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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for June 20, 2005
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.
Eating after training
Chills in the summer
More hyperthyroid explanation
Ozone and Training
Eating after training
I have a question on how many calories I should be eating directly after training.
I typically train 1 1/2 hrs in the morning before work, and according to my
polar watch, I am burning approximately 1500 calories. I usually drink 1 to
1 1/2 bottles (180 calories) of a energy drink during the ride, and once I am
home I usually have a bowl of muesli with a banana (approximately 350 calories).
I then eat again 1.5 - 2 hours later, either an energy bar or more fruit. It
usually takes me until mid-afternoon to replace the 1500 calories I have used
in the morning's training session. I am taking too long to replace the calories,
or is enough that I have had a high carb meal within an hour of the training
session? If I do need to replace the used calories more quickly, do you have
any suggestions as to the types/quantity of food to be consumed for the first
1 - 2 meals after training? Thanks.
Pam Hinton Replies
Post-ride nutrition is an important part of the recovery process, but is
easily overlooked. Remember that not all of energy that you used during your
ride came from glycogen or blood glucose. Depending on the intensity of your
ride, approximately 20-40% of the energy will come from stored body fat. What
you want to focus on is replenishing the carbohydrate that you used so that
you can restock your glycogen stores. The optimal way to do this is to consume
1.5gm carbohydrate per kg of body weight within 30 minutes after exercise
and again every two hours for 4-6 hours.
Carbohydrates that are easily digested and absorbed, ie, high glycemic index,
will allow for rapid repletion of muscle and liver glycogen. Exercise increases
the rate of protein breakdown and synthesis in skeletal muscle and, with adequate
nutrition, it will have an anabolic effect on skeletal muscle. Carbohydrate
consumed post-exercise is beneficial because it reduces the rate of protein
degradation. However, to increase protein synthesis and achieve a net increase
in muscle mass, it is important to consume protein after exercise. Studies
have shown that consuming about 0.2gm of protein per kg of body weight per
hour during the first 2-3 hours post exercise results in net protein synthesis.
So, if we do the math, you are consuming approximately 70gm of carbohydrate
in the muesli and banana immediately after your ride and another 50gm in the
energy bar a couple of hours later. I suggest you eat an additional high carbohydrate
snack two hours later.
Assuming you weight about 70 kg, you probably would benefit from some additional
protein. If you put one cup of milk on your muesli, you are getting about
7gm of protein, which is only one half of the recommendation. If your snack
is an energy bar, you may get some protein. If you eat fruit, you need to
eat some protein along with it - yogurt, cheese, nuts, or nut butters would
be good choices. With a little tweaking, you will have your post-ride nutrition
perfected. Take care.
Hi there I have been diagnosed with 2 herniated disc between 4 and 5 , 5 and
6. I have been cycling for 10 years now and have had no problems until last
year when this happened. I took some time off the bike and did some swimming
over the winter to try to strengthen the back as well as other exercises, but
nothing seem to be working and is only getting worse. Now my problem is that
I live in Japan and am finding it hard to get a good physio so I need to do
things myself, can you suggest what would be best to do? I'm 173cm tall and
weigh 68kg I do about 10 races a year, as they are expensive over here, I don't
know what category I would be in I usually race age group, I'm 32 years old.
Thanks for your time.
Kelby Bethards Replies
Without looking at you, I can't be entirely accurate...but, another thing
to consider is to make sure you develop strong enough abdominal muscles. This
may be oversimplifying your problem. However a lot of cyclists develop very
strong back muscles - it's the nature of the sport - but not strong enough
abs. These compensate for the paraspinous muscle tightness and keep your spine
in a more anatomic position...thus reducing stress and strain on the spine
Chills in the summer
Last summer while riding I would get chills a lot. I wasn't cold but I would
get chill bumps on my legs and arms. This was a pretty common thing to happen.
I would usually just slow down and wait for them to finish and then finish the
ride. Last Saturday it started happening again.
Last summer I would wear my camelback (72 oz) and take a large polar water
bottle with Accelerade mixed w/ water. My fear was to be without water.so I
always had plenty of water with me. I have started using just water bottles.
