Unless you happen to be packing a spare tire around your midsection, improving your power-to-weight ratio is no easy task. If you're an elite triathlete, your body is already low in excess fat and in peak condition. But by using a combination of diet and exercise (mostly diet), you can transform it into a different kind of peak condition that's more suitable to your racing needs.
When describing a top athlete, many will use the expression, "There's not an ounce of fat on him." It's flattering, but the truth is that there are many ounces of fat on the athlete -- ounces of fat that he desperately needs to perform. The average human body needs a minimum of 2 to 13 per cent body fat in order to maintain healthy skin and hair and insulate the body against harmful substances [source: American Council on Exercise]. For triathletes, that number goes up. The ideal body fat percentage for elite triathletes is about 5 to 10 per cent for men and 10 to 15 per cent for females [source: Garand]. When shedding pounds, make sure you do it without compromising a healthy body fat percentage.
A fad or miracle diet may be tempting, but by far the most effective way to diet is to count your calorie intake. Start by sitting down to do some math on how many calories you burn during the course of one day. It might help if you use an online calorie calculator such as this one [source: Health Status]. If you burn 3,000 calories a day, simply structure your diet so you only take in 2,800.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are your secret weapon: They're low in calories, but they'll fill you up. Also, keep a handle on what fluids you're taking in. Although it doesn't feel like much, liquids like juice, beer and milk are deceivingly packed with calories. You'll also want to stick to a strict meal schedule. Skipping breakfast, for instance, can cause you to overeat at lunch. Ideally, you might consider keeping yourself fueled by "grazing" on a series of healthy snacks throughout the day. Always have food at hand.
As an athlete in training, exercise is already something that you do regularly. Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to achieve an ideal race weight without a fair dose of suffering in the gym. Moderate exercise is good at building endurance, but it won't help you increase your power as effectively. To do that you're going to need brutal, high-intensity exercise: All-out sprints and exhausting weight reps at the gym. These exercises don't need to last long, but they should become a regular part of your workout [source: RacingWeight.com].
Weight loss is a slow process for triathletes. Per week, the most you can hope to lose is about a pound (450 grams) per week [source: Triathlete's World]. Any more, and you can compromise your overall strength. What's worse is that you could also weaken your immune system. Nothing will throw off your race time worse than a poorly timed cold or flu.
Of course, your body isn't the only thing that needs slimming down. That thick, lustrous head of hair? That solid-gold good luck charm? Your 1967 vintage racing bike? These all represent extra weight that can slow you down during a race. Before every triathlon, take a close look at your clothing and equipment to see if there's anything you can ditch or trim to save weight. Currently, the world's lightest road bike is around 7 pounds (about the weight of a house cat) -- but that's going to set you back more than $15,000 [source: VeloNews].
For lots more information on training, see the links below.
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- RacingWeight.com. "Should you train for performance, weight loss, or both?" (Sept. 18, 2010)http://www.poweringmuscles.com/Article-147,Training_For_Racing_Weight.html
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- Twight, Mark. "Relative Strength: The Importance of a Positive Power to Weight Ratio." (Sept. 18, 2010) http://www.gymjones.com/knowledge.php?id=6
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