Weight loss in sports

Weight loss in sports

Weight loss in the athlete consists of losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass and maintaining the level of performance. This loss of body fat should not be the sole objective of being at the weight on the day of the competition. It is especially necessary to optimize training. An optimal percentage of body fat has an impact on:

  • Techniques
  • The mechanical parameters of gestures
  • Improving acceleration skills
  • Better liveliness.

This loss of body fat will be slow: expect to lose about 2kg/month maximum. Having an optimal percentage of body fat and proper management of energy stocks are the essential parameters of the athlete’s preparation for very high performance.

To optimize your workouts, you must not only train at an optimal percentage of body fat but also have the right energy substrate.

How to interpret the eating behavior of the athlete?

How to interpret the eating behavior of the athlete?

Three tools are essential to this interpretation:

Weighing: necessary but insufficient!

The weight on the scale does not provide information on the percentages of body fat, lean mass, and water. A once-a-week midweek weigh-in is enough. Weighing yourself should not become an obsession and lead to radical changes in eating behavior.

Fat assessment: More than the evaluation, it is the change in the percentage that is important!

The 4 skin fold method (the most reproducible and least expensive way) is the most suitable, when performed by the same person, to assess the percentage of body fat. But we have to take into account the evolution of this value and not the figure itself.

Other methods exist (absorptiometer and MRI), but they are not usable for follow-up (cost). Another ultrasound-based method is being validated.

Benchmarks: a percentage of body fat is optimal when it is between 8 and 10% for men, and between 18 and 20% for women (method of 4 skinfolds).

Vigilance! The “impedance meter” scale is absolutely unreliable for estimating the percentage of body fat.

Maintenance: essential!

It assesses, through the study of dietary behavior: the number of calories consumed per day, the percentage of fat in the diet (standard: 25 and 30%), protein grammage (standard: 1.2 to 2g/kg/d), hydration, etc.

This data will serve as a basis for improving diet as part of weight loss and for managing energy stocks.

Do I need to increase my physical activity to lose weight?

Do I need to increase my physical activity to lose weight?

Weight loss is based on a lag between inflows and expenses.

The ideal is to increase your spending and reduce your contributions. 

Indeed, according to a study “COMPARING DIET AND EXERCISE AS WEIGHT REDUCTION TOOLS” dated 1976. a small decrease in intakes associated with an increase in expenditure of the same proportions would be the most effective method for weight loss while retaining muscle mass.

For the athlete training 3 times a week, the sport must continue regularly or even gradually increase it and improve its diet.

For the high-level athlete – weight loss will be based on an improvement in contributions from a qualitative and quantitative point of view. Since the training load is codified, increasing expenses would distort training. 

How can food intake be improved for weight loss?

How can food intake be improved for weight loss?

You have to reduce your initial intake by 500 Kcal, which means in practice:

  • Improving the quality of inputs
  • Consume quantities adapted to personal characteristics, intensity, duration of workouts…

How can I play on the number of my intakes?

How can I play on the number of my intakes?

It is essential to spend more than 35 minutes of inning meals because the satiety signal is only operating beyond 20 minutes. Think about chewing well.

Consume at least daily:

  • 3 servings of fresh fruit – equivalence: 300g of watermelon – 1 tray of 250g of strawberries – 1 orange – 2 small peaches – 4-5 apricots – 4 clementines – 4 medium kiwis – 1/2 natural melon – 20 cherries – 1 apple – 1 pear – 1 khaki – 15 grapes – 10 to 12 litchis – 1 medium banana… It is a good idea not only to eat the fruits richest in sugars: grapes, cherries, and bananas.
  • 3 semi-skimmed dairy products 1 plain yogurt, 100g white cheese, 1 bowl of semi-skimmed milk, 2 small Swiss kinds of cheese.
  • 140g on average of meat or fish (6% MG) sources of protein, iron, B vitamins. The size of the portion is to be defined according to the athlete’s body weight and muscle strain to supplement at least 1.2g of protein per kg/day.
  • Vegetables cooked at will (at least 2 servings) and at least one seasoned rawness.
  • 3 servings of starchy food, potatoes, pasta, quinoa, wheat, wheat semolina, bread… Portion sizes should be adjusted to reflect energy expenditure: whether or not training is present, intensity, and duration.
  • At lunch, with afternoon training – 2/3 vegetables and 1/3 starchy.
  • Lunch without training in the afternoon and at dinner 3/4 of vegetables and 1/4 of starchy vegetables.

