How much difference does weight loss make in the mountains?

May 6, 2009
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Now before BigBoat comes in here and says they are all blood doping etc., I keep thinking about Brad Wiggins finishing 4th at the Tour, and I remember JV saying he had lost 7kg, and changing his focus to the road and not the track. Whilst this thread isn't solely about Wiggins (and TBF I give him the benefit of the doubt), he was my example for this thread. So how much does a significant weight loss make to a rider going uphill, in terms of wattage etc.? I know there are other factors like gradient, length, so it isn't all black and white.

Also whilst I'm at it, how much difference does a change of diet, focus, riding in mountains make?
 
Jun 16, 2009
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climbing is simply about power to weight ratio (how you arrive at the power is more complicated)

It also depends whether or not we are talking about ACTUAL proven visible weight loss or the guys who make sudden jumps in performance and then mention weight loss, without looking much different or being able to demonstrate a large loss of weight. (Lance)

Unfortunately vague comments about weight loss have long been a synonym for "new medical program" (filed alongside "focus", "new team", "training harder" "no longer on a lazy French team" etc)

I have lost much smaller amounts of weight than Wiggins and far from zooming uphill I felt the loss of muscle and power, combined with poor immunity, increased fatigue and illness meant I actually noticed a decline in performance. But then I wasn't on a gluten free rice based diet or whatever Garmin are on....
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Don't forget the proven cherry juice concoction that powered the GB track team to all those golds (and Rob Hayles to a 50%+ HC level)
 
Aug 12, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
climbing is simply about power to weight ratio (how you arrive at the power is more complicated)

It also depends whether or not we are talking about ACTUAL proven visible weight loss or the guys who make sudden jumps in performance and then mention weight loss, without looking much different or being able to demonstrate a large loss of weight. (Lance)

Unfortunately vague comments about weight loss have long been a synonym for "new medical program" (filed alongside "focus", "new team", "training harder" "no longer on a lazy French team" etc)

I have lost much smaller amounts of weight than Wiggins and far from zooming uphill I felt the loss of muscle and power, combined with poor immunity, increased fatigue and illness meant I actually noticed a decline in performance. But then I wasn't on a gluten free rice based diet or whatever Garmin are on....
Personally I think it comes down to your own bodies dynamics. I weighed 63 kilos at the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006. After September of 2006 I was lazy and put on weight. Got up to 72 kilos and then joined a gym in April 2007. By the end of the year I was between 68 and 69. I'd been given a weights program...went to the gym almost daily and put on upper body muscle. I didn't however go nuts on the weights, took it moderately a few times a week (lower weight high reps). Also did a fair bit of cardio and aerobic exercise. Strangely I was able to fit into clothes I'd bought when I was 63 kilos better at 68-69 kilos.

Here's the interesting part. I felt stronger. Yes in lower and upper body, but got bored in 2008 and for three months leading to September hit aerobic and cardio up more intensely (almost exclusively bike riding and running mixed with interval training). I had barely touched weights in six months. Didn't have the overall upper body definition but my lower body strength and endurance was better than ever. I dropped another 4 kilos. I almost became bored with doing an RPM class...they were too easy, even when I flogged myself.

I have a ride around my place, up the mountain, approx. 4 km's uphill (don't know the gradient but guess its around 8-10%, its a dirt road to the town lookout) heads down and out of town onto a public road and back in to my place. Use to time it to see how fit I am, as a benchmark. Took me a bit around 52-55 minutes (depending on traffic and weather) on my MTB at the beginning of 2008, come September with the weight loss, it seemed easy and I took 8-10 minutes off that without really pushing.

So I've found the opposite. In a lower body sense, not in an upper body sense. I do a lot of boxing style classes. Noticed when I switched to mostly aerobic and cardio I couldn't punch as hard and lost some upper body stamina. Lower body that didn't happen. I actually improved. My recovery also improved. So yeah there is a degree to what I'd agree with Garmin riders claims based on personal experience, but 9 kilos as claimed for Wiggo with an already low body fat percentage....odd indeed. He had to have lost lean muscle. Where exactly? Ask his doctor.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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I think a big factor is what kind of weight was lost. If lose mostly water weight (lots of fad diets result in this) you'll probably suffer. If you lose mostly fat (say going from 12% body fat to 5%) you probably won't feel bad, but you should have dramatically improved your power to weight ratio, letting you climb better. Climbing better does not mean it's easier; you just go uphill faster for the same perceived pain. If you start out with 5% body fat and you go to 3%, I don't know if you'd actually notice any positive difference. Perhaps at the elite/pro level one would (assuming nothing else changes except the weight). Losing too much muscle mass could be detrimental, but it may depend on where the muscle is lost. For example, look at the way a match sprinter is built: besides the huge legs and ****, they typically have a sizeable upper body (shoulders and arms). Then look at a GC rider: even a big guy like Indurain has a slimmer upper body. Lose the mass in the upper body and a match sprinter would go uphill faster.

