1. From the Top: The Solitary Pleasures of Going it Alone
2. News & Reviews: RBR Readers Are Hot!
3. Question of the Week: How Often Do You Ride Alone, With Others?
4. Ask Coach Fred: How Should I Train on a Business Trip?
5. Sponsors: Cycling Products from our Sponsors
6. Jim's Tech Talk: Tubeless Confusion and Clarification
7. No Problem: Time-Trialing on Your Road Bike, Part 2
8. Quick Tips: More on the Wonders of Chap Stick
9. Cadence: Eat Whatever You Like Best for Recovery
10. RBR eBookstore: The Best Cycling Bookstore on the Internet!
By John Marsh
In almost all cases, if given the chance, I prefer to ride with a friend (or friends). I enjoy the camaraderie, the shared experience, the added motivation of getting out when you might not otherwise, and the subtle push to do certain rides or events, or add just a few more miles or minutes, that only riding buddies can get from one another.
But, because it’s often nigh impossible to get out with friends on a schedule that works for everyone, I most often go it alone – like a good many roadies. And, to be fair, there are just as many pleasures to be had in a solo ride, if not more.
I was reminded of this on a really enjoyable solo jaunt in the mountains a couple weekends ago. As I often do on those days when I have to drive up to Dahlonega, Georgia, to pick up my son from camp in the summer, I head up early in the day and sneak in a ride as part of my parental duty.
Despite the rising summer heat and humidity for which this little corner of our world is known, it turned out to be a really remarkable ride – in part, for what I chose to pay attention to, and in part for what I chose to ignore.
On this particular day, with no training goal in mind, and no real need to be finished by a certain time, I rode purely for the joy of it. Instead of focusing on my breathing or cadence, or rhythm, or time for a particular climb, as I normally might while riding in the mountains, I just let my mind wander.
I chose not to worry about any of that, and not to bother even glancing at my computer (other to occasionally check how far into each climb I happened to be; I do like to know that).
I let my senses take over, instead, and it made for a memorable day on the bike.
It seemed like the overall quietest, least-trafficked day I’ve ever ridden on those roads. There was little car traffic and less than the normal amount of motorcycle traffic. The motorized 2-wheelers also love the mountains, but I don’t love them. I must admit that I despise the utter roar that some types create. So I was quite pleased to have my reverie interrupted only a few times.
Even more amazing, I didn’t see a single cyclist for the entire 35-mile loop I did. My first “cyclist sighting” was when I rode back up the final 5-mile descent of Woody Gap to enjoy it again before heading to lunch. It was as if the mountains were my very own playground. Truly remarkable.
I locked into the sensory pleasures that day: sights, sounds, smells, touch – all were in play.
As I rode past awakening campgrounds early in the ride, I could smell the lingering campfires from breakfast. I wondered what the campers were eating along with their morning coffee, and how they had slept the humid night before.
The landscape in the North Georgia mountains is heavily forested – all of the main cycling climbs are quite near the starting point of the Appalachian Trail, which crosses over several of the gaps.
The paucity of car traffic allowed me seemingly miles-long stretches through which I could hear the leaves rustling in the trees, mountain springs gurgling among the flora and fauna off the side of the road, and feel the gentle breeze on my sweat-soaked skin. Ahhhh!
I was especially thankful that those leaves provided a good deal of shade on the route as well, making a sweltering day that much more bearable. The difference between shade and direct sun on a 90+-degree day is fairly incalculable.
Glancing upward from time to time, I saw a handful of hawks soaring majestically on the warm updrafts, stark against the pale blue sky, seeming not at all to mind the rising temperatures.
Glancing downward as I rolled upward at a glacial pace, I saw an equal handful of caterpillars purposefully crossing the rode in my path. I steered clear of all of them, as I hold no malice – and wanted no mess.
I also gave a wide berth to the two snakes I saw roadside that day. One was alive and well, and appeared to be a northern black racer or northern ringneck. It was sunning itself on the side of the road, enjoying the day in its own way.
