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Every runner knows that body weight affects running performance. Because your body must overcome the force of gravity with every stride, the heavier you are, the higher is the energy cost of running at any given pace. One study found that every 5 percent of added body weight reduced running performance by 5 percent.
All runners perform best when they are near the bottom of their healthy weight range. There is such a thing as being too light, of course. You won’t run well if you’re undernourished or if you don’t have enough body fat to support basic health. Nor is being at your ideal racing weight a guarantee of successful racing. There’s also a little factor called fitness that plays an important role. But assuming you’re fit, you will generally have your best races when you’re about as light as you can be without compromising your health.
"Your ideal racing weight is determined primarily by your body fat level."
There’s not much you can do about the other sources of mass in your body: bone, muscle, water, etc. No matter how hard you train or how carefully you eat, all of that weight will stay. It’s excess body fat that accounts for the difference between current weight and ideal racing weight in most runners, and thus it’s fat mass that you must lose to attain your ideal racing weight.
So, what is your ideal racing weight?
Given the fact that body fat is the primary determinant of ideal racing weight, the best way to estimate it is to calculate how much you will weigh when you’ve reduced your body fat percentage to the optimal level. Optimal body fat percentage is not the same for everyone. There are many factors that affect how lean an individual runner can become. These include gender, age, genetics, and history of being overweight. However, even runners who have all of these factors working against them can get fairly lean.
This table presents optimal racing weight body fat percentage ranges for different gender and age groups of runners. Most runners can expect to get their body fat percentage down within the range associated with their gender and age group through proper training and diet.
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