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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.

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 June 14, 2004

Carbohydrates and the brain
Lowered Max HR
Calorie intake
Power output
Power output and Kilo split times

Carbohydrates and the brain

In reading Dr. Hinton's assertion that the brain's activities can be only supported by carbohydrates, I don't understand. Why can't the body just convert some fat and use those carbs to supply the brain?

Traditionally Eskimos lived on a totally carbohydrate free diet ( blubber and meat) and obviously survived with brain activity continuing. Before agriculture, (10, 000 years ago), regularly getting even 100 grams of carbs a day would have been very uncommon; I think.

Also, her recommendation of 400-500 grams of carbs a day just doesn't seem to be realistically low enough at all for someone like me (48 YO, 5'9" 173lbs, riding 8 hours a week). When she says that at 16-19 MPH one burns 1000 calories per hour, I think she is speaking from an elite cyclist's viewpoint. 19 MPH is a pretty high effort level for general training for me- I can't do that on an easy day. I'm only average or slightly below average (relative to the general population, not to racers.)

DR Caggiano

Pam Hinton replies:

Sometimes science just doesn't seem to square with common sense, and when that happens you can't blame people for just going with common sense. I do believe, however, that science wins this one.

In fact, the brain cannot use fat for energy because fatty acids cannot cross the barrier between the blood and the brain. Fat cannot be converted into glucose because we do not possess the necessary cellular machinery (enzymes) needed for the conversion. Fatty acids in our bodies can be used for four things: to provide a direct energy source for skeletal muscle and other organs; to make cell membranes; to make cholesterol; and, to be stored as body fat.

Energy that we consume in food has to be converted into a form that our cells can use. This usable form of energy is referred to as ATP, which of course represents a name that is so obnoxious-adenosine triphosphate-that even scientists rarely refer to it any way other than the abbreviation. When fatty acids are used by skeletal muscle they don't become glucose. They become ATP, which then provides the energy for muscle contraction.

There is, however, a mechanism by which fatty acids may contribute to the care and feeding of the brain, but it certainly will not apply to cyclists, and indeed, nor will it apply to anyone doing much upright walking. When the food supply is adequate, the brain will use about 100 g of carbohydrate per day. However, during starvation, i.e., fasting, the body undergoes many adaptations to conserve energy and spare protein. One of these adaptations is the production of ketone bodies, more commonly referred to as ketones. When there is inadequate carbohydrate available and the rate of normal metabolism is slowed, ketones are produced from an intermediary by-product of fat and amino acid metabolism. Over time, the brain, muscle, and other organs adapt and begin to use ketones for energy. For example, after 3 days of fasting the brain will use 100 g of glucose and 50 g of ketones. By day 40 of the fast, the brain will use only 40 g of glucose, but 100 g of ketones. This is a state, by the way, that should make bonking seem like a picnic.

And how about those stalwart Native Alaskans and other hunter-gatherers? These humans had to get by on gathered plant foods such as fruit, tubers, seeds, nuts, roots, and bulbs or animal foods that were hunted or fished. As you would expect, those who lived at higher latitudes had to rely more on animal foods because plant foods were hard to find on the arctic tundra. It is estimated that worldwide hunter-gatherers consumed 19-35 % of total energy from protein, 22-40 % from carbohydrate, and 22-40 % from fat. The Native Alaskans ate about 3000 kcal per day: approximately 50% from fat, 30-35% from protein, and 15-20% from carbohydrate. The sources of carbohydrate in the traditional Native Alaskan diet were seaweed, berries, and glycogen in fresh meat. So although the amount of carbohydrate in the diets of Native Alaskans was low, it was enough to meet the brain's requirement of 100 g per day.

Since cyclists are not in the habit of fasting and do not have to gather native plants or square off with polar bears for food, let's move on to carbohydrate recommendations to optimize training and athletic performance. During exercise, skeletal muscle has four primary energy sources: glucose stored as glycogen in the muscle, blood glucose, fatty acids circulating in blood, and fat stored as triglycerides in muscle. We are primarily concerned with blood glucose and muscle glycogen because when these fuel sources are depleted, fatigue hits hard and performance drops markedly. The glucose in blood (about 20 g) and in skeletal muscle (350 g) will last for approximately 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (60-70% of VO2max). Athletes who regularly train long enough and hard enough to deplete their glycogen stores are the ones who need to be vigilant about consuming enough carbohydrate. In cycling terms, this would be a ride lasting two or more hours at about 16-20 miles per hour, depending on your ability and fitness level. The recommendation of 6-10 g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight is the amount needed to replenish muscle glycogen stores, assuming they are regularly being depleted. So you are correct, 500 g of carbohydrate per day is more than you need on most days given the amount of cycling you do. However, if one of your rides is longer than two hours, or if you do long rides on consecutive days, you want to be sure to get more carbs on those days.

