Weight Loss - Acceptable Caloric Deficit?

Hey everyone. Finally taking a look at weight/nutrition to hopefully improve my performance. Are there any general guidelines on what is an acceptable caloric deficit while training? Since 11/15 I’ve lost around 8-10 lbs (3.5-4.5 kg). I started using MyFitnessPal after the New Year to track things with much more precision. Last week, it looks like my caloric deficit was around 4,600 calories, or 650 per day. I am also wrapping up SSBHV2; my first attempt at a high volume plan.

You probably know where this is going… I’m starting to find that I am very under fueled for workouts. Yes, I know a heavy training phase is not the best time for weight loss, but my goal is to come out with 4 w/kg in the spring, and this is where I find myself. On the upside, I’m already almost there (on the weight side), but in retrospect I’ve been cutting too fast. I’ve been meal prepping for work out of the feedzone cookbook, but I’m finding the meals are no where near enough fuel. Advice?! Thanks all!

Current weight is 181 lbs, by the way. I’m 6’2".

SO I’ve lost 35 lbs since my high post surgery with steady FTP improvements across the same time frame. My system has been to plan to replace at least 2/3 of what I burn, and fuel for the workout no matter what. Now I had a more receptive start than you because I had put on weight pre and post surgery, rather than being in an already lean and well trained state. You’re in the realm of diminishing returns, but I will tell you my experience as you have already stated, you wont be able to complete the needed workouts with a deficit like that.

I’ve made all my gains through focusing on the workout rather than weight loss and the weight loss has come as my body comp stabilizes. You’re going to be in the realm of 1/2 lb or so a week I would guess.

I believe the biggest deficit I’ve run was about 2500 in one week, and I was in a mid volume SSB plan and couldn’t finish the longer stuff. I started supplementing my fueling pre workout with Tailwind Hydration (mostly for the caffeine and the carbs) and I got through that time frame, but with a lot of dragging in the middle of workouts. I’m only doing some basic core workouts right now off the bike, but I’ve an eye on strength training here starting in the next few weeks, and I intend to up my protein intake accordingly.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve had a lot of success by fueling for my workouts. YMMV, but it seems to be the most successful strategy amongst those folks report on here and other forums. And it definitely worked fo me.

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I would use your current body composition as the determining factor and go from there.

If you can maintain current weight and gain a few watts and meet your goal, then continue on to Build plan. If you’ve got some easy weight (fat) to shed then dial back intensity and maintain volume for a short block and you could probably keep power and get there. Build Plan intensity is not friendly to calorie counting.

FWIW I just finished General Build HV and had to do some serious eating compared to SSB to keep up and still shed a couple pounds. I’m also 6’2” but only about 160 and realized I needed to focus on power gains and not worry about watching weight to hit my w/kg goal. Always go after the low hanging fruit first.

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I play this game every year, gain a few pounds in the fall and over the holidays and try and loose it during the build and specialty phases. What I have found is you have to fuel for the workouts otherwise you will struggle and not get the power gains you are looking for. I’m 51, 5ft-11 currently 168. Trying to drop down between 160-162. I have been as low as 158 but then my power starts to suffer and I have to starve myself to stay there. I eat about 23-2400 calories a day(tracked on MFP), try and keep it about 55% carbs, 25% protein, 20% fat. I find the caloric deficit thing on MFP way off…it has me weighing 142 lbs in 6 weeks everytime I finalize my diary. You just have to experiment and find what works and be prepared to change when your body stalls out. Right now I am dropping about a half pound a week but feel pretty good on the workouts.

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Thanks guys, interesting. I’m probably running at >1 lb per week, sounds like a 1/2 pound would have been better. I’m coming up on the SSB recovery week, so I can probably keep this up that week, and get rid of a little more easy fat weight. I’m going prioritize fueling for these last SS sessions so I can smash them. Sounds like I can count on JUST TRAINING to get me the remainder of the way to my weight goal (heading into build phase). At least I know I can cut quick if needed, but should not plan on performing at a high level.

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@bolithoa Here is some good info from Frank Overton of Fascat Coaching.
https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/weight-loss-for-cyclists/

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Eddie Lawson (a kinda famous motorcycle racer) always says you don’t know where the limit is if you don’t exceed it. If nothing else, you now know where your bottom limit is.