This year I have changed to Hammer Heed (1.5 scoops) and Hammer Endurolytes
(1-2 scoops). Last Saturday at Roadkill Rally I took a large polar bottle w/
drink mix (Heed drink mix) in one, one large polar w/ Hammer Endurolytes and
one another small bottle w/ Hammer Endurolytes. It was a 60 mile ride and I
stopped and got water at a rest stop (filled my small bottle). By the end of
the ride I had consumed all the bottles plus the water from the rest stop. I
started getting the chills about 1.5 hours into the ride. During this time I
was riding as hard as I could. I was trying to stay with the lead group and
did so for awhile. When I got dropped I still tried to keep riding hard. The
ride took us 3.5 hrs. The chills seemed to come while I was trying to go up
some of the hills.
I drink enough water during the day. I have an office job and usually consume
approx 48 oz of water there. I drink water or chocolate milk in the mornings,
and drink water in the evenings. I am 5' 5" and weigh 123 lbs. During the summer
I usually ride about 10 hours per week.
Anyone have any knowledge of this problem or point me in the right direction.
Pam Hinton Replies
You have discovered the importance of getting fluid and electrolytes into
your blood and not just into your body. Despite your valiant attempts to replenish
the water and sodium lost through sweat, you both seem to have been afflicted
by dehydration and exertional heat illness. You describe the classic symptoms:
chills, cessation of sweating, nausea and bloating. There has been quite a
lot of research done to determine how to optimize fluid absorption during
exercise and to reduce the risk of dehydration. What you drink, how much you
drink and how often you drink it, all affect your body's ability to absorb
Ideally, you want to consume enough fluid to replace what is lost in sweat
and urine in order to prevent dehydration. This requires that you drink early
and often. You need to drink early in the ride, because dehydration slows
gastric emptying which then exacerbates the dehydration. You need to drink
often in order to keep up with the losses. Fluid needs will vary with individual
sweat rates, degree of heat acclimatization, and environmental conditions,
but the general recommendation is that athletes consume 8-12 ounces every
15-20 minutes during exercise.
Those of us who live in climates where are there are significant seasonal
changes in temperature have to acclimatize to the heat every summer. During
the first week of warmer weather, you will sweat more on a given ride than
you would when the temperature is mild. As you acclimate, the sweat rate increases
so your body cools more readily. The composition of your sweat also changes.
As you spend more time in warm temperatures, the amount of sodium in sweat
decreases. As a result, we are not as susceptible to dehydration and heat
exhaustion after 10-14 days in the heat. The composition of the beverage that
you consume while riding also will affect the rate of fluid absorption. Drinks
that are 6-8% carbohydrate will be absorbed most rapidly, while allowing adequate
carbohydrate to be consumed in a reasonable volume, ie, 1 litre of a 6% carbohydrate
solution consumed in one hour would provide 60 g of carbohydrate per hour.
Beverages containing glucose, sucrose, and glucose polymers are preferable
to those containing exclusively fructose or those with a fructose concentration
greater than 2-3%. The downside of fructose is that the absorption rate is
slower and the fructose that lingers in the intestine may cause gastrointestinal
distress. (More stops at the gas station, if you know what I mean). When riding
for extended periods of time, especially in hot and humid conditions, it is
important to drink a beverage that includes some sodium (0.5-0.7 g sodium
per liter). The sodium increases voluntary fluid intake and reduced the risk
Give your body time to adjust to the heat. Each of you were putting in a
hard effort (race or trying to keep up with the guys) when you got into trouble.
After riding a couple of weeks in the warmer temperatures, you should be ready
to put the hammer down again--as long as you keep hydrating.
A question for Kelby Bethards regarding your response to Vic on breathing.
You suggested the possibility that he may have experienced exercise induced
asthma. I experience, probably most noticeably in climbs but also at times in
hard efforts, an inability to breathe that I simply cannot explain. If one is
experiencing exercise induced asthma, how is that determined and how is it treated?
Cookeville, Tn USA
Kelby Bethards Replies
In order to best determine if you are having bronchospasm, it may be difficult
to 100% know if it only happens on the climbs.
One way to actually test this out is to see your MD, and get from him/her
a peak flow metre. Looks like a plastic cone, like an old days rain meter.
Explain to your doc what you are up too. Otherwise you may be able to get
a peak flow meter from the drug store. This way this works is to measure your
highest air flow rate you can produce. Do it 3 times and keep track of the
values...they should be all about the same range. The best way to do it is
to completely exhale, as much as you can, then take a deep breath and blow
HARD. It doesn't measure how long you can exhale, just the force of which
you can exhale.
