Sunday, October 29, 2017

Is dairy bad for you?

I can't say I'm a real dairy person.  Other than the milk I used to put on my cereal each morning, and the occasional ice cream after dinner, I was pretty much void of milk or dairy products.  Yes, I ate eggs occasionally on the weekend, maybe even had an egg salad sandwich for lunch during the week.  And, I had to have cheese on a sandwich or hamburger- who doesn't?  But, for the most part, I was void of dairy products.   That is until I was diagnosed with Rosacea (a chronic skin disease) a couple years ago.  Dairy products are known to stimulate the release of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor) which contribute to acne, eczema & psoriasis and certain types of cancer like prostate cancer.  So, I cut dairy completely out of my diet and I feel (and look) a lot better.

Here are some interesting facts about milk and dairy products:

Humans are the only species that consumes milk in adulthood and the only species that consumes the milk from another animal.

About 75% of the world's population is unable to break down lactose as adults, a phenomenon called lactose intolerance.

Healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins are not present in low-fat or skim dairy products, which are often loaded with sugar to make up for the lack of flavor caused by removing the fat.

The great majority of evidence shows that dairy improves bone density, reduces osteoporosis and lowers the risk of fractures in the elderly (easily replaced by a calcium and vitamin supplement).

Despite being high in calories, consumption of full-fat dairy is actually linked to a reduced risk of obesity.  But, who consumes full-fat dairy these days? Hardly anyone.  That's why low-fat and non-fat milk are the high sellers.

Low-fat dairy (which is often loaded with sugar) seems to be a bad choice overall... the main metabolic benefits of dairy are due to the fatty components.

So, what are the dairy alternatives?  As far as cheese is concerned there isn't an alternative.  At least I don't know of any "tasty" alternative.  If there is, let me know.  It's just easier for me NOT to ask or put cheese on anything.  As far as milk goes, I use Almond Coconut milk in my cereal and coffee.  Does it taste as good as milk or creamer?  Nope, I'm not going to lie to you.  But, it's not that bad.  Egg alternative?  I don't know of any.  I'm not worried about it though, I wouldn't say I eat more than 2 eggs per week. If you're concerned about not getting enough Calcium or Vitamin D (or other vitamins) by cutting out dairy, then use a supplement.  Like eggs, same with ice cream.  I have a kids size ice cream cone maybe once a month at Rita's or DQ- that's it.  We never have ice cream (or ice cream treats) at home in the freezer like we used to.  Outta sight outta mind.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Too MUCH Sugar!

In addition to too much Sodium, My Fitness Pal (see past blogs) revealed that like my Sodium intake my Sugar intake is much too high.  They say the recommended daily intake of sugar should not exceed 36g and my intake is close to 60g.  And, I'm NOT a sweets person at all.  In fact, other than my morning cereal and an occasional/ rare cookie, ice cream, piece of pie, etc. during the Holidays or on a special occasion, I'm void of all sugar.  I won't even touch a donut or cookie when somebody brings them in to work.  Candy?  I can't tell you the last time I bought a candy bar..maybe 20 yrs. ago.  I won't even steal one out of the Halloween candy dish sitting on the dining room table for the past week.  And, I walk by that candy dish at least 2-3x per day.  And, that's not to say I don't like candy.  I could easily eat and enjoy the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in that dish- every one of them! ha

Is Sugar really that bad for you?  What do you think?  Just look at the illustration above.

So, where is all my sugar coming from?  Well, the cereal is an obvious one.  I eat General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios in the morning which I believe has 9 grams of sugar per serving.  That's too high.  That's why I'm in the process of replacing it with Kashi's Heart to Heart Oat Organic Honey Toasted Cereal.  Kashi has 1/2 the amount of sugar (4g) and twice the protein than General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios.  Where else is my sugar coming from?  Breads, Tomato Sauce, Protein Bars, Salad Dressing, BBQ sauce, Ketchup, Gatorade, Peanut Butter, etc.  Who would have thought sugar in bread and soup?  Yup.  Which is why it's better to buy a low sugar & sodium bread make your own soup. And, Ketchup is loaded with high fructose corn syrup (yes, fructose is a sugar).  So, think about that when you eat your next hamburger and fries.  (Yes, even I eat the occasional hamburger with fries.  You gotta live.) The popular sports drink Gatorade?  Yes, loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  What's the alternative?  Water down the Gatorade. A friend of mine that's an MD and sports physiologist said watered-down Gatorade actually better for you than Gatorade or Water alone. Peanut Butter, really?  That's why I've switched to low-sodium low-sugar natural Peanut Butter.  I can't tell the difference between the low sugar/low sodium and regular peanut butter so choose the former.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Light it up!

