Essential Sports Nutrition


Changing your perception of race weight

Most athletes have heard that weight affects race day performance and the lighter you weigh, the better that you will perform. Or the opposite - the heavier that you are, the harder your body will have to work.

While it's easy to assume that you will perform the best when you are near the bottom of your weight range,  an "ideal" race eight is not a guarantee of having your best performance on race day. I can assure you that even if you lose fat from your butt, thighs or stomach, you won't become a better athlete on race day just because you weight less You still need fitness and good health to perform the best with your body so the idea of "weighing less" is not effective if you are just chasing a number on the scale.

Karel and I have never ever chased a "race weight." Our goal is always to arrive to a race with a body that is resilient, strong, healthy, injury-free, fueled and fit.  We have no rules in our diet and we never assume that weighing less will help us be better athletes.
I've always believed that a number on the scale does not define me or my athletic capabilities nor does it determine how well I will (or won't) perform with my body on race day. This is why Karel and I never ever weigh ourselves. We have a scale but it is only used to weigh our luggage when we travel. I see food for fuel and for nourishment and I really believe that if I use food and sport nutrition properly, my body will return the favor by helping me stay healthy and consistent with training. 

As a sport dietitian, I am not oppose to helping athletes reach a healthy weight on race day as many athletes will come to me asking for help to get them to their "race weight" because they were told (by a book, article or coach) that x-weight will improve performance. However, I am not for making extreme changes in the diet or training just to lose weight. My focus is always on performance and health. 

Some athletes may benefit from losing 10-30+ lbs as this will help reduce risk for injury. A loss in body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass can certainly improve overall health and performance in certain athletes, so long as the approach for weight loss is not quick, extreme or restrictive, this is a practical reason for working with a sport RD. 

If you have a weight goal in mind that is based on a past performance, you may find that no matter how much you train and how little you eat, you still can't seem to achieve the weight when you performed your best. Working with a sport RD can help you identify any trouble areas in your diet and you may be surprised that you need to eat more or change your relationship with food and your body in order to change your body composition. 

As an athlete, you must accept that your body will change throughout a season and year after year. Assuming that you must weigh the same (or less) to experience continual improvements in your sport may put you at risk for health issues and constant frustration with your body. The constant chasing of a race weight may also increase the risk for disordered eating.
To race at your best, consider that your "race weight" should occur naturally (and not forced) as you aim to meet your nutritional needs throughout the day, as you intentionally fuel before, during and after all workouts and consistently follow a well-designed, periodized training plan.

If you take the time to understand your basic nutritional needs, aim to eat well-balanced style of eating, maintain a healthy relationship with food and the body and understand how to use sport nutrition properly, all while timing your nutrition with training to properly adapt to training stress, you WILL achieve your "race weight" come race day as you will be racing with a healthy and strong body. 

If you are currently trying to reach your race weight through calorie restriction, food elimination, dieting, cleansing, fasting, low carb eating or eliminating sport nutrition, I encourage you to stop sabotaging your health and performance as your end goal is to be prepared for race day. There's not much you can do with a lean body if you can't do anything with it on race day. 

I give you permission to stop chasing a race weight. No matter how much you weigh, what you look like or what you think others think about your body, you can still do something amazing with your body on race day. Fuel your body, nourish your body and thank your body.