In part 2 of Weight loss strategies for cyclists I will look at body types and how to recognize their strengths and weakness as it pertains to weight loss.
What body types? Out of shape, thin, fat, scrawny, muscular, athletic….
You might be surprised that we as cyclists can learn something that body builders have known about for years. William Herbert Sheldon an American psychologist developed Somatotypes in the 1940s, which dealt with body types and human temperament. While the concept of only 3 associated human temperaments ties to 3 body types is no longer accepted as a valid model of diagnosing human temperament. However Sheldon’s categorization of body types lives on today.
The body type system that Sheldon introduced characterized the human body as ectomorphic, mesomorphic, or endomorphic.
- Ectomorphic: characterized by long and thin muscles/limbs and low fat storage; receding chin, usually referred to as slim.
- Mesomorphic: characterized by medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist; usually referred to as muscular.
- Endomorphic: characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure, usually referred to as fat.
While the vast majority of elite and professional cyclists fit the Ectomorphic (slim) and the Mesomorphic (muscular) body types their are plenty of recreational and amateur racers who fit what is labeled as Endomorphic (fat). If you search over the intraweb you will find several articles on the subject of body types and even calculators that you can use to discover which body type you are.
Most of us do not need a Body Type calculator or survey to tell us which body type we are. What is interesting to me is that we as humans change over time. Case in point: As a teen and young adult I couldn’t put on weight (muscle or fat) and easily could be classified as the classic Ectomorphic body type. Now as a 40 something amateur racer I feel like I am some where between an Ectomorphic and Mesomorphic body type. I find it difficult at times to loose weight, build upper body mass easily but couldn’t grow muscles in my legs if my life depended on it.
So now that you have learned a bit about what your possible body type is how does it play a role in weight loss?
If you have an ectomorphic body type you may not need to loose any weight or very little weight. So with that said instead of actually worrying about weight loss you will probably find that you will loose 5-10 lbs by completing a structured training plan over the off season. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on your diet it just means that you need to take care that you eat enough to cover your daily needs. What are your daily caloric needs? More on this topic in part 3 of Weight loss strategies for cyclists.
The mesoporphic body type may have one of the toughest challenges in loosing weight. The mesoporphic body type find’s it easy to add muscle and fat. While a structured training plan along with a sensible diet of carbs, protein fiber and calorie restriction will usually do the trick. This body tpye can also reap huge benefits from High Intensity Training and a smart strength training program utilizing weights and core exercises to help you get lean and usually with fast results. The mesoporphic body type does have a unique problem as they have a tendency to put on weight through the development of muscle mass which is not welcome in most cycling disciplines. The mesoporphic body type when training should not give up on the weight room but needs to recognize that heavy weight are not necessary for developing off-season strength and instead should focus on major muscle groups lighter weights and more repetitions to build leaner muscle.
If you find that you are classified as the endomorphic body type do not worry. Suggested protocols for loosing weight will make you happy, if you love your bike! Those with endomorphic body type will find that with structured aerobic training, strength training and utilizing a smart diet that restricts calories especially those high in fat will see greater results in losing weight. The endomorphic body type will need to build lean muscle mass in an effort to burn even more fat so a structured strength training program along with a cross training program that is low impact on joints will also pay big dividends. The endomorphic body type may have trouble at losing weight at first but must remain diligent in their efforts and have faith in their training and methods. The endomorphic body type should seek professional help in losing weight so as to not get frustrated with what could appear as slow progress.
In the next article I will be covering smart calorie restrictions, way’s to keep you the cycling athlete motivated and measures for progress. So two articles down and two to go! I really hope this article series is helping you learn more about weight loss as a cyclist. I know this has been an eye opening experience for me.Let me know what you think and leave a comment.
Untill the next article put the doughnut down and go for a ride.
“The mesomorphic body type when training should not give up on the weight room but needs to recognize that heavy weight are not necessary for developing off-season strength and instead should focus on major muscle groups lighter weights and more repetitions to build leaner muscle.” I agree with you Rob and If I may, I would add that being a mesomorphic body type I find that full body training works best for me. It allows me to build body mass, but still be light on my bike.
Many agree, the mesomorphs body type can recover faster and adapt to full workout much easier. Keep on riding… good work.
Thanks Tyrider. I find to many racers who spend zero time in the weight room. This is a real shame as it not only helps with off season strength it also helps with muscle endurance, muscle retention in masters athletes and even injury prevention. After a couple of criterium wrecks I can say with out a doubt that time in the gym spared me more physical harm than if I hadn’t trained with weights.
I’m an endomorphic body type, and I have extensive experience in extended, interncontinental bicycle tours. Usually when on the “long mile” you build fitness stamina and loose weight, while you can literally eat what you want, while your metabolism is sped up a great deal. Actually the reason I took up cycle touring is, because I can see the world, while not having to worry about getting fat
Now, with domestic cycling (can’t be touring 24/7 365 days a year) and dieting it doesn’t work for several reasons and the crux is, that while you need to eat carbs to perform decently, especially within an environment with plentiful elevation gain during rides (I’m a cross-country mountain biker rather than anything else), this very carb consumption amongst other influences triggers a general overconsumption of calories which will prevent weight loss. Of course you can say, well you need to employ some discipline and count calories etc. but it is not that easy, it really really isn’t. Everyone who claims different is not an endomorph.
I’ve searched the Internet quite a bit and when it comes to endomorphs, it stops short at: “don’t worry, it can be done with a bit of right training here and right dieting there” – which is BS, as I see it, unless somebody comes up with a realistic approach.
As far as I’m concerned, covering a minimum distance of 400 km a week on tarmac is where it starts, but can you muster up the time and motivation to do this every week, week in week out, rain, snow or sunshine, year in year out on a training regime? This is unrealistic, AFAIC. The only way to harvest long term benefits (weight loss, fitness, body composition, etc.) is to go on an extended journey by bicycle, as this will take away the mind-numbing training bit.
I to am an Endomorph. As a coach of recreational and competitive cyclists, runners and multisport athletes I will agree that it can be hard and frustrating for Endomorphs to loose weight. However I also discovered that with some tweaks to my diet that I could remain competitive with out driving myself nuts.
Where I will STRONGLY disagree with you is your statement [“don’t worry, it can be done with a bit of right training here and right dieting there” – which is BS,]
I am sorry, if you want to loose weight you are going to have to count calories, learn what foods are right for you and create a caloric deficit. Now all of this effort doesn’t have to become a full time job. With the help of sport nutritionist, coach and or personal trainer an athlete can reach their weight goals much faster than going it alone. The tools for tracking have improved but I too am frustrated with the process of counting calories and taking body measurements. Right now this portion is a fact of life if you want to take weight of safely and keep it off.
I am very familiar with adventure cycling as I use to coach and answer questions for a tour operator’s athletes and I realize that there is a big difference between a competitive athlete and those that tour. What I have written still holds true. You must eat right, train/work with in your abilities and create a caloric deficit.