1. From the Top: Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit
2. News & Reviews: For the Birds: Reader Response to Magpie Attacks
3. Question of the Week: With Which Foot Do You Click Out?
4. Ask Coach Fred: What’s the Benefit of Floating Pedals?
5. Sponsors: Cycling Products from our Sponsors
6. Jim's Tech Talk: 3-Step Brake Tune-Up
7. No Problem: More Fun, More Gain, Less Pain
8. Quick Tips: Check Under the Hood after Kicking the Tires
9. Cadence: Athletes Do Not Need Extra Potassium
10. RBR eBookstore: The Best Cycling Bookstore on the Internet!
Editor’s Note: Over the years at RBR,we’ve regularly recommended a professional bike fit to maximize comfort, performance and enjoyment while riding. There’s nothing worse than suffering needlessly on an ill-fitting bike. But we’ve also heard from many readers through the years about the terrible fittings they’ve received from so-called pro fitters – sometimes finding their pain and suffering worse after a fit than before. Rick Shultz has heard many such stories, too.
An industry consultant, prolific product tester and a trained bike fitter himself, Rick decided to address the issue not by writing just another how-to fit book. Rather, he’s crafted a book cyclists can use to do their own fitting, if they choose, but that is primarily designed to give you, the rider, tools and understanding about the fit process to allow you to locate and work together with a pro fitter to achieve the best fit for you. Rick has provided the following preview from the book.
By Rick Schultz
As a bike fit professional, I have heard legion horror stories about “professional” fittings that have gone bad − leaving riders less comfortable, in more pain, and disillusioned about the whole bike-fitting industry. Simply put, that should never happen. I wrote this eBook in response to ensure that a “bad fit” doesn’t happen to you.
In researching Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit, I have read all of the books and articles from the best fitters and, combined with my own experiences as a GURU-certified bike fitter, have created a best-of-the-best bike-fitting process in the form of a step-by-step how-to manual that you can use to do a bike fit yourself, or fine-tune your fit.
But this book is more than that. It also provides a toolset for those of you who prefer to work with a professional fitter. I’ve tailored this eBook to show you how to find a quality fitter, and how to work with that fitter to get the best possible fit for your cycling goals and needs. (That’s why the subtitle is: A step-by-step self-fit manual that also shows you how to find and work with a professional fitter.)
Bike fit professionals should implement the “rules of fitting” while working closely with you, and also knowing and following the principles of human kinetics (kinesiology), biomechanics, orthopedics, strength and conditioning, sports psychology, etc. If you approach a professional bike fit with the toolset and knowledge gleaned from this eBook, you’ll be prepared to work with your fitter in much more of a two-way relationship – enhancing the likelihood of a great bike fit for you.
Bike Fit 101 includes what is considered a “basic fit” up to and including an “intermediate fit,” but stops shy of a “pro-fit.” A pro-fit is best accomplished on a computerized fit-machine, which measures and compares power output through many iterations of small adjustments across the spectrum. That type of fit is useful mostly for serious racers looking to squeeze out the last 1% of power. For the rest of us, getting a good basic fit, and then fine-tuning it to the level of an intermediate fit results in the comfort and power we’re looking for.
To paraphrase renowned fitter Steve Hogg, all humans are asymmetrical, which is normal. On the other hand, a bike is a symmetrical device, unlike the human atop it. Herein lies the need for a bike fit. Locking an asymmetrical body into a symmetrical device is asking for, in the best case, discomfort, or, in the worst case, injury.
In fact, the body gives us precise feedback and clues as to how it is adapting to the bicycle. The body is anchored to the bicycle through the feet. If this interface is out of alignment, then the rest of the body will compensate for this misalignment. This can be seen during each pedal stroke by heels moving side to side, knees diving in and out, hips and buttocks twisting in the saddle.
Other asymmetrical properties will also contribute to the body adapting to the bicycle − legs of different length (not uncommon), Scoliosis (spine curvature), one side of the body stronger than the other, etc. Again, this adaptation can take the form of discomfort, pain and/or injury. Other factors can also impact the discomfort and pain. These include incorrect saddle width, seat post too low/high, stem too short/long, even the wrong size frame.
