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Book Review: Racing Weight – Geek Turned Athlete

Book Review: Racing Weight

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a book called Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald. My “blend,” Mike from 26.2ismycooldown sent it to me b/c he thinks that it will help my next racing season. Plus, he is an all-around supportive fellow blogger AND he knows his triathlon stuff. Thanks Mike, for this great book.

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I was tossing the idea of reviewing this book on the blog back and forth because of some recent blog posts sparking intense negativity on both sides of the “weight loss” issue. Weight is a “touchy subject” for some people.  I finally decided to post because this is MY blog, and I welcome comments whether you agree with me or not. However, if I get nasty ones, they will just get deleted. I want to talk about this issue as an adult with adult readers. There is a constructive and polite way to disagree with someone. It is sad that I have to start off my post with saying that, but due the commenting behavior on other blogs, I felt it was necessary.

Now, for the good stuff. :) Racing Weight talks about the average weights and body fat percentages of Pro Athletes, and what a person would need to do to get to those numbers. Fitzgerald talks about how athletes are most “efficient” at these body weights/body compositions.

Things I Liked:

  • Fitzgerald did great job at explaining the studies aka science behind each and every one of his suggestions. And he wasn’t touting his way as the ONLY way. I love this because it makes you feel like YOU are making the nutritional decisions based on facts (and some negating studies too) that he provided for you. You just need to include a certain number of proteins, veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc in a more general way than lets say if you were to read a book on The Zone Diet or Paleo Diet where they insist their way of eating is the ONLY way to eat. I swear, after reading In The Defense of Food I no longer have patience for Fad Diets. If you are a vegetarian though, you might me disappointed. I will cover this later.
  • He talked about nutrient timing without dumbing it down or beating a dead horse about the subject. If you are unfamiliar with nutrient timing, it is all about when/what you should eat before/during/after a workout.
  • He included a section in the book highlighting a day of eats of pro athletes including Chrissie Wellington, Ryan Hall, and more. He also pointed out that all of their diets were different. And that what may work for others, may not work for the reader.
  • He covered a broad range of topics such as: how to determine your optimal performance weight, tracking your progress, seasonal considerations (you don’t have to be as lean as you are for racing season year around), managing appetites, even a guide to supplements “if you are interested.”
  • He said something very interesting about marathon training as well. He said that you shouldn’t gain weight when you are marathon training. A lot of bloggers say that they gained weight when marathon training, but I never did (I didn’t lose any weight either) and thought it was odd. This sort of explains it. Fitzgerald said that sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between overindulging and the fact that you body really needs the calories. Just something to think about.
  • This book is not only for someone with my stats.  Anyone can apply these principles to lose weight and/or get to the body composition that you want.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I didn’t like how one of his rules is to eat animal protein. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I only eat meat once or twice a week. It would have been nice if he had some vegetarian/vegan protein suggestions.
  • This leads me to the abundance of dairy products in the recipes in the back of the book. I’m lactose intolerant. Hmmm. ;(

Despite the few things that I didn’t like, I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and well defended with actual studies.

How am I going to apply this book to MY life?

I want this next racing season to be the best it has ever been. I am at a weight right now that I’m happy with. However, I know that my body composition has changed since the end of last racing season. Let just say that the abundance of fatty and sugary foods did not help me maintain my muscle mass. The efficiency just isn’t where it was just a few months ago, and trust me, I can feel it!!

The book states that the average successful female triathlete is 12-16% body fat. When I had my body fat percentage tested last year during the racing season, it was 18% without eating any differently than I normally do or trying to “cut” certain things from my diet. My goal for this next year is to get down to 16% body fat. I don’t think this is a crazy goal since since it is just 2% off of what I was last year (and by the way, last year was my best racing season EVER).  Please don’t compare your numbers to mine either, okay. 😉

I know that I’m good in the protein, grains, and veggy department, but I totally lack in the fruit department. Sweets are my weakness, and if I could have 10 peanut butter chocolate chip cookies every night before bed (I’m not saying that I actually do this), I would. I don’t normally opt for fruit because, honestly, I would rather have a cookie. So, I’m sure that by substituting fruit instead of cookies several times a week (not every time though), I should have no problem meeting this goal especially with the workload associated with my Ironman training.

Well, there you go. My nutritional plan for the next racing season. It isn’t that precise, and it isn’t that restricting, which is just the way I like it.

Let me just also add that I’m very comfortable in my own clothes, and that this isn’t to “look better” naked or to lose weight. Although, if that is your goal at the moment there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t care if I end up gaining weight when this is done. I just want my body to work for me while I’m out there racing for hours. Would you want to carry an extra 5-10 pounds (or more) of body fat during a multi hour race if you didn’t have to? I didn’t think so.

And if you think I’m still a psycho for wanting to lean up: READ this post!

Now, what are your thoughts on this book? For those of you who race out there: do you ever think about how much faster you would be if you took an honest look at your body composition?

