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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

Cyclingnews is delighted this week to welcome Pamela Hinton to our fitness panel.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Fitness questions and answers for May 3, 2004

Racing weight
Warm ups
Maximum heart rate
Glass of wine

Racing weight

I am 23 years old, 182cm and weigh 75kg fairly consistently. I am training at the moment for longer distances (100km and 200km) before getting more into track and criterium work. I am watching my food but am not 100% what specifically I should be watching. I feel that if I lost more weight and increased power then this would help me in all facets of the sport. Can you please tell me what I should be eating to decrease weight while maintaining my energy levels for training and racing.

Nicky Stewart
Sancella, New Zealand

Pam Hinton replies:

You are correct when you say that cycling performance is affected by the ratio of power to body weight. Power is generated by our leg muscles and therefore, one's power output is proportional to their muscle mass. In its simplest terms, the power to weight ratio is the ratio of our muscle mass to our body weight. So naturally the same muscle power will move less weight easier, therefore faster. The tricky part, however, is lowering the weight without losing the muscle power. It's what they call a conundrum, so the even trickier part is not losing your mind in the process.

If a person has excess body fat, then they can safely decrease their body weight without losing power. This would increase the power to weight ratio. However, if additional weight loss would be the result of a loss of muscle mass, then weight loss will likely result in a decrease in power output-not to mention the likelihood of a myriad of other physical and psychological ailments

At your reported six feet, 160 pounds, [Body mass index (kg/m2)= 22.6, normal range 19-25], it seems you already don't have much extra weight to spare. Even if you feel you have an extra pound or so to lose, I hesitate to recommend that you attempt to lose weight by any dramatic changes to your diet-especially if you are in the midst of the racing season. Given that you are training for longer distances, your energy expenditure is undoubtedly very high. You probably need in the range of 4000 kcal per day just to maintain your body weight. You risk compromising your training and racing if you restrict your energy intake significantly. As a general rule, endurance athletes need 6-10 g carbohydrate per kg of body weight per day to replenish liver and muscle glycogen stores. So you need somewhere between 450 and 750 g of carbohydrate per day. To give you some idea of how that translates into food, a bagel has 60 g, one cup of oatmeal has 20 g, one cup of cooked rice has 50 g, and 1 cup of cooked pasta has 30 g of carbohydrate. Protein requirements are estimated to be 1.2-1.4 g per kg body weight per day to maintain muscle mass. For you, this would be 90-105 g of protein per day. Again, to put this into foods, 3 ounces of meat has 25 g, one cup of milk or yogurt has 10 g, 1 ounce of cheese has 7 g and one egg has 3 grams of protein.

I have two suggestions for you, neither of which is likely to compromise your performance. First, if you are not already doing so, try substituting one or two days of long, slow distance miles for a high-intensity session, e.g., intervals or hill repeats. The high intensity efforts cause your metabolic rate to stay elevated for several hours after the workout. This increase in your metabolic rate by ~10% is equivalent to approximately 200 extra calories expended during the 24 hours after the high-intensity session. It takes an energy deficit of 3500 kcal to lose one pound of body fat. You could accomplish this by substituting a high intensity workout for 8 weeks.

Second, there are probably small changes you could make to your diet that, over time, would result in weight loss. You want to limit your intake of foods that have a high energy density, i.e., a lot of kcal per volume, and that are low in other nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). A good example of this type of food, is the fat that we add to our food as butter on bread, dressing on salad, etc. I am by no means suggesting that you eliminate these foods from your diet. Rather, simply decrease the amount that you consume. For example, by using one tablespoon of dressing instead of two, you cut out 100 kcal. This a very small decrease in your overall energy intake, but over the course of 4-5 weeks would result in a loss of one pound of body fat. You should also pay attention to the energy you consume as beverages. Soda and fruit drinks have ~200 calories per can and most of that energy comes from simple sugar. You could easily reduce your energy intake by eliminating these "empty" calories.

