The first edition of my book Racing Weight was released in 2010—and it was inspired by my observation that athletes often approached performance weight management in ineffective and sometimes unhealthy ways. As an alternative to the fad diets and other extreme measures that were leading so many athletes into trouble, I took a different view on performance weight management based on mainstream science and elite best practices.
Much has changed since Racing Weight first hit bookstore shelves. Fad diets have come and gone (remember Paleo?), and the very practice of performance weight management has been questioned by many. Yet my own views on the subject have changed very little, and that’s because elite best practices and the science that supports them have remained remarkably consistent. I do frame my guidance somewhat differently, however, taking pains to help athletes maintain a healthy perspective on the process.
If I were to rewrite Racing Weight today, I would add three key messages:
1. Know Your Priorities
Losing excess body fat and building endurance fitness cannot co-exist as top priorities. The reason is that the most effective methods for shedding fat, which include moderate calorie deficits and a low-volume, high-intensity exercise regimen, run counter to the goal of building endurance performance.
It’s OK to make fat loss your top priority, but this should only be done during the off-season or at other times when you don’t have a race in front of you. When you do have a race in front of you, focus on eating and training for maximum fitness. You might still get leaner along the way, but only as a side effect to the main goal of getting fitter.