Training

Cycling Nutrition with Monique Ryan: Post-holiday weight loss

With the holiday season officially over, cyclists are back to work or school and planning ahead for the coming race season. Perhaps you ate and drank your way through December’s seemingly endless string of parties and events, with both your training volume and frequency in a state of consistent decline. Because of these calorically challenging dilemmas, mid- January often greets many cyclists with an extra and unwanted layer of adipose fat. But no need to panic, there is plenty of time to get your diet and nutrition plan in order for the 2007 season. Weight, fat, and goal settingFirst take

Everyone- including this New Year’s celebrant in the Ukraine-should ease up a bit after the holidays.

Photo: Agence France Presse – 2007

With the holiday season officially over, cyclists are back to work or school and planning ahead for the coming race season. Perhaps you ate and drank your way through December’s seemingly endless string of parties and events, with both your training volume and frequency in a state of consistent decline. Because of these calorically challenging dilemmas, mid- January often greets many cyclists with an extra and unwanted layer of adipose fat. But no need to panic, there is plenty of time to get your diet and nutrition plan in order for the 2007 season.

Weight, fat, and goal setting
First take a good objective look at your nutritionally related goals for the 2007. When does your race season start and what weight and body composition do you want to achieve? Be realistic- a seasoned master’s rider may not be able to achieve the same body composition of years past. Rapid weight loss can also be difficult, as these plans often call for too low a calorie intake and weight loss can be difficult to maintain.

When developing your weight goals, it can be very helpful to have your body composition checked to determine current levels of fat and fat-free mass. While all forms of body fat measurement are indirect, it is important that you be consistent in the technique used to monitor your body composition. For example, if you use the convenient caliper method, stick with the same experienced technician during the season.

Many cyclists now have a scale that also measures body fat. Make sure that the scale uses a formula appropriate for athletes and that you follow the directions provided in regards to hydration and timing around training or exercise when checking body fat through this technique. Whatever body composition measurement technique you decide to use, stick with it and use it to monitor changes throughout the season. If you are focused on building muscle this time of year, relying solely on a body weight scale does not provide appropriate feedback on your efforts. Body fat levels may be declining while your body weight is more stable.

Dialing in your diet
After getting back on track with your training and setting body composition goals, it is now time to dial in your dietary strategies. Hopefully you have minimized some of the damage that can be done over the holiday season. Toss away any leftover treats and temptations and think of today as the first day of your 2007 nutrition plan.

January is a good time to adopt a moderate approach to eating, as the high energy training days are likely limited, particularly if you live in a colder climate. The calories burned during training are likely to be relatively modest during the week, with perhaps some longer weekend workouts. Indoor cycle classes can also provide a nice steady calorie burn. When you combine resistance training with some type of cardiovascular workout you can burn a few hundred calories in a session, but a modest hour at the gym does not compare to a 90 to 120 minute outdoor bike ride. So, your calorie intake on many days is likely to be modest in order to meet your energy needs.

Next take an inventory of your current eating habits. One somewhat objective way to do this is to record everything that you eat and drink for a few days or even one week. While you may be tempted to forgo a treat or greasy something because you don’t want to write it down, you still know you would have eaten it and perhaps there is a habit that needs to be changed. Once you have a few days recorded, take a look back to identify some potential problem areas with your food choices and eating patterns. Do you eat out frequently with not enough thought to low fat choices and portion control? Is there too much after dinner snacking or are the portions consumed at this time too large? Is your diet low in fruits and vegetables? Do you get too full at your evening meal?

Sometimes dietary changes can be relatively painless. Cutting back about 325 calories daily results in weight loss of one half pound weekly. To remove 325 calories from your diet you could simply eliminate one 12-ounce beer, cut out 3 tsp. of oil, and trim your pasta portion at dinner by half a cup. The faster you want to lose weight, the more you have to cut back. A 500 calorie deficit produces a weight loss of one pound weekly and would require further cutbacks such as trimming meat portions at dinner, replacing a high calorie evening snack with a fresh piece of fruit, and eliminating an after dinner snack. The gentler the calorie restriction, the slower the weight loss, but the less likely that your metabolism will slow down in response to deficit eating, or that you will feel deprived and hungry on your new diet plan.

