Fitness questions and answers for May 31, 2004

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

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.

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.

Training on medication
Low carb diet and cycling
Getting dropped early from races
Recreational cycling calorie needs
Recommended daily hours
Needing to drop some weight
Cramps
Losing weight/staying strong
Energy levels for carb free, yeast killing diet

Training on medication

Recently I've started taking a medication that, as a side effect, raises my HR about 10-15 bpm. This figure seems to hold up across my HR range -- in other words I am about 10-15 bpm higher at each power reading on my SRM. My question is -- how does this effect my AT if at all. My AT is about 175 normally, and I assume that figure wouldn't change, nor would my MHR. So am I just stuck having to ride easier/slower until I stop taking this medication?

Dean Georgaris

Scott Saifer replies:

This is a very interesting question, and one that calls for a bit of understanding of physiology to answer. Remember that the anaerobic threshold (better called lactate threshold, LT) is an effect that occurs locally in the working muscle. That means that while there is a heart rate at which your pedaling muscles typically begin to produce more lactate than they consume, there is no more direct connection to heart rate. The way most people experience this disconnect is by noting that smaller muscle groups can experience a lactate burn even while the heart rate is low, for example when a cyclist decides to go swimming for some reason.

You are taking a drug which increases your heart rate for any given power output. Logically there are two ways this could happen. First, and very unlikely, you could be having your normal stroke volume so that blood flow at a given heart rate is the same as it has been, and somehow your muscles have become much less effective at taking up oxygen from your blood. Second, and much more likely, your drug is decreasing your stroke volume and therefore the volume of blood that you are pumping at any given heart rate. If this is the case, your cycling LT will occur at a higher heart rate than it used to by about the same 10-15 beat increase that you've noted for lower intensities of exercise.

You haven't said why you've started the drug. If your doctor says that it is okay for you to exercise hard, I'd suggest that you do new threshold and maximum heart rate tests and reset all your zones. If it's not okay for you to ride hard, then it really doesn't matter what has happened to your LT heart rate.

Dario Fredrick replies:

Assuming that it is indeed the medication that is affecting your HR, and that whatever condition that you are taking the medication for does not preclude you from high intensity exercise, I recommend basing your training efforts on your power training zones rather than on your previous HR zones. I would also be sure your SRM is calibrated properly (programmed slope), and that the offset numbers differ by less than 10 at the start of your rides, or with significant changes in temperature during a ride.

If your HR numbers are inflated by 10-15 bpm across the board, including at your threshold (maximal sustainable power for 30min), but your power zones are unchanged, then simply use power for now. You don't need to reduce your training workloads just because your HR values may be "artificially" inflated. If you are not sure exactly what your threshold power (maximal steady state) is, you can do a field test:

To determine your max steady state (MSS) power on a climb, select a 20-30 min climb (gradual to moderate gradient) and, after warming up well (30 min to 1hr), ride the climb at your fastest sustainable pace. Choose a time of day when the temperature is not too hot or cold. Be sure not to go out too hard at the beginning of the climb, but only as hard as you can sustain for 30 min. Record your average power. This should give you your approximate MSS or "threshold". MSS power on flat terrain should be approximately 10-15W less.

Low carb diet and cycling

I am contemplating beginning the South Beach diet, in order for me to lose 15-20 lbs. As you know, this is a carb-restricted plan, particularly in the early stages of the diet. While I want to lose the pounds, I am concerned about the lack of fuel for training and racing. South Beach is interesting because it claims that one will lose 8-13 lbs in the first two weeks, when carbs are the most restricted.

I am 46 years old, weight 204 lbs at 6'1", and compete in 12-15 mile time trials 2-3 times per month. I train regularly, about 8-10 hours per week.

Peter Richardson
Cape Elizabeth, ME

Pam Hinton replies:

Let me ask you, do you really want to adhere to a diet that promises, "no exercise is required?" You are an athlete after all! Instead, allow me to suggest an appropriate alternative. So instead of the "South Beach Diet," how about trying the "Podium Peter Diet"?

