What Can You Do in Three Weeks?

Three weeks, twenty-one days. How much can you improve your fitness in three weeks? If you gave yourself a three-week training camp, how many more watts would you produce at the end of it?

How to Go Faster on the Bicycle

We all want to go faster. It's why we suffer! After selecting the fastest equipment you can afford, it's time to focus on the real engine for speed: you.

Power Training Zones 101

Determining our power zones is one of the most basic elements of power training. Click through to read more about each zone and how they work together.

How Training with Power is Different from Training with Heart Rate

Why exactly should we train with power? There are many benefits, of course, to power training, and Coach David gives us a few examples.

Power Up: Increasing Repeatability and Peak Power

Cycling is an endurance event. Long races, always another hill, mental stamina a must, thousands of miles needed in our legs. Plus we need to be able to put out high wattages in a single instance.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Prepare for When the SHTF

Peaks Coaching Group Preparing for Race Difficulties

It’s the unpredictability of bicycle racing that can create such excitement, both for fans and riders alike, but most of us try to limit the unpredictability and surprise in our lives because we want to guarantee the outcomes we want instead of taking the chance with random events wreaking havoc around us. We can actually plan for unpredictability in our sport, though, so we don’t have to find ourselves surprised and scrambling for Plan B or C or D. And planning for unpredictability actually makes cycling more predictable! How? Preparing for all the unknowns gives you more control over them so that when they occur, they really weren’t unknown at all.

So let’s take a few moments to think of the crazy things that can happen in a bicycle race and come up with some practical ways (power-based intervals) to make sure you can adjust when the SHTF (shit hits the fan) without letting it ruin your race.

1. The Crash

Crashes happen in local, regional, and national races just like in the bigger ones. Sometimes you won’t be able to continue the race, depending on the type of crash, but most of the time you’ll have to get up, shake yourself off, and get back in the race.

Criterium

In a criterium, getting back to the pit in order to get a free lap is your first priority. This doesn’t mean you have to drill it back to the pit, but get there before the peloton arrives (or get out of the way and let it get by again). Once back in the pit, get yourself looked over to make sure you’re all right and then rejoin the peloton as quickly as possible. This means you’ll need to step on the gas immediately to get up to speed and integrate back into the peloton. You may have to chase a little on the tail end of the race, though sometimes you can match the speed of the peloton easily and regain your place in the group without too much worry.  

How to Prepare: To make sure you can handle the quick ramping of speed necessary to rejoin the peloton, do VO2Max efforts from a relatively slow speed. Start out at 5 mph in your big chain ring and take off sprinting for 15 seconds to get up to speed. You should hit 300% of your FTP (functional threshold power) in this acceleration and maintain 200%. After 15 seconds, look at your power meter and settle in at 115% of your FTP. Drill it here for the next 3 minutes, then rest for 5 minutes and repeat at least 6 more times in one session.

Road Race

A road race is a little different from a criterium because you don’t have the luxury of waiting around to catch your breath. Pick yourself up, make sure your bike is all right, and get back in the race! You’ll want to get back up to speed as quickly as possible, but I suggest tempering your effort a little from the criterium sprint above. In a road race you don’t know if you’ll chase for 3 minutes or 30 minutes, and you can’t afford to kill it for 3 minutes only to not make it back on and then blow up, which would pretty much guarantee that you don’t make it back.

How to Prepare: VO2Max intervals are best way to simulate these efforts as well. Spend 15 seconds getting in a sprint up to 200% of your FTP and then settle in at 115% of your FTP for the next 3 minutes. If you don’t catch on in 3 minutes, you’ll need to keep trying, but your power will need to reduce to 105-110% of FTP now. So for training purposes do a few where you end the interval at 3 minutes and a few where you end at 6 minutes, but in minutes 3-6 reduce your power to 105-110% of FTP. Be sure to rest for at least 5 minutes between each of these efforts and strive for 5 intervals in one session.

Riding in Caravan

In a road race you might get the opportunity to use the caravan to pace yourself back up to the peloton. This takes some skill and is not for the faint of heart. Your first trip through the caravan can sometimes be the most exciting part of the road race! Riding the caravan means drafting closely on the back of a car, looking far ahead of the car to anticipate changes in speed, ready at any time to abandon the shelter of the car to move ahead to the next car or farther, and bridging the final gap to the back of the peloton, which involves a sprint and most likely a 30-second hard anaerobic effort after your sprint.