Whatever your food goals, start with a good round of food shopping and keep it up as a regular habit one day weekly. This sets the foundation for consistent healthy eating. During this phase of your training, your carbohydrate requirements are not particularly elevated, but should match the demands of your training. These total carbohydrate amounts can include the carbohydrates that you consume immediately before, during, and after training, but also the whole grains that should be part of your daily diet. You may still need to temper your portions of pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, and other grains however, as portions may need to be reduced for your weight loss goals and in contrast to phases of heavy training.

Exercise duration Carbohydrate requirements
60 minutes training/exercise 2.5 g/lb. body weight
60 minutes training + weight training 3.0 g/lb. body weight
90 minutes training 3-3.5 g/lb. body weight
120 minutes of training 3.5-4.0 g/lb. body weight

With the relatively reduced intake in carbohydrate, make sure to balance your diet with adequate amounts of protein. Adequate protein is needed for muscle building, and it is especially important to time your protein intake appropriately around resistance training sessions. Within one hour before weight training aim for 10 to 20 g of high quality protein such as whey protein, or protein from chicken, eggs, or tuna, and combine it with 25 g of carbohydrate such as 16 ounces of juice. Within the one to two hours after weight training, aim for the same amount of protein and carbohydrate. If you combine weight training with a cardiovascular workout you can increase the carbohydrate amount in this recovery mix to 50 g. Protein with other meals and snacks also keeps you feeling full longer, and can help with any weight loss efforts.

Fat is also an important part of your diet. Aim for healthy fats, such as olive and canola oil, and avocado, nuts, and seeds. But watch portions of these caloric foods and identify sources of fatty foods and hidden fat in your diet that can be reduced or eliminated.

Of course everyone needs to make nutritional adjustments specific to their own habits. A sports dietitian can help you formulate such a plan if you feel that you need more guidance. But for any cyclist, this is a great time of year to follow sensible nutrition guidelines and make moderate changes in your diet that can decrease caloric intake and provide the right nutritional jumpstart for the 2007 season. Below are some nutritional tips that can also improve the quality of your diet for training, as well as weight loss.

Consume at least 6 servings combined of fruits and vegetables daily. One vegetable serving is ½ cup cooked or cup raw. One fruit serving is one piece of fresh fruit, or ½ cup fruit, or 4 ounces juice. Try varieties of vegetables available this season. Winter squash of any type is a great source of nutrients.Consume at least three servings of whole grains daily. Good choices include whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal (not instant), barley and buckwheat. Add more dried beans and lentils to your diet. Not only do beans add more fiber and phytonutrients to your diet, but they are also good sources of many other nutrients including protein, potassium, and folate, while being low in fat. Beans also have a low glycemic index and keep you feeling full after meals.

Have breakfast everyday. Regular breakfast eaters do a better job of managing their weight. Including small amounts of protein at breakfast can help you stay full until lunchtime.Snack regularly if it suits your hunger patterns and training schedule. Regular snacks can help prevent high levels of hunger at regular meals, which often leads to overeating at these meals. Snacking also keeps blood glucose levels steady and can provide an energy boost before training.


Monique Ryan
Monique Ryan

Monique Ryan, MS, RD, LDN

is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over twenty-two years of experience and is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, a Chicago based nutrition consulting company that provides nutrition programs for endurance athletes across North America. Monique consults with the Chicago Fire Soccer Team, and was the nutritionist for Saturn Cycling from 1994 to 2000. She has also consulted with the Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, the Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team, and the Rollerblade Racing Team. Monique has consulted with USA Cycling, and was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Women’s Road Team leading to the 2004 Athens Olympics. She has also provided nutrition consultation services to USA Triathlon for coaching clinics, athlete clinics, and for the resident athlete team and was a member of the USAT Performance Enhancement Team for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Monique is the author of “SportsNutrition for Endurance Athletes,” 2nd edition (March 2007), from VeloPress,which provides sports specific nutrition for road cycling, mountain biking, running, triathlon, swimming, rowing, and adventure racing. She is also author of “PerformanceNutrition for Winter Sports” (PeakSports Press), “Performance Nutritionfor Team Sports” (PeakSports Press), and “Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. Monique is a regular contributor to VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, Outside, and ACE Fitness Matters. Please send your questions to velonewssteve@competitorgroup.com.