Over the summer I’ll be writing some essays on weight and climbing performance, but for now, here is a quick hit. The problem for many climbers is deciding whether it’s a good idea to lose weight at all. For sure it influences performance, but unless your technique is good, you might not even notice the difference if you lose a few pounds! The climbers who will benefit most from lowering their body weight are a) those who are well trained and have excellent technique but have a body fat percentage over 10% for men or more for women (who carry more gender specific fat), and b) any climbers who have are carrying some significant fat (i.e. a spare tyre).
But if you have already decided that losing a few pounds is a good idea an you are going for it. Here are a couple of handy points:
You can work out a very rough estimate of the amount of calories you need to function. Try working out the following equation. Note this applies only to adults.
Women:655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men:66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Once you have done this, add 20% to the figure if you are sedentary, 30% if you do some light activity, 40% if you do some exercise most days, and 50% if you train pretty hard. This should give an estimate of how many calories you need to eat each day.
One pound of body fat is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories (kcal), so if you under-fuel by 500 calories per day, you should lose about a pound per week (with many assumptions about hormonal and other conditions!). Of course you can achieve the underfuelling either by using more calories, taking in less, or both.
Aggressive dieting is counterproductive, causing your metabolic system to start working against you by making you feel too tired to train hard and increasing appetite and adipose (fat) deposition at any opportunity.
Check out the photos above. I just lost some weight myself and it had a very positive effect on my climbing – but I have 13 years of hard technique training behind me to milk every drop of the power-weight ratio change.
Weight loss might be a red herring in certain situations for getting better at climbing in certain situations. In other situations in might be a killer advantage. Get a coach or a lot of education so you can make a good decision which it is for you. But if you decide it’s a good plan, it sometimes helps to put some numbers on things to get good data to work with.