{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Erica February 10, 2011, 1:52 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book for sure! I think the concepts behind nutrient timing is very interesting! It really does make a difference. Glad you enjoyed
    Erica recently posted..M- Homemade Taco Seasoning Blend

  • Lisa February 10, 2011, 1:54 pm

    I ordered this book from the library because the subject matter really interested me. I was training for Hood to Coast and knew that if I lost a few pounds before the race that I would run better/faster. I wasn’t able to lose any weight before the race, and right after I injured myself and had to take a break from running (so I canceled the order on the book and never read it). I’m still interested in the subject. I think that losing weight is really hard when you’re training for something. As soon as Hood to Coast was completed and I stopped running I lost 4 pounds. It was quite the shocker.

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 1:57 pm

      He addressed that in the book too. During peak racing season, your goal shouldn’t be to lose a large amount of weight either just b/c of what I talked about with marathon training above. You should order it again. Good book!

  • Kelly February 10, 2011, 1:56 pm

    Good for you for writing about what you want to write about. It really is sad that we have to put a disclaimer to say what on our minds on our own blogs. I myself gained weight during my first marathon experience, but I never thought that I should be gaining the weight. I actually wrote about this and how I didn’t want to do that this time around. It is really easy to overindulge and I think my hunger cues were just kind of off. I personally haven’t read any marathon gainers who said that they were okay with gaining weight during this experience. I know that I wasn’t.
    Kelly recently posted..A loss

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 2:00 pm

      Good for you for being honest with yourself. I’m not going to lie, I caught myself making excuses for me eating crap last year too b/c I was “training.” I “deserved” the cookies. Blah, blah, blah.

      Endurance athletes (as it states in the book) can get away with more “crap” in their diets than the average population, but people have the tendency to over do it sometimes (myself included).

  • Chase [The Chase Project] February 10, 2011, 1:56 pm

    Thanks for this! I also read about people who said they gained weight while marathon training and couldn’t figure out why. Was it muscle hypertrophy? Was it a change in body composition because of more cardio and less weight training? Was it overestimating fuel needs? Whatever the cause, when I started training for a marathon 11 weeks ago, I made a super conscious effort to eat right to fuel my workouts but be conscious of food on rest days and step back weeks where my energy requirements were not as high. I have managed to lose a few lbs which I think will actually help come race day (6 weeks away). I definitely want to check this book out!

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 2:01 pm

      It may have been a combo of all those, but probably overestimating fuel needs (according the book) is the main culprit.

  • Carolyn February 10, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Definitely not psycho. I just took some flak for posting about mass & VO2 max. Apparently it’s okay for men and heavier women to post their weights and weight goals online, but when a normal-weight female does it in a performance-enhancement context, OMG tar & feather her. Censoring weight-talk doesn’t discourage disordered eating.

    I’ve been curious about this book! Agree about the meat protein, though. I find it just sits in my stomach. And dairy makes my asthma worse. I find it surprising that a modern diet book doesn’t offer alternatives for gluten/lactose intolerant athletes & vegetarians.

    Eating is such a science! Thanks for the review.
    Carolyn recently posted..Pickles &amp Cheerios

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 2:03 pm

      AMEN sista!!!

    • Joanna Burgraf February 11, 2011, 2:06 pm

      It’s so funny because if more people were to actually take VO2 max tests and get their true body fat composition they could have real measurable goals to attain within their own body. I’ve never been to your blog Carolyn but I will check it out. I am getting my tests done in a month and you better believe I’ll be sharing.

      Get off the scale people and get some measurements that matter!
      Joanna Burgraf recently posted..Full flavor and food philosophy

  • lindsay February 10, 2011, 2:06 pm

    I liked that book too! Its very logical. I am with you on the plant protein/animal protein. I eat meat 2x a week and I find that I need that extra iron when I do. Especially when training. Ya know?
    Love your thoughts, and of course, I support ya!
    lindsay recently posted..The Weekend Special

  • Jess February 10, 2011, 2:16 pm

    I love how you approached this post and this book, more specifically. AND I really like how the author approaches the whole weight issue as it relates to training for a major race like a tri or a full marathon. It feels much more approachable than some of the other books I’ve heard about. I can get very touchy about my weight which is why I just steer clear of the numbers as much as I can and I’m happy going that route…plus I’m not about to enter the race season of my lifetime like you are…but it sure does sound like an awesome accomplishment I’d one day like to follow suit. You just totally inspire me with your drive! Very cool.
    Jess recently posted..Small victory- little joys

  • Melie February 10, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I am actually very interested in the matter lately. I am training for my first marathon (yay!!) and I want to perform my best without gaining weight. I do believe I have ample body fat to lose but let’s concentrate on me surviving the race first. I actually just received this today and I am thinking of ordering. It has some common ground with the “racing weight” book, the interviews with pro-athletes, nutritional information etc minus the animal protein part. I thought it would be a good fit for me as a first-time marathoner to be. It might be interesting to you as general knowledge :-)
    Melie recently posted..It’s a new dawn- it’s a new day- it’s a new life…

  • Danielle February 10, 2011, 2:28 pm

    The book sounds really interesting! Right now I don’t think I’m at the place where I want to read it just yet (I’m a total running newbie, so I’m just focusing on slowly building stamina and distance before I get into racing), but I will keep it in mind for the future!