How to Prepare: Ride at your sweet spot power (88-93% of FTP) for 5 minutes. Continue to ride at sweet spot for 10 more minutes, and every 1 minute do short, 5-second sprints out of the saddle to reach 300% of your FTP; then sit back down in the saddle at your sweet spot power again. At the end of the 10 minutes, do one massive sprint and hard effort for 45 seconds, riding out of the saddle for 15 seconds and then killing it at 150% of your FTP for the next 30 seconds. Rest for 10 minutes and then repeat 2 more times.

2. The Flat Tire

A flat tire very similar to the crash scenario above, but in the road race is that now you have more distance to bridge, quite possibly on a wheel that doesn’t exactly mesh with your drivetrain. When you flat in a road race, don’t just stop immediately, especially if you’re under control and can ride it for a little while. Wait till you get the wheel truck up close to you, then pull over. This will make the wheel change much faster, and you’ll have less distance to bridge. It’s important to tell the mechanic changing your wheel that you’d like him to help you get back to the peloton. These guys often just speed off, even though there’s usually no hurry, and gaining their help a little longer is always a good thing.

How to Prepare:
Slow down to 5 mph, then do a short sprint to get up to speed (nothing crazy, but at least 200% of your FTP), and settle into just above your FTP (105%) for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes, drop your pace down to FTP (100%) and ride there for 5 minutes to complete a solid 10:30 interval. Rest for 5 minutes and repeat.

3. Missed Feed/Bottle and the Corresponding Bonk

This scenario shouldn’t come as a surprise, but sometimes it does happen, and you have to be prepared for it. There are no intervals to do in preparation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Practice with your feeder a few times before a race to make sure you know how to get your feed and your feeder knows how to properly display your feed. The feeder needs to hold the tip of the water bottle and let you take it from him instead of trying to drop it at the exact moment you grab it. Don’t worry; it’s not going to break your feeder’s wrist if you pull it out of his fingers when you grab it at 20 mph! It’s helpful if you and your feeder can decide the specific spot he’ll be in the feed zone. Sometimes it’s easiest if a feeder is always near the end of the feed zone, and other times it’s better if he’s close to the front, but the important thing is to agree on the location so you can expect it.

If you miss your feed, be prepared for the possible resulting bonk and dehydration. You should always, always carry one more gel in your back pocket than you think you’ll need. I suggest a package of jello blocks, as well. You should come back from every ride and every race with some food in your pocket, which will indicate you had plenty of food and didn’t lack for energy. If you get a “surprise” bonk all of a sudden, you’ll be ready to ward it off with quick sugar. If you’re in the peloton and find yourself rapidly going backwards, make sure to tell a teammate what’s happening; the teammate might be able to help you stay in the peloton by giving you some food or sharing a bottle.

4. The Wrong Turn

The hardest part about this scenario is not panicking. If you panic, you lose for sure. Maintain your calm and make sure you get back on course as quickly as possible, then time trial back into the lead (hopefully) or chase back to the peloton cursing the officials, race director, and everyone involved in the race.

How to Prepare: We want to try to simulate the stress of having to get back in training while remaining calm. You should have been at FTP before you went off course, so getting back to that intensity should be relatively easy. That’s the intensity you have to hold, though, because if you dig too deep you might not be able to recover from that effort. Get back to FTP as soon as you can, and if you’re behind the peloton now, you might have to up the intensity to your VO2Max to catch on.

Try these intervals to help you prepare for this unfortunate circumstance: Ride at your FTP for 10 minutes and then slow down, do a U-turn, accelerate up to speed again, and settle back in at FTP for another 10 minutes. At the end of that 10 minutes, do a hard jump for 15 seconds and then drill it for 2 minutes at 115% of FTP. Recover for 5 minutes and repeat 1 more time.

5. Broken Derailleur Cable or Dead Battery in Electronic Shifter

This will eventually happen to you if you race/ride long enough, and it will happen at the most inopportune time. I had a rear derailleur cable break in a criterium with a nice 200m 10% hill in it, in the rain, of course. Fortunately I was already in the breakaway, so I was able to mitigate the effect of it. On the uphill I was in the 39:12 and the downhill and flat in the 53:12, so it wasn’t too bad, but definitely not ideal. I got 4th in the break of 5 because I couldn’t jump hard enough in the big ring and the sprint was relatively short. One of our PCG athletes had his front derailleur cable break in a time trial and had to choose between the big ring and the small ring; the time trial was the Elite Nationals in Pennsylvania, and the course was incredibly hilly, so he chose the small ring and rode to 5th place on the podium! Dealing with these opposing situations requires proper training so that you can produce power using either low cadence and high force (at the loss of a rear derailleur cable) or high cadence and low force (at the loss of a front derailleur cable).

