Asthma, Timing Strength Training, Race-Day Nutrition and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 280

Ah, living in the west, rather than the midwest… You know how many pigs and cows have their excrement in most rural midwestern/plains states creeks ? I’ll stop at a gas-station, thank you very much.

I have a similiar schedule, into the office by 715am so basically need to be off by the bike no later than 630am so i can quickly shower and be out the door.
Depending on the length of ride, i find 75min is the max i can basically tolerate between balancing sleep duration and getting up early, what I will do is up at up at 4:50am, this gives me 20min to get up, make an espresso, drink 500mL of water, stretch and get on the bike by 5:10.
I’ve taken to consuming all of my calories in liquid form and do a maltodextrin/maple syrup 2:1 mix into a 600mL bottle which gets me ~350cal and 85g of carbs. I start drinking that immediately during the warm up, and look to be finished by 45min mark, and then usually supplement with about 1/2 of a bottle of regular water to the end.

When i get to work I eat a mason jar of overnight oats which I prep the night before 1/2cup yogurt, 1cup dry oats, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, top up with almond milk (1/3 cup maybe), which amounts to 650cal, and drink a 1L nalgene of water. That generally tides me over until my feeding window opens at 11:15am.

My burn rate is ~860 calories/hr for my morning rides, give or take. I rely on my glycogen stores from overnight to supplement the ~510 cal deficit that i am not consuming when i am on the bike, and then I ensure that I’m basically putting that back in with the overnight oats. Not eating breakfast after the ride has me wanting to kill someone in the office.

Hope that helps

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What was that recovery drink recipe from @Nate_Pearson again? Can you post here.

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I get that and totally agree that it would not be advisable to wait so long to eat your next meal that you’re feeling ravenous. I didn’t mean to imply that one would skip breakfast! Rather, the model I tried to describe (if not quite clearly enough) was to treat off-the-bike intake as you normally would on a day without training (square meals emphasizing nutrient density, sustainable energy, enjoyment, satiety etc), but to 1) shift the timing of your usual intake to accommodate training (e.g. later breakfast if you had an early morning session), and 2) ensure that you also fuel the training itself specifically. In the case of an evening training session, your lunch could serve as your pre-workout fueling meal, if the timing of your planned workout and of your lunch allow. For an early morning session, you may need a later breakfast than usual, given the fuel during/after your workout would likely delay the onset of hunger relative to a day where you did not get up and train. All of this is flexible and adaptable.

To answer your question: given you train in the early morning, I suggest you distribute the 500 calories CHO as “peri-workout” fuel, then treat the rest of your off-the bike intake as that 2000 kcal baseline (assuming 2000 kcal is what you would need to nourish/fuel a regular day without training given your basal metabolic rate and type of work/lifestyle). For you this might look like: early AM training session with peri-workout fuel, mid-morning solid breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, etc. Does that make more sense?

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That’s awesome! It does seem like a lot at first, especially if you’re not used to it. But it works! I’m so glad you tried it and felt better at the end of your ride! It really makes a huge difference. Re: eating mid-race - it’s a real challenge. I’ve experienced this even on the road in technical races, or even non-technical races where the tactics result in such aggressive racing that eating becomes extremely difficult. Two things really help with this. First, practice. I know that sounds pedantic, but try eating on those less technical sections while you really lay down the power, during training rides. It does get easier with practice, and you’ll discover little tricks that may help. (I found that shoving a couple of blocks in my cheek during an opportune moment helped, and I could still breathe hard covering an attack, then chew once I was in the break, for example.) Second, plan. When you’re research a race course, look for where you’d ideally want to eat given where the climbs or key segments will be, then figure out where the terrain might be conducive to fueling. Take into account things like solid vs. liquid calories, how you’ll carry your food (race jersey vs training jersey), etc. Having a plan can make a huge difference. Hope this helps!

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I know it seems like a lot, especially if you’re not used to fueling this way, but as @wysbf2 points out, the math balances intake and output.