Bike Fit 101 is packed with many extras and added benefits that will help make your cycling experience a more enjoyable one. Included is a handy spreadsheet (free download from my website) that auto-calculates all of your fitting variables when you input the required measurements.
Also included is a table that you can fill out that lists all of your bicycle-specific parameters, components and key bicycle measurements, a gearing and cassette comparison and selector charts, summary table of the most important items a bike fitter should cover, and most importantly, recommended adjustments that you can make if you are feeling pain or discomfort after a bike fit.
Packed with 25 pages of step-by-step bike fit process flows, tips, tricks and hints, this eBook is a one-stop knowledge center of information that will prove useful to you whether you intend to do a self-fit or work with a pro to get your very best fit dialed in. I hope that through the added comfort and performance of a great bike bit, you’ll enjoy our great sport even more.
Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit is available now for $7.99 (non-Premium price), and $6.79 for our Premium Members after their 15% discount.
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Who knew that one great way to bridge the hemispherical divide was to talk about birds?
Last week’s article on Magpie attacks Down Under yielded a feathered nest of Comments and emails. It seems that all manner of birds – not just the dreaded “Maggies” – occasionally like to test their diving and swooping skills on unsuspecting cyclists, and not just in Australia. (In North America, it seems, the red-winged blackbird is a widespread menace, based on the number of mentions.) And plenty of Aussies seem to have loads of experience with the pesky Magpie, and have lots of good advice to share.
Following is a taste of those birds-of-a-feather Comments, for your reading pleasure (edited for brevity):
Submitted by outspokn
Not just Australia. A friend of mine was attacked by a falcon while riding near the Lancaster PA airport. The bird made several diving attacks and struck his helmet once. Fortunately my friend was not injured. Being somewhat less than sympathetic to my friend, I told him that bird must have somehow known he was a diehard Eagles [football] fan.
Submitted by Kerry Irons
We do have the red-winged blackbird, whose range is the entire US and much of Canada and Central America. And they attack bicyclists. Every year here in Michigan it starts with them perching on power lines along the roadside in April, and about mid-May through mid-July they go into protection mode. They squawk, they bluster, they buzz you, and sometimes they hit you. And yes, occasionally our local government puts up signs along a bike trail when a particularly aggressive bird is about. I've been hit on the helmet repeatedly.
Fortunately red-winged blackbirds are significantly smaller than magpies so the threat is less. But the behavior is pretty much the same.
Submitted via email by Kate Hendrickson
Dear John, I read the article this morning and we in Illinois have our own little diving nemesis, "The Redwing Black Bird". Not only in the city of Chicago but in the suburbs these beauties have been an irritating encounter but were responsible for a death a few years ago. [A helmetless rider crashed, hit his head, and died.] I am sure you will hear more from others about our North American version as your e-news is read today. Always enjoy receiving it.
Submitted by leaton
Riders down under have my sympathy with the magpies. We have a bird here in the southeastern US that is very territorial during the spring, which has dive bombed me, but not near as aggressive as your stories would indicate. It's the mockingbird.
They tend to nest in busy areas, so bring it on themselves. I recently had an experience with one that had a nest in one of the few trees in the parking lot at my dentist's office. It would swoop on anyone coming and going to the office. Note that in the US we have a way to solve this problem if it gets serious enough. We vigorously maintain our gun rights here, so we have the option of completely eliminating the problem.
Submitted by andrew.swan
I have a lot of experience with magpies where I ride in Australia. My advice is to condition yourself to ignore them. Most birds swoop but don't actually make any contact. Either that or try and avoid them if they are particularly nasty. Worse than magpies are plovers, aka the masked lapwing (Vanellus miles) -- almost guaranteed to hit you in the head repeatedly. Fortunately, I don't see too many of them.
Submitted by Warwick Durrant
There is a Masked Lapwing family living in my street and find they attack, and I mean attack, when I go to the letterbox. Funny thing is, when I ride past the letterbox or other places where I see people being attacked when walking, they never bother me at all on the bike. I really hope this is not FAMOUS LAST WORDS!! -- Salamander Bay NSW
Submitted by roberts.colin.20.20
We have the "maggies" in country Queensland which swoop, but a couple of things I have noticed:
- They usually only attack a loner - either pedestrian or cyclist
- They don't attack if you have made a habit of passing through 'their' territory in a non-intimidating way. I have both a regular warm-up cycle path and a regular lunch-time walking path, each pass through magpie territories and, in the season, I don't get swooped, but others do. They also don't attack around our home, and often walk very close to us.
