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How to improve your Power to Weight Ratio

Improving your power to weight ratio is always a must for any endurance athlete that wants to take their performance to the next level especially if you looking for a podium finish, however its an aera that as coach I see a lot of athletes get wrong and end up jeopardising their health and performance, not to mention long recovery spells if done wrong (talking months to possibly a year or more).

In this article I want to walk you through how to improve your power to weight ratio without compromising your health and performance, so you can manipulate your body to increase your performance.


What is Power to weight ratio and why its importance 

Simple put your power to weight ratio is the amount of energy you can produce know as of watts broken down per kg of body weight you have. Power to weight ratio can be used as a direct predictor of performance when comparing it to your competition or event.


How to work out your PWR

Calculating your own PWR is pretty simple you only need two measurements, first your maximum sustainable power output (get this from your FTP test) and your weight. The first measurement requires a reliable power meter and a bike (ideally go for a stationary bike, like a Kaiser or WattBike) where you can peddle as hard as you can for 20min and record your average power output in watts (the power meter will do this for you). And secondly a reliable and accurate weighing scales.

Once you have these 2 measurements next up plug them into this equation to get your PWR. Formula; average Watts over 20min ÷ mass in kg = watts/kg.

For example, 420 watts ÷ 80kg = 5.2 watts/kg, therefore in this example the power to weight ratio is 5.2 watts/kg for this athlete.


THE 3 Ways to increase your PWR

Since you’ve just determined your power to weight ratio using the above there is three ways you can manipulate your PWR

  • 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.

The method you choose will depend on a multitude of factors like your current training and power output and body comp. Don’t just jump to decreasing weigh and improving power see where the biggest weakness lies and start there first.


How improving your Power to weight ratio improves performance

Why you might ask does power to weight ratio matter,

Well because it’s a very useful tool for predicting your performance.

If we take two athletes (cyclists) for example, Athlete A (max power 300watts)(PWR 4.3 w/kg) compared to athlete B (max power 275watts)(PWR 4.7w/kg).If both athletes on riding on a perfectly flat surface we can confidently predict that athlete A will win. If we flip this into looking at a hill climb, we can predict that Athlete B will win due to a high power to weight ratio.

On the flat the athlete with the maximum power typical wins where on a climb the athlete with the best power to weight ration typical will win.

If we take the example of Dropping body fat.

let’s suppose we have an athlete who weights 90kg and has a relatively high body fat percentage, with an FPT of 280 watts, PWR of 3.1 watts/kg. Aim would be to drop as much excess body fat as possible staying healthy. If this athlete drops 10kg (90kg-80kg) and keeps the training volume & intensity constant we will see this athlete’s power to weight ratio increase from 3.1 watts/kg to 3.5 watts/kg without touching training volume & intensity, boosting performance.

This is one example that really highlights why it’s important to address your power to weight ratio as an endurance athlete even if your aerobic fitness stays the same.

Rule of thumb with PWR

For every 1kg of excess body fat you carry it will cost you 3 seconds per 1km on a moderately graded climb. So for example if you are carrying 5kg in excess body fat and are on a moderate incline for a 10km climb you will be 2.5 minutes slower that a lighter version of yourself. As you can imagine the time differences really do add up over the course of an event.



What can go wrong when dropping body weight 

The main thing we see going wrong when athletes trying to increase their power to weight ratio by decreasing their body fat is that RED’s can occur in both male and female athletes.


What is RED’S

RED’S - Relative energy deficits refers to the consequences caused by low energy intake in individuals who are partaking in regular exercise. These consequence effects both your health and performance. Occurs when energy intake does not make energy expenditure, so you would be eating less than you are burning off. This places you in what we call a negative energy balance. If this scenario of beaning in any energy deficit that’s quite sever or sustained over long periods of time 12 week+ than you as a athlete may place yourself into a state of RED’s.


