Heavy Topic: What is Your Ideal Race Weight?

English: Old Weighing scale
Step on up and see how many dozens of lbs over your “ideal” race weight you are! Image via Wikipedia.

The other day, my friend Cindi blogged about a worksheet she had been playing with that had been created based upon Jack Daniels training principles. It looked so fun to plug in your best race times, get equivalents, training paces, etc.  She kindly e-mailed me a copy and I started playing with it over the weekend.  Fun, right?  Yes!  I love geeking out on numbers and thinking about what could be possible.  Well, it was fun pouring over the numbers until I hit the section on weight.

Why?  Because essentially, according to this spreadsheet, the author thinks I need to lose THIRTY pounds to hit my best race times. The spreadsheet suggests that long distance runners should weigh 15% under their ideal BMI weight to run their best. WHAT?!

Seriously?  No way.  I read it 4 different times.  But yup, I should drop thirty pounds.  Thirty.  30. THIRTY! I was shocked.  I Googled around a bit too and saw this same percentage (actually I saw 15-20% underweight) thrown around in support of an ideal race weight.

Now, for those of you who haven’t met me in real life, I am at a healthy weight.  I don’t think  if you ran into me you would consider me overweight by any stretch.  That said, I am certainly not underweight like many of the runners – particularly marathoners and Ironmen racers – that I know.   I also fully understand there is a big difference between being a healthy weight generally and dropping those extra last lbs to get into ideal race weight.  In fact, I am commonly heard saying during training that I have to drop a couple of pounds to get to an ideal race weight.  To me, that would be 5 or 8 pounds (that I always put on during the month I rest post-marathon).  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

This is in large part because I don’t diet or pay too much attention to my weight because I had an eating disorder in high school and early college.  So I know better than to focus too much on it.

But I certainly want to stack the deck as favorably as I can to have a great race.  And I know extra poundage slows you down.  So each season, I will be extra conscientious to avoid the candy dish at the office (this is actually hard for me), skip out on adult beverages, and opt for more fruits and veggies.  One season I even tracked what I ate for a month through caloriecount.com.  That was a very interesting experiment because I really learned how many calories some foods had, and the nutritional value of others (it doesn’t just track calories – lots of other nifty things too like sodium, vitamins, minerals, etc.).

30 pounds huh?

Needless to say, however, this season I will not be attempting to drop 30 pounds, no matter how desperately I want a shiny new marathon PR (which I do).  In fact, I think that would be ridiculously unhealthy if I was 30 pounds lighter.  These types of percentages can’t possibly be a one-size-fits-all type of number.*  I also think it is dangerous to throw percentages like that out there – particularly for young runners and beginning runners.  There are better ways to judge prime fitness than simply a number on the scale.

Tell me what you think.  Do you go by the numbers, or how do you determine when you are at your best race weight?  For me, I am definitely more confident when I feel rock hard, strong, and fast.  It is not a reading from any old scale.  Please weigh in with your thoughts (pun intended).  🙂

 

* The chart also said my peak potential for the marathon is 2:15:25 (2:19:17 age graded).  Look out Kara Goucher.  Ha!

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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54 comments

  1. When I first saw saltyrunning tweet “what’s your ideal race weight” I thought you have got to be effing kidding me! Needless to say I am 100% in agreement with you. I have a bachelors degree in exercise science, a masters in nutrition and am an ultramarathoner. I think there is nothing more important for a runner than getting in nutrition. Certainly not trying to cut nutrition to get down to these less than ideal weights. As a nutrition professional I can tell you your training would suffer if you (or anyone) tried to drop 30 pounds before a race to shave a couple seconds off your time. We all need to love our bodies regardless of weight and think about how impressive it is that they can carry us 26+ miles! So please, remain healthy, eat balanced (this includes the candy bowl at the office) and run happy!

    1. I suckered you in! *pats self on back* 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your professional point of view and validating what Mint already knows: she’s perfect just the way she is!

    2. Daniels charts are strict, yes, but for a professional marathoner/runner, weight is an issue. If you are 99% of the population, following those guidelines for weight is not a good idea, like Kristen mentioned.

