Stay Lean For Life

Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that dropping kilos turns out to be the easy part. Keeping them off? Not so much. In fact, a recent study puts the odds at one in six for maintaining weight loss.


Selene Yeager |

That’s pretty discouraging news. The better news is that as an active cyclist, you’re already one step ahead of the game. “People who maintain their activity levels have much better odds of staying at their lower weight,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the Active Calorie Diet.

The National Weight Control Registry reports that among people who successfully keep weight off, men burn an average of 13 787kJ a week and women an average of 10 655. That works out to about an hour of moderate riding every day. As activity levels slide, weight creeps back on.

You may also need to start eating a little less. Losing weight resets your metabolism. And the more you ride, the more efficient you become at burning calories. In short, the new, leaner you needs fewer kilojoules to sustain your body both on and off your bike. The adjustments aren’t huge. For each kg you lose, your total kilojoule requirements dip by about 92. So a rider who dropped 10kgs needs 920 fewer kilojoules each day. Keep following a weight-loss plan until you hit your goal weight. Then stay with it for three months, allowing your metabolism to adjust.

[box]Here are four other strategies that researchers have linked to keeping weight off.

Eat breakfast It keeps your energy level steady so you don’t overeat later in the day.
Weigh in The vast majority of people who stay slim step on a scale at least once a week—those concrete numbers staring up at you are simply too hard to ignore.
Be Consistent Most folks who keep the pounds off do so by staying the course. They eat well most of the time without swinging between deprivation and bingeing.
Reward Yourself Giving yourself strategic incentives (a new jersey or gloves, for example, rather than, say, cake) for healthy behaviour prevents backsliding.[/box]

Where Does Power-to-Weight Fit In?

The single best measure of your cycling performance is your power-to-weight ratio. This figure refers to the maximum power output measured in watts that you can sustain for an extended period of time, generally 30 minutes or more. You’ll need a power meter to find this number.

The standard test for determining power is to perform a 20-minute time trial on an uphill grade. No hill at your disposal? Simulate the test on a flat road or trainer. Avoid rolling roads, which will lower your overall power number. Record the average wattage you produce, then divide the watts by your morning body weight in kilograms.  So if you weigh 82kg and you average 270 watts, your power-to-weight ratio is 3.3 watts per kg.

To score a top spot on a Pro team, that number would need to be above 6 watts per kg. Beginner cyclists usually pull in the range of 2.5 to 3.2 for men and 2.1 to 2.8 for women. Fast recreational riders produce wattage in the range of 3.7 to 4.4 for men and 3.2 to 3.8 for women.

If you’re cranking out 2.9 and want to hit 3.9, look at your weight first. If it’s where you want it to be, work on your power. Regular strength training, especially squats, leg presses, and step-ups, can do the job. Turn that strength into power on the bike by performing intervals.

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