Goal Setting (Mental Skills 2 Of 4)

Mental Skills For Cycling Series (Part 2 of 4)

Goal setting is a hugely important step in planning your season, and is often the difference between a successful and unsuccessful training plan. When done properly goal setting can give you increased levels of motivation, help to make your training more optimal and targeted for your goal events, and ensure that you get maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from your cycling season. It is not as simple as saying “I want to win x race” or “I want to improve my FTP by x watts” One big goal is not enough. You will look at the goal, which may seem very far away from where you are now, and think you will never get there. This can lead to a drop in motivation and less focus in your training. This is why you must have short term goals, medium term goals, and long term goals. Having “steps” like these to reach your main goal makes things appear much more achievable, and ticking off your short and medium term goals as you accomplish them will give you a sense of satisfaction, and renewed motivation for the goals to come. An example of this is an A4 rider who wishes to upgrade to A1.

Breaking down your goals

This goal when looked at as a whole seems extremely daunting and for many, impossible. However when broken down into short medium and long term goals it soon becomes more manageable. A short term goal for this rider might be a weekly goal of completing all of their training sessions prescribed by their coach. Completing these short term goals continuously will lead them to their medium term goal, which might be to get 10 cycling ireland points towards their upgrade to A3, and so on. Achieving these medium term (monthly, quarterly, season long) goals will lead them towards their ultimate goal, the long term goal of becoming an A1. To look at the big picture can sometimes be overwhelming. That is why it is important to break things down into manageable steps. This also gives focus and importance to a riders daily actions. Nailing those intervals can be seen as a tangible step towards achieving something, rather than just a box that needs to be ticked.

When setting your goals you should ensure they are SMART. This gives you the best chance of achieving them.

Specific

Don’t have a vague goal of “I want to get faster” set targets such as “I want a 15 watt increase in FTP”

Measurable

Make sure you can objectively measure your goals, increase in power numbers is a perfect example

Attainable

There is no point setting yourself goals that cannot be reached. You mightn’t win the national champs next season, but you might win your local race. This is not to say you should aim low, but you should set goals that you genuinely believe you can achieve.

Realistic

Make sure your goal is realistic, and is within your reach. Goals that are unrealistic will only lead to disappointment, and possibly burnout as you will see them as impossible tasks

Timed

Putting a deadline on your goal is excellent, both for motivation, and to help structure the process of achieving the goal

Goal setting is in my opinion the single biggest thing we can do as cyclists to keep our motivation levels high. Picking a goal that really inspires you can give you something to draw on when motivation levels are low. Take the time to do some goal setting before your next training phase. I promise you it will give you renewed focus, and continued motivation throughout.

What approach to take to Winter Training?

 

Around this time of year the favourite topic of discussion for many cyclists is winter training. What to do, how much to do, and when to do it, everyone seems to have their own opinion on the topic. Some swear by the old methods of never leaving zone 2 until the New Year, others have embraced the turbo, and are advocates of high intensity training, branding any session conducted below zone 6 as “junk miles”.

Structure

 And then there is the debate of structured vs unstructured. Many believe that having excessive structure during the winter training period can be counter-productive, leading to mental burn-out, and can ruin your enjoyment of the sport. Others see structure as an essential element of a winter program, giving them focus, and helping them to reach their goals for the coming season. Different approaches work best for different people, depending on their life circumstances and personality.

Volume vs Intensity

On the intensity vs volume front, the scientific literature seems to have a definitive answer to this question. For riders with 15-20+ hours to train, the high volume low intensity approach seems to be effective (to an extent) but for the rest of us we need to maintain some intensity in the winter to ensure we continue improving, and don’t  lose too much fitness we gained during the summer. Does this mean that time crunched riders need to spend every hour of their available training time frothing at the mouth doing high intensity intervals? Thankfully not! Even for riders training around 8 hours a week, a mix of easy low intensity rides, combined with 1-2 high intensity sessions per week has been shown to be one of the most effective methods of training. This approach can be ideal for riders struggling to know what to do this winter, they can get the best of both worlds, the structure of high intensity sessions during the week, and then use the weekends for enjoyable low intensity rides, free of structure, just enjoying the bike.

