Despite taking 2012 off the bike, I maintained an e-subscription to RoadBikeRider.com/. Good thing, because I continue to learn from this great newsletter. Here’s a relevant column on riding and nutrition. My main takeaway? The importance of starting a ride feeling fueled. I will often start a little hungry already, and figure that I will just eat on the bike. According to Diane Stibbart, I’m setting myself up to be even more hungry upon finishing the ride.
9. CADENCE: Women on Wheels
How to Avoid Weight Gain While Training
Question: I am preparing for a 600km ride, and I find that I’m so confused about my diet
that I have been putting on weight instead of getting leaner. My problem is that I still can’t
stop myself from eating a lot after a ride. Any hints for getting the body leaner while staying
healthy? Some say I’m overtraining, and others say I’m overeating because I know that I
can burn the calories.
Diane Stibbard Replies: Nutrition for cycling is confusing: there’s a lot of unclear and
conflicting information. Most cyclists are interested not only in getting fit, riding faster and
being more efficient, but also in using cycling as a way of staying lean and in shape.
Muscle weighs more than body fat, but you can tell if you’re putting on fat versus muscle by
how your clothes fit. If you see the scale moving up, but your clothes are fitting looser, then
you are changing your body fat to lean muscle mass. That’s good. The more lean muscle
tissue you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. Lean muscle mass burns
calories. Body fat does not.
However, total body weight does affect how effectively you can climb hills. The more you
weigh (whether it’s muscle or fat weight), the harder it is for you to climb, because you are
fighting gravity against mass (weight). So weight becomes a balancing act. To be strong
you need a certain amount of mass, but the lighter you are, the easier it is to climb. (It’s
the power-to-weight ratio at work; and that’s another topic for another day.)
Today, I’ll give you some tips and pointers on riding strong while maintaining a lean and
1. Always go into your rides well-fueled. Most of the calories should come from
carbohydrates, a small amount from protein, and few to no calories from fat.
Starting the ride well-fueled will prevent you from being too hungry when you finish. That, in turn, will help keep you from overeating.
2. If your rides are longer than 60 minutes, you’ll need to eat some food while on the
bike. In the first 45 to 50 minutes, eat a small amount. Do this every 45 to 50
minutes after that until the end of the ride. Eat energy bars, a banana or anything
that you can easily digest (100–120 calories, minimum, up to 200 calories). This will
continue to supply you with the energy you need to complete the ride, and prevent
you from getting too hungry at the end of the ride.
3. After finishing the ride, it’s important to have a recovery drink or some food within
15 minutes to top off your stores of glycogen (energy stored in the muscle). Again,
this will prevent you from becoming over-hungry, and overeating. The biggest
mistake I see cyclists make is thinking that they shouldn’t eat after their ride if they
want to lose weight.
To prevent weight gain and to set yourself up for tomorrow’s ride, eat a small recovery
snack after your rides. The following are examples of good post-ride-recovery nutrition.
Commercial Recovery Drink — Commercially available powders that are mixed with water
and stored in a sport bottle are a good and easy option.
Homemade Recovery Shake — Made from 2 cups of water, 1 scoop of protein powder (of
your choice), 1 cup of berries or 1 piece of fruit, and 1 teaspoon of nut butter. Blend until
An energy bar OR yogurt, fruit, and half a bagel.
The question of gaining weight and overtraining also comes up frequently, but the two don’t
necessarily go hand in hand. If you lack energy because you are overtraining (doing too
much without adequate rest), then you’ll reach for more food to compensate to offset the
lack of energy.
To determine if you are overeating because you are overtraining instead of being calorically
deficient, keep track of your morning resting heart rate (RHR). Your morning resting heart
rate is a gauge of your fitness level, as well as a fatigue monitor. If your morning RHR is
consistently 5 to 10 beats higher than normal, this could indicate that you’re overtraining,
or it could be a sign that you’re getting sick.
