Can You Lose That Weight As Easily As You Gained It?

In a word, no. How many chubby retired athletes have you seen? I've noticed plenty. What's going on here?

As athletes, we've all experienced a certain amount of fluctuation in our weight as we move through the periodized schedules of our training. Many times, we think the weight we gain in the off-season will simply fall away when we resume our normal training. Anecdotally, I think most of us have found it doesn't completely work like that. The weight jumps up, but it never really returns to what it was previously, unless you put in some massive work -more than you were doing before. Is it simply the inevitable matter of middle-aged spread? It doesn't have to be, if you are smart with your training and eating.

Do You Gain & Lose Weight Asymmetrically?

The 2008, Volume 40, Number 2 Edition of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise published a report titled "Asymmetric Weight Gain and Loss From Increasing and Decreasing Exercise." The report studied male and female runners, and found that weight gain due to reduced weekly exercise may not be reversed when prior activity is resumed. The researchers did not find a particular underlying mechanism involved.

For us athletes though, it points to a few things we should keep in mind, especially for those of us where weight is an issue. And as cyclists, our power-to-weight ratio is extremely important, particularly when the roads turn up!

Keep Those Legs A-Movin'

First off, weight management is far easier to control by simply ensuring you don't totally back off on your training, even in the off-season.

And Periodize Your Eating

Second, when you do reduce your activity level, watch your weight and watch what you eat closer than you might otherwise. Adjust your calories in, to better match your reduced calories out. In essence, periodize your eating along with your training. Chris Carmichael advocates that approach in his book, Food For Fitness. The report in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise did not examine the dietary habits of the subjects, so perhaps this is the angle we should really exploit to maintain a consistent weight.

I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Really Think So...

Another approach that can help with your diet periodization is to eat like an Okinawan. These Japanese champions of longevity will typically stop eating when they are only 80% full. So despite what your mamma taught you, don't clean your plate. Take your time, and simply stop eating when you are full. Save the leftovers for another meal, perhaps even as a special treat for your pet.

Combined, these strategies will help ensure your weight doesn't creep up on you, to the point that you can't get it back down where it should be.

But I think the ultimate solution to not becoming a fat retired athlete is quite simple. Don't retire!

What are your thoughts?