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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Cyclingnews is delighted this week to welcome Pamela Hinton to our fitness
Fitness questions and answers for May 3, 2004
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
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 (www.davepalese.com)
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 (www.trainright.com)
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 (www.velo-fit.com)
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
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
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 (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
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
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 (www.wholeathlete.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.elitefitcoach.com)
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
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.
Maximum heart rate
Glass of wine
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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, urination...my 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 diet...is 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?
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?
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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