Fitness questions and answers for May 17, 2004

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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.

Cyclingnews is delighted this week to welcome Pamela Hinton to our fitness panel.

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.

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.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

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.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

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.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

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.

Ideal weight
Gaining weight
Regaining lost weight
Losing fat
Race food
Bike weight
Which HR equation?

Ideal weight

I have always been curious about what my ideal weight should be. I am 165cm tall and currently weigh 62kg. I have been as low as 57kg and as high as 67kg so I suppose I have a struck a balance. How does this compare to riders like Tyler and Lance?

Jason Tepper

Pam Hinton replies:

There is certainly a relationship between body type and cycling ability. Smaller riders who are relatively lightweight for their height will excel at climbing because of their high power to weight ratios. Conversely, larger riders who are heavier because of their larger muscle mass have higher absolute power outputs and will dominate on the flats and in time trials (see an article in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, 31(6):878-885, 1999).

Within the pro peloton there is a wide range of body types, which is evident when looking at the relative weight for height or body mass index (BMI= kg/ m2) of various riders. At 1.8 m and 74 kg, Lance has a BMI=23. Tyler weighs 62 kg at 1.7 m with a BMI=21. To put that in perspective, the normal range for the non-athletic population is 20-25 kg/m2.

You are curious as to what your ideal weight should be. Ideal body weight is one that allows you to be in the healthy range of body fat (5-15% for males and 12-28% for females) without dieting. If you must starve yourself to maintain your weight, you have set your goal below your ideal. Your current weight of 62 kg, puts you at a BMI of 23, which as you say, is probably a good balance.

Cyclists as a group tend to be a little neurotic about weight. Rather than obsessing on what the scale should say, you might consider what type of races best suit your natural weight and body type.

Gaining weight

I'd like to ask the opposite question of Marcus Tudehope (Fitness Q&A May 10): Is there ever a time when a cyclist should consider gaining weight? I have often wondered if I'm too thin for my height and if my power output is suffering. I'm 35 years old, 6 ft. tall and weigh 145-146 in the summer and 147-149 in the winter. I am noncompetitive and my riding consists of 3 hours a week on the trainer or rollers and then two 2-3 hour group rides on mostly flat to rolling terrain (longest hills are 2-5 minutes) at an average pace of 19-21 mph. Would an increase in muscle mass be to my advantage for my type of riding or am I okay at my current weight? If I need to gain weight, how would I do that? I am a vegetarian and consume lots of vegetables, grains, legumes and essentially no processed foods and I seem to have a really fast metabolism since I've weighed the same for the last 15 years.

Thanks for the input. I really enjoy your Fitness Q&A column.

Dan Reed
Apex, North Carolina

Pam Hinton replies:

You asked, "Is there ever a time when a cyclist should consider gaining weight?" The answer to your question is, "yes". There is point of diminishing returns when it comes to losing body weight with the goal of increasing the power to weight ratio. The power you can generate is proportional to your muscle mass, so if you have lowered your body weight to the point of losing muscle you are hurting your absolute power output. Having said that, however, our potential to gain muscle is largely determined by genetics and some of us will never have the quads of Nothstein or Cipollini no matter how much strength training we do or how much extra protein we eat.

I do, however, have a few suggestions related to your diet that might help you increase your muscle mass. But first a refresher on the First Law of Thermodynamics -the one about conservation of energy. In order to increase your body weight, you must put yourself in positive energy balance - you have to eat more energy than you expend. So, the first thing is to make sure you are getting enough energy. It takes a surplus of 350 kcal per day to gain one pound of lean body mass in one week. Add that to what you need to maintain your weight ( 3500 kcal), for a total of 4000 kcal per day.

You may find it hard to eat that many calories on a vegetarian diet. This is because plant-based diets (vegetables, grains, legumes) have a low energy density, meaning that the energy content is low per unit of volume. So you fill up before you have eaten the calories that you need. You can increase the energy density of your diet by making a conscious effort to eat more of the plant-based foods and dairy products that have a higher fat content-like nuts, full-fat cheese or tofu, and whole milk. While the fat in these foods will not be used directly to increase your muscle mass, the extra calories will prevent your body from having to break down your muscles for energy.