Reds Health consequences 

Being in a state of RED’s can affect your health in many ways with impaired immune and endocrine function, metabolic disturbances, in female menstrual dysregulation or in server cases amenorrhea (missed periods) RED’s can even lead to depression, loss in bone density and potentially osteoporosis. That being said, loss in bone density associated with RED-S does take time, it doesn’t just happen overnight.



Reds Performance consequences 

Being in a state of RED’s can affect your performance in many ways too by decreasing glycogen stores (bodies stored source of energy for moment), coordination, strength, training response, endurance performance, impairs judgement, increase risk of injury and infection. Resulting in either performance drops or missing out on competing altogether.

If you’re not supporting your body properly, these negative health & performance consequences could happen to you.  Which is why you need to be careful when dropping weigh to improve your power to weight ratio. Slow and steady is the aim of the game, always prioritizing your health. You also need to bear in mind that dropping fat mass to improve your PWR is not always the right approach, depending on your body comp and health status it may be optimal to increase your power output while keeping your weight constant.


How to pull it off, nailing your power to weight ratio

Pulling off changing your power to weight ratio is quite difficult, it may sound easy on paper, but trust me change takes time and can be a struggle. But don’t get me wrong it is doable.

The 3 main aspects you need to nail with your diet to make sure your performance and health doesn’t suffer when decreasing your body fat are;

1)Being in a calorie deficit 

If you want to lose weight you need to be in an energy deficit (expending more than your taking in). Rule if thumb for every 450g of body weigh you want to lose you need to be consuming 500kcal below your maintenance caloric intake. Best advice is to go slow and steady when it comes to weight loss picking a method that is sustainable for you. Avoid any fast or extreme measures if you can as these typically will make you crash and burn out.

2)Periodizing your Carbohydrates 

Simply put were fulling the work required where you manipulate the carb content of your meals through the day depending on your gaols and training intensity

Hard training days (HIIT, intervals, training above threshold) or multiple training sessions you would typically increase your carb intake

Rest day or low intensity training (below threshold, recovery work) you would typically decrease your carb content.

All while staying within your calorie budget for that day. Helps prevent your training from taking a hit.

3) Following these 3 healthy eating habits 

  • Eating slowly, (Chew your food 20-30 times before you swallow)
  • Eating to 80% full, (Eating to the point to which you feel full but not stuffed).
  • Not using food as a reward, (Don’t reward or deprive yourself, of foods)

The point of these 3 habits to increase the feeling of satiation (feeling satisfied) while eating helping to control portion sizes and overeating.





I would just like to thank you for checking us out and having a look at our blog. And please do remember that I’m here to help you in any way I can so don’t be shy and get in touch with any of your questions, Id be more than happy to help you.


Don’t forget to download our E-book on Carbohydrate periodisation, where I will take you through the key concepts of how to match your carb intake to your training intensity.

Grab my eBook


Here are the main areas that I cover in this eBook that can help you take control and push your performance to the next level.

  1. How to fuel training sessions based on intensity (high/low)
  2. 6 key ways to pull off training low 
  3. 3 ways to optimise training high 
  4. The 3 most important variables to take into account 





  • Baranauskas, M., Stukas, R., Tubelis, L., Žagminas, K., Šurkienė, G., Švedas, E., Giedraitis, V., Dobrovolskij, V. and Abaravičius, J., 2015. Nutritional habits among high-performance endurance athletes. Medicina, 51(6), pp.351-362.
  • Galán-Rioja, M., González-Mohíno, F., Sanders, D., Mellado, J. and González-Ravé, J., 2020. Effects of Body Weight vs. Lean Body Mass on Wingate Anaerobic Test Performance in Endurance Athletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(08), pp.545-551.
  • Lunn, W., Finn, J. and Axtell, R., 2009. Effects of Sprint Interval Training and Body Weight Reduction on Power to Weight Ratio in Experienced Cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(4), pp.1217-1224.
  • Stewart, A. and Sutton, L., 2012. Body composition in sport, exercise, and health. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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