Winning in the Kitchen: Performance Nutrition

Listen to the Winning in the Kitchen Podcast here

Winning in the Kitchen is a phrase I coined from my cyclocross mechanic friend's referencing their meticulous work in the garage in the days leading up to an epic conditions race. Gluing tubulars and fine tuning cyclocross race bikes to perform in horrible muddy and wet conditions. The details matter! Performance nutrition and weight loss is all about winning in the kitchen and winning in the kitchen begins with winning in the grocery store! Because what comes home likely goes in your mouth. Make healthy "go fast choices' in the grocery store to treat your body like a Ferrari.

Winning in the Kitchen Concepts

Below are some of my nutritional recommendations that will help you fuel your workouts better and lose weight. Aka "How to Win in the Kitchen".

Go Fast and Go Slow Food Choices

"Go Fast food" is another phrase coined from our very own SecretTraining founder, Brandon Dwight, referring to the simplicity of healthy food choices. Truly - choosing what foods to buy and put in your mouth is one or the other: go fast or go slow. Kale is go fast and sausage is go slow. Simple.

80% of Weight Loss is occurs in the kitchen and 20% on the Bike

Ten to 15 years ago we all thought you could just "Ride More, Eat Less" to quote Eddy Merckx. But that is only 20% of weight loss! How many cyclists (or people in general) have you talked to that have lost the first 5 lbs but can't kick the next 15? That's because they are dieting and riding more. To lose the next 15 lbs they need to start winning in the kitchen and make healthier food choices. 

Dr. Phil Goglia, Ph.D founder of Performance Fitness Concepts

For the past nine months I have been working with the nutritionist Dr. Phil Goglia, Ph.D and am leaner (7%) and healthier than I was when I was racing as Cat 1 in pro level races. Dr. Phil taught me that weight loss and performance nutrition go hand in hand. If you are winning in the kitchen and riding a lot, you can lose weight. Simple as that (also see matching your nutrition to your training phase below).

High Metabolic Diet

Metabolic heat burns fat so you gotta eat! Think of yourself like a fire. You put kindling in the the fire and it burns hotter. With a high metabolic style of eating you are constantly putting kindling on your fire and as a consequence it burns hot and that burns fat. Furthermore, this is the blend of performance and weight loss nutrition: you need to fuel your workouts. I'm eating small meals 7-8 times per day taking in more calories than I ever have and I'm crushing everyday of training. Read about Dr. Phil's work with Seattle Seahawk quarterback, Russell Wilson - Same thing: eat ENOUGH to fuel your training & promote muscle recovery > gain muscle > increase metabolic rate > lean up.

This is the opposite of what many assume is the way to lose weight, by skipping meals or drastically reducing their caloric intake. The problem with this is that eating too little can actually lower your metabolic rate, meaning you burn LESS calories and thus will have a harder time losing weight. Furthermore, cutting calories at the wrong times (i.e. immediately before/after and during training) can negatively impact your performance by depleting glycogen stores and slowing muscle recovery and growth. If weight loss is the goal, athletes should aim to consume no more than 500-800 calories below their energy needs. They should also consult with a Registered Dietitian to find a dietary strategy that works with their lifestyle, athletic goals and any medical issues they may have.

Reduce Inflammation Nutritionally

Training cause muscle inflammation so you don't want to exacerbate that inflammation by consuming processed foods like pizza and sugary treats on a regular basis. Instead, athletes should aim to eat more foods that reduce inflammation such as antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3's such as salmon and walnuts! Coach Frank found that giving up processed foods was tough at first, but now it's not that big of a deal. Food is meant to be enjoyed though, so you can still indulge every once in awhile!

The training plan must match the nutrition plan!

You've all heard about periodization: off season weights > sweet spot base > intervals > race in recover > overload > tapers and peaks. Your nutrition needs to match the various loads of these training phases. While you are lifting weights you'll increase your protein intake. When you are performing intervals and racing you'll increasing everything (Russell Wilson 'diet' example above). What many coaches and nutritionists do not pair together is a time of the year to lose weight and teach the body to burn fat. The best time to try and lose weight is during the base phase while the athlete is riding easy, primarily zone 2. Zone 2 derives a lot of its energy from body fat and as such athletes can reduce carbohydrate intake nutritionally to match the nutrition to the training phase. I must point out that athletes need to ride only in zone 2 for one to two weeks without any racing, intervals or harder training sessions. While this is best in the off season out of competition, athletes may carve out 2-4 weeks for a losing some weight to improve their watts to kg ratio during a slow point in their race season.

Go Fast Grocery List

I like to break this down from the three food groups: carbohydrate, protein, fats. Let's add vegetables and greens as the fourth category. Buy these foods the next time you goto the grocery store and eat this way.

Vegetables & Greens: kale, spinach, arugula any leafy green you like. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus

Proteins: Salmon and any fatty fish. Yes fatty because salmon has the good kind of fat: the omega 3's DHA. Chicken breast is a go fast protein. Red meat is go slow for all its saturated fat. For my vegan friends, beans are a great go fast food choice along with lentils and tofu.

Fats: Avocados, olive oil, almonds, almond butter and the aforementioned DHA found in fatty fish like salmon mentioned above.

Carbohydrate: Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Gluten Free Oatmeal and Quinoa Finally: Water. That is your beverage. Alcohol, juice, soda all fall firmly in the go slow food section. Bring these foods home from the grocery store to win in the kitchen!

Winning in the Kitchen in Summary

Athletes must own what they put in their mouth, no excuses. If you are training with power, riding an expensive bike and working with a coach you are a finely tuned Ferrari, masters cyclists included! Therefore treat your body like a Ferrari! The athletes that have the most success cook and prepare their own food. They also do their own grocery shopping because they 'win in the grocery store'. What comes home goes in your mouth and more importantly, what doesn't come home can't go in your mouth. Eighty percent of weight loss and optimal race weight is achieved from proper nutrition while only 20% from riding more. I educate athletes on what that looks like and have even been known to take trips to the grocery store to consult on go fast food choices and go slow food choices.

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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