Excessive use of structure and intensity will lead to burnout for even the most motivated of riders. Keeping some rides easy and unstructured is a key component of a successful winter training program, both for the body and the mind. Work with your coach to make sure your winter program is both enjoyable and effective, and lay down the foundations for your best season yet!

Training in the AM

Training in the AM.

Almost all of our clients have limited time available to train, for most it is 1-2 hours a day during the week. A large amount of our clients slot this hour into their evenings, hopping on the bike when they are home from work, or after dinner. This is not an ideal situation, as they are tired from a day in work, it is harder to find the motivation to train, and training too late in the day can disrupt sleeping patterns. Why not train in the morning before work? You are at peak physical freshness, and it lets you start the day on a high note, and gets the endorphins flowing, putting you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Late Nights

“But I’m tired in the mornings!” I hear you say. Well why is that? Do you go to bed too late? For most people the ideal time to fall asleep is around 10-11pm, this is based off of our circadian rhythm. The hours between 10pm and 2am are the peak times for sleeping, with recovery hormone release peaking during these hours. The earlier you are asleep, the more effective your recovery will be, leaving you wake up fresh and ready for the next day. Do you really need to spend those extra hours every night watching Netflix?

Benefits

If you get to sleep earlier, waking up earlier will come naturally. If you get to sleep around 10-11pm, waking up at 7 or even 6am (Yes 6am! People actually wake up at this ungodly hour!) becomes easier. Suddenly you have an hour to train each morning pre breakfast, and you are no longer tired from a hard day in work, you are fresh, motivated and ready to train! You may think that this routine is not for you, but after a few weeks of doing this you will never want to go back. Your mood is elevated throughout the day, your sleep quality improves, and training becomes easier. What’s not to like? You too can become that annoying “morning person” that people love to hate!

 

I know this approach may not be suitable for everyone, those that work before 9am or have an early school run it may be difficult. However if your circumstances allow for t this is an excellent approach to take, and can have make a huge positive impact, not only on your training, but also on your life outside of cycling

 

Simple tips to improve your recovery this winter

 

Recovery is one of the most important factors in improving your performance as a cyclist. Without proper recovery, our body cannot make the adaptations necessary to improve, and you will carry excess fatigue from session to session, diminishing the quality of your training. In a sense, the quality of our recovery is just as important as the quality of our training, and the two are inextricably linked, you cannot have one without the other.

The ability to recover after hard training sessions can be difficult for time crunched amateur riders, with work, kids, study and other life stressors impairing our ability to recover. However there are a number of techniques and tricks you can use as a busy, time poor rider, that will enhance your ability to recover, and have a massive positive effect on your training, and fitness level.

Confusion

Unfortunately, with the vast amounts of information available online, the waters have become muddied as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to recovery. This has lead to a huge amount of confusion, as people are oversaturated with information, and it has become very difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction in this area..

For every article proclaiming ice baths to be the most effective recovery tool ever invented, there are ten others claiming that ice baths are nothing more than a hugely uncomfortable placebo, with no scientific evidence for their use.

Sleep

Many cyclists have no proper recovery protocol in place post training, and because of this they are losing out on training adaptations, and placing themselves at a higher risk of illness and injury. One study found that athletes who sleep less than 8 hours a night were found to have a 1.7 times higher risk of injury compared to athletes who slept 8 hours or more.

Sleep is perhaps the single most important area where gains can be made with recovery. Many riders find it difficult to get enough sleep, and with the demands of work/college, family, and cycling to handle, this lack of quality sleep puts them at a huge disadvantage. Using phones late at night is a mistake many people make. The “blue light” emitted from phones disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. Stop using your phone in the hour before bedtime to negate this effect, and improve your sleep quality as a result. Easy!

