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Weight Management Strategies

by Coach Seiji

The most popular question that I have received over the course of my career as a trainer has to be weight management. Age, lifestyle, eating habits, training regimens and careers all affect your ability to maintain your ideal fighting weight. It is especially pertinent in motocross because excess weight is equivalent to loss of engine horsepower! It has always seemed strange to me from my viewpoint as a trainer that teams, mechanics and racers will spend a lot of effort and time to either marginally increase the horsepower of their machines or lose a few grams here and there on the bike chassis. Titanium pegs, titanium bolt kits, head work, etc. are all very expensive and riders will sacrifice in other areas possibly to be able to afford these things but then they don’t spend any time in the area of weight management. It seems to me that aspiring racers should spend at least the same amount of effort in weight management as they do in shedding grams or adding horsepower to their bikes! Now if you are sitting there at 6% body fat reading this holding your new titanium triple clamp bolt kit, by all means ignore the preceding statement but read on anyways as the facts and strategies listed below may make your job of maintaining your awesome fighting weight a little bit easier!

When Should I Shed Weight?
Contrary to what you might think, the absolute best time to actively lose excess fat is during the off-season. This is due to the energy balance which ultimately controls how effective your overall training and recovery schemes play out. During the off-season (or at least the part of the year when your training has the least volume and intensity) you are spending less total energy training and recovering. This means that your overall energy demands are lower than during more active parts of the season. Since dropping excess fat is simply expending more calories than you take in, you should be running a daily or weekly negative calorie balance on a consistent basis to safely lose weight. Running a negative calorie balance is the only way to lose weight but it is NOT what you want to do to make gains in training and racing!

A cheaper way to increase horsepower-to-weight would be to lose weight

During in-season training where training intensities and volumes are much higher, you need energy to not only do the actual training but also to feed your body’s mechanisms of recovery. This recovery process is where your body actually makes the physiological changes and requires a tremendous amount of energy. Now don’t get confused here but this energy cost of recovery from exercise is what contributes the most to weight loss, NOT the actual energy cost of the exercise! During the off-season, this is great but during the season you DO NOT want to be in a negative calorie balance. Doing this would cheat your body of the energy it needs to recover and make the necessary changes that ultimately increase your fitness and performance. Most athletes have the willpower and drive to continue to workout regardless of energy balance so they can dangerously cheat themselves out of the energy required to recover and this can lead to overtraining. The physical break down caused by the training is not followed up with the rebuilding of the recovery process because their energy stores are tapped out. Their quest to increase performance due to losing weight can lead to a season ending bout of overtraining due to this constant lack of recovery. So, again, the absolute best, safest and most efficient time to actively lose weight is during the off-season!!

Horsepower Sounds Good! How Do I Lose This Excess Poundage?
Weight loss is a funny thing in a way: it is simple in that it is pretty much straight math – burn more calories than you take in. Stated like that, it seems REALLY simple. But in practice it becomes more complicated because of social pressures, schedules, convenience factors and other demands of daily living.It is VERY difficult for most people to think about this required negative calorie balance every meal or even every day. It is much easier for most to think about it on a weekly or even monthly basis. Instead of trying to be in a negative calorie balance every meal or every day, think of being slightly negative for the entire week or even the entire month. This also tends to lead to a more gradual but consistent rate of fat loss that is safer, healthier and tends to "stick" better.

To simplify some of the physiological processes surrounding energy balance and weight loss, I have compiled a list of weight management facts and corresponding strategies from a coaching colleague of mine, Ken Mierke of Fitness Concepts in Fairfax, VA. You can read more about Ken and his company at

Facts :

  1. Over time, metabolic rate adjusts upward with increased consumption of protein and carbohydrate, but not fat consumption.
  2. When protein and carbohydrate are stored as fat, the conversion process uses more than 25% of the calories.
  3. Strategy: Reduce fat consumption to a moderately low level.
  4. Over time, metabolic rate adjusts downward, almost calorie-for-calorie, to decreased fat consumption.
  5. Metabolic rate adjusts downward in response to low calorie diets and returns to normal levels very slowly, if at all after calorie intake returns to normal.
  6. Muscle is burned during periods of low calorie intake, resulting in huge decreases in metabolic rate. Strategy: Avoid extended periods of significant calorie reduction.
  7. Low intensity exercise burns fat, while high intensity exercise burns carbohydrate.
  8. Fat-burning aerobic exercise at the appropriate intensity increases the percentage of fat burned at rest.
  9. High intensity aerobic exercise stimulates the metabolic rate.
  10. Strategy: Balance low intensity and high intensity exercise optimally through each week to increase total metabolic rate and the percentage of fat burned.
  11. Carbohydrate calories consumed immediately following intense exercise are more likely to be stored as glycogen in the muscles than as fat.
  12. Exercise reduces appetite (increased core body temperature, free fatty acids in blood, and decreased blood pH).
  13. Over-consumption at the evening meal contributes greatly to most weight problems.
  14. Strategy: Use exercise and heat-stress before the evening meal to stimulate metabolism and trigger feelings of satiety (decrease appetite).
  15. Muscle is the only tissue in the body that can burn fat and accounts for about 95% of the total calories expended.
  16. Strategy: Use resistance exercise to increase muscle mass and increase metabolic rate.
  17. People generally consume a very consistent weight and volume of food each day.
  18. Fiber and water add significantly to the weight and volume of foods, without adding any calories. Strategy: Reduce the caloric density of foods by emphasizing foods high in both fiber and water.
  19. Eating increases metabolic rate significantly for several hours after a meal.
  20. Small meals increase metabolic rate almost as much as large meals.
  21. Extended periods without eating (4 hours or more) activate lipogenetic enzymes which store calories in fat cells.
  22. After a few hours without food, the body reduces metabolic rate and may burn muscle.
  23. Strategy: Eat more frequent, but smaller meals spaced relatively evenly throughout the day.
  24. For approximately the first 20 minutes of exercise (even at the optimal fat-burning intensity), the primary source of energy is carbohydrate.
  25. Approximately one hour into exercise at fat-burning intensity, the body secretes greater levels of cortisol. This increases fat-burning dramatically.
  26. Strategy: Make sure that fat-burning exercise sessions last well beyond 20 minutes. Increase endurance to allow increased exercise duration. Consider eventually extending one workout per week well beyond an hour.
  27. Are you ready to break out and reach your bodies full potential?
    When carbohydrates are consumed without protein or fat, an insulin response stores fat, increases hunger, and decreases energy level.
  28. Strategy: Combine protein, fat, and carbohydrate in each meal to prevent the insulin response and maintain blood sugar level. Choose carbohydrate sources that are lower on the glycemic index.
  29. Exercise increases the body’s ability to store calories as carbohydrate.
  30. Repeated periods without food (4+ hours) increase the body’s tendency to store calories as soon as they are consume.
  31. Frequent binging increases the body’s ability to store calories as fat.
  32. Strategy: Develop a "safety net" against occasional splurges by increasing carbohydrate storage through exercise. Decrease the body’s tendency to store calories at all with frequent meals and rarely binging. Don’t "train" the body to store fat efficiently.
  33. Many people eat for psychological or social reasons, including stress, loneliness, joy, fear, habit, boredom, etc.
  34. Strategy: Be forthright in questionnaires and journals to discover non-physiological eating triggers and implement replacement behaviors.
Now that is a LOT of weight management facts to remember and a LOT of strategies to implement! It is almost impossible to change all these things at one time so pick just a few strategies to implement and learn the facts behind them to maintain motivation to change your ways. Once those few strategies have become habit, choose a few more to try out and master. Remember, use the off-season to actively lose weight and engrain these weight management strategies so that you have more energy during in-season training for the recovery process!

About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of provides online coaching and personal training services to motorsports athletes. Coach Seiji has worked with both pros and elite amateurs including: Heath Voss, Ryan Clark, Austin Stroupe, PJ Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Drew Yenerch, Rusty Potter, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Short. Learn more at or contact Coach Seiji directly.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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