Today we explore how quickly athletes can drop body fat without compromising performance.
From experience, athletes will diet too aggressively by cutting too many calories, which ultimately impacts performance, health and well-being.
Therefore, we need to find the correct balance…
A study by Garthe et al (2011) identified some key findings which 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 ‘fast fat loss’ dropping more body fat 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’re strong and fit enough to meet the demands of your sport, but you need to drop body fat more progressively, you can follow a larger calorie deficit.
2) If you’re strength, power and fitness doesn’t meet the demands of your sport and you still need to progress in this area, then I would strongly advise you approach this more conservatively.
As a general rule of thumb, I programme my athletes to drop on average 0.5-1% loss in bodyweight per week via fat loss. I.e. 0.5-1kgfor a 100kg athlete.
I’ll also take into account their KPI’s to determine whether the current calorie deficit is appropriate.
That’s why we need to monitor and adapt accordingly based on progress and feedback…and not a cookie cutter approach.
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