Monday, 12 April 2010

Racing Weight

I ordered a couple of books by triathlete/coach/nutritionist/writer and journalist (that's some CV eh?) Matt Fitzgerald last week and finished the first of them yesterday.

Its called 'Racing Weight: How to get lean for peak performance' and is aimed, as the title suggests, at guiding endurance athletes to get to their leanest weight to improve their race and training performance.

For anyone into endurance fitness its well worth a read as its an empirically based series of recommendations written in an easy to understand manner.

Here's a brief synopsis.

The book is aimed at participants in 6 disciplines:

  • Running

  • Rowing

  • Cycling

  • Swimming

  • Cross-country skiing

  • Triathlon

With specific guidance for each.

The early part of the book looks at how to find, or initially estimate, your 'racing weight' which is a mix of weight and lean-ness, with much of the emphasis on being lean rather than just light, though there's also some examination of the importance or otherwise of lightness for sports like running and cycling, where the elites in the former will have a body fat percentage of only around 3%.

Fitzgerald's approach is very much aimed at improving performance rather than aesthetics.

One interesting early point is around our ability to get lean being largely genetic with studies estimating its 64% hereditary and 36% within our control. However, the author suggests that despite this most people are capable of reaching the 80th percentile across a selection of athletes i.e. irrespective of our genetics with effort we can be leaner than at least 80% of athletic individuals.

The key points I took from the main guidelines were:

  • Improve your diet quality - very similar to clean eating.

  • Eat early and often - aim to eat 25% of daily calories within an hour of waking and eat 6 meals a day. Again similar to clean eating.

  • Fuel your exercise - to get maximum intensity workouts rather than restricting calories. Fuel before, during and after.

  • Eat high satiety foods - specifically protein and certain essential oils.

  • Eat foods with low calorie density - feel full for lower calorie cost by eating lots of vegetables and fruits.

  • Do a mixture of exercises - medium intensity exercise, HIIT and some strength training.

On the final point the author cites a good deal of research that shows to increase lean weight while losing fat there's no one method that's better than others; and that adherents of HIIT tend to be gym based exercisers and advocates of long and slow exercise tend to be endurance athletes i.e. that each make claims for a method that they find easiest and fits with their exercise 'prejudices' but the best approach is to do both. In fact on the exercise front he very much advocates doing more training and doing it harder - hence the requirement to fuel the exercise rather than simply restrict the calories.

In the latter sections of the book there is a slightly pointless (in my view) listing of what various US athletes eat, 28 recipes and some specific strength training exercises for each of the six disciplines as well as some general ones centred on core stability.

Its 288 very easy to follow pages and at less than £9.00 is well worth a read.

1 comment:

anna said...

I bought this a few weeks ago too, i've not got that far into it, but i'm hopeful that it will help me get back to my comfortaable weight.

Its difficult to know at the moment what that is given my change of sport, i've got a lot more muscle now than i did when i was "just a runner" so it's going to be trial and error.

will compare more notes when i've had a better read.