If you’re like most endurance athletes, you’re always looking for ways to drop a few pounds and reduce your body fat percentage… because you know it will improve your performance.
And if you’re like most cyclists, you probably think that means eating as little as possible and doing hours of cardio. But what if there was another way? What if there was a way to race at your optimal racing weight without starving yourself or spending all your time on the bike?
As a cycling coach and medical doctor, you have many niches to master, and nutritional advice is just one of them. In the past years, I have had several requests from road cyclists and triathletes about nutritional advice and strategies to achieve optimal racing weight and performance.
Many athletes ask concrete questions and get lost in all the different advice and products available. So cooking the knowledge into scientific-based recommendations is challenging. And picking the essential guidance from hundreds of further studies of varying quality into helpful, pragmatic guidelines is even more complicated.
Racing Weight for endurance athletes
Matt Fitzgerald, a journalist with solid insight into endurance training and nutrition, has written a highly recommendable book with guidance on improving your diet quality to achieve optimal racing weight. It’s called ‘Racing Weight’ and represents a profound introduction to the available knowledge about nutritional strategies for endurance athletes.
One of the things I like about this book is its pragmatic approach to sports nutrition. It’s not just another attempt to become the sports nutrition bible; instead, it has an efficient and helpful system (Diet Quality Score) to make understandable tools and concepts that work for athletes.
Throughout the book, Fitzgerald refers to many professional athletes and uses their approach as the ‘golden standard.’ In other words: If a world-class endurance athlete uses one nutritional strategy, he is probably doing most things the optimal way. So when African runners are some of the fastest long-distance runners globally, you shouldn’t tell them they eat wrong.
If it works for the best endurance athletes, they must be doing something right
The mantra from Fitzgerald is the following:
‘The Racing Weight system is based on the weight-management methods for endurance athletes most often take to attain their racing weight are by definition the most effective weight-management methods for endurance athletes because the objective of weight management in endurance sports is better performance. The surest way to reach racing weight is to simply copy these practices.’
So in this book, Fitzgerald introduces his concept of appetite control and delivers a proven weight management program. Yes, almost every book about nutrition has its route to success.
Nevertheless, I think the tips to control diet are reasonable and well-argued. Also, Fitzgerald keeps telling the differences between serious endurance athletes and regular people that want to lose weight. It’s a different situation, and so athletes should attack it differently. Losing weight only makes sense as long as it equals better performance.
Even though I like the pragmatic concept of setting world-class athletes as the ‘golden standard’ for what works, I believe it’s wrong to completely ignore that doping is an integral part of world-class endurance sports.
History has shown that many of these athletes have used methods that improve endurance using injections of EPO or blood transfusion and several drugs that manipulate body composition over time – for example, insulin, growth hormone, testosterone, etc. However, the best athletes in the world have very sound nutritional principles you can learn from to improve your diet and performance.
The Diet Quality Score (DQS)
Fitzgerald introduces the Diet Quality Score (DQS) as a simple and practical tool for improving the quality of the diet. Instead of counting calories, which can be burdensome and lead to unhealthy obsessions, the DQS encourages athletes to eat more high-quality foods and less low-quality foods.
High-quality foods include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dairy. Low-quality foods, on the other hand, are those with added sugars, processed meats, and refined grains.
By shifting the focus from quantity to quality, Fitzgerald helps athletes understand that they can eat to satisfy hunger without compromising their training or performance goals.
So to sum it up, here are five actionable insights from “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald:
- Focus on losing fat, not just weight. Losing weight is not the same as losing fat, and it’s important to focus on reducing body fat while maintaining muscle mass for optimal athletic performance.
- Track your food intake with a food diary. Keeping a food diary can help you identify patterns in your eating habits and make adjustments to improve your nutrition and fueling strategies.
- Eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats provide more nutrients and are generally lower in calories than processed foods.
- Use periodization in your nutrition plan. Similar to training periodization, nutrition periodization involves adjusting your diet throughout the year to align with different phases of training and racing.
- Stay hydrated at all times. Dehydration can negatively impact performance, so it’s important to drink enough water throughout the day and during workouts or races.
By incorporating these insights from “Racing Weight” into your own nutrition plan, you can work towards achieving a healthy body composition that supports optimal athletic performance.
Conclusion: Recommended for endurance athletes that want to optimize their race performance
The overall impression of this book is excellent. The recommendations presented in this book make good sense with what I’ve previously studied about nutrition.
So if you to avoid counting calories and are looking for nutritional advice with a slightly scientific touch, I believe Fitzgerald has done an excellent job of cooking down many different tips into digestible, practical recommendations for endurance athletes.
You can purchase a Kindle or physical edition of Racing Weight at Amazon.com.