- When they do attack on the road I ride one-handed - the other hand resting on my helmet, or waving above my head. The attack ends when you leave their territory.
- In the normal season they are a beautiful bird with wonderful warbling songs and calls.
Submitted by jeelmblad
Never been attacked by a magpie. The real danger here on the front range of Colorado is the Red Winged Blackbirds. One banged my helmet in nesting season, and down I went .... hard. Embarrassing, yes, but a great story after a few frosty beverages!
Submitted by RDG
I always dread this time of the year. Just imagine having a relaxing ride on a beautiful spring day and someone unexpectedly punches you in the back of the head or shoulder, not once but several times.
There are various methods used by cyclists to avoid being hit by magpies, such as covering your helmet with cable ties so it resembles a porcupine or sticking cut out eyes to the back of your helmet to deter an attack. There is even a website dedicated to this problem: http://www.magpiealert.com/
I saw one cyclist that had constructed a scaffolding barrier made of thin fiberglass rods attached to his bike just behind the saddle, such is the fear created by the swooping magpie! I have eyes on the back of my helmet made from a table tennis ball cut in two. They still attack but tend not to make actual contact.
Submitted by beccanet68
I was dive-bombed by a Bluejay in Jackson, Mississippi, one time while walking along the street (I have no idea why). That's the ONLY time I've ever been attacked by a bird, and I certainly hope to keep it that way. I'm certainly glad the buzzards that are in abundance in the South are not prone to the same behavior!
Submitted by energizer
This Canadian was dive-bombed by a magpie while cycling out west of Brisbane in July 2006 (Australian winter).
While we have lots of magpies (at least a bird we call the magpie) here on the Prairies, the birds in Queensland were a lot smaller and a whole lot more aggressive. This one little fellow must have followed me almost a km and made half a dozen close "swoops". Hmm, talk about riding distracted ... me riding on what to me was the "wrong" side of the road, turning around and flapping my arms to ward him off. Fortunately no contact made and no damage done.
We’ve got a few new eArticles and eBooks on the way soon from the prolific – and terrific! – Coach John Hughes, and other authors.
First, here’s what’s on tap from Coach Hughes:
New Shoulder Injury Treatment and Prevention eArticle
Dr. Alan Bragman has a new title, as well, Shoulder Injuries and Cycling: A Guide to Treatment and Prevention, coming soon.
Shoulder injuries are extremely common with cyclists, Dr. Bragman points out. In fact, both he and I have had one.
Understanding the shoulder’s anatomy, and the various exercises used to address the different types of shoulder injuries or problems, can benefit cyclists – whether you’re trying on your own to overcome a less-serious shoulder problem or working with a physical therapist or other medical professional to rehabilitate a traumatic injury.
This knowledge, and the various strengthening exercises, may also help you avoid some of the typical shoulder problems as well. They are recommended for overall strengthening and stability of the upper extremities, with the goal of increasing your riding comfort and avoiding injury.
Slowly but surely, we’re working to make available some of our best-selling titles in Kindle editions for those of you who use the popular reader. We will continue to work though our catalog, and as new titles go on sale we’ll work to get those up on Amazon as well. Because Kindle editions are sold exclusively through Amazon, and Amazon takes its cut, there is no Premium discount available on Kindle editions.
Here are the RBR titles currently available in Kindle editions:
I think I need pedals that allow my feet to pivot (“float”). It seems like they want to move on my current fixed-position pedals. However, I have heard that float can cause knee problems. Is that true? And what is “stack height”? Should I get a professional pedal set-up evaluation? -- Jeff E.
It's hard to know which pedals might work best for you without seeing you in action. That's what any biomechanical evaluator would want to do, too. A good one should be able to put riders in their best riding position from head to toe (literally).
In general, pedals with lots of float work fine for some riders and not well at all for others.