Here are five key things to consider when following a weight-loss program of any kind:

1. Do you really have extra weight to lose or are you jeopardizing your performance?
2. How rapidly do you expect to lose weight? You should never try to lose more than one pound per week-any faster than that and you are losing muscle mass.
3. Listen to your body. If you feel hungry on a training ride or cranky because you feel like you are starving, you are not eating enough.
4. Pay attention to the quality of your diet, not just your overall energy intake. Eat unrefined, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods.
5. Always remember that most things in life have a point of diminishing returns. Great things such as working harder and counting grams and calories can only improve your performance to a certain point. Past that point, they start dragging you down and making you crazy.

Eddie Monnier replies:

In addition to Pam's advice, I would add that given your apparent focus on criteriums and track, weight becomes even less important. That is because on anything less than a moderate grade, most of the power you generate goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag (i.e., based on your effective frontal area), not weight. One area where lower body fat would help would be standing starts on the track (e.g, the kilo). However, as Pam pointed out your BMI seems very reasonable, so I would focus on developing a dietary approach that maximizes your ability to train and recover. Then, in the off and early season, you can focus on shedding any excess fat without needing to worry about negatively impacting your ability to recover from hard training.

Warm ups #1

I have a question regarding the applicability of your advice to a mountain bike racer who was having trouble with starts and a letter from a reader (Eric Larsson) related to warm-ups to my personal situation.

As a master road racer, I upgraded at the end of last season and am now racing with a lot of "older" former Cat. 1 and 2 riders. Prior to this, most races in which I participated (average length 50-80 miles) started out relatively slowly with hard accelerations and breaks rarely occurring prior to our doing 10-15 miles. I had no trouble following these surges and got into most breaks.

In this year's races things have been quite different with hard accelerations and major breaks that go-the-distance sometimes forming after only 1-2 miles. In my initial race of the season the first time we hit a major hill hard on lap #1 my legs felt trashed halfway up. Although leading the group into the hill I ended up last to the top. Fortunately, things improved as the race wore on and by the 3rd and 4th laps I was able to lead the group over the top maintaining my position and going hard enough to drop a number of racers in our group. This past week a similar event occurred only I missed the break of the day which occurred on a short but relatively steep hill. Again, later on in the race I found myself able to go quite hard on the hills leading a chase that eventually allowed my group to bridge with some of the stragglers from the earlier break.

Hills have typically been my strength and I have done plenty of climbing workouts this year. These workouts are typically based upon my doing a series of 9-12 hard climbs of varying lengths (.5 - 2 km; I live in Minnesota and that's about the maximum length climb to which I have access) with an approximately equal intensity from the start to the end of the climb. The problem I am experiencing appears to primarily occur when hard accelerations and/or hills appear early in a race but I admit it might also lie with the intensity of the accelerations and the fact that I am more of a power climber than someone who can put in hard, short accelerations. Based upon your response to the mountain biker, I have begun to incorporate shorter, high intensity intervals into one of my workouts each week as suggested in your response. My first question is as follows:

1) Since the problems I am experiencing with accelerations appear to be occurring mostly on hills does it make sense to do these intervals on hills or should I continue to do them on the flats?

I also wonder, however, if at least part of the problem isn't a result of my not warming up properly. My current warm-up routine is not nearly as structured as the one you provide but includes approximately 30 minutes of warm-up with the intensity increasing gradually over the time period and 3-4 short (i.e., 15-30 seconds) high intensity sprints. Unfortunately, giving the nature of our racing here, I often find myself standing around for 15-20 minutes or more after I have completed my warm-up between the time that the first groups start and my group goes out. Bringing along a trainer may help in some situations, but oftentimes, I'm parked a sufficient distance away from the start that this situation is not going to work unless I take the chance of leaving my trainer out by the start for the duration of the race.

My questions in this area are:

1) Are the warm-up suggestions you provided in response to Larsson's comment as applicable to a 50-80 mile road race as to a mountain bike event, and

2) Wat type of protocol can one follow to minimize losing most of the benefits of a warm-up while standing around waiting for a race to start if one doesn't have access to a trainer and the course if off-limits.

Brian Abery
Minnesota U.S.A.