My main point is that if you fuel the work (by taking in close to what you’ll burn in training before/during your workout) and replenish with a recovery drink (glycogen and lean mass), you’ll maximize the gains from your training. Those gains are the specific physiological adaptations that will support metabolic health, fitness, and body composition. Often, when people start fueling their training this way, they not only feel and perform better on the bike, but they also find they feel more satiated and have higher sustained energy generally throughout the day. A body builder trying to bulk up would have to eat WAY more than this to create a caloric surplus, let alone a surplus big enough to add the kind of mass body builders seek.

If you want to create a caloric deficit, you can, but you’re best served by creating that deficit in what you eat off the bike – not while you’re training. The reason for this is that training in a deficit generally compromises the quality of work you can do, which means you don’t get as much out of the time and effort you’re putting forth on the bike. Better to fuel that effort, get the most out of it, then create your caloric deficit, say, with a smaller dinner if you’re training in the morning. That way, you fuel the work, eat for sustained energy the rest of the day, and dial back a bit on the last meal before bed. You can still achieve a deficit (small deficits over time work best), but you supported high-quality work and recovery to get the most out of your training.

It’s hard to discuss strategies like this in general terms, because everyone is so different. Not everyone needs to lose weight, and not everyone has the same schedules or type of training. This is why I like to focus on principles, which can be flexibly applied to different circumstances.

That said, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay, too. Nonetheless, I hope this helps clarify some of what we discussed on the episode.

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Thank you for the in-depth clarifications. Makes perfect sense.

I have gained many golden nuggets from this podcast and will try to incorporate them as I best can.

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Did I hear right that Nate thinks a 4k calorie day is a big food day? If so, I think I’ve got the ‘World Tour Eating’ part down…LOL

That all is mathematically probably true if you body only uses carbs for fuel. In recent years pro riders and also amateurs have come to realize that using your own fat stores for fuel gives you the metabolic flexibility to use both depending on the intensity. There is a great article in the Guardian how Chris Froome uses this for his training. Jumbo Visma use exogenous Ketons to use less carbs.
I am just a 53 year old Medical Doctor with 3 kids and a busy job. I train 4-5 times a week. Over the years I have trained my body to use fat quite efficiently and a 60-90 minute sweet sport first thing in the morning with just coffee and water is now not a problem.
From a medial standpoint, you will get away eating all those carbs in your 20ies, 30ies and maybe 40ies. But at some point when your insulin resistance goes up (which it does with age) you can become pre-diabetic, Not all but some. For me being fit is one thing but I also want to stay healthy as I age. This is my approach. Others may be to differ.

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@ambermalika Thanks for this comprehensive response. This totally exemplifies the reason you cant take top line results from studies and spin it as gospel. Take a look at all the cycling dedicated recovery shakes, like Cliff, Skratch, etc., they offer a 4-1 ratio.

@ambermalika would you still use the same recovery shake for days you are doing strength training only?

Great episode, listened to it several times now… some great takeaway nuggets that I will be looking to implement within my training.

Whilst I rarely struggle to complete a workout, and made good gains, I think that this might be in spite of my nutritional, and fueling, choices. Also seems to be “low hanging fruit” when it comes to getting the most from your training.

Thanks @ambermalika

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Having a refresher on nutrition and strength training in the same episode is sooo useful, thanks! Especially at this point of the year… it’s almost like it’s planned :grinning:

One thing I was wondering was about the 4:1 ratio. How many grams should the “1” of protein be? I may have missed this, if so sorry.

I always thought that post-exercise it was best to have 20-30g of protein, but doing that would mean having 80-120g of carbs, which seems like too many after exercise, or is that right?

My personal go-to is a scoop of whey with 2 scoops of gatorade powder, which provides quality protein and a good mix of CHO types and electrolytes. It comes out to ~220kcal with 11g protein and 44g carbohydrate.

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Always amazing to get a reply. Thanks Amber!

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Hi @ambermalika could you expand on how you arrived at 11g protein for your post-ride recovery shake and whether the same applies to a recovery shake regardless of your recommended daily PRO intake?

