Methods for Athletes to Lose Weight

Ways for Athletes to Lose Weight

Rugby Players need a certain amount of body fat to maintain basic functions. However, a higher body fat percentage can negatively affect performance and overall recovery.

Carrying excess weight can negatively affect training and lead to loss of precious muscle through wastage. Plus detract form performance and ability to recover from both the effects pf a game and from injuries.

These 9 weight loss tips are specifically for athletes. They use the latest science-based recommendations to lower body fat while maintaining sports performance.

Point One:  Lose Fat During the Off-Season

It’s very difficult to decrease body fat and reach peak fitness at the same time. Making the off season the ideal time to both/either gain and lose weight or better still lose body fat , and gain muscle

That’s because to lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories. This can make training feel more difficult and prevent you from performing at your best.

In addition we are trying to educate your body into burning fat for energy at the same time cutting back on the caloric intake.

For this reason, it’s best to lose fat in the off-season, when you are not about to compete. If that’s not possible, the next best option is to lose fat during less-intense training periods.

Another reason to attempt fat loss in the off-season is that it will give you more time to reach your body fat percentage goals before you start preseason training.. In addition it provides time. That is time that would normally be taken up in rugby training activities and in playing

This is also good because losing weight at a slower rate decreases the likelihood of muscle loss. It also seems to support better sports performance, and tends to do less damage to your mental health as well 


rugby players losing weight

Weight loss and Medical Research

Most research agrees that weight loss of 1lb. (0.5 kg) per week is ideal

So our aim as rugby players should be to lose weight in the off-season at a rate of 1lb. (0.5 kg) per week or less and as you will see losing a 1lb a week takes a bit of work and planning.

This will also help to minimise muscle loss while supporting your ability to retain sports performance and in some cases have muscle gains.


Second Point: Avoid Crash Diets – and measure yourself

If you cut calories too drastically, your nutrient intake may not support your required strength training and any other proper training and recovery. ( Alternate Sports you may play)

This can increase the risk of injury, illness and over-training syndrome. Making it hard to recover from strength training which in turn induces fatigue and a never ending cycle of non training. Added to this is the risk of catching cold and flu – as you are in a weaker position physically than normal.

The latest sports nutrition guidelines also warn against eating too few calories and reaching a dangerously low body fat percentage. That’s because both can disrupt reproductive function and diminish bone health.

The lowest safe recommended body fat percentage is 5% in males and 12% in females. However, these levels are not necessarily best for all types of athletes, so discuss what’s best for you with your coach and sports dietitian.

Cutting calories too quickly can also negatively affect your hormone balance and may have an adverse effect on your metabolism.

Decreasing Body fat

To decrease body fat, athletes should eat about 300–500 fewer calories per day but avoid eating less than 13.5 calories per pound (30 kcal/kg) offat-free mass per day.

So if your weigh in at 100kg or 220+ pounds you in theory need to eat/consume 3000 calories per day – (male rugby players)

Those figures assume you are at about 5% body fat – so that is a lean mean rugby machine. (Not many of them are around)

If you have 20% body fat then your calorie intake drops by at least 600calories ( 30cal per 1kg of weight) giving us a calorie intake of 2400 cal – and as we will see cutting back on 2,400 calories for an youth or adult rugby player may be damn hard.

Weight Loss data

Having looked at what we need to eat now lets look at what we need to stop eating or get losing.

So If you weigh in at 100kg or 221 pounds – and you want to lose 20 pounds – and given that it takes a 3,500 calorie loss to reduce by 1 pound We are in trouble.  With a target loss of 20 pounds you will need to lose / burn off / cut back on 70,000 calories

Lets the assume you are reducing your calorie intake by 500 a day in theory you would need 140 days (4.5 months) to lose 20 lbs ( 9kg) . But that would leave you on 1900 calories a day – and my wife east more than that.

Here are the hard questions:

  • Could we train weights on 1900 calories a day –
  • Would we get sufficient protein to gain muscle mass –
  • Would we be getting fat to muscle mass conversion

The answer to these questions is no – in no way could we achieve both Weight loss and muscle gain on 1900 calories a day –

So it needs to be a combination of exercise and calorie reduction to have any real benefit – remembering that muscle is heavier than fat –

It pays to measure yourself.

