Drop the Weight, Not the Power

News & Results

11/5/2004| 0 comments
by Chris Carmichael with Jim Rutberg

Drop the Weight, Not the Power

Give your body more furnaces to aerobically burn calories.

The process of building a stronger aerobic engine includes an increase in size and number of mitochondria in muscle cells. It?s within these cellular powerhouses that carbohydrate, protein, and fat are broken down and burned for energy aerobically. When you increase their size and number, you?re effectively increasing the amount of raw material your aerobic engine can process per minute. This is important for both your training and weight loss goals because the aerobic engine can burn fat, protein, and carbohydrate for fuel, while your anaerobic energy system relies primarily on limited stores of carbohydrate.


Training intensity is another key to reaching your fitness and weight loss goals. Many athletes who are balancing jobs, families, bills, and training have between one and two hours to devote to training, three to four days a week. Training time often becomes even more limited once the days get shorter in the fall and winter. When your training volume is restricted to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 /?> hours per week, your individual workouts can be more intense than a person who?s putting in 20 hours per week on the bike. This doesn?t mean that every workout should be a flat-out time trial or maximum effort, but it does mean that you?re most likely getting enough recovery from the days you?re not riding that some harder workouts won?t put you at significant risk of overtraining.


If you have 60-90 minutes to train after work, three days a week, you should be including intervals into those rides. Even during the winter, when tradition dictates that cyclists stick to easy aerobic rides, a cyclist with very limited training time will benefit from breaking from the norm and including harder efforts.   Depending on your fitness level and goals, these intervals might be 10 to 20 minute efforts at a high, but sustainable power; or they might be two to three minute maximum intensity efforts. In any case, they should target an individual energy system so they lead to positive adaptations, and they will definitely increase the caloric expenditure and total workload for the session.


Feeding the Flames

Increasing training intensity leads to an increase in the percentage of your energy coming from carbohydrate. In order to make sure you have the energy necessary for quality training sessions, your carbohydrate intake needs to increase as the demands of your training go up. In the fall and winter, when your overall workload is relatively low (fewer workouts at a slightly higher intensity can still lead to a lower overall workload compared to your summer training), consuming 2.5-3.0 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight (about 65% of total calories) should suffice. As training intensity increases in the spring and early summer, carbohydrate intake rises to 3.0-3.5 grams/lb, and total caloric intake goes up by about 15%. During the most intense portion of the year, often the mid-summer at the height of the racing season, carbohydrate intake can reach as high as 4-5 grams/lb, and 70% of total calories.




Changing your nutrition program as your season progresses is

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