Dario Fredrick replies:

Yes, the warm up recommended applies to any fast start race, even if the overall race distance is greater. The importance of a proper warm up is not only to warm up the blood, but to bring the high-end muscle fiber and energy pathways "on-line." Have everything else you need ready for you to race when you begin your warm up, so that you can minimize the time between the end of your warm up and the race start. There is not much you can do about delays in sending you off when you're already lined up with your group to race, but as you roll out, you can also spin at a high cadence to keep the legs warm without prematurely fatiguing.

Within your specific training approach, when you practice the seated accelerations, you can do the efforts while climbing a steady grade (gradual to moderate). Climb at an easy to moderate tempo, then perform a 15-20 second acceleration in the saddle. Continue climbing after the effort, but maximize recovery to maintain the highest quality of each successive effort. Do 2-3 accelerations on a single climb, the descend back down and repeat the climb with these accelerations for a total of 3 times.

Warm-ups #2

I have read about accepted practices for warming up before a race, but there is one crucial detail I am lacking: how long before the start of the race do you stop the warmup? Particularly when the race is a time trial, how much or little time do you leave between the end of a warm up and the start of the race? And, as a related question, how long once I have started the time trial should it take for my heart rate to reach my target heart rate for the race?

Thanks for your help - I find this column to be one of the most interesting around!

Joe Antonelli
Yorba Linda, CA, USA

Dario Fredrick replies:

Ideally, you should finish your warm up as close to the start of the race as possible. As I mentioned in my previous response (4/26) regarding warm up, while an effective warm up is one which includes brief efforts recruiting the highest force muscle fiber (10-20 sec supra-threshold), the end of a warm up session should in essence be a spin-down recovery from those efforts. The legs should feel warm and "open," but not fatigued. Having everything else ready for you to race before hand (equipment, race number, food, bottles, etc.), will reduce the time you'll need between finishing your warm up and your race start. If outside temperatures are cool, after you finish your warm up, keep extra clothes on until the last possible moment to stay warm, particularly the legs.

Regarding your heart rate (HR) question during a time trial (TT), HR response time depends on the length of the TT, quality of the warm up, and temperature. A shorter TT, such as 5-10km, will clearly be a more intense effort than distances of 20-40km. A power output than is sustainable for only 6-10min will tend to elicit a faster HR response than a 30-60min sustainable effort. Typically, for the longer TT's, HR can take as much as 3 to 5min to fully respond to the average power. A proper warm up can reduce this delayed response somewhat. An exception would be if you start out too hard (which is the most common error cyclists seem to make), trying to get HR up, prematurely entering a fatigue state where sustainable power is compromised. While HR will rise rapidly and tend to stay high, power can drop considerably, despite what the HR monitor suggests about the effort. I often advise athletes to go slightly easier than they feel they can for the first third of a TT, increasing their effort slightly for the middle third, and to give everything for the final third.

Assuming proper hydration (the opposite of which will artificially inflate HR), another factor that can affect the HR response is temperature. Since the body is continually working to maintain a narrow range of core temperature, and the majority of energy liberated while cycling is lost as heat, the cooling mechanism can directly affect HR. As the body heats up, more blood is circulated to the skin's surface to be cooled via the evapoation of sweat. While power output may be unchanged, HR increases to compensate for this increased blood demand. So a moderate to longer TT in cool weather may see a more delayed response in HR to suatinable power (3min or more), while hotter temperatures will tend to reduce the delay.


I'm a cat 3/40+ road racer and I have a question regarding hydration and the obverse, issue is this- after evening training rides especially, I hydrate of course. I am particularly attuned to hydration due to a bout with dehydration last summer when I had to take a couple liters intravenously...not good. The problem with this evening hydration is that I have to wake and pee like 3 or 4 times in the middle of the night. Is my body not really needing the fluids I take in? Also, it's not like I'm drinking gallons and gallons of H2o...I'd say maybe 20 or 30 oz.. I was told at a physical late last year that I could use some more sodium in my there a relationship here? Sodium being connected to the retention of fluids...If so, is there such a thing as a sodium pill to take before or after workouts? Thanks for reading!