I have to admit that bicycle lights have gotten much better (brighter and longer life) and much cheaper over the years.  I bought my first night light (made specifically for bicycles) about 10 yrs. ago.  It was the creme-de-le-creme of bicycle lights made by neighboring Princeton-Tec, in New Jersey.  I'm not sure of the lumen output but I know it pales in comparison to today's lights.  And, I know for a fact I paid well over $200 for the light.
Today, there are so many bicycle lights to choose from but the one that caught my eye recently was made by Te-Rich.  It's a 1200 lumen Cree LED light which gives approx. 5 hrs. of running time on high power.  Trust me when I say this, 1200 lumens is a LOT of light.  In fact, it will light up an entire road for approximately 50 yds.  That is phenomenal.  And, the best part is, it's only $32 from Amazon.  That's right $32.  How can you beat that?  And, there's more! haha.  The light is waterproof, it's rechargeable and it even includes a back light (red).  For $32 I can afford to buy 7 of these for the price that I paid for my Princeton Tec light.  And, I'll bet the lumen output on my Princeton-Tec is no more than 200-300 lumens.  I've read a bunch of positive reviews of this light on Amazon so I know it's the real deal.  Like I said, even if you buy a bad one, you'll have enough money to buy 6 more and still have paid less than what I paid for my Princeton Tec 10 yrs. ago.

I'll be purchasing this light in the next week or so.  When I get it, I'll do a follow-up review.  Until then, Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Strava Metrics Explained

Courtesy of Strava:

STRAVA Metrics Explained

What is Suffer Score?

Suffer Score is one of Strava’s premium features and there’s something satisfying about putting your feet up at the end of a tough day in the saddle and seeing an ‘extreme’ score. But what exactly is a Suffer Score and how is it calculated?
In a nutshell, Strava’s Suffer Score tells you how hard your ride was. Of course, that bit may be obvious, but what isn’t obvious is why you might go out with a friend on the same ride and come home with different Suffer Scores. Surely you’ve both done exactly the same ride?
The explanation lies in how the Suffer Score is calculated – it’s personal to you as a rider and is based on your heart rate during a ride. Needless to say, you need to be wearing a heart rate monitor.
The first thing Strava will do is find your maximum recorded heart rate. From this it will calculate your individual training zones. You can find these under the My Performance tab in the Settings menu, where you can also set your custom training zones – the most accurate way to calculate your Suffer Score.
Strava then associates a value (or co-efficient) to each zone – the higher the zone, the higher the value, and this value represents how many Suffer Score points you will score for one minute in that zone. For example, one minute in zone one may accumulate half a Suffer Score point, whereas one minute in zone five may accumulate ten points. At the end of a ride Strava adds up the total amount of time in each zone and multiplies it by that zone’s co-efficient. Add all these scores together and you have your personal Suffer Score.
This explains why two riders doing the same ride may come home with very different Suffer Scores. If one rider is a lot fitter than the other then the fitter of the two riders will likely be riding in a lower heart rate zone, and so will be accumulating less Suffer Score points through the ride.
However, Suffer Score does have its limitations. For example, if you were to do a short time trial, say five miles, you might be riding for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. Because the duration of the ride is short, there isn’t a lot of time to accumulate Suffer Score points even though you’re working in high heart rate zones. Therefore, if you did a very gentle two-hour ride you might actually accumulate as many Suffer Score points as you did in the time trial. Suffer Score, therefore, isn’t always a fair reflection of how hard you went or how tired you will feel the next day, and is best used in conjunction with other Strava features.
That said, Suffer Score can still be a useful way to track your training. For example, if you do the same ride every week then as you get fitter you should see the Suffer Score start to come down. As you get fitter your heart rate is lower for a given intensity, so if your score in December for the club run was 200 but by March it’s down to 180 then you know you’ve had a good winter, though it’s worth bearing in mind there are various other factors that can affect your score.
Similarly, if your Suffer Score for a ride seems unusually high then that could be a sign that your heart rate is abnormally elevated. This could be the warning sign of an oncoming cold and, therefore, it might be a good idea to back things off for a few days.
For an even greater insight into your training the scores you generate on each ride can be tracked over time using Strava’s Fitness/Freshness graph.

