Monday, February 28, 2011

Are you training and recovering properly?

I attended the Philly Endurance Expo this weekend.  If you didn't know anything about Multi-sports this is/was the place to be this particular weekend.  I could tell the Expo doubled in size since last year the moment I walked in the door.  Does that tell you something about the popularity of Triathlons these days?  You think it's big now, wait until Lance (yeah the guy that rides bikes) gets back into them.  I say gets back into them because a lot of people don't know that's how he (Lance) got started- he was a triathlete.  Anyway, kudos to High Road Cycles and Liberty Sports Mag for putting on a great show. 

I normally don't go to these Expos, however, to see what the exhibitors have to sell (or should I say get RID of)- I go for the seminars.  For me, it's all about learning something.  Like last year, I attended Dr. Michael Ross's seminar.  I think Dr. Ross's seminar topic last year was "VO2max testing".  This year, it was about "Muscle Fiber training".  Regardless, I think he used the same slides..ha.  But, the important "takeaway" from this years seminar (that I want to share with you) was one particular chart/graph showing the training/recovery effects that lead to increased fitness on the bike.  I don't have this chart, so I decided to create my own (above) in MS Paint.

From the chart (above), you can see that there are 3 different training/recovery profiles an athlete can follow:  1) where the athlete either trains too hard and/or doesn't get enough recovery (red line), 2) where the athlete does the same easy training workout every day and gets the same amount of rest/recovery (black line) and 3) where the athlete trains adequately (proper volume/intensity) and gets just the right amount of rest/recovery (green line).  As athletes, I think at one time or another, we follow all 3 profiles by accident or design.  If you follow profile 1 (red line) it's either because you trained too hard or didn't get enough recovery...or worse BOTH.  If you follow profile 2 (black line), you're the typical recreational cyclist that ONLY goes out on a training/group ride twice a week.  If you follow profile 3 (green line) you're doing it just right.  And, to do it right, it's a fine balance between training easy, hard and too hard as well as too much rest, not enough rest or just the right amount. 

What's important to note (by the profile/graph) is the long term effect of proper/improper training.  If you continually follow the red line profile you can see that it leads to "overtraining" which can actually hurt your training MORE than doing nothing at all.  You can see where this would lead to a decreased fitness level.  If you follow the black line profile you can see where the same ole ride (2x/week) really doesn't do anything to improve your fitness level.  That's why some riders NEVER seem to get stronger/faster.  It's because they're either not training hard enough or they're getting TOO MUCH rest/recovery..or worse BOTH.  If you continually follow the green line profile you can see that it leads to "ideal" training where your body enters a period of "supercompensation" which is an increased level of fitness where it surpasses the intial baseline fitness level (see graph below for supercompensation).  This is how you want to train to optimize your time.  Remember, your body adapts to the load imposed on it.

So, how do you "follow the green line"?  Following the optimum (green) line is both art and science.  The "art" part comes with knowing and listening to your body. i.e. how you feel and how well you recuperate after training.  The "science" part is knowing which workouts will optimize your training well as knowing what you can do to speed-up recovery time AFTER a hard workout. (a topic for another blog)

Power ON! Coach Rob

Lake Placid Training Camp

If you want to get into great cycling shape this summer (whether you're a Tri guy/gal or road racer), now is the time to make plans for Memorial Day Weekend Camp in beautiful Lake Placid, NY.  This will be my 4th (successive) year coming back and have to say that Lake Placid is an AWESOME place to stay and train.  It's just a great atmosphere.  Great weather.  Good restaurants and lots of athletes training in the area.  There is plenty of climbing on the IMLP route. If you want more climbing, you can do the Whiteface Mtn climb...all 8 miles and 8% grade (average) of it.  It's the Alpe D'Huez of the East.  I did the climb one year and couldn't walk the next day (granted I have two herniated discs in my back and was trying to keep up with Rick Fesler and Todd Wiley).  This camp is for Triathletes and Cyclists and their families, friends, etc.  Plenty of things to see and do when you're NOT training.

If you're interested, contact Todd Wiley at or myself  Or, you can go to and print out the registration form and mail it back in.  Don't wait, this camp WILL fill-up FAST.  There is limited space.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Average Power vs. Normalized Power

I'm often asked, "what's the difference between my average power for a ride vs. normalized power?".    Before, I answer that question I need to define each term. 