The other seemed to have strayed just a bit too far into the roadway, as it appeared to be half flat, and all dead. I still veered far around it, as the markings were the telltale pattern and coloration of a copperhead. Just as well he didn’t present a moving target!
When I finally did see those first two fellow roadies coming down the mountain as I was heading back up my final climb of the day, they gave – and I returned – the knowing nod of a road cyclist who almost feels like it’s stealing to enjoy the totally unique pleasures of such a ride.
Not just the sensory pleasures of what’s going on around you as you overcome gravity one pedal stroke at a time. But that feeling of euphoric accomplishment and contentment when you’ve reached the pinnacle of any good climb – and know that what lies before you is the exhilarating descent on the other side. (At least that’s how I view climbing!)
That nod exchanged between my brethren and me is what I call “honor among thieves.”
Do I have your attention? Yes, we may well be a good-looking group, but without a doubt we are hot when it comes to riding in some oppressive temperatures.
Last week’s Question of the Week asked, “What Are the Hottest Temps You Ride In?” The results surprised me, but in light of the following paragraph, maybe they shouldn’t have.
The month of June and the first half of this year both set global warm temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "There is almost no way that 2015 isn't going to be the warmest on record," said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden in a recent AP article.
The heat in Atlanta this summer has certainly followed that script. In June and July, we’ve had 37 days where the high temp reached at least 90 degrees (32C), and 26 of those days reached 100% humidity, with the typical daily average humidity in the 70% range. (But it’s a WET heat….) When I finished a ride earlier this week, it was 97F (36C), with a feels-like temp of 102. The humidity had dropped to a paltry 40%.
Looking at the poll results, though, I may have it easy! Here’s how you answered:
So for riders around the world – heat does not discriminate, and there seems to be plenty to go around – learning how to manage riding in the heat, and manage hydration, are absolute MUSTS to stay safe in the summer.
But as Coach John Hughes points out below, riding in the heat isn’t just a summer phenomenon. Your body is a veritable heat pump, and you can just as easily overheat on a cool day if you’re not careful. Still, it’s summer now in the Northern Hemisphere, so read on, and ride on – just do it safely.
--- John Marsh
By Coach John Hughes
I live in Boulder, Colorado, and love climbing in the Rocky Mountains. So far this season I’ve pedaled up 17 climbs totaling 33,700 feet! The highest to this point is Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet. Summer temps can be in the 90s in Boulder.
While I don’t climb anywhere near as fast as the pros – in fact, my climbing these days reminds me of the loaded touring I did a couple decades ago in terms of my speed – I still get just as hot as the pros. And so do you!
Even if you ride in moderate conditions, heat can be an issue. A runner collapsed after a marathon with a body temperature of 105.3F (40.7C) when it was only 43F (6C) outside.
And the conditions some riders regularly face in the summer (like John Marsh mentioned above) can be brutally hot and humid. It takes knowledge and planning to best manage riding in those conditions.
Most of the heat for an athlete comes from the rider’s own body, which is only 20 to 40% efficient. That means that only 20 to 40% of the energy that you get from eating goes into forward motion, and 60 to 80% produces heat. That’s why even in cool conditions overheating can be a problem.
When the sun is out, you also gain heat from direct radiation, as well as from radiation reflected from the pavement. You may also gain heat from radiation from the sun through diffuse clouds, so don’t ever skimp on the sunscreen just because it’s cloudy.
And, of course, when the sun is high in the sky, you’re at a higher risk of sunburn, and unprotected, repeated exposure to the sun can potentially lead to fatal melanoma. In Issue No. 672 we provided sunscreen tips; it’s a good idea to follow them.
I’ve developed my own system for dealing with both radiant heat and potential skin damage from the sun, which are especially serious problems at altitude. On a climb I wear an RBR jersey with a full-length zipper so that I can open it wide for maximum ventilation. Then at the top I put on a long-sleeve, white jersey to reduce the solar gain. My jersey from Boure is rated at UPF-28.
