Mistake #2: Nutrition
Boy, how do I even cover the whole topic in one post? To begin, here is a condensed list of just a few nutritional methods I have tried that didn’t work for me (maybe they work for some people):
I’ll cut myself off there!
Let’s start with an easy one: not eating during rides / runs.
What if I told you I ate an entire jar of cookie butter and a carton of carrot cake sandwich cookies in 15 minutes...multiple times?
In the past I wouldn’t eat anything during six hour rides. I wanted to lose weight to improve the whole “power to weight” ratio thing. I would usually start crying around hour four for some stupid reason, like the road was bumpy. But I kept pushing forward to hour six.
When I finally made it home and crawled through the door, I felt entitled to eat a jar of cookie butter, did so, and then proceeded to feel so guilty that I ate more. But I must have burned like 1500 calories! I deserved that jar of sugar and fat. Or so I thought.
Sadly for me, that is not how the body likes to take in its calories. Whether you are trying to lose weight or not, it is so important to actually eat during a ride. Not only will eating while riding help you to lose weight because you won’t want to eat the wood of your kitchen cabinet when you get home, but you will also have a BETTER RIDE (and probably not randomly start crying). You will get more out of your intervals because your body will have the fuel it needs to keep pushing. This will make you stronger and faster.
Here is my rule of thumb now:
<1.5 hour ride: Just water or a light sports drink
>1.5 hour ride, especially if it is hard: ~25-40 grams carbs per hour or 100-300 calories per hour depending on the intensity, plus a sports drink with electrolytes
*Please note this will vary for different body weights, genders, type of exercise*
Before workouts I will have some carbs (2 slices of bread) and some high-glycemic fruits (jam or honey on the toast). After workouts I go straight for the Aminorip Chocolate Fudge to get in a quick serving of proteins and amino acids, giving my body fuel to start recovering asap. After taking a shower I will eat high-glycemic carbs so my body can break them down quickly, some fruits, and maybe a Greek yogurt. I try to avoid fats before and directly after workouts as it slows the digestion of the foods your body needs for energy or recovery.
Nutrition the rest of the time
Finding a “diet” that worked for me outside of training took years to figure out. After trying all kinds of fads searching for the magic bullet, and personally experiencing large weight fluctuations, I hired a nutritionist who changed my relationship with food and with my weight. It has made a huge difference in my body composition and performance. The funny part is, it is so simple!
I hate when someone tells me I can’t do something. I equally hate being restricted from eating certain foods. I love gluten, meat, carbs, chocolate cake, etc. I eat everything in moderation and at the right times of the day based on my body’s energy requirements and training.
I have five to six meals per day consisting of carbs, protein, fats, vegetables, and fruits. The proportions of each vary with each meal but at no time during the day would I say I am “hungry.” I probably eat more calorically than I did in the past, but rather than massive spikes of food intake and energy a few times during the day, I keep my blood sugar levels fairly constant. It helps me avoid cravings, recover after and between workouts, and prevents my body from going into starvation mode.
However, it is not as simple as just taking what you eat in a day and dividing it by six. The proportions of the food groups vary from meal to meal which is an important aspect to consider (ex. I eat carbs at dinner but only 0.5-1 cup of rice versus 1.5-2 cups of rice at lunch)!
I could go on for days about nutrition and mistakes I have made in this aspect of my training. Again, I am not a certified nutritionist in any way and these are simply my personal struggles and successes with my own body. It is entirely possible that what worked for me won’t work for everyone. I encourage you to read, contact a sports nutritionist, and record what works for you and your training in a log. Feel free to post here or on Facebook with any questions or comments!
PS - I can still put down an entire chocolate cake. ON MY OWN!
Mistake #1: Too hard or not hard enough
I want to go fast all the time and test the limits of my body on every workout. That’s why I love endurance sports! For me it is a way to find out what I’m made of and to see how hard I can push myself. Logically, if I want to push myself harder and go faster, I need to train for that and push myself to the limit every day, right?
One of the biggest mistakes I have made as an athlete, and seen countless other athletes make, is training too hard on easy days and then not being able to train hard enough on hard days. In the past I would go do a group ride on an easy day (I mean, I’m just sitting in the group, it can’t be that hard?!), and then my legs wouldn’t recover enough to push myself to a new level on my hard days. Training turns into more of a flat line where “easy” is just below the line, and “hard” is just above it.
Training should be more of deep valleys (easy workouts) below the line and tall mountains (hard workouts) above the line. When you have an “easy” day prescribed, it means your body has a chance to absorb all of the hard training and racing from the past few days and a chance to recover for the hard days ahead. When athletes go too hard on their easy days, they don’t give their body that chance for recovery and will go into the next day’s hard workout not yet recovered enough.
Seriously, easy workouts are the bane of my existence. I hate them. It is so boring to just roll around slowly while watching the group ride fly by at 30 mph. Unfortunately, easy rides are one of the keys to getting faster. Just by spinning the legs or going on an easy run, the muscles you just asked everything of in your last days of hard training are contracting and relaxing, flushing new blood in and out of your tired muscles. A true easy day will help to speed your recovery and prepare for the hard days of the week.
On the hard days the goal is to GO HARD. Like you’re about to fall off the treadmill hard (but try to avoid that). Or attacking so much you’re about to get dropped from the group ride hard. However, if you went too hard on your easy day, your body will not be able to go as hard as it needs to. The combination of truly hard “hard days” and truly easy “easy days” (with a few tempo or endurance days thrown in between) are what will help you get to the next level.
If you are like me, and probably don’t go easy enough when you need to I suggest this:
On your easy days, start going at an effort that you think is easy...and then go even slower. My easy rides probably average about 12 mph (but who cares about speed anyways on easy days!), and when I ride up any kind of incline my only goal is to make my legs only work enough so I don’t fall over. Hide your computer in your pocket, grab your friends, spin to a local coffee shop, eat that croissant, and spin back home. Your legs will thank you during tomorrow’s 10 x 3 minute all out efforts.
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.