A question about % body fat in track specialists vs road racers: is it possible that a trackie normally carries a higher percentage of body fat than a road specialist? A quick look at Wikipedia shows Brad is a little over 6 feet tall, so if the 7 kg weight loss was primarily upper body and body fat, it's possible he could benefit from less weight without a loss of power.

These are just my opinions, based on book knowledge, personal experience, and cogitation. I may be wrong, I may be half right.
 
Aug 8, 2009
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I ride over a hill on my way back a forth to the grocery store. I think its what the tours call a cat 3. About 800ft elevation over a couple miles. With a couple gallons of milk et cetera its a surprisingly different experience. Easy thing to try for yourself, assuming you don't live in FL.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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if a guy who is clearly overweight loses 7 kilos of "winter fat" and then starts going up hills quicker this makes perfect sense. Little or no muscle being lost - power stays the same, weight drops - rides faster up hill. Think Jan Ullrich here....

With Wiggins: the guy was already thin before the weight loss - there can't have been that much fat to lose to make up 7 kilos. He must have lost a significant amount of lean muscle.

The issue is how much power he lost (if any) by slimming down this much.

Obviously if the ratio of power lost vs overall weight lost was lower, then he would have a higher power to weight ratio and would climb better, whilst still losing muscle mass.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
if a guy who is clearly overweight loses 7 kilos of "winter fat" and then starts going up hills quicker this makes perfect sense. Little or no muscle being lost - power stays the same, weight drops - rides faster up hill. Think Jan Ullrich here....

With Wiggins: the guy was already thin before the weight loss - there can't have been that much fat to lose to make up 7 kilos. He must have lost a significant amount of lean muscle.

The issue is how much power he lost (if any) by slimming down this much.

Obviously if the ratio of power lost vs overall weight lost was lower, then he would have a higher power to weight ratio and would climb better, whilst still losing muscle mass.
This is what I am really interested in. I have posed the question before, to Coggan and others, but have not received an answer. We are talking significant amounts of weight loss in already skinny guys. They don't have the fat reserves to lose weight exclusively through fat loss, so they have to lose lean muscle mass to achieve this weight loss. If they are losing lean muscle mass, then wouldn't they also lose sustainable power? If so, is the power loss proportional to weight loss or is this extreme weight loss still beneficial because the power-to-weight ratio would still be higher at the lower body weight because of less loss of power compared to body weight?

At the very least, it would be an interesting study to assess the balance between weight loss (fat v lean muscle) and effects on sustainable power and power-to-weight ratio.
 
Aug 17, 2009
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weight loss

elapid said:
This is what I am really interested in. I have posed the question before, to Coggan and others, but have not received an answer. We are talking significant amounts of weight loss in already skinny guys. They don't have the fat reserves to lose weight exclusively through fat loss, so they have to lose lean muscle mass to achieve this weight loss. If they are losing lean muscle mass, then wouldn't they also lose sustainable power? If so, is the power loss proportional to weight loss or is this extreme weight loss still beneficial because the power-to-weight ratio would still be higher at the lower body weight because of less loss of power compared to body weight?

At the very least, it would be an interesting study to assess the balance between weight loss (fat v lean muscle) and effects on sustainable power and power-to-weight ratio.
Can only offer an opinion and experience but I have improved power with the same and reduced weight. Both while being relatively lean ~10% body fat and did lose overall total muscle mass
Through second hand knowledge and advise training in the gym muscle mass doesn't equal power it depends on your diet. If your muscles are breaking down and rebuilding stronger on reduced calories they rebuild lean. So it is possible to lose weight and gain power.

On the effect of weight loss on climbing I think it is substantial I can do Alpe D'Huez 4 mins faster on a 3 lb lighter bike.

