On the subject of Sir Wiggo

In this series of photos here we get to see Sir Bradley to be with his shirt off.

It would appear that one of the fittest men on the planet, one of the great endurance athletes of our time, has a little pot belly.

Indeed, in general, he\’s not quite the hunk of rippling muscle we tend to associate with athletes.

Endurance athleticism is different, of course. And as to the little belly, I\’ve heard (somewhere, out there, you know) that cyclists do tend to get one. Lungs expand so much that they push out under the rib cage.

But having heard something and having it confirmed are rather different things. Anyone actually know?

19 thoughts on “On the subject of Sir Wiggo”

  1. I seem to recall someone getting into all sorts of hot water for calling Jessica Ennis fat. Be careful, Tim.

  2. This is a set of pictures of him on holiday relaxing. The tiny belly is due to him putting on weight rapidly in the few days after he stops his gruelling training regime before his appetite adjusts to his reduced calorific output and reduces calorific input.

  3. My Newman.
    Second reference you’ve made to this. Having studiously avoided all Olympian news coverage this reader’s baffled. If it’s of serious moment in Nigeria, what am I missing? Would have thought there were a plenitude of bikes on the music industry’s ‘available for riding’ list before getting down to Ms Crow’s entry.

  4. Miguel Indurain had a slight pot belly, reportedly caused by his overgrown lungs.

    If you’re generally fit and you try racing up a mountain, you’ll find that the limiting factor is how fast you can breathe the thin air. So big lungs are helpful.

    It may be relevant that both Indurain and Wiggins are unusually tall for cyclists (about 6’3″).

    According to his reported weight, Wiggins has a BMI of about 19. The shape of his belly is certainly not due to visceral fat.

    Perhaps TN will be able to assist by providing a photograph of Ms Crow’s big lungs.

  5. At an after-dinner brief from a retired military officer, he shared a Falklands dit with us: of his company of troops, all were seriously fit (not just “meet standards” but usually “much exceeded”). However, on the overland march from San Carlos to the Stanley hills, it was – perhaps counterintuitively – the whipcord-thin racing snakes who had most difficulty.

    It wasn’t a lack of aerobic capacity, it was lack of fuel: they were burning vast amounts of energy (knee-deep peat bogs, carrying 80% of body mass as load) over days, eating was a problem (cold ration packs GS only) and the men who had a little bit more padding over the muscle, were better able to burn it off and keep going.

    Not a scientific survey, just an observation.

  6. Maybe it’s just me, but that photo of Wiggo with the cigarette, from the way he’s holding it, it look more like a urrm err herbal concoction…

  7. It’s not much of a pot belly.

    He does look like a skinny little weed who would fall over in a breeze, though. Not that he would, of course.

    And cycling is very different to trekking in the Falklands, because of course cyclists can consume vast amounts of calories every day, which the soldiers Paul mentioned couldn’t. Given that, there’s no need for them to carry energy around in the form of fat or excess muscle bulk, which just slows them down.

  8. “the men who had a little bit more padding over the muscle, were better able to burn it off and keep going”: the same is true of life expectancy for the old and middle-aged. Having a “normal” BMI isn’t a good idea – being scrawny is a lousy idea. Insofar as correlation is worth anything.

  9. Not really. A BMI of 23-25 is associated with the greatest life expectancy (albeit BMI is a crude measure, because it’s body fat, and mainly visceral body fat, that seems to be the important factor). However, in old people higher BMIs (25-30) have the highest life expectancy.

    The problem in interpreting the data is that weight loss is often a symptom of poor health. A recent study that controlled for disease-related weight loss found that for elderly people too a normal BMI is a good idea.

  10. Steve Crook> I thought exactly the same thing – and there appeared to be various hints to that effect in the article accompanying the photos. ‘Not out of puff’ – puff is a slang term for cannabis; ‘in high spirits’; and of course ‘Bradley gets the munchies’ – one of the photo captions.

  11. Re #6 from Paul J Adams
    Makes sense. Standard advice to marathon runners is to “carbo-load” before the race to provide easily accessible energy stores to deplete otherwise they might crash out and to carry some “brown fat” which can be metabolised during the race; my local expert advised me to start at least half a stone over my boxing weight. And that is for just 26 miles without peat bogs or a pack. I found *walking* through peat bogs with a pack just under *20%* of my body exhausting.
    Your officer’s “racing snakes” must have been burning up muscle tissue for fuel after the first day or two and *that* is what resulted in their exhaustion as they had to cope with ultra-tough conditions with emaciated musscles.

