Being that this will be read by many athletes and especially endurance athletes, I know a lot of you may be familiar with Matt Fitzgerald and books such as Racing Weight as well as his other articles. The focus of these books and articles are about being at the ideal weight for you to race at where you will your fastest. However, having been there myself, a number of us, ignoring the principles the Matt clearly lays out in his book, take the wrong approach to getting down to what we define arbitrarily to ourselves to be our “Racing weight”. We often assume that if we weigh as little as possible, we will automatically be faster, but this is not always the case. Here are my considerations for your Racing Weight and ways that approaching this in the wrong fashion can actually hurt your performance. First off, weight loss is often assumed to with a caloric decrease, a calories burned increase, of a combination of the two. I don’t believe that to be the whole story, but that’s for another article. This being said, we assume that if we eat less and exercise more, then we will lose weight. This is likely, but if you are not doing it intelligently, your performance will decrease. If you cut out too many calories, you are not going to have the energy or the stamina to complete the hard workouts you engage in with the hope of getting faster. To become a better athlete, you must train smart, and this means pushing yourself through a focused workout which takes fuel. If you can’t make it through a workout due to a lack of nutrition, you aren’t going to become a faster athlete.
On the flip side, by skipping post-workout nutrition, your body is not going to recover from a tough workout and you’re going to experience the same lack of results described above, not to mention perpetuating the cycle of not having reserves for your next workout.
Your Race Weight is also not the lowest weight you can achieve. It’s where you are the fastest. If you are already lean and strong, losing any more weight could be a really harmful idea. Let’s take the example of a triathlon: if you think losing 5 more pounds will help you be faster for your bike and run, maybe you’re right to an extent. Let’s say that by losing 5 pounds you decrease your bike by 4 minutes and run by 1 minute. So you’ve saved 5 minutes from the weight loss.
But let’s think about where that weight is coming from—likely muscles and your fuel stores which you REQUIRE to help get through a race. Thus, in our example, this loss of muscle costs you 8 extra minutes on the bike due to being underfed and a loss of muscle, making it so you can’t reach the speed you are capable on the bike. This fatigue carries over to the run and costs you and additional 4 minutes on your run time. This adds up to a 12 minute disadvantage.
If we add the 12 minute gain to the 5 minute decrease, you’re still 7 minutes slower overall.
You may completely bonk all together. You are expending way more energy on race day than in your training and, thus, your body may not be able to handle the increased workload if it is not fueled properly.
So instead of focusing on losing weight to get to my “race weight” what should I focus on, you say?
I say, take the time when you would focus on getting to racing weight, and instead focus on eating “race nutrition”. If you had planned to try to lose a little weight in the last 2 weeks before the race, instead focus on eating a very clean, unprocessed, high-octane diet. This can mean no processed food, cooking all your own meals, not skipping any meals, and eating appropriately around your workouts. This becomes extremely important as recovery and “pre-covery” are key. Making sure you have proper fuel to begin a workout will help you get through it, but also aid in buffering some of the muscle breakdown that the workout will cause. Along with the solid snack, this is where taking something like an amino acid can help.
After the workout is even more important, so that as your muscles breakdown during exercise, they are immediately built back up with solid nutrition. Doing this will ensure your muscles and body have the fuel stores they need on race day.
With proper nutrition, you in fact lose a few pounds, who knows. Your body will find the weight it wants to race at, and to try and manipulate that is not a good idea, especially for a more taxing event.
So the key takeaway I leave you with- focus on race nutrition, not race weight. Proper fueling is the key to success not being as light as possible!
These are just my thoughts so take it for what you will, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. If you have any questions or opinions, please let me know and I’d love to discuss with you!
Also, thank you to everyone who saw some of my Tweets earlier this week and sent me encouraging messages! I was going through a rough time and I will be blogging about it later this week, but wanted to say thank you. I would write that post now, but I really wanted to get this out there first. Hope everyone is having an amazing week!
- Thoughts on “racing weight”?