"It's a treat being a runner, out in the world by yourself with not a soul to make you bad-tempered or tell you what to do." - Allan Sillitoe

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Racing Weight - How to get lean for peak performance

Racing Weight - How to get lean for peak performance is a book by Matt Fitzgerald that I have just finished reading.  It includes a five step plan for endurance athletes - in fact, that is the essence of the book, outlining the plan and explaining the science and the logic behind it.  It is written in a really accessible way for the average reader/athlete without dumbing it down at all.

The 5 point plan is as follows:

Step 1: Improve your diet quality.
Step 1 is to improve your diet quality, or the amount of nutrition you get from each calorie in your diet. Increasing the nutrition-per-calorie ratio of your diet will enable you to get all the nutrients you need for maximum performance from fewer total calories, thus enabling you to become leaner. Fitzgerald recommends grading or scoring the quality of your current diet and continue to score your diet quality as you make efforts to improve it. He has created a simplified diet-quality scoring system that is very easy to work with and that will help you nourish your body for health and endurance performance.

Step 2: Balance your energy sources.
There are three main sources of energy for the human body: carbohydrate, fat and protein. Each of these three “macronutrients” is used by the body in a different way. There are also different types of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that affect the body in slightly different ways. Consuming the right balance of macronutrients and the right balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein types will help you achieve your optimal performance weight.

Step 3: Time your nutrition.
When you eat affects your body as much as what you eat. The timing of your food intake has a big impact on what’s known as energy partitioning, or what becomes of the calories you consume. There are three main destinations of food calories in your body: muscle, fat cells, and energy. If you want to become leaner, you need to shift the balance of energy partitioning so that more calories are incorporated into your muscles, fewer calories are stored in your fat tissues, and more calories are used to supply your body’s immediate and short-term energy needs. This shift will lead to more metabolism-boosting lean tissue and less health-jeopardizing fat tissue.

Fitzgerald believes you can often achieve this objective with little or no reduction in the total number of calories that enter your body. This is by redirecting calories once they’ve entered your body, not about decreasing the number of calories that enter your body in the first place. The practice of nutrient timing, or consuming the right nutrients at the right times throughout the day, will enable you to partition your energy more effectively and achieve your racing weight.

Step 4: Manage your appetite.
Appetite is important. It is your body’s built-in mechanism for food intake regulation, and its job is to drive you to eat enough to meet your body’s energy and micronutrient needs, and no more. The appetite mechanism works very well under normal circumstances, having survived millions of years of evolutionary testing to the benefit of our health. But our modern lifestyle does not constitute “normal circumstances” in relation to the environment in which most of our evolution took place. Consequently, our appetite cannot be entirely relied upon to ensure that we don’t overeat.

In recent years scientists have learned a lot about how the appetite mechanism works. Understanding how your appetite works puts you in a better position to manage it effectively so that you consume only the number of calories you need to maximize your performance and no more.

Step 5: Train right.
Training errors are common in every endurance sport, even at the highest levels of competition. Many of these training errors not only limit performance but also prevent athletes from becoming as lean as they could be. Training methods continue to evolve at the elite level of each endurance sport. Bringing your training methods up to date will help you raise your level of performance and achieve or maintain your racing weight.

I got a lot out of this book and it reinforced many things that I am already doing or know that I should be doing.  My main failing is that my evening meal is too big.  My breakfast and my lunch are spot on, my training program is structured properly, it's just the number of calories in my evening meal.

There are lots of useful tools in this book and links to online resources and tools as well.  One really good one is http://www.trainingpeaks.com/ which adds up carbohydrate, fat and protein as well as calories and gives you daily totals.  It is easy to use and you don't have to do it everyday once you have established your basic pattern. 

I am going to try and put a lot of what I have read into practice and hopefully see some changes over the next couple of months.


trailblazer777 said...

sounds pretty helpful. A better racing weight= better BMI=better power to weight ratio=faster times with less effort...so its the way to go for sure...
Its a bit more complex than just lose weight though. One point of disagreement for me is that we were designed by the Maker. evolution is nonsense and nver occurred. I came across the concept of reversal eating in the mid 1990's which involves having for breakfast what you normally have for dinner the idea being to make breakfast a big meal (after training if you do an AM session), and to make the evening meal a small one. Its an area I struggle to do well on, but I know its one of the keys to PB's...A friend at work (and when I was doing sports science at Uni) uses calipers to check body fat % as well, as its not just getting the right racing weight its also about getting the right balance of carbs, fats, proteins etc etc...I might have to check out that book sometime. heaps of potential in this realm...

DB on the run said...

looking smooth on saturday morning!
just bought a road bike, a good change for once, but still keeping up the weekly km's.
whats your next goal/race?
im hoping for a fast 12km city to surf

Biscuitman said...

Hi Dave

Next race for me is City to Surf 12k as well. Hoping to go a bit quicker than last year.