Secondly, you need to provide your body the substrates that it needs to support protein synthesis for muscle growth. Muscle proteins are complex molecules made up of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids and we need them in the correct proportions to make protein. We get most of these amino acids from the protein in our diets-the rest are made in the liver and kidney. Protein in food can be scored based on how closely the proportion of amino acids it contains matches what we need, correcting for digestibility of the protein. Proteins that are high quality have the right mix of amino acids and receive a score of 1.00, while proteins that are missing in an essential amino acid or are poorly digested receive a lower score. Typically, protein from animal sources like meat (0.9) and egg whites (1.0) is high quality and protein from plant sources like beans (0.6) and wheat (0.4) is lower quality. For this reason, vegetarians need to combine plant-sources of protein so that they get all of the amino acids. Examples of complementary foods are beans and rice, peanut butter and wheat bread, tofu and rice. Because of the lower protein quality of plant-based foods, it is recommended that vegetarian athletes consume 1.6-1.7 g protein/kg of body weight; this is higher than the recommendation for non-vegetarians of 1.2-1.4 g per kg of body weight. So you need 105-115 g protein per day. To put this into foods, 3 ounces of meat has 25 g, ½ cup tofu or cooked black beans has 10 g, one cup of milk or yogurt has 10 g, 1 ounce of cheese has 7 g and one egg has 3 grams of protein.

At 145 pounds, you are relatively light for your height of 6 feet, and an increase in muscle mass would probably benefit you. However, because your weight has been stable for the past 15 years, you should maybe not tack any pictures of monstrous-legged track sprinters on your wall. Instead, you should maybe go for a triumphant shot of the Great Dane, Bjarne Riis.

Regaining lost weight

I'm a 20yr old male, cat. 1 road cyclist who is racing UCI and kermesses in Europe. I have a question about how to go about gaining back lost weight.

First off, I'm 5ft 10in and currently weigh 131 lbs. However, I'm currently about 4-5lb under my race weight from last season and it's really hurting my power. The reason I feel I'm under-weight is due to me training in Florida during the months of January and February before I headed off to Europe. While in Florida I stayed with my grandparents and was a lacto-ovo vegetarian. But I found that was too hard so now I'm now longer a vegetarian. So, that could be one reason I'm under-weight, however, I feel the next reason is the biggest reason. During my stay in Florida, I started to show signs of depression. It was getting to the point where I was getting moody and wasn't eating enough as I should have been. I was doing on average 425 miles-550 miles per week while in Florida.

It is now almost Mid-May and I'm still struggling to get my weight back up. Only thing is that now I'm racing in long/hard European UCI races as well as training hard. As of right now I'm at 131 lbs, but know I should be around 135-136 lbs. I am desperate for some help, because I came over here to try and get a professional contract, but right now since I feel a lack of power, all I'm doing is getting my butt kicked. If you could please help me, I would be extremely grateful.

Also, do you have any way of telling how many calories someone in my position should be consuming? This meaning on a "totally off the bike day" or recovery day. I have a polar S-510 which tells me how many calories I burn, but I'm not really sure how many calories I should be consuming daily (not including calories expended from my rides). If you could help me out I would really appreciate it.

Bart Torre

Pam Hinton replies:

So many racers want to lose weight, not realizing that they can get themselves into the physical and emotional difficulties you are dealing with now. At 5ft 10in and 60 kg, you don't need the scale to tell you that you are 2 kg below your race weight - your performance is suffering, and more importantly, so is your sense of well-being.

My advice to you is, throw the calorie counting out the window and stop obsessing about whether you are eating enough or too much. With all of the training and racing that you are doing, you need to be eating all the time. Eat three complete meals and snack whenever you can. Even on "totally off the bike days" or recovery days, you need to eat frequently.

You were wise to recognize that a vegetarian diet may have been making it difficult to gain weight. The reason for that is the relatively low energy content of plant-based foods. You need to apply that principal to your current diet and add energy dense foods that have other nutritive value like nuts and seeds, full-fat milk and cheese. Don't be afraid to add fat to your diet. The extra calories will allow your body to preserve your muscle mass and use the protein you eat to increase your muscle mass.

The numbers you should pay attention to are the amounts of protein and carbohydrate that you are eating. Because you regularly train and race at high intensity and you want to gain muscle mass, you probably need 1.6-1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight. For you, this would be 100-105 g of protein per day. Again, to put this into foods, 3 ounces of meat has 25 g, one cup of milk or yogurt has 10 g, 1 ounce of cheese has 7 g and one egg has 3 grams of protein.

You need 6-10 g carbohydrate per kg or body weight to maintain your liver and muscle glycogen stores. So for you, that would be about 500-600 g of carbohydrate everyday. Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, and brown rice are the best sources because they haven't had the vitamins, minerals, and fiber removed in the refining process. To give you some idea of how that translates into food, a bagel has 60 g carbohydrate, one cup of oatmeal has 20 g, one cup of cooked rice has 50 g, and 1 cup of cooked pasta has 30 g.