The tendency of the foot to pivot has to be countered by the tendons and ligaments near the back of the knee. They work to stabilize the foot and make the “pedaling on ice” feeling go away. In some riders on some pedals, this results in overuse problems.
That's not to say that pedals with more than 9 degrees of float (the maximum that most models allow) aren't good choices for riders who need the movement and don't develop soreness. But there's no need to start with extra float unless you're advised to do so by an expert.
Stack height is the distance between the bottom of the foot and the pedal axle. An ideal pedal would put them at the same level. That's impractical, but pedal and shoe designers try to come as close as possible.
The objective is to reduce “rocking torque” -- the tendency of the foot to roll forward as it comes through the top of the stroke and starts down.
Picture a tricycle with big wooden blocks on the pedals so a little kid can reach them. They make the trike harder to ride because the pedals want to roll over. Feet don’t push straight down but forward and down as the pedal goes from 12 to 4 o’clock.
In theory, a few millimeters less stack height gives you more power because your legs don't need to resist the tendency to roll the pedal over during the power phase of each stroke.
Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
For new, and renewing, Premium Members, we’ll kick in One Free eArticle of Your Choice. That’s a rebate, in effect, of $4.99 off the annual $24.99 membership. You can choose from among any of our 70 individual eArticles (bundles are excluded). Click to see the entire array: http://www.roadbikerider.com/all-earticles.
Of course, you’ll also get all the other great benefits we’ve pulled together for you, including discounts on all our eArticles and eBooks, great cycling product discounts, access to our full treasure trove of searchable content and, when you can’t find what you’re looking for, the Ask RBR a Question feature – which allows Premium Members to ask our experts directly; we’ll tap our network to find your answer.
Here’s how it works: Your receipt (emailed to you after purchasing your Premium Membership) is your coupon. Just hit Reply on that email and write in the title of the eArticle you’d like. I’ll drop it in your Downloads folder in your RBR account. (If you can’t find your receipt, just let me know. I’m happy to help you out.)
While we’re starting to see road-style disc brakes, sidepull rim brakes are still the default stoppers found on performance road bikes. The basic design, featuring calipers that squeeze the rims for speed control and safety, has been around for over a century -- and for good reason. It’s light, powerful, simple to adjust and repair, and maybe best, impressively durable.
Fact is, you might need multiple shifting adjustments and even wear out several chains and cassettes before you need to do anything to your brakes besides tightening them with the adjustment barrels and replacing worn brake pads. But, this doesn’t mean you should ignore your brakes. Instead, every 1,000 miles or so, do this quick check (more or less frequently depending on how hard you use your brakes).
Tip: I’m assuming your road bike is in good condition and not in need of major service after years of use without regular repairs. This quick brake check won’t solve serious brake issues like deeply grooved rims, dead brake springs, fraying cables, cracked housing, etc.
“Old-fashioned” sidepull brakes are actually a type of disc brake, when you come right down to it. The rims just take the place of the rotors on the discs. So, the first step in tuning brakes is making sure your rims are ship-shape.
First, spin the wheels and watch for side-to-side wobbles or hops. Ideally they’ll be true and round with no visible imperfections that can cause pulsing or grabby braking and a loss of control. If you spot problems and have the skills, true the wheels. Or have it done by a professional.
Follow that check by looking closely at the braking tracks on the sides of the rims. They should be smooth and clean all around. If you see black marks on the rims, clean them off with a medium-rough piece of emery cloth or sandpaper, or a solvent like alcohol. If you use sandpaper and end up roughing up the surface to remove the black marks, continue around the rim to make the entire braking track equally rough.
Tip: Rims are tougher than they look. Sanding them a little won’t hurt them. If you don’t have any emery cloth or sandpaper, or if you’re trying to tune your brakes on a ride, you can use the piece of sandpaper in your patch kit. Bonus tip: sanding rims is a good way to stop a squeaking brake, too.
The calipers attached to the frame are the hardest working parts of the brake system. Because they can loosen, make sure they’re securely attached front and rear by tightening their attaching nuts behind the fork crown and brake bridge (usually it’s a recessed 5mm allen bolt on modern road bicycles). But, BEFORE tightening the attaching nuts, squeeze and hold that brake’s lever. This will ensure that as you snug the nut the caliper will remain centered and not get twisted out of position.