Wiggins has lost prologue speed this year believe he lost top end power from his weight loss. A prologue rider has extra muscle mass and fast twitch development to provide extra power in a short timeframe. Chris Hoy is also lean (body fat wise) but even more muscle mass because of the shorter distance.
One of the differences for Wiggins is to extend the period he can sustain a high rate of power and obviously improved power to weight ratio from the drop in weight.

Will try and find some scientific papers on this to back it up
 
Well according to Davide Cassani on the Italian RAI cycling coverage, a top grand tour athlete (obviously who has not worn himself completely out and is going on reserves) can save circa 1min. 30 sec. on a ten mile climb at one kilo less.

Don't know what scientific criteria upon which Cassani's claim is based, though I'm sure it has some basis in reality.

From my experiences, when you train properly and consitently, eat sufficently at the table but not more, and be disciplined and focused in both areas, your body will arrive at it's ideal power-weight ratio naturally. Especially when you have confidence in what you're program is building and the patience to avoid exaggerations that you think will get you more when in fact they break you down.

When I was going fastest uphill, I weighed between 57-58 kilos and, if I put on just two, three kilo's, I could not keep the pace high for as long.

It seems to me that was the real issue. It wasn't that at 61 kilos I couldn't climb on the same gradient just as fast as at 57, just not on the same gradiant for as long. That was the difference. When 57 was the result of a natural process. The Italians say: Nel ciclismo non si puo inventare niente. Piano, piano, si va lontano ("In cycling one doesn't improvise anything. Slowly, slowly, you'll go far). Where "slowly, slowly" more properly speaking means "patience, patience."

What gets you down to the ideal weight? A combination of miles and intensity (racing) over a sustained period, say from Feb. to June. After that you're flyin as they say. In a relative sense, of course. Sombody always goes faster!
 
Aug 13, 2009
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rhubroma said:
Well according to Davide Cassani on the Italian RAI cycling coverage, a top grand tour athlete (obviously who has not worn himself completely out and is going on reserves) can save circa 1min. 30 sec. on a ten mile climb at one kilo less.

Don't know what scientific criteria upon which Cassani's claim is based, though I'm sure it has some basis in reality.

From my experiences, when you train properly and consitently, eat sufficently at the table but not more, and be disciplined and focused in both areas, your body will arrive at it's ideal power-weight ratio naturally. Especially when you have confidence in what you're program is building and the patience to avoid exaggerations that you think will get you more when in fact they break you down.

When I was going fastest uphill, I weighed between 57-58 kilos and, if I put on just two, three kilo's, I could not keep the pace high for as long.

It seems to me that was the real issue. It wasn't that at 61 kilos I couldn't climb on the same gradient just as fast as at 57, just not on the same gradiant for as long. That was the difference. When 57 was the result of a natural process. The Italians say: Nel ciclismo non si puo inventare niente. Piano, piano, si va lontano ("In cycling one doesn't improvise anything. Slowly, slowly, you'll go far). Where "slowly, slowly" more properly speaking means "patience, patience."

What gets you down to the ideal weight? A combination of miles and intensity (racing) over a sustained period, say from Feb. to June. After that you're flyin as they say. In a relative sense, of course. Sombody always goes faster!
Cassani's formula comes from Riis. I thought it was 6 seconds per Km of climbing per kilo but it appears he says it is 9.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
climbing is simply about power to weight ratio (how you arrive at the power is more complicated)

It also depends whether or not we are talking about ACTUAL proven visible weight loss or the guys who make sudden jumps in performance and then mention weight loss, without looking much different or being able to demonstrate a large loss of weight. (Lance)

How exactly do you "demonstrate a large loss of weight."?
 
Sep 20, 2009
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craig1985 said:
Now before BigBoat comes in here and says they are all blood doping etc., I keep thinking about Brad Wiggins finishing 4th at the Tour, and I remember JV saying he had lost 7kg, and changing his focus to the road and not the track. Whilst this thread isn't solely about Wiggins (and TBF I give him the benefit of the doubt), he was my example for this thread. So how much does a significant weight loss make to a rider going uphill, in terms of wattage etc.? I know there are other factors like gradient, length, so it isn't all black and white.