I am quite certain that if you increase your energy intake, you will feel strong again, and your appetite for life, including bike racing, will return.

Losing fat

I am a 29 yr old female roadie who races regularly and is hoping to lower my body fat percentage significantly to produce better results - especially in the hills. I ride 250-300km per week at an average HR of about 155 and speed 31km/hr on the flat and 27km/hr for rides in the hills. Unfortunately I am limited by the weight I carry - 60kg at 162cm in height, My fat percentage is about 28% according to a set of scales I have - way too high for optimum cycling. Could you please advise on what is the best type of riding to achieve my aims. I eat very healthily (mainly low fat and low GI) and have maintained the same level of riding, eating and weight for a number of years - I just want to get rid of the fat! I could up the kilometres on the bike, but whenever I do, I just get hungrier and stay the same because I find it difficult to decrease my food intake.

Claire Stevens
Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

Since you've already figured out the low GI as a way to control fat, the next step maybe intensity control. Many of my riders report that higher intensity riding leaves them hungrier post ride than does easier riding. This makes sense as higher intensity riding depletes glycogen more quickly than lower intensity riding, and depleted glycogen supplies must be replenished before you can ride well again, while depleted fat can stay depleted with no adverse effects on your riding.

Since lower intensity riding triggers less of a hunger response, it is more effective for generating fat loss than is higher intensity riding. The important issue here is not what kind of fuel is used or how much of it during exercise, but whether you feel compelled to replace it after exercise. You haven't said how hard you are currently training. I recommend doing the majority of your training below 80% of your maximum heart rate. If your AT is less than 85% of your maximum, do the majority of your training below 10 beats below AT.

Brett Aitken replies:

My advice for weight loss is quite different to what Scott has suggested. Fat loss is as much about what your body is doing off the bike as it is on the bike. Since the majority of our daily calorie needs are burnt up off the bike the key is to turn up your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and burn more calories off the bike even while you sleep. The best way to do this is with high intensity exercise (specifically short intervals of 5 to 10 minutes at 80-95% heartrate). Do this 2 to 3 times a week in the mornings and then follow it up with a steady state low intensity ride. It will give you an elevated oxygen consumption throughout the rest of your day and raise your overall BMR.

Not only this but the actual interval session will give you a much higher calorie expenditure and improved fitness. Although the percentage of fat burn may be higher at lower intensities it's the total calorie expenditure overall which counts and this is always greater at the higher intensity. Remember it's calories in vs calories out no matter how you look at it. So if you are burning 10% more calories while you sleep (a time when you can't eat!) then this is a good step in the right direction.

Race food

What do you recommend for fuel/food during a road race? I am happy with my Hammer 'Sustained Energy' drinks, but the best mix of solids with liquids escapes me?

James Thacker

Pam Hinton replies:

There are several things to consider when it comes to deciding on what to eat and drink during a race. First of all you need to stay hydrated, so fluids are a necessity. Second, you want to stay fueled with carbohydrates, not protein or fat. And, as you put it, "are you happy with it"?

Performance deteriorates rapidly with dehydration. Loss of only 1% of body water has been shown to increase the workload on the heart and to decrease the ability to dissipate heat. Consequently, staying adequately hydrated is a top priority. Drink 16 ounces of fluid two hours prior to the race and attempt to drink 8-12 ounces every 20 minutes during the event.

A fluid replacement drink that contains sodium has two potential advantages over plain water. The sodium increases palatability, or how it easily it goes down, so you are likely to drink more fluid than if you were drinking plain water. The sodium also reduces the risk of hyponatremia, the condition where blood sodium levels become too low and performance deteriorates rapidly. This condition is quite rare and most often occurs in marathon and ultra marathon type events lasting longer than three hours and in individuals who ingest a large volume of fluid without electrolytes.

Consuming carbohydrate during events that last longer than 90 minutes has been shown to improve performance by delaying the onset of fatigue that occurs when muscle and liver glycogen stores are depleted. The recommended intake is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Drinking 16-32 ounces of a commercial fluid replacement beverage that contains 4-8% carbohydrates every hour, would meet this guideline. Typical energy gels contain about 25 g of carbohydrate, and these work fine as long as they are taken with water to avoid gastrointestinal distress. The best type of carbohydrate to consume during exercise is glucose or maltodextrin. Fructose stays in the intestine longer and may cause diarrhea.

