Confused about weight management

Hi all,

I’ve been listening to TR’s ACC podcast and have heard Coach Chad and some guests all say things to the effect of “don’t diet on the bike”. If that’s the case, how am I expected to lose weight?

I’m 220 lbs and about 30% body fat, my goal is to try to get down to 200 lbs but limiting that to just fat loss. That being said, I keep reading and listening to advice that tells me to make sure I fuel for my rides. If I do that, the best case scenario ends up being that I don’t lose any weight at all.

So what is the best way to cut fat while maintaining/increasing muscle mass and power output? Here’re some details on my nutrition and routine:

  • Consume approximately 3,000 calories per day, broken down to 381g carb/ 21g fat / 213g protein, this is supposed to bring me into caloric deficit of 1lb per week, according to MyFitnessPal.
  • TrainerRoad SSB LV2 plan (3.5 total hours) with 1-2 outdoor rides of around 2-3 hours per ride, total of about 7.5-9.5 hours on the bike per week.
  • 1 TrainerRoad Level 3 strength maintenance workout per week (for bone and overall muscular health)
  • 1 Muay Thai session per week (for overall fitness)

If I really stick to the 3,000 calorie in take plan, I find myself struggling to get through workouts and being an overall jerk to my family. Is this the cost of trying to lose weight?

I know this was a long topic and I appreciate any advice, I’m just super confused and frustrated on how I’m supposed to get rid of this fat. My sedentary buddies tell me to go keto or just cut out sugar, but everyone here knows that’s not possible or even health as an endurance athlete.

Thanks all!

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What he means when he says “don’t diet on the bike” is that whether you’re on or off your diet, the amount you eat while you’re physically on the bike moving the bike, shouldn’t change. It’s off the bike in your meals and snacking is where you have weight loss.

I’m not diving too much into your numbers here - assume you’ve done the math, but I can 100% say that yes - you being grumpy is a side effect of being hungry. I’m super snippy and in a bad mood if I’m not eating a fully amount. Up to you and your family to know if that’s worth it or not. :slight_smile:

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I’d say that “don’t diet on the bike” is applicable for folks who’s targeting fitness gains.

My (perhaps over-simplistic) understanding is:

  • If you’re on calories deficit (because of mixing diet and exercises), don’t expect (big) gains in fitness. Not a big issue when your primary goal is weight loss.
  • if you’re focusing on fitness gains, you need fuel. Hence - when eating properly, do not expect (big) weight loss. If you do have weight loss, perhaps your diet is not optimal.

Best regards,
Jarek

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21g of fat is incredibly low, would be both hard to actually accomplish and likely not healthy for a bunch of reasons (hormones, micronutrient absorbtion, satiety, etc.). I would definitely up it a more reasonable ~25% - 30% of your calories, which at 3k calories is 80g - 100g.

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Pounds are lost in the kitchen, not on the bike. You must fuel your rides (reasonably) so you can do more work and thus burn more calories.

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I think it is hard to make fitness gains while on a big calorie deficit, but the less fit and more overweight you are the easier it is. I.e. Somebody who is at 15% bodyfat and has been training 10 hours/week for a couple of years and is trying to get down to 12% BF probably shouldn’t expect any power gains while doing so, and may even lose a few watts. For you at 30% BF trying to get to ~23% BF it should be easier. Very hard to lose only fat though, there’s nearly always a bit of muscle loss along the way.

Re the advice about fuelling workouts the higher the intensity the more carbs you need and if your muscles don’t have enough glycogen available you either won’t be able to complete the workout, the quality will suffer, and/or your recovery will suffer. So fuel appropriately to ensure you can do a quality workout. You also don’t want to finish the ride on empty and then pig out!

“Appropriate” depends on workout length, intensity and when you last ate. My rough and ready approach is:

  • Assume I have 1500 calories glycogen available if I’ve eaten recently
  • Aim to finish with at least ~1000 calories of glycogen left so I’m not running empty or tempted to overeat after
  • Figure about a third of calories come from carbs for recovery and endurance workouts, half for tempo and sweetspot, two thirds for threshold and above (this isn’t spot on but it’s easy to figure and close enough for my purposes)

So for something like Pettit, it’s 750 cals total, 250 from carbs, so if I’ve eaten recently I don’t need to eat during the ride, if I’ve just got up and am training before breakfast I’ll have a few calories to get the metabolism going. For a long SS session like Wright Peak -2, it’s 1800 calories, 900 from carbs, so I should be aiming to eat 4-500 calories during the ride. For a 1 hour VO2 workout like Baird +2 it’s 900 calories, 600 from carbs, so borderline as to whether I need to fuel during the workout if I’ve eaten beforehand, but I also need all the help I can get on those workouts so I’ll typically have a small sugar hit like a date or 2, a bit of dried fruit or a few Haribo as a reward after each set.