Average Power is computed by taking the power readings over the entire ride and dividing it by the number of readings..usually at 5s intervals.  So, for example, if our ride is 60 minutes (3600 sec) long, our computer is taking 720 readings.  As you might expect..those 720 power readings during a hilly ride may be 400w one minute and 200w the next.  Actually, they may be 400w one second and 200w the next.  And, if you're not pedaling..the power readings will be 0w (at least they better be or your Power Meter is out of calibration).  So, your computer displays average power, after an hour of riding, by summing up all those 5s intervals and dividing by 720.  Now, one thing I'd definitely check on is if your computer (whether it's a Garmin Edge, Saris Joule, etc.) computes average power including zeros (0w) or not.  I know with the Saris/Cycleops computers you have an option to include/exclude zeros.  I always exclude zeros because I only want to know what my average power is when I apply force/speed to the pedals during my rides.

Normalized Power  is computed with a complicated algorithm which takes into account the variability of your ride such as: wind, coasting, drafting, accelerations, uphills, downhills, long steady grinding, etc.  Normalized Power is a better indicator of the true metabolic demands of your ride than average power. Basically, it's the wattage you would have averaged if you had pedaled smoothly for the entire effort/ride- the power that your body "thought" it was doing. Normalized Power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of a given ride than does Average Power.

Normalized Power is therefor a more accurate way of quantifying the actual intensity of the ride. i.e. how hard the ride was. Personally, I like NP vs. Average Power because NP is ALWAYS higher..haha.  At least for the hilly rides I go on they are.  (You'll notice that on steady trainer efforts NP=Avg. Power)  I've included an example ride from a recent trip to Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas to show you the difference btwn NP and Avg Power.  You can see on the first climb of the day, there were moments where the road either leveled off or even descended for 100 yds. or so.  I can tell you for a fact I was either NOT pedaling or soft pedaling during these short periods. i.e. I was recovering...ha.  The same with the descent.  During these periods, the cycling computer (iBike PM in my case) was computing both Normalized Power and Average Power.  My Average Power for the entire ride was 197w. (not very high for a 2 hr. ride)  That does NOT include zeros (0w), since I told my iBike not to include those in its calculations, but what it does include is soft-pedaling during the flats or descents where the watts were probably around 100w or so. (I think my top speed was 40+ mph..and I know I passed at least 3 cars on the way down the mountain..haha.)   You can see that the Normalized Power for the ride was 231w. (which is more representable of a TOUGH 2 hr. ride- at least for me it is... more respectable too.)  BTW, that WAS a tough 2-hr ride for me and I felt like sh$t for the most part.  I'm not sure what it was but I'm sure it had to do with the following: very windy/cold day, the altitude (close to 5000 ft), jet-lag, steep climb at points, my FAT A$$, heavy rental bike, etc.  (nice list of excuses huh?  hey, I'll be the first to admit I'm no power horse).

Hope that answers the question.  In the future, keep tabs on both numbers and see if there is a BIG delta/difference or not.  You'll generally see the biggest deltas on hilly rides.  Power ON! Coach Rob

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Endurance Expo this Weekend

Don't forget to attend the Endurance Sports Expo this weekend, February 26-27, at the Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks PA.  (That's AFTER you get your morning training ride in.)  I'll be there at noon on Saturday.  If you see me, stop by and say hi.  I'm usually walking around the exhibitors.  I'll be attending the seminar at 2pm w/ Dr. Michael Ross.  Dr. Ross ALWAYS gives good training/workout advice.  Dr. Ross is one of my mentors along with Dr. Andy Coggan.  Both know what they're talking about re: Exercise Physiology- especially as it pertains to performance cycling/running/etc.

BTW, you can buy your tickets online for a discount. $6 vice $10 at the door.  Just type in this discount code when ordering: lsm2off 

Power ON! Coach Rob

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How much (post-workout) rest/recovery is enough?

What a lot of athletes don't realize is: the amount of rest you receive AFTER a workout is equally as important as the workout itself.  But even I wonder, at times, how much rest is adequate for my muscles to be ready/fresh for the next workout?  Before, we answer that question I think it's important to note what goes on physically within your muscle DURING and AFTER your workout.

