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Ask the Experts: Getting to Racing Weight

Today’s question is one that is all too common during this time of year.  Training volume dips, days get shorter, the air gets chilly and your pants start getting tighter.  We often find ourselves endlessly tempted beginning with that Halloween candy in October. The temptation continues right through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and even into February with Super Bowl parties.  Next thing you know it’s summer.

I was recently asked by a triathlete how he could get back on the right track nutritionally speaking, quickly shed a few pounds, and be ready for an early season “A” race on the 2012 calendar.

My answer was that if he's going to try to lose the weight he gained these past few months, he needs to start now.  Timing is critical because high-level training while trying to lose weight is not conducive to high performance.  Losing weight is just one more stress on your body while it's already dealing with the stress of quality training.  It's best to try and drop weight early, while the training is general and not race-specific.  If you wait until after the New Year, the hole you'll need to climb out of will undoubtedly be deeper, with the race date circled on the calendar just that much closer.   This is when workouts are becoming more "race like" as well.  Once you enter this phase of training, it's best to accept your weight and focus on quality training.  Trying to manage both will increase the likelihood of injury and illness.

I told this athlete that given this is an “A” event that he will taper and peak for, the price to be paid for carrying extra pounds will cost him time should he not get back to racing weight.  Each extra pound will slow an athlete down by approximately 2 seconds/mile running, and 5 watts climbing a hill.  Multiply that by the number of pounds by which you exceed race weight and you'll see how it can quickly add up.  Being 10 pounds over race weight can cost 20 seconds/mile running and 50 watts on a climb.

As we approach Christmas, with Thanksgiving now behind us, begin to think like an athlete, not a dieter.  Depriving your body of calories will slow your metabolism and sap your energy.  Instead, focus on steady weight loss to provide energy for training while increasing your chance of keeping the weight off for good.


Liked this article?  Check out some other pieces Jeff has written for the TrainingPeaks blog in our "Ask the Experts" series:

If you have a question you’d like to see answered here on the TrainingPeaks blog, (or just want to contact Jeff for further information) you can e-mail him at jvicario[at]trainingbible[dot]com.

Jeff Vicario is an Elite TrainingBible, USA Triathlon Youth and Junior and USA Cycling Certified Coach.  He coaches athletes of all levels to extraordinary results ranging from first time racers to Ironman personal bests!  Jeff also works to increase youth involvement in triathlon, promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging participation and achievement as the head coach of Southern California’s Youth and Junior Team I Tri ( He currently has an immediate opening for one (1) adult athlete for 2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

Just read Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I was wondering how you decided that it was 5 watts per lb on a climb?

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Grandy

Great post. I read somewhere where it was recommended to train off-season at a heavier weight. The theory was that when you lose it prior to race season you'll be that much faster. I can't see how that would be a good approach for exactly the reasons you mention -- trying to lose weight with tremendous performance demands heading into races season.

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCort the Sport

Making me get up and go for my run.

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHank

..or Ingrid Loos-Millers M-dot "IM Weight Management". Also a good book, which I personally prefer over Matts, though I have both.

December 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRasmus

A tip worth to be done to be in shape! Thanks bro!

December 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGerard Brightman

@Cort –
Yes, train heavy race light is a training tip often used. The goal is to boost an athlete’s Power-to-Weight Ratio. This would be different then dieting however. It’s simple enough to do by carrying more water, for example, than you know you will require via an extra water bottle or even a hydration pack. Come race day you can magically shed kg thereby increasing you W/kg.

December 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Vicario

Remember, arrive at your race weight on race day, and not a day sooner. Getting too lean too early can detract from quality training, sacking your optimal race day performance.

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