 

Improving your recovery this winter, can help set you up for your best season yet, and have a huge positive impact on your training.

mental skills for cycling

Mental Skills for Cycling

Mental Skills For Cycling Series (Part 1 of 4)

“With weak legs and a good head you can go a long way. With good legs and a weak head you go nowhere.” A well-known Paul Kimmage quote from Rough Ride, and most cyclists will agree with the statement. Mindset and mental strength are so important in cycling, and yet these topics are seldom discussed or written about. I believe that mastering this aspect of the sport can help to improve your performance, increase motivation, and can you get more enjoyment from your cycling.  In a sport that is as mentally tough as it is physically challenging our mind can be our biggest enemy, or our greatest ally. For many riders the mental side of cycling can be challenging. With race mentality, motivation to train, and goal setting, some of the most common problems riders have in this area.

Motivation

Motivation is an area that all riders have struggled with at one time or another, whether it is motivation to train, or motivation for racing. It is a common problem area for many cyclists. This time of year is especially difficult for riders who struggle with motivation. The season has come and gone, and they are now facing into months of  rain, wind and cold. It can be very easy to lose hope, and let your end of season break carry on a few weeks more than planned, or to half heartedly go about your training, with no real goals or structure, attempting to just “stay fit” rather than improve.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is also a problem area for many riders. It is all too common for riders to start a training block, or their winter training, with no clearly defined goals. Many riders will have a vague idea of “getting stronger” or “staying fit”. These vague goals are a recipe for disaster, and are one of the reasons riders find winter training problematic. Proper goal setting can be hugely beneficial, both for motivation, and for ensuring a riders continued improvement and enjoyment of the sport.

Mentality

Mentality, especially during/before races, is also a thorn in the side of many riders, and can be a huge roadblock for riders achieving the results they are physically capable of.  Excessive anxiety before competition has a massive negative impact on performance. At every race there is at least one rider who is a bag of nerves at the start line. Body tensed up, uneasy look on their face, heart rate creeping up through the zones before a pedal is even turned. If these riders could improve their mentality, and reduce their anxiety levels pre competition, their performances would improve hugely. Just as we can train our physical abilities, so too can we train our mental abilities, and doing this can have a huge impact on our performance.

Throughout this blog series we will give you invaluable information on how to master the various mental aspects of cycling, and help you to improve your performance in races, regain motivation to train, and get more enjoyment from the sport.

time-trial-cycling-ireland

Time Trialing Round Up

 

Time Trialing (Part 4 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Part 3 here

In this four part blog series I have only skimmed the surface but I have given you the lowest hanging fruit in terms of the biggest and quickest improvements. There is a lot more to time trialing than we have covered here, such as equipment choices, advanced positioning and other topics. What we have gone through this series is the essential information you’ll need to perform well in TT’s. The time trial can be a very rewarding discipline when you prepare and pull off a performance, improvements can be seen and measured so easily, and your hard work will directly impact your results, which sometimes is often not the case with road racing. Your performance in time trials is almost entirely under your control, with a lot less variables in play compared to road racing and a lot these variables are controllable. A personal best in a time trial is an extremely rewarding feeling, so the winner isn’t the only one going home happy, as is so often the case in road racing.

 

Open to All

Reading about equipment, many people may think that time trialing is an expensive pursuit reserved for those who are seriously invested in the sport. However this is not the case. Many clubs around the country will run time trials once a week, and many competitors turn up on standard road bikes with no aero equipment. Also these midweek time trials are offering non-aero or “ Eddie Merckx style” categories, to level the playing field as such. All levels of rider can enjoy time trialing, whether it is competing for the win, trying to achieve a personal best, or just trying to beat their friends, it is a very inclusive discipline, all you need is a bike, and the ability to ride the distance of the course.

 

It is easy to romanticise the time trial, one rider solo, battling against the clock, but make no mistake, time trials will be some of the hardest efforts you ever complete on the bike. The added motivation of a stopwatch, and other competitors really help you to dig deep to try and squeeze every bit of speed from your machine before crossing the line. Following a time trial you will inevitably identify areas where you could have gained seconds, whether it is from going around the roundabouts quicker, or going harder on a headwind section, it is rare that you finish a TT without having made some mistakes. However on those rare occasions where you really empty the tank, rode the course to the best of your ability, and reaped the benefits of all those hours spent training, the feeling of satisfaction is immense and very rewarding.