How to Prepare

Big-gear intervals
Do 60 minutes at tempo/sweet spot power (76-93%; not race pace but doable, though a notch below uncomfortable). Within this 60 minutes, do 15 big-gear interval bursts. Slow down to 10 mph, put it in the 53:13, and (staying seated with hands on drops of handlebars) grunt and push that gear till you reach 90 rpm. At 90 rpm shift to an easier gear and resume riding at tempo pace.

Fast pedaling drills
Do 10 1-minute fast pedaling intervals with cadence at 115-120 rpm. Don’t worry about wattage; just focus on spinning fast and smooth in the saddle. Rest for 1 minute between each at 80-90 rpm. Then do 2 x 15 minutes at 100-105 rpm, just below your threshold at sweet spot (88-93%). Ride easy for 5 minutes between each.

6. Arriving at a Race Late/No Warmup

This is another one that will happen despite your best planning efforts. Sometimes it seems the universe is against you getting to the race on time. I’ve been stuck in traffic jams, gotten waylaid with car trouble, caught rides with very disorganized/late teammates, and everything else you can think of that could happen on the way to a race. You end up in a near panic as you suit up and get to the start line with someone pinning a number on your back at the start. The adrenalin coursing through your veins gives you an advantage that can help you start quickly, but it could also cause you to start too hard and blow up.

How to Prepare: Here’s a great workout to simulate this uncomfortable experience and prepare you for when it happens for real. Without warming up, walk out your door, hop on your bike, and drill it at your FTP right from the driveway for the next 20 minutes. Jump out of every turn, stop light, and stop sign, really digging deep and pushing yourself for the full 20 minutes. Recover for 10 minutes and then begin the rest of your workout. This will help acclimate you to having to start hard without a warm-up. Remember, if you start too hard (like you might if you’re late to a time trial) you’ll blow up, so knowing your FTP and how to pace yourself in those first five minutes is critical: ride at 100-110% of your FTP in the first five minutes, not at 150%!

There are more calamities that could occur, of course, but if you’re ready for these six common ones, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with any surprises that come your way. Remember, there’s no such thing as luck; there is only preparation meeting opportunity and good timing. Prepare smart, recognize the opportunity, and time it right!


If you'd like expert advice about how to succeed in your races this year or next, plus professional support while you do so, contact us today! Your success is our goal; it's the reason we do what we do. 

Article originally published in Road Magazine

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly via info@peakscoachinggroup.com or through PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Photo credit: Cris Solak, Peaks Coaching Group Brasil

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Your Ten-Minute Yoga Mobility Practice

Peaks Coaching Group Yoga

Welcome to “commercial break yoga.” Short, dedicated spurts of movement and breathing. No excuses. Breathe mindfully. Focus on each movement. Listen to your body; stretch to resistance but never pain. Do these in the order given. Smile. Repeat.

Pose 1: Cow/Cat (or spinal waves)

Promotes fluidity in the spine. Be sure to sync your movements with your breath cycles.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Cat Cow
1. Get on your hands and knees, your hands stacked under your shoulders, your fingers spread wide, and your knees directly under your hips.

2. With a slow inhale, drive your chest toward the “window” of your arms and lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.

3. With a slow exhale, move to lift your spine upward, pushing the floor away. Relax the back of your neck and tuck your tailbone.

Move with your breath, always inhaling into the cow and exhaling into the cat. Take your time, observing your hips, shoulders, side body, neck, and spine.

Pose 2: Down Dog

Strengthens shoulders, arms, and wrists. Lengthens tight hamstrings. You can also try a modification with your knees bent.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Down Dog
1. On your hands and knees, you knees should be directly below your hips and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders. Press down evenly through the four corners of both hands, spreading your fingers evenly.

2. Tuck your toes and, on an exhale, lift your knees away from the ground, keeping them slightly bent (or very bent; see the picture above and at pose six below).

3. Gently lift your sit bones toward the ceiling.

4. Slowly lengthen your legs, moving into your hips.

5. Move your awareness to your shoulders; make them firm and broaden them away from each other.

6. Notice which side or part of your body feels tighter and breathe into that side.

MODIFICATION: Keep your knees bent to release your low back, especially if you have particularly tight hamstrings. Hold for at least ten breaths and work up to holding for two minutes.

Pose 3: Lateral Hip Reach

Gets at the hard-to-stretch TFL at the front of the hip and the top of the IT band, as well as your quad. Opens side body; promotes bigger breaths.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Hip Reach
1. Kneel with your left foot behind you and your right foot flat on the floor in lunge position. Keep your left hip directly over your left knee (90-degree angle).

2. This is critical: tuck your tailbone/pelvis under (like a scolded dog). This will help you feel a stronger stretch to the top of the thigh.

3. Put your right hand on your right hip or thigh and reach your left arm overhead, away from the leg that is being stretched.

4. Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.

Pose 4: Thread the Needle

Superb outer hip opener.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Thread the Needle
1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart.

2. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your anklebone clears your thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back so that the center of your foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and knee.

3. Maintaining this alignment, pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs, and interlace your fingers around the back of your right leg or right shin (not the back of your knee). If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding your upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your hands clasped around your hamstring or use a strap. (The goal is to avoid creating tension in your neck and shoulders as you open your hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed.)

4.  As you draw your right leg in (making sure to aim it toward your right shoulder, not the center of your chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you.

5. Hold for ten breaths or longer; switch sides.

Pose 5: Bridge

A beginning backbend that strengthens legs and hips, massages the spine, and opens the heart. Counterbalances compressed chest.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Bridge Pose
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat, parallel to each other, and hip distance apart 10-12 inches from your pelvis. Your ankles should be directly under your knees.

2. Rest your hands near yours hips with your palms up. This helps open the front of your shoulders and collarbones.

3. Rock gently to roll and slip your shoulder blades under, tucking them toward your hips, creating space between your ears and shoulders.

4. Push up through your feet to bring your hips off the floor.

5. Clasp your hands underneath you to help ground your shoulders and roll open your chest. Your clasped hands should continue to push toward your ankles while engaging your legs; continue to open your chest in backbend.

6. Do NOT tuck your chin; keep your throat open and bring your front ribs toward your face.

7. Hold for five breaths. Release to the floor and rest. Repeat two times.

Pose 6: Straight Leg Reclined Twist

Breaks the lateral plane of everything we do. Regains some range of motion in the spine and “detoxes” or “squeezes + soaks” the organs. Also a nice outer hip release.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Bridge Straight Leg Twist

1. Lie flat on your back with your arms out to the side.

2. Bring your left leg straight out to the left side. Stack your right leg on top of your left leg, keeping both straight.

3. Play with how high you bring your feet toward your left hand. (The higher your legs go, the higher the twist goes up your spine. Adjust as comfortable for you and where you feel you need a deeper stretch. Proceed with caution and listen to your body! It will be different on any given day.)

4. Look over toward your right hand, trying to keep your right shoulder grounded into the floor/mat.

5. Relax and release into the twist; let go for up to five breaths. Switch sides.

There you have it! Now keep it up; regularity is key. Make time for it. You’ll be glad you did.


Leslee Trzcinski is a certified yoga instructor, a former professional cyclist, and a PCG associate coach. She and her fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Leslee can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com.

Photo credits: YogaJournal.com, RealYoga.co.il, Gaiam, YogaSimple.net,TrainRogue.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recipe: Amazing Asian Chicken Burger

Asian Chicken Burgers - Peaks Coaching Group

Every summer evening the air is filled with the wafting fragrance of grills all over town. Burgers are such a delicious staple of our cuisine, and there's no end to the varieties to be enjoyed! PCG nutritionist Anne Guzman shares one of her favorites. Let us know what you think!

Amazing Asian Chicken Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tamari sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Mix all ingredients and form into four patties. Fry or grill. Serve on toasted buns with wasabi ketchup (recipe below).

Wasabi Ketchup

  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoons wasabi paste
Mix and serve with burgers.

We've got so much more than recipes! Check out our full nutrition department here.


Anne Guzman is a PCG nutritionist, a registered holistic nutritionist, and a sports nutrition consultant with a degree in kinesiology. Her passion lies in sports nutrition for endurance athletes, as well as general health and wellness. Anne raced full time on the women’s professional circuit in North America with some bouts in Europe from 2008 until 2011, and before cycling was a provincial and CIAU champion and national bronze medalist as a Varsity Freestyle Wrestler. Currently Anne works with athletes to help them reach their potential by combining their own training plans with her nutrition plans. Anne believes that many athletes undermine their intense detailed training regimes by not backing them with sound nutrition. Her personal experience as a cyclist and athlete is a great asset to her business as she understands the needs and nuances that come with the sport. Anne can be contacted through PeaksCoachingGroup.com or at info@peakscoachinggroup.com. Read more nutrition advice on her blog.
Image credit: Traegergrills.com

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Can You Do in Three Weeks?


All the grand tours are three weeks long. The typical build cycle in training is three weeks long. The life cycle of the cabbage worm is three weeks long. Most women recognize they are pregnant at three weeks. Three weeks, twenty-one days. How much can you improve your fitness in three weeks? If you gave yourself a three-week training camp, how many more watts would you produce at the end of it? How much fitter would you become? How much body fat would you lose? How much could your bike handling skills improve?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Training with Power is Different From Training with Heart Rate


Heart rate monitors first came on the cycling scene in the 1980s, allowing us for the first time to train scientifically. Prior to that, we had to train solely by perceived exertion. Heart rate allows us to train at more specific levels of exertion, depending on the physiological system (aerobic, threshold, anaerobic) we wanted to emphasize. Pretty soon everyone serious about training and improving was riding the wave and using a heart rate monitor.