What is Weighted Average Power?

Weighted Average Power is a key figure that you’ll see at the end of each ride if you use a power meter and is very similar to what people often refer to as normalized power – the metric used in Training Peaks’ software. The idea behind Weighted Average Power is that average power alone doesn’t tell the whole story of a ride.
For example, if you do a three-hour ride at a constant 150 watts, this (depending on how powerful you are, of course) may be a gentle ride and not leave you too tired. Now, imagine on the next ride you put out a constant 100 watts for the first hour and 100 watts for the last hour of the ride but in the middle you ride for one hour at 250 watts. The hour effort in the middle may leave you feeling pretty tired and you then have to ride on for another hour, so it’s clear the second ride would be much more fatiguing than the first ride but this wouldn’t be expressed in the average power – 150 watts for both rides.
This is where the Weighted Average Power comes in. As your power goes up, the amount of effort it takes to sustain that power goes up by an even greater amount. For example 300 watts feels more than twice as hard as 150 watts and so Weighted Average Power gives more authority to higher power outputs than lower, while it also looks at the variation in power on your ride and calculates an average power which is a more accurate indicator of your effort and, therefore, represents much better how hard the session was physically.
For the first ride in our example, the weighted average would be 150 watts, whereas for the second ride the weighted average would be 192 watts. As a result, Weighted Average Power provides a much better estimate as to how hard a ride was than average power alone.

What is Intensity?

If you use a power meter then, along with Weighted Average Power, you’ll also see two other figures when you upload your ride to Strava: Intensity and Training Load.
Training Load we’ll come on to but first Intensity. This metric compares the Weighted Average Power of your ride to your Functional Threshold Power, which you can put into Strava on the My Performance page under Settings.
FTP is the maximum average power you are able to sustain for one hour (here’s how to calculate your FTP). Therefore, if you go out and do a 25-mile time trial in one hour then you would expect your intensity to be 100 per cent if you pace your ride correctly and empty the tank. If, then, the next day you decide to treat yourself to a nice easy ride to the local cafĂ© you would expect your Intensity score to be around 50 per cent.
Intensity can be used to see if you are riding easily enough on your easy days and hard enough on the hard days. As a rule of thumb:

-A score less than 50 per cent would be an easy day
-50-65 per cent would be an endurance ride
-65-80 per cent would be a good tempo ride
-80-95 per cent would be a where you want to aim for in a long event or sportive i.e. threshold
-95-105 per cent would be your aim for a time trial i.e. threshold/VO2max
-105 per cent or above would be expected for a very short time trial or criterium

      What is Training Load?

Training Load is very similar to Suffer Score, however, instead of being calculated based on heart rate, it is based on power.
Training Load takes into account the Weighted Average Power, your personal FTP and the Intensity score of a ride to give you a number that represents how hard a ride has been.
To give you an idea on figures, a score of 100 means that you have gone as hard as you can for one hour. You can, of course, score more than 100 but the maximum score you can achieve per hour is 100.
Although the formula to calculate Training Load is actually quite complicated, the easiest way to imagine a Training Load score is if you mark your ride on effort between one and ten and then multiple that by how many hours your rode. So, a score of five on the effort scale for three hours would give you a Training Load score of 150.
Training Load is also used in the Fitness and Freshness chart. Therefore, if you are using a power meter then the Fitness and Freshness graph will be using Training Load scores rather than Suffer Scores.
One useful application of Training Load is that it will tell you roughly how long it will take for you to recover from a ride. So, if you score…

0-125 – you should have fully recovered in 24 hours
125-250 – you will probably feel the effects for 48 hours
250-400 – you will need three days to recover
400 and above – it might take up to five days to fully recover

What is Power Curve?