In my eArticle Cycling in the Heat, Part 1: Ride Management you can learn all about how to:
• ride tactically in the heat
• what to wear
• what to eat on hot days
• heat-related health conditions and how to avoid them, and
• how to cool off if you overheat
The information-packed 20 pages are $4.99, and just $4.24 for our Premium members.
Regarding cooling off, a new study I’ve read finds that placing cold packs on the cheeks, palms and soles of the feet may be more effective than the traditional placement of cold packs on the skin over large blood vessels in the neck, groin and armpits. The new sites work so well because of the extensive microcirculation there.
When researching the topic of riding in the heat, I found so much helpful information about human performance in the heat that one eArticle wasn’t enough. So, in addition to Part 1, about how best to manage your heat riding, I focused the second eArticle on managing your hydration: Cycling in the Heat: Part 2 – Hydration Management.
Both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Cycling in the Heat series are available together in a cost-saving bundle.
By Coach Fred Matheny
Chris Froome's victory in the 2015 Tour de France was due, in large part, to the strength of his Sky Team. Of course, Froome had the acceleration to make a difference on the climbs (especially on Stage 10) and hold off Nairo Quintana just enough on the Alpe d'Huez, and the bike handling skills to stay safe on the technical descents.
Sky was arguably the strongest team, though, so Froome always had a phalanx of teammates to escort him through the dangers of the event.
But other teams were nearly as strong. The reason? They've adopted the key to Sky's success in recent years -- the idea of Marginal Gains.
Simply put, it's identifying all the areas of performance where tiny gains can be made. Come up with enough improvements, each contributing a small part of a percent, and the total gains become impressive.
One example: in previous years Sky riders were mocked for warming down on trainers after every stage. But this year nearly every team adopted this routine. In fact, many post-race TV interviews were conducted with riders gently spinning their legs.
So Marginal Gains has proven to be a powerful way to improve the performance of pro riders. But its effectiveness isn't limited to the pros. Recreational riders can find dozens of small improvements leading to big performance gains.
That's why I wrote the eArticle, Marginal Gains for Overall Performance Improvement.
It details how to identify areas of improvement in training, clothing, gear and nutrition as well as event-day preparation. In it you'll find small ways to improve that, taken together, will make you a more powerful and more prepared rider whether you're aiming for a Gran Fondo, a century or a Strava KOM.
Don't let Team Sky and other pros improve their riding while you languish on the sidelines for lack of information! Marginal Gains for Overall Performance Improvement is available in the RBR bookstore for only $4.99, $4.24 for our Premium Members.
If your bottle cages have been driving you nuts, a new take on this very old piece of equipment is on the way.
The company is called Fabric, and it specializes in what it calls “unique and world first cycling products.” This particular reinvention is called the “cageless water bottle.”
The system includes two 1.5g direct mounting studs that screw into the standard down tube and seat tube holes. The bottles feature “slots” that secure to the studs. Voila, no cage necessary. Here’s a link to the new product, which is slated to be available in September: http://fabric.cc/shop/waterbottle/
Of course, if you have zero issues with your bottle cages (I suspect most of us fall into this camp), then this is yet another “solution looking for a problem.” Sure, the clean, cageless look is nice. But being forced to use a proprietary bottle seems like a major shortcoming – especially if you should happen to forget your bottles when leaving on a ride.
But you be the judge. Check it out for yourself. Me, I’m sticking with the same cages I’ve had on my bike for years. So far, they haven’t bothered me a bit.
Selle Anatomica has agreed to provide one of its X Series Saddles as our next Premium Member Giveaway prize! The Selle Anatomic X Series Saddle (click to read our 4.5-star review), is a full-grain leather, Made in the USA saddle renowned for its looks and its long-distance comfort right out of the box.
Any new or renewing Premium Members between July 1 (when we gave away our last great prize) and September 30 are eligible for the drawing. We’ll announce the winner in the October 1 RBR Newsletter
Today’s Question is pegged to Coach John Hughes’ Cadence article, below.
Please Send Us Your Questions!