During a high-intensity workout, you are actually damaging your leg muscles.  That's right- damaging.  That sounds counter-productive doesn't it?  Oh, I think I'll go for a hard bike ride and damage my muscles.  Maybe "damaging" is a little harsh a word.  Perhaps, microscopic tears to muscle fiber membranes and protein filaments, or tears to connecting muscle tissue, is more palatable?  Regardless, the point is..when you ride HARD you are breaking-down muscle fiber membranes.  Your body's natural response to repair this break-down or damage, is to send more blood flow to the area.  With that increased blood flow to the area, you get inflammation...and with inflammation you get soreness (tiredness) in your legs.  (Physiologically, there is a lot more going on inside your muscle that contributes to muscle soreness during and after exercise).  Muscle cells repair and regenerate themselves in the days that follow intense exercise, and they get stronger in preparation for performing the activity again. After this recovery process, the muscles function more efficiently and are more resistant to damage. This process is known as "adaptation."
Proper rest and nutrition (post-workout) will help repair the damaged muscles more quickly and get you back training sooner than later.  Proper nutrition AFTER a workout consists of ingesting a 4:1 ratio of Carbs to Protein as soon as your ride (or training session) ends.  (For proper nutrition BEFORE and DURING exercise see my prior blog on Nutrition).  This ingestion, within 20 minutes of the end of your ride, will promote carbohydrate (glycogen) and protein synthesis within your muscles.

But what about proper rest, how much is enough?  Sorry, but I have to give you the classic answer on this (which most PhD weenies give) and that's: it depends.  It depends on how hard you rode, how long you rode, what you ate before, during and after you rode, your age, your fitness level, your body's natural ability to recover, etc.  If you train/race with power, the good Doctor (Dr. Coggan) explains this very well with the concept of Training Stress Score (TSS) in his must-read book: Training and Racing with a Power Meter. TSS quantifies the overall training load.  TSS takes into account both the intensity and duration of your ride/race/training session.  I'm not going to get into TSS in any more detail, because I'm sure I could write a book on it myself, but just remember that you would score a TSS=100 if you rode at your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for 1 hour.  Here is Dr. Coggan's recommendation on the impact of Training Stress on Fatigue:

If TSS                            Intensity                      Recovery Status
<150                              Low                             Recovery is generally complete the following day
150-300                         Moderate                     Recovery complete by the 2nd day

300-450                         High                             Some residual fatigue may be present after 2nd day
>450                              Very High                   Residual fatigue lasting for several days

For those of you that don't train/race with a Power Meter, I'd say the average (2 hr.) group ride will net you a TSS of 90-125.  (Remember, a TSS=100 is 1 hour at Threshold)  A Cat 4 road race will net you approximately 125, a fast paced (6 hr.) century ride= 200+.  These are just estimates.  And remember, everyone is different.  The Tour Pros can race every day, for 21 days, with a TSS exceeding a TSS of 300(ala Le Tour de France) and STILL get stronger.  (No wonder they all take illegal drugs or blood dope..ha.)  Seriously though, these guys are elite athletes and some of the strongest riders in the world. So, there bodies can endure this type of load.  Besides, they have some of the best Ex Fizz's (like Dr. Allen Lim) with them on Tour to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition and rest- not to mention post-race massages (which definitely help in muscle recuperation/repair).  If I were to race just one Stage of the TDF, I'd have to rest a full week before I was able to ride again..let alone walk the next day.

The best advice I can give you regarding proper rest/recovery is to keep a training diary and try to identify patterns. i.e. note that you always perform well after 2 days of moderate riding/training leading up to a race or that you don't perform well if you take a complete rest day before a race.  My diary is kept on Training Peaks WKO+ software.  It's got a record of my TSS for each ride and also includes a helpful metric called Training Stress Balance (TSB).  TSB could be renamed "Form" in the equation: Form=Fitness + Freshness, where Fitness is the result of load or training stress and Freshness is the result of rest.  To be in "Good Form" (which you want to be come race time) you want a good balance between Fitness and Freshness.  If you're Fit but not Fresh (you've been riding hard for a week straight without a rest day) you're probably NOT in Good Form.  Likewise, if you're Fresh but NOT Fit (you've been sitting on the couch watching TV for a week without riding) you're probably NOT in Good Form either.  I can look at my TSB in Training Peaks software and tell you whether I'm in Good Form ready for a race.

