When to Work On Weight Loss
So, you’ve decided you want to lose weight.
It could be form esthetic reasons, general health, or even to run faster. All are great reasons to start eating healthier and losing unnecessary pounds.
But, if you also want to ensure that your training and racing don’t suffer, then you need to consider when you try to lose weight.
That’s because losing weight, even when done slowly and the right way, will result in a decline in performance.
As such, you should “schedule” the start of your weight loss, just like you would the start of the training plan.
So, in this article we’ll talk about when to schedule your weight loss plan to get the most from your weight loss and racing goals.
Why does trying to lose weight impact performance?
The primary reason performance and training suffer when you’re trying to lose weight is that it impacts the amount of energy you have to devote to your runs and workouts.
Simply speaking, to lose weight you’re going to have to consume less calories than you expend or use. No matter what “diet” you’re on, this is a universal truth when it comes to weight loss.
Now, while calories often get a bad rap, a calorie is in fact a measure of energy. That means you’re going to be taking in less energy than you use. This is going to result in a lack of energy to perform.
The other big reason losing weight impacts performance is it impairs recovery.
Our body’s use the nutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) from the foods we eat to aid in the process of recovery. As such, when you’re limiting the amount of nutrients you put in your body, you now have less nutrients available to dedicate towards recovery.
When you don’t recover properly, you don’t absorb the full benefits from your workouts. You also carry more fatigue into subsequent runs, which leaves you feeling run down and increases the chances of over training.
When to schedule your weight loss
Now that we understand why weight loss impacts performance, we can look at where in your training you can schedule your weight loss to avoid negatively impacting your running.
If we break down a training schedule, we can usually isolate specific phases of a plan that highlight the main focus of the workouts.
Race Specific Phase
The most important phase is the race specific phase. This occurs between 10-12 weeks away from your goal race. This is when you’ll be performing your hardest workouts and most mileage.
Trying to lose weight during the race specific phase should be avoided.
There is no easier way to ruin a race then to be trying to lose weight when you’re performing your hardest workouts.
12-20 weeks before your goal race is what we call the transition phase. Other coaches may call is something different, but the goal is usually the same. This phase is when you want to start gearing your workouts towards your main event.
For example, if your goal race is a marathon it would be working on your aerobic strength and making sure your long run distance is high enough to start doing race specific long runs. If you were doing shorter races like a 5k or 10k, you might work on speed development.
Unless you are an experienced runner with more than 5-10 years training experience, I don’t recommend working on weight loss during this period.
For runners without a significant training history, it’s still an important training phase because it helps set the foundation for the race specific phase.
If weight loss causes weakness in the foundation, it could still impact you on race day.
Build-up or General Training
The training phase before the transition phase doesn’t really have a name, but it could be best described as building up, base training, or just general training. Typically this is when runners want to work on their weaknesses or just generally stay fit. This phase usually ends 16 or 20 weeks before your goal race when the transition phase starts.
As such, your weight loss plan should end with about 16-20 weeks from your goal race.
When to Start Trying to Lose Weight
As for when you should start, that depends on how much you want or need to lose.
As you’ll learn from our weight loss course, your aim should be to lose 1-2 pounds per week. So, take the amount of pounds you want to lose and count backwards from 16 or 20.
As an example, if you wanted to lose 10 pounds, you’d start your weight loss about 25 weeks before your goal race.
Now, many reading this will have quite a bit of weight to lose and thus might not be able to fit this into a schedule if you race multiple times per year.
In this case, it’s okay to take a break from weight loss. In fact, this can even help as it gives you a break from the mental grind and allows your metabolism to reset. Being on an aggressive weight loss plan for more than 3-4 months is not advised anyway as it could lead to plateaus.
If you’re someone who is always racing all the time (every 12 weeks, for example), then building in weight loss is going to be difficult. I won’t sugar coat it, you’ll simply have to make sacrifices to either your race performance or weight loss goal.
Meaning, you may have to concede that you may not race as fast as you hope in this cycle or the next, but a year from now when you’re finished losing weight, you’ll be able to achieve the performances you hope for.
By being intelligent and meticulous about planning your weight loss journey you can accomplish all your goals without sacrificing one for the other