I think I’m supposed to be taking on c110g of PRO a day (44year old, 1.5g per KG body weight) so I increased my DIY post-ride recovery shake to 24g PRO to help me on the way to that target. However, if I stick to the 4:1 recipe, I also have to double up on CHO to 88g of CHO which was ridiculous. So I ended up with a recipe closer to 2:1 (CHO:PRO), which is closer to commercially available recovery shakes eg SIS REGO is 1:1.

In short, am I better off going back to a 4:1 recipe with a smaller PRO dose (and then trying to take on more PRO eating ‘real food’ through the rest of the day but often not achieving that!) or is a 2:1 good enough for cascading purposes and it’s more important for an amateur vet to take on the PRO?

Cheers!

So I’m so curious about this topic. I actually put in a related question specifically about calories during training. I saw someone else also pointed this out, but I’m not sure it was addressed (if it has, apologies).

It isn’t that uncommon that I’ll burn 1800 calories in a workout. When I rode my bike to work I’d burn 2000-2500. I simply find it unreasonable to expect that I’d consume 2000 calories on the bike in 2.25 hours.

But specifically, I’m not burning 2000 sugar calories. Our engines are mixed mode, we burn fat and sugar. So if we make even a base assumption of 50% fat, and 50% carbs then we could expect 1000 calories of sugar, and 1000 calories of fat.

Does it make sense to put 2000 calories into my body in the form of sugar to replace 1000 calories of sugar burned? My baseline assumption is that I’ll replace my sugar lost to effort, and let my body’s fat stores make up the difference. Assuming that 1 lb of fat is 3500 calories there are very few efforts that would burn even that little (I haven’t done too many 7k calorie rides, and I have plenty of fat to spare).

I guess I can see that estimating carb consumption a touch high might be wise, but 1 for 1 replacement seems over the top and for something like a 4 hour ride at 4k-4.5k calories dumping an excess 2000 sugar calories into my system seems unwise.

You bring up really good points re: differing goals and metabolic health. This is a huge challenge for us on the podcast in terms of sharing information to a wide range of individual cases. I really appreciate you bringing these up, because some discussion here might benefit folks following this thread.

In this episode, I did my best to frame my recommendations specifically for performance, defined as maximizing your capacity to do quality work in the workout. With practice and adaptation, fasted sweet-spot training is doable and definitely confers some benefits. When it comes to cycling performance (not just aerobic fitness), however, one’s capacities in training zones above threshold are essential, and these become impaired when training in a low-glycogen (e.g. fasted or low-carb/high-fat LCHF) state.

Chris Froome limits his carbohydrate-restricted (LCHF, not fasted) training to endurance/sub-threshold rides and only with certain frequencies during certain times of the year (see e.g. this interview), because he still needs to train threshold, VO2, and his anaerobic/neuromuscular systems and needs carbohydrate to train those zones effectively.

BUT, not everyone is training for the Tour, and not everyone needs to train those zones effectively! If you’re not racing, for example, you don’t need to develop a high work capacity in supra-threshold zones. You can get very aerobically fit doing sub-threshold work - totally legit! But, not ideal if you’re aiming for performance specifically, which is what I aimed to address in this episode.

Jumbo Visma (among other pro teams) use exogenous ketones as a supplement, but they take these while eating a carb-rich diet that supports training and racing at intensities above threshold. The theory is that the presence of circulating ketone esters and full carbohydrate (glycogen) stores can spare carbohydrate during exercise and blunt catabolic effects. There is some confusion around this, because most people read about ketones in context of Low-Carb/High-Fat (LCHF) or ketogenic diets. On a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate stores become so depleted due to fasting or LCHF that the body produces ketone bodies, and these confer some great benefits in context of depleted glycogen. While these endogenous ketone bodies help, the depleted glycogen state hinders performance and thus doesn’t confer any performance advantage. (There’s good reason you’ll never see pros racing in a low-glycogen state.) The goal of ketone supplementation among pros, on the other hand, seeks the best of both worlds: benefits of ketone esters with the benefit of fully stocked glycogen. The goal is not to reduce the need for carbohydrate intake.

