Fitness questions and answers for January 6, 2009

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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

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.

Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com) is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.

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 any geography.

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. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.

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.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

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.

Michael Smartt (www.wholeathlete.com) is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete™. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.

Earl Zimmermann (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has over 12 years of racing experience and is a USA Cycling Level II Coach. He brings a wealth of personal competitive experience to his clients. He coaches athletes from beginner to elite in various disciplines including road and track cycling, running and triathlon.

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.

Debilitating foot pain
MSM and whey
Interpreting blood test results
Saddle fore-aft position
Lower core body

Debilitating foot pain

I am 54 years old, and have been riding and racing since the '80s. Still in great shape and racing well. I am 5' 8" and weight is 160lbs. I have entered into my winter program which includes lots of body weight and light resistance training as well as time on the trainer doing intervals. I have pulled out my heavy mountain bike for winter riding outside.

I am experiencing nearly debilitating foot pain when I get into the hills and put lots of force on the pedals. I love to climb and this is really concerning me. The pain is in the ball of my foot, right behind the second toe in the fleshy part of the front ball of the foot. I have moved my LOOK pedals as far back as they will go.

I bought new top-line Specialized body geometry S Works road shoes in August, which helped, after using Sidi Genius 5 shoes previously. I am thinking that with all the squats and other exercises that I am putting additional stress on my feet, although I'm not sure. I was also wondering if riding in the cold temperatures of Buffalo, NY, might be adding to the problem.

Ben Badagliacca

Scott Saifer replies:

There are several possible causes of the pain you describe. Here are three things to check out along with possible solutions. If none of these fit your situation, or the solutions don't help, consult a podiatrist that has worked with cyclists before.

One common cause of such pain is lateral compression of the ball of your foot. Any chance your shoes are squeezing your feet a bit from side to side in the toe box or just behind? If so, the solution is most likely to have the shoes stretched a bit in that area or to get an extra-wide shoe.

Next, is there any chance your are 'clawing' the bottom of the shoe with our toes? If so, move the cleats back on the shoes however much it takes to allow you to relax your toes while pedaling.

Some people have one metatarsal head (the boney knobs, of which there are five, that make up the ball of the foot) lower than it's neighbours, putting a lot of pressure on that spot. If you have such a "dropped" metatarsal head, your problem can probably be solved with a foot-bed that has a depression where that bone needs space.

If your toes box is already tight, this won't help as you'll end up with your whole foot compressed, so you have to have a shoe with enough space to allow for the extra insole thickness. Also, if you add insole thickness, you'll need to drop your saddle a similar amount to keep your old knee extension.

MSM and whey

A number of cyclists I ride with, including myself, take MSM and some type of protein powder. There are two people that buy their supplements from their acupuncturist who is also a RD and sells very expensive supplements. I buy MSM at 7.99 per 100 tablets and use whey protein from various companies that sells for between $23-25 for 30 servings (23gms/serving).

The two people who buy from their acupuncturist pay $35 for the same amount of MSM and $70 for the same amount of whey protein. Naturally, the brand they buy is not available in retail stores so they have been told the value of the what they are buying is far superior to MSM and whey protein you could buy in the stores.

My question is: isn't whey protein pretty much a constant? Is there a form that would be 2.5 to 3 times more expensive that would justify paying that much more? Is Methyl Sulfuric Methane a chemical that can vary enough in it's production that would make a certain brand cost four times more?

I have a pretty good background in nutrition and feel they are paying more because their beloved and trusted acupuncturist is basically making money in a pyramid-type supplement business. I would love your input. Thanks for your help.

Jim Hiserman

Pam Hinton replies:

Let me start with a little background on the regulation of dietary supplements in the United States. Dietary supplements include vitamins and minerals, herbal preparations, phytochemicals, enzymes, and glandular extracts. Dietary supplements are big business, with annual sales amounting to billions of dollars.

Regulation of dietary supplements is codified in The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. This act of Congress established that substances classified as dietary supplements are not "drugs." As a result, although the FDA is responsible for the regulation of supplements, the rules differ from those governing foods and drugs.

