Nutrition for Cyclocross Racing

Nutrition for cyclocross racing can be challenging given the high-intensity nature of cyclocross races. Nutrition mistakes during and around cyclocross racing are one of the most common ways to sabotage your form on race days this fall. You’ve put the training time in, your tires and bikes are dialed…so here’s how you can avoid blowing your hard work by making common nutritional mistakes.

Monday – Friday:

If you are racing cyclocross on Saturday and Sunday for consecutive weeks, the bulk of your training during the week will be focused on recovery and secondly, on getting your engine ready to run high-octane on the weekend. Due to the intensity of cyclocross, your first focus after a race weekend should be finding the right amount of carbohydrate to recover and maintain muscle glycogen. We recommend doing this by consistently maintaining moderate carbohydrate intake during the week.

Avoid cramming all your carbs into the “oh shit I’m racing cyclocross tomorrow” Friday night meal. NEVER eat 500 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting, your body is only able to store a finite amount of carbohydrate as muscle glycogen after that carbohydrate will be stored as fat. Ever heard of pizza-legs? Yeah, it’s a thing and pizza legs don’t win races.

FasCat Recommends: choose low-glycemic and ideally gluten free carbohydrate sources (like rice and quinoa) for midweek meals to avoid spiking blood sugar and inflammatory foods like white pasta and bread.

Don’t skimp on the carbs. Cyclocross racers frequently train, warm-up and race at high intensity. It’s easy to view the stress you’re putting on your body as “puffy-ness”, but before you cut carbs altogether, remember that you’re recovering from exercise that drains muscle glycogen at a much higher rate than other endurance events.

FasCat Recommends: Find a diet that works and stick to it. Puffy-ness will come and go, but it’s important to have patience and set vanity aside in favor of optimizing nutrition for recovery and then racing.

Skip the spicy foods too close to race weekends. We’re huge fans of hot-sauce and ordering Thai food that’s way too spicy to enjoy, but we’re not making that call on Thursday or Friday evening.

FasCat Recommends: Your best option is going “full monk” and sticking to the most boring diet you can think of during cyclocross season…but if you absolutely MUST eat a spicy meal, do it early in the week.

Race Days:

If you’ve had solid recovery early in the week and maintained some intensity midweek, you should be building on the form that you’ve built in the summer and from previous races. Having a week that sets you up for racing on Saturday and Sunday is tough…don’t blow it by making a dietary mistake.

Timing is everything. Not eating enough and/or not timing your pre-race meal correctly is a common mistake for cyclocross racers. Many athletes experience terrible stomach cramps during and after cyclocross races. This is commonly referred to as “cross-gut”, but this can happen for a variety of reasons, all of which are individual to the athlete.

FasCat Recommends: Part of your journey to being on the podium every week is figuring out what foods do and do not work for you on race day. Racers who’ve put in the “10,000 hours” already have this figured out. If you’re on the way to that level, the best thing you can do is record what you ate on race day and when you ate it. We recommend a small to medium portioned carbohydrate meal 3 – 4 hours prior to your race start. After the race, add to those notes and over a season you may see patterns develop. Follow the good patterns with diet, abandon the bad ones, but give it time.

You ate something during your race. The truth is that your body is pretty inefficient – after digesting foods, you’ll only be able to utilize around 25% of the calories you intake. This means that if you consume 100 calories during a cyclocross race, you’ll only be able to use 25 of them…and only AFTER you digest the calories.

FasCat Recommends: Many cyclocross racers carry one gel with caffeine as an emergency backup during races. You may get through the first 30 minutes of a race feeling flat, if you can find a gel that works well with your stomach during intensity, this may benefit you during the last few laps of a race.  It is also important to remember that carbohydrate intake takes 15 – 30 minutes. Anything you eat in the 2nd half of the race won’t really help glycogen depleted muscles during your race.

Eating the wrong stuff immediately after your race. As much as we like to bro-down after races, drinking that IPA right after your race is never going help recovery as much as something without alcohol! Finish your race and drink a mexican coke, have a hot chocolate. ~150-200 calories will cover your needs at this point. 30-45 minutes later, focus on getting a well-balanced meal that includes 30-40 grams of protein.  We like a healthy portion of chicken fried rice or a chicken burrito which is easy to find if you are on the road.