Power Curve is a graph that plots your best ever power outputs for given time periods and you’ll find it under the Training tab on Strava. For example, it might say that you can sustain 200 watts for two hours and 400 watts for two minutes.
This graph serves two purposes. First of all, you can track your progress over time and you can change the time period that is displayed in the graph, using the last six weeks, a whole year or a custom date range. Therefore, you can compare your best ever power outputs in 2014 to those in 2015 or the last six weeks compared with the last 12 weeks. This allows you to see if your power outputs are improving – or if things are heading in the wrong direction.
Using the Power Curve graph in conjunction with the Fitness/Freshness chart gives you valuable information about how much training you have been doing and how good your current power outputs are. For example, you might see that last season you were actually training more than this season, however your power is better this season, and this tells you that you were probably overdoing it last year and that you have now found a better balance between training and recovery.
The second way you can use the Power Curve is to help with pacing. If you know your maximum power for any given period then you can make a very good guess at what sort of wattage you should be aiming for when out training, racing, time trialing, or riding a sportive.
As an example, if you know you can hold 250 watts for 60 minutes, then if you are climbing the Col du Tourmalet you know setting off at 300 watts isn’t a good idea.
You can take this a step further. If you’re hunting a KOM or a good placing on a Strava segment, look up the segment you are aiming for and then select your weight category in the left hand menu. You can then go through the power and time figures to get a pretty good estimate for what sort of time you should be aiming for on that climb. Again, let’s use the Tourmalet example for a rider of 80kg who can hold 250 watts for 60 minutes. Looking through the times, the first rider to climb the Tourmalet at less than 250 watts in the 75-84kg category did the climb in 1h 10m 27s. Therefore, a realistic goal for the climb would be 1h 10m.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Form=Fitness + Freshness


What is form?  A lot of cyclists don't know what it is but they know what it feels like to be in "form".  And coaches know that's what they want their athletes to be on race day- maximum form.  By definition, Form=Fitness + Freshness.  And, we all know what fitness is, or being fit.  But what about Freshness?  Being Fresh is the opposite of being Fatigued.  Thus, the Form equation could equally have been written: Form= Fitness - Fatigue.  

I'll better define Form=Fitness + Freshness via an example.  Ex. At the end of the Tour de France a rider can be very Fit but very Fatigued, therefore the rider will not be in Form (he'll have a low Form value).  In some cases, the Fatigue value can be higher than the Fitness value and the Form value will be negative (which is not good).  On the other hand, that same Tour de France rider can sit/rest for 2 months after the Tour and be very Fresh but have lost Fitness resulting in a low Form value.

How do we get Fit?  We get Fit by stressing our body.  Our body reacts by making it stronger so it can handle the stress better the next time it's stressed.  Freshness is the result of rest.

Lets take a look at a Form chart (provided by Strava) over the last 6 mos. of my riding (see below):

According to Strava, my current Fitness level is 18 (unitless value).  You can see it's as high as it's ever been.  However, I've had two hard rides in the last 5 days and my Fatigue level is 34 (also unitless).  Therefore, if you do the math, my Form=18 - 34= -16.  That's not very good to be in the negative for Form.  i.e. it's not a good time for me to be looking to break any personal records on the bike with respect to power and/or speed.  The legs just won't have the endurance and/or power until I rest a bit.  So, what is the magic number for Form?  I don't think there really is one.  It differs for everyone.  Some riders like to be really Fresh (not having ridden in a couple days) while others need to have ridden a day or two before the big event.  But, you definitely want a positive value for Form.  When you have a good/strong day on the bike, whether it's a race or recreational ride, take a look at your Form number from Strava.  I believe you need to log at least 15 rides in a 42 day period for Strava to generate an accurate Form number since it uses a weighted-average formula.