In general, the rate of energy expenditure during physical activity will depend on the intensity (this would be determined by speed, terrain, and wind resistance) and on your body weight. For example, cycling at 10-12 miles per hour uses 6 kcal/kg of body weight per hour, while upping the speed to 12-14 mph uses 8 kcal/kg of body weight per hour. Similarly, racing at >20 mph while drafting burns about 12 kcal per kg of body weight per hour, but without the draft it takes about 15 kcal per kg of body weight per hour to maintain the same speed.

Other factors, such as fitness level and age, will affect your perceived level of exertion during exercise at a given workload. For example, an elite cyclist will be working at a lower relative intensity than a recreational cyclist at a given speed. At 20 mph, the elite rider may be at 70% of max, while the recreational rider may be at 95% of max. In general, older athletes will be working at a higher relative intensity than younger athletes. This is because aging causes a loss of skeletal muscle mass and a decline in maximal oxygen consumption. It is important to note that training can preserve most of the age-associated loss of muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness.

This brings us back to one of those old common sense sayings that make perfect sense. In this case, the common sense actually jives with the science, but could use a bit of tweaking to really hit the mark-you've gotta use it to not lose as much of it.

Lowered Max HR

I'm a 32 year old, 215lb Beginner Mtn biker that has recently moved up to the Sport Category. I have won 9 races this year, and my max heart rate was 188bpm. I have the Polar 720Si, so the fitness test is very accurate. After moving up and winning my first Sport Race, my Max heart rate went from 188 to between 179-182. After my max HR changed I have not been able to ride at my normal level. I finished 9th and 10th respectively. I know that Sport Category is harder, but I'm not riding like my usual self. I have also done about 25 different fitness tests and I have not been able to get my max heart-rate above 181bpm. I plan to race the complete Fall Season in Sportin September, and I was planning on starting my training program now, since I have done a couple of races.

My question is, am I over-trained and just don't know it? Is there something to do to get my Max Heartrate back to my age, relatively? Should I take a break to allow my body to rest?

Scott Saifer replies:

There are at two possibilities here. It is not uncommon for a rider's maximum heart rate to decrease by 6-10 beats as he goes from recreationally trained to aerobically fit, so you might be experiencing that normal decrease. You may also be overtrained. The definition of over training that I use is that you have maintained or increased training and your performance has gotten worse. Feeling worse doesn't count though, you have to actually be slower. It's easy to feel that you've gotten slower when you move up a category and no longer climb the podium at the end of every race, so the important question becomes, do you have any objective measures of speed or power from the old you and the new you?

If you are actually slower or less powerful on the same training courses at the same apparent effort despite maintaining or increasing training, you are overtrained and need to take some recovery time and then train up again. For recovery time I'd suggest one hour per day riding with your heart rate below 70% of your new apparent maximum. There's no way to say how long you need to do this except to begin to do it and test periodically. True overtraining takes weeks or months to reverse.

If you are not actually slower or less powerful, you are not overtrained and should focus on improving your riding so that you can get the placings you want in sport races.

You haven't said how tall you are, but unless you are close to seven feet (2.1m) tall at 215 lbs (98kg), losing weight is probably one of the best ways to improve your MTB performance.

Calorie intake

I read the fitness column with interest each week. My question is, how do you determine the proper caloric intake? I'm 44, 6'1" and weigh 186. I normally ride 3 days per week for 2 - 3 hours each ride. I also add a 1 hour recovery ride in there. Currently I eat about 2800 k/cal per day. If I follow Pam's recommendation and eat 8gr of carbs and 1.3gr of protein per kilo of body weight, I would be eating 3125 k/cal if I didn't have fat in my diet. Add 30gr of fat for 270 cal and the total is 3395.

My rides encompass a variety of hills, flats and some good pacelines between 25 and 30 mph. Some days I do feel tired, but how do I know if my calorie intake is to blame or if I just worked harder than I thought?

