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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 24, 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.
HRMs and reported energy expenditure
Post race rest & recovery
Short, steep hills
Cleat position and knee soreness
Caloric intake while riding & recovery
HRMs and reported energy expenditure
I've just bought myself a Polar HRM.
One of the functions it provides is to report a value of the energy expended
for the measured exercise effort. The personal parameters that are set on the
HRM are from the internal fitness test function (ie the predictive VO2 not from
a lab test) plus weight, age, etc.
I was wondering just how accurate the energy expended measurements are likely
to be -- are they within a reasonable figure, say +-10% or are they just a wild
Scott Saifer replies:
I remember reading study a few years ago that looked at oxygen consumption
during endurance exercise and during resistance training at the same heart
rate. Resistance training used roughly half the oxygen and half the calories
of cycling at the same heart rate, so the heart rate monitor certainly cannot
be accurate in judging calorie expenditure across such different types of
activities. Later in a ride if you experience cardiac drift (higher heart
rate for the same power output), the heart rate monitor would again not be
able to accurately measure calories expended.
I have to admit not knowing how the monitor figures your VO2max from anything
it can possibly measure, so I hesitate to say that it's also not accurate
while you ride while fresh, but my inclination is to say that the numbers
it gives are close to wild arse guesses, though probably proportional to the
true values. On a day when the monitor says you've used twice as much energy
as on another, you probably have, just not the numbers of calories it suggests.
Post race rest & recovery
After every race I've had (especially crits), my heart rate always stays considerably
elevated, impeding my attempts to take a post race nap. I usually manage to
fall asleep after a good half-hour of fidgeting, and I always wake up a couple
of hours later with my heart thundering in my chest, and not feeling as rested
as I would like to be. I know to do some easy spinning for cool-down after every
race, and although such makes my legs feel good, it fails to change the fact
of my agitated cardiovascular system. Do you have any suggestions about what
I could do to alleviate my problem? Also, since I'm a fledgling med student,
can you explain some of the underlying physiology as to the problem and its
I'm a roadie, cat 4 (hopefully a 3 by the end of the season), male, 22 years
old, 130 lbs, 5ft 6.5in and I like everything but long boring road races.
Dario Fredrick replies:
Assuming that you are properly hydrated, the cause of your elevated heart
rate (and feeling of agitation) is stimulation of sympathetic drive, also
known as the stress response. Specifically it is stress hormones released
by the sympathetic aspect of your autonomic nervous system that elevate heart
rate. Have you noticed that even at the start line of a race your heart rate
is significantly elevated?
An intense physical effort, especially one that is stressful to both the
body and the mind (i.e. criterium) stimulates the stress response, which evolved
in humans as a "fight or flight" mechanism of survival. The problem with the
stress response is that it literally stresses our bodies (creating subtle
damage), and overstimulation over time can lead to fatigue, burn out and an
As fitness improves, the stress response to intense exercise is reduced.
Conversely, an insufficient preparation phase of aerobic/muscular endurance
training before entering the racing phase can result in overstimulation of
the stress response, potentially leading to premature burn out. You may want
to look back to see how your training time leading up to racing has been spent.
If you missed out on the important adaptive aspects of a proper base period,
it's never too late to take a break from racing and refocus on this essential
area of training.
Also helpful in reducing sympathetic drive (stress response) is to stimulate
its counterpart, the parasympathetic nervous system (resting & recovery).
One very effective method is by practicing restorative yoga. There are numerous
yoga postures that stimulate parasympathetic activity, thereby reducing the
stress response and stimulating recovery. One example is a simple forward
bend that I recommended for another Fitness Q&A inquiry to reduce post-ride
Seated Forward Bend: Sit on the edge of a blanket or firm pillow in a comfortable
cross-legged position (if you can do half-lotus, that's fine too). Take an
elastic ace bandage and wrap it lightly around your head and over your eyes
(with eyes closed). Be sure it's not too tight. Bend forward and rest your
forehead at whatever height it will easily reach -- if not the floor, use
the seat of a chair or a book. If it creates discomfort in the knee of the
tighter hip, prop something (a book or folded blanket) under that knee. Stay
in this position with your head supported for 1-5 min, breathing evenly through
your nose. Inhale as you sit back up, change the cross of your legs and repeat.
