This week our question goes to Namrita O'Dea. A
licensed dietician and member of the Topeak/Ergon racing team, O'Dea helps
riders fine tune their bodies for maximum performance through her business 55 Nine
Question: My body fat hovers around 10-12 percent
and I would like to get it down a few points. What's a safe way to bring my
body fat down without negatively impacting my winter training?
Namrita O'Dea: Winter is a good time to really
focus on changing your body composition. Losing body fat while building fitness
is a fine line to ride, though, and extra care should be taken to adequately
fuel and recover from all training sessions. As you will read below, a
multi-pronged approach will be most effective. A detailed training and a
nutrition log, if you have time, are also very useful throughout the process.
DXA, hydrostatic weighing, and the Bod Pod are
the more accurate methods of measuring body composition. However, if you only
have skinfold or BIA, use them as relative measurements to gauge your progress.
Just keep in mind, the error percentage is higher when using the latter
methods. A regular weight scale wonít tell the whole story when you want to
differentiate percent fat from lean mass.
In order to preserve your metabolism and lean
body mass while losing fat, create a slight energy deficit of approximately 250
to 400 calories per day. You can do this by eating slightly less at your larger
meals, eating more nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense foods, increasing
the amount of fresh foods in your diet, and reducing extra calories such as
those from salty snacks, desserts, sodas, or alcohol.
Protein will keep you satiated longer and, when
consumed with carbohydrates, will help to slow the insulin response. Aim for
just under 2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight, per day. When
race season comes around, you can slightly decrease protein and increase your
carbohydrate intake again.
Aim for around 20% of total calories from fat per
day, with the majority of fat coming from unsaturated sources. Animal fats are
higher in saturated fats and should be limited. If you canít successfully
moderate your dessert intake it is probably best to cut it out all together and
substitute it with lower-calorie options. One square of dark chocolate can go a
long way in satisfying a sweet craving!
As an athlete, carbohydrates should comprise at
least 50% of your macronutrient intake. Because refined sugars are less
satiating and cause more rapid insulin spikes, most of the carbohydrates should
come from higher-fiber complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. When
possible, combine carbohydrates with protein. Once higher intensity training
and racing ramps up, you will want to increase the daily percentage of calories
from carbohydrates to approximately 65% of total calories.
The timing of your energy intake is equally
important as what you eat. Scale your energy intake so you are taking in more
calories when you are more active (i.e. in the first half of the day versus
right before bed). Donít skip meals or snacks and try to go no more than 3
hours at a time without energy intake. Avoid consuming mass amounts of calories
at one time, as is often done at a post-ride recovery meal.
Never skip the recovery drink or snack.
Immediately after a training session, use a 250 to 400 calorie recovery drink
(or equivalent food with additional fluid). Then consume smaller 250-600
calorie snacks or meals every 1-2 hours to maximize recovery and minimize
excess fat storage.
Incorporate strength training into your regimen,
if you have not already. Not only will it help your performance, it will help
you reach your fat loss goals more quickly.
Finally, green tea catechins have shown some
promise in fat metabolism. So, brewing some hot green tea might be a good way
to keep warm in the winter!