Effect of Two Different Weight-Loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance in Elite Athletes

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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When weight loss (WL) is necessary, athletes are advised to accomplish it gradually, at a rate of 0.5–1 kg/wk. However, it is possible that losing 0.5 kg/wk is better than 1 kg/wk in terms of preserving lean body mass (LBM) and performance. The aim of this study was to compare changes in body composition, strength, and power during a weekly body-weight (BW) loss of 0.7% slow reduction (SR) vs. 1.4% fast reduction (FR). We hypothesized that the faster WL regimen would result in more detrimental effects on both LBM and strength-related performance. Twenty-four athletes were randomized to SR (n = 13, 24 ± 3 yr, 71.9 ± 12.7 kg) or FR (n = 11, 22 ± 5 yr, 74.8 ± 11.7 kg). They followed energy-restricted diets promoting the predetermined weekly WL. All athletes included 4 resistance-training sessions/wk in their usual training regimen. The mean times spent in intervention for SR and FR were 8.5 ± 2.2 and 5.3 ± 0.9 wk, respectively (p < .001). BW, body composition (DEXA), 1-repetition-maximum (1RM) tests, 40-m sprint, and countermovement jump were measured before and after intervention. Energy intake was reduced by 19% ± 2% and 30% ± 4% in SR and FR, respectively (p = .003). BW and fat mass decreased in both SR and FR by 5.6% ± 0.8% and 5.5% ± 0.7% (0.7% ± 0.8% vs. 1.0% ± 0.4%/wk) and 31% ± 3% and 21 ± 4%, respectively. LBM increased in SR by 2.1% ± 0.4% (p < .001), whereas it was unchanged in FR (–0.2% ± 0.7%), with significant differences between groups (p < .01). In conclusion, data from this study suggest that athletes who want to gain LBM and increase 1RM strength during a WL period combined with strength training should aim for a weekly BW loss of 0.7%.

Garthe, Raastad, and Sundgot-Borgen are with the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway. Garthe, Refsnes, and Koivisto are with the Norwegian Olympic Sports Centre, Oslo, Norway.

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism