Losing Weight Too Fast / Finishing TrainerRoad Workouts

My specific details are below, but the general question I’m looking for advice on is this: How do you know if you need to increase calories (slow weight loss progress ) or struggle to finish workouts but maintain weight loss?

My specific situation:

6’0" (183cm), 233lbs (105kg), FTP 246. (Biggest dude in the group and it’s not all muscle)

I’m coming back from a wreck 2 years ago. I’ve let life get in the way after the physical injury recovery, and I’m now focused on doing well in local crits. That said, I’d also like a higher W/kg for long joy-ride fondo’s through the mountains with friends ( I don’t want to win local crits but be hours behind my friends on the “fun” climbing days ).

My plan for this season is SweetSpot Base High Volume 1 and 2, Short Power Build High Volume, and Criterium High Volume, which puts me at my first A race for the year. All of that seems sound based on the podcast and articles that you have written.

For the past 9 week’s I’ve averaged a daily caloric deficit of ~1300 kC, and am seeing around 3 pound per week weight loss. I use a smart trainer or power meter for my rides, and a Garmin fitness tracker, so my daily caloric expenditure can be pretty well estimated, and I’m weighing and measuring all my foods, so I know my caloric intake pretty well. The math seems to work out on caloric deficit vs weight loss.

If I was losing 3lb/wk and able to hit all of my workout targets everything would be dandy, but that’s not the case. On longer workouts like Hunter or Antelope +2, I struggle to maintain power in the later intervals. (ex, On the 5th set of Antelope +2 I had to take a 2 minute break in the middle of the 10 minute set before finishing the last few minutes).

One final piece of information, I typically workout at 5am. It’s the only time that allows me to be consistent with my training before the kids get up or work gets in the way. Part of this could be that I’m training fasted, although I try and eat on the bike during rest intervals.

Here are the options that I see:

  1. I’m just getting back into structured training, so maybe I shouldn’t change anything. Most of the workouts I finish, but the longer sweet spot efforts suck and I sometimes have to take a small break. Plus, I’m seeing the weight loss that I want. I should keep on with what’s working and just work on my mental toughness.

  2. Focus on getting some quick carbs in prior to getting on the bike in the morning. It may reduce my fat metablization, but could also help finish the workouts. Change nothing else.

  3. Up my daily calories to help with recovery. Yes, my weight loss will slow, but 3 pounds per week may have negative long term effects anyway. More calories equals better recovery equals completing more workouts (all else being equal).

Lot’s of information here, so I apologize for the long read in advance. I love what you all do.

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General advice for sustainable weight loss is a calorie deficit of 500-1000 per day, for weight loss of 1-2lb/week. I think 3 might be too aggressive, especially if you’re having issues with workout quality. My own personal experience is also that it’s easier to maintain a higher calorie deficit if it’s achieved through a higher volume of lower intensity workouts, i.e. zone 2-3 stuff. Sweetspot and above uses up a lot of carbs and needs fuelling to do it well.

So I would up your calories a bit to lose the weight a bit slower, with a particular focus on fuelling before, during and after workouts with intensity. Keep the fasted rides for Zone 2.

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N=1 here but I can’t get effective training on more than a 500 calorie deficit. Things start out OK but eventually I get into a spiral of failing workouts and that was on a low volume plan!! I think you have to decide where your priorities lie.

If it’s performance and training you’ll have to suck it up and slow the weight loss, eat more and focus on fuelling knowing that it’s sustainable and the weight will come off eventually.

If the weight loss is your main goal then you need to be realistic with what your training can be and find something that’s sustainable at that level of calorie deficit. Nutrient timing will also be key, make sure you go into those rides well fuelled, especially the more intense ones.

What is your primary goal? Weight loss/body composition? Performance in crits? Higher w/kg?

Without knowing what you are focused on it is hard to answer

You’ll hear tons of advice, some of it good (Amber: “Don’t diet on the bike.”) But it basically comes down to what works for you, which nobody but you can answer. Maybe targeted additional carb intake immediately prior to and during harder workouts can get you through it. Maybe caffeine does the trick. Or perhaps your deficit is so large that you’re dragging all the time, with no gas for a workout and even less for adequate recovery. And that’s just during SSB; you’ll be shelled by the end of SSB2, and forget about build. Or maybe not.

My advice is to take it by the horns; try different things, keep a record, see what moves the needle. And re-think why you’re trying to dump so much weight so fast, and whether that goal really deserves the priority you seem to give it right now, particularly if you find it might actually be working against your other goals of getting faster and having more fun.

Good luck!

my vote is just cut back to 1-2lb loss a week and like you said in #2, make sure you get the carbs for the workout.

good luck!

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This is the guide I use to nutrition:

https://thesufferfest.com/blogs/training-resources/eating-to-suffer-using-nutrition-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-training

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@OP in addition to the point you’ve raised about not finishing longer workouts, what FTP gains are you seeing? I’d suggest you’re not maximising your increases in power which is down to your calorie deficit.

As previous comments, what’s your personal aim here? Increased FTP or weight loss? I appreciate it’s not a binary question and you can aim for both goals but combining goals invariably will mitigate gains with each or both goals.

Carrying such a calorie deficit whilst under a heavy training load will stress your immune system and you have a higher chance of digging yourself a deep hole regarding your health.