Coming up with a new poll every week is – believe it or not – one of the harder things I have to do. I would love to hear from you with any suggestions you have for a Question of the Week. 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. -- John Marsh
I'm leaving on a three-week business trip to Ohio. I'll be able to ride, but the roads are flat. I'm quite fit because I've been training for the Mt. Evans Hillclimb here in Colorado, but now I'll have to miss it. My question: How should I train during the trip? Intervals? Long rides? My next event isn't for almost three months. -- Tom G.
If I were you, I'd just roll up some miles in Ohio and enjoy the different riding conditions. Although much of the state is flat, there are plenty of lightly traveled roads and the climate is much different than you're used to. I've ridden frequently in the Buckeye State and enjoy the change from the arid west.
It's fine to do a few jumps, the occasional 20-minute fast effort, a hard climb if you can find one. But do most miles at a steady and moderate pace. You've been training hard for Mt. Evans, so use Ohio for rebuilding your aerobic base.
Because you don't have an event immediately after your trip, this approach should work fine. Riding moderately will recharge your motivational reservoirs, too. I bet you'll come back to Colorado with renewed energy. Then you can ramp up your training for the fall event.
One more point: On a business trip it's easy to overdo it when you combine the effects of being away from home, working and riding unfamiliar roads (perhaps getting lost). Never underestimate the additional stress.
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We’ve been extensively discussing road tubeless tire technology these past few weeks. And, just when we thought we’d covered the issue pretty well, reader Greg Meyer wrote:
“I read Mike Tierney’s article Tubeless Revisited in RBR Newsletter Issue No. 676. I also read what John Marsh and you wrote regarding tubeless tires in the same issue, and I am confused and hope you can help. I think I understand what the terms “tubeless” and “tubeless compatible” mean, but I also see the term "tubeless ready." Can you explain the difference between the terms “tubeless compatible” and “tubeless ready?”
“Also, I currently use the Maxxis Radiale 24c TL tire on a HED Belgium + rim. When I need to replace my tire, do I replace it with a tubeless tire or can I use a tubeless-ready tire like the Maxxis Padrone TR? I did not originally set up this tire and rim combination so I’m not 100% sure what I’ve got. I do use Specialized tubeless-ready tires on my mountain bike along with rim strips and sealant, but I’m concerned with the higher pressure used on road bike tires.”
Thanks, Greg. Your question made me realize that we didn’t explain the terminology and differences in road tubeless technology very well. I’ll do that here. It should help everyone, because tubeless technology is getting even more confusing.
Let me start by answering your specific question. Assuming you already have your HED Belgium rims set up for tubeless with a sealing rim strip and valve stem (I’m assuming this because your tire is a tubeless-ready model, according to their website), you can use that new Padrone tire just fine. Or, you could use any other tubeless, tubeless-ready or tubeless-compatible tire, too.
The key thing is having the sealing rim strip and valve stem in the rim, and enough sealant inside the tire (recommended amounts are usually printed on the side of the sealant bottle).
Now, I’ll try to explain the differences in tubeless tires and wheels and provide some surefire ways to tell what you’ve got for others who aren’t sure.
TYPE 1: Tubeless-compatible and tubeless-ready. These terms mean the same thing. I’m going to abbreviate these terms as TC and TR in this article. But note that tire companies may use other nomenclature and tire markings, too, like TLR.
Unfortunately, some companies are even now labeling their tires as “Tubeless,” and you only find out they’re actually TC/TR tires by reading the fine print. The thing to look for on their website is the mention of using sealant, which tells you the tire is a TC/TR.
Kind of like those “batteries sold separately” disclaimers on electronics, the terms “ready” and “compatible” are the tire companies’ way of saying that the tires are not tubeless until or unless you’ve spent more money for the special rim strips and valves and sealant required to set the tires up as tubeless.
Another way of looking at it is that you can use these tires the standard way – with tubes – if you like. Or you can upgrade and go tubeless if you get the extras (the sealing rim strip and valve stem, and sealant) and modify your wheels so that you can use the tires without tubes.
