Changing one's body composition will only offer a performance advantage, however, if we first establish the goals and methods uniquely suited to each athlete's individual needs. Numerous so-called "magic bullets" circulate in the health and fitness world for losing fat; triathletes should be cautious of "strategies" that promote quick results. These methods pose a great risk for losing lean tissue, bone mass, and gaining body fat, lingering fatigue, illness, injury, compromised recovery, and ultimately, performance decline. Perhaps even worse, a reckless weight reduction program can trigger disordered eating habits, paving the way to a dangerous eating disorder.
Although a certain perceived "leanness" may in fact be athletically advantageous, every athlete has an ideal body composition range where he or she will feel, function, and perform the best. It cannot be overstressed that the bathroom scale provides irrelevant information about your true body composition and should not be used as a method for measuring body composition for health and/or performance improvements. If you are still convinced that reduced body fat will offer you a distinct advantage, before your get started, it's very important to accurately measure the proportion of your body that is excess fat in relation to muscle, bone, and essential fat.
In an attempt to prevent the aforementioned evils of quick-fix weight loss and to ensure athletic longevity (a.k.a. continued enjoyment!) for cycling, running, and other endurance sports, planned body composition changes should be the direct outcome of a well-executed training plan, proper recovery, restful sleep, well-balanced eating, and effective fueling/hydration strategies.
In a past Ironman.com article, I outlined how you can use your entire season—however it looks for you—to build fitness while creating healthy eating behaviors and sustainable strategies to meet your unique nutritional demands.
To read my guide to making peace with your weight all season long, building your fitness, and creating healthy eating habits, read more HERE.