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Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes When Getting Down to Race Weight

By Jiri Kaloc

Weight is an important factor for cyclists, especially when racing in hilly terrain. It’s no secret that shedding a few extra pounds can lead to faster times and better results. It’s easy for cyclists to make mistakes when trying to lose weight, which can hinder their progress and even harm their health. Let’s go over the most common ones.

Following advice for people with different needs

There is a lot of information available online about nutrition and diet. Avoiding low-quality advice, not supported by scientific research, is crucial. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Just because something is scientifically correct doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. The nutritional needs of a sedentary person are different from those of an endurance athlete, the same goes for pros and amateurs, cyclists and runners, young and old, male and female – the list goes on.

You have to be on the lookout for people trying to sell you quick fixes or miracle diets that promise rapid weight loss. It may have helped them but your situation may be different. Working with a dietitian or a nutritionist who takes the time to know you and your training schedule is the best way to avoid this problem. If that’s not an option for you, put in the time to evaluate if the advice you’re reading truly applies to you.

Caloric overcompensation

Caloric overcompensation is one of the most common problems for cyclists, whether they are actively trying to get in shape or not. It basically means that when you are in a calorie deficit, either due to dieting or exercise, you eat even more calories than you just burned. Cyclists are most at risk for this if they go for a big ride without properly fuelling for it. When your body experiences a significant calorie deficit, it sends particularly strong hunger signals to the brain. Some cyclists take it to the next level and outright use exercise as an excuse to overeat.

Your best bet is to properly fuel your training sessions and continue eating normally afterwards. Weight loss should be the result of getting your overall diet in check. Trying to outride a bad diet with under-fuelled training sessions only leads to disappointment.

Cycling race
Fuel your training sessions properly. © Profimedia

Having an all-or-nothing mindset

The all-or-nothing approach to diet and exercise is common among all athletes, not just cyclists. You start with a great nutritional and training plan and expect that you’ll be able to follow it without issues throughout the whole year. Unfortunately, reality hits sooner or later, you’ll get busy or ill and you starting missing sessions and meals. It’s very natural to feel like you failed and want to quit altogether.

It really pays to anticipate what can derail your weight loss efforts. Think about these scenarios when putting together a plan. It will still suck when it happens but you’ll at least be ready and avoid the all-or-nothing attitude that can lead you to give up completely.

Treating your diet as a short-term solution

Many cyclists, when they hear the word diet, they picture following a new nutrition plan (think keto, vegetarian, low carb, low fat or intermittent fasting) for a while and then stopping once they reach their goal. There are a lot of different diets that can get you to lose weight. Unfortunately, this short-sighted approach can do more harm than good when you inevitably regain the weight soon after you quit your diet.

Creating long-term habits that stabilize your weight in a healthy range is a much more sustainable approach. This way, you can just use a more aggressive version of your regular diet to temporarily lose a little bit of weight for a race. The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t disrupt your habits and the types of meals and snacks you normally eat and you will easily return to your baseline after the race is over.