If you reach your ideal “racing” weight, you’re going to be able to run faster over distances.

The Thundercloud Turkey Trot drew a huge crowd this year—some estimates have it up around 18,000. And while many entrants ran in an effort to offset the holiday feasting, unfortunately, that won’t have much—if any—impact. Running is a superb exercise overall, with a ton of health benefits. And yes, it does help “manage” your weight. But the reality is achieving your best weight is 80% diet and only 20% exercise.

The relationship between running and weight has another aspect though: if you reach your ideal “racing” weight, you’re going to be able to run faster over distances. One famous study revealed that for every extra 10 pounds you carry, you’ll add 14 seconds per mile to your run. That can really add up, especially in distances like the half-marathon and marathon. Racing weight can be defined as the optimal leanness needed to still maintain 100% muscle mass. That is, if you become to lean, you’ll defeat the purpose by reducing your muscle contractile force.

Elite male endurance athletes typically have less than 10% body fat, while female elite female endurance athletes tend to have a slightly higher percentage. Skinfold calipers, though not a precise method of measuring body fat, are widely available. Exercise physiologists use water-displacement—considered the most accurate, while bioelectrical impedance is also used.

If you determine that you’re a bit overweight despite all of your running, there’ s plenty you can do to change that. First and foremost are the three levers of food intake. They are:

  • What you eat
  • How much you eat; and
  • When you eat.

Countless diet books have been published purportedly paving the way to weight loss. The bulk of them focus on the first two levers:  What you eat and how much you eat. While counting calories and switching to a healthier, more whole-foods type diet can work, more recent research suggests that the third level— when you eat—is the easiest lever to pull, and therefore the most effective long-term way of reaching and maintaining your ideal weight.

You’ve probably seen the popular term “intermittent fasting” a lot in the news. Though “time-restricted feeding” is a more accurate description, this method refers to narrowing your eating window to around eight hours, commonly referred to as the “16:8” method. For example, you’d finish dinner around 6:00 p.m. and you’re next meal would be at 10:00 a.m. 16 hours later. While there are countless variations on this theme, you get the general idea. The time-restricted feeding method has proven remarkably effective, especially when coupled with intentionally healthy food choices.

So how do you know when you’re at your ideal racing weight? One tried-and-true method is to look at what you weigh when you’re in peak shape and setting PRs. That’s your racing weight, simple as that.

Upcoming races: Saturday, December 2, the St. Louis Cougar Chase 5K, 8:00 a.m. at St. Louis Catholic School, Austin. Saturday, December 2, the Georgetown Half Marathon & 5K, 7:00 a.m. at Richarte High School in Georgetown. Sunday, December 11, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, 8:00 a.m. at the Travis County Expo Center.