Sports are soooo body conscious these days. Let’s face it – the tiny shorts (or not so tiny) runners wear and the spandex triathletes wear (among other athletes) are not very forgiving. Honestly, most people don’t look good in wetsuits – even a lot of the pros. Most athletes have body composition goals or a “race weight” they want to achieve before race day. For these athletes, I recommend working in those goals into your training plan.
Losing weight requires you to eat less calories than you burn. When you’re in your off season or early in your training cycle, this is an achievable goal. However, as your race gets closer, reducing the number of calories gets harder without compromising workouts. I have athletes come to see me 2 – 3 months prior to their race wanting to drop 10 – 20 pounds. My question to them is, “What’s more important, your weight loss or having a quality race?” The reason I ask this question is that 2 – 3 months before a big race is when an athlete is going into their pre-race build. This is when the LONG workouts happen. This is when they need to be well fueled to get the most out of those workouts. Cutting calories can compromise the quality of those workouts. Yes, some people will naturally drop some weight during their build, but this shouldn’t be the focus of their training.
If you want to lose weight, or get a body composition change, look at your training plan and realistically assess where it fits in. During the off season or the start of your training cycle is the ideal place to put it. Plan for it just like you would plan for a race. If you’re doing multiple races, plan where to fit the body composition change in. I have had athletes who are racing back-to-back and state that all the races are “A” races (their most important ones). Well, then you need to plan another time to get the body comp change in if they really are all “A” races.
If you do want to work on a small body composition change when coming up to your race, you can try reducing your calorie intake by about 250 per day. This should result in about 1/2 pound per week weight loss. Yes, small. And, that small reduction shouldn’t impact your training. However, you need to pay attention to how your training feels and decide if you’re not feeling strong if it could be the calorie reduction. If so, add them back in and see how you feel.