What's Cool In Road Cycling

Less is More: Slim Fast for Racers Part 2

Active athletes need a balanced and moderate diet matched to their caloric intake, and nothing makes a bigger difference to performance than getting leaner. Take away all the jargon and mumbo jumbo, and all diets distill into one common principle – taking in less calories than what you expend…

Sensible Recommendations for Weight Loss, part deux
Nearly three years ago as one of my very first PEZ training tips, I described several sensible recommendations for weight loss entitled ”Slim Fast for Racers.” I write “sensible” because often times a few simple dietary lifestyle changes will make all the difference without going “there”.

Where’s “there”? That neurotic, caloric counting, ultra anal, weighing your food approaching to dieting. Personally I can not get that involved with my nutrition but I recognize that everybody’s different. If you want to get down and dirty, “by the numbers” here’s the deal.

There are two basic components of your diet and weight loss: how much you need to consume and how much you actually eat. Figuring out your total daily caloric requirements will help you eat accordingly.

A Calorie is a Calorie
First off, let’s dispel any myths out there. All food, whether it’s a hot ‘n fresh glazed Krispy Kreme donut or a plate of pasta, has a caloric value. You can figure it out by looking at the values printed on the back of food labels or consulting an online food database such as fitday.com or calorieking.com.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
Your resting metabolic rate or RMR is the number of calories your body needs to live and breathe. I’m talking about vital functions like your heart beat, brain activity and respiration. If you were to lie on the couch all day and barely move, your RMR would represent your total daily caloric requirements.

Resting Metabolic Rate may be measured in a lab from your respiratory gases or it may be estimated with an online calculator from your age, height and weight. The 24 Hours of Fitness site and sponsor of USA Cycling has a handy dandy calculator.

Caloric Requirements of Exercise
Your RMR represents what it takes to lay around, but what about exercise? Estimating your daily energy expenditure from walking, working, and riding is more complicated but do-able. Estimates may be made again from a variety of online calculators but all of them center around duration and intensity. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. And the higher intensity at which you exercise, the more calories or “fuel” your body consumes.

If you are fortunate enough to own a powermeter (did I mention how handy these are?) your energy expenditure is represented by the total workload of your ride in kilojoules. Kilojoule is a unit of work that by a quirk of nature handily converts in a 1:1 ratio to calories. So for every kilojoule that you ride, you’ve also burned 1 calorie of food. Ride a thousand kJ’s and that’s good for one burrito.

For those of you who are so inclined, here are the conversion factors:

Ride 3,000 kJ and that’s a lot of food. Kinda gives meaning to Eddy’s famous quote, “ride more, eat less” eh?

Putting it all together
Take the number of calories burned during exercise and add that to your RMR. Poof, you’ve calculated your total daily caloric requirements.

RMR + Energy Expenditure = Total Daily Caloric Requirement

Energy in = Energy Out. Simple, right? Now what to do with these numbers?

Log it Down!
Now, take this number and eat 250 to 500 kcals or calories less each day and watch the lbs disappear. Simple huh? Yes, but you’ll need to calculate your total daily caloric requirements each day and then count every calorie you eat. That is asking a lot of athletes but it is nevertheless important to understand the numbers behind process. All the successful diets in the world adhere to these scientific principles whether it’s the South Beach diet or cyclist’s Krispy Kreme diet.

The other, more moderate method to track your energy intake is to do a three-day dietary log, where you record and calculate your food intake on a combination of weekday and weekends. If your diet is generally stable throughout the week, these three days will give you a good average value to work from. The other benefit of dietary logs is that it becomes a self-reinforcing practice. Nobody wants to look bad even to their own diaries, so you end up skipping that extra bowl of chips because it ends up looking darned embarrassing entering it into the log!

Long Term
By cutting back 250 to 500 calories per day, everyday on a consistent basis, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Over the course of 8 to 10 weeks or more and that’s a huge lifestyle change. And I’m here to tell you, it’s the single greatest improvement you can make for your cycling performance, besides increasing your power output. Count calories if you must but also conceptually consider your food choices. Together you have a winning recipe.

Frank Overton
Frank is neither a registered dietician nor a meal planner. But he can help integrate a weight loss strategy into your training plan. For more information check ‘em out @
FasCat Coaching.com

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