Keep the Fitness You've Earned
One of the biggest crimes in human performance is the willful loss of the fitness gains made during the course of the season; and it’s about time you stopped the cycle.
athlete trying to balance family and work commitments with your pursuit of performance goals, time is a precious commodity. You have to evaluate the potential benefit of strength gained through resistance training against the time it will take away from your aerobic training. For a Category 3 or Master’s cyclist currently devoting less than 10 total hours a week to cycling, resistance training may not be the best use of your time this fall and winter.
A typical resistance training program requires at least three hours a week, and when that comes out of your 10 available hours, you’re diluting the effectiveness of your aerobic training. I’d rather see athletes with limited training time spend more of that time on the bike, and the rest participating in activities that enhance core strength, balance, and overall flexibility. Cycling and your choice of yoga and/or pilates can be a very effective combination for making aerobic and strength gains in the fall and winter.
If you’re like most cyclists, you’re at your leanest somewhere between June and August, and you’re heaviest somewhere between December and February. It’s normal and healthy to gain a little weight after the summer cycling season; staying at peak competition weight can be stressful on your body and mind. However, gaining “a little weight” doesn’t mean packing on 20-plus pounds for insulation against the cold.
Your nutrition program needs to change as your training load decreases from the height of your competitive season. Many athletes reduce the volume and intensity of their training, but continue to eat as if they were still in the height of the racing season. This leads to a serious discrepancy between energy intake and expenditure, and the pounds accumulate quickly.
Properly fueling your fall training simply requires a few minor adjustments to your nutrition program. By applying the concept of periodization to your nutrition program, the same way you do to your training, you can ensure that your nutrition program supplies the carbohydrate, protein, and fat necessary to support your activity level throughout the year.
At the height of your season, during the Specialization Period, you might be consuming 3.5-4.0 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight per day (g/lb/d), and 0.8-0.9 g/lb/d of protein. During the fall, these numbers need to come down to reflect the reduction in your training load. I recommend a target of 2.0-2.5 g/lb/d of carbohydrate and 0.6-0.7 g/lb/d of protein during this period of the year. For a 165-lb cyclist, this could mean a reduction from about 620 daily grams of carbohydrate to about 370. That’s about 1000 calories worth of carbohydrate energy alone, but it leaves enough to support your exercise goals during the fall while eliminating the excess that leads to significant weight gain.
Handled correctly, the fall and winter can be the most productive, diverse, and enjoyable portions of your training year. You have worked hard to achieve specific performance and body weight goals this season, and the actions you take over the next eight to twelve weeks will determine how much of that work