 

Time trials are an excellent event for any cyclist to compete in, regardless of their fitness, experience, or budget. Hopefully this blog series proved helpful and informative, and sparked some interest in better preparing yourself for the race against the clock. If you have any more in-depth questions about the world of time trialing please give us a shout!

 

See you at the start gate!

time trial

Training For Time Trials

 

Time Trialing (Part 3 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)

Time trialing is a discipline that places different physiological demands on a rider than road racing does, so it is only natural that the training is different for them. When training for time trials it’s really a case of quality of quantity and no pain no gain. You are required to ride at a high percentage of your aerobic capacity for a prolonged period of time so clearly there’s no need to train your explosiveness. It’s a mixture of sub- threshold, threshold and vo2 max work that will make you a better tester.

For most time trials the biggest training focus is on raising your FTP so we will take a look at that first – but it’s not the only variable. There are a number of ways of accomplishing a higher FTP.

Session Examples

-Longer “sweet spot” efforts, typically longer efforts carried out at around 85 – 90% of FTP

-Zone 5/Z4 plus efforts that “pull” your threshold up from above, examples include 4 x 8 minutes @ 104% of FTP with 4 minutes recovery between each.

-Zone 4 training sessions such as 2 X 20 minutes Z4 with five minutes recovery.

-Over-Under or crisscross efforts are another method of training commonly used. These efforts involve riding just under your threshold, followed by a short period over threshold, before then returning to an effort level just under threshold.

For riders using a heart rate monitor it is important not to go too hard at the beginning of longer efforts, such as the 20-minute threshold, and sweet spot intervals mentioned here.

Zone 4 Threshold Intervals

Riders tend to start these efforts too hard, in order to “bring their heart rate up” to the correct zone. This is a big mistake, as heart rate can take 3-5 minutes to reach the desired level when performing these intervals. A better method is to use perceived exertion for the first five minutes until your heart rate reaches threshold. Try and hold a 7 or 8 out of 10 effort, and you should find your heart rate gradually climbing into zone 4.

Z5/Lactate Clearance Training

Sometimes you are required to ride for sustained periods above your FTP, for example a short steep hill within a long time trial or even those short TT’s ridden predominantly about your FTP. This requires both an ability to tolerate high levels of lactate/blood acidity and hold solid form and an ability to clear the lactate and waste products rapidly after a period above FTP so you can return to cruising speed as quick as possible. The over-under intervals, and Z5 intervals mentioned previously, both cause adaptations that will help you become proficient in this area

Position Specificity

Following the principle of specificity, it is best to do sessions aimed at improving your time trialing on your TT bike/in your TT position. Nearly all riders find that they cannot produce the same power numbers in this position at first. This is due to the different hip angle, and different muscle recruitment demanded by a time trial position. However this power loss can be mitigated, and even eliminated, by training in the time trial position.

This is an area that can give a rider huge improvements in performance, and is a key aspect of training for time trials. I used to do my long endurance rides on the TT bike to improve my ability to produce power in that position, while 4 hour rides on the TT bike may be excessive for most riders, it illustrates the importance of maximising the time spent in your TT position. A more practical tip for amateur riders is to perform your recovery rides on the TT bike. These rides when performed regularly will really help in adapting your body to produce power in a TT position. Training will have tangible effects on your results in time trialing, unlike road racing where there are a lot of variables outside your control can affect your results, time trialing is a much more controlled environment.

Training for time trials is a very rewarding process, the more effort you put in, the more you get out and they are not called “the race of truth” for nothing!

time-trial

Position and Pacing For Time Trials

 

Time Trialing (Part 2 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)

We hear it all the time, ‘if I could only put out more power’… Let’s make one thing very clear – power, FTP, average power or normalized power don’t win you time trials – speed does! The highest average speed wins the time trial not the highest power. Position and pacing are two aspects of time trialing that are key to success as they both directly affect speed and are relatively quick fixes. They are also areas in which a lot of riders have difficulty with.