Personally I’d increase my calorie intake to a point where I can complete the workouts with a weight loss of 1lb a week during base but look to maintain my weight during build and speciality phase given the extra load you’re asking of your body.

I’d also throw out there that the TR guys say high volume is only for the smallest percentage of riders. What if you tried dropping down to mid volume and see how you manage? It might be you’re carrying far too much fatigue into the longer rides and that’s hurting your completion rate.

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My own n=1 that I used TR as part of the latter stages of my own weight loss (from bigger than you to holding steady at probably a too light 70kg). I did it in stages, with several targets along the way, where I went into maintenance for a while. It was LV Triathlon plans I was following at the time mainly.

During the deficit period, I worked to 500 calorie deficit from food, and 500 from exercise. I lost weight, but best I could manage once out of the newbie structured training gains, was holding FTP steady. I did get myself in a couple of sickness holes, not so much from the food deficit, but rushing back to hit the exercise deficit.

If I was to go back I would focus more on fuelling workouts and recovery, rather than just maintaining protein intake (which is important). But even now, fuelling workouts and recovery is an aspect is something I’m actively addressing even at this stage.

I would say about the “training fasted” - training without food before isn’t necessarily training fasted. My own reading is that “fasted” training is with depleted glycogen stores, which isn’t the same thing as skipping breakfast.

As a bit of an aside what stood out to me in your post is the volume. You said you’re coming off a 2 year injury and are just getting back into structured training. You’re planning to do all high volume plans. That may be a set up for most people for burnout at some point. Don’t bite off more than you can chew (pun intended). Anyway, in regards to the weight loss (change in body composition), from what I’ve read and experienced it’s not so much about counting calories, caloric deficit, or “calories in vs. calories out”, but more about what you eat and when you eat. Eliminate simple sugars entirely and limit most carbs to fueling the workout. Otherwise eat clean nutritionally dense food and make sure you’re getting enough high quality protein and quality fat. Time restricted feeding (intermittent fasting) where your feeding window is smaller but the calories are not necessarily reduced decreases the blood sugar spikes followed by insulin spikes which result in weight gain. Good luck.

Those are arguably the hardest plans in the catalog at high volume.

If you can actually take that kind of volume, you’re going to lose some weight naturally due to the very high caloric expenditure (assuming you eat healthy and don’t binge).

Dieting would be a waste in a case like this, IMHO. All that effort that could be boosting FTP, VO2, and anaerobic power, would instead be diverted to weight loss, which you could easily achieve with much easier butter rides, i.e. Traditional Base.

That’s a really well done explanation. Thank you for posting.

Thanks to all the posters. A few comments regarding some of the the great suggestions…

Question 1) What’s my goal?
I though this was explicit in the OP. 1) Win crits. 2) Don’t suck on hilly rides. In that order.

Question 2) How have my gains been?
Great question, but hard to answer. I’m coming back, so quick gains are expected to be seen. I’m not sure the past 12 weeks are predictors of the future, but in 12 weeks I’m up from 200W to 246W while dropping almost 30 pounds. I don’t expect this trend to continue at the same rate however.

Suggestion 1) Change food quality (ie, don’t eat crap)
Yes, I know I didn’t write this explicitly, but my diet is all high quality choices with Macros strategically placed based on the timing of my workloads. I’m abstaining from sweets and alcohol to focus on my goals. I did love the descriptive Sufferfest write up though, thanks for that @Juarez

Suggestion 2) Move off of High Volume Plan:
I don’t think the issue is the HV plan gents. In the past I’ve put down outside rides of 500+ mile weeks for multiple weeks. Even if I choose the LV or MV plan I’ll just fill the TSS with low intensity zone 2 work, either way I’ll hit the same TSS.

Additionally, a few have mentioned the caloric expense of sweet spot work, yes, it costs a lot of calories, but my daily caloric deficit is 1k-1.3k. This means that the work I do on the bike, and the steps I take throughout the day are all factored into how much I eat. If I get a 1000 calorie bike ride in, I get to eat 1000 more calories than a day off the bike.

For those of you that have offered your personal advice of what has worked and not worked for you, thank you! Your insights are incredibly helpful.

@pkwell Agreed 100%. It’s always an N=1 experiment. That’s part of my weighing and measuring all my food. Thank you for the re-assurance.

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I understand that now is 2020 year but I would like to know how it is going with your training? Have you already achieved good results and lost weight. As I know the plans from the catalogue, that you have taken are hard enough to deal with them and get an effect if you are not a professional “fitman”. By the way, I have found a good way to lose weight, spend money with pleasure, and train flexibility and balance. Here are some mini-trampolines https://sportstopics.com/best-mini-trampolines/. You can put such a trampoline at your house and use it whenever you need. It’s a great addition.

Yeah a 1000 calorie deficit is considered “aggressive” even in a sedentary person and is generally only recommended for people with a lot of weight to lose, so a 1300cal deficit and SSBHV jumps out at me as the obvious thing here.

If it were me I would focus on getting some extra carbs in before the workout, and making sure you nail your recovery nutrition. It can also be helpful to have 1 day per week where you eat at maintenance calories- I find that helps with maintaining workout quality throughout the week, and it gives you a day where you can be a little more flexible with food. :slight_smile: