I’m not sure who obsesses more over their weight – the covers of popular magazines displayed in grocery store checkout lines or road cyclists. My bet would be on the latter. Unlike the magazines, cyclists point to fancy sounding terms like, “power-to-weight ratio”, which basically translates to: how much power you can generate pedaling your bicycle versus how much you weigh. Power-to-weight ratio is particularly important to those who ride up hills on their bicycle, aka “climbing”. The less weight you have to haul up the hill the better. Makes sense. Nevermind the weight obsession.
At the beginning of this year I determined I was only going to target one main cycling event, The Ultimate Challenge in Utah. It’s the sixth stage of the Tour of Utah and it’s full of climbing. Over 10,000′ in total.
I was at 180 lbs in January, 2016. I’m 6′ 2″, so that weight is not bad. But, I wanted to do better on the bike when it came to climbing and knew that the most significant improvement I could make was losing weight. I also knew how to do that. The question was how much weight I should target to lose. I was concerned about losing weight while training at the same time. As absurd as that sounds, it can be legitimately awful to restrict your calories while putting in miles on the bike on a consistent basis. Losing weight and cycling don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I knew I’d have to balance getting stronger on the bike with losing weight so that I didn’t burn out or make my body vulnerable to every sickness known to man.
Ever the healthy example, enter pro cycling. (Done laughing yet? Me either.) I learned that most pro cyclists are in a height-to-weight ratio of 2.1 to 2.3. That means you take your height in inches and multiply it by those numbers. I’m 74″ tall, so I was looking at a target range of 155 to 170 lbs. The thought of 155 made me laugh a little. 170 was very doable and didn’t seem like it would push me quite enough, so I targeted 165 lbs. as my ideal weight to get to by the end of June. Since I started losing weight in earnest in February, that gave me 5 months to lose 15 pounds. Losing 3 pounds a month is very reasonable. I felt comfortable with that goal being attainable while not pushing me to reach an impossible balance at meal time and training on the bike.
I lost the first 10 pounds fairly quick and I was feeling good on the bike. I don’t have a power meter for my bike, so the whole “power-to-weight ratio” was going to have to be measured in less scientific ways. I went by feel and some far less scientific measurements in regards to my times up various climbs in the area. Sure enough, I was seeing results and I felt really good. I decided I would set my weight loss target to 160. While the first ten pounds came off fairly quick with small changes in my diet, the next ten didn’t come off so easy. I had to tighten up on my calorie counting and there were a number of nights I went to bed and felt hungry. By the end of June I was in the range of 160-162. In July I was able to settle into my weight. Perfect timing.
The ride is over. I’m happy with my effort, had fun out there, and my body feels good overall.
In regards to my weight loss in preparation for this ride, my takeaways are:
- Target a healthy and attainable weight several months in advance of the event
- Don’t try to lose more than 1 lb. per week
- Be prepared to be hungry when you train
- Don’t starve on long (2+ hour) rides – hydrate and eat (I target ~60g carbs per hour after the first 2 hours)
- Do closely pay attention to what and how much you eat throughout each day, even (especially?) on hard training days
- Plan on hitting your target weight weeks in advance of the event
- Stabilizing weight at this time is important so that the focus is on peak strength in regards to conditioning, recovery, and nutrition