Did you step on the scales this week and realize you put on more weight than you realized? Is your next triathlon, road race or other endurance event also closer on the calendar than you'd like? Matt's Fitzgerald's latest book, Racing Weight Quick Start Guide offers a fast, safe, and thoughtful way to lose weight and still maintain your base level of fitness. Fitzgerald, former triathlete, running expert, and certified sports nutritionist lays out a clear plan to reduce 5, 10, or 20 pounds in the course of 2 months and maintain your speed, strength, and stamina.
Personal performance in any endurance event depends on an athlete's power to weight ratio. This is relatively easy to measure in cycling. It's much more difficult for running and swimming, because the power measurement tools for consumers don't exist. But the rules remain the same. Matt's prior book, Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance, sought to optimize the balance between building power and optimizing weight. In contrast, this book focuses on maintaining power while rapidly reducing weight.
Fitzgerald first discusses how to identify your target racing weight. First, you will need to find your body fat percentage. Most good scales offer this function today. Second, you will need to determine your target percentage and from there, your target weight. This is probably hardest topic in the entire chapter. Though nutritionists frequently offer published guidelines, the ranges can be easily be as wide as 20 pounds for an individual. Your correct target ultimately depends on your frame and your physiology, something only a personal nutritionist or physician can determine.
Once you have selected your target weight, Fitzgerald teaches you a nutrition system in three parts: First, focus on eating the right types of foods using a "Diet Quality Score"; second, consume an aggregate number of calories that is slightly lower than your exercise level; and third, balance those calories with the right amount of macronutrients with an emphasis on protein.
To maintain your power and increase your metabolism, Fitzgerald has included a number of high and low volume training plans for cyclists, runners, and triathletes. His programs emphasize regular, high intensity intervals. If an athlete learns to "embrace the suffering," the rate of weight-loss will increase. We recently spoke with Matt and asked him questions about the program:
Paul Tyler: "Starting with target weight, how will a person really know if the informed guess they made is right?"
Matt Fitzgerald: "In most cases, the target really won't make a difference in what the person actually does. He or she will do the same things during the 8 week plan. And most will get close enough. If you have an excess 20 pounds, you will know it. The vast majority of readers won't pick the wrong target. The goal will also be corrected by experience down the road. The purpose of the exercise is really to put a stake in the ground. The only way to really know [the right number] is when you attain it. Science will never give you a 100% answer."
PT: "Your DQS system is great way to get people to make healthy food choices. What's the best rule of thumb to identify a bad food in a good wrapper?"
MF: "I kept the tool as simple as possible. Multiple ingredients, multiple foods sometimes makes it complicated. I advise people to use common sense. Pat attention to quality. Pay attention to the quantity."
PT: "Is there any way besides counting calories to manage consumption while on the plan? Can you learn to distinguish between 'head hunger' and 'belly hunger' well enough to stay the course?"
MF: "In general, you should audit calories. It's worthwhile to know your numbers. It's not practical every day. During the "Quick Start" period, I do recommend counting calories to manage the 300 calorie deficit that is required. If you try this by feel, you could be way off. You want a calorie deficit that does its job, but not one so big you lose strength."
PT: "What role does a social network play in making this system work?"
MF: "I designed the program for the individual athlete to do it on their own. In the book, I do talk about my brother who had to communicate his goals with his wife, who prepared all the meals."
PT: "At the end of the training plan, what's next? How will I feel? Should I move on to a base plan?"
MF: "You should feel fresh, but have a solid foundation that will allow you to launch into a base plan or the middle of a base plan. You will have done more strength training and more intervals. So you will be stronger and more anaerobically fit."
Racing Weight Quick Start Guide: A 4-Week Weight-Loss Plan for Endurance Athletes
by Matt Fitzgerald - Paperback with charts and illustrations throughout
Author: Paul Tyler
Photo by Jeff Sparling
Paul is an active runner and triathlete in NYC who enjoys sharing his passion through writing and the recently launched Triessential iPhone app. 365 days of Triathlon Tips, Inspiration and Motivation. www.triessential.com
• Matt Fitzgerald's Racing Weight Quick Start Guide