      However for those who are indeed in the top 1%, there is a balance between weight and health. Lose too much weight, you are prone to stress fractures and other ailments. Way too much, you simply need more energy to go faster. It is a cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis at that point.

      Unless you are aiming to qualify for the next Oly Trials, losing more weight by cutting back nutrition when you are at an already healthy level is one of the worst ways to do it.

      1. I think body fat percentage is a much better metric for determining ideal competitive weight than some objective weight standard. I’m a locally competitive runner and care very deeply about running my best, but even IF I had the best coaches, dieticians, etc working with me it is physically impossible for me to weigh under 120 lbs. I think of my muscles as my engine and I just have a V8 when some people have a lighter 4-cylinder one 🙂 So even at the top levels some runners cannot weigh as low as these objective weight guides suggest.

        That being said, the runners at the very top echelons of marathoning are very small people. Someone denser like me probably is physically incapable of running at that level, but I’ll be damned if we can’t be super competitive, attempt to and actually qualify for the trials, etc!

    3. I absolutely agree and I too appreciate your professional opinion. There is no way I could drop 30 pounds without seriously compromising my health. How can that possibly be good for a runner?

      Thanks for the extra reminder too – I passed up the office candy bowl several times already today (even though it is filled with delicious peanut butter m&ms). 😀

  2. This post is near and dear to my heart. At my leanest most bad-ass looking I have ever been I weighed 124 lbs. Next time I get like that I’m getting my body fat tested so I can validate what I already know, but sometimes doubt when I see stupid things like I should weigh 104 lbs. I am very muscular and have a dense body. At 124 lbs. I am a size 0-2–not that size matters, but it’s more evidence that getting lighter for me is both horribly unhealthy and probably impossible without losing lots of muscle mass. In high school I had a body composition test and was told that at 126 lbs. I would weigh 112 lbs. with zero body fat. So I guess I’d need to lose a femur to get down to 104! Even so, I’ve always been self conscious of my “high” weight and wondered if maybe I was fatter than I thought. It’s been a struggle for years and stuff like that spreadsheet doesn’t help.

    And on top of that it’s based on BMI which is a totally terrible metric for people like me. Before I started running I weighed 137-140, was a size 6 and was considered borderline overweight by the BMI chart. But again, I lose just 15ish lbs and I’m as lean as I get. I think not! At 124 I think I’m almost underweight for my body, but even then I’m firmly in the normal range. So when I gain a ton of weight when I’m pregnant I don’t get the extra 5-10 lbs. that an underweight woman would get even though my body fat % at the time of conception would be the same if not lower than that of the average underweight woman. It drives me batty. I hate being an “anomaly” even though I suspect I’m not that unusual in this.

    Ok. End rant! Sorry to hijack!

    1. I weighed 130 lbs last summer and my body fat was 14%. That was my kick ass, leanest body ever. I used to always worry about that magic number on the scale- and then I realized that I will never weigh 115 lbs and I wouldn’t look good at that weight either- let alone run my best! Its never ending how much pressure we put on ourselves to be our best- When maybe we should just believe that we already are?

      Oh- and If I was guessing your weight- I would have said 105 lbs anyways! 😉

      1. Wow! Thanks! It really is so individual. Pepper and I are the same height and if she weighed the same as me she’d look almost chubby and if I weighed the same as her I’d be dead 🙂 You gotta rock what works for you and ignore what the “experts” say sometimes! Glad that’s exactly what you’re doing!!

    2. BMI has always been way off for me too. Funny, because as runners, we tend to get obsessed with numbers. But I think BMI is a long-outdated number system that simply doesn’t apply to everyone. Personally, I have long ignored it as something that isn’t quite right. Ha – our legs are just way too strong to fit into those numbers! 😉

  3. Weight and BMI charts and standards are so ‘non-transferable’ and non-univeral to body types, percent muscle, and all those other variables. I think we have to assess our own best running weight, and it’s always an experiment of one, not something that Jack Daniels or even Jim Beam can help us with.

    I actually notice it when I’m just a few lbs different, but this is because any extra weight always goes to my middle aged man gut and isn’t added muscle. I try to think of it as ‘would i like to run with 2 extra pounds on each shoe’. That said, if I were to try to go lower than these 4 lbs, chances are I would be wilting away something I needed and would go into some unhealthy starvation mode.