Why is this important you may ask? Well, with bronchospasm (Exercise induced
asthma), will limit your ability to do this well. So, measure your peak flow
while you feel "fine". Then, you could take it in your jersey pocket (it is
small enough) to the climbs in question and use it again. If your peak flows
have not changed, then I would say you do not have exercise induced asthma
and it's more of a conditioning problem.
If it is EIA, then there are many meds used to treat it. I have had the best
luck treating EIA with just the simple Albuterol inhaler, but also with Singulair
(pills) and with other types of inhalers..that part is sort of trial and error.
A lot of the physicians I know start with the albuterol inhaler, but Singulair
real close behind in my practice (especially if there is a seasonal allergy
problem at the same time).
The last two posts (May 23 and June 6) on Powercranks were interesting. I bought
Powercranks (PCs) a little more than a month ago, and am using them full time
on a Cardgirus trainer and a road bike. I have about 24 workouts on them and
they occupy my thoughts. The experience has been mentally and physically exhausting
and fascinating all at once (the body as experiment).
The issue of "under-recruitment" of glutes and quad requires more explanation.
The perception of under-recruitment has a basis in fact. When you pedal with
PCs at low power (yawn), most of the work being done is lifting your leg on
the pedal stroke recovery. Once lifted, you conceptually are just "tossing"
your leg back onto the pedal for the downstroke. There really isn't much actual
pushing you have to do. Gravity does the work.
I wandered around the house and found a chair (actually the toilet) where in
a sitting position, my thighs and arms were in a position similar to on the
bike (at the top of the pedal stroke). I put a scale under my feet and tried
to weight my hands (on a stool in front) and butt like it feels on the bike.
Not scientific or particularly repeatable, but good enough for conceptualization.
I'm 186 cm and 75 kg, mostly leg and thigh, and it appears each leg is about
14-15 kg. That's the equivalent of ~250W just to lift the leg. There's a lot
of simplification here but go with the concept.
Once you exceed your "weighted power", then you become aware of normal pushing
down on the pedals...except of course you don't lift the upstroke leg with the
leg that's on the downstroke. While I suffer at a measly 200W to get my cadence
up, it really isn't any harder to pedal at 300-325W (more like I used to). The
upstroke power doesn't change (lifting your leg is lifting your leg), but the
downstroke power increases and, voila, no more under-recruitment.
This also explains my initial PC impression that I had to dial up the power
on the Cardgirus to pedal the damn things at all. On my first PC workouts, I
was just trying to spin (easier than recovery), but my legs weren't used to
the "opposite logic" of working on the upstroke and basically coasting on the
downstroke (letting gravity to its thing). On normal cranks, when you're just
spinning/coasting, it's clear to me we're significantly "back-weighting" the
upstroke. The downstroke leg is pushing harder than it needs to, but since the
total demand is very low, you never notice.
I don't know yet if I'm actually going to be better than before as measured
on the Cardgirus (my aerobics have taken a beating because of reduced volume),
but I'm game to try and I'm having a lot of [painful] fun to boot.
San Mateo, CA
Scott Saifer Replies
I like your analysis, particularly your calculation that simply getting the
weight off the back pedal and dropping it on the front pedal gives you somewhere
around 250 Watts. That certainly explains why riders who spin smoothly with
an unweighted rear pedal outride those who have yet to achieve that goal,
and also why simply training in a particular power-zone doesn't mean that
you are training to produce that level of power in an optimal way.
More hyperthyroid explanation
This is in relation to why someone with thyroid problems will not be a good
I am a cat 4 masters 35+ racer from New England who was diagnosed with graves
in 1999. In 2002 they performed radiation treatment to knock down my T gland;
the doctor advised me I needed to do a lot of vigorous exercise. I have been
racing since; admittedly it took a long time to get back in shape, but I'm doing
ok in the cat 4 races and training races and am starting to be able to finish
the (much) harder masters 35+ races with the field. So why is it that someone
with Graves won't do well in cycling? I can ride 5-6 hours a day no problem,
etc. I ride 15 hours a week and commute to and from work and race 2-3 times
a week from March through December. Admittedly I don't have a sprint, but I
thought that was because I don't train much for sprinting - I'm more interested
in personal bests in stage races like the Longsjo and Green Mountain. Please
let me know as you have really whetted my curiosity.
