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Monday, January 30, 2012

Racing Weight: a book review

Matt Fitzgerald's book Racing Weight appealed to me because, while I think I'm an average weight, I know that I could run more easily if I lost a few pounds just in time for my race. It's called your racing weight, and it's not a weight you'd want to sustain long term. It's just in order to be lean and fit for a particular race or race season.
The book is definitely an interesting resource. It is basically separated into three parts.
Basically your racing weight is whatever you are when you look like the athletes on the covers. 

Part I starts by linking low body fat to high endurance performance, with a really nice section describing the "ideal body" for many endurance sports. Then Fitzgerald outlines how an athlete ought to determine peak racing weight. The problem here is that he basically says you ought to run your best race, then see how much you weighed, and that's your racing weight. Hm. Kind of makes it seem like you wouldn't need the book then, right? But he does follow that with some good suggestions for estimating your racing weight, including tracking both your weight and your body fat percentage so that muscle gain and loss won't throw you off. He also advocates some basics like tracking calories in and calories out.
Part II is a five-step plan to get to your racing weight, including improving diet quality and nutrient ratios, timing your nutrition, and managing appetite. It's full of useful tips, well-cited research, and athlete-specific nutrition advice.
Part III is a cute little menu section with healthy meals, and includes some menus from elite athletes.

So, I don't know if this book "works" because I keep saying I will buy a body fat scale, but then I remember that I have no storage space and it would just sit around being tripped on. So I haven't actually tried to determine my ideal racing weight, which is step one.
But one thing the author says kind of stuck with me, and I think did "work" even without me trying. He points out that your body will get the message that if you keep training and keep eating right, you're seeking a lean machine physique. Your body adapts to that to make training easier. And I think he's right. I don't weigh myself, but I can tell from look and feel that when I'm in the middle of marathon season, I'm leaner and more muscled. My body adapts: I crave more healthy foods, too.

Fitzgerald has a lot of interesting observations like that, and I love how all the info is geared toward athletes. I wasn't looking for a diet book, and this isn't one. It's more a book that you can use to make your own plan for getting lean for racing. I also like that studies in the book are cited, and most are quality, although quite a few use very small sample sizes.
On the con side, a lot of the info in this book is common sense - like keeping a food journal. But losing weight when you are already at or near goal weight isn't easy, and overall this book is a good resource to do a difficult task.

Buy it: Amazon has it for $13 but I like to check my local bookstore first.


  1. This one is definitely on my reading list and now you've made it sound even more appealing!

  2. This is so interesting :) I have never heard of anything like this but it totally makes sense. Looking into it! Thanks

  3. Thanks for the review! I may have to check this out after I finish my boring grad school readings.

  4. I'll be the first to admit that even though I "care" about race weight, I'm far too lazy to keep track of all my food, etc. Thanks for the review!

  5. I own this book and have been meaning to read it, but haven't gotten around to it!

  6. My body still hasn't gotten the message after 25 years of running that I'd really like a flat tummy. Maybe the cookies that I eat are sending my body mixed signals.

  7. I'm thinking I need to check that out! I feel much fitter than I did a year or so ago, but definitely have about 20 pounds to lose before I'm in optimal shape. Like you/the book said, the more I run & train, the more my body craves healthy fuel. I'm not worried about being skinny - just in shape, & making running a little easier on my body.

    Thanks for the book recommendation!

  8. this is interesting! I did drop 3 pourdnds for my first marathon (last year) the week of the race to see if it would help. I don't really know since the whole thing collapsed fromunder me....but I only have about 2-2.5 lbs I can drop without looking anorexic, so not sure if it imakes a HUGE diff for me, but certainly something I'm interested in. I will plan to do it again before theBoston marathon. I used Usana's reset last year to drop the 2-3lbs in 5 days. it works well and is SUPER healthy way to do it:) but I am curious about what kinds of foods this one suggests when doin git. thanks fo the referrel!