Also whilst I'm at it, how much difference does a change of diet, focus, riding in mountains make?
It's sometimes a difficult issue to grasp for most club riders, because usually for them adding extra muscle and power will get them up a hill faster than losing weight. That's because they don't go up 20k mountains very often. This power to weight ratio thing is only something that really benefits the pros.
 
Sep 20, 2009
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Cobblestones said:
Physics works differently for pros and amateurs? Hm, interesting.
Well I'm talking about where I live in the south east of England. There are lots of small hills but no mountains, and nine times out of ten the guy with the biggest leg muscles is quickest going up them rather than the lightest guy.

Amateur riding is a completely different ball game, wouldn't you agree?

But I suppose if you're in an amateur club that is based in the Alps then its rather different...
 
A

Anonymous

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British Pro Cycling said:
Well I'm talking about where I live in the south east of England. There are lots of small hills but no mountains, and nine times out of ten the guy with the biggest leg muscles is quickest going up them rather than the lightest guy.

Amateur riding is a completely different ball game, wouldn't you agree?

But I suppose if you're in an amateur club that is based in the Alps then its rather different...
Well, where you live is different than anywhere else in the entire world because the guys with the "biggest leg muscles" generally DON'T go up hills of ANY real length and grade fastest from my riding experience. Maybe if you are talking about a 1K climb with a 1% grade or something, but that has a technical term you in your amateurishness may not know called a "False Flat."

Hmm...why would someone with such limited cycling knowledge be posting here? Oh wait, I know!
 
Jul 9, 2009
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Thoughtforfood said:
Well, where you live is different than anywhere else in the entire world because .......
I think by this time it's abundantly clear. Where BPC lives is a different world.
 
Sep 20, 2009
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Thoughtforfood said:
Well, where you live is different than anywhere else in the entire world because the guys with the "biggest leg muscles" generally DON'T go up hills of ANY real length and grade fastest from my riding experience. Maybe if you are talking about a 1K climb with a 1% grade or something, but that has a technical term you in your amateurishness may not know called a "False Flat."

Hmm...why would someone with such limited cycling knowledge be posting here? Oh wait, I know!
You don't have to pretend what I'm saying is really controversial. Given that most clubs, at least where I come from, don't go up mountains, pure power rather than power-to-weight is more important. That's why amateurs often don't grasp why losing weight is so important for the pros if they want to do GC.

Of course, if you're a complete lard **** then you won't get up either hills or mountains very quickly.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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sgreene said:
How exactly do you "demonstrate a large loss of weight."?
look real scarily thin all of a sudden....so people make jokes about having to put stones in your pockets so you don't blow away.

rather than guff about "muscle redistribution" and "efficiency" whilst still weighing the same, but having a lighter wallet after visiting Dr. Ferrari.
 
Apr 9, 2009
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British Pro Cycling said:
You don't have to pretend what I'm saying is really controversial. Given that most clubs, at least where I come from, don't go up mountains, pure power rather than power-to-weight is more important. That's why amateurs often don't grasp why losing weight is so important for the pros if they want to do GC.

Of course, if you're a complete lard **** then you won't get up either hills or mountains very quickly.
It's not that what you say is controversial, it's just that it's completely wrong as usual. On the contrary, most clubs and amateur racing circuits have LOTS of racing with LOTS of long climbs (20 minutes plus) where power to weight ratio plays a gigantic factor. Furthermore, even if you do live in a mythical world-is-flat environment, power-to-weight ratio is still helpful and important because a rider can accelerate faster and with less effort when he/she does not have extra mass to move up to speed.

Now please stop posting and go away. You've been banned 4 times now because you don't have any clue what you're talking about and are an annoying troll. You aren't welcome here and no one is interested in hearing your deluded, ignorant, and incorrect views about cycling.
 
This is just pure Math (No physiology involved):

- No muscular loss
- No wind changes
- Just weight loss (8 kg)
- Same power output (443 watts on Verbier, 8.7 km)
- Time Gain: 1':48"

I hope I am not doing anything wrong. Just using same variables I was using. Whether I used the wrong variables or not what is important is the change not the absolute values.

I used calculations with power outputs to what Herrera and Lemond were doing in Alpe D’Huez which is a longer climb to values around 390 Watts And I get a time difference of 5 minutes.

