Reaching my Racing Weight

Long term followers of the blog will know about my obsession with weight. Like many being overweight was an early motivator towards getting fit. If anything I’ve weight issues in my early twenties to thank for where I am now. Aside from that the impact weight has on the quality of my racing is enormous. My successful races have all come with a concerted effort to be at a target (light) weight.

Not that I’ve always been at a suitable race weight. In fact after going full time I started to gain a bit. It’s easy to eat a lot when you train a lot and get the balance wrong. It wasn’t until after Epic Camp in 2009 when Scott Molina advised me to lose some kilos that I got serious. Changes to diet, food timing and my approach to training were needed, but the results in the second half of 2009 speak for themselves.

Getting it right once doesn’t ensure you keep getting it right and I have to be honest and admit I went off the rails a little after Kona last year. It was the culmination of a dream and I relaxed. I kept things under reasonable control for Ironman Western Australia and New Zealand, but wwas way off for Lanzarote. 80Kg – I was a balloon!

Since returning to training things have been progressing in the right direction. Where I can I take my weight at the start of the day and track progress. Being a statistics addict this all goes into Excel and a pretty graph is the result. As you can see loss has been rapid as I expect under my Rules for Racing Lean.

Up till now it’s been manageable, but I’ll admit that there are signs of cracks. Differentiating the impact of diet and other training can be difficult, but I’m seeing indicators that adjustments may be needed. Generally feeling a bit weaker on the bike, which could easily be due to the amount of running I’m doing. Perhaps more indicative is the slight sense of irritability I’m developing!

Fatigue, hard training and trying to lose weight aren’t easy bed fellows. The goal is to find the lightest weight you can hold that maintains health and performance. Those two items are the critical factor being light can make you faster, but once it stops doing that you need to eat.

I’ve opted to eat a mostly Paleo diet as this has proven to work for me in the past. Apart from its effectiveness I like many aspects of the approach. I enjoy the types of food and whilst variety can be low if you’re lazy in the kitchen like me it doesn’t have to be. What’s key though is there’s lots of nutrient dense foods so you eat a lot, but keep calories lower whilst packing in the nutrition.

As an athlete there’s a need to balance in more carbs than Paleo suggests. A big day of training can place huge energy requirements on my body and it’s hard to keep up. Fundamentally part of my success at weight loss comes from a very strong calorific deficit at times. My body has little choice in shedding kilos, but with nutrient dense foods coming in it hopefully disposes of the right ones.

Signs are that I’m placing a lot of stress on my body and it’s time to consider how strict my diet is. If training quality dives too far then it becomes a real issue. There’s plenty of running still to go this week so I’m not expecting significant quality training else where, but next week normal service resumes across the board. In the circumstances I need to be very aware of eating for training.

Racing Weight
Out in Lanzarote I borrowed the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I’d heard about it and seen bits of it out there on the web and in Triathlete magazine. Clearly I was the target audience so was pleased to have the chance to read it. I wasn’t disappointed either whilst there’s nothing radical in there it covers the topic well and takes a very sensible approach.

The book provides an approach to eating and endurance training to maximise weight and body composition for racing. So weight loss is a theme, but it’s all about the quality of food you have and when you have it. There’s no particular diet adhered to, this isn’t Paleo or any other specialised regime. In fact one of the more interesting chapters considers the intake of carbs, protein and fat and largely concludes there’s no magic ratio.

Success has been seen with relatively low carbohydrate intake, but also relatively high. Generally if the overall calorific balance is sound for those undergoing regular endurance training body composition should sort itself out. Whilst I am definitely on the lower end of the carb spectrum I do suspect I will need to up this once my weight is where I want it. It’s reassuring to see that there shouldn’t be compositional impact from this.

A good portion of the book considers various ways of assessing quality of diet. It’s an interesting idea and I think with the exception of my cheese addiction my foods tend to score highly. Inspired by this chapter I’m keeping a food diary and I’ll have a go at scoring it for a blog post next week. Having not tried it before it’s harder than I expected and shows up how much you eat even under a strict regime!

Probably the other chapter that really struck home with me was the importance of meal timing both in terms of hunger management, but also in utilisation of nutrients. I try to ensure that I finish my workouts before meals for tow reasons. Firstly because the body should be primed to absorb nutrients at this point and secondly because having your meal as post workout recovery reduces the amount of snacking that goes on. The book says a lot to back this position up and encourages the use of real food for recovery over energy products.

I’ve not come away with significant new ideas, but it certainly made me think and consider my diet. I’m well aware that my approach to Paleo probably over emphasises weight loss and may impact workout quality at times. With a longer period to my A race I can focus more on prioritising eating for performance and maintenance of body composition. It won’t be a drastic alteration, more a subtle adjustment in ratios of food types.

There’s sections on the effects of types of training on weight loss and body composition and usage of supplements too that are relatively interesting. I don’t think you should necessarily structure your training based entirely on ideas of body composition though, that said the suggested structure is pretty standard. The supplements section seems a little weak to be honest and much more interesting are sample food diaries from elite athletes. As he readily admits it shows there’s no single solution and what works for one won’t for another.

Definitely worth a read if you’re trying to achieve weight loss whilst endurance training. The balanced focus acknowledging how adaptable the body is and how it can respond to a wide range of diets is good. Ultimately it won’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but gives a sound framework to devise a diet that works for you.

I now need to log a good day of eating for next week’s blog on scoring diet quality. It’ll be embarrassing at the moment with the amont of cheese consumed most days!

Ironman Training Library

From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.