Then about ten years ago, power meters became widely available and began to supplement or even replace the use of heart rate monitors. Power meters offer a number of advantages over heart rate monitors, such as being able to monitor actual exertion directly, rather than indirectly as heart rate does. Power data also provides extensive analytics after your training rides to help you assess and monitor your progress.

I strongly recommend the book Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan to learn about all the metrics that can be used with power data, but in this article I’ll give an example of how training with a power meter is much superior to training with a heart rate monitor.

Before I get into that, though, I want to emphasize that power meters do not completely replace the need for a heart rate monitor. It is still useful to measure your body’s response to training and to compare heart rate with power data.

One of the greatest advantages of training with a power meter is, in my opinion, that a power meter gives you the ability to dial in your desired level of exertion immediately. This is especially true for shorter intervals. The reason is the key difference between power and heart rate: power meters measure the power your body produces, and it can be measured directly and instantaneously, whereas heart rate is an indirect measure and responds to the body’s effort and is thus a delayed measure of exertion. In addition, heart rate can be affected by a number of other factors such as fatigue, dehydration, and temperature. I find that it takes one to two minutes for heart rate to catch up to a steady state power output

Here’s an illustration of the way heart rate lags behind exertion. The chart below is a cyclist’s five-minute interval. While the power (yellow line) is fairly steady, note how the heart rate (red line) increases and doesn’t reach a steady state until two minutes after the start of the interval.



This lag makes it impossible to use heart rate for intervals shorter than two minutes. As you can see, however, the power measurement is up to the targeted level within seconds of the start of the interval.

If you want to do short intervals and use only a heart rate monitor, you’ll have to tackle them by feel, because the interval will be over before your heart rate catches up.

Here’s another great illustration of this phenomenon. The chart below is a workout of 30-second anaerobic capacity intervals. This cyclist used both a power meter and a heart rate monitor.



Note how the heart rate peaks several seconds after the end of the interval. If you tried to do these with a heart rate monitor only, the heart rate wouldn’t be at all useful in guiding your effort. Having power data allows us to target our desired exertion level immediately.

Take a look at the graph of heart rate below. What type of workout do you think this is? Perhaps a time trial with some undulating hills?



Now look at the same workout with power data included.


The workout is actually a series of very hard, short intervals separated by very easy recovery intervals. When doing a series of short intervals of 30 seconds or less, heart rate tends to be fairly constant because of the inherent lag. Just as your heart rate begins to climb, the effort ends and heart rate starts heading back down, just as the next interval starts. The longer these go on, the more the heart rate mimics a steady-state effort despite the alternating very high and low exertion levels of the workout. Not only is heart rate not effective in determining exertion level during these intervals, it also isn’t useful in evaluating the intensity of the workout; as you can see, this was a much more demanding workout than heart rate alone would suggest.

Heart rate tracking is great if it’s getting you out there. When you’re ready for the next level, try a power meter!


Want to try out training with a power meter before investing in one? You can demo a power meter at our cycling training camps. Click here for more information, and review the power meters we recommend here on our store.


David Ertl is a USAC Level 1 coach, the author of four cycling training books, a father of twin sons, and a Peaks Coaching Group associate coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for endurance athletes of all levels of experience. David can be contacted through peakscoachinggroup.com or through info@peakscoachinggroup.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oatmeal: The Endurance Weapon


A popular food among cyclists and athletes, oatmeal is likely to be found in most cupboards and hotel rooms across the racing scene. It’s a great choice for carbohydrates (one of the more economical quality choices available, in fact), with so many practical uses in the kitchen! I use oatmeal ground up in my meatballs, mixed with eggs for oatmeal pancakes, in my smoothies, and in homemade bars, banana breads, muffins, and granola, as well as of course a good old-fashioned breakfast with yogurt and berries. Some of my racers have been known to mix protein powder or eggs right into their oatmeal as a regular pre-race staple meal. Life on the road sometimes requires simple, practical solutions, and oatmeal can be a racer’s instant best friend: just add hot water.

Types of Oats

There are several types of oatmeal. Here’s an overview of each and how they are produced.

Oat groats

All oats start off as oat groats, which are hulled, toasted oat grains. The bran remains intact when the oat is hulled and retains all nutrients.

