How to calculate your ideal race weight


16.02.17 at 11:28 am

We have talked about losing weight before a race before. While training for his second Ironman, Ryan looked at the best ways to go about gradually losing weight ahead of a big race while maintaining muscle mass, and avoiding the danger of ‘bouncing back’ common to many fad diets. What we didn’t talk about, is how to go about determining what that ideal race weight should be.


Chris Froome looked like a skeleton at the end of the the 2016 Tour de France, and has largely credited his career to this. As an amateur however, maintaining a similarly low level of body fat could be extremely unhealthy. If you are competing in shorter distance events, sacrificing muscle mass to reduce your body weight is only going to be a detriment to you, and training while on a very low calorie diet can hamper the results you get out of it.

Your race weight should leave you in a sweet spot. If you’re too heavy you will be working unnecessarily hard. The excess fat won’t work for you, only slow you down. If you’re too light, you may find that you’ve lost essential power and endurance as you’ve lost weight. Your power to weight ratio can be maximised by finding your best race weight.

Chris Froome - The First Man to Cycle through the Eurotunnel (14593593775)

What is a race weight?

Your race weight is so important because, according to Hunter Allen, founder of the Peaks Coaching Group and co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter, “every extra pound you carry above [your race] weight makes you 15 to 20 seconds slower for each mile of a climb.” It is unlikely that you will maintain this weight year round; rather, it is a weight that you drop to just during your competitive season as for some cyclists it is when they are particularly lean. Finding the perfect race weight for you may take some trial and error, but we have some ways to help.

Kendra Wenzel who runs the blog looked at cyclists competing at an elite national or international level, then took an average of their weights compared to their heights. You can see the original post over on her website, but we’ve copied the data below converting it into kg’s for convenience.

Height / Weight Range Approximations (in kg)
Climber Sprinter
Height (cm) Height (feet and inches) Min Max Min Max
157 5’2″ 45 50 48 56
160 5’3″ 46 52 49 58
163 5’4″ 48 54 51 60
165 5’5″ 49 55 53 62
168 5’6″ 51 57 54 64
170 5’7″ 53 59 56 65
173 5’8″ 54 61 58 68
175 5’9″ 55 63 59 69
178 5’10” 57 64 61 72
180 5’11” 59 66 63 73
183 6’0″ 62 68 64 76
Climber Sprinter
Height (cm) Height (feet and inches) Min Max Min Max
163 5’4″ 50 59 55 64
165 5’5″ 51 62 57 66
168 5’6″ 52 64 59 68
170 5’7″ 54 67 61 70
173 5’8″ 55 67 63 73
175 5’9″ 57 68 64 75
178 5’10” 59 69 66 77
180 5’11” 61 70 68 79
183 6’0″ 63 73 69 81
185 6’1″ 65 78 72 83
188 6’2″ 65 80 73 85
191 6’3″ 67 82 75 88
193 6’4″ 68 84 77 90
 Table Source: Kendra Wenzel


Fat vs Muscle

Too much fat can be very dangerous for your health as well as bad news for your race time. The healthy levels of body fat are up to 25% for men and up to 30% for women (as women physiologically require a higher level essential of fat). Obviously, for athletes these level and the ideal range are lower, although seriously low levels of body fat can be dangerous and hinder your performance.

When we think of weight loss, it should rather be fat loss – weight loss, as we think of with many diet plans, is usually caused by your body being sent into some degree of starvation mode due to the low calories. Therefore, it sources its energy not only from your excess fat but also from your lean tissues – namely, your hard earned muscles.

Achieving your target race weight

Once you have decided on your target race weight, calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is a good way of starting to work towards it. TDEE  works out how many calories you use on a day to day basis – more on days you are training – so that you can work out how many to subtract to achieve steady and successful weight loss. By doing so, you can reduce your calories without negatively impacting on your training. Manipulating the macronutrient proportions of your food – for example, eating more protein as it keeps you fuller for longer – is another good way of shedding the excess fat in a healthy and sustainable way so that you are your healthiest and fittest on race day.