Next, stuff a rag inside the brake and over the tire/wheel. Make sure the brake pads are covered. You’ll now be able to drip or spray lube on the back of the caliper to get lube inside the pivot point(s), under the brake spring tips that ensure the caliper opens fully and operates freely, on the quick release to prevent corrosion and keep it opening/closing nicely when you need it and on the adjustment barrel so it turns for tightening the brake. Operate the brake several times to work the lube into it. Then wipe off any excess.
Tip: Even if you lube your caliper, if it has a quick-release mechanism and/or adjustment barrel built in (some calipers don’t), you should take the extra step of opening/closing the quick release and turning the adjustment barrel. This will get the lube between the parts. If you don’t do this, the lube may sit on top and the parts can end up corroding and not working when you need them.
Modern sidepull brakes usually have easy-to-replace brake pads. They just slide in and out once you’ve loosened a set screw. It’s a wonderful design because it means you don’t have to align the brake pad with the rim, which takes time, patience and isn’t easy to get right for even professional mechanics.
But you do still have to keep an eye on your brake pads to make sure they’re not worn out. To tell, look for noticeable grooves in the face of the pads (the surfaces that touch the rims). When the grooves have disappeared, you won’t have much thickness left to the pads. With some brake pads, if you let them go too long, the metal holders will begin scraping on the rims, in which case, hopefully your other brake will still have enough rubber to stop you.
Worn-out pads should be replaced. I always keep a set in my home shop so I can replace them should I discover mine are worn-out the day before an important ride. It only takes a few minutes to put them in.
Just like how rims can develop some wear and deposits that affect the braking, pads can, too. So, if your brake pads still have some life in them, inspect them as well. You might find bits of aluminum from the rim embedded in the pads, or bits of gravel from the road.
Dig anything like this out of the pads with an awl or pick so that it’s just rubber against the rim when you brake, never metal or stone. You might also have black deposit or other hardened material on a pad. Fix these issues by sanding the imperfection off. Using the sandpaper from your patch kit will work in a pinch as it did for the rim.
Tip: As the brake pads wear down, you have to squeeze the brake levers further to get the same stopping power. To keep the braking effort the same, simply use the adjusting barrels to tighten the brakes. But, remember that you did this when you’re replacing your worn-out pads, and turn the adjusters all the way back. If you don’t do this, your brakes will be too tight to install the new pads and that might fool you into thinking something’s wrong when you only need to reset the adjusting barrels.
Jim Langley has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached 7,587.
Last week, we talked about the concept of using “play” to avoid the drudgery of high-intensity training.
Lactate threshold (LT) is highly trainable. Using the proper workouts, you can improve the percent of maximum heart rate you can sustain, and improve the amount of power you generate at a given heart rate. You can also boost your body’s ability to process lactate. This lets you venture over the threshold where lactate is accumulated, but rid it from your tissues quickly. These improvements mean big gains in useable speed and power.
That’s all well and good, but how can you boost your lactate threshold and reap these wonderful benefits without turning your workouts into “dread sessions”? Remember, endurance athletes should spend large amounts of training time—some say as much as 25 percent of total on-bike time—at heart rates (or power production rates) ranging from 10 percent below LT to slightly above.
The answer we provided last week was simple: Turn Work Into Fun. Here’s how:
Fast groups. Make an effort to hook up with riders who are as fast or slightly faster than you. Train with them once or twice a week. The effort required to stick with the group on climbs and hang in during chases and sprints will equal a tough structured workout. But the mental effort is less demanding because your mind is occupied with group dynamics and bike handling. You’ll know you’re working hard, but you’ll have little time to dwell on it.
The group doesn’t have to be large. In fact, just one training partner can be enough as long as you have the same agenda. A spirited 2-man time trial along with competition when hills or designated sprint lines approach means you’ll each get a great workout. In fact, it may be harder than in a big group, because your partner will see to it that you don’t hide in the back—especially when plugging away into a headwind!