Proper rest and proper nutrition is the key for quick recovery.  Make sure you're getting proper nutrition BEFORE, DURING and AFTER your training/racing..and make sure you're getting adequate rest.  If you're unsure as to HOW MUCH rest you REALLY is better to error on the "more rest is best" side.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, February 14, 2011

On the road again..

No one sang it better than Willie.  But, that's what I was singing (in my head) on Saturday during my first road ride (on my road bike) outside in a looooong time.  I froze my ass off (still plenty left unfortunately) but still enjoyed the time off my indoor trainer.  I can think of as many benefits as riding indoors as I can outdoors..but when it comes right down to it..there is NO SUBSTITUTE for riding outdoors.  (The principle of specificity tells us that.)

Saturday, in my area, was cold and WINDY.  It's the wind that I noticed more on my ride than the cold.  In fact, on one 3 mile stretch of Rt. 29 (River Rd.) in NJ I looked down at my speedometer and I noticed I was doing 25 mph while ONLY averaging 200w.  Now, that's some tailwind.  On the return trip, same route, I was only going 15 mph averaging 200w.  Now that's some wind resistance...resistance you don't get on the indoor trainer.  Sure, you can always increase resistance on the indoor trainer but that's not the point.  The point is, there may be races this year where the wind will play a BIG part in a race and you better know how to deal with it.  What do I mean by that?  If you don't ride with a Power Meter how would you know how to pace yourself into the wind?  If I didn't have a Power Meter on my bike on Saturday when I was riding into the wind, I probably would have ridden at 275w+ (not knowing) to try to maintain at least 18 mph avg.  Doing that for 15-20 minutes would have surely worn me out for the remainder of the 2+ hr. ride.  Instead, I kept my power at 250ish watts and accepted whatever speed that would bring.

Pacing, in my opinion, is one of the BIG advatages of training/racing with a power meter.  You can use your PM to not only help you when pacing yourself into the wind (like I did on Saturday) but you can use it to help pace yourself on climbs.  I don't know how many riders I've reeled-in on group rides in the hills because stronger riders just didn't know how to pace themselves up a hill.  Naturally, they weren't riding with Power Meters.  I usually make it a point to say something to these "stronger" riders when I see them at the top.  I know it pisses them off for them to hear me say, "wow, you guys sure hit that hill hard at the bottom".   Hey, I could have said, "you guys sure blew your wad on the lower half of that hill..I passed you like sh$t standing still at the mid-point".  But, I didn't- I'm a nice guy.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tabata Training

If I've coached you before, you know that I'll routinely throw some Tabata Intervals into your annual training plan.  If not, and I'm coaching you now, you'll see them sooner than later.  If you've never heard about Tabata Intervals before, check out this link:  It does a pretty good job of explaining what Tabata intervals are and their benefit.

If you check out the hyperlink above, you'll see the words "weight loss" and "fat burning" in it.  That's because, in addition to Tabata intervals being a great interval workout on the bike for developing your anaerobic energy system, Tabata intervals are a great way to burn some fat and lose weight.  And, you can do Tabata intervals on just about any aerobic exercise machine like an elliptical trainer, rowing machine, stairmaster, treadmill, etc. 

I've been trying to lose weight for two months now and my body just doesn't seem to want to shed the lbs.  Actually, what is happening is from all my cycling workouts..including resistance training at the gym...I'm actually burning fat and replacing it with muscle.  That's a good thing really..but not totally.  That is, I still need to shed the lbs. otherwise I'm still carrying excess weight up hills.  That excess weight is what is keeping me from hanging with the svelter riders.  Sure, my leg muscles are stronger (so says my power meter) but I'm thinking (and hoping) I can still gain leg strength while shedding lbs.

I have EXACTLY 2 months until my first race of the year- Battenkill.  That's ONLY 8 weeks away.  My goal for this race is to have a power to weight ratio as close to 3.5 as I can get it.  That's an FTP of 265w divided by my goal weight in kg (167/2.2).  My goal for June is a power-to-weight ratio closer to 4.0.    Right now, I'm on track with my FTP but my weight is 177 lbs...10 lbs. more than where I need to be.

