What Makes Power-to-Weight Ratio So Important?

What Makes Power-to-Weight Ratio So Important?

Searching for the perfect power-to-weight ratio is critical for a sustainable and healthy approach to your training, lifestyle and racing.  Many athletes try to maintain as low a weight as possible while still being as powerful as they can be.  While the power-to-weight ratio is often on the top of there minds, health and resiliency should ultimately be their key goals, hitting and keeping the sweet spot can be difficult.  If an athlete takes weight loss too far, then they will see a decrease in their overall power, along with more serious health issues.

Why is Weight Important?

Weight plays an important role for all athletes to some degree, but in any major sport, watts per kilogram or power-to-weight ratio has been found to be one of the single best predictors of performance. Simply put: the higher an athlete's power-to-weight ratio is, the more likely they are to excel.  There are three ways to improve your power-to-weight ratio:

  • Increase your power output while keeping your weight constant.
  • Keep your power output constant while decreasing your weight.
  • Increase your power output while also decreasing your weight.

Depending on an athlete’s goals, the current level of fitness, and current weight, any of these three approaches will work the best and help develop a plan that will probably integrate with training that is necessary to achieve your goals. These may also shift over time as fitness increases and weight loss goals are met.

How Do You Train It?

You’ll first want to calculate your power to weight ratio for a given range. To do this, divide your body weight in kilograms into average watts for a given range. To do this you need to divide your power output by your body mass.  It’s a good idea to do it for several durations so that you know when you’re at your strongest and weakest.

The power-to-weight ratio is not a static number, but rather one that corresponds to different durations on the power duration curve. For the purposes of power profiling, there are four standard durations: 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, and Functional Threshold Power (FTP). These are the durations that best reflect neuromuscular power, anaerobic capacity, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 Max), and lactate threshold (LT), respectively1.By drilling down and focusing on where it is you need improvement you can begin to train those systems accordingly.

Strength Training

When most athletes think about getting stronger they immediately think about training more and harder. However, one of the best ways to get stronger, and consequently increasing power-to-weight ratio, is time spent in the gym. Strength training should be an integral part of every athlete’s training, but particularly those that are focused on increasing power output. Heavy resistance training for key lower muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, and calves) not only boosts muscle efficiency, but it can also help prevent the loss of muscle power during periods of high-volume training, or during periods of weight loss2

What Happens When Power-to-Weight Improves?

As you replace fat with lean muscle on your way to a higher power to weight ratio, your body composition changes. Outside of being stronger and lighter, there are other benefits to having more lean muscle, one of which is water retention. Muscles carry approximately 70 to 75 percent water while fat is made up of only 10 percent water4. Since a 3 percent loss in body mass due to dehydration can result in up to an 8 percent loss in performance it’s easy to see how adding muscle that aids in water retention can have huge benefits to your overall performance5.  

The change in your body’s composition also causes adaptations on a cellular level. While you train your weaknesses you’re also changing the way your body consumes oxygen and processes lactate. Increased efficiency in oxygen delivery helps your body to more quickly buffer lactic acid. This increased efficiency means that you spend less time anaerobic when you begin your next sprint or big climb. While your focus on power-to-weight ratio will no doubt have you feeling stronger and looking leaner, you’ll also be building a healthier and more efficient body.

As access to data becomes more readily available, the conversation around what data is most important continues to evolve. It can be a challenge for athletes and coaches alike to hone in on what’s important for a given individual. While threshold and other metrics are certainly part of the equation, Power to weight ratio allows for a certain levelling of the playing field, putting athletes of different sizes and abilities side by side.

Ultima Sport has developed a performance shake that will help you optimise your power to weight ratio.  It has been designed to help tackle all three ways to improve this as well as giving your body complete dense nutrition making sure that your body never lacks anything it needs.  This shake helps to optimise your recovery during and after training and races, helping your body recover and remain nourished.

 For tips on how to get the best nutrition for athletes and stay healthy all season long, subscribe to our blog today!

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