I am an 18 year old junior cyclist and lately I have been experiencing slight
tiredness and sore, often achy legs. I took one week where I rode three days
and took four off and the days I would ride would be an hour easy. After a week
and a half of that I don't feel any better and when I finish the one-hour rides
it feels as though I just rode four or five hours. Before I felt like this I
was doing 16-18 hour weeks with low intensity during the week and racing on
the weekends. I managed about 15-20 hours during the winter of base mileage
as well. I have been riding since mid-October.
I went in for a blood test and everything is normal, including a Lyme test,
mono test, and others tests which could explain for my symptoms including a
look at my iron levels. Everything is normal. I have been taking a multi vitamin,
b complex, iron, garlic and vitamin c and I cant say that any of it has had
an improvement on my legs feeling like I just rode 100 miles.
I dont think I am overtrained as I was not doing an amount of riding which
would lead to overtraining and I have taken a week where I should have at least
seen an improvement in my condition. Whats going on?
Pam Hinton replies:
A couple of things could be contributing to your fatigue. The first possibility
is that your body is just going through the normal adjustment that occurs
with a shift from low-intensity to high-intensity and racing. This is more
likely to be the case if this is your first competitive cycling season and
if you are new to endurance sports. High intensity training rides and races
cause much more muscle damage and require longer recovery periods than base
miles. Continue to allow yourself regular rest days and your overtraining
symptoms will get better with time as your body adapts.
The second possible explanation for your fatigue is your diet. I find it
interesting that you list the dietary supplements that you take, but don't
mention what foods you eat. If your diet is lacking in energy, carbohydrate
or protein, none of the supplements you mentioned are going to help you. In
fact, if you are meeting your energy, carbohydrate and protein needs, you
won't need to spend money on pills. You will have consumed more than enough
B-vitamins from carbs, iron from meat, and vitamin C from fruits and vegetables.
Your energy needs will be higher than those of an adult cyclist who trains
as much as you do, if you are still growing. You probably need 4,000-5,000
kcal per day if you ride about 15-20 hours per week. The amount of carbohydrate
and protein that you need depends on your body weight. Because you regularly
train and race at high intensity and you are still gaining muscle mass as
you grow, you need 1.6-1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight. 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.
You need 6-10 g carbohydrate per kg or body weight to keep your liver and
muscle glycogen stores topped off. Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, and brown
rice are the best sources of carbohydrates because they haven't had the vitamins,
minerals, and fiber removed in the refining process. To give you some idea
of how that translates into food, a bagel has 60 g carbohydrate, one cup of
oatmeal has 20 g, one cup of cooked rice has 50 g, and 1 cup of cooked pasta
has 30 g.
Pay attention to the food you eat, continue to take easy days and see if
you don't feel rested and ready to go after 2-3 weeks.
I've recently acquired an interest in racing track. What is the age range where
one can be competitive?
I just turned 37 in great shape, train hard and have some strong abilities
but am I too old to be a threat to the younger riders?
Brett Aitken replies:
I hope not, I'm not far behind you at 33! Seriously though I think you've
got some good years ahead of you. If you're looking for a couple of good examples
then have a look at the Aussie track legend 'Danny Clarke'. I remember racing
my first Madison World Championship with him in Colombia when I was 24 and
he was 44. Also 'Etienne DeWilde' was 41 when he run second behind Scott and
myself at the Sydney Olympics.
Whenever I think I'm getting old I think of these two great champions and
realize I'm just a baby who's getting a bit lazy!
Short, steep hills
Short, steep hills are my greatest weakness. I can hang in there on fast pace
lines, do reasonably well on long climbs, and can turn in a fast finishing sprint,
but get dropped off the back more times than I wished on quick charges up short
hills. I either expend too much energy to catch up or am unable to at all. Besides
practicing on the same, what specific training can help me improve in this area?
Brett Aitken replies:
You are suffering from a deficiency in your training which focuses on your
anaerobic system. The best way to improve this is to work on sessions which
build anaerobic capacity and power. These are normally efforts between 1 and
2 minutes long and are real killers because they flood your body with lactic
acid and make you feel like throwing up if your body isn't used to them.
