Fitness declining despite positive changes

Hey y’all first post here but I’ve been lurking for a little while. This might take awhile

I’ll start with some background. 36yo with a 2year old and a 5month old that works a full time job plus has a small company on the side that in all represents about 50hr work week. We’ve got a decent sized property that requires a bit of maintenance so my training time is pretty limited and sporadic. However I’m usually above my prescribed TSS and very rarely miss workouts.

I’ve been riding bikes for about 6yrs primarily MTB and have transitioned to primarily road within the last year with the expanding family. The vast majority of all riding is on a trainer. All last year my primary riding was just completely burying myself via zwift races but no true structured training. My diet at that time was a high fat/low carb(sub 60g consistently) and just water during rides. Decided to try my hand at some Crit racing this year as well as structured training. I first did an 8week Crit crusher to which I followed perfectly and ended with a 311w FTP via zwifts 20min ramp test.

After listening to the TrainerRoad podcast I decided to completely change my diet and switch my training to TrainerRoad which I did the low volume criterium plan. At 85kg I started consuming between 300-400g net carbs per day, protein in the 150-200g/day and fats under 80g all in the form of whole grains, fruits and veggies. All food is weighed and logged and I’ve been using my garmin watch to determine caloric requirements to which I’ve always been within ±50-75cal. On bike nutrition started at 60g/hr in the form of maltodextrin and have since ramped up to 90g/hr with the addition of fructose powder.

With all of these changes i really expected some great positive changes with my goal of getting to 4w/kg.

I started the training plan by inputting my own FTP to which I was completing all the workouts and feeling good and sprinkling MTB rides and train now rides when time allows. The majority of my rides now are at either 5am or 9pm which is pretty consistent to what I was doing pre TrainerRoad and pre carbs also. The 5am rides have no pre ride nutrition but the 9pm rides will have a carb heavy meal 3hrs before.

Now to the point…my mid training plan FTP dropped to 299 to which I accepted despite feeling like I was completing my workouts at an acceptable level. FTP yesterday just dropped again to 290 despite not having any difficulties with workouts.

I don’t feel as if my fitness is declining at such a precipitous rate and am hoping that I’m simply just not burying myself during the test like I should. My sleep is less than ever with the new baby but I’m still getting usually at least 6hrs most nights. This definitely needs improved but just not realistic currently. Sleep has been about the same maybe a little less than the 311w FTP. My weight is down a little from 190-192 to 185-188.

My performance at the races has been alright as I’ve been consistently in the final group during the sprint. Power numbers for the races have been consistent dropping but I’m chalking that to better tactics.

My only other thought is am I just overtraining for the rest I’m able to get? I’m hard pressed to accept this as realistic as the volume just isn’t that high.

Or am I just a mutant that simply did better with a higher fat diet? The variables that have changed are diet and training type/plan. I know the data doesn’t support this theory but I just havnt had that breakthrough feeling that I’ve heard other describe when they really started nailing their fueling. I don’t feel any better/different than when using fats.

This went wayyyyy longer than I ever expected and i thoroughly appreciate anyone that actually read this whole post and has anything insightful.

TrainerRoad name is freshturk if anyone wants to dive into the data.

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How do you test your FTP in TR? You have tested by 20 min power in zwift and do you use ramp test in TR? I would start to choose the testing method and stick with it. Preferably long 40-60 min test.

I wouldn’t underestimate this. Even if you’re getting a similar number of hours of sleep, the quality may not be as good, especially if you’re going up and down with the baby. A couple weeks of that and it would make sense you’d see a decline as the fatigue mounts.

if I were in your shoes, I’d accept that gains may not be attainable until life routines become more manageable. On the podcast last week, Nate and Jonathan mentioned losing fitness when they had their children because training had to take a back seat or was suboptimal because of the rest/sleep being irregular.

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I don’t have your reasonable excuse (young kids etc) which could be affecting you but I just don’t get on with the ramp tests, I think I lie at one end of the Bell curve of suitability; perhaps you do too. I found the ramp test a downwards spiral of decreasing results. When the decreased below what I was regularly putting out on TTs I started to ignore them. So I tried 20min tests and if I get the pacing right a 20mins test for me can be 50-60w better than my worst ramp test and if I don’t get my pacing right they coincide with my TT power which is about 20-30w higher than the ramp tests results. I do all my workouts at that level (the mis paced 20mins FTP/ TT power) and it works for me.

@BCrossen
I’m with you. Sleep quality is definitely degraded compared to pre newborn. Perhaps my higher FTP when the baby was less than a month was me still running on the fumes of good sleep! I also had a 3month paternity leave which despite the newborn I probably was on average sleeping in a little longer despite more frequent interruptions.

I recognize this is the likely culprit and this post may very well be one extended(very) rant.

I still am perplexed regarding my nutrition but this change directly coincided with the baby being a month or 2 old so it very well may be that I would have seen a sharper decline.

To whose who have replied…I really appreciate y’all taking the time to read my mini autobiography

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@HLaB
All my FTP tests besides my very first one 3 years ago have been a ramp so if anything consistency should be there. I have no doubt that the ramp isn’t perfect for me as I desperately need motivation to really go deep and the numbers on the screen don’t inspire me…however they never have. I feel like I’d likely get on worse with longer tests.

