Energy In vs Energy Out
This is the primary factor that will determine your weight loss; in essence, your caloric intake is king. It is very important to establish how you are going to lose weight:
- Lose weight through a dietary calorie deficit
- Lose weight through high intensity exercise whilst staying at maintenance calorie intake
- Lose weight through a calorie deficit and exercise
The method you choose will be largely down to your preference and or physical conditioning. That said, it is important to note that the more you can eat and still make weight will greatly improve overall fitness and conditioning. If you can get away with higher calories and make weight comfortably you will be in far better position over an athlete who has to “dry” themselves out the day before and on weigh in day. Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton was famous for his yo yo dieting and had to kill himself to get down to the light-welterweight limit. Dropping 3 stone in 12 weeks most of his training camps arguably cut his great career short. If you’re killing yourself trying to make weight, either your nutrition needs adjusting during and outside of your training camp or you’ve simply outgrown that weight class and it is time to move up. The take home point here is that the closer you can stay to your competition weight at maintenance calorie intake the better off you’ll be.
Very low carbohydrate diets
I see this happen a lot in weight specific sports and in my opinion it is NOT the best approach. Going low carb will help with weight loss but not because you are cutting carbs but because you’re in a calorie deficit through the lack of carbs. There are 4kcals per gram of carbohydrate. If you cut carbs out that is a hell of a calorie deficit based on 4kcal per gram. An average recreational gym goer would be on anywhere between 200g to 300g of carbs a day to help with performance. 300g x 4kcal = 1200kcal. Try cutting that from your diet and maintain training intensity. It’s just not going to happen. Depending on the size of the athlete and training intensity, it is likely that double the amount of carbs will be required for boxers. As I mentioned before, it is very important to choose a method of weight loss that
- Works for your preferences
- Gets the desired results
- Is sustainable and still allows you to train at the required intensity
Going low carb for too long will lead to carbohydrate depletion. The end result is poor physical and mental performance. Therefore, low carb diets are not a good idea when it comes performing better, feeling better and actually looking better. Take home point here is that low carb diets will achieve weight loss but your performance is likely to suffer greatly.
Carbohydrate and Calorie Cycling
When dieting for long periods of time there are reductions in metabolic rate, thyroid hormone output, sympathetic nervous system activity, spontaneous physical activity and reproductive hormone output (Testosterone and Estrogen). In other words your body is smarter than you. It will not allow you to diet yourself into oblivion and will deploy all sorts of clever evolutionary systems to stop you from losing weight, AKA the dreaded plateau. The body loves homeostasis (normality) and will do everything it can to maintain that normality.
So what can the athlete do to maintain ongoing weight loss and maintain performance when their body is forever trying to stop them from losing weight?
The athlete can incorporate frequent high calorie and high carb days to maintain performance but infrequently enough that weight loss is still possible. As I said at the start of this article, there are many ways to skin a cat.
Frequent, Moderate Re-Feeds
This can occur every 3 days during times where you have to cut calories to make weight. It is a good idea to eat as much as possible for as long as possible. It is probably a good idea to plan your most intense training sessions for your re-feed days. This is so that the extra energy can go into building muscle and recovery. A re-feed is exactly that. You will give your body a re-feed of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. This is no excuse to go and binge and eat junk food. Maintain what you have been eating throughout but simply eat more of the carbs. The athlete’s calorie intake on these days should be roughly 1.5 times more than their lower calorie days. Therefore, if you are consuming 2000kcal a day to cut weight, a good rule of thumb is to re-feed at 3000kcal with the extra calories coming from an increased carb intake. If you’re losing weight comfortably then you may be able to get away with additional re-feed days. It will be a case of trial and error as everybody responds differently.
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