Weight loss or shape loss – the easiest is shape loss or better still shape gain/movement- ( move the gut to the chest and weigh the same = shape change)

  • What do we measure :
  • Chest measurements
  • Waist measurements
  • Calf measurement around the belly of the calf
  • Quad measurement normally the belly of the quad when tight/flexed Bicep measurement – when flexed
  • Butt or backside around the hips – The fattest point Height and Weight
  • Body Mass or fat % levels if available

body fat measurements

  • If you have the access getting a fat-free mass test , then get your body composition estimated with either a skin fold test or bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA). – Often at a cost so be aware.

Now we can start balancing weight loss V muscle Gain

We are providing you with weight or strength training programs that will introduce you to weight/strength training on a rugby specific basis – be aware of how (in theory) calories you burn in a weights session – walking , swimming, running, jogging , cycling sessions – do some research on this

We need to consider : Calorie Intake V Calorie output per day or per week

Comment – only weigh yourself once a week or re-measure once a month , do not get mentally paranoid over this it will happen, if you plan it and stick to the plan – with the odd breakdown in the calorie in and calorie out. We all need to stay sane.


Point 3: Losing Weight :

Eat Less Added Sugar and Eat More Fibre ( balanced with carbohydrates and Proteing)

Low carbohydrate diet providing less than 35–40% of calories from carbs seem very effective at promoting fat loss.

However, restricting carbohydrates too dramatically is not always best for athletes. That’s because it can negatively affect training and overall sports performance.

Aim for a carb intake that’s 40% of your daily calories to maximise fat loss. However, consume no less than 1.4–1.8 grams of carbs per pound (3–4 g/kg) each day.

My 100kg rugby player on a diet and looking to lose weight – in theory

He has a 20% Body Fat level – So in reality he should be 85kg – remembering that is with muscle mass and 5% percentage body fat- the ideal player?

( Burst the bubble the average rugby player is between 10 and 12% body fat

His calorie intake should be 3,000 cal less 450 calories because he is at 20% body fat level and he needs to be at 5% – so he needs to eat at least 2,550 calories per day

40% of that needs to be Carbohydrate based

28 – 30% of Protein – add another 10% when weight training

20%  Balance to be Fat ( good fats)

Let us all start by:

Cutting out sugary drinks/food is the healthiest way to reduce your total carbohydrate intake.

To do so, check labels and minimise foods that contain added glucose, sucrose, fructose or any other sugars ending in-ose. Also, avoid cane juice, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, caramel, fruit juice concentrate, fruit juice crystals and any type of syrup.

Instead, increase your intake of vegetables that are high in fibre. These will help keep you fuller for longer, making you feel more satisfied..  Eating less sugar and more fibre can help you reach your body fat goals. Athletes should aim to eat no less than 1.4–1.8 grams of carbs per pound (3–4 g/kg) each day.


Point 4:  Build Muscle and Eat More Protein

Refer to these two articles on weights training and use of proteins 

Protein helps with fat loss in several ways.

To begin with, high-protein diets increase feelings of fullness and the number of calories burned during digestion.

High-protein diets also help prevent muscle loss during periods of weight loss, including in well-trained athletes.

In fact, several studies show that eating two to three times more protein per day can help athletes retain more muscle while losing fat.

Therefore, athletes restricting their calories to lose weight should eat between 0.8–1.2 grams of protein per pound (1.8–2.7 g/kg) of body weight per day.   That being said, there’s no advantage to exceeding these recommendations.

Consuming more than these amounts can displace other important nutrients, such as carbs, from your diet. This can limit your ability to train and maintain good sports performance.

Higher protein intakes help limit the amount of muscle lost during a period of weight loss. Athletes should aim to consume 0.8–1.2 g/lb (1.8–2.7 g/kg) of protein each day.



Point 5: The need to Spread Protein Intake throughout the Day

In addition to eating more protein, athletes can benefit from spreading their intake throughout the day. ( Daily food intakes )

In fact, 20–30 grams of protein per meal seems sufficient to stimulate muscles to produce protein for the following 2–3 hours. This is why many scientists believe that a protein-rich meal or snack should ideally be consumed every 3 hours.

