These tips to get lean and improve cycling performance are part of a three part series on the topic of optimizing body composition and achieving race weight.
6. Eat more healthy fats
A message that says eat more fats is a tough message to swallow, especially since our goal in becoming leaner cyclists is to lose fat. Eating fat may seem counter intuitive. However, our bodies need essential fats to perform the most basic functions. And while it’s important to eliminate trans fats from the diet and to limit the amount of highly saturated animal fat, the consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty foods from sources like nuts, olive and canola oils, and fatty fishes like salmon and mackerel is not only essential to good diet and a healthy body, they have the added benefit of making you feel full.
7. Drink plenty of water, especially before meals
Drinking water not only keeps you well hydrated (most Americans, for example, are chronically dehydrated), the consumption of water before a meal also helps create a feeling of fullness sooner than you otherwise would. Try it – have a 16-ounce glass of water before your next meal. It will help you control the amount of food you consume in a sitting, which leads to the next point…
8. Control portion sizes
Controlling portion size is difficult for the hungry cyclist or endurance athlete, particularly after a big workout. Just ask my cycling coach! The key here is to begin with a modest size plate of food. Consume the food slowly; savor the taste; then wait 20 minutes prior to going back for a second serving. Signals from the stomach to the brain lag. Know the lag, exercise some self-control and wait a few short minutes before strapping on a larger food bag. If you’re still hungry after 20 minutes, then it’s okay to consume more. Your body is telling you that you need the calories.
9. Make strength-training part of your workout routine
As cyclists we tend to emphasize aerobic conditioning and intensity workouts and neglect strength training. This is particularly so once the weather improves (if you live in colder climates) as trips to the gym are relegated to the colder winter months in preference to miles on dangerous, snow covered roads. Granted, the development of aerobic conditioning and the ability to tolerate intense workouts is essential to improving cycling performance and burning calories. But these types of workouts really do very little to build lean muscle mass according to sports medicine specialists, and lean muscle mass in the key to achieving optimal body composition. Lean muscle mass burns more energy in a resting state than does fat. So, a cyclist with a higher percentage of lean muscle mass (read, lower body fat percentage) burns more calories in a resting state than his or her “fatter” friends. The most effective way to build lean muscle mass is through a strength training regimen. One to three times per week will do the job.
10. Track and count your calories
Tracking calories consumed against calories expended is probably the single most important activity an aspiring cyclist can do to achieve optimal body composition and reach and sustain race weight. The reality of weight loss is simple math; calories expended must be greater than calories consumed. Since there are 3,500 calories to a pound of fat, the cyclist seeking to get lean must restrict calories by 500 per day if he or she wishes to lose a pound of fat each week, a realistic goal. But how will you know if you do not track it? You won’t. So, the only way to make sure that you are on the right path is to track calories expended versus calories consumed. Again, TrainingPeaks.com offers an excellent tool to help you with the task. It offers an easy to use meal journal and a meal-building tool that enables you to track what you eat quickly and easily. Likewise, the training log feature allows you to track calories consumed on a daily basis. TrainingPeaks.com also provides a tool to help you estimate your resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy you expend sustaining daily bodily function) and average daily caloric expenditure to give you an accurate picture of your calorie restriction profile. At first, it’s a bit of a hassle to track your food consistently. But with TrainingPeaks.com easy-to-use tools and mobile accessibility, there is really no reason not to track your progress on a daily basis. Again, tracking calories consumed versus calories expended is the single most important component of a sustainable “get lean for maximum cycling performance” program. So, why not do it?
(Continued... Tips for Getting Lean and Improving Cycling Performance Part 3 provides more tips ranging from burning more fat for fuel to nutriet timing and buying new threads!)