Monday, December 11, 2006

Lightweights and Weight Reduction

It seems pretty clear that everyone who reads FITD understands that losing weight over a long period of time is better than losing weight over a short period. "Better," however, can mean a lot of things. When we talk about better here, most people seem to include healthier and with less risk of harm during competition. We also intuitively believe that fast weight loss hurts performance, although I, for one, have not seen any proof of that. Well, I can stop looking. Here is a 1994 study from the UK which documents the difference in performance in elite British lightweight women when one group lost weight over 2 months and another lost weight over 4 months. The results show "that the longer weight-reduction period was associated with significantly improved VO2max (p < 0.01), Tvent (p < 0.005), PP (p < 0.05) and KF (p < 0.05)."* In the 2 month group, meanwhile, "Tvent (p < 0.02) and KF (p < 0.02) decreased." The link only goes to an abstract so I can't see details like how much weight was lost in each group, but it is stated to be 6-7% of body weight (seems like quite a bit to me). What this means then, is that if your first race is in March and you have some weight to lose, you should already be on your way down.

* Maximal oxygen intake (VO2max), respiratory anaerobic threshold (Tvent), upper body anaerobic peak power (PP), and knee flexor (KF)

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