Seriously, though, your concerns about the low carbohydrate intake recommended by the South Beach Diet are legitimate ones. I guarantee that your training and racing will suffer if you avoid all pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, baked goods, fruit, and some vegetables as is recommended for the two-week Phase I. Even in Phase II, during which time continued weight loss is promised, carbohydrate intake is restricted. According to the plan, you reintroduce carbohydrates by starting with one piece of fruit and continuing with some cereal or bread. If your weight loss stalls during this phase, you are instructed to cut back on your carbohydrate intake or try different carbs. They suggest, for example, "If you try an apple, two slices of bread, and a banana daily and notice that your weight loss has stalled, you've gone too far".

On the website for the South Beach Diet there are sample meal plans for all three phases of the diet. If you estimate the amount of carbohydrate that is provided by the sample meals it is about 35 grams for Phase I, 80 grams for Phase II, and 120 grams for Phase III. Let's compare these numbers to the recommended intakes. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrate is determined by the brain's carbohydrate need because, unlike the heart, lungs, liver and other organs, the brain has to use carbohydrate for energy. For healthy adults, the RDA is 130 g of carbohydrate per day.

While skeletal muscle can use fat for energy, this only works when you are resting or exercising at very low intensity. As exercise intensity increases, your muscles rely more and more on carbohydrate for energy. The primary source of carbohydrate during exercise is what is stored in the muscle as glycogen. As you would expect, athletes need more carbohydrate than the brain's minimum requirement. Endurance athletes require 6-10g carbohydrate per kg of body weight to replete their muscle and liver glycogen stores. Assuming a good racing weight for you is 80 kg, you need 480-800g carbohydrate per day. You can see that trying to race on this diet would be as foolish as thinking you could drive your car without putting gasoline in it.

I don't doubt that you would lose a significant amount of weight during Phase I of the diet. With restricted carbohydrate intake, the body would use the glycogen it has stored in the liver and skeletal muscle to fuel the brain. When glycogen is broken down, the water that is part of the glycogen is released and excreted in the urine. When intake of carbohydrate is inadequate, skeletal muscle is broken down and the amino acids that make up muscle proteins are converted into glucose to meet the body's demands. Muscle is about 73 percent water, so when muscle proteins are catabolized the water that was once part of the muscle cells is also excreted in the urine. The number on the scale may drop rapidly on this diet, but losing water and not body fat, will do nothing to help your time trialing.

My advice is to stop contemplating going on a carb-restricted diet. You might cut out an extra beer or a second helping at dinner. But whatever you do, don't short yourself on carbs. The number you should be watching is the one on the stopwatch, not the one on the bathroom scale.

Getting dropped early from races

I am a 31 year male who has recently resumed road racing after a 6 year absence. I used to ride C grade and competed in a few B grade races both on the road and in crits.

I have had a very good summer training regime which has been reduced to maintenance training coming into winter.

I have competed in 3 races this season. In the first I groveled home 30 seconds behind the pack after hanging off the back all day, in the second I got dropped after about 20 minutes and in the last race I only hung on for five minutes. My problem is that my heart rate sky-rockets at the commencement of the races and does not drop below 170, whilst getting as high as 185. This happened for the first 30 minutes of the first race and the pattern has been similar in the last 2 races where I just blew in a big way and had to drop off the back.

The strange thing is that I can ride flat out in a group ride with a mix of graded riders in the mornings (racing is in the afternoon) over a similar distance, at speeds equal or greater to the racing speed and not have an issue. My heart rate would be unlikely to get over 176 and recovery is not an issue.

I believe that this could be due to either the time difference, as I always train early in the morning, inadequate warm up prior to racing or possibly pre race diet. Could you let me know your thoughts on this problem and offer some possible solutions.

Marco Tonelli
Essendon Australia

Dave Palese replies:

If I am understanding you correctly, that you do a group ride in the morning that is similar to or even a bigger effort than your race in the afternoon, you may just be tired from your morning effort when you race later in the day.