Pacing

Pacing a time trial is a subject of much debate in the cycling community; everyone seems to have their own ideas as to what pacing strategy is best but there’s no set template. Your pacing strategy should be decided well before race day along with your pre race schedule and warm up – on race day you want to control as much variables as you possibly can and if need be alterations can be made depending on weather conditions. Pacing strategies will differ on each course and a TT is not simply go out and smash out a power figure for the full duration. There are various pacing strategies out there. I have detailed some below.

Negative Split

A negative split is a pacing strategy where you ride the first half of the time trial slightly below your target pace, and then ride the second half of the TT slightly above your target pace. This strategy proves successful with a lot of riders, and many TT specialists in the pro peloton use this technique to great effect. One major advantage of this method is it stops riders from going out too hard, which is a major issue with many riders, especially those new to TT’s.

Variable Pacing

Another pacing strategy is to ride certain sections of the course above threshold, such as climbs and other sections below threshold, such as descents. The thinking behind this method is that the extra power on the climbs will get you more extra speed than using that power on the descents. You probably notice this yourself out on a spin, pedaling hard down a descent does not make you go a whole lot quicker, whereas pedaling harder on a climb gives noticeable increases in speed. Out and back courses may require unorthodox pacing strategies, if there is a strong headwind on the way out, it may be advantageous to put in a greater effort on the outward leg, and then try and hang on for the return. With the aid of the tailwind you won’t lose too much time, and the extra power used on the headwind section will give greater returns than any loss of time on the return leg.

Positioning

An optimal position for time trials varies hugely between each rider. What is a fast and effective position for one rider may leave another unable to produce power, and a lot less aerodynamic. There are however some universal tips that will benefit all riders. Number one is adapting to your position, because looking super fast is pointless if you are producing no power.  Many riders get on their TT bike, or TT bars, and find they’re losing huge amounts of power in comparison to their road position. Many think this loss of power is part and parcel of the new position, but these losses can be minimised.

Training to Optimise your Position

To reduce the loss of power from their road position, riders must spend as much time as possible training in their TT position. This allows their body to adapt to the more restrictive hip angles and different muscle recruitment. The more time spent training in this position the less dramatic the loss of power will be, and the more comfort a rider will have in that position. Many riders are also unrealistic about their own flexibility levels. An office worker who spends all day sitting behind a desk will not be able to mimic the position of a World tour pro on a TT bike but flexibility can be enhanced. It is however better to try and find a compromise between aerodynamics and power production. If your position is too low for you to produce adequate power, perhaps move the bars up a few cm. The loss in aerodynamics can be offset by an increase in power; so don’t be afraid of making your position ‘less aero’ if it allows you to produce significantly more power.

Learn from the Best

That being said, studying pros, or fast domestic time trialists, who have a similar body-type to you, can be an simple and free source of information for finding a starting point to achieving your optimal position. An area where all riders can make instant gains is to tuck in their shoulders and lower their head. Maintaining this position can be painful, but it is an easy way to get faster, and can provide noticeable increases in speed. If I were to take a photograph of you in full TT mode would there be much difference in a photograph in the first five minutes and one in the last five minutes in 25 mile TT? I bet there would, this is because you’re muscles are not adapted to holding that position under stressful conditions or prolonged periods of time.

Some simple tips to combat this is using your recovery rides to ride your TT for a positional session – if you’re training for a local 25 mile TT you might go out and practice holding that position for an hour or even better break holding the position into 10 minute segments as follows; 10 minutes really focusing on tucking your head down and making yourself as small as possible – really squeeze everything in! Then relax for a few minutes out of the TT position before going again. The great thing about these efforts is they don’t have to be completed at a high intensity so they can be completed on recovery days! Remember time trialing is a combination of many elements and the guys willing to turn each stone will go faster –these tips can help you to shave seconds or even minutes off of your times, and give you that edge in your next TT.  

You have to get a bit freaky with it!