Optimal nutrition for cyclocross racing probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun at this point, but you’ve done all the hard training, keep your nutrition boring and simple and you’ll reap the reward when you see the results sheet!

Healthy Food Choices

Go Fast Food Choices to Lose Weight and Ride Faster

Earlier in the year I completed the 14 Day Conscious Cleanse and want to share what I learned with regard to optimal nutrition for training and weight loss.  You may remember my New Year’s transformative blog and 2017 is turning into my year for nutrition for optimal performance, recovery and maintaining a lean physique.  My perspective is a continuation of what I’ve been preaching to athletes for over 15 years so I’ll try to keep this concise and to the point. First, is the food we choose to eat.  If you put in junk you’ll ride like junk. If you put in high quality nutrients you’ll go fast. As an athlete you are a Ferrari and I know you’d only fuel up your Ferrari with high octane if you owned one! There are two types of food:

the Go Fast kind and the Go Slow kind

Let’s start with Go Fast Food Choices. Remember, 80% of weight loss occurs in the kitchen, which begins in the grocery store:

  • High quality complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice
  • Lean Cuts of Fish and Chicken
  • Healthy Fats like Omega 3’s found in avocados and salmon
  • Fruit! apples, oranges, mangoes, bananas, blueberries, raspberries (bananas can replace energy bars)
  • Rice cakes – to use on the bike
  • Raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, celery, onions green and red pepper slices. Beets!
  • Kale & Spinach – antioxidant rich

For weight loss, athletes should also start paying attention to the back label of foods where ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, and added sugar are displayed. You have to be an ingredient detective! Seriously, a sugar cop.  Grocery shop in the perimeter of the store, not down the aisles where the food is in boxes.

Try switching to go fast food choices for a month and see where your weight goes.

Here are several ‘go slow‘ foods (& ingredients):

  • Added sugar: its evil – go watch the documentary, Fed Up
  • High fructose corn syrup (this includes convenience store gatorade and soft drinks)
  • Processed foods with partially hydrogenated fats
  • Any food that comes in a plastic bag or box
  • Sugary foods like cookies (sorry, Phil), cakes, and low-fat foods (that’s code for high in sugar)
  • Saturated fats found in red meat, cheese, butter, and fried foods
  • Alcohol, sorry but its empty calories and inhibits recovery + it leads to snacking

Back to the go fast food choices, my favorite recipe book is Skratch Labs’ “The Feed Zone Cookbook” which has over 150 easy meals for you to try. Dial in two or three of these meals (my favorite is the Chicken Fried Rice) to improve your performance and diet.

More hardcore recommendations are to go gluten and dairy free. Reducing inflammation is a good way to encourage your body to burn more fat.

Disclaimer: if the recommendations above are not working for you you may want to work with a nutritionist: one that can do 3 things for you: 1) incorporate and periodize your nutrition to your annual training plan, 2) use metabolic laboratory data (FAT MAX) plus your powermeter data (kJ’s = calories) AND 3) design a meal plan for long term sustainability. Because after all, we are talking about lifestyle changes, not diets. Above all, congratulations on the commitment you made to your health and to your power to weight ratio! Chris Froome here you come.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank coaches his athletes to make better  [Go Faster] food choices to achieve healthy sustainable weight loss, better recovery, and optimal performance.  Ultimately this leads to a change in the athlete’s lifestyle. To talk with Frank about your cycling and losing weight, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise you can find him riding and eating healthy in Boulder, CO.

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Using your Powermeter for Weight Loss

You can use your powermeter to help with your weight loss goals by paying attention to your work expenditure in kiloJoules.  Your ride for 2 hours producing 1,000 kiloJoules of work equals roughly 1 Chipotle chicken burrito. Ride for 5 hours and 3,000 kJ’s and that’s a lot of food!  What high octane gasoline is to a Ferrari, carbohydrate is to you, the athlete & cyclist.  Fuel your long rides but cut back by 250-500 calories per day to loss .5 – 1lb per week.   You can eat and lose weight at the same time by calculating your daily caloric expenditure and subtracting your kiloJoules.  Here’s how:

Calories required to live and breathe + calories you eat – calories you burn exercising.

