Shifting the festive weight

It’s more than halfway through January, and I anticipate that gym attendance shall drop off shortly. I started off the year a few kilos heavier than when my training tapered off in December, and set myself the goal of getting down to ‘race weight’ within two months. I’ve used that term ‘race weight’ in the past, and I suppose I always hazarded a guess at to what my optimal weight might be. For me, this has always been a bit of a dark art: even last year when I was in great racing shape, my weight target had been an arbitrary figure. So I’ve spent the first 17 days of the year working hard at dropping my weight to this year’s race weight, which is 4 kilos lighter than what I weighed at the end of last year.  However, I have surprised myself by shedding most of that weight already (3.7 kilos in 17 days), through intermittent fasting, cycling through a ketogenic diet and burning several hundred ‘active’ calories a day. In fact, for the last few of the 17 days I had been burning over 1000 active calories a day as a target.

So where’s my limit?

My ‘race weight’ was an arbitrary figure I assigned, based partially on previous weights and comparison against my peers who compete in similar sporting activities. My thoughts led to “if I continued on this trajectory, where will my weight end up?” But then I realised that this was a simplistic approach to weight management, as overall weight is just one important factor. Early this morning I used a body composition analysis machine (the Inbody 770) to figure out what I’m made out of. I found the stats most interesting:

  • More than 50% of my overall weight is Skeletal Muscle Mass.
  • 11.2% of my overall weight is fat.
InBody770 machine

The InBody 770. Best used after a two hour fast.

In order to race faster, it would be useful to drop my fat percentage a bit further, whilst holding on to my muscle mass. Arguably, I could benefit from increasing my muscle mass for my events this year, which are predominantly cycling and running. So to move on from where I am now, if I wanted to build an extra kilo of leg muscle whilst not increasing my overall weight, I would need to simultaneously lose one kilo of fat (which coincidentally would take me squarely down to 10% body fat).

But that’s still oversimplifying it. I ran a spreadsheet with many different sets of values. Would I be faster if I was overall lighter, but lost muscle mass? Would I be faster if I was the same weight, but more mass was muscle? Again, there’s still no clear answers because it depends on the type of event. If I needed explosive power for a sprint, then higher muscle percentage would be beneficial. If I needed to run an ultramarathon, I could probably let some muscle atrophy as I am unlikely to be working at maximal output. If I entered triathlons this season or decided to get back into rock climbing, I would benefit from more muscle in my upper body. (The body composition machine gives you a breakdown of muscle mass per appendage, so I could easily track this).

Even if I knew which direction I needed my body composition to go, I’d still have to make it happen. And that would have to involve decisions around the way I choose to build muscle and lose fat. Cut out too much fat from my diet and my testosterone levels dip. Cut out too much protein and my muscle mass decreases. Cut out too many carbs and I may struggle to continue training at the same level (although a ketogenic diet is a whole other topic).

I shall keep tracking my progress, but my ultimate focus is on performance in my sporting activities.

Keep training hard!


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