Steel-cut (Irish) oats

These are your least-processed type of oatmeal. Oh, the hardy Irish! The toasted oat groats are chopped into small pieces about the size of a piece of quinoa. These take about 45 minutes to cook before eating and have a nice chewy texture loved by many.

Stone-ground (Scottish) oats

Scottish oats are the same as steel-cut Irish oats except that they are ground into smaller pieces. These take about half the cooking time of Irish steel-cut oats because of the smaller size, but they still have a texture different from rolled oats.

Old-fashioned rolled oats

To create this popular oatmeal, the toasted groats are steamed and then run between rollers to create flakes. Rolled oats can be eaten raw or cooked into oatmeal. They take about 10 minutes to cook. Most of us likely know them best from the red, blue, and white Quaker packages.

Quick-cooking oats

These are the same as the old-fashioned rolled oats except they’re rolled thinner for quicker cooking times. Like the rolled, these can also be eaten uncooked. They take only five minutes to cook and are great for baking.

Instant oatmeal

This contains the most processed oats. The oat groats have been finely chopped, flattened, pre-cooked, and dehydrated. Many instant oatmeal products have sugars, flavors, and salt added, although you can get plain versions. I would steer clear of the sugar-added instant oatmeal, opting instead to throw in your own fresh fruit and maple syrup. Instant oatmeal takes only a few minutes to cook.

Oatmeal Nutrition

All oatmeal (with the exception of the ones with added sugars and flavorings) is a healthy carbohydrate choice. At first glance many assume that quick oats are not as nourishing, but in reality there isn’t much nutritional difference from the other types.

Oatmeal has many great nutrition properties. It’s a hardy grain that’s able to thrive in poor soil conditions in which most crops cannot survive. Oatmeal gets its nutty taste from the roasting process the groats go through after being harvested and cleaned. Even when hulled, oatmeal retains all of its bran and germ, leaving it full of nutrients and fiber.

Half a cup of rolled oats contains:
  • 150 calories
  • 27 grams carbohydrates
  • 5 grams protein
  • 3 grams fat
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 4 gram fiber (both soluble and insoluble)
A fourth cup of steel-cut oats contains:
  • 170 calories
  • 29 grams carbohydrates
  • 7 grams protein
  • 3 grams fat
  • 5 grams fiber
As you can see, steel-cut oats are a more calorically-dense option for the same-size serving. (Do note that the comparison above is half a cup of rolled oats to a fourth cup of steel-cut.)

More Than Just a Carbohydrate

Oatmeal boasts a specific type of fiber called beta glucan, which has been shown in study after study to reduce cholesterol levels; people with high cholesterol (over 220 mg/dl) consuming only 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (what you’d find in a bowl of oatmeal) typically lower their cholesterol by 8-23%.

Fiber is of course also great for healthy bowels. With all the food we cyclists have to consume, having healthy bowels is certainly a top priority for feeling energetic and reducing GI issues while riding and in everyday life.

Regardless of who you are, though, starting off your day with oatmeal as part of your breakfast will help you maintain steady blood sugar. By continuing to fuel throughout the day with some high fiber foods, lean proteins, and good fats, you can sustain energy all day rather than battle highs and lows from sugary, low-fiber breakfast options like juice and processed commercial muffins or bars.

Oats are also an excellent source of magnesium. Magnesium (like calcium, sodium, and potassium) is a macro mineral, needed in larger amounts in the body than trace minerals. There are too many functions of magnesium to cover here; just know that oatmeal is an excellent source for it. (Click here for more on magnesium.)

One last benefit of oatmeal is that it is a low-glycemic carbohydrate. Although many would assume that steel-cut oatmeal would have a lower glycemic load than rolled oats, the difference is minimal. The glycemic index of quick-cooking oats is higher than that of steel-cut and rolled oats; eaten alone, a bowl of quick-cooking oats may not keep you as satisfied for as long or keep your blood sugar as steady, though you can easily slow down digestion by adding some protein and fat to quick-cooking oatmeal. Protein and fats have slower gastric emptying rates than low-fat carbohydrates such as quick oats; eaten together the entire meal will digest more slowly. In some instances higher glycemic index foods could be a good thing, such as in a recovery meal after training.

However you like it, oatmeal is a cyclist’s best friend for so many reasons. Dig into your bowl and not your budget this season with oatmeal by your side!

Using Oatmeal

After years of playing around with oatmeal, I have come to really love its diversity in the kitchen, and even in the hotel room, where it can be cooked in that token coffee pot featured in every room.

