In the world of a cyclist, power-weight ratio is everything.
The aim is to churn out a high power output whilst having a low bodyweight to skyrocket your watts per kg, and ultimately make you a better cyclist.
This definitely makes sense…
The question is what is the best way to develop your power-weight ratio?
Well, Lunn et al (2009) were the first people to try and figure this out. Over a 10 week training period, they split a group of experienced competitive cyclists into three groups:
Group 1 aimed to maintain bodyweight, but looked to improve their power-weight through their TRAINING ONLY which consisted of supramaximal sprint interval sessions (SIT).
Group 2 aimed to maintain their normal, less demanding style of training (and therefore maintain their power output), but looked to improve their power-weight through WEIGHT LOSS ONLY (calorie restriction).
Group 3 aim to tackle this issue from both ends where they followed the same SIT protocol as group 1, but followed the same weight loss diet as group 2.
As you would imagine, group 1 maintained bodyweight and improve power output, thus improving their power-weight ratio. Superb.
Group 2 lost weight and body fat, had a small improvement in power output, and therefore improved power-weight ratio primarily through being lighter on the bike.
Group 3 has near enough the same results as group 2….which is odd. You’d think that losing weight and doing specific sessions to improve power output would skyrocket power-weight, but it didn’t.
In fact, the greatest improvements were seen in group 1 – I.e. placing all their efforts on performance and not worrying about body fat loss.
There are a few caveats here:
1) Group 1’s av. Bodyweight was 69kg, therefore they didn’t need to drop body weight as their body fat was sub 10%. In this case, you would advocate performance only to improve power-weight.
2) I would assume that group 3 would have struggled to complete the SIT sessions to a high standard as high intensity performances will be compromised under calorie restriction (and subsequently adaptation).
From experience working with endurance athletes, the best time to drop body fat is during periods of less intense training where optimal performance isn’t the highest priority. I.e. they can sit in a nice calorie deficit, maintain performance and drop the kilos steadily throughout the weeks without worrying about ‘surviving’ their training.
As seen in this study, group 3 had the same results as group 2, but I would imagine that the processed sucked a lot more – Imagine under eating, under fuelling and under recovering from intense training to not get any superior results than the group who’s training was far more chilled and relaxed.
You’d be cursing…
That being said, if you’re already shredded, perhaps you need to shift the focus from fat loss to performance to achieve a greater power-weight ratio.
Food for thought.
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