A Calorie is a Calorie
First off, let’s dispel any myths out there. All food, whether it’s a hot ‘n fresh glazed Krispy Kreme donut or a plate of pasta, has a caloric value. You can figure it out by looking at the values printed on the back of food labels or consulting an online food database such as MyFitnessPal which integrates with our partner TrainingPeaks.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
Your resting metabolic rate or RMR is the number of calories your body needs to live and breathe. I’m talking about vital functions like your heart beat, brain activity and respiration. If you were to lie on the couch all day and barely move, your RMR would represent your total daily caloric requirements.

Resting Metabolic Rate may be measured in a lab from your respiratory gases or it may be estimated with an online calculator from your age, height and weight.

Caloric Requirements of Exercise
Your RMR represents what it takes to lay around, but what about exercise? Estimating your daily energy expenditure from walking, working, and riding is more complicated but do-able. Estimates may be made again from a variety of online calculators but all of them center around duration and intensity. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. And the higher intensity at which you exercise, the more calories or “fuel” your body consumes.

If you are fortunate enough to own a powermeter (did I mention how handy these are?) your energy expenditure is represented by the total workload of your ride in kilojoules. Kilojoule is a unit of work that by a quirk of nature handily converts in a 1:1 ratio to calories. So for every kilojoule that you ride, you’ve also burned 1 calorie of food. Ride a thousand kJ’s and that’s good for one burrito.

For those of you who are so inclined, here are the conversion factors:

Ride 3,000 kJ and that’s a lot of food. Kinda gives meaning to Eddy’s famous quote, “ride more, eat less” eh?

Putting it all together
Take the number of calories burned during exercise and add that to your RMR. Poof, you’ve calculated your total daily caloric requirements.

RMR Energy Expenditure = Total Daily Caloric Requirement

Energy in = Energy Out. Simple, right? Now what to do with these numbers?

Log it Down!
Now, take this number and eat 250 to 500 kcals or calories less each day and watch the lbs disappear. Simple huh? Yes, but you’ll need to calculate your total daily caloric requirements each day and then count every calorie you eat. That is asking a lot of athletes but it is nevertheless important to understand the numbers behind process. All the successful diets in the world adhere to these scientific principles whether it’s the South Beach diet or cyclist’s Krispy Kreme diet.

The other, more moderate method to track your energy intake is to do a three-day dietary log, where you record and calculate your food intake on a combination of weekday and weekends. If your diet is generally stable throughout the week, these three days will give you a good average value to work from. The other benefit of dietary logs is that it becomes a self-reinforcing practice. Nobody wants to look bad even to their own diaries, so you end up skipping that extra bowl of chips because it ends up looking darned embarrassing entering it into the log!

Long Term
By cutting back 250 to 500 calories per day, everyday on a consistent basis, you can expect to lose 05.-1 pounds per week. Over the course of 8 to 10 weeks or more and that’s a huge lifestyle change. And I’m here to tell you, it’s the single greatest improvement you can make for your cycling performance, besides increasing your power output. Count calories if you must but also conceptually consider your food choices. Together you have a winning recipe.

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is neither a registered dietitian nor a meal planner. But he can help you integrate a weight loss strategy into your training plan. For more information and to have a coaching consultation fill out the New Athlete Questionnaire or email frank@fascatcoaching.com

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Chicken Fried Rice

Weight Loss for Cyclists

by Frank Overton, February 2003, revised 2016

Between September and February is the best time for bike racers to lose weight.  As an aspiring cat 4 bike racer I lost 12 lbs  in the off season to get my  Cat 1 upgrade.  Consequently nutrition and weight loss coaching is a staple for all the athletes I coach.  Because weight loss makes an enormous impact to any cyclist’s performance! There are several simple dietary suggestions that I’d like to make before plunging into a caloric deficit (diet). Often times these simple lifestyle changes will result in a leaner, happier, and faster athlete. So here goes, these are ‘go slow‘ foods:

  • Avoid all foods and beverages with high fructose corn syrup (this includes convenience store gatorade and soft drinks)
  • Try to stay away from processed foods with partially hydrogenated fats
  • Avoid sugary foods like cookies (sorry, Phil), cakes, and low-fat foods (that’s code for high in sugar)
  • Avoid added sugar altogether, its evil
  • Try to stay away from saturated fats found in red meat, cheese, butter, and fried foods
  • Avoid alcohol

For weight loss, athletes should also start paying attention to the back label of foods where ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, and sugars are displayed. You have to be an ingredient detective! Grocery shop in the perimeter of the store, not down the aisles where food is in boxes. Here are some healthy ‘go fast‘ food choices you can make:

