One thing that has changed for me over the last couple of months is my weight. Up until November I was fluctuating in weight between 175 and 180 pounds. At 6′ 2″ I was anything but fat, but I knew I could lose some pounds and still be healthy – actually more healthy.
I figured at some point my coach would start pointing out that I could go faster with less weight and he would start putting me on some structured diet to help me safely lose a few. However, he never got a chance! The training itself along with me dropping a couple of habits — ice cream late at night and plenty of sodas — has me down to 165 pounds without any structured diet at all. Basically, my diet is eat anything I want in moderation and don’t eat late at night.
But what does this mean? Why is it helpful for me to weigh a few pounds lighter? Is there a trade-off? Can’t you lose too much weight?
First, a little history. Entering college I weighed 155 pounds at 6′ 1″. After my freshman year I worked as a cook at a camp. My mates and I did workouts every evening and I ran up and down the mountain paths each day. Oh, and I ate like a horse! That brought me up to 165 pounds and I thought I was one buff dude!
I maintained this weight all the way through college and into marriage. It really wasn’t until early 2000 that I began to pick up some “non-muscle” pounds. Finally, by 2006 I was up around 185 and worst of all I felt awful. That is what got me back on the bike.
So, I know that my frame can handle less weight and still be healthy. I haven’t spoken to my doctor, but I think my ideal weight is between 160 and 165 pounds lean muscle. It’s pretty obvious from where I’ve lost my weight this time. Exactly where I wanted too — around my waist!
I’m feeling great health wise and I get the added advantage of a greater power-to-weight ratio. Before training, my ratio was 3.41 and now I’m sitting on 3.86. That bodes well for my goal of nailing at 11:15 climb up Paris Mountain later this year.
How do you arrive at your PW ratio? Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This gives your your weight in kilograms. Then you take the power you can sustain from a 20 minute time trial effort and divide it by the first number. In my case, it is 290 watts / 75 kg = 3.9.
Okay, so practically, what does this mean? It means that I have managed to increase my wattage and lower my weight and that means I have more speed. Imagine a 1966 Shelby Cobra (light weight big power) going up against a souped-up 1968 Impala with the same horsepower (big weight big power). The cars have equal power, but one is heavier than the other. The Cobra is going to smoke the Impala!
If I can maintain the current weight and increase my power output, then I can shave seconds — 30 seconds or more — off of my time up Altamont Road. While it won’t have as dramatic of an impact in the races I’ll do this year, it will help me in two races I am targeting — River Falls and French Broad. Both of these have sustained climbs.
What I want to be careful of is reaching a weight where I begin to lose my lean muscle and my power drops. I’m more interested at this point in increasing my power than in losing more weight. I have a life outside of cycling and I don’t want to end up looking like a winner from Survivor Island!
I’d like to have a power-to-weight ratio over 4.0. That would put me squarely in category 3 levels. As it is, I am at the low end of that category. Oh, you want to know about professionals capable of winning the Tour de France? They are just under 7.0!
Hey! I’m halfway there!