Pam Hinton replies:

Determining energy needs is somewhat tricky because there is quite a bit of individual variation. Even if we have an estimate of how many calories we need to consume, there is quite a bit of error associated with evaluating dietary intake: over/under-reporting, various methods of food preparation, accuracy of food composition tables, etc.

Your energy needs include what it takes to maintain your vital functions, i.e., your resting energy expenditure, plus the energy cost of physical activity. The Institute of Medicine recently published formulas for Estimated Energy Requirement based on gender, age, weight, height and physical activity.

For males the EER= 662 - 9.53 x age (yrs) + PA x [15.91 x weight (kg) + 539.6 x height (m)]

For females the EER= 354 - 6.91 x age (yrs) + PA x [9.36 x weight (kg) + 726 x height (m)]

PA=1.25 if you are "Active" and 1.48 if you are "Very Active"

If you plug your age, height, and weight into this formula and use PA=1.25, you get about 3100 kcal per day. If you use PA=1.48, you get EER=~3700. So the recommendations of 8g carb/kg and 1.3 g pro/kg and ~10% of energy from fat put you in an appropriate range of energy intake.

My guess (and it is just a guess) is that you might feel better if you increased your energy intake above the current 2800 kcal, especially on the days you ride. Also, monitor your diet and see if you are getting enough carbohydrate. Be sure to eat 1.5 g carbohydrate/kg body weight within the first 30 minutes of finishing your long (2-3 hour) rides and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours. This will ensure repletion of your glycogen stores. Do an experiment. Try increasing your energy intake by about 500 kcal the days you ride, keep your training constant, and see if you feel better on the fast rides. Try this for at least a couple of weeks before you make any conclusions.

Power output

Hello, I am a Cat 3 cyclist, 20 yrs old, 146 lbs, 5 ft 8in. I recently bought a Cateye CS1000 indoor trainer/power meter. I saw the website which had a test for max power using power meters with a download capability. Unfortunately mine doesn't have that function. What I'm wondering is how should I test my max power so that I can determine my correct training zones with my given trainer.

Giancarlo Bianchi

Ric Stern replies:

Assuming that you're talking about my article and testing then there's a couple of ways around the issue.

Firstly, when you do the test, get a friend to stand nearby. They can then look at the readings that are coming off the CS1000 and make a note of them in the final 60 seconds. This will give you an idea of the correct figures. Additionally, they'll also be able to offer you vocal encouragement, which may lead you to a better score.

Additionally, if you time how long the test is and know the power that you started at and the increment rate, you can ascertain the approximate finish point. For example, if the test lasts for 10 minutes, and you used 25 W/min increments and you started at 100 W, your finish power will be approximately 350 W.

Power output and Kilo split times

With the world record kilometer time trial time at 58.875 seconds, what type of split times did the world record holder (Arnaud Tournant of France) do at 250, 500, and 750 meters? What was his average power output?

Fred Balliet

Ric Stern replies:

I'm not sure what his split times were. As regards his power output, it would be impossible to say exactly what his power was, as it would be dependent on many factors that I'm not aware of, e.g., altitude, air density, body height, body mass, his position on the bike, and the bike kit he used. However, at an *approximate estimate*, assuming that Tournant has a body mass of 90 kg, his average power over the kilo will be ~1000 W (or 11 W/kg).


I have tried several brands of sun block and no matter if they are "sweat proof" or "won't burn your eyes", they still burn. Does anyone out there know of a good sun block that won't irritate the eyes? Is it even worth it to apply sun block in the first place on rides longer than 90 minutes because you should reapply after 80 min, but there is no way I am going to stop to reapply sun block.

Rene Decquir

Scott Saifer replies:

I'd suggest applying sun-block only below the eyes, and a headband above. That will absorb sweat, keep the sun off the skin, and allow you to plug your sponsor one more time. If you are bald, try a bandana under your helmet.


Pam Hinton fails to mention that caffeine is a proscribed substance and relatively small amounts can lead to failing a drugs test! Maybe it's unlikely that your correspondent will need to worry about this just yet, but it is a factor people should be aware of.

Keith Richards
Leeds, UK

Steve Owens replies:

Recently, caffeine has been removed from the World Anti-Doping banned substance list. You can also find this list at,along with a useful athletes' guide. However, you should check with your National Anti-Doping Organization as well because it's very important to keep up with this kind of information.

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