    1. Haha – Jim Beam certainly won’t help! I laughed when I saw this because as I was drafting the post, the suggested images that kept popping up were pictures of big ol’ bottles of Jack.

      I am the same as you – I always notice it when I start getting soft around the middle. And I welcome that peak point in training when suddenly I that seems to disappear. 🙂

  4. 30 lbs for me too! Let’s starve ourselves together! (uhhh, no?!) While I agree with the Daniel’s based training approach for pacing based on current ability, I think the ideal training weight presented in that spreadsheet is a bunch of BS! 30 lbs …. I’d have to lose muscle mass to lose that much weight. No thanks!

    1. Ha – makes sense as we are pretty close to the same size!! I’d much rather have a post-race beverage together sometime soon rather than trying to lose 60 lbs together. Sound good? 🙂

  5. I looked at all these numbers for a very long time as I was pursuing getting faster. I really liked Matt Fitzgeralds book about racing weights for different types of athletes. Most certainly runners would be on the small size as opposed to football players. Between my research (extensive) I also looked at the real elites that are my height and one we all know because she has been arguably the best American distance runner for a long time is Deena Kastor. She is my height and at race weight she is 104 pounds. I have not weighed 104 pounds or less since my freshman year of high school. I have been over 130 and I got down to 108 (the lowest BMI for “healthy” at my height which I refused to go below) for Boston a few years ago by following a strict calorie intake versus outtake. What I found was that in my experience I raced best at 110-112. But I did feel notably better/lighter when I got to 110, and I did not feel stronger at 108. I think at the very most elite marathon level 10% below is probably the average. But for me I’d rather look a bit more normal and a bit less anorexic twig 😉 and suffer a few extra minutes on my time. I miss my more feminine body a lot of days while at race weight and I have always thought once I wasn’t racing competitively I would target a weight about 10 pounds over my racing weight.

    Notably there are other elite runners that aren’t 10% below their BMI and they are kicking ass. Another running hero with a bit more achievable build (yet still smoking fit) would be Amy Yoder Begley!

    Great subject! Lots to discuss with it 🙂

  6. Maybe I entered something wrong since it didn’t load correctly but it says that at 86 lbs, I will see a 15% increase in my Vo2 max! Ha. I agree with Ryan that much of this information applies to those runners at the very elite level but still, not everyone is the same. James has a race weight and I notice that many men will talk about it and strive for it, much like that of a wrestler in season or out of season. There are still health risks for going up and down in weight but for some athletes (runners, bodybuilders, wrestlers) it becomes a part of the sport. However, I’m sure significant gains and losses will have an unhealthy effect on the body long term. For me, I know I gained a pound or two on my recent trip. In a few weeks, I’ll feel back to normal, “feel” being the key word. As I increase my mileage, I’ll pay more attention to what my body is telling me (feed me more, I’m tired, etc) than to a number on a scale. I do believe that with my body type that if I were to train at an elite level, I would naturally get a lot smaller but I agree with Elizabeth that there are also other elites out there that are not Deena Kastor small, yet not big either. Magda Lewy Boulet comes to mind and actually reminds me a lot of Salty!

    1. You are NOT allowed to weigh 86 lbs! You might have a tiny frame, but you’re not even allowed to even think about such a low weight! Men have a little more wiggle room as they don’t have the whole bone density\amenorrhea (OMG! Spelled it right on the first try!) thing to worry about. Plus they are less susceptible to disordered eating and dysmorphic body image issues. Plus when you’re as tall as James you can lose 5 lbs when to us it would be like losing just 1 or 2!

      PS Magda’s so cute. I’ll be her! Sounds good to me 🙂

  7. Wow…that is just crazy! I have to say I changed up my diet end of last year and was so happy to finally drop some weight I’ve been wanting to to lean up for racing (I am more of a triathlete right now). However, in doing so I became anemic and that sucked. I felt so awful so now I’ve changed my diet back and unfortunately have put that weight back on but I feel so good training and racing. So for me I guess that is what’s best..perhaps there’s an in between. I know it’d be beneficial to drop about 10 but at what cost??? Good post and thanks!