Start by adding in at least one session a week of these in an interval format
which can be either done on the road or on an indoor trainer. Once you get
used to them you could add in more sessions then later on down the track start
work on developing the power aspect by increasing the recovery time up to
10:1 for 1min intervals and 5:1 for 2min.
I am a 26 year old category 3 male road racer, 6'2" tall, 145 pounds. I have
been racing for the past 13 years, putting in an average of about 6-7 thousand
miles per year on the bike, plus 70-80 hours of skate skiing during the winter,
along with weight work in the gym during the winter months. In my strongest
seasons, I weighed around 165-170 pounds. Four years ago, I lost a fair amount
of muscle mass due to forced inactivity and possibly also due to some medication
I had to take.
Last year, due to a change in my work schedule, I had to begin training early
in the morning after years of nearly always training in the afternoon or the
evening. During this time my weight dropped to 145, where it seems to have stabilized.
Before training (approx. 45 minutes before) I normally eat about 80 g. of carbohydrates
(usually 3 servings of oatmeal) with a spoonful of peanut butter. During training
I consume about 30 g. of carbohydrates per hour and stay well hydrated. After
training I eat a good sized breakfast with about 150 g. of carbohydrates and
40 g. of protein. Overall my diet consists of whole-grain foods, pasta, lean
meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables. I eat throughout the day averaging 3,000-4,000
calories per day. The ratio is about 70% carbohydrates, 15% fat, and 15% protein.
I ride 6 days per week, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours per ride, usually 10-15 hours
per week, depending on how much I am racing. One day during the week is for
intervals and the weekend is either racing or a hard group ride.
Am I missing something in balancing my training and nutrition that I have lost
all this weight? I schedule recovery into my training (one day of complete rest,
one day is a recovery ride) and I do not feel as if I am overtraining, as far
as I can tell. I began having knee problems four years ago and this year it
has gotten bad enough that I am now looking at taking some serious time off
the bike to let it heal. I have custom orthotics for my cycling and my everyday
shoes and I have my position on the bike checked yearly. Could the knee problems
be related to my low body weight? I have gone to see a couple of doctors, but
after running numerous tests nothing has come back abnormal.
Pam Hinton replies:
Let me preface my response by saying that muscle mass, like body weight,
is highly regulated. Each person has a set-point weight, which is largely
determined by genetics, that the body maintains over time. Some medications
can lower the set-point for lean body mass-think Lance post chemo. I don't
know the nature of your prior illness or what medicine you had to take, but
I suspect that you may still be experiencing the effects of the medical condition
and/or the treatment.
Your diet seems reasonable and meets the recommendations for carbohydrate
(6-10 g per kg of body weight) and protein (1.6-1.7 g per kg body weight)
for an endurance athlete who is trying to gain muscle mass. You might try
increasing your carbohydrate intake during rides to 60 g per hour and be sure
to take in 1.5 g carbohydrate per kg body weight within 30 minutes of finishing
your training (which it sounds like you do regularly) and again every 2 hours
for 4-6 hours. This will minimize any breakdown of muscle for conversion amino
acids into glucose. You could also increase your overall energy intake by
including more fat in your diet. Choose some foods that have a higher fat
content-like nuts and nut butters, full-fat cheese, and whole milk. While
the fat in these foods will not be used directly to increase your muscle mass,
the extra calories will prevent your body from having to break down your muscles
As long as your body is properly fueled by a balanced and varied diet of
fresh foods, I doubt that your knee pain is due to your low weight. Given
that the knee pain and inactivity both occurred four years ago, I suspect
that the problem is biomechanical in nature, perhaps due to a muscle imbalance.
Cleat position and knee soreness
This is a follow-up e-mail to your
posting of 22 March.
I have been struggling for the past 18 months with a similar problem to the
one in your posting.
I am a recreational, but socially competitive cyclist aged 31. My problems
originally started with exactly the symptoms described. Ache/pain in the pes
anserine bursa area in both knees. Since then the problems have spread to other
parts of my knees. I now have patellofemoral pain in both knees, an inflamed
tendon where it connects to the semitendinosus in one knee as well as stiffness
and creaking under the kneecaps - classic symptoms of chrondomalacia.