    I think it’s sad that people are so critical of those perceived as slim, or anyone at all, wanting to lose some weight. Blog posts like these shouldn’t need disclaimers.
    Danielle recently posted..I’m Definitely Not On a Boat

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 3:15 pm

      Good for you for starting your running journey!! I think this book is so much more than just a racing book. You could apply the same principles to your everyday life. 😉

  • Toronto Girl West February 10, 2011, 2:47 pm

    I totally think it makes sense that to be a successful triathlete you have to be lean.

    During my volunteering stint at Ironman CDA I noticed the majority of the pros (especially amonst the men) were ridiculously lean and also incredibly tall.
    Toronto Girl West recently posted..Who Knew it was that Easy!!

  • Theresa @ActiveEggplant February 10, 2011, 5:25 pm

    Good for you for taking points out of this book that you think will work for you! I’ve said it before & I still swear by it – the most important thing for any of us is to find what works for “me”, and not worry about what works for anyone else. And I must say – I think it makes perfect sense to want to get yourself to a good race weight. For me, losing any weight at all will make me a better runner/racer, but I’m still 30lbs overweight – for you it’s obviously a whole different “type” of weight management, but you’re just trying to become a better version of you for racing – and quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting that in my opinion!

    (Do you think this book would be helpful for someone in my position that still needs to lose a lot of weight? Or better to hold off on this one until I’m at my goal & then work on bettering my race performance?)
    Theresa @ActiveEggplant recently posted..Race Announcement- Spring 2011

    • Nicole February 10, 2011, 5:28 pm

      I think this book is applicable to anyone trying to lose weight. Anything that will make me leaner would make you leaner, right? 😉

  • Beth February 10, 2011, 6:14 pm

    I am really interested in reading this book! I have gained weight during both marathon training seasons and usually lose the weight immediately after the marathon. I think I get it into my head that I’m “hungry all the time” when maybe I’m just thirsty, or hungry but don’t need an entire meal. However, after this past season I gained more weight and am trying to get back into that 13-16% body fat range again (I used to be 13%, now at 19.7%!) but without “dieting”, just making better food and lifestyle choices. I’m glad to hear that this book isn’t faddish and has studies backing it up!

  • Mike February 10, 2011, 7:48 pm

    Pure awesomeness. :) Getting to your optimal body composition for IMAZ will definitely help you come race day. Go get ’em Nicole!
    Mike recently posted..Shin Splints Treatment and Why They Suck

  • Martha Lilian February 11, 2011, 8:25 am

    This looks like a great read. I am a huge nerd when it comes to stats and numbers, so things like this are right up my alley. I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight per se, but getting lean is definitely something that I strive for. I can’t wait to check it out!
    Martha Lilian recently posted..When I Dip- You Dip- We Dip!

  • Joanna Burgraf February 11, 2011, 2:02 pm

    You go girl! I haven’t shared this on my blog yet, but I am training to do some fitness modeling by the end of this year. I have a personal trainer, who is a former amateur body builder, and if there’s anything that those guys do is they WATCH WHAT THEY EAT! Eating lean proteins and cutting out refined sugars has drastically helped me not only lose weight but change the way my body looks and it’s changed the way I feel and at this lower weight I’m running faster than I have in my whole life.

    If there are people out there who think that a think person shouldn’t ‘lean out’ or critiques you for eating certain types of foods or restricting others, shame on them. Everyone has individual goals and reasons for doing what they do. I’m going to put this book on my list of reads, I eat animal proteins and drink plenty of raw milk and I like everything you’ve said in your review.
    Joanna Burgraf recently posted..Full flavor and food philosophy

  • Tawnee February 11, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Nicole! My new BFF :) Great book review! I think you do a good job at highlighting all the positives and negatives of the book. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Matt Fitzgerald, and he is truly an amazingly smart guy who takes the time to look at an issue from multiple angles rather than focusing in from one biased point. Not always easy to do, but important!

    As for the weight issue in general, well you know my thoughts on that lol. I think you’re on the right track to having an even greater season in ’11. Sounds like you have the right state of mind and are educated about training/eating smart! As for the sweets thing, that’s my weakness too… I like to compromise. If I have froyo or something chocolately or cookies, I will always include fresh fruit with it… strawberries, blueberries, etc. Don’t deny yourself what you love, just balance it with the good stuff! :)

    Be in touch :)

  • steena February 13, 2011, 5:46 am

    Great review! This is something I’ve been wanting to read more into actually. You keep recommending great books! You had recommended the Total Immersion book to me, which I had great success with.
    I can’t imagine gaining weight during marathon training..I lost weight–was not trying to either. But marathon training also led me to eating garbage food after those long runs. I bet if I read this book and had a better understanding it might help me make better choices!
    Wow, I’m really impressed with your training. It’s great that you’re really doing it 100%, training & feeding your body right.


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