Special Guest: Amber Pierce – Ask a Cycling Coach 193

I’ve listened to, and loved, every episode of this podcast but @ambermalika was, hands down, the best guest you’ve ever had. Bring her back whenever you can, please.


Great podcast with @ambermalika. Listened in the car on Friday, in the evening I got bike and kit ready (I’m usually last minute stressing). Saturday I had 1,500 cal breakfast, then did the club ride with the mantra “chin up, arms bent” in my head. 50 miles of my best ride in ages. Thanks.


Go East Dillon Lions!

How about modeling what Anber suggested and having a woman on every podcast?


FACEPALM Haha! Yeah, sorry about the mixup regarding the NEDA website. Thankfully they have the correct one listed here (and thanks to Chad for fact-checking me on that one in real time)! Whew! Moreover, thank you for the kind words. So pleased you enjoyed the show!


Gatorade works! Full disclosure: I’m sponsored by Clif, but I know they won’t mind me talking straight up science here. Most sports drinks (those designed to drink during exercise - not before or after) have figured out the need to include multiple sources of carbohydrate (CHO). This helps optimize absorption, and Gatorade (original basic formula you can get in cheap powder form) does get it right. (Clif does too.) So, you can likely add plain whey (Bob’s Red Mill or Tera’s Whey mix/dissolve well) to your current hydration mix to make a recovery shake. Just calculate how many grams CHO per scoop, so you can get a final ratio of 4:1 grams of CHO to grams of protein. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be big on total calories; just 200 or so with the 4:1 ratio is enough to signal the recovery cascade. Brands like Clif also have actual recovery shake mixes (Clif’s is a tasty chocolate shake), but if you’re on a budget you can mix up your own. I have found most recovery mixes on the market add a lot of filler (random baloney to give a smoother texture) or antioxidants including Vitamin C (Clif doesn’t, but read a few labels and you’ll see what I mean). I prefer not to have antioxidants right after my workout, because that acute inflammation is part of the healing/recovery process AND part of the training stress. I wait until before bed to take any antioxidants, to get the most out of that acute training stress response, which is the stimulus needed to elicit the desired training adaptations. That said, this is what works for me, and it’s most important to experiment and figure out what works for you!


Yes yes yes! I had to hold myself back from ranting on and on about them, to be sure we got to other questions. There are SO MANY reasons to love this company and their services. Thank you for highlighting this awesome feature here on the forum. If anyone here travels with a bike, do yourself a favor and check out http://bikeflights.com. I am an ambassador for them, but I would recommend them as highly regardless. Their reviews speak for themselves!

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This was my fave podcast episode to date, thoroughly enjoyed it!

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First of all, thank you for this question and your enthusiasm for getting more women involved! There is no single silver bullet. As with men, women get into cycling for a variety of reasons, and face a range of barriers to doing so. Cost is huge for many. I’ve seen road promoters have success with offering a first entry for free (e.g. for beginners who have never raced). It doesn’t eliminate financial barriers, but it helps.

The answer to this probably depends mostly on geographic location. There are some hotspots around the country where women pros live and train, and that representation helps demonstrate that the sport is as much for women as for men. However, if we’re going to make some blanket generalizations about cycling in the US, the issue is not that the cycling on TV is intense (trust me, women are JUST as intense as men when it comes to competition), it’s that the cycling on TV is men’s cycling. We’ve had a women’s Tour of Flanders forever. It runs on the same day as the men just before their race, on the same course, minus that boring extra 100kms or so that the men do to start. We just start right in on the cobbles and climbs, and it’s a brutal attack-fest from start to finish; whereas the men predictably let an early break go, then reel them in just before the exciting sections. TV covers the men’s early break, over the savage attacking happening in the women’s race. We get about a 30-second race-recap for TV coverage. If approached differently, fans could watch hours of attack fireworks and tactical prowess in the women’s race, followed by the same excitement and drama in the men’s race, once they get to the good part. So, women don’t get to see women racing nearly as much as the men, and that gives the impression that it’s not for them. And, unfortunately, that bears out in real life, when women’ show up to races or group rides and see mostly (or only) men. Since this is not something men regularly experience, its difficult to understand what a psychological barrier this can present. Until you can generate the momentum necessary to have more women at the series, you’ll really have to go out of your way to proactively foster a sense of welcome for women. Talk to the women racers about the timing of their events; sometimes shifting the category race time can make a big difference. If you’re looking at a demographic of women in their 30’s and up, consider setting up options for childcare on race days, so whole families can come out to the races. It can be extremely difficult for women to justify (to themselves) taking time away from family to ride or race. Set up skills clinics for women only ahead of the race series; offer clinic participants discounts on their series entries. The women-only aspect can be key; it changes the whole dynamic, and for women who have been or are on the fence about racing, it might make all the difference. As a club, having a dedicated ladies-only rides can be huge. Think of this issue from two perspectives: 1) getting non-riders to start riding/racing, and 2) retaining the women who already ride/race. A lot of “getting more women to the races” focuses on the beginners, and getting more butts on bikes is awesome; however, it’s also important not to fall into the trap of equating women’s cycling with beginnerism, because there are a lot of women who ride/race at a high level. You don’t want to lose those gals by focusing too narrowly on beginners. To this point, maybe find a sponsor to throw in big prizes for the women’s overall, or even better, offer equal prize money to the expert/pro men’s and women’s categories! Send out some club surveys to solicit ideas and feedback from the ladies. Find out what they want, try those things, get feedback, iterate, improve. It may take some time, but it will be so worth the effort!