    1. Oh man! I was so impressed with your awesome “healthy” diet. I had no idea it did that to you. Maybe we need to drink green smoothies and chase them with a burger or something. It’s so hard to find the right balance! Thanks so much for sharing that!!!

  8. Those were some interesting tables to look at. The Dr Stillman table says 102, but the Daniels table 2 sections up gives projections down to 108 and then says “too thin.” 6 years ago, pre-kids, I got down to 112 while following Pfitz’s 55 mpw marathon training program. 112 was too skinny for me, but 115 felt great and I raced fantastic that summer. Since having kids, I haven’t been able to get it together to get back into competitive running (the moms on here are great inspiration), but I’d love to be able to get rid of this trying-to-get-pregnant and pregnancy weight I’m hauling around and get back to 120-125.

    Those numbers remind me of why I hated Suzy Favor’s book. It’s been years since I read it, so I don’t remember the specifics, but I seem to remember her saying something like a 5’4″ female runner should weigh 104. I felt like that was a pretty dangerous thing to say, especially if teens were reading.

    1. Ah, you are right – it does say Dr. Stillman (whoever that is). I hadn’t noticed that. Good luck getting back to competitive running! Salty is definitely an inspiration with how fast she can bounce back.

  9. I will never be an elite runner by any standard, but like many runners who want to PR, I always wonder if shedding 5-8 lbs would help shave 30 seconds off my 5k, two minutes off my half-marathon, etc., etc. I enjoy food, wine, and beer too much. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat or drink out of control. But, I do like to have a glass of wine with my dinner or a beer or two with my burger or pizza. I even indulge (sometimes too much) in the all American, summer night, ice cream cone. When I was nursing my twins & racing last year at this time, I was at my lowest weight of 119 (that I have ever been). In my case, it didn’t matter, because since then I hover around 130 lbs & my times have improved & keep on improving. I always try to eat healthy & be conscience of my eating habits. It’s pretty much common sense. When I eat healthy I feel both mentally & physically strong. Like Salty, I am more muscular & have a more dense (less string-bean & lean) physique and I accept that:)!!

  10. This is such a fascinating topic, and I am so glad that you wrote about it! I haven’t looked at the worksheet to try to figure out my ideal running weight, but I think I have a pretty good idea where that range is. I have been above it and below it a number of times, BUT I think the most important thing to take into account is your actual frame size. Some of us are genetically ectomorphic, mesomorphic or endomorphic. There is no way you can ignore that when looking at your “ideal” race weight. Like Salty said, if she goes below 124, she is redlining it. Other women her height might be fine under 124. I think there is a range of body types among elite runners, too. Not all of them look like Deena Kastor (in fact, I would say most of them at the marathon level look less skeletal than Deena . . . and that is not a knock on Deena.I had a chance to get to know her in 2008 and she eats A LOT – she is just a very small woman!).

    I am 5’9″ and race between 118-122 (Jack Daniels would probably tell me to lose a few!). If you look at BMI, I am underweight, on the brink of anorexia and clearly not menstruating. However, I am pregnant with my second child, and I certainly do not look underweight to the naked eye (just thin). I am naturally built this way. In fact, I would LOVE to put on muscle and have some nice biceps, but no matter how much I lift or how many grams of protein I consume, I am never going to be ripped (damn it!). My husband, on the other hand, has an extremely muscular build. According to the BMI charts, he is overweight! People who see him think he weighs around 150 . .. he is 165 and it’s all lean muscle.

    Like Mindi, I worry that charts like these can permeate the mind of a runner looking for every avenue to PR and cause them to spiral into the world of disordered eating or an eating disorder. My hope is that coaches will eventually take the topic of weight off the table and emphasize healthy nutrition instead. Given how different our bodies are, there isn’t one prescriptive formula out there for an ideal race weight.

    1. Bridget – I am so glad you weighed in as you are probably one of the few people I know that could fit these recommendations as you definitely have the long, lean runner’s build. Of course you are also crazy, wicked fast, but that is for another post. 🙂 But it definitely illustrates how we are all so very different.