The final consideration is just as important as the other three-how well does your food/fuel suit you? This is a question you need to answer by experimenting during training rides. Unlike your expensive, ultra-light wheels that you save only for race day, you need to try out new combinations of food and drink on hard training days. In your case, it seems that the Hammer Sustained Energy Drinks are working well. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Bike weight

I am a Junior racer and plan on doing about 10-12 races this year including some stage races. I have a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elites on my bike, but I was wowed by the American Classic 420's for their extremely low weight and aerodynamics. I figured I could have the heavier (but bulletproof) Ksyriums as my training wheels and set up the American Classics with ultra-light tires and tubes for race day. My local shop man thinks I'm just wasting my hard earned cash. The question is, how much does 3/4 of a pound help? I ride in the hills a lot and would love to cut a little weight, but he said it's not worth it and advised me to spend it on training tools such as a power meter (which is much more expensive). My training is going great and I have great confidence in my program, I was just thinking the wheels would give me that extra tiny boost as an added bonus.

Brandon Baker

Cyclingnews tech editor John Stevenson replies:

Keith Bontrager does a good - and entertaining - analysis of this issue here.

Eddie Monnier replies:

I'd have to agree with your local shop owner and with Keith Bontrager. If you want to experience the difference yourself, you could climb your longest favorite hill once with two standard water bottles full of water and once with only one bottle. A full standard 20 oz water bottle weighs about 1.3 pounds, which is 1.7 times as much weight as you hope to save. I think you'll find you cannot discern the difference. Use that money toward coaching and/or a power meter and it will be money better spent (but of course I'm biased!).

Other factors to consider besides weight include aerodynamics, stiffness, durability, braking performance and of course price. For a high performance wheel that is suitable for both training and race use, I think you've got a fine wheelset. Realize that for many racers, Ksyriums are exclusively for racing and they have a heavier, less aero, more durable set for everyday training.

Which HR equation?

When discussing heart rate percentages which of the two popular equations are used by the staff at Cyclingnews? One uses HR resting and the other does not. Here they are:

Equation 1:

HRdesired = HRworking * desired% = ((HRmax - HRresting) * desired%) + HRresting

Where:

HRdesired = the desired training HR in bpm (beats per minute).
HRworking = The working heart rate. Defined as: HRmax - HRresting
HRmax = Some upper limit HR, such as MSP (maximum sustainable power), MSS (maximum steady state), maximum heart rate, etc.
HRresting = Resting HR
desired% = Desired intensity level (0 to 100%)

For instance, if HRmax is 180 and HRresting is 60 then HR at 90% intensity is:

HRdesired = ((180 - 60) * 90%) * 60 = 168 bpm

or,

Equation 2:

HRdesired = HRmax * desired%

For instance, HRmax is 180 then HR at 90% intensity is:

HRdesired = 180 * 90% = 162 bpm

IMHO, although simpler, equation 2 seems a little ridiculous since, in the above example, a resting HR corresponds to a workout intensity of 33%! (180 * 33% = 60 bpm). How could workout intensity be anything other than zero (0%) at resting HR?

Recently Dario Fredrick responded to a question titled "Hills" from Steve in Wisconsin where he suggested that the max steady state (MSS) HR should be determined and intervals performed at 85 to 90% of MSS HR. Which equation is he referring to?

Tom Jordan

Dario Fredrick replies:

I was referring to percentages of maximal steady state (MSS) heart rate. As I mentioned in my original response, MSS is defined as the maximal sustainable power & corresponding average heart rate for a 30 minute effort.

I do not recommend using resting or maximum heart rate (HRmax) values to determine training intensities. Resting HR varies significantly between people and over time. Determining maximum heart rate HRmax is difficult and at times, not possible to reach. HRmax can also change with training and declines with age. More importantly, heart rate training zones are not necessarily a fixed percentage of one's HRmax.

For example, cyclist A and cyclist B each have a HRmax of 195bpm. If we use absolute percentages of HRmax to determine training, such as 95% of HRmax as MSS, we assume that both cyclists will time trial at 186bpm. It is possible however, that cyclist A has a max steady state heart rate of 186bpm and cyclist B at 176bpm. At 186bpm in a time trial cyclist B will likely blow up after 3 to 5 minutes.

A valid method for determining heart rate training zones is based on one's individual maximal steady state (MSS). Rather than doing a 30min time trial each time you want to determine your training zones however, a valid performance test is a shorter, relatively easier (at least in terms of recovery) and more descriptive method of measurement.