Good one! I actually love this strategy for, e.g., long days in Z2. Going with training buddies (who are on board with keeping the pace aerobic) and talking and cracking jokes all day can keep you from overdoing the efforts. If you’re too out of breath to talk or laugh, you’re going too hard!

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Servus! Und wie schön klingt das Stück Heimat! Danke dir!


Thank you for the kind words! And - thanks especially for mentioning the #BeAGoodWheel campaign. I can vouch that the kits are amazing. We’ll be doing a big giveaway soon and hope to grow this as the season progresses, so stay tuned!

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Thank you! Happy to take a stab at this question for you. As with everything, take this with a grain of salt and remember that you’ll probably need to try a few variations to figure out what works for you!

The basic principals are 1) get the nutrition you need to be healthy, 2) fuel your body for the workout, and 3) replace the glycogen loss from the workout to recovery sufficiently to work out again the following day. My strategy for this is to eat balanced, nutrient-dense foods you enjoy for “regular” meals (the meals not pre-, during, or immediately post-workout); then eat a carbohydrate-rich pre-workout meal or snack 2-3 hours before the workout (whenever possible), fuel consistently during the workout, and drink a recovery shake immediately following the workout (within 30minutes).

If I had the schedule you outlined, I’d probably do something like this.

Given the workout is 750kcal, I’m assuming that will be roughly a 90 min effort (guessing here, but we’ll go with this to work out the math as an example). That’s short enough and intense enough you probably want to stick with Bloks (chews) or Shots (gels). If you start fueling early (within 10 minutes) with a gel and take one every 30minutes after that, you’ll eat 3 gels during the workout, which gives you 300kcal. You should probably have at least two bottles during that ride, so let’s say you’re using a typical CHO hydration mix (40kcal/8oz) for two 16oz bottles, gives you 160kcal. So total intake of fuel DURING the ride is 460kcal. That means you’d want a carbohydrate-rich snack of at least (750kcal - 460kcal =) 290kcal 2-3h before your ride. If you were doing this workout in the morning, that would be your breakfast. Since it’s an evening ride, however, that would be your afternoon snack. What you listed for lunch seems like a super balanced and healthful meal, and that allows you to shift the focus of the snack more toward a fuel (CHO) focus. So, in the example you provided, I’d replace the handful of almonds with a plain bagel (~200kcal if it’s not a huge one; toast works too) and light spread of almond butter (1 TBSP = 100kcal) . The fat/protein in the spread will taste delicious, increase satiety, help mitigate an immediate insulin spike, and you’ll have plenty of time to digest it (3h) before you start your workout.

Then, take a gel about 10min into your ride, and again at 40min and 70min, drinking continuously.

If you dislike using hydration mix and prefer plain water, then you’d want to increase the size of your snack to 450, which might mean a bigger bagel with more almond butter or almond butter + jam. (Same goes for if you use less mix in your water to have a more dilute solution in your bottles.) You can fudge this a little, too, given the recovery shake. If bagels aren’t your jam (but seriously they are so good), just shoot for a snack that meets the calorie deficit you’re looking to fill (750kcal - during-workout kcal) and that has a mix of CHO, protein, and fat, wherein it’s mostly CHO with some protein and fat to dampen that insulin response and increase satiety.