I would suggest forgoing the morning group rides and focus on the afternoon race. Save you legs for when it counts.

Recreational cycling calorie needs

I am a recreational cyclist wondering about carb and calorie intake. I ride 5 or 6 days per week, and ride 30 minutes to 180 minutes per ride (6-8 hours total). Most of my miles are in the endurance HR zone (65 to 70 percent max HR). I do mix in some moderate hills, quick pedaling (105 to 115 rpm) and 10 to 20 second sprints throughout the week. I am 5ft 11in and 195 lbs. I lifted weights pretty heavily in my 20's (I'm now 39) so I do not have a cyclist body type. I am probably 20 lbs over weight and want to lose that extra weight, but I am having trouble losing it steadily.

I take in roughly 2500 calories per day, with an average of 250g carbs, 75g fat and 150g protein. My cycling computer says I burn roughly 1,000 calories per hour on the bike. That sounds kind of high to me, but I am not sure. When I cut my carb intake lower than 2,500 I seem to bonk frequently. Any suggestions?

Todd N. Tuengel
So. Cal.

Pam Hinton replies:

Your weight loss goal of 20 pounds is a reasonable one given your current weight of 195 pounds at 5ft 11in. To lose weight you must expend more energy than you take in. It takes a deficit of about 3500 kcal to lose one pound of body fat. By creating a negative energy balance of 500 kcal per day, you will lose one pound of body fat over the course of a week.

The estimated energy cost of cycling at 16-19 miles per hour is 12 kcal per kg of body weight per hour. So, according to this formula, your computer is on target and you burn about 1000 kcal per hour cycling at this speed. Given this level of energy expenditure and your current estimated dietary intake of about 2500 kcal per day, you should be steadily losing weight. The discrepancy likely comes from your assessment of your diet. Human beings are notorious for under-reporting their food intake. I would suggest that you keep a written food record for one week, writing down everything that you eat and drink. To be sure that it is accurate, measure your food and beverages. This may seem like overkill, but it is the best way to accurately determine your energy intake. Once you have completed the food record, use a diet analysis program to determine your nutrient intake. The United States Department of Agriculture website allows you to analyze your diet free of charge.

After you have determined your current nutrient intake, carefully evaluate your diet. Look for ways that you can reduce your energy intake. Try to cut back on foods that are high in empty calories, i.e., high in energy and low in other nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). A good example of this type of food is the fat that we add to our food as butter on bread, dressing on salad, etc. You may not have to make any drastic changes to your diet. Remember that a number of small changes can make a significant difference over time. For example, by using one tablespoon of butter instead of two, you cut out 100 kcal. This a very small decrease in your overall energy intake, but over the course of 4-5 weeks would result in a loss of one pound of body fat. Pay attention to the energy you consume as beverages. Soda, fruit drinks, and beer have about 150-200 calories per 12-ounce can and most of that energy comes from simple sugar (or alcohol). You could easily reduce your energy intake by eliminating these "empty" calories.

The carbohydrate recommendation for endurance athletes is 6-10 g carbohydrate per kg of body weight per day. If you use your desired body weight of 175 pounds, you should take in 480-800g per day. If you don't, you will not have enough carbohydrate stored as glycogen in your muscles to finish long training rides without bonking. Endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4 g of protein per kg of body weight. For you (at 175 pounds) this would be 96-112 g of protein per day. So your current protein intake of 150 g per day is a bit more than you need.

Always remember that we can only estimate energy expenditure and caloric intake - there will always be some error associated with the numbers. Ultimately, you have to listen to your body.

Recommended daily hours

I read a quote in a popular fitness magazine that said in order to develop the aerobic system properly, you need at least two hours of riding a day, four days a week. Is there any truth to this number, or can the aerobic system be well developed with rides less than two hours? I don't have time for this much riding. What is the minimum daily hours you recommend?

Rich, Cat 5
Connecticut

Eddie Monnier replies:

There's no one right answer to your questions and lots of variables to consider (e.g., do you come from an endurance sport background, what are your natural strengths and limiters, what type events are you targeting, what are your goals for those events, etc.)