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Thanks! Sorry for that, I ended up using my current intake for the day when I typed that in. I actually have it broken down as follows:
321g carbs
86g fat
129g protein
This is on a 2,570 calorie sedentary day goal.

Even then, I find it very difficult to stay under 100g fat.

Thanks for the reply! My understanding is that you also need to fuel recovery as well, coach Chad talked at length about how important it is to not cut your caloric intake on your recovery days, as it will hamper muscular adaptation and ruin following workouts.

That’s very interesting. I’d consider any day I’m not riding to be a recovery day. If you need calories to fuel a workout and calories to recover from one then how does one lose any weight at all?

I wonder if a caloric defecit on a recovery day might be ok if protein intake is maintained?

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Thanks for the detailed response. How do you go about calculating the amount of glycogen available? I usually do my workouts first thing in the morning, would my glycogen levels be pretty depleted after a 12 hour fast?

You either go to a lab and get a bunch of expensive tests done, or you guesstimate😉

General consensus seems to be that an average person will have 1500-2000 calories of glycogen stored in the body when fully fuelled I.e. They’ve eaten recently and not exercised since. I work on the lower end of that scale since I typically train first thing in the morning or straight after work when I may not have eaten since lunch 3-4 hours previously. Training first thing in the morning just increase the calorie intake by a few hundred. There’s also some trial and error involved, you learn what works for your body.

Re the post above about fuelling during, fuelling after, fuelling on recovery days, etc, it all depends what your goals are. If the primary goal is weight loss then the best way of doing that is running a consistent, modest calorific deficit every day. You fuel as best you can around that goal, if performance takes a bit of a hit then so be it, you’ll catch up when you’re at a lower weight and not running a deficit.

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You can prioritize performance or weight loss, you can’t do both. You CAN increase fitness and lose weight though.

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If your out on a long Z2-3 ride you can definitely, and will likely lose weight on the bike. Say you’re doing 200w=700cals/hour but you can only consume ~300cals/hr. You’re going to have a 3-400cal deficit that needs to be made up for in glycogen and fat. So if you’re out for 5 hours, that is a 1500-2000 calorie deficit of which ~1500-2000 can come from glycogen stores and some from fat. If you’re then careful afterwords to maintain that calorie deficit the glycogen will replenish slowly from your diet and your fat utilized will not need to be replace.

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3000 calories a day sounds too much, specially for someone on a low volume plan. Regardless of macros % split, at the end of the day, it is all about your caloric deficit and if you’re having issues loosing weight it is clear that you’re eating too much. I would try to cut 200-400 calorie/day and assess the results and hability to keep training.

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So this may be old-school/wrong, but I thought your body catabolizes muscle before fat.

Thanks. I’m a 100kg 180cm male, myfitnesspal set my basal metabolic rate at 2,500 to lose 0.5kg/week. I workout 6 days a week and burn 600 calories on average during those workouts, hence I try to consume less than 3,000 calories a day to drop my weight.

You burn a combination of fat and carbs that varies with intensity

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Ok but I would still suggest that you challenge the value that MFP gave you specially if you can’t drop your weight at the recommended intake. Try to cut 300-500 calories for a week or two and see how it goes. It shouldn’t be that hard.

For reference I’m also 180cm but I have 78kg and I’m usually targeting to stay under 2000cal/day. Triathlete training six days week medium volume plans. On the big days(long weekend ride) I may go up to between 2500 and 3000 but that’s not normal as I would probably feel that I had enough food before reaching that. Four years ago I had 100kg so be sure that I feel your struggle.

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My thoughts: I’m a hefty 118kg and 185cm. I am working with a dietician who focuses on sports nutrition. They’re an ironman athlete and pretty well versed in nutrition for cycling and the triathilon sport. Currently they have me sitting at

2575 calories
170g protein
225g carbs
65g fat

I can fairly easily get through the rides IF I eat something before working out. If I ride in the morning, which I typically do on the weekend before the family gets up, I have to eat something carby. Whether that’s gummy bears, gatorade, or some rice, I have to eat something. If I don’t, I simply don’t have the power to push the pedals towards the end of the rides. I count those carbs in my daily macro targets.

I would encourage you to not eat back the calories you burn for the ride. Try a 45% carb, 35% protein, and 20% fat macro target and see what happens. Most likely you’re burning a calorie amount of closer to the Kj’s listed on the post ride summary. Take a 1 for 1 ratio of kj to calorie to see what you’re probably actually burning. Most likely it is less than you think.

If you’re bonking hard on the rides maybe your FTP is too high or something else is going on. You should be able to manage the rides well with a decent diet. Chad has often said you should get to the point where the workouts aren’t horrible, while they won’t be enjoyable, they should be something you’re looking forward to doing because you know you can tackle them.

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Most likely you’re burning a calorie amount of closer to the Kj’s listed on the post ride summary.

I thought the amount actually burned is is around 3 or 4 times the Kj put into the pedals due to body efficiency / heat production etc?

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