Find it, reach it – and stay lean for life.– By Selene Yeager
Behold the mighty kilogram. Each one has potential. To put raw power into your pedals. To outsprint the masses to the line. To ascend the likes of Mont Ventoux. But pack on too many (especially of the non-power-producing variety—in other words, fat) and they’ll weigh you down, slow you down, and maybe even shorten your life. Shave off too many, and you risk losing some of your crank-churning power. That’s why, of all the figures cyclists track, from heart rate to mileage to speed, perhaps none outrank the one on the bathroom scale.
“I spend a lot of time helping riders achieve their ideal weight because the rewards are so great,” says Hunter Allen, founder of the Peaks Coaching Group and coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter. “Every half-kilo you carry above that weight makes you 10 to 12 seconds slower for each kay of a climb.” Off the bike, the rewards are just as substantial. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that losing just 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can lower your blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and protect against diabetes and cancer. Even if you never compete, slimming down will help you enjoy riding more because your heart won’t have to work as hard. Maybe you’ll even drop some of those leaner-than-thou types on the group ride. You get the idea.
But this is about being strong, not skinny. Fat plays a key role in immune-system function—if you don’t have enough, your energy will flag and you’ll get sick. Become so lean that you start to burn muscle, and your power will plummet. The idea is to find a sweet spot where you can ride strong, yet be healthy, too.
This sweet spot depends on numerous factors, including your current weight, height, and body-frame size. Below, we give you three ways to find a target ideal weight you can live, ride, or even race with for life. Focus on the one that best fits your goals, or try all three. Then, read on for our training and meal plans designed to help you achieve your ideal cycling weight—and stay there for good.