  12. There’s no need to overdo it. There are about 3500 calories in a pound of fat, and it takes about 100 to run a mile. You should be able to store enough glycogen for a half marathon at least (that’s where the carbo-loading comes in). So you’ll burn only a few ounces of fat running a marathon.

    Even the skinny soldiers will have been using body fat to make up their calorie deficit for the first few days. They’ll have struggled once that ran too low.

  13. Are we podgy middle aged men grasping at straws? There’s no belly on Duke/Earl/Lord Wiggins. None. It’s a figment of Tim’s imagination. We’ve forgotten what really fit people look like. I was 9 1/2 stone when I started work. Now I’m 12. It’s not all muscle. BMI is ok, cos I’m 6 ft, but take it from me, there’s more lard than 20yrs ago.

  14. This weight thing is all very bizarre. When I was small, everyone was thin. Men, women, kids, cats, dogs, budgerigars etc. Now they’re all fat! Except I’m still the same weight as I was 40 years ago, run the same distance each week, but according to the BBC BMI calculator (google) that compares one with J Foreigner, I have the same BMI as the average Ugandan.
    Still, at least Sheryl Crow is quite thin.

  15. BiS,

    It’s a reference to Lance Armstrong, who hooked up with Sheryl Crow during his reign at the top, and who appeared with him at every stage and tour victory. Unkind folk might quip that the winner gets her by default.

  16. @ PaulB #13
    You are quite right in theory but (i) most of that half-stone is associated water; (ii) the first marathon I ran some medical researchers were weighing us at start and finish: I lost 4 lbs despite drinking at the start and en route and the guy was surprised at how little weight I had lost (I was quite slim in those days so I burned up less energy and sweated less than most runners); (iii) last year I was persuaded to take part in a long *walking* race and lost 10 lbs (I have put on a lot of weight since I gave up running) (iv) if I ate enough pasta to carry me through a half-marathon, I should feel bloated; (v) even if his advice partly reflected his experience of running London-Brighton (roughly a double-marathon) and longer races, he knew far more than me or you (admittedly I don’t know you but if you knew more than him I should have heard of you), so I gave his advice 4:1 weight against my own opinion.
    As to how long the “racing snakes” could go before starting to burn muscle tissue that depends on how much fat they carried to start with and the calories burnt each day. Packs would be the same weight for each soldier not proportionate to individual bodyweights so carrying them through peatbogs would be a greater extra effort for lightweight soldiers.

  17. john77: what happens during a marathon is that you use up almost all available glycogen – perhaps a pound of it (glycogen has about half the energy density of fat). That glycogen will have been bound up with three or four pounds of water, so if you drink enough to maintain hydration you can expect to lose four or five pounds (plus a few ounces of fat).

    I don’t know how much stored glycogen you would have at your boxing weight, so I can’t comment on that, but I can assure you that there is no need whatever to carry half a stone of excess fat to be able to run a marathon. Look at olympic marathon runners and you’ll find that easy to believe.

    Of course I don’t know anything about your guy, but I can tell you there are a lot of self-proclaimed experts who talk nonsense about exercise physiology.

    If you’re fit enough to run a marathon, you shouldn’t need to eat anything special to run a half-marathon – at least I don’t, and I have no reason to think I’m unusual in that respect.

    Incidentally, glycogen and water loss is what causes people to lose weight quickly when they start a weight-loss diet or exercise programme, and much more slowly thereafter, then regain some or all of the weight when they give up.

  18. @ PaulB
    belated response because I had to do some work and didn’t get round to checking stuff.
    I don’t want to start a fight about this because it is unimportant but Olympic marathon runners do not look as thin as I did at 18/19 – generally not as thin as I was at 50. The half-stone is around 10 oz of fat and 6 lbs of water. I should hope that my current spare tyre does not include half a stone of fa, but it does include more than a stone of water.
    RE your para 4: I once said that my best distance was a marathon if I was fit and a half-marathon if I wasn’t, so that makes perfect sense to me: just the standard bread and marmalade three hours before the start. Currently I should need regular doses/sprays of “Deep Heat”
    Re para 3: he did not call himself an expert but …
    He did his own training 6 days a week and ran the club sessions twice a week in addition, when he should have been tired we could only keep up with him because he decided that that was good training. When we trained or raced on the track, he always lapped me on 3k or longer. So, no he wasn’t a self-proclaimed expert, he was just a guy that had proved he was good and knew more about it than anyone else.

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