However, I would say if you could get one ride per week of 2-3 hours and then three to four quality sessions of 60-90 minutes during the week focused on addressing your limiters you may find you can be competitive on that.

While many of us are hopelessly addicted to our bikes, only a very few get to make their living riding. That means we often have to do less than we would like because of competing priorities. And that requires that we (a) be as efficient as possible with the little time we have and (b) set goals appropriately.

Scott Saifer replies:

My clients who try to race on less than 8 hours per week of training are rarely successful. Those who train 10-12 hours per week do pretty well in the beginner ranks in California. Some other districts may be easier. For a rider with minimal available training time and aspirations to being competitive in the fives, I'd suggest 60-90 minute rides as often as possible with at least one three-hour ride each week for a total of at least ten hours per week of riding time, and at least one day off every 10 days.

Needing to drop some weight

I am 5ft 10in and I weigh about 184lbs. I know that my weight considerably affects my riding. I always get dropped on hill climbs and I struggle to keep up with pace lines after a few hours of riding. I am trying to watch my calorie intake and I am paying special attention to eating smaller portions than I used to. I run about 15-20 miles a week, I ride 3-5 hours a week, and I swim and surf up to 10 hours a week... mostly surf. I want to excel in my running and riding (which means I need to eat right to build my muscles), but I really want to shed 10-15lbs. Do I just concentrate on losing weight first and using that new weight as a base to developed my riding/running?

Jay Hall

Pam Hinton replies:

I agree with you, your chances of hanging with the group will increase if you lose 10-15 pounds. At 5'10" and 184(ish) pounds, you could safely lose weight without compromising your performance. You asked, "Do I just concentrate on losing weight first and using that new weight as a base to develop my riding/running?" I have to admit I am a bit concerned that you may go overboard with the dieting thing, hoping to create a new body that you can then whip into shape. I know that 10-15 pounds may seem like a lot of weight to lose, especially if you feel like your efforts to cut back on portion size aren't working. In my experience, however, you will be much more successful at losing the weight and maintaining a lower weight if you focus more on your training and less on "dieting".

To lose weight, as you know, you have to create an energy deficit. A negative energy balance of 500 kcal per day will result in the loss of about one pound per week. If you lose weight too rapidly (

To create an energy deficit you can decrease your energy intake and/or increase your energy output. Being aware of portion size is a great place to start to decrease your energy intake. There are other small changes that you can make to your diet that aren't likely to have a negative impact on your training. You want to limit your intake of foods that have a high energy density, i.e., a lot of kcal per volume, and that are low in other nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). A good example of this type of food, is the fat that we add to our food as butter on bread, dressing on salad, etc. I am by no means suggesting that you eliminate these foods from your diet. Rather, simply decrease the amount that you consume. For example, by using one tablespoon of dressing instead of two, you cut out 100 kcal. This a very small decrease in your overall energy intake, but over the course of 4-5 weeks would result in a loss of one pound of body fat. You should also pay attention to the energy you consume as beverages. Soda, fruit drinks, and beer have about 150-200 calories per 12- ounce can and most of that energy comes from simple sugar (or alcohol). You could easily reduce your energy intake by eliminating these "empty" calories.

To increase the "energy out" half of the energy balance equation you could increase the frequency or duration of your exercise session to expend more calories. You might also try increasing the intensity of your running or cycling workouts by doing hill repeats or intervals once a week. The high intensity efforts (>85% of max) cause your metabolic rate to stay elevated for several hours after the workout. This increase in your metabolic rate by 10% is equivalent to approximately 200 extra calories expended during the 24 hours after the high-intensity session. It takes an energy deficit of 3500 kcal to lose one pound of body fat. You could accomplish this by substituting a high intensity workout for 8 weeks.

Don' lose sight of your ultimate objective -which is to excel at your running and riding - as you try to drop a few pounds. Keep focused on your training, which is just as important as your weight, and you will be able to rotate through the pace line the entire ride soon enough.

