Today we’re answering a very common question that many athletes have…
‘How quickly can I lose body fat?’
When it comes to dropping body fat, we need to consume fewer calories than we expend – this is fat loss 101.
However, many athletes get the magnitude of the calorie deficit wrong.
From experience, athletes will diet too aggressively by chopping away too many calories, which ultimately impacts….everything!
So, how much body fat can we lose on a weekly basis without it compromising performance?
At the start of this decade, Garthe et al (2011) produced some very cool findings to answer this exact question and has very much guided my practice in this area.
They recruited elite athletes from a variety of Olympic sports and placed them in one of two programmes:
• Fast fat loss = 1.4% loss in body fat per week (Large calorie deficit).
• Slow fat loss = 0.7% loss in body fat per week (Moderate calorie deficit)
Without any surprise, both groups dropped body fat with group 1 having better transformational results within the same time frame.
During this study, they also tested 1RM strength in bench, pulls, squat whilst measuring their 40m sprint times and vertical jump (CMJ).
• The fast fat loss group pretty much maintained sprint and jump scores whilst improving strength scores by ~4-8%.
• The Slow fat loss group slightly improved sprint times, significantly improved CMJ and added between ~10-14% onto their 1RM strength.
So, there are two takeaways from this:
1) If you are strong and fit enough, but you need to drop some weight, you can attack the calorie deficit more aggressively.
2) If you are weak as a kitten and still need to improve performance, then I would strongly advise you approach this more conservatively.
As a general rule of thumb, I programme my athletes to drop on average 1% loss in bodyweight per week via fat loss. I.e. 1kg/2.2lbs for a 100kg athlete.
I’ll also take into account their KPI’s: performance, recovery, energy levels/freshness, hunger/cravings and enjoyability to determine whether we can dial rates of fat loss up, or if we need to dial them back down.
That’s why we need to monitor and adapt accordingly based on progress and feedback. Are we in the green and can push? or are we in the amber or even red where we need to apply the brakes a little?
You can’t go 100mph, 100% of the time.
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