  • Complex carbohydrate (just exercise portion control): sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice
  • The post race/ride burrito! (with rice, veggies and protein)
  • Fruit like apples, oranges, mangoes, bananas (bananas can replace energy bars)
  • Rice cakes – to use on the bike
  • Snack on fruit or raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, edamame, green and red pepper slices
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Have a salad for dinner with chicken or fish
  • Kale & Spinach – antioxidant rich

Try switching to go fast food choices for a month and see where your weight goes.  The next level is to go:

  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Sugar Free

Eat 3 meals a day and 4 snacks. Drink 1 ounce of water per pound of weight each day.  This basically subscribes to Dr. Phil Goglia where 80% of weight loss occurs in the kitchen thru food choices and 20% occurs from exercise.

 

If you are already “winning in the kitchen” [the 80% part] with go fast foods try using these two tools to take a harder look at your diet and food consumption:

  1. MyFitnessPal: Complete a 3 day dietary recall . Download the app and start logging in everything you put in your mouth for 3 days.  Not just what, but how much.  Be detailed. Your coach can analyze your ‘food diary’ but often times in the exercise itself, the athlete will realize all the empty calories they are consuming.
  2. Your PowerMeter:  1 kiloJoule on the bike equals 1 calorie of food. Ride 1,000kJ’s and that’s equivalent to a burrito. Ride 2,000 kJ’s and it’s easy to see why you can lose some weight as long as you don’t eat everything that isn’t nailed down in the kitchen when you get home.

OK, that’s all good but you still need to hit your “climbing” weight. Well, as Eddy Merckx rather eloquently said, “Eat Less, Ride More”. Don’t we all wish. Basically it all comes down to taking in fewer calories than your daily caloric requirements, otherwise known as a caloric deficit. Some athletes can successfully ‘diet by math‘ to lose weight and if you want to try, I recommend a 500 calorie caloric deficit per day.  Over 1 week that is 1 lb.  10 weeks = 10 lbs.  Don’t diet more than that because your power on the bike and recovery off the bike will decrease.

Before I go any further there are times in an athlete’s training schedule when it is OK and not OK to lose weight. After the season is over and during your base phase are great opportunities to trim the fat.  During your weight program or once you start your intensity and begin racing are not. Instead back up and try modifying your diet with the go fast and go slow foods described above. If it’s the right time of year to cut calories try some of these tricks I’ve successfully used in the past:

  1. Try eating several small meals over the course of the day rather than three large ones
  2. Drink lots of water – a liter before every meal – it fills you up
  3. Pay attention to the glycemic index of foods and try to avoid HIGH GI foods
  4. Eat bulky foods that are not calorically dense like salads and vegetables
  5. Speaking of vegetables – include them with every meal.  Kale ‘n eggs!
  6. Make a habit of snacking on fruit and vegetables instead of your usual quick fixes
  7. On the bike, teach your body to burn fat by riding slow enough that it is using your body’s fat stores as the primary source of energy (~70% HR MAX or FAT MAX).  You can determine your “FAT MAX” with metabolic testing in the lab.
  8. Practice your “Push Aways” – push yourself away from the dinner table before you are full.
  9. Brush your teeth right after dinner to avoid snacking at night

Remember to consume plenty of carbohydrates once you start your intervals and begin racing. Dieting during the season is risky business and could hurt your cycling decreased power output by way of reduced recovery, muscle immunosuppression and a reduction in performance.

Disclaimer: if the recommendations above are not working for you, I suggest working with a nutritionist: one that can look at your training plan, use metabolic laboratory data (FAT MAX) plus your powermeter data (kJ’s = calories) AND design a meal plan for long term sustainability.  Because after all, we are talking about lifestyle changes, not diets.  Above all, congratulations on the commitment you made to your health and to your power to weight ratio!  Chris Froome here you come.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank wrote this training tip 14 years ago but still coaches athletes to this day about making better food choices to achieve healthy sustainable weight loss and ultimately a change in the athlete’s lifestyle. Recently Frank completed the 14 Day Conscious Cleanse.  Stay tuned for what he learned.  To talk with Frank about your cycling and losing weight, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise you can find him riding and eating healthy in Boulder, CO.

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