Training races. Some bike clubs have a week-night racing series, usually criteriums. Fun, but they won’t teach you climbing tactics or how to ride in an echelon on a long, windy road. So, talk your clubmates into making part of the weekend ride a “race.”
Warm up by riding for an hour until you arrive at a country road loop that’s about 15-20 miles around. If it has stop signs or lights, make a rule that everyone has to obey them. You could also use a shorter circuit that has no traffic controls, but riding around in circles isn’t as much fun as using a longer loop.
Re-group at the start of the race loop and begin. All tactics are fair—the idea is to see who can get away or win the sprint at the end just like in a regular race. Training like this expands your ability to “read” a race. It’s great for your fitness, and the miles will go by fast because you’re having fun and competing.
Club time trials. Some riders hate time trials. In a road race, they can draft in the pack. The pace is easy part of the time. But in a time trial there’s nowhere to hide. The secret to success is to ride flat out for the distance. If you rest, you lose.
Time trials put you right at your lactate threshold. Or, in the case of TTs lasting less than an hour, slightly over lactate threshold. That’s prime training intensity. So, it pays to psych up and get out there for club time trials. They’re good for you!
Use the adrenaline of competition to ease the pain of intense effort. You may even find that you have a talent for the concentration required for top performances against the clock.
Hills. Climbing is automatic intensity. If you have a hilly route, ride it twice a week. Bear down on the upgrades. Ride some in a large gear at a fairly slow cadence. On others, shift lower and spin faster. Sprint the short ones and apportion your energy up the longer one. Stand for the first climb, remain seated for the second, alternate on the third.
Hills are hard work. But when climbing is your goal for the day, ride as many as you can. This natural pain is easier to tolerate than intervals mandated by a watch. Besides the valuable time spent at your lactate threshold and beyond, riding hills builds leg strength and develops your climbing technique. You’ll finish these workouts feeling the satisfaction that comes with getting the most out of your training time.
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This week’s QT is from yours truly. The headline, of course, is a riff on the humorously hackneyed car-buying advice you’ve surely heard over the years – especially when you were younger and kicking the tires of the hooptie you were eyeing might actually cause a flat!
We at RBR have heard – and been the purveyor of – similar advice about bike tires over the years, as well. And for good reason. Regularly checking your tires for cuts, embedded wires or other debris is simply required maintenance in order to avoid unnecessary flats. (Just don't kick them!)
But something we (and I am generalizing here from my own experience) roadies seldom do is check under the brake hoods to inspect our shift cables at the point where they’re most susceptible to wear.
Back when I was running Shimano’s shifters with externally routed cables (not under the bar tape, as all the newer models are), I was the poster boy for fraying my rear shift cable inside the shifter. I learned the telltale signs of the cable starting to fray – bad shifting that no amount of barrel adjusting would improve, at least for any length of time.
This inside-the-shifter fraying was a long-time bugaboo for those types of Shimano shifters, and I thought I had put all that in the past when I upgraded a few years ago to an Ultegra 6800 set. Well, as I discovered a couple of weeks ago, the exact same thing can still happen with more modern shifters.
Again, recognizing what was happening, I stopped mid-ride, peeled back the hood and – sure enough – could plainly see a strand of cable sticking up!
Tip: If your shifting is balky and you discover it’s the result of a frayed cable, shift into a middle gear on your cassette – and then stop shifting in back! If you shear the cable off completely inside your shifter, it can be very difficult to remove. Better to finish the ride in a middle gear, so you can at least continue to use the front derailleur to go easier or harder.
So continue to regularly check your tires and other important areas as part of your pre- or post-ride routine. And don’t forget to “check under the hood” once in a while, too.
--- John Marsh
We’d like to hear from our readers with any Quick Tips you might have. To contact me, just hit the reply button on any email from us, or use the Contact Us form on the website: http://www.roadbikerider.com/contact.
Editor’s Note: Last week, we ran a column by Dr. Gabe Mirkin titled “The One Mineral to Replace During Exercise.” It detailed the need to replace sodium but no other mineral when exercising. Reader Michael G., who is a physician assistant, wrote a follow-up question regarding the article:
It's a pleasure to read RBR and think about how articles may apply to me and my friends who ride. Another interesting nutritional matter is electrolyte levels and which ones do and don't need replenishment. Dr. Mirkin states we only need be concerned with sodium losses and replenishment. I wish he would comment on potassium balance. His article does not mention it at all.
