Weight Gain to Improve on the Flats and in Crits?

Hey Everyone,

I have been riding and racing for about 5-6 years now. I am currently 22, 6’6", 165 lbs (on a heavy day). I live in Indiana, and race almost exclusively crits. I have always really struggled with the hard accelerations and keeping up on the flats at a fast pace. I thought that gaining more muscle would help me with this, because in the flats, weight doesn’t matter (I think). This is probably the opposite problem most cyclists have, which has made it hard to get real answers on this.

When I was trying to gain weight I was eating a NET of 3600 calories a day. So if I burned 1500 on a ride I would have to eat over 5,000 calories that day. However, I did this for months, and never gained any weight. Along with eating that much I was going to the gym about twice a week as well.

About a year has gone by since I tried that and I’ve been off the bike for that time as well. Still eating everything in sight, and ended up at my lowest weight I can remember of 152.

Are there any suggestions out there for how to gain more muscle, and is that even the right approach to get better on the flats and with acceleration, or do I just need to work on short power and crit skills? I feel that my strength (or lack thereof) has really been my limiting factor on the bike for as long as I can remember. Especially for the area I live in.

Thank you for any advice!


Cycling is largely an aerobic sport. Muscle mass helps some (especially in crits), but ultimately it contributes very little as a whole. Since you do crits and not much elevation it will benefit you to build some mass in the legs, but it sounds more like an overall fitness (and lack of drafting?) issue.

The overall fitness I can definitely agree with, and I’ve never done a TON of short power stuff. It could also be the drafting thing, am at least 6in taller than everyone I race against! HAHAHAHA. Maybe I just need to get through the short power build and Crit Specialty. Instead of doing what I use to do in training 4-6 days a week. Thank you!


If this is the case, I tend to wonder if a trip to your doctor might be in order, just to ensure that there are no underlying complications.

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I’ve had bloodwork done, but everything came back normal. I’ve just been told I have a very high metabolism.

Strength training in the off season. Building lean muscle is more difficult when you’re doing a lot of aerobic work.

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I’ve tried that as well.

If you aren’t gaining weight, eat more. If you still don’t gain weight, eat even more. Id recommend using something like MyFitnessPal to track calories.

I am an ectomorph and never thought I could gain weight either (5’8, 140), but I got into a weightlifting kick a few years ago and had to basically force-feed myself. I ended up putting on about 20 pounds in 4 months or so.

In addition to normal large meals, I would have 1-2 shakes per day that consisted of 2 cups whole milk, 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter, and a scoop of whey protein. This is about 800 calories that you can drink in 5 seconds. I would also end up choking down huge spoonfuls of peanut butter before bed some nights just to hit my calorie goal.

Obviously this will be easier to do in the off season when you can cut back on the biking for a bit.

I would only gain weight if it is leading to increased power, and the reason for your limit in power increases is in fact your weight (Ie. bigger muscles to drive short power increases).

if you’re adding weight and not adding power you will just be setting yourself back all-around.

The question I would ask is why you think solely weight is the reason why you cant increase power?
And could you increase power without increasing weight?

read a few posts below; sounds like you need some solid FRC and PMAX work, and are you working on race winner type moves that can help a guy like you win some crits? Plenty of 160lb super fast crit guys.

Now, if you’re just a diesel, the game changes a bit, but if you haven’t trained the aforementioned, we don’t TRULY know that…

I wouldn’t just go with more weight yet; there are other ways.


Recommendation: Go see an endocrinologist.

My son was a collegiate cat B racer and had exactly the same issue as you describe. Long story, short (about 9 months worth): after a few different doctor paths, his issue was ultimately resolved by an endocrinologist after identifying his enzyme processing issue.

Strength Training: With a data population of 1 (i.e. me), I have seen a significant positive correlation between year round strength training and power at all points on my PDC curve (and tail) and over all types of terrain.

If you’re willing to say, did your son have EPI? Because I did some looking and though self diagnoses are almost never right, I could see that being my issue.

I’ve been asked multiple times if I have a tapeworm Hahahaha.

I don’t recall, but my son is coming in to visit from NYC (I’m in SF area). When I see him, I will ask him and private message you.

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