With my back against the wall (only 8 weeks to lose 10 lbs.), I have no other option than to start two-a-day workouts.  A morning workout consisting of Tabata Intervals on an elliptical trainer (which I have at home and at hotels when I'm on travel) and an afternoon/evening cycling interval workout.  I'm hoping the Tabata Intervals in the a.m. on an empty stomach (glycogen depleted) will jump-start my engine into burning fat/calories.  (I'm already counting my calories and reducing fat and simple carbs from my diet.)

I'll keep you posted on my progress and let you know how it's working.  Not because any of you really care, but, maybe some of you need to do the same thing?  If not, you're lucky.  I'm really not enamored at getting up at 0600 and busting my a$$ on the elliptical trainer for 20 minutes.  But, you gotta do what you need to do to achieve your goals.  It makes it that much sweeter/fulfilling when you reach your goal.  And, it makes it easier on Race Day..knowing that you worked your tail off in preparation for the event..regardless of the race result.  Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Next Level

The new buzz-words or phrase in cycling right now seems to be- "the Next Level".  Everyone is talking about how to get to the Next Level.  Even my mentor, Hunter Allen, recently wrote a blog/bit on his interpretation of it.  In short, what Hunter believes is holding cyclists back from getting to the "Next Level" is their Functional Threshold Power (or watts).  For me, I believe that's half of it.  I believe the other half is their Weight (or kgs).  Therefore, it's the w/kg (pronounced watts per kg or power to weight ratio) that is holding cyclists back.  That is why if you follow my blogs, on a regular basis, you'll see that half of my blogs are related to power and the other half are related to nutrition/dieting. 

I'm pretty sure every serious cyclist knows what their FTP should be in order to reach the "Next Level".  If not, I highly recommend you get an FTP test.  Email me the results, I will tell you if your power is enough to reach the Next Level.  (BTW, I perform FTP tests routinely on my Lab Quality Computrainer for $75, $50 for the athletes I coach and FREE thereafter for coached athletes).  But what about your body weight?  Do you know what your optimal body weight should be for your height, age, sex, event, etc.?  Will losing 10 lbs make you a better climber?  Would gaining 10 more lbs (of muscle mass) make you a better sprinter or give you more endurance?  According to Matt Fitzgerald, author of "Racing Weight" (for endurance athletes), surveys at the Society for Behavioral Medicine in Montreal, Canada and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine revealed that 74% of respondents (that were endurance athletes) labled themselves as "concerned or very concerned" about their body weight.  So, it's just NOT the pros that are concerned.  (I think the other 26% were either VERY lean athletes or didn't understand the value of optimal body weight and its affect on sports performance.)  I share the concern of the 74% because I know the importance..especially for cycling performance.

So, how do you compute your optimal body weight?  Unfortunately, there isn't a weight test that I know of (unlike an FTP test for measuring power) for determining your optimal body weight.  But, there is a formula derived by Matt Fitzgerald (see below), that will compute your optimal body weight if you know your current body fat percentage and optimal body fat percentage.  (BTW, the average bodyfat for a competive male cyclist ranges from 5% to 15%.  Elite/Pro athletes average between 5-10% and recreational athletes between 10-15%.)  If you're of the less-scientific mindset, and don't feel like determining your body fat percentage, there is a simpler method- like looking at a full-length mirror with your speedo on...for FREE.  I'm serious, that's all you need.  One look at those love handles, double chin, protruding gut, fat a$$, etc. will tell you that you need to lose weight.  If you look in the mirror and see what looks like a skeleton with skin wrapped around it..chances are you need to gain a few pounds of muscle. 

Here's how Matt Fitzgerald, author of "Racing Weight", computes optimal body weight:
a. weigh yourself in lbs.
b. determine your current body fat percentage and subtract this number from from 100.  Multiply this number by your weight in a.
c. Take the number in b. and divide it by your optimal lean body mass percentage.  This is your new optimal body weight.