Well, one quick email to Dr. Mirkin, and following is his response. Our thanks to Gabe for being so willing to contribute his expertise.
By Gabe Mirkin, MD
Sports drink promoters have convinced many athletes that they need special drinks to replace potassium during exercise. When body levels of potassium are low, the kidneys and sweat glands conserve potassium so effectively that potassium deficiency rarely occurs in athletes (International Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2009).
Tiredness in healthy athletes can have many causes, but low potassium is not one of them (Women and Exercise. Ed. by Shangold and Mirkin.pub. by F.A.Davis, Phila. 1987. A referenced medical textbook for physicians. Chapter on Eating for Competing by Mirkin, G.B.).
In 1967, Dave Costill brought some of America’s best marathon runners to Ball State University and could not drop their potassium levels by feeding them a low-potassium diet consisting primarily of hard candy. Potassium is the major mineral inside all animal and plant cells.
So all fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and almost everything else are rich sources of potassium. Even with prolonged exercise in very hot weather, potassium needs can be met by eating virtually any food.
Potassium deficiency CAN be caused by certain drugs, such as diuretics or corticosteroids, or by severe diarrhea or repeated vomiting.
Several years ago, one of the best female long-distance runners in the country came to me to find a cause for her sudden drop in performance. All tests I ordered were normal except for low blood levels of potassium. I knew that hard exercise does not cause potassium deficiency and that the most common cause of potassium deficiency is vomiting (International Journal of Eating Disorders. Jan, 1997;21(1):95-98), but she repeatedly denied doing this.
I then requested that she collect her urine for one day, and the laboratory reported that it contained three times as much potassium as normal. This proved that she was bulemic. To control her weight, she was sticking her finger down her throat to make herself throw up. After she was able to accept the diagnosis, she got help, stopped vomiting and went on to win several national long distance running titles.
With vomiting, you throw up the stomach’s acid (hydrogen) and the blood becomes alkaline. This causes the kidneys to retain hydrogen and consequently lose huge amounts of potassium in the urine. In both athletes and non-athletes, the most common cause of low potassium blood levels and high potassium urine levels is vomiting.
Gabe Mirkin, M.D., is a sports medicine doctor and fitness guru. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin has run more than 40 marathons and is now a serious tandem bike rider with his wife, Diana, often doing 30-60 miles in an outing. His website is http://drmirkin.com/.
Coach John Hughes' Cycling Past 60, Part 2: For Recreation builds on the foundation of information for 60+ riders in Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health and uses the concept of “Athletic Maturity” to design more rigorous programs for more athletically mature riders. Part 2 builds on Part 1 and assumes that you have read it and taken the test to determine your Athletic Maturity. latest is for both health-focused and recreational cyclists who ride with more intensity. This 23-page eArticle includes the six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology, eight basic (and four advanced) training principles, types of rides, cross-training and recovery tips.
It includes six different structured workout programs, three each for Endurance and Performance cyclists, based on levels of athletic maturity.
Our other new titles include:
Dynamic Conditioning Monthly – Part 3: Power Development, by Coach Dan Kehlenbach. It’s the 3rd installment in Kehlenbach’s 5-month series, with each building on the previous installment. Part 3 focuses on power building, particularly functional power.
Coach Harvey Newton’s new 132-page Strength Training for Cyclists Manual, which can be purchased on its own or as part of the entire Strength Training for Cyclists System (eManual, DVD and 28-page hard copy Quick Start Guide). This is the strength training resource for cyclists.
Coach David Ertl’s eArticle Keeping Off The Pounds – a Strategy for Maintaining Body Weight in the Cycling Off-Season was written to complement his best-selling eBook, Pedal Off The Pounds. It contains both nutrition and workout tips for managing your off-season weight.
Coach John Hughes’ eArticle Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health describes how your whole body ages and gives you six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology, including comprehensive fitness programs that address these objectives.
All of our more than 100 titles are available for instant download.