Since posting a photo on social media of me in my pain cave following an early morning Zwift session a few days ago, I have been receiving a lot of positive comment about how lean I am looking. Lots of people have also mentioned personally to me that I appear to have lost lots of weight. Part of training for Ride Le Loop I have consciously wanted to drop weight (those hills are going to be HARD!), but partly it has occurred with increased training volumes.
Prior to World Triathlon Champs in Chicago 3 years ago I got really lean (well you decide for yourself), and I was pretty anal about counting every calorie, and cutting back on fat intake, whilst keeping carbohydrate intake high, and whilst it worked to great effect, mentally (at times) it was a struggle. So I wasn’t sure I could do it again.
So this time around I decided to take a slightly different approach to getting fit for more of an endurance based challenge, and the weight loss has been good (perhaps not to the extent I saw pre-Worlds) but I am happy. So what’s the secret of my weight loss this time around…well
My 5 steps to weight loss without counting calories are:
1. Increase training volume.
Yes, it really does seem to be that easy. The simple fact is to lose weight you need to be consuming less calories than you are consuming. So either cut down on calories (by counting them) or simply increase your training volume. For me, with the volumes I will need to be doing in Le Loop it was very easy (and necessary) to increase training from my typical 4 to 8 hours per week, to 15 to 20 hours per week. As a result, with more time on the bike, there was less time for eating. So without really trying, it was quite easy to get the body into an energy deficit. However, often increases in training volume can lead to increases in hunger, so I did need to watch a little of what I was eating. Hence…
2. Cut the cr@p!
In the first few weeks, where I was observing a massive drop in weight, I really cut back on anything that would be considered to be empty calories, or unhealthy foods. Whilst I don’t drink (alcohol) often, I do have a mild sugar addiction. So for “Miserable May” I cut all carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, sweets and ice cream! Obviously by doing this, and stepping up the training, I was going to be massively down on energy, so I stepped up my intake of fresh fruit and also what potentially could described as healthier snacks (such as naked or paleo bars). This had a massive impact and in the first weeks of increasing activity and reducing rubbish my weight plummeted. The results were both unbelievable and also (probably) unsustainable. So when I stepped up volume considerably to coincide with a massive training week (nearly 20 hours over the half term week) I allowed myself a few treats of the bad stuff. Noticeably, since doing this, my weight has plateaued and bounced between 74 and 75kg on a daily basis, so with under three weeks to go to Le Loop, I might need to clean up my act for a few days again to get the final reductions in weight (I am certainly no where near as lean as I was before the World tri champs, but then I have not been as obsessed and hardly been running).
That said, I have been using the following nutrition related training techniques to help as well
3. Fasted rides
Some, but not all of my morning rides have been done in a fasted state. That pretty much means I will not have consumed any energy before starting the session. For some a strong cup of coffee, or a green tea might be used to stimulate fat metabolism and to wake the body up, but as I don’t like either, I generally will do my fasted rides completely empty. These rides need to be of a lower intensity, and the aim is to promote fat metabolism as it is likely to be 8-10 hours since the last food was consumed.
Generally when I have done a shorter fasted ride (up to 90 mins) I have remained on water, or Stealth super hydration mix only. Occasionally I might consume some carbohydrates earlier if I felt performance was being compromised. For longer rides I generally would start consuming carbohydrate after 60 mins to keep my body used to metabolising energy at the rate it will occur, but again I have stretched the limit and done some of my longer rides of up to 150km on mostly hydration mix, which contains only 20g of carbohydrate per litre, to really push my body and my metabolism!
However, this is not recommended, and care must be taken when using fasted rides in training. You can have too much of a good thing, and too many fasted rides are likely to compromise rather than boost your performance! So I have also been using a newer strategy:
4. Sleep low
Not all of my rides have been done in the morning or day. Frequently I have done some early evening rides. Usually these have been whilst Becky has been on a late shift and the kids have been in bed. So between anything from 7:30 to 9pm I have jumped onto the bike in the pain cave for a Zwift session. Sometimes these have been structured sessions led by Club WBR (World Bike Relief) at other times I have ridden steadily to either heart rate or power. During these sessions I have fed normally (both during the day and the training session), but the crucial thing here, is when the session has been completed I have not taken any carbohydrate post exercise, by either having no food, or just consuming a small amount of protein (and making sure I did rehydrate well). On some occasions I would then train the following morning, on other occasions this would not be possible. However, when I did undertake a “sleep-low” session my body weight was generally down considerably the following morning.
5. Double days
In addition to fasted morning sessions, or sleep low training rides, I have occasionally incorporated double days. That is simply where a session has been undertaken in the morning and a second session has been undertaken later in the day. Whilst this has scientifically been shown to have a positive impact on endurance performance, I also believe that it has helped me with both performance and weight loss. Possibly from the perspective that I have just increased training volume, but nevertheless, I do think it is a worthwhile strategy to develop endurance and achieve weight loss. Again, these sessions should be added carefully within a training plan, and thought needs to be made to ensure you are both recovering properly, and eating adequately.
So, those are my secrets to how I have managed to drop nearly 9kg in under 8 weeks, without counting calorie intakes! Perhaps at times I have been too extreme. I certainly might not recommend the speed of weight loss I have achieved, but I watch my training carefully and try to listen to my body as best as possible.
With three weeks to the start of my epic ride along the Tour de France route, I still want to be a little leaner, so I might just have to add the occasional fasted day, but that’s another story!
If you need help with achieving weight loss for sport, don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help you with your performance.
I hope this has been of help
PS if you have found this helpful, please consider sponsoring me in my challenge 🙂