The importance of ‘weight’ training

This post is mainly a list of resources, links and quotes about the relationship between fitness, weight and cycling performance. As I have discovered myself, losing weight is the single most effective way to improve performance. I guess this is pretty obvious really. Given the same level of fitness and strength, you will go further, go faster, climb hills more easily if you are not carrying several kilos of lard with you. I am undoubtedly fitter and stronger now than I was 6 months ago. But the improvement in my performance on the road, especially on the climbs, is all about my 2 stone weight loss. I’ve read in several places now that the key to weight loss is calorie reduction and that in most sensible and doable diet/exercise regimes typically 80% of weight loss comes from changes in eating. My experience, so far at least, seems to confirm this.

The arithmetic is quite simple. One pound of fat stored is 3500 calories. It takes 3500 calories worth of exercise to reduce your fat store by 1 lb. So, taking last November as an example, I burnt about 8000 calories on my bike, on the road and on the turbo. This amount to 2.25 lbs of fat. However I lost 9 lbs that month. So, in a fairly active month, 75% of my weight loss is down to my reduced calorie diet and 25% to cycling. In December I only did 4000 calories worth on the bike and had put 2 lb on by the end of the month. Presumably I’d have put on 3 lb without the exercise. January is looking a lot better and so far I have done 4000 calories worth already with a week to go. So far I have lost a further 4 lbs since New Year, again about 25% down to the exercise.

Hopefully the next stone will come off over the rest of winter and I will be down to under 14 stone 7 lbs by the end of March. If I succeed it will be mainly down to keeping the calories down in my diet. However, come the Spring and Summer, and with the new bike I will buy when I’m down to under 15 stone, there should be a significant increase in my cycling and the 75%/25% ratio between dietary and exercise weight loss should shift significantly in favour of exercise.


Riding at a moderate speed (12 – 14 mph) you will burn approximately 235 calories per half hour depending on weight but this is about right for turbos and rollers I think.


Those seeking to attain the proper power-to-weight ratio often follow this rule of thumb, per the Cycling Performance Tips website: The number of pounds you carry should be no more than twice your height in inches.

So, at 6 foot, I need to weigh 10 stone 4 lb!!

Improve Cycling Performance – Optimize Body Weight

Losing five kilograms of body weight results in a remarkable 7.7-8% increase in cycling performance. That means that each kilogram of body weight is worth 4.5-5 watts of power. That’s huge, especially if you’re a masters level cyclist and your best VO2 max days are behind you.

Nutrition: Lose the pounds to gain speed and power

Wiggins told the London Evening Standard that the weight loss meant he was “carrying the equivalent of six bags of sugar less up a mountain”, adding that 1kg of body weight over a 30-minute climb equals one minute in time……

After checking your body composition you should only aim to shift any excess weight slowly and steadily. “It’s important that weight loss is modest and is no more than approximately 1lb to 2lb per week,” says Gavin Reynoldson, a teaching fellow at the University of Bath’s Department of Sports Development. “This can be achieved by reducing energy intake by about 500Kcal per day. Any more than that will likely result in impaired performance and loss of muscle mass.”

For example, for those with a light training programme (less than an hour a day of low intensity exercise) he advises 5-7g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass per day, but for a cyclist undertaking an extreme exercise programme (more than four to five hours of moderate to high intensity cycling such as a stage race), he advises 10-12g of carbohydrate per kg of body mass per day. In real terms, a piece of bread has approximately 20g of carbohydrate, and 50g of dry-weight rice has about 30g of carbohydrate.

So for me (99 kilos x 6g) this means 594 grams of carbohydrate, equivalent to 30 slices of bread or 20 x 50g portions of rice.


Some authors have suggested that riding at slow speeds (<50% VO2 max) is preferred for a weight loss program as more of the Calories expended will be supplied from fat tissue storage at lower levels of exercise. Let’s look at this argument in more detail. If you ride at 65% VO2max, your body’s fat stores will provide about half of your Caloric needs and the other half will come from glycogen reserves. At 85% VO2max, the relative number of Calories supplied from fat fall to about one third of the total number expended with the balance again coming from glycogen reserves. However, if one looks at the absolute numbers, a fit cyclist riding 30 min at 65% VO2max will burn about 220 Calories (110 fat Calories, 110 Calories from carbohydrate or glycogen stores). The same cyclist, riding at 85% VO2max will burn an additional 100 Calories (total of 320 Calories over the 30 minutes), with 110 Calories still coming from fat and the balance of 220 coming from carbohydrates. So even though fat provides a smaller percentage of the total energy needs, the actual number of fat Calories burned during the 30 minutes of exercise remains unchanged.

t’ Tour in Yorkshire

Me, Cyclist v Harriers event, Farthngdown, Coulsdon, Surrey, December 1969.

Me, Cyclist v Harriers event, Farthngdown, Coulsdon, Surrey, December 1969.

This is the first post for a month, perhaps not surprising given the intervening Christmas and New Year break. I’ve manage to come through this without too much damage to my weight loss efforts, only putting on about 3 lbs all of which I have managed to lose again. I’ve only been on the roads three times since the beginning of December, an LCAG Saturday ride, my local 7 mile circuit and I rode to Peel Park and back to watch the National Cyclocross Championships. Despite being very cold I enjoyed these very much, probably the first time I have seen cyclocross live since I last competed myself in 1969. At over 11 stone I was much better on the road, a bit too heavy for the cross country stuff. It’s a great sport to watch though if you wrap up well. The circuits are quite short and challenging and you are close to the action. There’s races for all classes including kids and the over 50s veterans (some are still competing well into their 70s) and races usually last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Stage 1

Last Thursday I went to the show outside Leeds Town Hall for the announcement of the route for the Tour De France through Yorkshire. I’m afraid I found the preamble and the interviews with minor celebrities rather boring and, as it was cold and snowing, I came home early. There was a fantastic crowd there however, despite the weather. The first stage only has about noteworthy 2 climbs (from the perspective of a Tour rider anyway) and should finish in a sprint in Harrogate. There is a reasonable chance that Cavendish will end the day in the Yellow Jersey! The second day is much harder. It starts in York and has a flat beginning but has 8 significant climbs in the last 80 kilometres with one only 5km from the end in Sheffield. I have put my name down as a volunteer Tour Maker but 8000 beat me to it so I’ll have to wait and see. I am hoping to get fit enough to ride the first stage, illustrated above, 190 kilometres on roads most of which I have ridden before albeit 25 years ago. I suspect a lot of people will be doing this. Realistically I won’t be up to this until the Spring of 2014 but that gives me a year to get fit enough for what will be for me a very demanding route. The full details of the Yorkshire stages can be found on the Yorkshire Le Tour web site.

The other big happening is the televised confession of Lance Armstrong with Oprah Winfrey. He has admitted to blood doping and using other banned substances for all 7 of his Tour wins and even before his cancer. He said he didn’t think of it as cheating as it was just part of the job, like putting air in your tyres and water in your bottle. He also claimed it was not cheating as it was a level playing field, implying that all his other main opponents were at it too. More will come out as a result of this I’m sure. The interview and confession have had a very mixed response so far. Armstrong wants to be able to return to competition in Iron Man events but he will have to spill a lot more before his lifetime ban is reduced. Nicole Cooke’s take on Armstrong is powerfully expressed in her retirement statement.

“But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean; people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work – some going through horrific financial turmoil. When Lance “cries” on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances”.