Interestingly, studies in athletes show that spreading 80 grams of protein over four equal meals stimulates muscle protein production more than splitting it over two larger meals or eight smaller ones.

A 2-week weight loss study on boxers also found that those who spread their daily calorie allowance over six meals instead of two lost 46% less muscle mass. Eating a snack containing 40 grams of protein immediately before bedtime can also increase muscle protein synthesis during the night. This may help prevent some of the muscle loss expected during sleep.

However, more research in athletes is needed to draw strong conclusions.

Eating 20–30 grams of protein about every 3 hours, including right before bed, may help maintain muscle mass during weight loss.

Protein is not found under the Arches

rugby players and a macca's


Point 6:  Refuel Well After Training

Eating the right foods after training or competing is very important for athletes, especially when trying to lose body fat.

Proper refuelling is especially important for days with two training sessions or when there are less than eight hours of recovery time between workouts and events.

Athletes following carbohydrate restricted diets should aim to consume between 0.5–0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound (1–1.5 g/kg) of body weight as soon as possible after a training session.

chicken and salad for rugby players

Eat something as soon as possible – even on the ay home in the car/train/bus

Eating or Consuming 20–25 grams of protein can further speed up recovery and promote protein production in your muscles.

Consuming a good amount of carbohydrates and protein immediately after training can help maintain your sports performance during weight loss.



Point 7: Get started on your weight/strength training

Individuals attempting to lose weight are often at risk of losing some muscle in addition to fat. Athletes are no exception.   Some muscle loss can be prevented by eating a sufficient amount of protein and avoiding crash diets. However, lifting weights can also help you hold onto muscle.

Research shows that both protein intake and strength-training exercises stimulate muscle protein synthesis. What’s more, combining the two seems to produce the greatest effect.

Nevertheless, make sure to speak to your coach before adding any extra workouts to your schedule. This will reduce the risk of over-training or injuries.

Strength-training exercises can help prevent the muscle loss often experienced during a period of weight loss.


Point 8. Afterward,:  Increase Calories Gradually

One point to get into the brain is the ideal calorie intake is exactly that and arbitary figure that indicates what we need to eat v the weight we are at and the level of activity that we are participating in.

So once you’ve reached your body fat percentage goal, it’s tempting to quickly start eating more.

However, this may not be the most effective way to maintain your results.

That’s because your body can adapt to a restricted calorie intake by adjusting your metabolism and hormone levels.

Researchers believe these adaptations can persist for some time after you re-increase your calorie intake and cause you to quickly regain the lost fat.

A good alternative may be to increase your calories gradually. This may help restore your hormone levels and metabolism better, minimising the weight regain.

Increasing your calorie intake gradually after a period of weight loss may help minimise weight regain.


Point 9. Try Some of These Weight Loss Tips

Although weight loss is a widely researched topic, the amount of scientific studies performed on athletes is limited.

Nevertheless, some of the strategies scientifically proven to help non-athletes lose body fat may also benefit athletes.

Therefore, you may find it helpful to:

  • • Record your portions: Measuring your portions and keeping track of what you eat is scientifically proven to help you get better results.
  • • Drink enough fluids: Drinking liquids before a meal, whether it’s soup or water can help you easily consume up to 22% fewer calories at the meal.
  • • Eat slowly: Slow eaters tend to eat less and feel fuller than fast eaters. Eating slowly can help you decrease your calorie intake without feeling hungry. For the best results, aim to take at least 20 minutes per meal.
  • • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is a source of empty calories. What’s more, alcohol can prevent athletes from properly refuelling after exercise, which can negatively affect future performance.
  • • Get enough sleep: Research shows that too little sleep can increase hunger and appetite by 24%. Sleep also plays an important role in athletic performance, so make sure you get enough.
  • • Reduce your stress: Having high levels of stress increases cortisol levels, which promotes food cravings and the drive to eat. Mental and physical stress can also prevent proper recovery.

Final Point to consider : Stress, sleep, hydration and alcohol all affect weight loss. Eating slowly and keeping a food journal can also help you lose weight.