According to DSHEA, manufacturers of dietary supplements are not required to provide evidence of efficacy or safety prior to marketing the product. Nor are supplements required to have FDA approval or to be registered with the FDA before they are produced and marketed. The FDA does not monitor the identity, purity, quality, composition, or strength of dietary supplements.

Therefore, supplement manufacturers are responsible for establishing their own manufacturing guidelines and quality control. Before the FDA can take regulatory action against a potentially harmful dietary supplement, the agency must prove that the product is harmful. A recent example is the weight loss supplement, ephedra.

Because the consumer cannot be certain that their supplement of choice contains the active ingredient in the amount advertised and that it is not contaminated with unlisted ingredients, the admonition, "buyer beware" should be taken to heart.

Now, just a bit of information on the two supplements in question. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which is the oxidised form of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), is present in low concentrations in some fruits and vegetables. MSM supplements claim to treat a wide variety health problems, but MSM is most often advertised to improve osteoarthritis.

Two recent meta-analyses (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 16:1277-1288; Arthritis Research 8:R127) identified only two placebo-controlled, randomised clinical trials of MSM. Both concluded that the evidence for the efficacy of MSM to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis is moderate at best and that long-term safety data are lacking.

Whey protein, which is a byproduct of cheese production, accounts for 20 percent of total protein in cow's milk. There are several whey proteins: ß-lactoglobulin, a-lactalbumin, and bovine serum albumin are the most abundant; immunoglobulin and lactoferrin are present in small amounts. Whey contains the essential amino acids in optimal amounts and therefore has a high biological value.

Because whey contains branched chain amino acids, in particular, leucine, it is a popular supplement among athletes, especially body builders. In addition, to supplying essential amino acids for protein synthesis, the whey proteins have other biological activities, including immunomodulat ion. Whey is available in several forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrosylate. The bioactivity of the isolate and hydrosylate tend to be less than that of the concentrate.

I hope this helps you decide whether buying the more expensive supplements would be money well-spent.

Eddie Monnier replies:

In addition to Pam's comments, I would add that there are some lines of supplements only sold by licensed health care practitioners that claim to adhere to quite rigorous standards versus common practice in the industry, list all ingredients and are hypoallergenic. One example is Pure Encapsulations, which claims to submit all of its products to third party labs for testing and certification versus label claims.

I have used the products (I am not a licensed health care professional so don't distribute them). They are more expensive but their policy of listing everything on the label and their quality control standards gave me some additional comfort that testing positive for a banned substance due to cross contamination is extremely unlikely (there is a risk and there are documented cases of positives from over the counter supplements that were contaminated and/or did not fully disclose their contents).

Interpreting blood test results

Hi, I am a 20-year-old, male category 1 cyclist and am trying to figure out what to make of my low RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit numbers. I recently received a blood test in follow up to ones I have had previously, for the purposes of a study I was conducting using an intermittent hypoxic device. I am disappointed that my blood markers still remain low and would like to do something about them to get them more into the normal range. I am confused also since my iron levels seem to be ok.

I have been taking a heme iron pill supplement daily for the last 2-3 weeks (since the results of my last test). The product is called Energizing Iron (by Enzymatic Therapy) - it contains 200 mcg B12, 2mg iron per serving and I've been taking three servings per day, as the instructions state.

My question is: am I anaemic? Based on my RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, I am... but my iron and B12 levels (a bit jacked up from the supplements) seem ok. Whatever the cause, I really would like to get my RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrits more into the normal range. Also, I took this blood test after a couple days of easy riding in preparation for physiological testing, which I conducted later that day. Also, it is strange that my values are so low while my VO2 max tested so high (85). Is there no connection there?

Maybe it hasn't been long enough since I started taking this supplement for a new blood cycle to take place. What is your advice? Keep taking the B12 supplement? Switch to a iron supplement? Or is there just nothing I can really do? Any help is appreciated.