These “ready/compatible” tires are a little heavier than the same models that aren’t TC/TR, in order for the sealant to seal well and, just as important, in order for the tire sidewalls to hold fast and keep the tire on the rim. TC and TR (and other abbreviations for this) are common terms in mountain biking, and I believe that’s where they came from.
In fact, it was tubeless becoming so popular with mountain bikers that drove the road tubeless development. Roadies wanted the freedom from pinch flats and a smoother ride, too -- especially those who already enjoyed it off-road.
TYPE 2: Genuine Tubeless. The other type of tubeless tire is a genuine tubeless tire made for use on a genuine tubeless wheel. This is the “Road Tubeless” system that Hutchinson and Shimano invented in 2007 that I wrote about last week (and reviewed back then).
With a genuine tubeless tire and wheel, nothing extra is needed. It works exactly like car tires work. The wheel and tire together form an airtight seal on their own. Tubeless wheels come with proprietary valves.
Like car tires, the difference between genuine tubeless wheels/tires and TC and TR tires/wheels is a mechanical bead lock between the tire and rim that seals the system and keeps the tire in place. Genuine tubeless tires are heavier than TC and TR tires because of this and from having even heavier sidewalls.
Lighter weights were promised, but it hasn’t happened yet, except if you want to use Hutchinson’s lighter tubeless tire, the Atom, which has a very low profile and a harsh ride, in my opinion. I would only recommend them to flyweights.
If you don’t have a Hutchinson brand tire with “Road Tubeless” printed on the label, there’s about a 99% chance that if you’re running the tire as tubeless, it is actually a TC/TR tire.
I said 99% because it’s possible that someone has just introduced a genuine tubeless tire and I just couldn’t find it. However, every tire I found that claimed to be tubeless required sealant and did not feature the bead lock. If you know of a new genuine tubeless tire, please share and I’ll pass it on.
Interestingly, you can also use true Hutchinson tubeless tires on standard wheels by using sealant, special rim strips and special valves. That’s how the whole TR and TC phenomenon started on the road side. People didn’t want to buy new tubeless wheels, but they figured the tubeless tires would work on standard wheels if they could seal the wheels, and they were right.
Stan’s No Tubes was quickest to the market with a rim strip and valve and sealant to do the job. Once other tire makers saw that, they knew they could produce TR and TC model tires and didn’t have to produce genuine tubeless tires. That’s another reason there’s still such a limited selection of genuine tubeless tires.
Knowing what wheels you have helps you know what type of tubeless tires you can use, too. Hutchinson lists the following wheels as genuine tubeless, which means the wheels are sealed, have bead locks and include proprietary valves. Note that this list includes some models no longer available, but you might still have them on your bike or purchase a used bike with them.
The defining feature of a genuine tubeless wheel is a sealed rim. If you look inside you won’t see the holes for the spoke nipples. And, because they’re sealed, no rim strip is needed.
• Campagnolo Eurus 2Way Fit
• Campagnolo Zonda 2Way Fit
• Corima Aero + Carbon
• Corima Aero + Winium
• DT Swiss RR 1450
• DT Swiss R 1700
• Easton EA90 RT
• Easton EA90 SL
• Easton EA90 SLX
• Easton EC90 Aero 55
• Easton EA90 XD
• Fulcrum Racing 0 2Way Fit
• Fulcrum Racing 1 2Way Fit
• Fulcrum Racing 2 2Way Fit
• Hutchinson RT1 Carbon
• Shimano Dura-Ace WH- 7850SL
• Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7900-C24-TL
• Shimano Ultegra WH-6700
Sticking with the percentage from my previous bold comment about tires, if you don’t have one of these wheelsets and Hutchinson Road Tubeless tires, there’s about a 99% chance that you have a TC/TR setup, like Greg. That’s by far the more common setup because buying a new wheelset is so expensive.
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 7,871.