        1. Mindi – Deena is one of the loveliest people I have ever met. She is incredibly gracious, smart and humble. I was lucky to meet a lot of cool people when I worked for the marathon from 2008-2010. It’s always awesome when the people you admire from afar are actually THAT awesome and amazing when you finally meet them!

  11. If my BMI drops much below 18.5-19, I become amenorrheic. Does this happen to anyone else? Maybe it’d be an ideal “race weight” but it doesn’t seem conducive to longevity in the sport.

    1. I don’t know as I have never been that low, but my understanding is that is a common problem/concern with many young runners. Excellent point – it certainly is not conducive to longevity in the sport or overall health.

    2. When I’m below 127 my period gets a few days shorter which may be an indication of a luteal phase deficiency, but I’ve never actually lost it altogether. I wonder what percentage of world\national class runners are amenorrheic.

    3. Rosemary – I think that just points out how flawed these “ideal” weight charts are. Nothing is ideal if you lose your cycle – it’s your body’s way of attempting to preserve its energy and it’s a definite red flag. When I was training my hardest (for me, that was 80 mile weeks), and I was at my lowest weight, I never lost my period. If I go below a certain weight, however, my cycle disappears. After a lot of trial and error, I know what that number is and I don’t go near it.

  12. That definitely happens to me. I am just now getting back to normal cycles with my period. While I breastfeed I do not get a period. But, even when I stopped breastfeeding my twins and was hovering around 125, I was not getting my period. Now, with my weight around 130-135, I am getting my cycle back.

  13. Hi,

    I’m the author of the worksheet in question, and would like to address a couple things.

    Firstly, Jack Daniels does not specifically advocate the weights produced by the worksheet. He does have a formula that estimates how “excess” weight impacts performance, and he does maintain that weight is a significant performance factor, but I’ve never read where he implies everyone should weigh in at the minimum BMI value. And he does caution against becoming unhealthy thin in his book, pointing out there is a point beyond which more weight loss results in a decline in performance. I didn’t want Mr Daniels to be falsely implicated due to poor communication on my part.

    What the worksheet does is apply Daniels’ formula to the BMI standards. It is a shotgun approach, to be sure. I was mindful to exclude weights below the BMI healthy range (showing “too thin” when calc weights are lower than min BMI). I recognize, as indicated by other posters, the BMI range is not universally accepted as gospel. In fact, I have my own misgivings with the scale. According to BMI, at 6’2 and 200 lbs, I am slightly “overweight”, but I do not consider my self as such. Further, my lowest healthy BMI weight is 144 lbs. I shudder to think what I would look like at that weight. However, I was 155 at age 20… rail thin, but quite healthy.

    The worksheet is intended as more of a “What If” tool to help with setting goals and training regimens, rather than an absolute predictor. For fun, I plugged Chris Solinsky’s stats and (at the time) US record 10k time of 26:59 into the worksheet. Chris is known as a heavyweight among distance runners, measuring in at 6’1″ and 161 lbs (BMI 21.1). The worksheet calculates that Chris could improve his 10k to 24:00 if he dropped down to his BMI recommended minimum weight of 140 lbs. The current 10k world record is 25:17. OK, so obviously Jack’s formula combined with the BMI in extreme cases is clearly way overly optimistic.

    I tested the worksheet many different ways prior to making it public a few years ago. This is the first case I’ve found of a result being crazy out of range. Maybe I’ll have a look at refining some part of the equation to give more reasonable results in this category.

    However, while there is admittedly an issue with with the worksheet in this regard, it is a mistake to dismiss weight as a significant factor in race performance. The fact remains that the vast majority of elite distance runners are between 18 and 20 BMI, and no one ever ran a world’s record weighing in at BMI 25. It’s simple physics. More weight requires more work to move, and it’s an unavoidable fact it will slow you down.

    Perhaps a 30 lb drop is too severe to be healthy for Mist. But what about 10 lbs? If she is 30 lbs above minimum BMI, it’s a pretty safe guess she could drop 10 lbs and still be completely healthy.

    The general rule of thumb is a time savings of 2 seconds per pound per mile. I believe Jack’s formula is in this range. But let’s be conservative and cut that in half, and say it’s only 1 second per pound per mile. That’s still a 30 second savings in a 5k. That’s pretty significant. Is that worth going through the effort of losing 10 lbs? Mist will have to decide that for herself. But to deny there is significant benefits to be had from “reasonable” weight management is just wrong.

