Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

VeloPress has emerged as the preeminent publisher of books about cycling. That the publisher is doing stellar work isn’t surprising, but the fact that they have so little competition from other publishers is.

Matt Fitzgerald’s new book Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance is the only title I’ve ever encountered that addresses weight loss for endurance athletes. Rather than just a manual on how to shave pounds from your frame, it addresses the larger issue of how to right-size your body.

It’s a question I’ve considered many times over the years. After all, there’s more to being fit than just have a single-digit body fat composition. So just what is a right-sized endurance athlete? More pointedly, what is right-sized you? It’s an intriguing question and one I never really found an answer to for me, personally, in all the different training manuals I’ve read over the years. Yet, in Fitzgerald’s book, finding an answer is easy.

The book weaves a very big-picture, integrated perspective on not just weight loss, but sport-specific considerations, diet evaluation, when you eat, dealing with hunger pangs, fuel sources and dietary supplements. Think of all the facets of fitness that relate to your weight and your performance and Fitzgerald has covered it. The title is nearly overwhelming in its thoroughness.

Even more impressive is Fitzgerald’s mastery of the underpinnings of the science. He cites study after published study showing how the human body behaves in response to any number of conditions. The sheer number of studies he cites is staggering. His mastery of the science involved allowed him to weave a sort of scientific narrative, where each new study is brought to bear upon the story of achieving a proper weight the way a bricklayer selects bricks according to the composition at hand.

At best, I would have imagined you might devote two, maybe three, chapters to weight and weight loss in a book on training. I’d never have believed anyone could compose a thought-provoking volume of more than 280 pages on the subject. Every now and then someone writes the giant-killer text, the volume that becomes the bible of a subject. Ten years from now most of us will be wondering how we managed before this book came along.

For my part, in the last 18 months I picked up more than 15 pounds thanks to a honeymoon and an injury that kept me off the bike for longer than I thought possible, like holding my breath for a day. All the old tricks didn’t work through the summer. And if a cyclist can’t lose weight during the summer … clearly new strategies are necessary. Nine pounds later, I’m on my way and can say this book taught me some important lessons.

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  1. Aaron Smith

    I’ve purchased this book myself and found it to be extremely helpful. The DQS strategy Matt F. puts forth is both easy to follow, and a boon to anyone’s diet (lest you have some sort of allergy or otherwise that would inhibit typical consumption).

    Personally, I’ve dropped about 18 to 20 pounds thanks to his work, as well as long distance, easy pace riding. I’ve never been A.) A ‘skinny’ individual and B.) A ‘fit’ individual, so that this book, as well as some helpful guidance from my fellow riding buds, has provided me with a path to both is a testament to his writing.

  2. Alex

    Thanks for the review Padraig. I´ve found the book to be really extensive, to the point of being overwhelming at some parts. Loads of info about everything, but with attention and dedication it can be extremelly useful indeed. Even to riders with some knowledge and experience on the subject. I guess there´s always some new piece to be learnt and that´s a good thing. I love books.

  3. Mike

    A small point … it is extremely “reader friendly.” Fitzgerald has a nice style of writing that keeps readers from getting bored/bogged down in the research that is presented. As one who has gained 15 pounds from last Halloween (poor kids, never stood a chance at getting anything the first three bags of candy!) despite logging 1,000 miles a month on the trainer, I have begun to use what Fitzgerald has shared.

  4. Pascal

    I was wondering if the book addresses those of us that fall way below the bell curve. I can’t gain weight to save my life. (5’10”, 143lbs all year round, even x-mas) In fact, before I started cycling in my mid-twenties, I weighed 20 lbs less. So does that mean I’m always at “race weight”?

    1. Author

      Pascal: While I’m completely unfamiliar with your plight, I can say that the book addresses the bigger issues regarding nutrition, body composition and weight. The principles behind “right-sizing” your body will apply should you determine that you really ought to be, uh, more. Think of it not as an instruction manual to weight loss but an examination of the issues regarding weight and athletic performance. You won’t find a more appropriate book relative to your needs.

  5. Michael

    Brilliant, brilliant read. Whether you need to lose weight or change body composition or not, the chapter on the importance of timing your food intake and what processes the body are undergoing and how they route and store those nutrients is the key to understanding this book.

  6. Dave

    Pascal: I’m in the same position as you. 6′ 0″, 130 lbs. My weight hasn’t changed since 8th grade. Racing Weight won’t teach you how to gain weight. However, Matt does bust a bunch of myths and addresses useful vs. useless supplements, etc. so there is still some use for us rail-thin types. The book is full of good nutrition advice, and it’s not entirely about losing weight.

    One myth I found very interesting was that for the average American, protein supplements are completely useless. Body builders don’t need all that whey – it’s a waste. Protein is, however, quite useful as part of a during workout sports beverage. Just one example of what’s in there.

    (Disclaimer: I work for VeloPress.)

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