Need to Reduce Your Fat Percentage?

How to Become a Better Climber – Lesson 2

This series is supposed to help you become a better climber. In the first lesson I asked you to describe the hill you want to climb as specific as possible. It’s important to have that hill in mind when you continue your optimization process.

As you already know, body weight is important when you go uphill and/or accelerate. The steeper the hill, the greater importance of your body weight. Thus, most readers of this blog are likely to improve their uphill performance simply by reducing their body weight. If you have watched just a few mountain stages from the Tour de France, you have probably also heard about the term Watts per Kilogram instead of just Watts, because Watts per Kilogram is a better predictor of performance in the mountains.

It is obvious that Watts per Kilogram is a good indicator of who will perform well in the mountains. But several other factors come into play, too, making race predictions more complicated e.g. bike weight to rider ratio, gradient, wind resistance and tactics. Even though, prediction of performance from the metric Watts per Kilogram is too simplified, it is one of the best predictors we have. The modified term Watts per kilogram^X, (using a value of X between 0 and 1 depending on gradient etc.) will, at least in theory, possibly be a more precise predictor of performance.

It is also important to remember that body weight plays an important role on the flats every time you accelerate your bike. It might not affect your maximum speed on the flat, but it will surely affect the time before you reach your maximum speed.

To a sprinter body weight might not be as big an issue as it is for a climber, but extra kilograms (dead meat) will always have a negative influence on your performance.

Analyze Your Body Weight

There are many ways to analyze your body composition. One of the cheapest and most reliable test instruments is actually a mirror. If you take a look in the mirror it is easy for you to determine if you are slim, overweight or obese. It is a fast way to decide whether you should loose some additional kilograms to achieve better results. A mirror does not lie…

If you want to get an objective value the easiest way is to measure is your body weight. Please remember that there is a day to day variation that should be taken in account, so it is recommended to do a couple of measurements on different days.

A mirror and a measurement of body weight is normally more than enough to decide whether weight loss makes sense.

You now have a sense of how much weight should be lost. But, there are situations where it may be necessary to have a more precise picture of your body composition.

If you are a elite cyclist, you might be looking for small advantages that can be difficult to diagnose with just a mirror and a weight in the bath room. Extreme optimized body compositions need better and more precise measurements to achieve the desired goals.

Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry DXA-scanning is currently considered the golden standard for body composition testing. DXA is the measurement I use on the hospital where I work and it is a great tool for measuring body composition. The principle is that two different X-rays scan the body and interact differently with fat, bone and lean body mass. This makes it possible to estimate fat tissue, bone mass and lean body mass.

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis BIA is a more affordable, but less precise estimate of body fat percentage. You might have seen BIA in fitness centers or maybe you have one at home. The principle is that a small electrical current is sent through the body. The resistance varies between adipose, muscular and skeletal tissue, thus it is possible to estimate the fat percentage. Though, it is possibly in theory, it is less precise than the DXA scan.

There are other methods like skin-fold and other anthropometric methods that can be used to describe body composition.

What is a good fat percentage?

Men wanting to perform their best should aim for a fat percentage below 8% and probably as low as 6% for the ultimate performance. Women should target fat percentages below 15%. If you are in that range you are probably close to your optimum. If you have a higher fat percentage, you are likely to benefit from a weight loss.

It is important to underline the importance of long term success. If you want to achieve a low and competitive fat percentage and retain it, you have got to implement a nutritional approach that can be used for more than just a short period.

Reaching a low fat percentage is an important goal for you if you want to climb faster. Though I must emphasize how important it is that weight loss never should affect your ability to perform hard training and proper recovery. If your weight loss strategy limits you in your training sessions then you are probably doing something wrong. Maybe you are trying to loose weight too fast or simply forgetting too eat enough quality food.

Remember that even though starving might reduce your body weight it will have a negative influence on your performance. One of the reasons for this is that part of your weight loss from starving comes from muscles, not fat stores.

Your task today:

Make a serious estimate of your optimal body weight. Try to estimate how many Kilograms you would like to cut off before your major event.

I will come back later with tips about how to reach your optimal body weight, but for now I just want you to make an honest conclusion about your body weight.

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5 comments… add one

  • Anonymous

    What about BMI?

  • Tony

    BMI is useless. Some riders have low BMIs, others high BMI, but it’s impossible to say if any of them is at their optimal weight for climbing.

  • mike

    BMI is inappropraite for athletes i am 95 kg and 1.97 m tall my BMI is morbidly obese that is not the case i have a resting heartrate of 42 i can clock 100 km/62 mile in 2.15 hrs on a moderately hill course or 160 km/100 mile in 4.15 on a hilly course i am 51 climb as well as anyone in the open categories.

  • Nick

    Less than 10% body fat is silly. You’ll get sick, the body requires this much to live.

  • Ian

    Mike your bmi is24.5 which lands in the normal cat, however you’re right about it being useless for athletes as every rugby player on earth is obese due to the fact its purely based on weight and not what makes up that weight

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