For example, from Dearlove et al. 2019:
image

This not to say that LCHF or fasting don’t offer benefits. On the podcast, we walk a fine line, because we have a very broad audience. Eating disorders are extremely common in sport and fitness, and have the highest mortality of any other mental illness. Fasting is a common way to restrict calories or eating in context of an eating disorder, and it’s very hard to discuss any kind of diet with sufficient nuance to avoid misunderstandings. I recently spoke with a sport psychologist who lamented a significant spike in eating disorders this summer due to athletes incorporating fasting to their training regimes to avoid putting on “covid weight.” It’s a real concern with potentially fatal consequences. On the other hand, many people struggle with metabolic disorders that could be well served with some (medically informed and guided) fasted training or with incorporating LCHF. Some of those folks might get more out of not worrying about VO2 power output and focusing instead on interventions specific to metabolic health. Again, even those cases are highly individual.

As regards calorie balance, this episode addressed fueling the workout specifically. Taking in the same amount of calories before/during training as you’ll burn during training doesn’t mean you can’t create a caloric deficit on the day; performance-wise (again in terms of capacity to do effective interval training on the bike), if someone needs to create a caloric deficit, it’s best to fuel the workout, then create a deficit by reducing portion size in another meal (or meals) during the day. If someone does not need to create a deficit, but doesn’t want a surplus, one would adjust intake off the bike to roughly match caloric needs of basal metabolic rate and lifestyle (so total intake = total output on the day). Similarly, people can adjust total carbohydrate intake up or down depending on where they are in their season, or perhaps based on metabolic parameters (e.g. blood glucose) if, for example, they’re addressing metabolic health concerns.

All of this is why we try to offer principal-based guidance, which can be flexibly applied. Most people feel better and can do more work (put out more power) longer, when they fuel their training with carbohydrate. Over time, consistent training and fitness gains will induce many of the same adaptations conferred by low-glycogen states. In my experience (12 years racing at the World Tour level and working with global experts in exercise physiology, performance, and nutrition), the most effective training is consistent training, and consistent training comes down to good habits. It’s easier to be consistent when you approach every workout with the same habits: fueling habits, hydration habits, even music choice, time of day, or pre/post-ride routine. Most people (barring certain medical conditions) will be able to train more effectively, feel better, and thus be more motivated to train consistently, when they give their bodies the fuel they need to crush intervals, and in most cases that’s carbohydrate.

The key really is to experiment and figure out what works best for you, and it sounds like you’ve found a groove that serves you and your goals really well in light of your schedule and the demands of your life. That’s exactly what we hope for all of our athletes, and we do our best to help empower people with tools and information to apply with their best judgment to their own circumstances.

I’ll do my best in the future to try to frame our discussions more clearly, because this is nuanced stuff and can be easily misconstrued. If nothing else, I hope this offers some interesting food for thought to the thread.

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such great info @ambermalika - always a great day getting to read a series of your thoughtful posts on a topic like this one. Thank you so much!

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If you don’t use the calories of sugar, they will be stored as fat. So one way or the other, you are restoring your energy systems.
But i agree that you can’t eat everything during the ride, so that’s why they split it into multiple segments; before and during rides. If you have a 4 hour ride, you should eat a good pre-ride meal ( and if you really burn 4k during that 4 hours, you are a very powerful rider, averaging 300 watt for 4 hours is not that bad :wink: )

Thanks Amber for the informative and thoughtful contribution.
I am a bit confused about kJ vs Cal (or KCalories). If I ride at 100W that means I burn 100 Joules/second. Over an hour (3600 seconds) I will do work equivalent to 3600*100=360 kJoules.
I think the normal rule of thumb is the body requires four times that so around 1400 kJoules. Is that right?
Where I come from, all food is labelled in kJoules. Do I use 360 kJ or 1400kJ when replacing my deficit?