Kelby Bethards Replies
I will include an article about hyperthyroidism, but I am sure you have read
a bunch about it already. It may help explain some of my brief 'monkey brained'
Graves Disease usually starts out as a hyperthyroid problem, that can either
cause the thyroid to poop out or needs treatment to "throttle it back". In
either case, many times people become hypothyroid (low thyroid levels, high
SO, a person with TREATED thyroid problems should be a fine cyclist. Untreated
thyroid troubles on the other hand could limit ones full capabilities. HOW?
Well, let me try to tell you. The way I think about to simplify it for myself
is as follow: I think of the thyroid as the energy regulator for the body
- like a carburetor for a car - if it is TOO HIGH (high T3, T4 : Low TSH)
its like a car idling at 2500 rpm all the time, your body would be burning
energy reserves just sitting around, causing fatigue, heat intolerance, weight
loss etc because the body's metabolism is running way "too high", and burning
up more energy for everything than it should.
On the flip side: If you have hypothyroidism (low T3, T4 : High TSH), it
is sort of the opposite. Now the carburetor can't hit redline and it's idling
too low, the opposite symptoms ensue......wt gain, fatigue (excessive sleepiness),
hair loss (all you bald guys don't get to use this as an excuse), even depression,
cold intolerance (when one shouldn't be cold). Low thyroid causes the body
to not use the energy stores or metabolize efficiently at all, allowing a
far less than maximal performance.
THE GOOD NEWS: As tricky and intricate as the thyroid hormone levels are
to understand, the treatments we have are pretty good and getting people back
to "normal". Once treated, the body can do what it needs to. As far as your
sprint goes, that might not have anything to do with your thyroid. As you
mentioned, it may be your physiology or training.
Firstly, let me say thanks for all the advice you have all been giving to us
poor humans trying to beat Lance and company. My question is simple, but I´ve
been given so many answers that I´m confused - what is the negative effect of
alcohol on cyclists in training? Thanks in advance.
Kelby Bethards Replies
The quick and simple answer to your question has 2 parts:
1. Alcohol dehydrates us. How? By acting on the "brain center" (turns off
ADH: Anti-Diuretic Hormone, which tells our kidneys to retain water) to cause
a diuresis (excess urination) even though we don't need to and it dumps a
lot of water from our blood volume...thus urine is clear when imbibing lots
2. Alcohol is broken down to an aldehyde byproduct which is a sort of toxin
to our system, making the body perform at a less than desirable level.
Pam Hinton Replies
I wish I could give you a simple answer, but there just isn't one. The effects
of alcohol on an athlete's training will depend on how much they consume and
when. Having a beer or glass of wine at dinner isn't going to adversely affect
your training. Consuming large quantities of alcohol will hurt your performance--especially
if you are imbibing less than 24 hours before your race or if you don't consume
That's the short answer, now here are the details…when ethanol is metabolized
in the liver, it forms acetate and acetaldehyde. ATP can be made from acetate
using the metabolic pathway by which ATP is made from fat. Acetate (like fat)
cannot be used to make glucose, so it cannot be used to replenish glycogen
stores. So, as long as you consume adequate carbohydrate with your beer, you
are still going to replenish your muscle glycogen. This was shown in a study
of well-trained cyclists who exercised for two hours to deplete their glycogen
stores and then consumed one of three test meals to look at the effects of
alcohol ingestion on glycogen synthesis in muscle.
The three test meals were: carbohydrate (CHO), providing 7gm CHO and 24 kcal
per kg of body weight; alcohol (A), providing 1gm CHO, 1.5 gm alcohol and
24 kcal per kg body weight; and carbohydrate + alcohol (CHO+A), providing
7gm CHO, 1.5gm alcohol, and 34 kcal per kg body weight. The alcohol, equivalent
to about 10 drinks, was consumed in the first three hours after exercise.
Muscle biopsies of the quad were taken 8 and 24 hours after the subjects finished
Although both groups that consumed alcohol had lower blood glucose levels
- at 8 and 24 hours - than the CHO group, muscle glycogen was lower only in
the A group. So moderate amounts of alcohol that are metabolized before you
go out for a training ride or race, are not going to hurt your fitness.
Trying to train with alcohol on board is another matter. The acute effects
of alcohol ingestion on performance tend to be negative and are dose-dependent.
Psychomotor function is impaired and small to moderate doses of alcohol (2-4
ounces of alcohol): slow reaction time; interfere with eye-hand coordination,
accuracy and balance; and make performing gross motor skills more difficult.