Keep in mind that the design of the performance test is critical to the heart rate numbers that result. A valid and reliable testing method is one which accurately predicts MSS heart rate and power each time you test. An effective test will also reveal your power output throughout the heart rate training zones so that re-testing can show the progress of different levels of training. I have developed and validated a new test protocol that predicts MSS. The study was presented at the 2003 ACSM conference and should be in publication soon (Fredrick, 2003).

1. Fredrick, D.M., M. A. Kern, and B. F. Miller. Validation of a New Maximum Steady State Protocol for Cyclists. Med. Sci. Sports & Exerc. , Vol. 35(5) Sup. 1, p. S192, 2003.

Tom Jordan responded:

In my question I defined HRmax as, "Some upper limit HR, such as MSP (maximum sustainable power), MSS (maximum steady state), maximum heart rate". Perhaps I should have used HRul (for Upper Limit), or HRmss to avoid confusion with peak maximum heart rate.

Your explanation does make it clear that HRmss is a better upper limit than HRmax.

However, the major thrust of my question was shouldn't HRresting be part of the equation (as shown in Equation 1)? You said, "Resting HR varies significantly between people and over time." This is true, but HRmss also varies significantly between people and doesn't HRmss also vary over time? Even if HRresting does vary over time, is that really a problem since it is so easy to measure?

Equation 1 (amended):

HRdesired = (HRworking * desired%) + HRresting ,or
HRdesired = ((HRmss - HRresting) * desired%) + HRresting
HRdesired = ((180 - 60) * 85%) + 60 = 162 bpm
HRdesired = ((180 - 60) * 25%) + 60 = 90 bpm (slow walk)
HRdesired = ((180 - 60) * 0%) + 60 = 60 bpm (HRresting)

All the intensities yielded by this equation make sense - intensities of 0% at HRresting and 100% at HRmss.

Equation 2 (amended):

HRdesired = HRmss * desired%

HRdesired = 180 * 85% = 153 bpm
HRdesired = 180 * 50% = 90 bpm (slow walk - 50% intensity?)
HRdesired = 180 * 33% = 60 bpm (HRresting - 33% intensity?)
HRdesired = 180 * 0% = 0 bpm (dead at 0% intensity!)

This equation yields intensities that don't make sense at the lower end of the scale - 100% at HRmss, but 33% at HRresting (when HRmss=180 and HRresting=60, for instance). One would have to have a HR of 0 (be dead) to be working out at 0% intensity! Why not use an equation that yields sensible intensities throughout its entire range?

If you don't like HRresting, perhaps the lower end of the scale could be set by some reference low-level baseline activity such as a slow walk. That would make would yield:

Equation 3:

HRdesired = (HRworking * desired%) + HRslowwalk ,or
HRdesired = ((HRmss - HRslowwalk) * desired%) + HRslowwalk
HRdesired = ((180 - 90) * 85%) + 90 = 166.5 bpm
HRdesired = ((180 - 90) * 50%) + 90 = 135 bpm
HRdesired = ((180 - 90) * 0%) + 90 = 90 bpm (slow walk)

Here the intensity level is a true indication of the effort over the baseline activity, and again, HRslowwalk is easy to measure.

I contend that Equation 3 makes more sense than Equation 2 in the same way that the Celsius temperature scale is more appropriate than Kelvin for everyday use. The lower limit of the Celsius scale (0 C) is set by the freezing point of water, where as the lower limit of the Kelvin scale (0 K) is absolute zero (-273 C).

The relative confort zone for life is approximately 0 to 30 C, or 273 to 303 K. Since, temperatures less than 233 K (-40 C) is beyond the experience of most people, the Kelvin scale is more awkward for everyday use. Similarly, heart rates less than HRresting (and arguably less than HRslowwalk) are uninteresting to athletes. The Kelvin scale is very useful is some scientific areas such as cryogenics and super-conductivity, just like the heart rates less than HRresting are interesting to medical science. So both equations have their uses, just like Celsius and Kelvin; it is just that Equation 3 has a scale that is more appropriate for athletes.

Thanks for your insights. I look forward to reading the results of your study - is it available on-line? If so please reply with a link to it.

Dario Fredrick replies:

Since we are talking about training intensities for endurance cycling performance, values that are lower than 70% of maximal steady state heart rate (HRmss) are of limited training value except perhaps for active recovery. I do not prescribe specific intensities that are below 70% HRmss, but simply suggest active recovery rides to be generally

To answer your question about the variability of HRmss, it does vary among cyclists, but not much over time. It can change in an individual after a significant period of inactivity (>3 weeks), but there appears to be little variation in individual HRmss between pre-season training and race fitness periods. What changes is sustainable power at MSS.

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