Sometimes I wonder.:confused:

Gosh, I've never paid attention to this weight loss in detail, but if the numbers are correct his performance in the Tour was because he had the power already in him not because of his weight loss. But I guess this was already explained by JV that he was putting this kind of power in training.
 
Sep 20, 2009
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BikeCentric said:
It's not that what you say is controversial, it's just that it's completely wrong as usual.
It really isn't wrong for just a Sunday club rider.

But okay, in the spirit of openness I will concede some ground. If a ride was training just for a time trial on a hill, say, then power to weight ratio would become more important, though still not as important as for a pro doing mountains. However, it wouldn't be worth that club rider doing that if they were thinking about their over all performance as a Sunday club rider. Power is the name of the game for most amateur riders. Cycling Weekly - the mag of choice in these parts - had a big spread on it a couple of months ago. As long as you're not overweight in the first place, most riders can improve their general performance by focusing on power improvement, not weight loss. For a pro, who generally has already got their power as high as it can go, that is not what they need to focus on.

Anyway, I'm off out to climb a stonker twice on my regular loop...
 
Jun 29, 2009
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elapid said:
This is what I am really interested in. I have posed the question before, to Coggan and others, but have not received an answer. We are talking significant amounts of weight loss in already skinny guys. They don't have the fat reserves to lose weight exclusively through fat loss, so they have to lose lean muscle mass to achieve this weight loss. If they are losing lean muscle mass, then wouldn't they also lose sustainable power? If so, is the power loss proportional to weight loss or is this extreme weight loss still beneficial because the power-to-weight ratio would still be higher at the lower body weight because of less loss of power compared to body weight?

At the very least, it would be an interesting study to assess the balance between weight loss (fat v lean muscle) and effects on sustainable power and power-to-weight ratio.
This is a problem for me as well.

Let's be generous to Wiggo and say that before his weight loss he tips the scales at 75kg (almost certainly an overestimation). He then clocks in at 68kg after losing 7kg. That's a 9% drop in total body mass. Shedding almost a tenth of your body weight is a heck of a lot for an already skinny guy. I'm 6'5'' and come in at a pretty low (for my height) 83kg. A 9% drop would take me to 75kg. The only time I have ever been 75kg in my adult life was after a particularly nasty bout of typhoid in Asia. Let's just say I didn't have much power left after dropping that kind of weight lol.

The point is, if Wiggins drops 7kg, where's it coming from? He's already an elite cyclist, so body fat is minimal, certainly nowhere near that kind of weight. Therefore his only option is to breakdown skeletal muscle to lose weight. This can't be from his lower body, as power would drop through the floor, so the vast majority of that is going to have to come from upper body muscle. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Bradley Wiggins has never particularly looked like he's got 6 or 7 kilos of upper body muscle to spare.

So what are we left with? Either he knows of a way to lose weight that defies physics, or he's spouting the usual garbage of cyclists with something to hide. Personally, as a Brit, I'd love to believe Wiggo is genuine. But sorry to say, the numbers don't stack up.
 
Aug 19, 2009
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British Pro Cycling said:
Well I'm talking about where I live in the south east of England. There are lots of small hills but no mountains, and nine times out of ten the guy with the biggest leg muscles is quickest going up them rather than the lightest guy.
You're still talking power:weight. The dude with the biggest legs would have to make more than enough power to off-set the advantages of smaller riders.

http://bikecalculator.com/veloUS.html
 
Jun 19, 2009
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[ This can't be from his lower body, as power would drop through the floor, so the vast majority of that is going to have to come from upper body muscle. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Bradley Wiggins has never particularly looked like he's got 6 or 7 kilos of upper body muscle to spare.

So what are we left with? Either he knows of a way to lose weight that defies physics, or he's spouting the usual garbage of cyclists with something to hide. Personally, as a Brit, I'd love to believe Wiggo is genuine. But sorry to say, the numbers don't stack up.[/QUOTE]

Would have to agree. I've mentioned it before but even seasoned pros can lose upper body weight after upper body injuries because of forced change of riding style. If they weren't totally efficient before, they can improve a smoother style that involves the upper body less. You can lose 3-5 lbs during a collarbone recovery and chose not to gain it back. If they guy's already skinny, that is really tough. More weight loss than that is unlikely and probably unhealthy. Club riders can lose a ton of weight and not lose power if they haven't raced much. That doesn't mean they'll be much faster on the flats, however.
 

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