I’ve written quite a lot about nutrition. Always with the mindset that a light Ross is a fast Ross.
In the past my focus has always been hills, and going up them as quickly as possible.
As a competitive cyclist, power to weight ratio is drilled into your head right from the start. The lighter you are, the better…
That’s true if you live in the Alps. But I don’t. I live in Lancashire.
The longest hill I can get to on my bike is about ten minutes long.
The longest hill I can drive to is only about twenty five minutes long.
And guess what, the longest hill I’ll race on is roughly five minutes long.
In competitive outings in the past I’ve always gone up the hills as one of – if not the – quickest on the day. I’ve also always lost huge amounts of time on the descents and flats as my power output just wasn’t enough to turn the big gears. Even though my power to weight ratio often surpassed that of the eventual winner on the day.
So I’m trying a new approach; I’ve put on a ton of weight.
Four months ago in October 2015 I weighed 55.5kg.
As I write this on the first of February 2016 I’m hovering around the 61kg mark. That’s 5.5kg heavier than my old ‘race weight’, and about 3kg heavier than I’ve been for years.
It felt a bit weird at first. Possibly because it was Christmas and my ‘clean’ diet went completely out of the window (the weight I gained was thanks to chocolate and trifle), but I never looked that different with clothes on really.
Only, my limbs didn’t feel quite as nimble or ‘twitchy’. I definitely felt heavier, but I was always riding quickly. Even if my body didn’t always feel fast.
Now though, I’m eating well again. I’ve leaned up a bit but kept the weight, and my legs are bigger than ever (I’ve even had to buy new jeans as my thighs are too big for the old ones to fit comfortably now).
What’s surprising though is that my climbing so far hasn’t been affected a great deal. In fact, I’ve bagged some KOM’s on Strava recently only climbs I hadn’t been able to get the better of when I was lighter. Even during the Festive period when I was at my heaviest!
As an example of what and how much I ate these days, below is a fairly typical food diary for a week-day.
Here’s my food diary for Feb 1st 2016. I rode for about ninety minutes and burned off ~1300kcal. (The ride).
I consumed 2,788kcal in total.
Broccoli & Parmisan Omelette
- Four eggs
- A few stems of broccoli
- A sprinkle of parmisan
- A splash of Worcester sauce
Warm chicken salad with broccoli, brussels sprouts, beetroot, cottage cheese, and avocado
- Chicken breast
- A few stems of broccoli
- A handful of sprouts
- Half a ride avocado
- Baby leaf salad with beetroot
- A few dollops of cottage cheese
Post-ride recovery snack
Homemade chocolate banana and almond milk-shake, with peanut butty and jam on toast!
- A ripe banana
- 250ml Almond milk
- Crushed ice cubes
- A tsp of cacao powder
- A little honey
- 2 slices of low GI bread
- a dollop of jam
- A little peanut butter
Things to keep me going in between meals
- Two apples
- Two carrots
- A bowl of granola with raisins
- A slice of Soreen
Penne pesto with garlic and balsamic cherry tomatoes
- Penne pasta
- A punnet of cherry tomatoes
- A red pepper
- Two cloves of garlic
- Balsamic vinegar
- A bowl of Soya yogurt with blueberries
Body Composition Vs. Body Performance Nutrition
My eating and training last year was focussed on one thing only. Being fast up hills! This meant eating an extremely lean, cutting down carbs, and riding short – but intense – training sessions. I started “Carb Backloading”, which I’ve written about a lot. Essentially avoiding carbs during the day, training in the evening, and then using them to aid recovery after a tough workout.
Using this method I went from 58kg to 55kg extremely quickly. I held on to muscle and looked more like a boxer than a cyclist! As the riding was short but the efforts intense I always had enough in the tank to complete the workouts. Not just complete; often smash. During this period I achieved my current power personal records, and on reflection they’re some very tasty numbers.
This was a great example of making Body Composition Nutrition work.
So after Christmas and carrying a hell of a lot more weight than I was comfortable with I started backloading again. Only this time it just wasn’t appropriate. I found hitting the numbers in my intervals became progressively difficult, I wasn’t recovering the same on a day-to-day basis, and I was pretty hungry!
The training I’m doing now is so much different than before, it’s to be expected. Rides are longer, and so are the intervals. Instead of five, four to five minute hill climbs with extremely easy riding to recover instead I’m riding for an hour and a half at Tempo, with sometimes three Threshold efforts of ten to eleven minutes each. Then back to Tempo for ten minutes or so in between. Or maybe I’ll ride for two hours in zones two and three, with two twenty minute Sweet Spot efforts done randomly on the ride.
These kinds of efforts need fuel. And we all know carbs are key when it comes to keeping the body going on a tough ride.
You’ll notice from the food diary that I’m not shy of carbs at the minute. There’s still some structure and balance there though if you look closely. The morning is dominated by fats and protein. I have a small amount of carbs with my lunch to top up the tank before training early to mid afternoon. When I arrive home from my workout it’s a mix of low and high GI carbs, followed by any snacks I need to see me through to dinner. Ideally that will be a nice balance of protein, carbs, and fats. Which I achieved quite nicely with my sardine pasta dish.
So with training for hilly Time Trials and Road Races started in the next few weeks, the best way to squeeze every last watt from my body is making sure it’s always full of healthy, natural foods. And not to worry too much about being as lean as possible. It’s definitely not how I’m used to eating during my training, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the results say come race time.