For me (and my current goal weight):
175 lb. (current) bodyweight x (100%-16% body fat)= 147
147/(.88 lean body mass)= 167 lbs (optimal body weight)

Note: I use the skin-fold caliper method for determining body fat percentage.

 So, you want to get to the "Next Level"?  Then, up the power and lower the weight (to your optimal body weight) to maximize your power to weight ratio.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

V (for Victory) Intervals

I've always wondered what makes the "best" interval workout. Is/was it one that: a) was fun b) hard c) worked a specific energy system or d) all of the above?  To this date, I'm still not sure.  Because, some of the best interval workouts, in my opinion, are NOT very fun at all.  Anyone that has ever done Tabata intervals for the first time knows what I'm talking about.  Or, if you've been one of the lucky few who have actually been able to do 3x20s at Threshold. 

Many of you know, in particular the athletes I coach, that my two favorite interval workouts are 2x20s at Threshold and 5x4s at VO2max.  However, even if you work up to these intervals on a weekly basis, they are VERY hard and can often become boring (and not very much fun) over time.  On the other hand, I do what is "proven" to work for the masses whether I like it or not.  I'm not one to follow any of the Mickey Mouse (cycling) workouts you see posted on the internet (or in person) that consists of jumping off the bike, doing some pushups, running around the house, and mounting your trusty steed again.  Don't laugh, I've seen and heard of similar workouts.  Although, having said that, I'm always looking for new interval workouts to try out.  I haven't been able to find one lately that appeals to me, therefore I designed my own.

In an effort to "spice-up" my ATP, I designed a new interval workout I call V-Intervals that I think meets my criteria for a good/productive interval.  I call them such because when you look at the Power Profile it makes the shape of the letter "V"- plus I like V for Victory.  You can see from the power profile on the chart the three V's.  I performed 3 intervals.  I'm hoping to build up to 5- in time.  They look easy, but they are NOT.  Try em.  Tell me what you think.  Here is the workout:

W/U: 10 min. L2
M/S: 1 min. at L5
         1 min. at L4
         1 min. at L3
         1 min. at L2
         1 min. at L1
         1 min. at L2
         1 min. at L3
         1 min. at L4
         1 min. at L5
         2-3 min. RI btwn sets
         Repeat 2-4 more times
C/D: 5 min. at L2

If you do three V-Intervals, like I did in the will take you exactly 45 minutes.  If you want to make the V-Intervals harder, skip the L1 effort (at the bottom of the V) and reduce the Rest Interval (RI) between sets to 1-2 minutes max.  V for Victory- I like it.  If you have any favorite Interval Workouts, email them to me and I'll post them to this blog.  Power ON! Coach Rob

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The (not so) skinny on Carbohydrates

There are two types of Carbohydrates: Simple and Complex.  Most of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbs, not simple.  (But, then again, not all simple carbs are bad for you) The latter is absorbed fast, giving you short term energy, whereas complex carbs give you long lasting energy and will help you feel full. The classification (of carbs) is based on the chemical structure and reflects how quickly sugar is digested and absorbed.

I like to use the analogy of a burning fire when describing the body's response to the ingestion of carbs. Throwing newspaper on a fire is what happens when you ingest simple get quick high energy but it doesn’t last very long. Throwing a log onto a fire is what happens when you ingest complex get a slower but longer burn/energy supply. For proper nutrition/health and weight maintenance, and particularly for an athlete in training, you want to keep the fire burning slowly and evenly all-day long.

Simple carbohydrates are also called simple sugars and are chemically made of one or two sugars. A simple sugar can be just what the name implies, the sugar in your sugar bowl. Things like candy, syrups, and soda are also straightforward examples of simple carbs. They are absorbed quickly.
Believe it or not, simple carbs also include healthy foods such as fruit and milk. These are better sources of simple carbs because they contain vitamins and fiber, and also important nutrients that your body needs, like calcium.

Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches and are made of three or more linked sugars. Grains such as bread, pasta, oatmeal and rice are complex carbs, as well as some vegetables like broccoli, corn legumes such as kidney beans and chick peas. They take the longest to digest. Foods such as oatmeal, vegetables, and grains will give you the energy you need. Keep in mind, sugar releases chemicals that promote fat storage. When you are eating sugar, try to make it after a workout as this is when it is most useful to your body.  In a perfect world all of your sugar intake should come from fruits and veggies, and other natural foods such as milk.

