This time of year you always hear the adverts on the TV and the radio for the weight loss programs.....how the average person gains 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's probably the circles I run in but I don't know of many that gain 10 pounds in just over a month! However, the whole weight loss issue isn't just for the seasonal eaters as it is also around this time of year that endurance athletes always start talking about their goal race weight and how they want to get to XXX pounds by the time the season rolls around.
Just this week I have had conversations with two people about losing weight and making sure that they lose the right weight and that they go about it in the right way. Sure it can be easy to lose weight fast but you need to make sure it stays off and that you don't lose muscle while doing it. If you lose muscle you will generally end up losing power and for most of us we need all the power we can get.
The key is to lose bodyfat and this time of year (i.e., winter) is an ideal time to do that. Training hours are typically lower this time of year and the workouts for many are a good mix of short intensity indoor workouts and then a longer endurance ride on the weekend. This means that you don't need to be eating any huge pre-workout meals for your shorter sessions and in most cases you should be able to get through the session with what your body has stored. Just make sure that you eat something for recovery within 20 minutes of your workout and that will replenish the body.
The longer rides are generally going to be of a slower nature than the spring and summer hammerfests and it is where you can work on your body's fat burning ability, but you have to ensure that you have enough calories to get a decent workout. Remember, the whole point of getting leaner is to enhance race performance. Getting leaner is a means to the end of better race performance, not an end in itself. As Matt Fitzgerald states "It’s important to keep this relationship straight and always prioritize performance improvement in your training. By definition, your racing weight is the weight at which you perform best. So you can’t even determine how much you should weigh on race day except by cultivating peak fitness."
For me my ideal weight for Ironman racing appears to be just at 160lbs. Right now I am around 165lbs and will slowly get down to about 162-163 lbs until 4-6 weeks before the goal races of the season when through training volume it will hit 160lbs. Being 6'-2" any lower than that and I feel as though I begin to lose some power and you start treading a tightrope between peak weight and potential illness. That's why it is only in the final few weeks that I hit the goal weight. There is no point in being at goal weight too early and not being able to hit the key workouts in the lead-up to the race.
However, if I can lose some bodyfat and add some muscle over this winter, then the weight can remain similar and the power will increase!
Check out Ironman world record holder Chrisse Wellington describe her body for ESPN....try and guess the bodyfat on her!