Always more vegetables than starches!

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day as well as during workouts and meals.
  • 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil are to be added in the preparations to cover the essential fatty acid needs.

How can I improve the quality of my contributions?

How can I improve the quality of my contributions?

Limit the consumption of risky pleasure foods – pizzas, sodas, chocolate bars, sandwiches, quiches, cold cuts, entremets, pastries, but also fruit juices, cheeses, butter, crème fraîche… Planning for the week some discrepancies helps maintain one’s good mood and reduces the unreasonable urge to eat these foods. It is, therefore, better to live a gap a week to the fullest than to repeat food errors every day, even if it delays weight loss a little. 

Limit the fat foods rich in the constitution.

Choose the least fat-rich meats and fish (6% MG): low-fat pork rib, veal cutlet, beef tenderloin, rumsteck heart, skinless chicken, turkey, bison steak, ostrich steak, cod, whiting, sole, sea bream, perch fillet, ham, ham, dented ham, steak, ostrich steak, cod, whiting, sole, sea bream, perch fillet, bacon, pork, deflated ham, ostrich steak, cod, whiting, sole, sea bream, perch fillet

Twice a week: eat a fatter fish (salmon, tuna, sardine…) Alternate: white meat (3 to 4 times/week), red meat (3 to 4 times/week), fish (2 to 3 times/week), eggs (maximum 6/week). 

Excellent dairy products to choose semi-skimmed dairy products because they are less fat-rich but preserve a quantity of vitamin D: plain yogurt, 20% white cheese, 20% MG Swiss milk, semi-skimmed milk.

Limit the consumption of cheeses because they are high in saturated fats.

Choose fat sets well – Limit the consumption of butter and fresh cream. Prefer the olive oil/rapeseed mixture: olive oil for cooking, rapeseed oil for seasoning. Oils should not be consumed at least 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil per day. 

What about hydration?

What about hydration?

Always hydrate well and follow the water plan.

Water restriction has a significant impact on performance. A 1% water loss in body weight, corresponding to the feeling of thirst, already reduces physical and intellectual abilities by 10%. Individual cases: for an athlete already well hydrated, with an optimal percentage of body fat. A water loss of 2% of body weight is tolerated during crucial competitions such as the world championships, knowing that this will have consequences on the performance. Example: for a 60 kg athlete, this loss of 2% of water results in a loss of 1.2 kg.

Apart from this particular case, a water restriction is to be prohibited!

Can I have a snack during weight loss?

Can I have a snack during weight loss?

The three meals on offer can be taken in 5 rounds – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one or two snacks.

Taking a snack must meet certain conditions:

  • It should be far enough away from the main meals (2-3 hours).
  • Meals can be split into two stakes: for example, the fruit and the dairy of the lunch can be kept for the afternoon snack.
  • It must be taken at least 1 hour/1h30 before training or within 15 minutes. of exercise if the meal is not scheduled within an hour.
  • It is mandatory when two main meals are 4-5 hours apart.

I can’t lose weight to join my category, what can I do?

I can't lose weight to join my category, what can I do?

Your body fat percentage is optimal, your eating behavior is exemplary. And you still have weight to lose: it is imperative to change weight class!

Persisting, in the idea of being in a weight class below its shape weight, leads to the installation of a food and water restriction incompatible with the requirement of performance.

It has the consequences: dehydration, depletion of glycogen stocks and therefore, energy, use of fats, and less effective training and a breakdown of muscle proteins.


Never consume less than 2,000 Kcal per day to provide the body with all the essentials. Supplementation cannot compensate for a dietary restriction because there is no substitute for the complexity of food!

Don’t skip meals.

A dietary restriction leads to depletion of energy stocks, a breakdown of muscle proteins: it is incompatible with performance. Water restriction results in a loss of physical and intellectual abilities. It can have severe consequences if it is too harsh. Sweating does not allow you to lose fat, because sweat is just water, so you have to rehydrate.

Training on onset is absolute to be avoided as it causes:

  • Depletion of glycogen reserves due to lack of energy substrate and, therefore, a feeling of fatigue.
  • A faster mobilization of fats but with poor performance and, therefore, less effective training. Muscle degradation that results in longer recovery time.

Written by Jacques Leoni

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