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 essential to have that hill in mind when you continue your optimization process.
As you already know, body weight is essential when you go uphill or accelerate. The steeper the hill, the greater importance of your body weight. Thus, most blog readers 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.
Watts per Kilogram is a good indicator of performing well in the mountains. But several other factors also come into play, making race predictions more complicated, such as bike weight to rider ratio, gradient, wind resistance, and tactics. Even though the 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 a vital role on the flats every time you accelerate your bike. It might not affect your maximum speed on the flat, but it will indeed 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 negatively influence 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 a mirror. If you look in the mirror, it is easy to determine if you are slim, overweight, or obese. In addition, it is a fast way to decide whether you should lose 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 into account, so it is recommended to do a couple of measurements on different days.
A mirror and a measurement of body weight are 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 an elite cyclist, you might be looking for small advantages that can be difficult to diagnose with just a mirror and a weight in the bathroom. However, extremely optimized body compositions need better and more precise measurements to achieve the desired goals.
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry DXA-scanning is currently the golden standard for body composition testing. DXA is the measurement I use in the hospital where I work, and it is an excellent 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. However, though it is possible 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 rates below 15%. You are probably close to your optimum if you are in that range. If you have a higher fat percentage, you will benefit from a weight loss.
It is essential to underline the importance of long-term success. If you want to achieve a low and competitive fat percentage and retain it, you have 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 if you want to climb faster. However, I must emphasize how vital weight loss should never affect your ability to perform hard training and proper recovery. If your weight-loss strategy limits you in your training sessions, you probably do something wrong. Maybe you are trying to lose weight too fast or forgetting to eat enough quality food.
Remember that even though starving might reduce your body weight, it will negatively influence 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:
Estimate 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 reaching your optimal body weight, but for now, I want you to make an honest conclusion about your body weight.