Time Trial 2017 - A1Members

Introduction To Time Trialing

 

Time Trialing (Part 1 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)

Firstly, time trialing happens to be my favorite discipline in cycling. I’ve always been drawn towards the contrast between the crazy technical aspects and the pure simplicity of covering a set distance as fast as you possibly can. I’m a fully-fledged TT nerd if I’m honest. I was first attracted to time trialing because of its purity; it’s you, your bike and a clock. You go away and prepare meticulously then turn up with your game plan/homework done ready to empty the tank and most often the best (prepared) rider on the day wins. Right you guys know I love it – but the truth is the vast majority of cyclists fear time trials and often voice their hatred towards them.  More often than not it’s down to a lack willingness to prepare adequately for them. In this four part series I’m going to compile some of the key tips I’ve picked up over the years that you can apply fast and yield big results.

Pacing

I’ve spent years preparing for time trials from national championships to the worlds and now I’m proud to say I’m taking other riders through that same system – minus all the silly mistakes that cost me time along the way. Time Trialing is a discipline of cycling that many riders struggle with, whether it is pacing, position, or training, the race against the clock can be a problem area for even the most experienced of cyclists. For riders who struggle with them, time trials typically follow this familiar pattern. Start off way too hard, realise halfway through that you cannot sustain your effort, slow down to what feels like a snail’s pace, and suffer like hell until you cross the line. Pacing is one of the most important aspects of a successful time trial, so mistakes made here have a huge impact on your finishing time. With the advent of the power meter pacing has become easier in some respects, but riders still make huge errors of judgement in this area and some believe the only thing to a fast TT is holding the highest average power! Speed wins races –not power. With or without a power meter a perfectly paced TT is a combination of art and science and without preparation in terms of pacing you’re setting yourself up for a fail.

Position

The restrictive, position used in time trials can also be difficult for riders, it’s pretty intuitive that we all want to adopt the fastest possible position but this is extremely individual. Turning up to a time trial without being properly adapted to your TT position is a recipe for disaster, with cramps, massive drops in power, and huge discomfort being just some of the myriad of problems riders encounter if they are insufficiently adapted to their TT position. Lack of flexibility can also cause issues with maintaining a TT position, with riders often having difficulty with the lower, and more stretched out position adopted for time trials. There are many simple tricks one can do to accustom yourself to you low profile position you just need to give it attention and drop the ‘just ride your bike attitude’ because it doesn’t apply to time trialing. A nerd with his or her homework and preparation on point will beat you on the day. I see it all the time; riders with huge thresholds on their road bikes simply can’t produce the same power in their TT position. This is a simple fix – IF you’re willing to give it the time it needs.

Training

Training can also prove problematic, with many good road riders finding themselves completely unprepared for the long steady state effort of a time trial. Many riders also have difficulty with producing high power outputs on flat roads, as opposed to climbs, leaving them underperforming in TT’s compared to what they could do on a gradient. With time trials playing a key part in deciding the general classification in many stage races, a poor TT can often be the Achilles heel for many riders, really holding them back from achieving results in these big events. However it doesn’t have to be this way. In this blog series we will break down the process of becoming a better time trialist, help you to master the discipline, and help to change time trialing from being a dreaded weakness, to something you look forward to. The key to getting faster on your TT bike is controlling as many of the performance indicators as you possibly can, we break down these key performance indicators, from position, pacing and training. Make sure to check back for the next installment of this series, where you can learn the key information that will help maximise your abilities in time trials.

Aaron Buggle

 

 

winter-nutrition

Optimal Winter Nutrition For Cycling Performance?

 

Winter Nutrition For Training 2017 (Part 4 Of 4) – Aaron Buggle

Today’s blog is part 4 of a 4-part series on winter training in 2017 from ex-pro turned strength & conditioning expert Aaron Buggle. To read the other blogs in this series, click here for the links. 

Part 3: Strength Training To Maximize Your Winter Training

Part 2: Making Optimal Gains With Training This Winter

Part 1: How To Plan Your Winter Cycling Training

We often look at training on the bike as being the only method of making improvements year in year out. But have you looked at the stones left untouched?

Change Your Approach?

