It is a cookbook for endurance athletes, who are as different from other categories of eaters as bicycle seats are different from recliners.
Cyclists, cross-country skiers, rowers, runners, swimmers, and triathletes have special dietary goals and nutritional needs that are not shared by their nonathlete friends. These unique dietary requirements— especially as they relate to the goal of performance weight management—are thoroughly addressed in my book Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance. This cookbook presents original recipes that are consistent with the guidelines offered in that book. Of course, these recipes may also serve as healthy meals for any nonathletes in your household, but they were created especially for athletes like you.
Most cookbooks are written for people who have a preexisting interest in cooking. The Racing Weight Cookbook does not presume such an interest because it is intended to enable all endurance athletes, regardless of cooking experience, to feed themselves in a way that conforms to the Racing Weight system. While there are plenty of recipes in the following pages that will appeal to experienced cooks, there are also many that require no special kitchen skills. My highest priority in putting together this book was to ensure that it was useful even to those athletes who generally would rather wash up after dinner than prepare it.
In this regard, my own limited cooking abilities were an advantage. Never drawn to the kitchen, I managed to put off learning how to cook until after I graduated from college. I hadn’t been at it very long when I developed persistent stomach pains. Eventually I deduced that the discomfort was caused by pasta sauce. It wasn’t that my stomach was especially sensitive to the acids in tomatoes. The problem, rather, was that I was eating the same meal every single night: spaghetti with ground turkey mixed into Ragú Chunky Gardenstyle Primavera Sauce and a giant stalk of steamed broccoli on the side.
I realized then that in order to be truly healthy, I needed to break out of my comfort zone and learn how to prepare some other kinds of meals. I did not exactly become Wolfgang Puck, but I very slowly added simple meals to my repertoire. I took shortcuts at every opportunity, such as buying canned soups and adding veggies to them instead of making my own soups from scratch. The one thing I refused to do was lower my nutritional standards. Through this combination of laziness and high standards I learned lots of little tricks that enabled me to fuel my body for maximum health and performance without spending more time than I could bear stirring the contents of saucepans. All of the tricks and shortcuts I’ve picked up over the years are shared in the Racing Weight Cookbook. If you can use a can opener, you can use this resource to take control of your diet and reach your optimal racing weight.
Having said this, I hasten to add that cooking is like endurance training (and most other pursuits): The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Many years ago I had the good fortune to marry a woman whose enthusiasm for cooking has proved infectious. Together we eat a wide variety of enjoyable, healthy meals. This experience has taught me that every endurance athlete should be encouraged to go beyond the basics and learn how to prepare some meals that offer as much pleasure as they do nutrition.
That’s why I did not write this book alone. Georgie Fear is an outstanding cook who creates original meal recipes almost daily for her own enjoyment and to share with the clients she serves as a dietitian and nutrition coach. She is also a fitness fanatic (and a former triathlete and ultrarunner) who understands the special dietary needs of endurance athletes. I’ve known and admired Georgie for years, and when it came time to choose a collaborator for this book, my list of candidates had only one name on it: hers. All of these recipes were tested and perfected in her kitchen. Thanks to her contributions, the Racing Weight Cookbook has as much to offer foodies like her as five-minute cooks like me.
If you’re like most people (including most endurance athletes), one of these three phrases accurately describes your relationship with cooking:
1. I don’t cook.
2. I have some cooking experience.
3. I love to cook!
The recipes in this book are categorized in three levels that align with these self-descriptions. Level 1 recipes are so simple that even folks who claim they don’t cook can put them together without acquiring new skills. Level 2 recipes are a bit more involved but still fall well within the comfort zone of those who have followed basic recipes before. Level 3 recipes are also simple enough to be followed by anyone who can read English but entail a few more steps and some less common ingredients that may be familiar mainly to those who enjoy spending time in the kitchen.
If you haven’t cooked before, start with the Level 1 recipes. You can practice the Racing Weight system successfully with these meals alone. Once you’ve gained a little confidence, you can advance to Level 2 and ultimately to Level 3 recipes. If you’re already a little more comfortable in the kitchen, start by drawing from both the Level 1 and Level 2 recipes. You will be ready to advance to Level 3 in no time. And if you’re an experienced cook, there are no limitations on which recipes you can use to adhere to the Racing Weight system. Just don’t assume that the Level 1 recipes are “too basic” for you. These meals are no less wholesome than the more sophisticated ones, and even the most avid cook needs a break sometimes.
If anyone had told me 20 years ago, when I was fighting stomach pain from eating too much pasta sauce, that one day I would coauthor a cookbook, I would have thought I was hallucinating. Then again, this is not your typical cookbook. It’s just the sort of cookbook that I would use (and will use) myself as a runner and triathlete who loves to eat; does not have a lot of time and energy to cook; and is always looking to get leaner, lighter, and faster. I believe that you will discover this to be the perfect cooking resource for you too.
So what are we waiting for?
Let’s eat! Matt Fitzgerald
The Racing Weight Series is the proven weight-loss program for endurance athletes.