Chris H

Scott Saifer replies:

You need to discuss what to do with your doctor, but here's a bit of understanding of what is going on. Your red cells contain normal amounts of hemoglobin but you don't have as many of them as you should. New red cells are relatively large and they get smaller as bits tear off as they age.

MCV is mean cell volume and yours is on the high side because you have an unusually large percentage of young cells. The old cells are missing. You are anaemic in the sense that you have less than normal hemoglobin concentration and red cell count, but your bone marrow is making normal red cells as fast as it can. It looks like you are losing red cells because of your purpura. A doctor should help you confirm this.

The combination of a hematocrit of 37.5% and a VO2-max of 85 is very unusual. As long as your numbers are stable though, I wouldn't worry about them, other than the platelet count. With a count of 14, you're at risk for bleeding and need to be concerned about getting hurt in a crash and not stopping bleeding. Again, that would be something to ask the docs about.

Saddle fore-aft position

Please forgive me if this topic has been covered, but I see a lot of information regarding shoe and cleat position but not so much regarding the saddle fore-aft position. In short, how should this be determined? Should the old standard (myth) of knee over the spindle be used? What exact part of the knee should be measured? What are the benefits or detriments in changing the riding position to a further back or further forward position - I notice that triathletes and time trailers sit far forward yet I have read that a forward position brings more of the fast twitch muscles into play which doesn't seem like it would be the most beneficial for TT'ing.

Damien Theophano

Scott Saifer replies:

This topic has indeed been addressed extensively. Steve Hogg has written about it many times. Here's the very short version. Check the archives for more detail. The farther forward the saddle, the more weight on your hands. Weight on hands is bad as it tires your upper body, transfers road shock to your neck, makes steering challenging and so on.

On a road bike, move the saddle back far enough that you can move slowly and with excellent control from drops to hoods while pedaling with moderate effort. If you have to tense to make the shift, or are tempted to do one hand at a time, your saddle is too far forward. Many bike won't let you get far enough back, so you may need a seatpost with extra set-back to get balanced.

On a TT bike to be ridden mostly on flat straight roads with aerobars, the seat can be farther forward. On such a bike, put the bars as low and forward as you can and still see down the road without straining your neck, then set the saddle fore-aft to meet your butt where it wants to be to keep your back and shoulders comfortable.

Damien then responded:

Thanks for the quick response. I did not make it clear that I was mostly interested in the effect on pedaling force, rather than upper body comfort, but I will check the archives.

Scott Saifer replies:

So long as the bars are adjusted to maintain the same hip-angle, pedaling force will be affected by extension, which is affected by both seat fore-aft and seat height. Within the range of fore-aft positions that can be accomplished on a standard road bike, there not going to be a difference in pedal force independent of seat height. That is, as you move the seat back, if you lower it to maintain extension and raise the bars and shorten the stem to maintain hip angle, the pedaling force will not be significantly affected.

Lower core body

I love reading your fitness section.

My question is what is a lower core body workout and what does it do for you in cycling? I've heard the term 'lower core body' a lot lately.

David

Scott Saifer replies:

I'm not sure about this one. I've heard about the core and about the lower body, but never the lower core body. Usually when people talk about a "core workout" they mean exercises to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and low back, and sometimes the hips. Some of these contribute to stabilisation of the pelvis during pedaling.

The major pedaling muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings) all attach to the pelvis, so when they contract, there are two things that happen: they pull on the femur (thigh bone) and they pull on the pelvis. Either one could move. If the muscles that stabilise the pelvis are weak, the pelvis moves and less force is delivered to the femur. If the muscles that stabilise the pelvis are strong, the pelvis is still and more of the muscular effort goes to drive the pedals.

Bike racers don't need super strong core muscles, but they do need adequate strength to keep the pelvis stable, including while sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. It is not true that every rider would benefit by increasing core strength. Some have adequate strength and would do better to invest the time in other sorts of training, but many others would in fact ride more strongly if they had stronger core muscles.

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