To establish your morning resting heart rate (RHR) upon waking, before you get out of bed
take your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply it by 6 (to give you beats per minute). Resting
heart rates vary for many different reasons, so track it daily for two weeks to get a baseline
The other way to ensure you aren’t overtraining is to periodize your training: allow for
recovery rides and recovery weeks. This structure will help you become fit and strong,
without getting sick or fatigued.
To summarize: Stay fueled, get lots of rest, and ride strong.
Diane Stibbard is a world-class duathlete who writes for www.WomensCycling.ca, which
contributes the Women on Wheels column that runs each month in RBR Newsletter.
Feels like I’m back to training mode. Pleasantly sore. Need to stretch. Could nap at any time. Ravenous*. Already stole the sandwich out of my lunch. Good thing a colleague is going to Trader Joe’s at lunch. I promise to get a salad!
*Hopefully legit – yesterday included a short morning run, Body Pump in the evening with heavier weights, and a challenging spin class this morning. Really trying to keep the hunger beast at bay when I haven’t “earned” anything extra.
EDIT – Holy crap. Good thing I’m feeling like I’m getting back into it. EIGHT MONTHS UNTIL IRONMAN LAKE TAHOE!!! (and 100 days until Wildflower Long Course)
- With more daylight – potential to incorporate more outdoor rides during the week. Thursday would be a good day to do an evening ride.
- Keep up with core and body weight strength exercises
- Climbing gym! Maybe try to go on a Sunday after my run?
- Weekend ride/run with SF Tri Club and other friends when possible
I subscribe to Chris Charmichael’s online newsletter (probably an accidental enrollment, but I haven’t unsubscribed, so he’s doing something right). His Happy 2013 message was “Weekend Reading: 13 Ways to Boost Fitness, Lose Weight, and Get Faster in 2013!” Who doesn’t want to do all of those things in 2013? Or, rather… today?
Points that I’m going to try to take to heart:
2. Get used to being hungry: Almost without exception, we can all afford to lose some weight. To do it, you’re doing to have to suck it up and go hungry. Stop gorging after long rides and workouts, eat smaller portions, skip desserts, etc. If you’re consistent, your body and brain will adapt to eating less.
*This sucks. But I’m working on it. Four days in bed with the flu and minimal exercise due to holiday travel and events means my stomach is already partially adapted to eating less. Need to keep this up as I re-introduce training (as the body allows with my flu recovery).
3. Commit to consistency: Training 4 times a week (ie. twice during the workweek and twice on weekends) is good. Five training days a week is great. Six may actually be too much for some athletes, and 7 is generally not a good idea.
*Getting in five to seven days of activity in a week is not normally a problem for me, but I’m out of practice. This is a good note that it’s okay for me to ramp it back up to five or six days – and that four is actually acceptable in the beginning!
9. Drop caffeine: Caffeine enhances athletic performance, but to get the biggest race-day impact from caffeine you don’t want a huge tolerance for the stuff. When you consume less caffeine on a daily basis, less caffeine is required to achieve an ergogenic benefit, so the relatively small amounts in gels and chewables will help you more.
* I knew it!!! I’ve been cutting caffiene from my daily routine in advance of big races for the past five or more years – and in 2011 switched to decaf for most of the year. I’m back on that plan and will try to have caffiene only when truly needed.
10. Fall in love with this workout: 3×10 SteadyState Intervals (3×20 for advanced riders), with recovery between intervals 5 and 10minutes, respectively. It’s not sexy or complicated, but sustained time-at-intensity increases sustainable power at lactate threshold. This the performance marker that leads to higher climbing speed, less taxing rides in the pack, and faster bike splits in triathlons. Intensity: 90-95% of CTS Field Test power, 92-94% of CTS Field Test Heart Rate, or an 8 on a 1-10 exertion scale.
* I will have to give this a shot. It will likely suck to do this on my own, but I’ll try to hide out in the back of class during spin and just knock it out. Guessing this should be done three times a month or so? I’ll start with once and see how it goes – after I’ve gotten myself back to a solid routine.