The 8% Weight Rule (Not Only For Endurance Athletes!)

November 20, 2012

Every endurance athlete has an optimal race weight. It’s the weight you’re at when you’re in peak race form.
However, almost no athlete carries that weight year round; there’s really no need to, and it’s also non-practical.
In fact, it’s natural, perfectly healthy - and well established within the “endurance athletes” community - that it’s acceptable to gain a little weight during the so-called off-season.
How much is ok? Of course, you don’t want to go too far, or it might be very hard to get back on track.
Matt Fitzgerald, renowned sports journalists, top athlete, and awesome writer, prescribes what he calls the “8% rule”
The 8% rule states that in no time, during the year, you should weight more than 8% then your racing weight. For instance, if your racing weight is 160 pounds, you wanna make sure that you don’t go beyond the 172 pounds threshold.
What’s cool about the 8% rule, is that it gives athletes some license to slack off when it’s possible to do it; while at the same time setting a simple limit that avoids things to get out of hand.*

Not only for endurance athletes

The 8% rule does not only work for endurance athletes. It can be successfully implemented by others.
Let’s say you reached your ideal weight of 120 pounds. Now comes the hard part of maintaining it.
If you give yourself a range to play with, you’ll be much better off. Instead of obsessing 24/7 on keeping the 120 on your bones, you can give yourself a spread from 120 to 128 pounds to play with.
If, for instance, one week you’re extremely busy at work, and can’t make it to your spinning classes, you might put on a couple pounds. No biggies.
The same 
might happen during Holiday Season. Hefty lunches and dinners are not exactly ideal for maintaining perfect weight. As long as you can stay within the 8% range you don’t need to worry too much. You’ll be able to drop them in a heartbeat in the following weeks.
However, when you start to get closer to the upper limit, that’s when you need to take action. The 8% is a line that you shall not cross.
The 8% rule can work because when you’re at your ideal weight and have a small percentage of body fat, the body stores and burns fat at almost the same rate. 

It’s nothing like when you’re overweight and trying to lose weight. In that instance, losing it’s much harder than putting on. Instead, with low percentage body fat, dropping extra weight a is “easy peasy”.

If you want to know more...

The whole “racing weight” topic is a compelling one. If you believe that endurance athletes do not worry about their weight (considering the amount of training they engage in), think again. They’re more obsessed with it than a teenager girl.
In fact, endurance athletes are very much concerned in managing their weight and body composition to optimize performance; as they know that even a few pounds or a few percentage of body fat could make a huge difference in the overall performance
Racing times, training and body weight: that’s all they’re talking about.
Even if you’re not an endurance athlete, I believe it could be of great interest for anyone, to know a little bit more about racing weight. That’s why I strongly suggest you to read “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald. It’s a book that talks about optimizing your performance through managing your body weight and body composition.
The author focuses also on ways to quantify and measure the quality of the food you’re eating, stressing out the importance of quality over quantity (of course). He’s a strong believer that when caring about quality most of the rest will take care of itself.

The Iron You

*For more information on Matt Fitzgerald and his work you can visit


  1. This is very interesting- I heard a friend talking about this the other day (you know, with the holidays fast approaching!). I do tend to gain a couple of pounds during the holidays, but since I exercise and eat healthy (even when indulging) it really is not too hard to shed them in a couple of weeks.

    ps. thanks for the tip on the rice flour- I will try it next time!

  2. Very interesting indeed! It's good to know there's some range to play with your weight with the holidays approaching!

  3. I like this idea, while every one has an ideal weight life can totally get in the way sometimes and not beating yourself up is SOOO much better for your motivation.