I have seen many specialists and therapists as well as many specialist bike
fitters and have had very little success. I have tried rest, had x-rays and
soft tissue scans among other things. Understandably I am rather frustrated
at this stage and considering throwing my bike in a dam and taking up golfing.
Here is a critical view on the classic treatment procedures for this injury.
I hope this is not too negative since I would be eternally thankful for some
Some of the problems I have had with bike fit and treatment put in relation
to the some of the answers you have in your posting:
1. Cleat position. My cleats are positioned so that the ball of my foot is
over the centre of the pedal spindle. The cleat angle is such that my ankle
bone just misses the cranks. I find this gives more or less equal float both
2. Saddle height is a very difficult one. There are many formulas and bike
position software packages out there. I have found huge discrepancies with these.
One of the mechanisms is the straight-leg heel should just about touch top of
pedal when it is at bottom with cranks in line with seat-tube. This differs
with up to 3 centimetres from settings I got from more than one bike shop with
computer software set-up programs. This mechanism also does not take into account
the size of your feet. Dario suggests 25 to 35 degree angle in your knee at
the bottom of the pedal stroke. The question is how do you measure this? Is
it the angle of the bones in the legs or is it the angle of the soft tissue
at the back of the leg or at the front? Further question is what your foot position
should be? Heel dropped, raised or level?
3. Saddle forward/backward. The rule of thumb is that the front of the knee
needs to be more or less over the pedal spindle. Reality is that this is a function
of femur length. By the time I have my knee in this position, I am sitting just
about on top of the bottom bracket. I seem to have very short femurs!
4. Stretching. How far and how much? Some therapists have told me I should
stretch more and others have told me I should not stretch at all unless it is
to tight - the tightness measured with some basic tests.
5. Pedalling lighter gears at higher cadence. I pedal at 90-100 RPM. I don't
believe it makes sense to pedal faster than this. As to lighter gears. If you
pedal lighter gears you go slower so this is not practical if you want to ride
with the rest of the people or consider racing.
6. R.I.C.E seems to work to some degree to treat the symptoms, but does not
help beyond that.
7. Floating cleats vs. non-floating. I have tried both. Non-floating seem to
make things worse. I could not work out a cleat position that did not seem uncomfortable.
I am now back to floating and am using the new Shimano SPDs.
8. Dave, your description of muscle imbalances and rotational forces match
my experiences. I have all the problems and symptoms you describe. The diagnosis
seems to be the easy part. Skilled therapists seem to be hard to find. Believe
me I have tried several in the UK and in the US. No luck so far. Treatment has
ranged from straight leg raises to strengthen my vascus medialus to trying to
change my pedaling technique.
Can you recommend any specific treatment or exercises I can do?
Dario Fredrick replies:
It sounds like you are facing a challenging situation with your knees, but
hopefully you don't need to toss out your bike just yet. I have seen athletes
experience improvements with similar knee problems with only small changes
in position. My suggestions in the response I gave on March 22 were very general
because it is difficult to do a quality bike fit without seeing the cyclist
in person. Nonetheless, I am pleased to clarify some of the position recommendations
* Cleat position: Some people find that moving their cleats slightly behind
the ball of the foot (2 - 5mm) is helpful in developing a more circular application
of force around the pedal stroke (torque), thus improving mechanical efficiency.
Ideally you would reduce peak torque without compromising power.
* Saddle height: My recommendation for determining saddle height is to measure
the angle of the knee using a goniometer with the foot at the absolute bottom
of the pedal stroke, keeping the heel at the height at which you would normally
pedal. Heel position at the bottom of the pedal stroke varies significantly
among cyclists, and there does not appear to be an advantage of one position
over another (raised or dropped). However, if you have the opportunity to
watch Gilberto Simoni pedal, you can see how well he appears to apply force
around the entire pedal stroke, even when out of the saddle. There is much
movement in his ankles, constantly varying his heel position. As I mentioned
before, this is a very general range, but you should aim for 25-35 degrees
(measured from the femur), with the higher end of the range (more bend in
the knee) if hamstring flexibility is a limiter. If hip flexion is a limiter,
you might consider switching to slightly shorter cranks (less 2.5mm).
