Achieving your ideal racing weight can improve your cycling times. For every extra pound of body weight, you put out two watts of energy to get up a hill. If you can drop 10 pounds of fat, you can climb hills 7 to 10 percent faster -- gaining 15 to 20 seconds per mile for every pound lost. Your ideal weight can be tricky to determine, however. You don't want to lose valuable muscle that contributes to your ability to create power. Find a weight that allows you to feel strong when cycling but light enough to excel.
Height and Frame
If you ride regularly and compete casually, you can figure your ideal weight based on your height. Men should aim for 106 pounds for the first 5 feet of height and add an additional 6 pounds for each inch thereafter. If you are 6 feet tall, for example, you should weigh about 172 pounds. Women should compute ideal weight by using 100 pounds for the first 5 feet and then 5 pounds for every additional inch. A woman who is 6 feet tall should thus weigh about 160 pounds. If you have a small frame, aim for a weight about 10 percent lower than this computation, and if you have a large frame, aim for about 10 percent more.
Body composition refers to the ratio of fat mass to lean muscle mass. The number on the scale can't tell you this ratio. As a cyclist, especially if you are competitive and want to gain more power, you want more of your body weight to consist of lean muscle mass. Healthy body-fat percentages are 10 to 25 percent for men and 18 to 30 percent for women. Athletes, especially cyclists, should aim for the lowest numbers in this range, and elite athletes may fall even lower. Men and women do need some body fat - usually at least 5 percent for men and 13 percent for women - to support basic functions and immunity. When you focus on losing weight to get to an ideal weight, use a healthy, portion-controlled diet and weight training to help you lose body fat, not muscle.
For racers who train more than 10 hours per week and desire to compete with the most elite cyclists, you may aim for a very low body weight for competition. This weight is often not healthy to maintain for the long term and could leave you vulnerable to illness as it compromises your immune system. Do not try to achieve an extremely low weight unless under the guidance of a coach and health-care specialist. The best performing male riders usually weigh between 2.1 and 2.4 pounds per inch of height, while women usually carry 1.9 to 2.2 pounds per inch, according to Joe Friel, renowned cycling coach and author. The best climbers may weigh slightly less. If you have a particularly muscular frame, these numbers may be too low and you will trade weight for valuable power, because achieving a low weight will require your body to burn off muscle mass.
Achieving Your Weight
Proper dieting and exercise strategies can help you achieve your ideal racing weight with minimal impact on your performance. Losing weight requires a reduction in calories below what you burn daily. With this reduction, you risk interfering with training as you lose energy. Focus on nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates to fill up your calorie needs for the day. Spread your calories out over several small meals so you minimize hunger. Make sure to eat around the time of your workouts - especially afterward -- to optimize your energy levels and maximize recovery. Do not skimp on carbohydrates, your body's primary source of fuel, but make good choices such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition to your cycling-specific workouts, hit the gym to weight train, which encourages the maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass.