How to lose weight – in conversation Team Sky's Chief Data Scientist
How to lose weight is complex, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. We chat with Team Sky's ex Chief Data Scientist Robby Ketchell to see how the pros do it.
At Team Sky, Robby Ketchell was Chief Data Scientist and helped the team win its fourth Tour de France
Having worked with the likes of Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Christian Vande Velde, Robby knows a thing or two about weight loss.
Known as “The Secret Weapon” within the teams in which he worked, Ketchell has helped the best in the world optimise their weight for world-class performance. But his methods are not the reserve of elites - they’re actually very simple to implement and you can use them to your advantage too.
“If you are exercising a lot and trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t try to restrict calories", Ketchall says. "Instead simply focus on eating healthy, eating clean replenishing your carbs and protein and resisting the temptation for dessert.
If you can build a consistent lifestyle doing this, your body will naturally mould into a more optimum form”.
Coach and cycling podcast host Damian Ruse at Semi Pro Cycling agrees:
“I don’t recommend riders optimising weight unless it’s a real roadblock to performance – in the first few years of focussed riding weight loss will come naturally anyway”.
Building a consistently healthy lifestyle is the key to weight loss success
He also suggests that if you later find that further weight loss could be the key to breaking a particular performance plateau, having great eating habits already can be a big help.
“I’ve seen experienced riders who naturally eat well go to dieticians for a fine-tuned weight loss plan and they find they don’t even need to change what they eat, they just need to change the amounts slightly which is easier to manage than a wholesale change”.
Regardless of what’s on the menu, with any weight loss plans Ketchell recommends taking the long view:
“It’s important when looking to reduce bodyweight to look at it weekly and not daily – you can drive yourself insane weighing daily. Take a weekly average of the trend instead”.
At the professional end of the scale (ahem, excuse the pun), weigh-in can be as much as part of the day at the office as pedalling as the team search for calorie measurement perfection.
“We record riders’ caloric expenditure from their power meters so we can see exactly how many calories they’ve burned on any given day. Even so, it’s hard to determine exactly how many calories they’re consuming – their water weight can really affect the figures – so we also weigh them on as many mornings as possible. Plus, we do skinfold tests for body fat percentage to work out lean mass versus fat mass.
Ketchell is a data man. He used science to calculate energy consumption vs expenditure to manipulate weight loss
Over time, these figures allow the team to create ever-more sophisticated and accurate profiles for each rider, which in turn provide greater scope for fine tuning and calorie balancing”.
Now we’re well into the world of extreme calorie management, the big issue of performance loss rears its awkward head. Fail to put in enough fuel and things will quickly go pear-shaped.
“You’re only as good as the racing and training you can recover from”, cautions Ketchell. “The caloric intake you maintain and adjust depending on those stressors is so important for that recovery. The tipping point when you know weight loss is going too far is simple though – you just don’t have the energy.
So, it’s important you listen to your body and optimise using fuel as well. Are you hungry? Do you feel strong? That will tell you much more than numbers alone”.
Weight loss is about a healthy lifestyle. Just one spoonful of our Ultimate Daily Greens powers up your immune system with just nine natural ingredients
Our game-changing Cycling Nutrition Guide contains a wealth of nutrition advice, but we hope these snippets from Robby help you start your weight loss journey on the right foot.