* Saddle set back: The knee over the pedal spindle is a debated standard
and your legs are a good example why. Ideally, your knee should not bee too
far in front of or behind the pedal axle (<5 cm), with the crank arm horizontal
and the foot at the front of the pedal stroke. Try for a compromise between
set back (>3cm) and knee over spindle (± 5cm).
* Stretching: Since I teach Iyengar Yoga, my take on stretching is that improvements
in flexibility should not compromise joint alignment, but rather help improve
joint alignment and their natural range of possible movements. This includes
what you do with your spine while you stretch your hips or legs for example.
You can work up to daily yoga-based stretching, but without straining. In
other words, don't always go for maximum, but hold light stretches for longer
periods (30 seconds to one minute). I discovered 11 years ago that with yoga
I was able to rehabilitate a knee injury myself and then return to racing
my bike within a few months of the injury. Misalignment was the cause of the
injury, and even though it is always improving, I still work to align my knees
and hips today to balance my cycling. Perhaps Iyengar Yoga could work for
* Pedaling lighter gears. You mention that you ride 90-100 rpm. I assume
you referring to flat terrain. You can ride as high as 110rpm on the flats,
and on climbs 85-90rpm still maintaining efficiency. If you can ride at the
same desired speed (a given power output) but at a higher cadence, you have
reduced muscular force (torque) for that effort.
* Mechanical efficiency: You might also consider trying Powercranks (www.powercranks.com).
These are independently functioning crank arms, requiring you to develop muscular
force and coordination with each leg independently through the pedal stroke.
Powercranks expose the weak areas of your pedal stroke and help train them
Without seeing you in person, it is difficult to know what your pedaling
mechanics and position really look like but I hope the information here helps.
Best of luck.
Caloric intake while riding & recovery
I am a 5ft 10in, 147lb, 31 year old female racer, recently upgraded to Cat.
2, and want to ask about caloric intake while riding and recovery. I'd like
to drop 7-10 pounds to improve my climbing. I typically do a 3.5 - 4 hour hard
ride on Saturdays (either a road race or fast group ride), which obviously burns
many calories. I can do these rides on approximately 200 calories (typically
a sports drink) without feeling any hunger or fatigue, so I feel that this is
a good way to 'save' calories so that I can eat 'real' food later in the day
and still (hopefully) be in a caloric deficit for the day, which would contribute
to my weight loss goal. My husband, a Cat. 2 Masters racer with a BS in Nutrition,
says this is a bad idea and will compromise my recovery. He recommends consuming
two-thirds of the calories you burn while riding, which would be approximately
1000 for this type of ride, which sounds like a lot!
What is your view on the impact of caloric intake while training and its impact
on recovery? Any other thoughts on weight loss would be appreciated also. I've
already cut back on the 'extra' calories such as saturated fats, alcohol, and
sweets, but am hungry all the time, despite eating a healthy diet of lean protein,
good fats, and whole grains.
Pam Hinton replies:
Before I side with you or you husband on the correct number of calories to
eat during a ride, let's take a step back. While it is true that power to
weight ratio is a primary determinant of climbing ability, losing weight will
have a beneficial effect only if power is not decreased. In practical terms,
this means that you must lose excess body fat, and not muscle mass, for weight
loss to help your climbing. At 5'10" and 147 pounds, your body mass index
is 21 kg/m2, which puts you at the low end of normal weight for height. Losing
10 pounds, would put your BMI at 19 kg/m2 which would classify you as underweight
and put you at risk for losing power. Even the best climbers in the world
are not extremely light for their height: Armstrong (BMI=23 kg/m2), Heras
(20 kg/m2) or Horner (21 kg/m2).
You're correct, to lose weight you have to create an energy deficit. In fact,
it takes a negative balance of about 3500 kcal to lose one pound of body fat.
It sounds like you have chosen your approach, as opposed to your husband's,
for two reasons. First, you will create a larger energy deficit by consuming
200 kcal rather than 1000 kcal during the ride. Second, you prefer to get
energy from food rather than sports drinks and gels. You are right, that you
will have a larger caloric deficit at the end of the ride if you restrict
your intake, but that may not hold over the course of the day, which is what
really matters. You may actually end up consuming more energy in total, if
you restrict during the ride, arrive at home starving, and proceed to eat
everything in sight as soon as you walk in the door. I appreciate your preference
for "real foods" over sports drinks and energy bars. There is no reason that
you cannot get some of your energy from foods such as dried fruit, crackers,
bagels, and pretzels, during the ride.