FYI, 55-60% of your daily diet should consist of Carbs. You may need to consume more during hi-intensity training and definitely during the racing season…sometimes upwards of 70%.

You do not need 'added' (refined/processed) sugar in your daily diet. Sugar from corn syrup or table sugar adds no nutritional value whatsoever. You may be wondering, of the Carbs I ingest, how much (Simple Carbs) Sugar should I intake daily? According to Jorge Cruise, author of Belly Fat Cure, 15 grams maximum of sugar per day. That by the way, is hardly any sugar at all. Here’s just a sample of the amount of sugars that are in the foods/drinks you may consume during the day:

1 cup of 1% milk (simple carbs)- 12g of Sugars.
1 bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios- 12g of Sugars
1 10-oz Dunkin Donuts Coffee w/ cream & sugar- 12g of Sugars.
1 Yoplait Light Yogurt contains 15g of Sugars.
1 PowerBar Energy Bar contains 28g of Sugars.
1 cup of Breyers All-Natural Vanilla Ice Cream- 30g of Sugars
1 Mountain Dew Soda contains 31g of Sugars.

If you ate/drank all this in one day, which is not unheard'll be ingesting 140g of Sugars...that's almost 10x the recommended daily intake.  I'll bet you the average kid ingests at least this much per day.  No wonder our kids are obese and/or overweight with a high incidence of diabetes.  Remember, if/when you ingest simple carbs (such as the ones on this list) your blood sugar (glucose) levels will rise signaling your pancreas to secrete/produce insulin which will move the glucose from the blood into tissues/cells (also fat cells).  And, guess what?  Once glucose is converted into fat, there is no chance of it being converted back into glucose.  The only way to rid the body of this new found stored fat, is to metabolize/burn it off via exercise.  No better reason to stay away from the simple carbs as far as I'm concerned.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cycling Nutrition Part II

Last week, I posted a blog on Cycling Nutrition.  In that blog, I discussed the importance of Carbohydrate intake not only during competition but during endurance training.

Here's a chart I came across that depicts your body's fuel useage during continuous exercise.  What the chart/graph doesn't show is the intensity level.  I'm assuming this is moderate such as the bike leg of an Ironman competition.  Why am I assuming that?  Well, if it were low intensity (continuous exercise) you could probably reserve muscle glycogen levels and burn primarily fat for fuel.  If it were high intensity your body would be burning more glycogen/glucose and you probably wouldn't even make 2 hours (let alone 4+ shown).

What's interesting to note from the graph/chart is that your muscles only provide 50% of your total fuel (glycogen) when completed carb-loaded, your blood glucose 10% and fat reserve 40%.  As exercise continues you can see that muscle glycogen levels drop.  At the 2 hr. mark, your muscles are only providing approx. 30% of your body's total fuel useage.  However, your blood glucose levels actually take up the slack and provide more (around 15%) fuel for exercise than it did at the start.  After the 2 hr. mark you can see that if you don't consume any carbs during exercise (i.e. Gu's, Gatorade, food, etc.) that your blood glucose levels will start to tank.  At the 3 hr. mark, your blood glucose levels will start to dip below 10% of your total body's useage.  By the 4 hr. mark, your blood glucose levels will have tanked (in addition to your muscle glycogen reserve).  This is the point where you "bonk".  Exercising beyond this point will not only be difficult but detrimental to your health).  Now, if instead at the 2 hr. mark you ingest some carbs (liquids act quicker), you will stave-off the dreaded "bonk".  However, you can clearly see that regardless of how much carbs you ingest, you can NOT restore muscle glycogen levels to their full/orginal state.  That's because your body can't process the intake of carbs quickly enough and your muscles need a rest (so to speak) to clear out the high acidity and repair themselves before glycogen resynthesis.