So, the pre-workout snack, during-workout fuel, and post-workout shake all focus on CHO as fuel/recovery. Your other meals (breakfast, lunch, morning snack), should focus on nutrient-density, sticking to healthful choices that you genuinely enjoy.

Use the kcal math to figure out some options for what you need and what works for you; once you have a repertoire of a few favorite pre-workout snacks, you won’t need the math. (Less cognitive load!) This isn’t an exact science, but I think adding more kcal and CHO to that afternoon snack will make a huge difference for you.

Hope this helps!


This makes me so happy to hear! It’s amazing what a difference it can make to lay everything out the night before training. When I’m really in a groove, I even have my bottles made and in the fridge (including recovery shake). Truthfully, I didn’t ALWAYS do this (life has this funny habit of happening), but boy did it help when I could and did! And yes - your body is going to love training with proper fuel! So glad you had a great ride, and thank you for sharing!


When you train indoors, do you use:

dumb trainer or
smart trainer

and why?

I use rollers and a smart trainer, both. Rollers are SO GOOD for skill work and pedal stroke mechanics. Especially if the weather is bad and you can’t balance outdoor training with your indoor work, riding rollers can keep your skills sharp for the next time you hop into a group ride. On rollers, I do a lot of varied cadence work with emphasis on high cadence. I used to use rollers to practice riding no-handed (for getting bottles from the team car) and riding really close to the edge (e.g. two inches) of the roller to mimic squeezing through tight spaces in Dutch races. I don’t recommend either of these drills unless you’re already very skilled on the rollers (and have a wall near you just in case)! But it’s great for practicing riding one-handed (e.g. for signaling in traffic) or drinking while riding (removing/replacing your water bottle) or doing single leg drills for pedal stroke efficiency (I kept the opposite, resting leg clipped in as a counterweight to the working leg to avoid too much stress on the hip flexors).

I used a dumb trainer for a really long time, and what I like about it is that it more closely approximates what it’s like to ride outdoors in that you have to create the resistance yourself by pedaling harder. It’s a different cognitive dynamic than having a smart trainer adjust the resistance for you.

That said, I like the smart trainer a LOT, because when I’m doing indoor work, I’m usually training the physiological load specifically. In other words, I’m not on a group ride working on positioning, tactics, and reaction time. My time on the trainer is to do really focused, quality efforts to train very specific systems with low cognitive load. So I’ve come to really appreciate the trainer as a more surgical tool, and the smart trainer really helps me with that (e.g. the VO2 story I told on the show).

In summary, all are helpful, but each is best suited to a specific type of work. Thanks for the great question!


@Nate_Pearson this is hands down one of the best podcasts to date. @ambermalika you were an amazing guest and your insight was awesome. keep it up gals and guys.


It really does. Thank you so much. Up till now I’ve just been having at most a Clif Bar before a hard workout, water/electrolyte mix during, and a shake after. I’ll do some calculations of various afternoon snacks and invest in some more energy drink too. No excuse for workout failure now…

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I followed this type of fueling for my weekend rides and I ended up crushing them. Felt strong throughout the workouts, really tired at for the last few minutes of the under/overs, but with a lot of calories for breakfast, couple bottles on the bike, and then a Ultregen shake after I felt great. Had no problem jumping on today to knock out 4x20 min intervals.

It was @Nate_Pearson level eating for sure, but damn it did its job!

I felt like I had been struggling some in my more recent workouts and after listening to this podcast Friday I thought it might be that I was cutting calories too much. As of two days I figured that was the case. Way better to have a huge breakfast and eat on the bike and controlled eating later in the day, rather then just having that post ride “I’M STARVING!!!” and eat a tray of Oreos.


I have a follow-up question on this also. So far I have frontloaded my calorie intake during breakfast eating something like two slices of toast with nut-butter and up to four eggs and then eaten something like lots of lentils for lunch and some Greek yoghurt with fruit at night. I found that if I skip the eggs I am having a hard time hitting my protein recommendations throughout the day.

Okay, so here’s my question: On the one hand, that breakfast should provide plenty of fuel for a 60-70 minute weekday workout 3h later right? So I tend to not really fuel for anything of that duration. But at the same time, considering that it’s also the vast majority of my calories for the day I tend to feel quite depleted towards the end of the day. Would a daily recovery shake fix this, or would you still fuel during the workouts with an eye towards the rest of the day? Or should I fundamentally change the timing of my calorie intake?