Skip to main content

Fitness questions and answers for September 5, 2007

Form & Fitness Q & A

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

Richard Stern ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

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.

Pre-ride Nutrition
Big gears vs. small gears
Fuel for Endurance Rides
Weight Loss/Optimizing Power to weight ratio

Pre-ride Nutrition

Thanks for your helpful and informative answers to some challenging questions. My question relates to pre-ride nutrition. I am 187cm tall and my weight varies from 74kg in winter to 72kg in summer. It has been as low as 71kg in recent years when training more intensively than normal. I am happy with my weight and feel that climbing is a comparative advantage for me. The issue for me is not weight loss but endurance. Riding time is limited due to work and family commitments to 1 long ride (3hours +) per week and a twice daily weekday commute of about 1/2 hour. I have occasionally suffered from hunger flats and more generally from loss of power on rides in excess of 3 hours.

My long rides and it seems most events that I do commence at or before 6am. It is not practical to eat more than an hour at the most before the ride. All the literature I have read suggests limiting food intake prior to a ride. I am wary of hunger flats during the long rides though and am not confident to do away with a last minute carbo intake, typically a bowl of oats. I ride with liquid form carbohydrate and gels and bars on anything longer than an hour. Is this pre-ride meal teaching my muscles not to switch to fat burning?

Andrew Shaw
Melbourne, Australia

Pamela Hinton replies:

Your instincts are correct. If you are suffering from "hunger flats" and related loss of power, then reducing your carbohydrate intake would only exacerbate the problem. Hunger flats, aka bonking, is caused by depletion of glycogen stores. Light-headedness, confusion, and tunnel vision are symptoms of inadequate glucose to maintain normal brain function. Because high-intensity exercise requires carbohydrate, and not fat, be used as the energy source, you lose power when you run out of glycogen.

Big gears vs. small gears

I am 21, cat 4 collegiate racer at 6ft 1 and weigh 155lbs. I have been riding bike tours since age 13 and started to get serious about racing last year. Several older riders have told me that I need to ride the big chain ring more often even when I am just going for a moderately paced ride. I usually ride with cadence in the 90s and don't usually shift to the big chain ring because my cadence works for my speed say 19-21mph. I tried riding bigger gears and standing more on uphills and it seems to be okay but it def. takes longer for me to recover because I can feel it the next day.

Is it okay to ride big gears and have a slow cadence (70s-90s)? Should I focus on riding in the big chain ring in order to boost my muscle mass and Power or can too much of this be harmful?

Kutztown USA

Dave Palese replies:

First, if you don't already know it, you live in/near a hotbed for cycling on the east coast. If you have a desire to improve as a racing cyclist you have more at your fingertips than most. Take advantage of it.


I was wondering how I could fix a problem when I am climbing. When I make an attack on a steep climb my rear wheel bounces off of the ground and my wheel spins out. It happens a couple of times each attack. This takes away from my attack and wastes precious time. I was wondering if you had any tips to keep my back wheel on the ground and to help out my attack.

Ryan Broxterman

Dave Palese replies:

It sounds to me like you have your weight too far forward when you get out of the saddle. It's tough to diagnose without seeing you, but I think and easy way work towards a remedy is to practice your out-of-the-saddle positioning on the bike. Start by doing so at a pace/intensity that is reduced from race levels. Focus on balancing your weight further back on the bike. A good general rule (the key here is general, but it is a good checkpoint to start with) is that you should feel the saddle just brushing your butt as the bike moves under you.Try doing a few efforts, 4-5 repeats, focusing on technique and not speed at the start of a hill repeats workout.

Fuel for Endurance Rides

Hello, I am a 175 lb, 6', 61 year old male rider who has been riding for nearly three years. I ride 3-4 times per week and cover 100-150 miles. I live on Maui, so a lot of those miles are uphill. I usually climb 5-10,000' per week.

I find that on longer rides, exceeding two hours and involving 4,000' or more of climbing I tend to 'bonk' after 2+ hours. I believe the problem is not eating right and have experimented with various approaches but have not found one that works for me. I have difficulty eating while riding (tends to inhibit breathing) so I prefer to go for liquid fuel.

Yesterday I started a 10,000' climb and for the first 2 hours my heart rate was in the 140-150 range, my max is 170. I ate approx. 1000 calories for breakfast and drank 16 oz per hour of fluid containing two scoops of 'Sustained Energy' and 1 scoop of Endurolyte powder. I also sucked frequently from a small bottle containing hammer gel. At 4,000' (2 hrs.) I started to slow noticeably and by 6,000' was experiencing cramps in the inside of my thighs. I persevered but my climbing rate dropped to 1,000' per hour from 2,000 per hour and I had trouble getting my heart rate above 125.

Do you have any advice on adequate pre-ride and during ride fuelling for me?

Maui, USA

Pamela Hinton replies:

Although your symptoms could certainly be due to lack of carbohydrate, I suspect that your fatigue and cramping are not associated with bonking. You are eating a reasonable breakfast, assuming a good portion of those calories are from carbohydrates. If you are consuming 2 scoops of "Sustained Energy" per hour, that's approximately 55g of carbohydrates per hour. The recommended intake is 30-60 g per hour. Exceeding the suggested upper limit is likely to result in gastrointestinal problems. There is one caveat to what I've said so far, if your regular diet is low in carbohydrates, you may be in continual state of glycogen depletion. The recommended carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes who regularly engage in glycogen-depleting exercise (>1.5-2 hours) is 6-10 g/ kg of body weight.

Weight Loss/Optimizing Power to weight ratio

I am a Cat 4 road cyclist that has been riding for four years, the last three of which competitively and I would like to lose more weight without sacrificing muscle mass or power on the bike in order to optimize my power to weight ratio for climbing. I am about 6' 1" tall and I weigh about 163 pounds. My waist is 31 inches, and my quads measure 23 inches in diameter at the largest point, and I have a multitude of veins visible on my arms and legs.

I can sustain approximately 5.5 watts per kilogram in a five minute power test, and between 4 to 4.5 watts/kg in a 20 minute test. I lost approximately eight pounds over the winter in an effort to lean up for the hills because I enjoy climbing and naturally perform better on the hills, and I live/train/race in an area with many hills and several extended climbs up to three to four miles. I know that according the BMI, I could lose approximately 20-25 lbs and still be considered healthy, but I have more muscle on my legs than just about all of the riders I train and race with, and I am not sure how much more weight I could or should lose in order to completely optimize my climbing. I am in the best condition of my life currently and I fear losing strength and power if I lose too much weight and becoming more susceptible to sickness. If I should lose more weight, how much would you suggest? I know this is a difficult question to answer without having my body fat professionally measured, but I appreciate any advice you can provide. Thank you for your time.

Pamela Hinton replies:

You are correct, without knowing your percent body fat it is nearly impossible to determine if you have any unnecessary fat left to lose. Even if you were to get your body fat tested, there is so much error associated with even the most accurate techniques you would have only a range of values. At best, the error associated with skin fold measurements, for example, is ± 3%. So if you're measured at 12%, you may actually be anywhere between 9-15%.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1