Alcohol causes vasodilation of blood vessels and loss of body heat, increasing
the risk of hypothermia when exercising in the cold. Another reason not to
drink and ride is that alcohol lowers blood glucose and decreases glucose
uptake by skeletal muscle, which means you're more likely to bonk. Take care.
I just pulled the interior part of my right quad muscle about 24 hours ago.
It's very tender to the touch and limits how far I can stretch my quad when
walking. I've never had a muscle pull like this before. My question is, I have
a 24 hour mtb. race in 6 days. Will I have enough time to recover and ride this
race? I'm 36, and I'm in good shape. I was planning to take this week off anyway,
do you think this is the right course of action? And what could I do to help
speed up the recovery? Thank you.
Kelby Bethards Replies
See what the other panelists suggest, but you may not be ready for the mtn
bike race in 6 days. These "pulls" can take a while to heal, sometimes weeks
and weeks. I would definitely suggest rest. I would also suggest anti-inflammatories...such
as ibuprofen 600 mg, 3 times a day for the next 10 days straight, pain or
Do not over stretch it right now...give it a few days to heal. Then you can
get back on your bike and just pedal around, see how it feels. If it hurts
quite a bit, I hate to say this, but you may want to skip the race…for fear
of doing more damage to that muscle group, causing a longer recovery and the
possibility of more chronic problems.
Ozone and Training
Not only is it finally hot in Phoenix, but we are getting the summer Ozone
Alerts. These alerts state that exercising during times of high ozone may cause
long term lung damage. What is your take on this; is it safe to train or just
do maintenance miles?
Scott Saifer Replies
I'm not the world's leading expert on this topic, but I did once participate
in an experiment that involved doing very low intensity exercise for three
hours in a gas chamber with ozone levels that corresponded to what the air-quality
measuring folks call moderately high concentrations. By the end of two hours
I had lost half my usable lung volume and couldn't take a deep breath without
coughing. By the end of the third hour I couldn't take anything deeper than
a normal breath without coughing. (By the way, this was a 'double blind' study
in which I rode in normal air on one day and ozone air another day. There
was no question which was which).
I don't know about permanent lung damage, but I do know that it took a week
for my lungs to feel normal again. I'd suggest following the standard advice
which says avoid times and places of peak ozone concentrations. Train early
in the morning before traffic time, and train beyond the edge of town in the
upwind direction if possible.
I am a 36 years old male and have been cycling pretty much my whole life. I
started racing BMX as a teenager, then Cross-Country mountain bikes in 1991,
Road in 1997 and Cyclo-cross and Track in the last few years. 2.5 years ago
I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I cannot find any information in regards
to the disease and endurance sports.
Since being diagnosed and following a very strict gluten-free diet, my recovery
has improved dramatically, but I still seem to suffer towards the end of long
Any information in regards to athletes with this disease would be much
Pam Hinton Replies
I am assuming that by "suffer at the end of the race" you mean that you are
experiencing gastrointestinal distress and, as a result, are not getting enough
fluid, sodium, and carbohydrates.
Celiac disease (gluten-induced enteropathy) is caused by ingestion of gluten,
a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In affected individuals, gluten
is toxic to the cells that line the intestine. Over time, consumption of gluten
results in loss of the absorptive cells that line the wall of the intestine
and a decrease in the activity of the digestive enzymes in the cells that
remain. As a result, an individual with Celiac disease will lose the ability
to absorb nutrients and weight loss will result.
The treatment for Celiac disease is a gluten-free diet, and as you mention,
the intestine will recover and the symptoms diminish if the diet is followed
strictly. In your case, even though your symptoms are markedly improved, you
may still have a decreased ability to digest and absorb nutrients. The disaccharide
(two sugars) sucrose is digested by the absorptive cells of the small intestine
into fructose and glucose. If the sucrose cannot be broken down, it will not
be absorbed and will remain in your intestine. Sugars that remain in your
gut cause gastrointestinal distress and do nothing to increase your blood
glucose concentration. I recommend that you drink a sports beverage that provides
carbohydrate in the form of glucose, which requires no digestion.
Fructose also may be problematic because it is absorbed relatively slowly.
Avoid hitting your gut with a large chunk of carbohydrate all at once, such
as could happen with ingestion of carbohydrate gels. Instead, sip from your
bottle frequently to lessen the amount that has to be absorbed. After a while
this might even become second nature. The celiac disease makes the cells of
your intestine more porous and likely to lose potassium and other electrolytes.
So be sure to include those in your sports drink as well. Take care.
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