Well, sort of…
This is a topic of much contention between myself and my fellow male competitive cyclist. Most men become quicker on a bike when they reach ‘race weight’ – which is around 10% body fat. This makes sense, right? Worked for Froome in 2015 Tour de France after all…
It’s all about physics: the lighter you are, the faster you go because you weigh less therefore your muscles do not have to work as hard to propel your mass forward due to the power to weight ratio, and so on. Blah, blah, blah…
*All the information below only pertains to ladies who are not naturally thin. You know who you are, and we all love (and envy) you, but the rest of this blog may not necessary make much difference to you.
If you are like me, and are of average weight vs. height (or larger) – read on!
Here’s the thing: if a woman who isn’t naturally skinny to begin with attempts this idea of becoming super thin to ride faster; endurance can suffer. I found this out the hard way. Whenever I get down close to the weight that doctors will say is appropriate for my height (which is mostly bunk anyway) and start to look very slender – I may as well hang up my bike.
I need a bit of ‘fluff’ to be fast.
Women need to have a percentage of body fat that is much greater than men. Drop below that necessary ‘buffer’ our bodies carry for energy and endurance is the first thing to go. A careful balance is required here and some personal experimentation to find, what weight or percentage body fat, is necessary to maintain endurance while gaining the advantage of being lighter weight than you began with (and hence going faster with the same or less wattage output than before). Here’s a decent article that is fairly realistic on the subject.
If you’d like an explanation of wattage as it relates to power meters and so on – click here.
This doesn’t mean you can go out and eat cake every day (darn it!), but cake every so often won’t hurt your training plan.
There is a ton of information on the health reasons that women require more body fat than men – none of which I’ll bore you with now, but let’s just say that we women cannot copy a man’s cycling diet program and calorie-counting and still be competitive. It just won’t work. The best body-fat percentage for a female to maintain proper endurance levels is between 18%-22%. The exact measurement varies individually as everyone’s needs are different. For women, it is important not to deplete that body-fat buffer as it will negatively impact your normal hormonal balance and bollix the internal chemical factory.
The upshot of all this is – don’t apologize for ordering more French Fries and tell your male friends to “Stuff It” if they say anything about how much you eat. Keep in mind that the more energy you put out requires more GOOD food as replenishment. What kind of food is considered ‘GOOD’? Well – stay tuned for the up-coming articles and I’ll address what foods are best to keep yourself in top form.
Feel free to add your 2 cents below since I’m not the only person with valuable information to share. Please keep the comments helpful and remember to add links to back up your blabbing.
Cheers and Cycle-On!