Until next time, Power ON!  Coach Rob

My Fitness Pal

Not sure how or where I came upon My Fitness Pal, but I like it.  In fact, I like it so much I paid $49/yr. to become a premium subscriber.  What's nice about My Fitness Pal, other than it's one of the best calorie counters I've ever seen on the internet, is the charts and printouts.  You can see your daily, weekly or monthly ratio of Proteins, Carbs & Fat.  This ratio should be different based on your age, weight and whether you are training/racing.  If you're training and/or racing you want your ratio of Proteins/Carbs/Fat to be more like: 25/60/15.  If you're not training you might want your ratio to be more like: 20/45/35.  Again, it depends on age, weight, and training.  If your goal is to drop some weight, then you want to reduce your carbohydrate intake.  If you're over 50, you want to increase your protein intake to help stave off sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass).

What really shocked me is the amount of sodium in the foods we eat.  Just the other night I went to Perkins for dinner (2 for 1) with my wife.  I thought I'd order something healthy to I picked out the chicken w/ rice and asparagus marked "ff" Fit Friendly by Perkins.  When I got home, I looked up my dinner in My Fitness Pal and found out that my "ff" meal had over 2000mg of sodium in it.  Are you kidding me?  And Perkins calls it "Fit Friendly".  The average recommended daily sodium intake is 1500mg max.  Just this one meal took me over my daily sodium goal.  And, today, at lunch, I ordered shrimp egg foo young w/ rice.  Can you believe 2300mg of sodium?  I'm hoping that's because it includes gravy which I had less than a tablespoon of.

Another shocker was my sugar intake.  It seems as though sugar is in everything these days.  Although I don't normally exceed my daily recommended sugar intake, it just amazes me how much sugar is in things.

Don't take my word for it, check out My Fitness Pal  I think you'll like it as much as I do.  Perhaps you'll even upgrade to their premium subscription like I did.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Too much Sodium?

It wasn't until I started using MY FITNESS PAL did I notice that I was consuming too much salt.  Yeah, I knew there was sodium in lunchmeat, soup, potato chips, etc. but I didn't know that my breakfast cereal, peanut butter (favorite snack) and lunch bread was loaded with it too.  Just two slices of my  healthy multi-grain bread contain over 300mg of sodium..not to mention over 350mg for my breakfast cereal.  That's almost half of what the FDA recommends for daily sodium intake.

They say the average Joe consumes close to 3,000mg of sodium per day.  That's 2x the recommended daily intake of 1,500mg.  No wonder there are so many people out there with high blood pressure.  What does sodium do to your body and why is it so bad for you?  In short, if you eat too much salt, your body stores water.  The extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure (because the heart has to pump harder). So, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.

What to do?  Look for low sodium alternatives.  Instead of buying any old lunchmeat buy Boars Head low sodium lunchmeat.  They also make low sodium and low sugar peanut butter.  I had some the other day and can't tell the difference between it and regular peanut butter- which is a good thing.  As far as cereal, I'll have to do some research.  I like my Honey Nut Cheerios in the morning.  I know the sugar is not that good for you but that's just about all the sugar intake I have all day.  But, I didn't know about the high sodium.  Maybe I'll try Kashi's Honey Toasted Oat.  I hear that is a good alternative.  The sugar and sodium is much lower than Honey Nut Cheerios.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Fitness Pal, Strava, Golden Cheetah and Garmin Connect

For those that know me well, know what a geek I am when it comes to new technology.  I've been a tech geek my entire life.  Science and engineering have always appealed to me even as a kid.  I guess that's why I'm an engineer.  I have a Bachelor's Degrees in Physics and Mechanical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Engineering.  When it comes to cycling, I'm all about analyzing the metrics of any ride- whether it's a trainer ride in my basement or a ride outside. 

There are three "must-have" post-ride software programs for analyzing a ride.  The best part- they are all FREE.  I'm not going to go into any detail on each at this time, because I'll dedicate a blog to each of these programs in the not too distant future.  For now, however, I'll tell you a little bit about each and how I use them post ride.

