Category Archives: Nutrition

Winter Training Continues …

After a couple of weeks in the gym, I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable. At first my entire body ached from working out underused muscles. Last week I even had to take a couple extra recovery days. Now I’ve come to the point where I no longer suffer afterward. My last session corresponded with a large Thanksgiving lunch celebration at work, so I did extra reps to burn off those calories and felt very little soreness. From here on out I will work on getting my butt to the gym at least three times a week and gradually increasing the load.

In addition to weight training, I have started watching what I eat a little more carefully. It is so difficult to lose weight while riding regularly, at least for me, that I am hoping to shed a few pounds over the off-season. I’m at a decent weight, but going into the spring maybe five lbs later would help immensely.

A new program requires a new diet. When riding, I had to make sure I ate enough carbs to keep my workouts fueled. That is no longer the case. I have been trying to ween myself off carbs with moderate success. What’s odd is now that I’m not riding, I’m not hungry all the time. Cravings are at a minimum. There are moments, sure, but it is tremendously easier to stick to a diet. So far I have not lost much weight, which is fine. I am not trying to drop quickly. I have three months to play with and the last thing I want is a crash diet where I lose weight, only to regain just as quickly over the holidays.

So far I have been off the bike for two weeks, and will remain on and off for awhile. There are a couple small rides planned over the Thanksgiving holiday. After that I will probably ride intermittently only with groups.

So what do I do to fill that hole? That’s a perplexing question and I don’t have an answer yet. I would certainly benefit from cross-training, especially swimming or running. Unfortunately swimming is not an option since I don’t have access to a pool, and have no desire to take on another monthly expense. That leaves running.

I hate running. Okay, maybe that’s a little strong. Part of me loves running and I used to do it all the time. The last time I ran seriously, I got hurt and that led me to the bike. That was a period of constant frustration, no fun whatsoever. I’m really not looking forward to trying again, but I may give it a go anyway. The strength exercises will help with injury prevention and I have been taking the occasional long walk just to get my calves loose. So far, so good. If this continues, I might find myself in a slow jog one day. I’ll just go with my body.

If I don’t run, and that is a distinct possibility, I’ll do gym cardio. That means a lot of time on elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, and occasionally treadmills.

This is my last post before Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with family.

State of the Weight

A couple months ago I set a goal to be at a weight 145 lbs by the Bridge to Bridge ride. With only 11 days to go, that’s definitely not going to happen. As of today I am at 150. If I keep a moderate diet over the next week and a half, there’s a chance I can get to 147, maybe 148. I could go on a hardcore or crash diet and drop that and maybe more, but that would not be wise. I would lose muscle mass, fitness and probably not have much energy left

Even though I didn’t meet my goal, I am now at my lowest weight since Mitchell. I overdid it during that recovery phase. I ate and ate, then ate some more. This went on for probably two weeks, maybe longer, and I put those pounds right back on. Lesson learned. After Bridge to Bridge, I’ll have a good dinner or two, then get back to eating well.

I have found that it is extremely challenging to lose weight while riding. As I noted awhile back, I planned to cut back on my fueling during weekday rides. That worked great during the week. I saw my weight seesaw and usually around Thursday it would be at its lowest. Then I would get ready for a big ride, add some carbs, and load up. After a big ride I am always at a higher weight. That is the body’s reaction to all that stress. It goes into conservation mode, and it takes a couple days to get back to normal. So I would make a little progress, lose it, make some more, etc. If you were to put my weight status in a line graph, it would look like a rolling hills heading gradually downward.

I am now in an earlier than planned taper period due to other plans. Tonight through Saturday I have evening events and will not be able to ride. On Saturday I was going to ride Assault on Little Mountain, but instead I will be volunteering. This is actually a good thing. I’ll probably sneak in a ride on Sunday and then do group rides on Tuesday and Thursday at a recovery pace. This will probably result in easier weight maintenance and maybe I will get lucky and meet my goal. It is a juggling act and I’m still learning the best approach.

Back on the Scale Again

I am officially registered for Bridge to Bridge. It is yet another mountainous century ride, beginning at Lenoir, NC and ending at the top of Grandfather Mountain. While the numbers are comparable to Hot Doggett, the layout is more like Mitchell. The only major difference is that the climbing begins about halfway with a 10-mile, category one climb, then a gradual climb to the top. Grandfather Mountain will be short and steep. I have heard it is anywhere from a 15-20% grade.

With just under two months to prepare, it is time for me to get back into a training mentality. I stopped weighing myself after Mitchell. I was careful to continue to make healthy food choices, but didn’t watch calories or watch for portion control. I just weighed myself yesterday and found that I am about six pounds heavier than I was in May. That is still a great weight for me, but to make the climbing easier, it would help if I gradually dropped a little bit. Now I am at around 152 and would like to be 145 by ride day.

Much of my training will be similar to what I did before, which worked great for Mitchell. The only change I’ll make is with my training ride fueling. I feel that I am a stronger rider now and much less susceptible to bonking from inadequate fueling. During my initial training, I would make sure to get around 250-300 calories per hour of riding. I’m going to cut that down to about 100 for weekday rides and 200 for longer rides. I will fuel a little more for the big, organized rides like Blue Ridge Breakaway and Carolina Foothills Tour, where over-fueling will be the safest and most comfortable route.

My fall schedule will be heavy. Beginning August 20th, I will participate in large events for 5 of the next 6 weekends. That will end with the MS Ride, a double century. The season will be capped two weeks later with a 253 mile, one-day group ride from Spartanburg to Charleston. Yes, crazy, I know.

Pre-loading for a big ride

Now that I am in taper/rest mode, with the big Mitchell ride just around the corner, it is time to prepare for how I am going to fuel the ride. Fortunately with all the century rides I have done over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to experiment and find a formula that works for me. As with anything, your mileage may vary. I know someone who eats an entire pizza the evening before a long ride, which I would never do, but it works out perfectly for him.

