In many ways be lighter on the bike is the ultimate upgrade you make to improve your performance. Looking at it as part of your training is only practical if you have something to aim for and a way to get there. This episode shows you how.
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Weight is an issue all cyclists come across, from the very fit to the little soft round the edges, but it is especially important for endurance athletes like cyclists. And most cyclists understand this – especially if they know of riders like Michael Rasmussen or Andy Schleck. Even Froome-Dod looks a little praying mantis like.
Author and coach – Matt Fitzgerald tackled this issue on his book ‘Racing Weight’. With a straight down the line opinion on nutrition and diet. No fads, trends or mixed messages in Matt’s writing. He favours behaviour regulation over counting calories, so it’s definitely not the common approach to nutrition, and certainly not weight management.
During the interview I asked these questions:
How do we get to a target weight?
Find Body fat percentage
Estimate your optimal body-fat percentage
Calculate your optimal body-weight target
So the two elements that are taken into consideration are overall body weight and body fat, and all the rest will take care of itself?
What about adding muscle?
Once you have your ideal race weight figured out you have 6 Steps outlined in the book to get you there. I have picked different parts to talk about that stuck out to me. Starting with step 1 – improving your diet quality.
Improving your diet quality
High quality foods seem to be making a comeback recently. I’m not suggesting that you are following these trends, but the terms eating clean, real foods or whole foods seem to align with your basic nutritional advice – what’s your definition of high quality food?
Why does food quality matter?
You quantify this through your ‘diet quality scores’. What is it?
Measuring diet quality – Diet Quality Score
Keeping a food journal – Another part of your process in keeping a food journal, what’s the benefit to the cyclist?
Adding high quality foods
One recommendation that keeps popping up is shifting to higher quality carbohydrates.
I’m interested in the distinction you make between Whole grains vs Refined grains? What’s the difference, and why is it important?
How about gluten free foods. Is there a performance gain to be made by eating gluten free foods?
Managing your appetite
Your process doesn’t include counting calories. Which makes life a lot easier, this is a conscious choice, and you explain your decision in detail, without counting calories what is the best indicator of overeating?
You bring up an interesting study on overeating, sighting intent as the most powerful determinant of how much we eat. This really puts a lot of pressure on the person to be aware of their meal prep and eating habits. As you say, learning the difference belly hunger and head hunger is vital here. What is the best way to tackle this?
This approach is more about teaching people about their bodies and habits rather than teaching them how to plan meals. It’s a process of trial and error though. When you made the transition to this style of eating, how long did it take you to adjust?
Something that I want to add that relates to your idea of cleaning out the kitchen – is this quote. “If a food is in your house, you will eventually eat it.” Which is not to say clean out your cupboards, but just be aware of the reality once the low quality food gets into your home. Willpower may not be enough.
Balancing your energy sources
Macronutrients are essential building blocks for endurance athlete performance. You clearly state carbohydrates as being the most important for endurance athletes.
I’ve asked everyone this question that I’ve had on the show recently, and I am also interested in your take – Why the recent hate on carbohydrates?
A recently received a recommendation to adjust carbohydrates based on training or activity load. More along the lines of determining the specific carbohydrate needs for various activities and working out the carbohydrate intake from there.
You state the importance of always being ‘topped up’ with carbohydrates to be fuelled and ready for hard training sessions, but can this be offset with a low carb intake on rest days or time off the bike completely? What’s the best way to approach this?
Where do protein and fats fit into balancing energy sources?
It’s actually something that I believe every serious athlete should be doing anyway, but tying it to weight management is such a great way to explore diet and performance. It’s something I talk about all the time, the experiment of one or PhD of me, which is treating data collection as close to science experiment parameters as possible.
Such is the case with the 3 variables you are recommending people track are:
Weight – Scales
Body-fat percentage – Dexa Scan
What are the best practices for monitoring weight and body-fat to be consistent?
A 20 min test is the test you recommend for cyclists, which could be record your FTP or speed/distance- why did you choose this?
It’s definitely something that most serious cyclists would do instinctively, but fine tuning it, and having a framework to start experimenting is the value add of this section.
What’s the number one consideration in nutrient timing around training?
Training for Racing Weight
Join me next week where I wrap up our month of nutrition and take all the best bit and turn them into an actionable plan.
Photo Credit: Matt Fitzgerald