Well, I’m flattered, thank-you.
As others have suggested, you lose pounds in the kitchen, not on your bike. Just to highlight this point, a typical 1 hour sweet spot workout when you have an FTP around 250 will be about 600 calories burned, while a banana has around 120 calories in it. So, cutting back on what you eat could easily remove thousands of calories from your regular diet, which would be unsustainable to achieve through exercise. Until you can figure out why you’re gaining weight when you don’t want to be, it won’t matter which plan you choose.
So, I’d devote time now to reflection on your habits, routines and triggers. This forum is also full of people that have figured out how to make it work for them, if you haven’t done so take a look at the thread on weight loss. It’s almost 200 posts on people sharing their experiences in trying to balance training and body composition. I think you can get a good head-start on principles that work for people just like you.
I’d start by taking an inventory of what you do now. I know it’s painful, but for a week write down everything you eat and drink. Everything. “An apple” also doesn’t cut it, weigh your food. It should look like this:
- Milk 20 mls
- 2 slices - Dave’s Killer Bread Thin Slice
- Honey 1 tbsp
- 1 GU Gel
- 1 Banana 128 grams
- Post workout
- 1 scoop protein powder
- Milk 250 mls
- 1 Banana 153 grams
You get the idea. Then you take your weekly food diary and put it all into a MyFitnessPal account and you’ll see your daily calorie totals and macronutrient splits. Just average everything for the week to give you an average daily score. Then figure out what you need to consume daily (your BMR and TDEE), there’s a ton of calculators out there but this is the one I use. It’ll likely tell you that you’re currently burning around 1,800 calories per day just by waking up (your BMR) and that you need around 2,400 calories per day to sustain your current weight based on your current activity level (TDEE). Now is a good time to adjust the activity level drop list and see how little a difference it makes to increase your activity level. So, now compare your food diary averages to the TDEE estimate. Dollars to donuts you’re consuming more than 2,400 calories per day.
The next step is to make a plan you think you can stick to over the long term. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories, so if you reduce your average daily calorie intake to 300-400 calories below your TDEE it will take you 10 days to chew through a pound of fat. You want to lose 27 pounds of fat, so assuming you can be perfectly strict with your diet, that’ll take 270 days to reach your goal. You won’t be perfect though and you will go through fat loss plateaus along the way, so we need to come up with a plan that you can keep to for a year. A year is a long time to be eating foods you don’t like.
The interesting thing about your body is that it doesn’t discriminate very much about what a calorie is made up of. A calorie of lettuce is the same to your body as a calorie of chocolate. However, if you’re going to be in a calorie deficit for 12 months, you want to shoot for foods that offer good volume and satiety. Vegetables have really low calorie density so you can eat a ton of them without blowing your calorie budget and proteins make you feel full for longer. Fats are really important for your body to function, but are more than twice as calorie dense as carbohydrates and proteins (1 gram of carb and protein is 4 calories, 1 gram of fat is 9). So, you want to have a blueprint for your macronutrient splits. Something like 50% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 20% fat is a pretty good starting point. How does this compare to your food diary week? Look at where you might need to shift things, commonly less fat and more of both carbs and proteins. Now compile a list of the food and meals that you really like that you think you can’t live without. I’m not talking cheat meals here like Doritos, a diet built on a foundation of burgers is going to be tough. Maybe you really like pasta, or bagels for breakfast or lattes are important to you. Lock in the things you want to be eating daily/weekly and build your diet around those.
Time to sketch out a plan to adjust your nutrition plan. Think of it like a pyramid. The foundation to it all is total calories. Take your TDEE estimate and remove 300-400 calories. Likely this will give you a number around 2,000 calories per day. First rule is to not go over that. If, on average, you can’t meaningfully stay under your TDEE over the long term you will not lose weight, no matter how many vegetables you’re eating or when you’re eating them. The next layer of the pyramid is macro-nutrient split, the 50/30/20 we mapped out earlier. This will help you direct your calorie intake to nutritious foods that keep you feeling full. Then the top layer is marginal gains from nutrient timing, micro-nutrients, etc.
Ok, so take one of your average days from your food diary and lay it out. Doing this in excel can help as you tweak things. What you want to do is keep as much of your current diet that you like while hitting your planned numbers. Start to substitute and/or reduce things in the diet to get it to where it needs to be. Maybe you don’t need the pre-workout meal every day, maybe your 2 eggs and bacon for breakfast can be 1/2 cup of oatmeal, maybe your latte with milk can be an Americano, maybe your 4 oz of chicken breast becomes 2 oz and your rice is substituted for cauliflower rice. Make changes until you hit your calorie number of 2,000 for the day and the macro-nutrient split is roughly in line with your goal numbers. Next, look at your other regular meals and see how they fit against the corresponding meal. For example perhaps you have 1/2 cup oatmeal for breakfast some days, but on others you like 2 slices of toast with some eggs. If your “perfect day” includes the 1/2 cup oatmeal, how can you make your toast and eggs be roughly equivalent. Maybe it’s 1 slice of toast and 2 eggs to be equivalent in calories, carbs, proteins and fats. List out regular meals and their alternates so that you can mix-and-match a meal plan for the week and still hit your goals.
Now put your plan into action for a few weeks. Is weight coming off? No? Then reduce by another 100 calories and see again in another couple of weeks. Keep checking and adapting as you go and you’ll quickly get a good sense for the rough calories that make up a meal. Within a few weeks you can look at a plate and know what 300/500/1,000 calories instinctively looks like. Pre-workout food is fine, on the bike food is fine and snacks are fine as long as you can fit them in your food budget. This is a very scientific and controlled approach, but it will work. A calorie deficit for a year requires motivation and discipline. It will have an impact on the people around you who in most cases will not actually be that supportive. It’s an odd thing in our society that if you’re visually overweight, people will be supportive if you say you’re “on a diet and can’t eat cake”. But if you already look lean but you want to lose 27 lbs, they scratch their head. When you say you don’t want a burger, fries and a beer (1,200 calories) and would rather have salad and water, they’ll tell you that you already look great and “have nothing to worry about”. It takes mental toughness to get to the level of body fat that you are aspiring to. It’s achievable and I think worthwhile, but you need to figure out the sustainable system that works for you. The approach above is what I have used with success, but may not work as well for you. Make a plan, try it out, measure the results and adapt things as needed.