I’d like to share with you my all-time favorite oatmeal recipe. Kids will love it too! You can make this recipe in mason jars (easy to transport to work or on short day travels), or you can put it in a small square pan and bake it as oatmeal squares. I like to make it in jars and then serve it warm with yogurt and fresh berries on top. Double the recipe to stock up on pre-made oat jars for days. Sometimes I swap out the apples for peaches or bananas when I get overly creative.

Recipe: Power Oat Jars

Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup almond milk (or your preferred milk)
  • 1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 apple, cubed or chopped into chunks (or try bananas or peaches)
  • Pinch of sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the lids from six mini mason jars (or use a small square pan; just remember that baking time may differ in a pan).

2. In a large bowl mix the chia seeds, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, and almond milk; stir well. Add the chopped apples and mix well.

3. Divide the mixture evenly among the mason jars and pour any leftover milk evenly into each jar. Give each jar a nice pat-down with your hands to condense the mixture a bit. There should be a good inch of empty space at the top of each jar.

4. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and carefully slide the cookie sheet into the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. When done, the oats should be lightly browning on top and feel slightly dense when pushed down on. Remove from oven.

5. Let the jars cool for a good 30 minutes, then top with yogurt, berries, nut butter, or whatever deliciousness you like! Serve with a few soft-boiled eggs on the side for optimal protein, carbohydrate, and fat ratios.

These can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Nutrition Info
Entire recipe; divide based on the number of jars you use or how many servings if baked in a pan.

703 calories
127 grams carbohydrates
16 grams protein
15 grams fat

References

Delaney B, Nicolosi RJ, Wilson TA, et al. Beta-glucan fractions from barley and oats are similarly antiatherogenic in hypercholesterolemic Syrian golden hamsters. J Nutr; 2003 Feb 133(2):468-75. 2003.

Dean, Carolyn. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007.


Anne Guzman is a PCG nutritionist, a registered holistic nutritionist, and a sports nutrition consultant with a degree in kinesiology. Her passion lies in sports nutrition for endurance athletes, as well as general health and wellness. Anne raced full time on the women’s professional circuit in North America with some bouts in Europe from 2008 until 2011, and before cycling was a provincial and CIAU champion and national bronze medalist as a Varsity Freestyle Wrestler. Currently Anne works with athletes to help them reach their potential by combining their own training plans with her nutrition plans. Anne believes that many athletes undermine their intense detailed training regimes by not backing them with sound nutrition. Her personal experience as a cyclist and athlete is a great asset to her business as she understands the needs and nuances that come with the sport. Anne can be contacted through PeaksCoachingGroup.com or at info@peakscoachinggroup.com. Read more nutrition advice on her blog.

Originally published by Pez Cycling News
Photo credits: Shutterstock.com and Anne Guzman/Pez Cycling News
 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recipe: Killer Kale Salad

Kale Salad - Peaks Coaching Group

It's the time of year when fresh salads are the fantastic choice for a bright and refreshing meals. Try this killer kale salad! It’s super quick, and anyone can pull it off. It's great for rest days when your carbohydrate needs are lower, or add the sweet potato and make it a regular meal for any day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to Go Faster on the Bicycle, with three workouts

How to Go Faster on the Bike - Peaks Coaching Group

Maximizing your speed is the outcome of your ability to produce power, the economy of your bicycle, and the efficiency of your bicycle. Ultimately, as we all know, our goal as cyclists is to go faster. For the bicycle’s side of the equation, make sure you have an aerodynamic bike with aero wheels and that your bike is as light as possible, though it should at the same time be stiff enough to maximize energy transfer from you to the rear wheel, which is where efficiency comes in (along with lubing your chain!).

Once you have the most economical and efficient bike your wallet can handle, you have to focus on creating more watts. Unfortunately this is the harder side of the equation. It involves work, which is expressed in kilojoules (kJ), more commonly known as sweat. As a coach, my job is to make sure your hard work is efficient and effective in moving toward achieving your goal (more speed).

Let’s look at a couple of ways that you can directly increase your speed on the bicycle through smart training using wattage as the measuring stick.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Recognize Heart Disease as an Athlete

Peaks Coaching Group how to recognize heart disease in athletes

Most athletes, especially endurance athletes, are by the nature of the sport very fit, and as a result we tend to also think of ourselves as healthy. This is not always the case, however, as I learned firsthand last year.

I have been training and racing bikes for forty-two years, all the while eating healthfully, maintaining a good weight, and considering myself fit and healthy. With the exception of marginally high cholesterol, every medical indication was excellent. But then breathing pains last season led to a series of tests (I thought initially it was bronchitis) and resulted in a stress test, which resulted in an angiogram, which resulted in finding a 90% blockage in one of my coronary arteries, which resulted in the placement of a stent. Fortunately there was no damage to my heart and I was back to training and racing four months after my procedure.

