When weight loss (WL) is needed, it is recommended that athletes do it gradually by 0.5–1 kg/wk through moderate energy restriction. However, the effect of WL rate on long-term changes in body composition (BC) and performance has not been investigated in elite athletes.
To compare changes in body mass (BM), fat mass (FM), lean body mass (LBM), and performance 6 and 12 mo after 2 different WL interventions promoting loss of 0.7% vs. 1.4% of body weight per wk in elite athletes.
Twenty-three athletes completed 6- and 12-mo postintervention testing (slow rate [SR] n = 14, 23.5 ± 3.3 yr, 72.2 ± 12.2 kg; fast rate [FR] n = 9, 21.4 ± 4.0 yr, 71.6 ± 12.0 kg). The athletes had individualized diet plans promoting the predetermined weekly WL during intervention, and 4 strength-training sessions per wk were included. BM, BC, and strength (1-repetition maximum) were tested at baseline, postintervention, and 6 and 12 mo after the intervention.
BM decreased by ~6% in both groups during the intervention but was not different from baseline values after 12 mo. FM decreased in SR and FR during the intervention by 31% ± 3% vs. 23% ± 4%, respectively, but was not different from baseline after 12 mo. LBM and upper body strength increased more in SR than in FR (2.0% ± 1.3% vs. 0.8% ± 1.1% and 12% ± 2% vs. 6% ± 2%) during the intervention, but after 12 mo there were no significant differences between groups in BC or performance.
There were no significant differences between groups after 12 mo, suggesting that WL rate is not the most important factor in maintaining BC and performance after WL in elite athletes.
The authors are with the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.