The first thing I do post-ride is to download the ride from my Garmin Edge 510 bike computer into Garmin Connect software (Free).  The Garmin Connect software will tell me just about everything I want to know about the ride: Heart Rate profile, Power profile, Speed Profile, Cadence Profile, and a GPS route map.  I'm particularly interested in my HR vs Power profile and my Normalized Power for the ride.  Here's an example:

The second thing I do is open Strava.  I'm a premium subscriber to Strava.  You pay a little extra for premium features like Power Curves, Form, Fitness & Fatigue Charts, etc.  These features are similar to those found in Peaks Software WKO 4 that costs close to $200.  Here's an example:

The last thing I do is use an Open Source software program called Golden Cheetah if I want more data/details.  Golden Cheetah tells you everything you want to know about the ride.  It gives you just about every metric you can think of and plenty of charts, graphs, etc.  I don't use Peaks Software WKO 4 anymore.  Why should I pay close to $200 when Golden Cheetah does everything for FREE?

Another must-have software program is My Fitness Pal by Under Armour.  My Fitness Pal has the most comprehensive food database I've seen online.  Just type what you ate in the search box and it will find it.  At the end of the day it will tell you how much protein, fat, carbs, sugar, sodium, etc. you well as total calories.  It's a great program- for FREE!  If you pay a little extra it will give you more information.  I think everyone should know what their average daily caloric intake is and how many calories they need to ingest to either lose or gain weight.  You need to know your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).  RMR is the number of calories your body burns while you're sedentary..either sitting down and relaxing or while sleeping.  I believe my daily RMR is 1500 calories.  So, if I eat 1500 calories and sit on my ass all day I will neither gain nor lose weight.  Naturally, if I eat 2000 calories per day, and I continue to eat 500 calories more than what I burn off I will gain weight.  When you exercise, you burn that many more calories.

Stay tuned for more in-depth descriptions of these products in future blogs.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A lesson in rolling resistance (re-visited)

It was almost 2 yrs. ago that I got dropped on a night ride by a bunch of old farts (50-60ish like me..ha).  Not only was getting dropped demoralizing it was also embarrassing.  I'm glad none of my friends saw me.  It was truly a low for me.  After all, when I was in cycling shape, I would have dropped everyone on the same ride.  Since that time, I have changed my Mtn Bike tires to a less aggressive tread and inflated my tires higher to decrease rolling resistance.  Also, since that time, I've gotten into better cycling shape.  Last night, I went on the same ride with pretty much the same people that had dropped me two years earlier.  However, this time it was MY time to do the dropping.  Except for 2 other guys on cyclo-cross bikes (which have less rolling resistance than my Mtn Bike), the three of us dropped our entire group of 10-12 riders.  Where two years ago I could barely maintain 12 mph average speed on the flats, last night I was averaging 16 mph at a much lower average Heart Rate..i.e. I was in much better cycling shape.  I was also able to maintain 18-20 mph speeds for periods of 10 minutes or more.  I can't tell you how good that felt (to drop the same group that dropped me 2 yrs. ago), granted it was only a bunch of old farts that I dropped not some young riders.  Nonetheless, it felt good.

I'm still not in the cycling shape I want to be I'm optimistic I'm only going to get stronger this Winter.  My goal is to get my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) back up over 250w by next Summer.  I know I'll never get to 275 or 280w which was my best FTP when I was 55 yrs. old, but that's ok.  I'll settle for 250w.  With my current weight of 162 lbs (74 kg), a 250w FTP will give me a 3.4 w/kg power-to-weight ratio.  That's mid Cat 4 Power which isn't anything to write home about but for a guy that's almost 60 yrs. old, it will keep me riding with local B group rides...and definitely stronger than most 60 yr. old recreational riders.

My goal for 2017-18 is to get a group night ride in during the week, combined with an indoor high intensity training interval on my Computrainer and a longer 3 hr. group road bike ride on the weekend.

POWER ON!  Coach Rob