Becoming Leaner, Stronger, Faster

Over the last five years, I have dropped from 90kg to 63kg. Climbing is a bit easier these days…

So, how did I transform from ‘Magnus Backsteadt to Philippe Gilbert’? Read on.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
— Kate Moss

Cyclists often talk like runway-models, usually in good humour, but it’s not particularly healthy. Maybe it’s because we read headlines about Froomie’s BMI (and power output), and find ourselves feeling… mediocre. 

Remember, they are professionals, with a huge infrastructure of Sports Scientists, Nutritionists, Coaches, etc. As mortals, we must strive to be the best version of ourselves, and not compare our numbers to the pro-peloton (just take inspiration from them).

For example, Geraint Thomas went from Olympic track cyclist to classics specialist, to Tour de France Champion. Reinventing himself and his body composition, based on the goal.


Otherwise, you’ll never know when to stop, trust me, I’ve been there. Standing on the scales at 62.4kg (19.7 BMI) - I knew I’d gone too far.

  • lose weight

  • Gain weight

  • Maintain

Lose weight (Becoming leaner)

First, ask yourself why? To become a better climber? To look and feel better about yourself? The answer is your own, but it's important to identify.

You need to create a calorie deficit (burn more than you put in). To retain all that hard-earned muscle you should aim to consume 1.6g - 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight. It doesn’t matter if your protein comes from plants or animals, your body will know what to do with it.

It may seem excessive, but a high protein diet is about creating the optimum environment for your body to absorb what it needs, so you recover effectively and adapt. Carbs and fats should not be neglected, they are vital for energy and health.

Gain Weight (muscle and power)

Easy right? Not for everyone, especially if you have an active lifestyle. You need good recovery, intense workouts and more carbs and fats 🎉. Power-to-weight isn’t always the right priority, for example, track racing, TT’s and criteriums are more about power-to-frontal mass #aeroiseverything.

Maintaining (Sweet spot)

The balancing act of burning and fuelling in a continuous cycle ♻️. Welcome to my world.

Whatever your goal, a combination of cycling and strength training is the best way to build lean muscle and burn fat.

Step two: Become accountable

I was training hard, but my progress was deflating. It’s true, you can’t out-ride a bad diet.

The ‘breakthrough moment’ came when I began tracking my calories with Lifesum, a food diary app.

The app calculates your ideal calorie and macro consumption (protein, carbs, fats), based on your age, weight, height, gender and goal.

Now, you just need to track the calories you burn 🔥.

Firstly, remove guesswork by wearing a heart rate monitor, this way your computer will know how much effort you’re putting out (based on your Max HR, training zones, age, gender, weight and height).

Without a HR monitor, how can your device know if you’re pushing or pretending? For example, what if you’re coasting downhill, have a gale force wind on your back, or sucking your mate’s wheel like a barnacle? 🐚

Now its a case of putting-in what you’ve taken-out (burn it to earn it), you don’t want to go into debt - like a bank account.

The other ‘🔑’ to nutrition is timing. Make sure you are fuelled properly for the performance and refuel afterwards for recovery.

Step Three: Prepare to succeed

Building a routine is the key to long-term success: plan ahead, organise your training diary, have a shopping list. 

Becoming mindful with food leads to a happier, simpler, healthier life. Prioritising the small things leads to fulfilling the big things.

Meet the three B’s:

Family, home, food, finance and security - the foundations.

Training, sleeping, etc. You’ll only get the best out of your body when your base is running smoothly.

You can only maximise your potential when base & body are in order. You can’t build a house on sand.

The hard bit…

When things get tough, and you want to stuff your face with pizza and tiramisu… Stop, listen to your body, are you hungry? Or behaving emotionally? Sit with your feelings and find peace before you do something you may regret.

Learn to love pain and hunger cos it’s your best friend
— Brian Holm (my life coach)

Life is about balance, If you’re on target and can afford to treat yourself, go for it.

But, don’t get sucked into ‘cheat days’, you could overeat by 3000+kcal… Instead, allow yourself a treat meal, this way you’ll only exceed your daily goal by 500 - 1000kcal.

You’ll feel satisfied, not guilty, and it will improve your motivation to get back on track, tomorrow.

It may seem hard at first but remember - ‘progress, not perfection’. This is about becoming stronger, leaner, faster and happier than yesterday.

When you look and feel good about yourself - you perform better, on and off the bike.


Put your questions in the comments below. 👇🏻

Gareth Winter3 Comments