The winter months provide the ideal opportunity to experiment with changes in your approach to training, nutrition etc. Experimenting with a new approach to a certain aspect of cycling during the season may come at a cost,  e.g trying a new brand of gels during a race that end up giving you stomach cramps. A few weeks spent trying out a new approach during the winter months will not come at the same cost i.e ruining a part of your season or a particular race.

The stone untouched

Nutrition is one of those aspects that is often overlooked when we try to improve your performance in cycling. In cycling there are two main factors we have control over; power and weight. Power primarily correlates to the training you do and the quality of it i.e intervals over junk miles. Weight is obviously controlled mostly by our diet.

A well thought out nutrition plan has the ability to allow you to easily control your weight, improve your health, but also to improve your performance on the bike. Imagine your body as an engine, the quality of the fuel you put into it determines its performance. Therefore, second to training, an improved nutrition plan will allow you to improve your performance in seasons to come.

Eat Loads Of Carbs?

We have all seen studies for the best way to improve training, aerodynamics etc. However, nutrition is one of those things that haven’t changed much over the years. The mentality of ‘eat loads of carbohydrates in the days before your event’ is simply a tradition without much scientific backing that has been passed down throughout the years. Quite similar to warming down after a race, which was once laughed at but now is adopted by all professional riders.

It’s clear that nutrition is a crucial part of the sport. Our resident nutritionist Barry Murray has taken the time to research a nutrition plan that is custom built for an endurance sport like cycling. Adopted by riders such as Steve Cummings and teams such as BMC, this nutrition plan is known to work.

Carb Loading?

As cycling is an endurance-based sport for the most part, riders requiring a steady stream of energy for the duration of the exercise, which may be up to 6 hours. Traditionally carbohydrates have been the favored source of energy. We’ve all heard the term ‘carb-loading’ thrown around in the lead up to an event. A far more appropriate nutrition plan for cycling is to use fat, which we can get virtually limitless energy from, as a primary source of energy.

This does not mean carbohydrates are not used or consumed using this approach. However, ‘nutrient timing’ is optimised in order to teach the body to use certain fuel sources during different levels of exercise intensity.

Fat As An Energy Source

The reason for adopting fat as an energy source is quite simple. Fat (9kcal/g) contains more energy compared to carbohydrates and protein (4kcal/g). Stores of fat are also much larger (blood, muscle and adipose tissue). For example a 70kg athlete with a body fat of 10% has approximately 7kg of stored fat, which has the potential to supply 69,000kcal of energy. In comparison, carbohydrate stores (glycogen stores) in the body can only store 300-400g equating to 1,200-1,600kcal of energy or 3-4hrs of medium intensity exercise. This limited amount of carbohydrate is not ideal to supply energy for a long endurance sport such as cycling.

Carbohydrates are much more effective at providing energy for high intensity periods of exercise e.g above threshold. Therefore, if we can make our bodies ‘fat adapted’ to use fat as a source of energy for sub-threshold intensities we can reserve the carbohydrate stores for the intense periods of a race e.g a sprint finish.

Fat & Carbohydrates?

To achieve this is quite simple. By consuming fat and carbohydrates at certain periods before/during training we can determine which the body uses as a fuel source at that time. Put simply this nutrition plan is built around timing the consumption of your macronutrients in relation to the exercise or training you are doing at the time. Not restricting any macronutrients.

Along with the performance benefits of this nutrition plan, it can also aid weight loss and improve health.This way of eating helps to promote oxidation during metabolism i.e burn fat while also improving protein synthesis (i.e. muscle repair/growth). As a result your body composition improves as fat is reduced and muscle is maintained or increases.

Decreased Diabetes Risk

Most importantly, this way of eating may improve your health. A high fat diet can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes as well as decreasing inflammation, which improves recovery and allows you to train for longer periods, therefore improving your health.

If you’ve tried everything under the sun to improve you performance, nutrition is one of those areas where improvements can easily be made. Make the change this winter and lay the foundations for a successful season. It’s cheap and easy to do and most importantly it’s easier than doing more intervals!

A. Buggle