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.