Dave in Philly, PA

Pam Hinton replies:

You are wise to pay attention to rehydration after a training ride since most athletes do not consume enough fluids during their workout to replenish the fluid lost in sweat and respiratory losses. In general, you should consume 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during an exercise session. So the amount of water that you are drinking is certainly not excessive. It is recommended that you consume more fluid than was actually lost because of the phenomenon that you are experiencing, which is called "obligatory urine losses". When you consume a large volume of water within a short period of time, it can alter the concentration of sodium and other electrolytes in your blood. Your kidneys are designed to keep the concentration of the blood constant, so they respond by excreting the "extra" water. As a result, you have to get up three to four times to urinate every night.

So you are correct, there is a relationship between sodium intake and fluid retention. You can reduce the obligatory urine losses by drinking a beverage that contains sodium and by eating a meal that is high in sodium after your workout. Foods that have a high sodium content are pretzels, pickles, pizza, cheese, tomato sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. There are sodium pills on the market, but in most instances they are not necessary since sodium requirements can easily be met through diet.

In addition to hydrating after your ride, make sure to consume adequate fluids beforehand. Drink 16 ounces of fluid two hours prior to your workout and attempt to drink 8-12 ounces every 20 minutes during the ride. If your ride is longer than one hour, you may want to consume a commercial fluid replacement beverage that contains carbohydrates and sodium. The carbohydrate will help maintain blood glucose levels and preventing "bonking". The sodium increases the palatability of the beverage so you are likely to drink more fluid than if you were drinking plain water. The sodium also reduces the risk of hyponatremia, the condition where blood sodium levels become too low and performance deteriorates rapidly. This condition is quite rare and most often occurs in marathon and ultra marathon type events lasting longer than four hours and in individuals who ingest a large volume of fluid without electrolytes.

Maximum heart rate

I am a 21 year-old male, 5'11", about 155lbs. I've been racing for about two years, both in sprint triathalons and as a Cat. 4 road racer. I consider myself fairly in shape, I train about 8-10 hours a week on the bike, with another 2-3 hours of running or swimming. It seems to me, from reading fitness articles and speaking to other riders, that I have an unusually high maximum heart rate. If I'm on a difficult climb in a racing situation (or when i'm about to get dropped by the group), my heart rate will easily be over 190, and i've seen it go over 200 before as well. I haven't ever done any specific training to try to lower it, i just assumed that it would start to go down on its own. My questions are, will my maximum heart rate start to decline, and if so, why hasn't it already? Also, is such a high max heart rate a problem? When I'm about to get dropped by the group in a race, and my heart is at 190 bpm, I always assumed I was struggling because I wasn't fit enough. Is it actually the other way around?

Bryan Pennington
St. Louis, Missouri

Scott Saifer replies:

There's nothing good or bad about a high maximum heart rate. Some people have smaller hearts that beat faster. Some have larger hearts that beat slower. It is true that in general the maximum heart rate will decline about 6-10 beats when you go from mildly trained to well-trained by doing steady-paced training well below your lactate threshold.

Take note that if your maximum heart rate suddenly decreases by more than the above 6-10 beats per minute, there is a good chance that you are fatigued.

Rather than worry about your heart rate being high or low, I'd suggest focusing on how fast you ride on given terrain at any given heart rate. This can be increased by improving fitness, improving your position for power generation, decreasing your aerodynamic drag, losing weight (if you are interested primarily in climbing speed), or drafting more.

Glass of wine

I would like to have a glass of wine with dinner but I am concerned about the effects it would have on my cycling development. I am aware of the effects of alcohol on muscle mass, recovery and other aspects of athletic performance, but I am not sure of the quantities that must be consumed before the effects are significant. Generally I cycle every other day so should I avoid alcohol the on days I workout and enjoy a glass of wine on my off days?

Derek Columbus

Pam Hinton replies:

You have no reason to be concerned about a glass of wine with dinner. The amount of alcohol in one glass of wine will not negatively affect your training or performance. The second part of your question relates to the timing of when you drink relative to your training rides. Since you are only drinking one glass of wine and are drinking it at dinner, which is presumably after you ride, there is no reason to avoid alcohol on your workout days. On the days you ride, I would recommend that you eat 70-100 g of carbohydrate within 30 minutes after you are off the bike to replenish your glycogen stores. Follow that up with a nice dinner and a glass of wine.

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