To maintain blood glucose and prevent bonking, a person of your size needs
to consume 30 g of carbohydrate per hour during long rides. Since carbs have
4 kcal per g, this is about 120 kcal per hour. What will certainly compromise
recovery is restricting your energy intake after you ride. In order to replenish
your muscle glycogen, you need to take in 1.5 g carbohydrate per kg of body
weight within 30 minutes after your ride and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours.
So at your current weight of 66 kg, you need about 100 g or 400 kcal of carbohydrate.
It is a good idea to consume protein post-exercise as well. The amino acids
in the protein will be taken up into the muscle and used for tissue repair.
I recommend that you do the following experiment: increase your carbohydrate
intake to about 400-500 kcal for a 3.5-4 hour ride and monitor your energy
level during the ride and your appetite afterwards. You may find that you
actually feel better while training and aren't ravenous when you get home.
I take a small exception to the inaccurate references to the nutritional values
of tofu in Pam Hinton's response to the vegetarian reader asking how to gain
muscle mass in Fitness Q&A on 17 May, 2004. As a nutritional scientist, I would
have thought that Pamela Hinton would know more about tofu. She describes it
as a high-fat food in the same class as cheese, as well as containing incomplete
protein. In point of fact, tofu is 2 - 5% fat (most of it unsaturated) and is
one of the few complete protein foods (i.e. containing all essential amino acids)
in the vegetable world - therefore a low fat source of excellent protein, and
racing cyclists should therefore eat it by the bucket-load.
As a strict ovo-lactic vegetarian of some 17 years standing, as well as a former
amateur road-racer, I well understand the problems cyclists face in simply getting
the calories in to keep up with the demands of rigorous training and racing,
and concede that the job is much harder for vegetarians. As a road racer in
my mid-30's, I trained and raced up to 400 km/week on a completely vegetarian
diet and, largely as a result of the sheer difficulty of getting calories in
that Pam refers to, I saw my body weight drift over a three year period from
74 kg to 70 kg (I am 179 cm tall). This is a BMI change from to 23 to 21.8.
As I was never going to be any kind of a sprinter, I saw the benefits of this
in the hills, where I climbed competitively with cyclists in much higher racing
grades. I am not arguing with Pam's other analysis of the requirements for vegetarian
athletes, and accept these as being correct (I also think my BMI of 21.8 was
a bit low, as well). I just want to point out that you won't get fat eating
tofu, and that it really is a great source of complete protein.
Pam Hinton replies:
Thanks for your feedback on my response. Although I always have a colleague
proofread my responses for clarity, I guess my answer was misleading. I by
no means was saying that tofu is fattening. I was providing an underweight
athlete with suggestions on ways to increase his energy intake by choosing
the full-fat varieties of foods that he normally eats. As you know, there
are reduced-fat tofu products available and I was merely recommending that
he not select those. For example, a four ounce serving of firm tofu provides
about 120 kcal, 13 g protein, and 6 g of fat. In comparison, 4 ounces of silken
tofu has about 70 kcal, 10 g of protein, and only 2 g of fat.
I have followed a vegetarian diet for 12 years and eat many soy-based foods
because, as you note, soy provides the essential amino acids. In addition,
soy protein naturally contains compounds that reduce heart disease risk and
may have a beneficial effect on bone mass.
Just to set the record straight, tofu will not make anyone fat. Variety,
balance, and moderation are the keys to a healthful diet.
Cyclingnews fitness panelist Ric Stern is expanding Ric Stern Training and
is looking for for coaches at various levels to become associate coaches of
RST. Applicants should have: An Honours or higher degree in Sports Science (or
similar, e.g., exercise science, coaching science, etc.); a coaching qualification
and insurance directly related to the sport you wish to coach; and must have
competed or still compete at a minimum of category 3 level (or equivalent).
For more details see www.cyclecoach.com.
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