Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Basic Eating for Basic Training

It is no secret to those who know me that I thoroughly enjoy sharing a bottle of wine with a nice meal or relaxing with a microbrew (or two) at the end of the day. (Recently, I’ve been particularly fond of Argentinean Malbecs, the Trapiche Broquel Malbec, in particular.

But as I noted in my New Year Resolutions post, one of my goals for this year is to get leaner. To that end, Phil and I have both been focusing on our diets since the beginning of January.

Over the last few years we have each learned a couple of fairly simple tricks that help us to drop weight. Keep in mind, neither of us has a huge amount to lose (less than 6 - 8 pounds each). When you are already at a healthy weight, and want to lose just a few pounds, it can be a slow process. Avoiding self-sabotage is the most difficult challenge. It takes several weeks (at least 3 for me) to really see the numbers on the scale change after I start being mindful of my diet. Patience becomes critical.

The first rule, of course, is to burn more calories than we take in. One "miraculous" way to do that is simply to do a reverse Jesus - we turn wine into water at dinner. Phil and I have a deal between us, though. The “no alcohol” rule doesn’t apply one night each week. If we go to dinner with friends, or have a date night, or I have the time to cook a nice dinner on Sunday evening, we relax and enjoy our wine. Life is too short to go without simple pleasures – in moderation.

The second tip came from an article in Bicycling Magazine. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, the winner of four consecutive national mountain bike championships, says "Eat dinner like a pauper."

We eat a very light evening meal during the week (when our training volume is low). I mean really light – an apple, a handful of almonds, maybe a couple pieces of string cheese or a container of yogurt and a couple Wasa wholegrain crackers. Another option is a bowl of soup, or sometimes a bowl of cereal (I mix it with yogurt, rather than milk). That’s it. And you know what? It is plenty.

The third tip is one that I often see mentioned in weight loss and nutrition articles – eat at home. By eating at home we can more closely control our diets. I know exactly what we’re eating. There are no hidden ingredients - oil or butter or full fat dairy or nuts. We eat lots of broccoli, lean meat (chicken, pork and beef – Phil orders salmon when he goes out to eat because I’m not a fish eater), and whole grains like brown rice. It is also easier to manage portion sizes.

Really, that is what it all comes down to in the end - managing portion sizes. There are no forbidden foods. There are simply choices to make. If I eat this, I need to reduce the amount of that.

It does take discipline, and it does take mindfulness. If I didn’t have a goal in mind (get light so I don’t have to haul extra weight up Mt Evans and Columbine Mine) it might be hard to remain mindful. For now, that is enough motivation to keep me on track. Even when the Girl Scout cookies made their appearance at the office yesterday afternoon . . .!

Following is an excerpt from an article by
Monique Ryan posted on VeloNews Feb. 16, 2005, with more specific nutriton information that may be helpful to you.

Many cyclists are currently building their aerobic endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility in anticipation of more specific training in the coming weeks and months. Just as this training cycle requires you follow a specific mix of volume and intensity, your nutritional intake must match-up so that you have the required energy and fluids at the most optimal times for your training and recovery.

As you continue to build your volume, your energy and carbohydrate requirements increase. During this base cycle, you may also be interested in losing weight.

This is a good time of year to adopt nutritional habits that result in gradual weight loss so that you do not have to restrict calories when training really picks up in intensity. For each training cycle, you need to consider your nutritional requirements for energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fluid.

While estimating energy needs is both a science and an art, a few generalizations can be made to assist you in determining your energy needs. If you want to lose weight, a mild restriction is 300 calories daily for a weight loss of approximately half-a-pound weekly, and 500 calories for one pound weight loss weekly. Greater calorie restrictions can produce more weight loss, but could also compromise your energy levels and recovery.Obviously within this current training cycle you can experience various types of workouts during the week and weekends.

Energy requirements for maintenance can be based on training time:

12-14 calories per pound: Mild activity with no purposeful training or exercise (day off)

15-17 calories per pound: One hour training at moderate intensity

18-24 calories per pound: One to two hours at moderate intensity

25-30 calories per pound: Several hours of training daily

Carbohydrate, along with fat, is a steady fuel supply during any type of low to moderate intensity training. Carbohydrate needs need to match training in order to replace the muscle glycogen that you burn for fuel.

2.25-3.0 grams/lb: Moderate intensity training for one hour or very low intensity for several hours

3.0-4.5 grams/lb: Greater than 90 minutes daily at moderate intensity.
Consume from the high end of the range for several hours of moderate intensity.

These carbohydrate requirements include both the types of carbohydrates found in sports drinks and gels and consumed during training, as well as the whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that make-up a balanced training diet.

Timing your carbohydrate intake properly also supports your training efforts.

In the two hours before longer training sessions consume up to 50-75 grams of carbohydrate.
Pay attention to recovery nutrition and consume 0.5 g/lb carbohydrate after longer training sessions. You can also add in 10-15 g of protein to your recovery snack. You can consume the same nutritional amounts again in 2 hours after longer training sessions.

Your protein requirements are a reflection of the increased volume of training and your efforts to build muscular endurance.

Aim for 0.5 to 0.7 grams/lb body weight - an amount easily obtained in a well-balanced diet.

Healthy fats should round out your calories at no more than 0.5 grams/lb.body weight.

Meeting your fluid requirements during training is important. While sweat losses may not be as striking as in the warmer months, even a small amount of dehydration can have a negative impact upon your performance.

Maintain daily hydration. Your urine should be pale yellow in color if you are adequately hydrated. Urine is more concentrated and darker in the morning, and can be darker if you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement.

Practice drinking during training to match your sweat losses. If you are losing more than 2 lb. during a specific training session, you are experiencing significant dehydration during training. You can also pre-hydrate with up to 20 ounces of fluid in the two hours before training and top it off with 8-10 ounces of fluid in the 20 minutes before training. A sports drink can be consumed immediately before and during exercise.

During steady training lasting longer than 90 minutes consume 4 to 8 ounces of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes (or try to match sweat losses as closely as possible) to maintain hydration. You can consider using a sports drink during shorter duration workouts if it improves the amount of fluid that you consume (due to the flavor) and you have not consumed any fuel in the two hours prior to training.

After training rehydrate - consuming 20-24 ounces of fluid per pound of weight loss should restore fluid levels.


  1. Great entry - too bad it isn't easier! I love reading your blog!

  2. Great info! I am doing great on the exercise but I have no willpower when it comes to eating so the lbs aren't coming off like I had hoped. I'll keep working on it.