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Eat right - Weight loss & improved sporting performance

The new year often brings up discussions about goals. Like many of our athletes at The Threshold, these goals tend to centre around body composition, weight loss and ways to ensure that the upcoming training and racing season is as successful as possible. Concerns over body composition are extremely valid since body fat percentage is so closely associated with increased cardiovascular risk (Zeng et al, 2012). Dropping a few kgs can also improve your performance.

What does this mean?

From a performance point of view, a 75kg rider going up a 1km climb with a gradient of 6%, with a power output of around 300 watts, would complete the climb in a time of approximately 03:24. A loss of 5kg over 12 months would decrease the athletes time by 9 seconds per km. If the Athlete was to increase his FTP by 30 watts and not drop any weight (i.e. remain at 75kg) his or her time would improve by the same time of 9 seconds per km. If the athlete decided to lose 5kg and was able to increase FTP by 10% to 330 watts, his or her time would decrease by 24 seconds per km.

Where to start with cleaning up your diet?

The first step in the process is to improve diet quality. Mozaffarian et al. showed in a study over more than 20 years and 120,000 men and woman that every four years, individuals in the study picked up around 1.5kg of weight. This was strongly associated with intake of potato chips (+0.8kg/daily serving), potatoes (+0.6kg/daily serving), sugar-sweetened beverages (+0.45kg/daily serving), unprocessed red meats (+0.43kg/daily serving) and processed meats (+0.42kg/daily serving). Inversely associated (as consumption went up, weight loss increased) was vegetables (-0.09kg/daily serving), whole grains (-0.16kg/daily serving), fruits (-0.22kg/daily serving), nuts (-0.25kg/daily serving) and yoghurt (-0.37kg/daily serving). Put together over time, think of your diet quality as a balance sheet and if you increase the quality of your foods, over time, it will result in greater weight loss.

Diet Quality Score (Fitzgerald, 2012)

Using Diet Quality Score

To increase your diet quality, use the Diet Quality Score by writing down what you eat on a daily basis. Most athletes’ diets are pretty much the same day to day. Take what you have written down, and using the above table, begin to give yourself points for both high and low-quality foods as well as taking into account the number of servings for each. The maximum score is 32. To improve your score, remove low-quality foods, and (or) increase intake of high-quality foods and (or) replace the low-quality foods with high-quality substitutes (Fitzgerald, 2012).