Recovery Drinks, Overtraining, Beginner Racing and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 288

Since Nate mentioned the altered Work : Recovery Week ratio, here are the ones I wrote based on his comments about them a long time ago:


So after months of waiting for an operation and then 3 months of recovery, I’m starting to ease myself back into training and was really looking forward to starting sweet spot base.
I work in a school where some staff have tested positive for covid and in an area of the uk where cases are suddenly increasing due to a new variant of covid, especially amongst the teenage population. I can wear a mask whilst walking round the school/office, but not whilst working directly with children (visors are ok). This is likely to be the situation for the next 2-3 months, at which point, being 50+ I hopefully get vaccinated. I think training sweet spot at this stage would have the potential to have a negative impact on my immune system, as I’m not used to it.
As you say, the science indicates that z2 does increase FTP, but it takes a long time.
Do you know of any science based methods to help me maximise 2-3 months of Z2 work, before starting SS base?
Thanks :slight_smile:

You’re in a unique situation that I don’t think has been studied.

I would go with your doctors advice and just focus on easing back in (if your doctor says it’s OK) and pay tons of attention to RPE.

Your top end will probably come down a bunch, but you can hold on to some aerobic gains by doing Z2 only so that’s good.

I think a big thing will just be being OK with reducing volume and becoming less fit. But getting it back is always easier the 2nd time.

1 Like

In addition to Nate, I’ll toss in “do short sprints” every so often. Some discussion over here:

1 Like

Tan walls on a black bike for sure!!


I think any level of fitness will be an improvement on where I’m at ! :rofl: :joy:

When I’m able to do max efforts I will:
add 6 x30sec max efforts with 3 minutes active rest between, at the beginning of a Z2 work out, for some sessions per week.
Thanks @bbarrera

i like this podcast… so i will continue eating like i have been all holiday season… somehow i’ve only gained 5 lbs so far but I’ve given myself an allowance to gain 10lbs by the end of the holidays… lol

1 Like

@ambermalika Thanks again for a brilliant podcast. I’m completely torn on the carbs debate as I see the value of fuelling workouts and maybe this is just me here but when I am unrestricted in carb on this point I find it harder to be disciplined with food in general at other times. I get other issues like sensitive teeth and my weight definitely goes up (I’m not clever enough to unpick which parts are most relevant). Add this to my family history of Type 2 diabetes and I wonder if my short term performance gains might be more risky for me overall. Also I know he’s probably an outlier but Dr Dan Plews is definitely a successful athlete on low carb. Is there any way to optimise a more fat-centres approach for someone like me who probably has an underlying reason not to eat unrestricted carbs?

Thanks for this great question. I can understand your ambivalence, especially in light of the issues you mentioned. (Type II Diabetes also runs in my family, so this is definitely a concern I share.) At the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for you, personally. You may not need 100g / hour to feel better during your workouts, but maybe taking in a bit more on the bike than you currently are could make a real difference. If you feel better when you train, then your mood is better, your workout quality improves, and you feel more motivated to get back to it for your next session. It helps fuel the individual workouts, and your overall consistency. If you’re not taking in any CHO on the bike, then even adding mix to your water and taking in, say, 60g CHO/h could feel worlds different. Perhaps mix in your bottles would decrease the likelihood of sensitive teeth relative to, say, gummies or chews (my dentist hates these and got me in the habit of rinsing with drink after eating them to avoid them sticking in my teeth). I personally find that my energy levels and appetite feel loads more stable throughout the day if I fuel my workout well and have a recovery drink after, and I’ve seen this over and over with folks who train regularly. The type and amount you need might be different from what works for me or for Nate. Can you train without CHO or on low CHO? Of course! Many people do. What you have been doing has been working for you, and that’s important. The main point is that there is a cost to to underfueling training: you can repeat better and produce more power on a full tank than on an empty one. You can still produce power and repeat on a less-than-full tank, of course. And optimal power output isn’t necessarily the only goal, right? It’s a balance, which comes down to cost-benefit. If – on balance – the issues you experience in taking in more CHO outweigh the gains you experience in power/mood/etc, then you can adjust the dial to where you find your happy place. If you’re worried because of past experiences and are therefore reluctant to try out of that (valid!) fear, I’d suggest trying a time-limited self experiment that introduces only one change. Add some mix with CHO to your next tough workout and see how you feel, both during the workout and in the hours afterward. Try a small recovery drink or recovery snack immediately after your ride. If sweets don’t suit you, you can always do something savory like rice and eggs for your recovery snack (CHO doesn’t have to mean sweet). Give it a week and see how you feel. If it doesn’t go well, you can always go back to what you know was working better for you. Nothing is an absolute! Think of this more in terms of a dial that you can turn up and down to find what works best for you. I personally think it’s worth a little experimentation, but see if by limiting the timeframe, you can go into it with more curiosity than fear. You and your body are in a partnership: try something, listen, adjust as needed. For what it’s worth, as regards the Type II Diabetes, the fact that you’re riding and training is HUGE. Don’t forget what a big difference that will make (and IS making) and how much credit you deserve for that effort and dedication!