Initially I did a traditional carbo-load without much thought as to what I was eating. I would scan labels of anything in my fridge or pantry. If it had carbs, I would eat it, probably an extra 1,000 to 1,500 calories worth. This would give me plenty of energy to burn, but was simply too much. I would feel heavy, bloated, and it would affect my performance. Not to mention, after burning thousands of calories on a ride and eating somewhat normally afterward, I would end up gaining weight.

For the last few rides, I have settled on something I like to call ‘pre-loading’ rather than ‘carbo-loading’ because I am not adding much food to my diet. Instead I am shifting around what I eat so that it appropriately fuels the ride. Note that I have come to this plan through the guidance of a registered nutritionist.

Mount Mitchell Plan

The ride is on a Monday, so beginning perhaps Friday or Saturday, I will start to add a few extra carbs to my diet. Here I’ll start with items with a low glycemic index. You can find numerous listings on the web. Here is a good one. I will probably have some healthy legume and healthy fruits. Based on my tastes, it will probably be chickpeas, grapefruit and peaches. Foods with a lower glycemic index will store over a slower period of time, so by the time I need the extra energy on Monday, they will be waiting for me.

Aside from these additional carbs, I will eat normal, healthy meals throughout the weekend. This will consist of around 2,000 calories per day spread over several meals a day. Usually my training diet would have 50% carbs, but with the additions, it will probably be as much as 55-60%. Most of my fats will come from healthy sources (nuts, avocado, olive oil) and I will include lean protein from chicken or fish sources. I will mix in several vegetable and fruit portions, preferably around six, and take one multivitamin and fish oil pill daily.

Sunday night will be a little more like traditional carboloading, but without adding all the extra calories. On Sunday night I will make sure to have some sort of healthy high glycemic carb, which should be ready to hit the bloodstream first thing in the morning. Whole wheat pasta or brown rice will be ideal. Since I’m going to be eating with the Freewheelers, it will probably be pasta. In the past, I enjoyed the most success when I had Carraba’s prepare me a whole wheat version of their Chicken Marsala. It was delicious and I felt terrific the next day. Before going to bed, I will add a small carb snack. This will probably be a banana or a couple fig newtons, maybe both.

The morning before a ride I will usually have a healthy but easily digestible breakfast. Usually a boiled egg, Lara bar and banana would work, then I will pre-fuel for the race with a Clif bar. Mitchell starts very early so I’ll have to change my plan. Instead I will skip a breakfast of any substance and just have the Clif bar and a banana. This and the food stores from the past couple days will get me going, but since I did not significantly add carb calories, I will need to make sure to eat good carbs along the way. Many of these are going to come in the form of energy gels from my dispenser as I ride. At rest stops I will pick and choose from what is available, which will probably end up being bananas and fig newtons or similar snacks. At some point throughout the day I will want something a little more substantial, probably a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This will go along with sports drink that will provide enough sugars, carbs, and electrolytes to keep me fueled and hydrated. As long as I continually fuel myself along the way, I should not run out of gas regardless how difficult the ride is.

Carry that Weight

It doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out that the lighter something is, the easier it’ll go up a hill. When I first saw the Mount Mitchell elevation chart, I felt heavy. When I spent some time watching YouTube ride videos, I felt even heavier. Even though I wasn’t necessarily overweight, my first thought was I needed to lose about 5-10 lbs before attempting the mountain. My thinking has since changed.

I was a much heavier man this time last year. I had been a member of a gym and had worked out relatively frequently, running occasionally, doing time on the elliptical, occasionally grabbing some weights, but was never able to make a dent in my weight mostly due to poor and ill-informed eating habits.

Over the spring I did some reading and dedicated myself to dropping my waistband. Mostly I counted calories, which is something I recommend everyone do, athletic or not. I used the MyNetDiary website and iPhone app, but there are plenty other resources online. The diet was successful and by the summer I had dropped a lot of my excess weight. That is when I got back into running, and, as already discussed in this blog, got hurt and bought a bike.

Most of my weight loss was finished by the time I started cycling. I still counted calories, which I continue to do today, but dieting was a thing of the past. I still lost another 5 more pounds throughout the summer and into the fall just from actively riding, but have mostly remained in the 148-152 range since then. At my heaviest, I had probably been around 185 lbs.

I made my training goal for Mount Mitchell to drop another 5-10 lbs while increasing muscle mass. I mostly kept up my good habits over the winter and did not gain weight. Once I started eating in tandem with my training program, I found this to be a tall order, not impossible, but extremely difficult. The fact of the matter is, you have to eat to build muscle and fuel a workout.

I hired Kelli at Apex Nutrition, who has transformed my eating habits and it has showed with my performance. At first we started with a low number of calories, which turned out to be too low. I was hungry all the time and this was affecting my rides. Even with proper fueling, I would be hungry early on in rides and longed for the end so I could chow down. Since then I have modified my goal to maintain my current weight while gaining muscle strength.

After having a little bit of experience this year with training and dieting, my way of thinking has changed in terms of weight loss and the bike. Don’t get me wrong, riding a bicycle is a terrific way to lose weight for many people. Actor Ethan Suplee just revealed that his dramatic weight loss came on a bike. You can burn large amounts of calories just by spinning at a reasonable pace for extended periods of time. I have found, however, that when trying to dramatically improve performance, it is better to save the diet programs for the off-season or after the goal has been achieved.

150 is a great weight for my height. If I dropped to 140 as originally planned, I would probably be thought of as skinny. While dropping a size or two still would help, I have learned that dropping another size or two will not be key in getting me up the hill. My power, cadence and fueling will be far more important.