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The Body Weight “Set Point”

Cyclists, especially for climbs, must maximize power-to-weight by losing body fat. When I say “weight” I mean weight with the goal of losing body fat.

Losing body fat is not easy, but with some effort, it can be dropped off steadily, as the graph below shows. For four months, I’ve steadily lost an average of 1.2 pounds of body fat per week, while increasing fitness tremendously, and (I think) gaining some muscle also.

Now I’ve run into a difficulty: at 180 pounds, I’m getting some serious physiological pushback: hunger was never much of an issue for the past 4 months, but in the past week I’ve having increasing difficulty maintaining a daily caloric deficit, due to a pronounced increase in hunger. That is the body’s way of saying “don’t want starve yourself to death”. Of course, I’m still nowhere near the lean-ness of a professional cyclist, but everyone’s body has it’s own set point— the defense mechanism against losing body fat stores below a certain level.

I’ve run into this before, and guess what— it has also been at the ~179 pound level. In short, my particular physiology gets irritable about going any lower, and a demanding hunger is the result. So this time around I need to succeed, because my goal is 170 pounds. And stating a goal publicly is a good way to reach it, so there!

The problem is, averaging a daily workout of 1300 kilojoules or so is a demanding workload— that figure represents riding 2+ hours per day at 200 watts! And each day the body must recover for the next day, so one can’t cheat too much without suffering a decline in fitness. Yet there must be a net caloric deficit every day (on average), or the trend will flatten, or even reverse (weight gain). At the same time, building more muscle is important. It’s a thin line to both achieve daily recovery and to add muscle, and yet to lose fat at the same time.

This is a challenge, and when I figure out what worked, I’ll follow up here in this blog. At present, my scheme is more vegetables, and spacing out my eating into more smaller meals, so that I’m never in starving mode.

Body weight through May 11— note horizontal trend for 5 days
Weight loss chart trend — click for more info
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