The most important takeaway from this chart/graph, I believe, is to ensure that BEFORE you start your long endurance training (or racing) that your Carb levels are topped-off to the max.  You want your muscle glycogen levels maxed out as well as your blood glucose levels.  Plus, anything you can do to spare muscle glycogen levels- the better.  That is, ensure you're consuming Carbs during endurance exercise and/or train your body to utilize Fat for energy during low to moderate intensity levels.  Problem with the latter is, it's NOT that easy to train your body to utilize fat for energy rather than Carbs.  Well, it's not that it's not that easy, it's actually counter-productive to your workouts and NEVER recommended during racing season.  Because to do so, you'll have to starve your body of Carbs so that the only choice it has is to consume Fat--and Protein.  Be forewarned however, that if you increase exercise intensity on a Carb depleted body your body will start utilizing Protein for fuel- and I don't even want to begin to tell you how counter-productive (dangerous) that is.  Plus, if memory serves me correct from my Exercise Physiology studies, you can't burn Fat without the presence of Carbs..another reason NOT to try to target Fat alone for fuel useage.

Note: Glycogen depletion will happen MUCH faster if the intensity level is increased.  Instead of muscle glycogen being depleted at the 4 hr. mark (shown above) it could happen at the 2-3 hr. mark.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Yes, that's a picture of Capt. of my favorite breakfast cereals as a kid (if you can call it a cereal..more like a sugar fix).  Don't know why I thought this was a fitting image for this blog...but here it is..ha. 

Anyway, it's least I think it is if you're a cyclist and your cycling racing season starts in April.  According to most dictionarys "Crunch-Time" can be defined as: "A critical period of time during which it is necessary to work hard and fast".

What I believe makes February a "critical period" for a racer (cyclist) is the fact that you only have two months to get your butt in shape for the start of the racing season.  That's 8 weeks of cycling training.  That's 8 weeks to drop some weight (if that's a goal).   And, if you're not starting to "work hard" as the definition implies, you ought to start NOW!  By working hard, I'm talking about ramping up the intensity of your interval workouts.

For me, February is the time to start parting ways with my indoor trainer that I've been married to since November and getting outside with more regularity on the weekends.  I said "start parting ways" not "divorcing".  I won't dump the trainer until April when the days get longer and I have enough light to get a ride/workout in after work.  There is still plenty of hi-intensity interval workouts that need to be done on the indoor trainer in the month of February and March.  And, lets face it, if you live around me..we're still not out of the woods yet with respect to the weather..regardless of what the most popular groundhog in the world has to say tomorrow.

I'm not a fan of indoor trainer workouts when compared to doing them outside.  However, it's a heck of a lot easier to control the intensity of a workout indoors- especially hi-intenstiy workouts.  Plus, if you're time-crunched like I am, it's a helluva lot easier to get a workout in. Only problem with indoor workouts vs. outdoor is the power drop.  In fact, my power is approx. 10% lower inside on the trainer when compared to outside (there are many known factors for this- one being the temperature.)  BTW, ALWAYS have a fan running during indoor interval workouts.  I have to keep reminding myself of this fact (power is lower inside vs. outside) when I see paltry power meter numbers displayed on my computer during indoor interval workouts.

One last thing regarding indoor interval training workouts..especially now since it's crunch-time and I'll be upping the intensity of my indoor interval workotus.  I'll be the first to admit they are NOT fun!  That is, if you do them at L4 or greater intensity.  That's why I do everything in my power to make them less painful.  Here are a few things you can do to spice up your indoor interval workouts:
a. share the pain with a friend. Invite a bud over your house.  You'll be less apt to quit a workout.
b. enhance the view during your workout.  Pop-in a DVD of a popular cycling race.  Watch TV!
c. enhance the listening.  Make-up a good iPod playlist for interval training.
d. use a fan, and make sure the room temp is cool and you have a couple towels- 1 for you, 1 for the bike.
e. hydrate often, especially before, during and after the workout.
f. fuel yourself properly.  Ensure you have the proper glycogen stores BEFORE you start your workout.  Poor energy level= poor workouts. Don't forget to get some Carbs and Protein in you system immediately upon finishing your workout.
g. record your effort.  Again, you're less apt to quit on something you're recording for later analysis..especially if you're going to email the file to your coach for analysis.

So, take Capt Crunch's advice.  Yes, that's what he does..he gives good advice.  (And you just thought he was a breakfast icon promoting his cereal?).  That is, get on that bike of yours and start ramping up the intensity of your workouts and training season is right around the corner.

Power ON!  Coach Rob