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In time trialing, the most important aspect of aerodynamics is rider position, not the aero qualities of the bike. Teardrop-shaped down tubes and seatposts make a difference, but it isn’t significant compared to your furiously pumping legs and wind-catching chest.
As a result, a road bike fitted with aero bars and set up so the rider is in an optimum position is nearly as good as a dedicated time trial machine.
Time trial bikes do have one advantage: They’re designed to make getting an aero position easier. They usually have steeper seat-tube angles and a handlebar much lower than the saddle. But if you move the saddle forward on your road bike and use a stem that allows you to lower the bar, you can come pretty close.
We started this 2-part series last week and will finish today with more tips on maximizing your road bike – and your ability to ride it – as a TT machine.
Consider aerodynamic wheels. Every wheel manufacturer, and plenty of magazine articles, will tell you how many seconds a specific set of wheels can save in a 40K time trial. Take all these numbers with a large grain of salt. But there’s no question that aero wheels can save substantial time compared to conventional wheels.
On flat courses I use a Mavic disk rear wheel that I received as part of our 1996 Race Across America sponsorship. It’s especially good in crosswinds. The theory is that its lenticular shape acts like a sail and allows the wind coming from the side to push the bike forward. I don’t know if that’s valid physics, but it seems to work that way when I’m riding the wheel.
The disk is heavier than a spoked wheel, so on hilly courses I use the other sponsorship rear wheel, a Mavic Cosmic with a carbon rim and 16 bladed spokes. Regardless of which rear wheel I use, I run a Mavic Cosmic with 16 radially laced spokes on the front.
Of course, there are plenty of other good wheel choices available. But I have an emotional attachment to these wheels because I rode them across the U.S. when our RAAM team set the senior 50+ record of 5 days, 11 hours, 21 minutes. I also used the disk/Cosmic combination to win the Colorado Masters TT and get a bronze medal at Masters Nationals.
Use an aero helmet. You have plenty of choices nowadays other than the old-school teardrop models. Many normal road helmets come with snap-on plastic covers to effectively make them aero lids. Others have full-time aero properties. Because there are so many choices, it really makes it easy to find one that works well for you.
Take off bottle cages. It’s hard to drink from a bottle during a race, so remove the cages. Their wind resistance is negligible but the bike looks faster without them and that’s worth a few seconds in psychological boost -- if nothing else.
Use an appropriate cassette. I often time trial with an 11-21 cassette. Does that mean I can push a 53x11-tooth gear on the flat? Nope — not even close. But on downhill sections or with the sort of tailwind we often get in Colorado — when small cows are likely to be blown over — the 11 lets me coax a bit more speed. Of course, many of us ride compacts these days, so you may be better able to spin up that 11-tooth cog with your 50-tooth ring.
Think about your low gear, too. If the course is flat to rolling, you don’t need a 25-tooth big cog. Some riders like to run an 11-23 on rolling courses because they can stay in the big ring on gradual uphills using the 53x21. (If you ride a compact crank, you’ll simply need to align your gearing accordingly.) Because shifting the front derailleur is more time-consuming and potentially problematic, they’d rather carry the larger rear cog to be able to use the big ring exclusively during the race.
Consider a skin suit. Snug-fitting, one-piece time trialing suits are significantly more aerodynamic than shorts and a jersey. They don’t have the wind-catching wrinkles, folds of material and pockets that jerseys do.
Crumple your number. When you get your race number, crumple it into a ball, then flatten it and pin it on. The crumpling takes the stiffness out of the material and helps the number conform to your body. Uncrumpled numbers tend to flap, rattle and catch more wind, slowing you down.
You might also choose spray glue that some riders prefer. In that case, the crumpling would probably do more harm than good.
Last week’s QT extolled the virtues of the workaday product Chap Stick as a de facto first aid kit.
RBR reader Jay Wood sent us a follow-up email pointing out a different array of uses for this wonder product. Here’s what he wrote:
Chapstick is a good all-purpose lubricant. Use it on sticky pivots, cables, and, especially, zippers.
You can also use it to improve sealing of light and bike computer gaskets, and reduce rusting of recessed screw heads.
