Many, many years ago, before I became A Serious Runner (snicker), I had an extra 30 pounds or so that had somehow made its way to my rear end. I ended up losing that weight with Weight Watchers, becoming a Lifetime Member, which pretty much means that you can go to meetings and use their online tools for free – as long as you come in every month and get weighed. I kept it up for a really long time. But then life got in the way, I stopped going to weigh-ins, and – unsurprisingly – a few more pounds crept back on. I remained about 5 pounds above my goal weight for a really long time. Then I ran a less-than-stellar time at The Dallas Marathon and decided I was going to do everything possible to improve my performance. But how? Weight Watchers was fine when I was walking 4 times a week, but it really didn’t fit my lifestyle anymore. Enter Racing Weight, a book that says it can help endurance athletes get closer to that “ideal weight” without sacrificing performance.
I started following the advice in Racing Weight sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I even wrote about it in a previous post. Now that I’ve actually been following it for a good long while (with several periods of slacking in between), I feel I can give a more nuanced review, with pros and cons. First, the good stuff:
It’s flexible. There’s no need to buy special “diet food” so you can prepare the meals outlined in the book. While there are some meal suggestions, you pretty much come up with the meals on your own. As long as you’re eating lean meat, dairy, and fruits/vegetables (and paying attention to your portions), and avoiding junk, you’re following the plan. So just stock your pantry with the healthy stuff you like.
No energy bonk. The food in Racing Weight is specifically designed so you can still train for your marathon or half without wanting to curl up in a ball and sleep all day. AND, whatever you eat during your long runs isn’t counted – so you can have Gu or Gatorade when you need it. (I’m speaking of the main Racing Weight book; the companion, the Racing Weight Quick Start, is a little stricter and should only be used in the off-season.)
Booze is OK. You can still have a nightly beer or glass of wine (or a cocktail, if you don’t add a bunch of sugary mixer). This was a strong selling point for me!
But the plan does have its drawbacks. Here are a few that I’ve noticed:
It’s flexible. If you are the type of person who likes structure in their diet, then this may be a little too free-form for you, since few concrete suggestions are given. I understand there is a Racing Weight Cookbook, though, so you may want to check that out, too.
Equipment is required. To pinpoint your ideal racing weight, you have to do a few fiddly calculations, including body fat proportion. And you’ll need either a body-fat scale or a hydrostatic testing session to figure out your body fat. Not a big deal if you already have such a scale, but it’s something to consider.
It’s imprecise. There is no guarantee that your performance will improve once you reach your ideal “racing weight.” In fact, it probably won’t, if you don’t put in other work, like speed sessions and strength training. But even if you do put in the work, you may have to play around with your weight some to see what your best weight is. For example, according to the formulas in the book, my racing weight is 115. However, I may find that I can get even better if I go down to 112. Or I may find that 115 is too low and I need to be at 117 to be my best.
In conclusion: Racing Weight is definitely worth checking out if you’re active and looking to take off a few pounds. But it may not be for everyone. I will admit that it has been tough, and I have screwed up more than once. (OK, more than 5 times.) But I’m lighter than I was before, and I think I’m getting faster, though that won’t be apparent until my next race.
It’s a weird little experiment. I’m looking forward to seeing the results!