Can you focus on fat loss while you pursue an athletic goal?

Sep 14, 2021Nutrition

Athletes often want to maximize their performance by improving their body composition. The logic is simple. The more power you have per kilogram of body weight, the better your performance is, at least on paper.
However, there are other things you need to consider when it comes to your performance because weight is not the only variable you should be considering.

Should you try to lose fat if your goal is performance?

The answer is not a simple yes or no because it’s more complicated than we that. It truly depends on the situation and the individual.

It depends on:

  • The type of event.
  • How you train for it.
  • When the event is.
  • What matters most to you.
  • The sport.
  • Experience level.
  • Elite vs. amateur vs. recreational.
  • Dieting, training, & health history.
If your event is coming up really soon, focus on your fueling & recovery first. Otherwise, you’ll likely negatively affect your performance & recovery while your hormones and CNS will take a hit.
But if your event is 6-12 months out, it’s a different conversation.
If your training intensity and volume are low, that’s likely a better time to pursue fat loss because there’s far less stress on your body from training. But if you’re doing a ton of HARD sprint and interval work, or your training volume is ramping up, you need to eat to support that.
If you’ve signed up for a fun 5K run, you could consider losing fat. But if you’re signed up for a marathon in a month, the priority shifts to eating enough to support your training and making sure you are adequately recovered and rested.
If you care about finishing as fast as possible, you need properly to achieve that goal. But if you only want to finish and don’t care at all about your finish time, that is different.
If you’ve been sedentary for a while and are very much overweight, you’ll probably lose some weight just from moving more, focusing on food quality, and establishing good habits.
But if you’re already at relatively normal body weight, why do you feel like you need to lose weight in the first place? Unfortunately, athletes associate weighing less with being better or faster. As I explained in this article, lighter is not always better, especially in hybrid sports combining strength, power, and endurance. Bodyweight can be a factor, but it certainly is not the ONLY factor. You need to FIRST look at your recovery, training program, and if you’re optimizing your diet.
For many, the “best” time to focus on body recomposition is AFTER they’ve recovered from their big event. This can be in the “off-season,” or it can be when training volume and intensity are nowhere near as high as they tend to be when building up for a race.

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