Have you seen any increases with ramp tests? mine have always shown lower than the last one :-1:

Hopefully with Adaptive training subsequent ramp tests will be unecessary :neutral_face:

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How did you ascertain your FTP?
You should not compare FTPs that have been obtained by different testing methodologies. Ideally, you’d stick to one test (e. g. TR’s ramp test) and only compare those numbers.

Like the other have said, I think a big gain can be had by good sleep hygiene. As a dad myself, I know how hard this can be. Yesterday, we went to bed early, but my daughter decided to wake up at 4:30 and it took about 30–45 minutes to get back to sleep again. I’m glad that today is a rest day.

We have our second on the way, and while of course I am looking forward to welcoming my second child, that’ll wreak havoc on my training schedule. I’ll probably go down to low-volume initially and see how things are going.

Being fat adapted is only beneficial if you are doing really long-distance stuff. Otherwise, you are better off sticking to the type of diet you have now. Phil Gaimon had a great bit that I found very useful: make sure to get your basic intake of protein and fats, and add carbs to match your calorie expenditure.

Maybe it helped you better cope with what seems like a stressful lifestyle. Eat what you want, but some of us do seem to do better on hflc.

Not saying that their aren’t other potential contributors but I’d say 99% sleep and recovery. The quantity and quality of sleep cannot be undervalued. But on the bright side, mine are now 4 and 6, so there is light at the end of the tunnel!!!

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@gcarver

definitely not that as I have enjoyed both diets equally without really having a preference either way. By the wording of your post it seems like you’ve experienced something similar? Have you went full gas on the carbs?

@cmc274

This has been my hypothesis however such a precipitous drop shocked me considering all the changes in fueling. Our 2yo has been a wonderful sleeper the majority of the time after the 6month mark so fingers crossed for greener sleep pastures. However, nothing up to this point has been even remotely similar between the 2 so why start with sleep :crazy_face::laughing::crazy_face:

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Remembering back (and reminding myself for the near future), one thing I struggled with was the constant change of the schedule. Within the first year, I had to adapt my sleeping schedule three times: the first three months our daughter refused to be breast fed, so my wife and I split parenting duties, I took the late night shift until 3~4 am, after that it was my wife’s turn. After three months, she wanted to be breast fed, which gave me more sleep, but not tons. (Sometimes we just had to change diapers …). The third phase started after she was weened off just before entering day care.

My goal for that time next year is to maintain my current fitness, anything else is gravy.

I’m not sure why you would expect a positive influence on FTP from changing diet. A higher-carb diet would probably give you more energy for short power efforts, but I don’t think you’d notice it in regards to FTP tests or endurance rides. You would more likely see an influence on your weight.

Besides using two different tests to measure FTP (whichbis likely the main problem), how did your training volume change? How many hours did you spend zwift racing, vs how many hours are you doing now? How did your TSS/CTL change? If you had a significant drop in volume, that could also explain a drop in FTP.

@splash
FTP tests have always been way of a short ramp test. No changes there. Volume has stayed very similar with the initial FTP versus now. I may have a touch more volume now which I talked about in my initial post.

In regards to diet the expectation is better training and better recovery thus equaling performance gains. I don’t think I’m far fetched in this idea. Weight is slightly lower now than originally as referenced in my initial post.

With ramp tests, the step size and length matters. The zwift and TR ramp tests don’t neccessarily lead to the same result, so I wouldn’t compare them.

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Didn’t mean to suggest that LC to HC is per-se a bad thing. Obviously a lot of folks around here swear by all-the-carbs, I just don’t subscribe. The post title ("…despite positive changes") kind of implies that HC is innately the better choice, and that’s what prompted me to post. I just wanted to suggest the possibility that perhaps your health is more robust on lchf which led to better bike performance. I generally feel worse on carbs, but that’s me. It could of course be all-manner of other things in your case.

I think the answer may be in this statement. You said you were burying yourself with Zwift races and now you have done some Trainerroad and not struggled with the workouts. You may have dropped a bunch of intensity out of your training.

I had a very similar experience when I switched to Trainerroad from zwift. I too had been killing myself in short zwift races 3 times a week. When I started TR I tested at 341w FTP despite only averaging ~140TSS a week for the previous 6 months. I thought that was awesome and I would be at 400W in no time with structured training. Instead I got sick and lost 50w in a month. It seems I had brittle fitness; a good top end for short races, but no base and no endurance.

I decided to stay the TR course and do some serious base training. My top end suffered but that comes back relatively quickly. A year later I’m probably around 350ish FTP (due for a test), but with much better endurance.

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That’s my plan as well. Once the race season ends in a month I’m going to start a base plan.

I don’t know if this could be a culprit, but I haven’t seen anyone else mention it yet. You said your weight dropped roughly 5-7 lbs. I know you said you have always tracked caloric intake well, but if you are losing weight - especially after adding in carbs which can lead to weight gain simply from water weight - you might be under-fueling a bit.

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Yeah if you went from 6-7 hours previously to maybe getting 6 then that could do it. For every hour less sleep you get the effects are going to be greater (i.e. 8-7 will be a smaller detriment than 7-6). Especially for a plan like the LV crit plan which is all high intensity.