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rather than guess what calories you need go get a resting metabolic test done. It will give you a baseline if you did nothing all day caloric requirement.

Then add around 800cal per hour of exercise for someone of your size.

The metabolic test will also give you an idea of your fat / sugar burn rate whilst at rest.

Test don’t guess.

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I think the general recommendation is a deficit of around 500 calories per day when combined with a reasonable training load. 650 is not that much bigger to be causing huge problems, although if the 650 average is masking swings between 1000 and 200 per day, well, you could be underfueled after a 1000 deficit day.

Also, timing can play an issue. Trying to do a pre-breakfast high intensity workout with a larger deficit could be an issue, but having some easily digested fuel before or with your workout could make it manageable.

Traditional Base is probably more compatible with a larger deficit and weight loss, but there may be reasons why you prefer SSB.

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A few things I’d recommend…

The caloric deficit you’ve been running will likely only be possible during base. You will need more fuel during build and specialty.

This is my unique snowflake view - but I think it does apply more broadly.

For me it is possible to survive base workouts at a daily caloric deficit in the 250-500 range because of the nature of the efforts - thus it is best to target your weight loss into the base phase.

It is much harder to maintain any caloric deficit in build or specialty - so I’d recommend cutting your daily deficit way back (0-250) as you transition into build if your primary goal is increasing the power number. You can still lose weight in build and specialty but it is much harder. Once you settle into week 2 or 3 of build you can evaluate how you’re doing and assess the daily deficit again there - but don’t try to do build at -500 to start

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I was struggling with how to lose the bit of extra weight I had been carrying for too long and finally bit the bullet and started talking with a sport specific nutritionist Shred Science and have had incredible results. She actively changes what my macros should be every week as we have a check in every Monday. She addresses not only what I’m eating but making sure my training is still solid and that I can actually complete my workload. If you’re interested in giving it a shot tell her you were referred by Marc Langlois and we’ll both get a free month. It is a little difficult for the first couple weeks to just get your bearings but now it’s simple and pretty straight forward.

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I’m also in the midst of weight loss and training, and using MFP. I would suggest that you also do a TDEE calculation, though getting you BRM measured as suggested above would be even better. For me and my partner MFP isn’t right in it’s base calories. I found that when set to -2lbs a week it was nearly equal to the linked TDEE’s suggestion for me “cutting” which is based on 500 calories a day deficit, or 1 pound a week. For both of us it was within 50 calories and totally explains why my partner wasn’t losing any weight when she had MFP set to 1 pound per week loss (that would have been her base using the TDEE calculator). So we still use MFP but have it set to -2 lbs a week knowing it’s really only 1.

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I agree completely with getting your BMR measured. I found it very helpful in planning.

I’m a firm believer that calories deficits are just to mask the bigger issue which is a bad diet. You can’t gain weight eat fruits and vegs (raw), cutting the oil, salts, sugars is always a good idea, then gorge your self on fruits and vegetables, ride your ass off on the bike and watch the fat melt away. The normal western diet that has been sold to people as healthy is BS.

Even @Chad or @Nate said the other day something to the effect that there is no way to overdue it with vegetables.

They also mentioned the pro’s doing massive rides and going straight to sleep. Those guys are outliers, their job is riding bikes and every gram matters to them. During the race season they’re not dealing with a full time job, kids, wife, etc.

I’m eating no more than 1,200 calories per day with strenuous exercise - have lost 10lbs since 1/1.

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I sincerely doubt that’s true. Your BMR assuming you’re around around 70-80kg would be around 1200-2000+ calories per day plus what is burned during “strenuous exercise”. Sorry homie, calling absolute BS on this one unless you weigh 25kg and/or don’t really exercise at all. You might be able to do it for 1-2 days, but it could not be sustained.

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Want a copy of my food log, champ?

Nope. Your post is misguided, I don’t need proof of that. Second, if you could lose 5kg in 20 days, which is a stretch of the truth itself, you’re probably not in best physical condition to begin with to be providing dietary advice to others. But this is the internet, you can be anybody you want, even if it’s all fabricated.

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You might be doing it now. It won’t be sustainable. Your body can handle this type of cut for a week or two but you’ll start to suffer and so will your training.

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