Drop It: 10 Steps to Achieve Your Optimal Performance Weight

The offseason is the best time to lose weight in preparation for the upcoming race year. Here's some sound advice on how to make it happen.

1. Identify a realistic target weight for your height, age, body type and strengths. Talk to a coach or a nutritionist who works with athletes to find a realistic performance weight for you.

2. Take the amount of weight you want to lose and divide it by the amount of weeks from now until three weeks before your first race. If the amount comes out to more than about a pound a week, you'll need to cut down the amount of weight you'd like to lose this time.

3. Define your pros and cons of losing and maintaining a lower weight. Write them down now. Include everything you can think of, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Go back and add to the list as you think of items. The process of weight loss and its eventual maintenance must have a payoff more valuable to you than your current habits or you'll soon find yourself reverting.

4. Enlist support from your household by declaring your goal and asking for assistance. This includes not only spouses, but roommates and kids as well. It's a lot easier to avoid treats and alcohol when they aren't in your immediate environment and easier to stay away from the second helping when it doesn't exist.

5. Start a food journal today. You can find several free ones online that will track the calories you consume and burn and graphically display the values, including nutritional makeup. Even if you do this for only several weeks, you'll begin to learn the calorie values of food amounts, which will help you make wiser choices.

6. If you have any doubts about reaching your goal on your own or you've tried trimming down before and didn't near your goal, seek the professional help of a nutritionist who can do a diet recall, measure your resting metabolic rate, and provide healthy, accessible menus along with advice. Consistent feedback from someone who can tell you what and how much you need to eat around your workouts takes the guesswork out of the process.

7. Take the word "deserve" out of your vocabulary when it comes to food. As you lose weight you might feel you "deserve" an extra treat, or if you've struggled for a day you might even punish yourself the following day because you feel you don't "deserve" to eat much. Deal with each situation meal by meal. Dieting doesn't make for long-term weight maintenance; consistency of habit does.

8. When (and that's "when," not "if") you have a day when you overeat, don't beat yourself up. Getting back on track the next meal will make the difference even in the short run. Giving up temporarily and eating too much again the next day takes you further away from your goals. Even three bad days in a row over a month doesn't throw the entire plan off, but the loss of morale makes it more difficult to return to more positive habits.

9. Eat less on your next easy or off day. If you've fueled after your workouts on training days, you've replaced what you used. Realize it's okay to go to bed hungry while in the weight-loss phase. Your morning meal or during-ride food will fuel your training.

10. Fill a glass or bottle with water right now and start drinking it. See how easy that was? Drink water with meals instead of juice, soda and all the other empty calorie drinks. Need flavor? Any large supermarket carries those vitamin C packets that provide about 15 calories per serving compared to 100+ calories for most drinks.


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