Endurance sports require a strong and efficient heart to keep up with the aerobic and anaerobic demands, especially at a competitive level; therefore athletes are not only fitter but also typically healthier than the average person. While a strong cardiovascular system is certainly a good thing, it doesn’t preclude us from falling victim to cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease (CAD). In my situation, needless to say, I was as shocked and surprised as were my doctors. But it demonstrates that none of us are guaranteed clear arteries, despite our great cardiovascular fitness.

In retrospect, I can see several indicators of heart-related issues, but I failed to acknowledge them, partly because I assumed I was too fit to have heart disease. The first indicator was pain in my chest area. Although my doctor said it wasn’t typical angina symptoms, I now know that heart issues can express themselves in a number of ways and radiate in different areas of the chest and arms. The second symptom was noticing my performance had dropped over the past couple of years. I attributed this to my age (I’m 56) and a lack of usual training due to a busy life. I now know my performance was dropping faster than my age was increasing. It was getting harder to keep up on team training rides, and I was getting dropped on hills I never used to get dropped on. My threshold power had also dropped during the past two years. Interestingly, my heart rate did not decrease, maintaining a threshold heart rate of 184 and a maximum well into the 190s despite my condition. Also interestingly, I never experienced a shortness of breath, which is a common symptom for CAD. I attribute this to the fact that I frequently trained in the anaerobic range and I am used to breathing hard so didn’t notice anything unusual.

I would like to use my own experience to provide some points for athletes to consider regarding awareness of heart issues. As athletes we tend to be very in tune with our bodies; we notice every new little twinge, sore muscle, and joint ache. Sometimes we're overly concerned (even obsessed) with these pains when there is really nothing wrong. Most of the time the discomfort goes away with rest and recovery.

Conversely, at the same time we tend to think of ourselves as invincible and above having any serious health issues. We also have a tendency to push ourselves through pain that we should pay attention to. We like to believe we're too fit to have heart disease. I certainly did.

So here are a few things you can do to avoid finding yourself in the same situation I did.

1. Get an annual checkup. We athletes put our bodies through a lot of stress during the season, so we want to make sure everything is working well. But be aware that a typical physical exam will not catch everything. It would not have caught my condition (my EKG was perfect). You might want to ask your doctor whether you should have a stress test done, especially if you're male, middle-aged, and/or have any risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Be sure to explain to your doctor just how hard you work and that you push yourself much harder than a typical patient. You might even bring in a heart rate graph showing how high and how long your heart rate is elevated. Get your cholesterol checked and under control. Mine was "borderline high," which turned out to be too high.

2. Don’t be afraid to keep asking your doctor if you can’t get answers to your satisfaction or find cause of your malady. Go to a different doctor if necessary. After all, no one is more interested in your health than you.

3. Pay close attention to any pain in the chest area. While it could be caused by several things, you should always rule out heart problems.

4. Listen to your coach, friends, and spouse when they suggest you get something checked out. They often look at your situation from a more objective, less biased position than you do yourself.

5. Don’t assume, just because you're a fit athlete, that you're immune from heart disease or other serious ailments. Always check things out when they don’t feel right.

Training and being fit are both wonderful things you've got going for you. If you ever do develop an illness, you'll be better prepared to fight it and will probably return to fitness more quickly because of your physical fitness.

Want professional help staying healthy and fit? Find out more about our coaching or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.


David Ertl is a USAC Level 1 coach, the author of four cycling training books, a father of twin sons, and a Peaks Coaching Group associate coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for endurance athletes of all levels of experience. David can be contacted through peakscoachinggroup.com or through info@peakscoachinggroup.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Recipe: Pina Colada Smoothie

When I'm carb loading for a ride, it's always best to follow my own advice! The nutritionist can never bonk on a ride. I don’t have that luxury. So what’s on my carb loading menu? Here’s my favorite item, the pina colada smoothie!

Pina Colada Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 cups pineapple juice
3/4 scoop whey protein (I love North Coast Naturals vanilla)
1 frozen banana (freezing the banana makes the smoothie cold and thick)
1/4 cup light coconut milk

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Podium nutrition!

Nutritional information:

Calories: 500
Carbs: 100g
Protein: 20g
Fat: 4g


Peaks Coaching Group Anne Guzman
Anne Guzman is a nutritionist with Peaks Coaching Group. She is a certified kinesiologist, a registered holistic nutritionist, an AFPA-certified sports nutrition consultant, and a former professional cyclist. Anne can be reached directly through www.peakscoachinggroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com, and you can find more nutrition tips and recipes on her blog atnutritionsolutionsanneguzman.com/blog/.

Image Credit: A Whisk and Two Wands