    For someone training already training 40-50 miles per week, routinely doing threshold runs, interals, and long runs. A 10 lb reduction in weight, *IF* it can be done in a healthy manner, would likely provide the single most significant impact on performance this person could employ.

    And just to be clear, I’m not judging anyone. While fully believing my times could benefit from weight lose, I have hovered around BMI 25 for years… through 4 marathons, and countless other races. I have wanted to lose the weight for a long time, but just don’t have the fortitude to do so. Apparently, I’m not able to practice what I preach.

  14. Well, knee jerk defensive reaction, I guess. As I re-read the original blog and replies at a more leisurely pace, I see no one is really contesting the notion that weight affects performance. The main gripe is the implication that a minimum BMI is the ideal weight for all runners. While my worksheet doesn’t specifically state this, it does pull one’s thinking in that direction due to the way it’s laid out.

    While minimum BMI IS it is the typical weight for elite distance runner’s, it’s certainly not the ideal weight for all runners, and I humbly apologize if my earlier post came off as a rant.

  15. Herm,

    I didn’t read your post in a negative way at all. I just took it as you were trying to explain your worksheet and the concepts behind it. Personally, I think it is awesome you stopped in to give us your two cents – so thank you! I am a big numbers geek too and can fully appreciate what you are trying to do with the worksheet. I just think it can seem a bit shocking for some (present company included) if you fall so far outside of the “ideal” ranges.

    Heh, that said, I will admit that you are also correct that a 10 lb weight loss would leave me in a healthy range – probably actually ideal for racing. Thanks to my training this season, I did lose 6. But I probably don’t have fortitude / discipline to shake the last 4 before my race either. 🙂

    Thanks again and best of luck in whatever you may be training for.

  16. The ideal BMI (male 20 – fenmale 18) should not seen so strict. For example, big-boned Solinsky can weigh 161lb at 6’1 (BMI 21). Whereas I (male, 40) am small-boned and my ideal running weight is 130lb at 5’9 (BMI 19). Neither he nor I are overweight: We have both ideal racing weight.

  17. Personally, I do not see how being underweight and engaging in long-distance running can possibly be healthy. Your body needs fuel and healthy foods to perform at its best. Ultra-skinny marathon runners might be faster than the speed of light- but are they truly healthy?

    1. Yes they are: 1. Their cardiovascular system is highly developed
      2. Most of them lack all the problems obese people often have ( e. g. high
      blood- pressure or adult diabetes).
      3. Even the skinniest runners with only 5 kilo of body fat have enough
      energy sored for long racers.
      4. But: They should not become too thin – they should” test out ” their
      individual BMI. The best female distance runners have a BMI
      of 18-18,5 and are all small-boned
      The best male distance runners of BMI 19-20
      and are almost all small-boned.

      Myself, I (male, 40 and a dedicated runner) am very healthy with 5’9 /130 lb./BMI 19

      Frank

  18. I have a question.. I am a cross country runner. I’m 5 3 115 pounds.. If I dropped about 5- 8 pounds would I race better?? How can I drop the weight without losing the energy to race?? Last year I weighed 108 and I felt amazing I’m trying to get back there but it’s really hard.. Please help.

    1. Hey Makayla! Great question.

      If you’re currently in training, I’d say it’s a good idea to consider the information in this post, which explains why it’s not a good idea to limit your calorie intake while training, and this post, in which Mint shares her experience trying to do just that.

      In the Ask-A-Salty post I linked, I mention the book Racing Weight, by Matt Fitzgerald. That book has some great tips for losing weight properly as an athlete. The simple strategy? Focus on your training first and let the weight come off naturally. Then in the off-season, simply focus on not gaining back any of the weight you lost.

      It’s true that the raw math says you will race faster if you’re leaner (leaner, not lighter! There’s a big difference!), but in reality there are many more variables, including the amount of energy and strength you have, the weather, your menstrual cycle, whether or not you got enough sleep, stress… From my experience and that of everyone I know, the best thing you can do is focus on training your body as it is now. If you treat your body like a lean racing machine, it will, over time, do the things it needs to do to become that.

