Context: 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.
Purpose: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: 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.