Cramps

I am a 37 yr old cat. 4/masters roadie. I have been racing and training hard for three years I average 10 to 12 hours per week on the bike. I have a problem with leg cramps under maximal power/sprints. I weigh 161lbs and am 5ft 11in. I have done my best at hydrating and eating on the bike.

My first bad cramp was last year when I raced a 30 km Crit. I had it won but cramped 150 m from the finish and could not turn a peddle let alone unclip. I therefore followed my coaches advice and hydrated well pre-race with water and sports drinks. On the bike I drank a mixture of water and Gatorade. I also took a Clif Shot each lap however I cramped on an uphill sprint ( again! ) and lost 2nd and 3rd place , finishing fourth.

What am I doing wrong? Am I one of those athletes prone to cramps? It is always an uphill sprint, could this have something to do with it? The temperature both days was warm but not hot or humid.

Paul Goobie

Eddie Monnier replies:

Cramps are difficult to address, largely because we don't actually know what causes them, which is sort of ironic given that we can put a man on the moon. But that's a testament to how complex the human body is. Although people refer to sodium and electrolyte levels as causes of cramping, there isn't much evidence to support that notion, especially in events lasting fewer than four hours.

A couple of observations...For starters, I generally have my athletes use Gatorade full strength if that's their drink of choice. It's designed to be consumed full strength, not diluted. Secondly, in a race as short as 30K, you shouldn't need to consume gels at all, let alone a gel every lap. Thirdly, since this problem began anew last year, can you identify and changes in your diet (eg, some supplements such as creatine may contribute to cramping), position or equipment that may be contributing factors? Finally, sometimes muscles cramp when pushed harder than they are accustomed to. If you haven't already, I would certainly incorporate uphill sprints into your training program.

Losing weight/staying strong

I am a 34 yr old male who rides 3 times per week for a total of 100 hilly miles. I carry way too much weight (255 lbs) and would like to get under 200 lbs over the next year. Can you recommend a program that would help me cut weight while gaining strength at the same time?

Steve Wilkinson

Pam Hinton replies:

First of all, I like your perspective on losing weight. You don't want to compromise your strength, which can happen if you lose muscle mass while dieting. You also have set a reasonable target weight and a sensible time frame for reaching your goal.

Given your size, I am guessing that you are a strong guy who has added a few extra pounds post twenty-something. So I think that your goal should be to maintain your muscle mass and lose some of the extra body fat.

There are two common scenarios in which people lose muscle mass and strength when they try to lose weight. The first is trying to lose weight too quickly. Rapid weight loss, attempting to lose more than one pound per week, often results in loss of muscle because energy intake on these diets is very low. For example, a person would have to cut 1,000 kcal from their diet every day while maintaining their normal activity levels to lose two pounds in one week. The brain, nervous system, and blood cells have to use glucose, a sugar which comes from carbohydrate, for energy. When intake of carbohydrate is inadequate, skeletal muscle is broken down and the amino acids that make up muscle proteins are converted into glucose to meet the body's demands. The second scenario is prevalent among the dieting public today. As you might guess, people who go on "low-carb" diets, particularly those that are also low in total energy, lose muscle mass.

The rapid weight loss that occurs in the first week of a diet is often attributed to "water loss". This attribution is correct. With decreased dietary carbohydrate intake, the body will use the glucose it has stored in the liver and skeletal muscle in the form of glycogen. When glycogen is broken down, the water that is part of the glycogen is released and excreted in the urine. Muscle is about 73% water. When muscle proteins are catabolized and used to make glucose, the water that was once part of the muscle cells is also excreted in the urine. So the number on the scale may drop rapidly on these diets, but losing water and not body fat, will do nothing to help your cycling.

You can see that the rate of weight loss and adequate carbohydrate intake are the keys to successfully losing extra body fat, while keeping the muscle. If you are able to accomplish this change in your body composition, you will see an improvement in your performance. Let me use one of mid-Missouri's star racers as an example of how to lose weight and maintain strength.