Finally, a non-bike use: I put some on standard screw-in light bulbs as an anti-seize measure.
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.
By Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
You recover faster from intense exercise by eating immediately afterward, and a new study shows it doesn't really matter what you eat. Fast foods such as French fries, hash browns and hamburgers helped athletes recover just as quickly from hard workouts as sports nutrition products such as Gatorade, Powerbars or Clif Bars (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, March 26, 2015).
You have to exercise intensely enough to damage muscles to make them bigger and stronger, so knowledgeable athletes train by taking an intense workout that damages their muscles and makes their muscles feel sore afterward.
On the next day they take easier workouts until their muscles heal and the soreness goes away. Then they take their next intense workout. The faster their muscles recover, the greater their improvement from their sports training. Sometime athletes have to compete in sports on consecutive days. Almost all athletes eventually learn that they recover faster from racing and intense workouts by eating immediately after finishing an intense workout.
Eleven male cyclists completed two trials of a very fast 90-minute workout that emptied their muscles of their stored sugar called glycogen. Immediately after finishing the ride and again two hours later, they were given either fast food or sports products. Four hours after they finished their first ride, they raced flat out in a 12.4-mile (20-kilometer) time trial. All eleven cyclists completed both trials, in random order.
* Muscle biopsies showed that the athletes regained their stored muscle sugar at the same rate with either type of food.
* Blood tests at .5, 1, 2, 2.5, 3 and 4 hours showed that both food programs yielded the same blood sugar and insulin levels.
* Time trial results showed the same times whether they took fast foods or the special sports nutrition products.
The authors say, "Our results show that eating fast food -- in the right amounts -- can provide the same potential for muscle glycogen as sports nutrition products that usually cost more."
To be clear, this is not a call for athletes to eat fast foods, since the researchers did not study the long-term effects of eating fast foods as a regular diet. Other data show that eating these foods all the time markedly increases risk for obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and premature death, even if a person exercises every day.
The point of the study is that it doesn't matter what you eat to recover; any source of calories, carbohydrates and protein will be equally effective. You can help your muscles recover faster from hard exercise and races by eating corn and beans, fruits and nuts or anything else. There is no need to spend extra money for special sports products or supplements.
After a hard workout, your muscles feels sore because the muscle fibers are damaged, and your muscles have run out of their very limited supply of stored muscle sugar called glycogen. You recover when damaged muscle fibers heal and muscles refill their sugar supply. The extra protein and sugar that you take immediately after finishing intense exercise helps muscle fibers heal faster than taking the same foods later on. The extra carbohydrates supply sugar to refill muscles with glycogen.
Most cells need insulin to drive sugar and protein from the bloodstream into cells. However, when you exercise, contracting muscles can pull sugar out of the bloodstream without even needing insulin. This effect of pulling sugar rapidly from the bloodstream without needing insulin lasts maximally for about an hour after you finish exercising, and then gradually decreases until it is gone at about 17 hours.
Eating within an hour after finishing exercise helps muscles heal faster and also replenishes their stored glycogen faster than eating later.
How fast you can move in endurance events is limited by the time it takes to move oxygen into muscles. Muscles use both sugar and fat (and, to a lesser degree, protein) as their sources of energy during exercise. Sugar requires less oxygen to fuel muscles than fat, so the more sugar a muscle can burn, the faster you can go.
You have an infinite amount of fat in your body, but you have only a very meager amount of sugar stored in your muscles and liver. When your muscles run out of stored sugar, your muscles can burn only fat and you have to slow down. The more sugar you have stored in a muscle before you start to exercise, the longer and faster you can exercise that muscle.
Try to set up your exercise program so that you take a harder workout on one day, damage your muscles and feel sore on the next. Then take easy workouts and when the soreness goes away, take your next hard work out.
Immediately after an intense workout, eat whatever source of carbohydrates and protein you like best. I eat oranges and nuts immediately after I finish an intense workout or race to help me recover faster for my next workout.
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/.