Thinking about it, I’m not sure if 30 secs x 6 max efforts with longer Z2 workouts would be any better for my immune system than low volume sweet spot. When I’m on my training schedule I usually do Tues,Wed,Thurs and Sat, Sun. I think if I skip the Wednesday work out, do low volume SS and Z2 Sunday it might be a helpful stress reducer in terms of time and TSS.
The main thing is for me to be honest with myself and dial down intensity/volume as and when necessary. There’s nothing like living in a pandemic to instil honesty and flexibility!
thanks for being sounding boards :grinning:


Yeah that’s a thalidomide concern. I’ve done short 5-10 second sprints during z2 and those are not the same as 30 second jobbers.

Amber gave you a good response but I wanted to share my experience on this.

Sometimes “carb” foods are lumped in with “carb + fat” foods. IE cookies, doughnuts, pizza, French fries, etc.

I find if I eat carb+fat foods I CRAVE them even more.

For “carb” foods I think of: apples, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, whole wheat pasta with veggies and marinara, strawberries, blueberries, whole wheat bread with jam, oatmeal, whole wheat pancakes with fruit, brown rice…stuff like that.

This is of course a personal experience, but when I eat those foods I don’t really crave them, but they do taste good and I’m satisfied after eating them.

If you out a package of Oreos or Pringles in front of me (carb+fat foods) there’s almost zero chance I can stop at one.

It’s almost like they were engineered for people to binge on them. :thinking:


^ this.

I printed the list here: Types of Carbohydrates | Fibrous & Starchy Carbs | ATHLEAN-X and have it in the kitchen as a reminder.

Actually I copy&pasted into a Word doc, but I can’t attach Word/PDF/text docs on the forum… Love Jeff Cavaliere’s videos and science based info, but call me prudish when I say “dude put your shirt on!” :rofl: Below I’ve copy&pasted the info from his website into a simple list, to keep this post tidy you have to click to expand the list:


Oatmeal Cream of Wheat
Whole Wheat Waffle
Whole Wheat Bread Stix
Brown Rice
Cous Cous
Baked Sweet Potato
Red Bliss Potatoes
Pasta Salad
Angel Hair Pasta
Acorn Squash
Fat Free Granola Bar
Ritz Crackers
Whole Wheat Wrap
Cranberry Sauce
1 oz Dark Chocolate
Baked Potato
Sweet Potato Fries
Whole Wheat Pita
Butternut Squash
Jasmine Rice
Whole Wheat English Muffin
Long Grain Rice
Basmati Rice
Oyster Crackers
Whole Wheat Bread



Apple Fresh
Frozen Blueberries
Fresh Strawberries
Frozen Strawberries
Red Bell Pepper Slices
Celery Slices
Lettuce Varieties
Green Bell Peppers Raw /Cooked
Fresh Grapes
Frozen Grapes
Grilled Asparagus
Wilted Spinach
Navy Beans
Lima Beans
Black Beans
Grilled Eggplant
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Green Salad Cucumbers
Broccoli Rabe
Dried Apricots
Slices Mixed Berries
Steamed Cabbage
Sliced Oranges
Kidney Beans
Canned Pumpkin
Brussel Sprouts
Chili Peppers
Grape Tomatoes
Black Eyed Peas
Shaved Ginger


This, 100% of the time. My take on cookies is that the nutritional facts information should really have a serving size of “one package”.

Netflix, a box of cookies, a glass (more) of red wine and short-term satisfaction is guaranteed. Sleep quality, not so much. :rofl:

1 Like


I try to avoid it too, but I’m not successful, with teen kids in the house that buy their own junk food.

1 Like

For me, I just focused on Z1 and then Z2. Gradually getting motion work. I didn’t do a FTP test or anything like that. Trying to reach the power levels or a ramp test would mean tearing my stitches. I went by HR.

I would do 30min a day, and if it felt OK, I would go to 2 a day, 2 30min sessions. There would be some inflammation, in which I would back off. I eventually moved up to upper Z2 and low Z3. It would be another month or two before I felt comfortable even hitting Z4, and if I felt a tinge, immediate abort.


Could anyone link discussion on how carbs, recovery drinks, and pre-workout foods should be applied to someone (me) who is in a 8 week transition block composed of only short easy rides and two lifting sessions a week? 8-10 hrs/week volume compared to 12-14 hrs/week volume during the regular training season?

Agreed on the ramp test.
Your approach sounds both brave and sensible. Nice work :+1:
I “should” be healed and ready to go, but I’ve had some discomfort on one side of my stomach. Since I haven’t had a 6 week check (the NHS is busy) I’ve been concerned about the possibility of a hernia. I had a hunch it’s related to a weak SI joint on that side, so dialed in strength work to focus on small consistent doses of bilateral hip strength work and safe core work. Then on the bike I’ve focused on glute activation and maintaining form.
Over the past week I’ve started making progress, adding 10-15 watts to work outs which would have been at my upper limit previously.
I think the - when you feel a tinge immediately abort- is a good experience to have. The ability to discriminate between good and bad pain can only be a good thing.

1 Like

So, are recovery drinks recommended for low-intensity/low-volume base rides?