As a statistical matter, it turns out endurance athletes worry about their weight as much as the general population, despite being, on average, considerably slimmer. But beneath the quantitative similarity lurks a significant qualitative difference: athletes think about weight primarily in terms of athletic performance rather than simply “looking good” or staving off obesity. So, while many of the core principles of weight management are the same for athletes and non-athletes alike, there are many meaningful differences at the margins.
Racing Weight is organized almost exactly in one-thirds of about 90 pages each. It is a clean, intuitive structure. Fitzgerald’s writing is also clean and direct; pretty much exactly what you want from this type of book.
The first third of the book sets contextual groundwork by detailing the relevance of weight management to peak athletic performance and providing several tools for tracking progress and managing seasonal challenges.
The second third of the book is, logically, the core, and is comprised of Fitzgerald’s five-step plan for weight management:
– Improve diet quality.
– Balance your energy sources.
– Time your nutrition.
– Manage your appetite.
– Train right.
The final third has a variety of aids (sample one-day nutrition diaries of elite athletes, recipes, etc.) which help bring to life the various concepts discussed earlier in the book.
Does It Work As a Book?
As a reference, I love it. Most of the principles here are familiar, so while the book is novel in some respects, it is anything but gimmicky. Instead, it is (1) a coherent road map (finally!) to the various tips and insights you’ve probably come across over recent years in piecemeal fashion through a variety of outlets, and (2) a toolkit for actually implementing these principles without quitting your job or hiring a private chef. Fitzgerald walks the line very well of providing the scientific basis for his advice without getting bogged down in hair-splitting academic debate. Also, the paperback format and pricing ($13-$18) is a utilitarian’s dream.
Put another way, Racing Weight represents another example of the tools and science enjoyed by pros “trickling down” to the passionate non-pro. And I’m a huge fan of that.
Does It Work As a Practical Matter?
The value of any training aid depends heavily on the buy-in of the athlete using the aid. But I would say Racing Weight makes the implementation of a basic weight management strategy as feasible as is reasonable to expect from any book. There’s also plenty here for the athlete who wants to go well beyond basic weight management into territory where few wish to go.
For me personally, the book has already been well worth the purchase. For example, I’ve known for a long time I tend to not consume nearly enough calories early in the day. However, I wasn’t sure precisely what the dimensions of this tendency were — either the size of my typical deficit or its exact drawbacks. From a table in the chapter on nutrition timing, I learned it is best to consume fully 1/3 of my daily calories by around 10 AM. The text of the same chapter spells out why this is so. Having the logic of this one principle spelled out in detail then boiled down to a single metric is something I can really work with.
While this example probably strikes you as a silly thing to spark a mini-epiphany — and, in a way, it is — I bet there are other nuggets in Racing Weight that will be of particular benefit to you in a way that’s similar to the way this one worked for me.
Of course, true implementation of a weight management strategy — like any other element of training — is a long term proposition. So, over the coming weeks and months, I will make additional posts sharing my experience with that.