      That means train your best, clean up your diet (we can always clean up our diets, right?) without dieting, be patient with your body and love it as it is right now. If you do that, you may find the weight naturally coming off! You also may find that it doesn’t, but either way you’ll race better if you focus on what is instead of what was.

    2. Hi makayla! That’s a tough question. For me personally, I find that I race best when I eat healthy, train hard and let my weight fall where it may. When I’m at my peak training, I get pretty lean without trying. I still weigh more than many runners of my height, but my body is muscular and needs about 10-15 pounds more than most, I’d say. If I focused on a set number, I’d end up very disappointed or very sick. I’m glad I figured out my body before I ever went that far. So what’s right for you might not be what a chart says. I say eat well and train hard and your body will do what it needs to do. Good luck!!!

  19. In the last couple of months, I dropped from 140 to 128. I have dropped 45 seconds off my mile time, but I also do not have the energy that I had before I lost weight. As I am 5’10”, I am contemplating gaining a few pounds. It is hard to find what your ideal weight should be.

  20. I was dismayed by my slow times. I consulted my friend who is a statistical expert in physical performance. He said, “You are really fast. Your problem is that you are fat and old and you can only fix one of those.” Nice guy, huh?

    “How much do I need to lose”

    “44 pounds”

    “I would be a running skeleton!”, I complained.

    “Have you ever seen a great distance runner?”

    He is right. They are running skeletons. I have lost 12 pounds and have no intention of losing the last 32. Maybe five more. I race 5k’s and 10k’s and despite my BMI of 25, I rarely lose to any women older than me (53).

    Those 12 pounds took a minute off my 5k time. According to the charts, if I lose a pound a year, I can mostly offset the slowing of age. Considering you lose maybe a pound a year of muscle at my age, I should keep slowly losing.

    But I have no intention of being a running skeleton!

  21. Hi – I’ve checked the spreadsheet and it’s 15% than average weight, not 15% underweight! I have a BMI of 18,4 (right on the treshold between underweight and normal weight – currently right on optimal middle distance racing weight) and the spreadsheet tells me I should lose about 4 or 5 lbs to get to optimal long distance racing weigth. I know from experience that this is right on the money for me. Seems completely legit.

  22. In training, your diet shouldn’t be focused on weight loss, it should be focused on performance. Your body will adapt to the level of activity you request from it, over time. If you want to run a sub 3:30:00 and train honestly for it, your body will morph accordingly over time to allow you to be able to do that. There’s training for performance, looks, and general fitness. Each has its own pluses and minuses.

  23. After sitting and thinking about your article, my opinion follows. Some people train for performance, some to ‘look’ better and some just for some general fitness. Say you want to run a sub 2:30:00 and train honestly for it. Your body, the miracle that it is, will adapt to it and do what it can to get to that goal, if you help it. If it means it’s gotta shed weight that includes muscle, then it will. Your caloric intake shouldn’t be based on weight loss, but based on the requirements you need to train to the level that would allow you to meet your goals. Strangely enough, the skinny fast people actually need more food than say, the not so skinny slow people. Your body will guide you, your numbers will guide you. Take more than you need, you are now not helping your body achieve the goal, take less than you need, and same thing. The cool part about distance training is tinkering with things to find the optimal balance to achieve your goal. Don’t sell yourself or your incredible machine of a body short by thinking it can’t do something if you really put your mind to it. If you want a faster finish and train and eat for it, you’ll get a faster finish, it’s that simple. The bmi, weight etc.. are results of the training not the cause.

  24. Kristen wrote:

    “As a nutrition professional I can tell you your training would suffer if you (or anyone) tried to drop 30 pounds before a race to shave a couple seconds off your time. We all need to love our bodies regardless of weight and think about how impressive it is that they can carry us 26+ miles!”

    These are nice thoughts but not very scientific. As an ordinary runner I can tell you that controlled weight loss, while you maintain an overall healthy diet and healthy weight, will make you significantly faster. “We all need to love our bodies regardless of weight” is a sweet thing to say, but will keep you running slower. What’s your priority? If complacency is your priority, don’t change anything you are doing now. If excelling is your priority, change everything you are doing now.