean that going from 30% to 18% is just as hard as going from 8% to 7%.
Good tip for body fat is to get hold of calipers, I’d suggest the ones based on resistance are junk.
In terms of exercise quantity, there is an upper ceiling on this. Its a question of what your capacity to recover is. Obviously, its desirable to have a better functioning heart and lungs. Once these are up to speed, you can then burn a higher number of calories per hour of exercise (irrespective of what you weigh). Having an FTP of 250W instead of 125W means you can burn twice the number of calories (give or take), whatever the level of relative intensity of your session.
Maybe the most desirable goal then is to increase heart and lung function, and the body weight (and fat percentage) will just follow.
it’s possible but your timelines are not realistic to do this in a sustainable way.
You can do this while keeping (and maybe even growing) power on the bike, but you need to watch your recovery closely.
Adequete protein and lifting weights (squat/deadlift - big muscle lifts) is going to be the key. You dont need to do a ton of time in the gym, but lifting relatively heavy will be important.
You’re going to add muscle, drop fat, and slowly lose weight.
Thanks for the comments and suggestions.
To put this in perspective I’m 5’11"/180cm. At my absolute skinniest, around junior year in college, I was around 165bs/75kg and looked like Phil Gaimon.
I’ve lifted weights regularly for the last 20+ years and still lift heavy once/week. I’d like to keep it to once per week as twice per week really interferes with my cycling performance. I’m on the low-volume rolling road race plan, currently in Base 2, but I do go on group rides once a week. Totally time on the bike is around 5-6 hours per week.
My 2c, 1.25lbs/week is probably sustainable without impacting power. Years ago I dropped 25lbs in 6 months (~1lb/week) and did not feel deprived at all (165 to 140 at 5’9") Depending on how you go about it can be sustainable and not impact cycling performance negatively. I think the longer you take the more sustainable it will be and the less deprived you will feel.
The issue I’ve experienced prior to the last weight loss and many others talk about is the yo-yo effect. Take that 6 months to implement a series of lifestyle changes slowly. I think if you think of it as a ‘diet’ and when you’ve reached your body composition goals you revert to your old eating habits you will gain the weight back. The changes you make over the 6+ months need to be permanent lifestyle changes if you want to keep the weight off.