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As a nutritionist, I hear many clients say they want to lose weight — to look better, have more energy, improve their health. But losing weight can also help you increase your power on the bike.

Ratios intrinsically provide two ways to improve the ratio — by manipulating either variable. The results of improving both variables can be dramatic.

As covered in a previous post, efficiency — the ratio of work output to expended energy — can improve with increased work output or decreased energy expenditure (or both).

In the same way, your power-to-weight ratio on the bike (measured in watts per kg) can improve with increased power or decreased body weight, or both.

Power is itself another ratio, of work to time. If work increases or time decreases, the result is greater power. ICI/PRO is currently covering this topic in depth.

So that provides 3 variables in the power-to-weight ratio: increase your strength (work), increase your speed, or decrease your body weight (or all of them).

Why Lose Weight?

Even if you”™re not overweight, weight loss may improve your power-to-weight ratio. It need not — and shouldn”™t — involve a strict “diet” that leaves you hungry most of the day.

It does involve careful monitoring of your numbers — how many calories you burn (using your power meter or, preferably, a wearable calorie counter 24 hours a day), and your calorie intake.

The goal is to eat fewer calories per day than you burn, but not by much, just 150 to 300 calories. If that feels too restrictive, drop the deficit to 100 calories. The result would be a slow decrease in weight that you can stop or reverse at any time.

These days, the general recommendation for weight loss is rapid loss. (Is that to match up with HIIT and the shorter-and-harder approach to fitness, I wonder?) Rapid weight loss is said to keep the “loser”™s” motivation high.

Yet gradual weight loss — while also training for power — has the advantage of maintaining fat-free mass (FFM) so you won”™t lose strength, an important variable in the power ratio.

Holding On To FFM

Weight loss often decreases muscle mass, especially rapid loss. But in the long-running (13-plus years) weight-loss program for which I was both the nutritionist and a training coach, we typically saw steady or increased FFM while the participants lost weight at a slow, sustainable rate.

That helped them maintain strength and power so they could do the training, which was frequently high-intensity. The intense training, of course, was designed to increase strength and power.

Maintaining FFM also prevented participants from having to drop calorie intake more and more (and more) for continued weight loss.

Don”™t Bonk

Make sure you don't restrict calories on the ride itself. Whether you”™re riding outdoors or doing tough power training in the studio, under-fueling before or during the ride could cause you to bonk.

Even without bonking, you may still feel week and have difficulty working up to your capacity — the power you”™re trying to improve. Fuel as usual while riding.

Keep the calorie restriction small. Cut back a little more on days that you”™re not training hard, or at least save the restriction for after the ride. If your power ride is late in the day, early A.M. calorie cutbacks may work. Just keep your pre-ride meal about the same as usual, and eat or drink whatever you need on the bike.

Be strict about post-training refueling (covered in a previous post) so you can train well the next day.

Technique and Efficiency

In all of this, don”™t forget that better technique on the bike will help you waste less energy by reducing the energy needed for pedaling, reducing energy lost as body heat, and retaining more energy for your next pedal stroke. Your functional strength, a power variable, will increase.

Combining good technique, all the power training tips you”™re currently getting here on ICI/PRO, and gradual weight loss will help you dramatically increase your power-to-weight ratio on the bike.

Wishing you great success with this!

Joan Kent

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