During the winter Butthead, as we affectionately call Josh, lost 20 pounds and now weighs 147 pounds at 5'10". And, having lost [the weight of] a small dog, as one of his teammates put it, Butthead is now a force to be reckoned with. He lost the weight over a three-month period by making changes to his diet while consistently putting in base miles. One change that Butthead made was to replace foods that had low nutrient density (i.e., a lot of calories and not much else) with higher quality choices. For example, instead of eating muffins and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, he would have oatmeal and fruit. A sandwich, vegetables, and fruit replaced power lunches of burgers and fries. Other foods of low nutrient density, were virtually eliminated from Butthead's diet. He cut way back on his consumption of mochas, soda, gin, and beer. Another change Butthead made was to decrease portion size at dinner and to eat until satisfied, but not stuffed. He still enjoyed pasta, steak, and ice cream, but didn't over-indulge. During his weight loss, Butthead was careful to monitor his strength. He never felt like he was starving or losing power on the bike.

Follow Butthead's example, cut the "empty calories" out of your diet and keep the high-quality carbs. You should aim to get 55-65% of your energy from carbohydrates. This works out to about 400-500 g carbohydrate per day on a 3000 kcal per day diet. To increase your energy expenditure, try riding 4-5 times per week instead of your current 3 times. Alternatively, you might increase the duration of one of your rides or up the intensity by doing intervals or hill repeats once a week.

If you make these changes and stick with them, you will see results. And hopefully, unlike our intrepid Mid-Missouri friend, people will reference your new anatomical landscape in a more positive manner.

Energy levels for carb free, yeast killing diet

I am suffering from a bout of yeast (candida) infections (for a period of about 2 months) likely related to recent high stress levels (both personal and professional). In researching how to become yeast free I have found that there seems to be a general consensus that one needs to cut out, for a period of time until a healthy balance is reachieved in the body, all products that are: yeast related (bread, cheese, alcohol), white sugars, carbs such as pasta and rice, etc. From my research I understood that to actually starve the yeast, one needs to spend at least 10 days eating NO foods which will convert to sugar quickly in the body which includes all fruits, most nuts, in essence, almost no carbs. I found a few guides to a yeast free diet which coincide in letting you add more starchy foods over a few months after the first 10 symptom free days.

I am currently in training for my first half-ironman (August) and my second Olympic distance triathlon (June) and find myself suffering from a tremendous lack of energy from eating almost only protein. I am healthy, active 29 year-old female.

Any advice on a diet which will rid me of yeast, yet provide me with enough energy to keep up my training will be greatly appreciated.

Kalara Schuster

Pam Hinton replies:

As you probably know, humans normally have small amount of the yeast, candida albicans, on our skin and in our mouths and gastrointestinal tracts. The growth of the yeast is kept under control by the normal bacteria that are present. The yeast becomes problematic when the bacteria no longer keep the growth of the yeast in check. This most frequently happens in individuals whose immune systems are compromised by medications or stress.

In general the treatment for yeast infections involves two strategies: decreasing exposure to yeast and increasing the healthful bacteria. You want to avoid exposure to yeast as much as possible. Because yeast spores occur naturally in the air and grow rapidly in carbohydrate and water, you cannot eliminate yeast completely.

Avoid all foods that contain yeast: bakers' yeast, "natural vitamins" derived from yeast, enriched flours and fortified cereals that contain vitamins derived from yeast, yeast-forming foods (fermented beverages, vinegar, malt), mold foods (mushrooms), and mold-containing foods (cheese).

Rice flour, corn meal and corn flour, potato flour, soy flour are allowed on a yeast-controlled diet. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables, rice and hominy grits are also permissible. Fresh fruits and fruit juice are OK, but do not eat dried, frozen or canned fruit or fruit juice. Try eating some of these foods to increase your carbohydrate intake.

You can reintroduce healthful bacteria into your gastrointestinal tract by eating unsweetened, plain yogurt with live bacteria cultures.

There are anti-fungal medications available. If you have not consulted a physician, I suggest that you do so. The medication may expedite the healing process so that you can focus on your training.

Back to top