Thursday, September 15, 2016

Recovery Nutrition

By PCG Nutritionist Jannette Rho

As an athlete, you make the time to train.  You train hard and you race hard at your events.  This deserves major kudos to you for your accomplishments this season, as well as for all of your accomplishments as an athlete.  You may be aware of how your nutrition affects your training, performance, and recovery, which then, in turn, affects your training and performance, but how much attention are you really giving to your diet?  It’s an ongoing process, and there are many aspects of nutrition, but today we will focus just on recovery.  The goal of recovery nutrition: To optimize your next training session or race so that you can work at your best and keep getting faster and stronger.

Why is recovery nutrition important? 

This will vary according to the specific nature, intensity, and duration of your workout.  Let’s break it down for practical use.  Recovery nutrition is always important but timing of the recovery nutrition is most important when:

  • Efforts (training or racing) are less than 24 hours apart
  • Intensity of efforts is high
  • Duration is >90 minutes
  • And, the importance is amplified when any combination of the above applies

Okay, so how does timing work for recovery?

Timing is very important.  The optimal timeframe for recovery nutrition is within 2 hours of the effort.  During this timeframe, your cells are most accepting to taking in nutrients to replenish glycogen, prevent muscle catabolism, and promote muscle restoration.  The sooner within this timeframe, the better.  Early intervention (~30 minutes) of recovery nutrition shows improved recovery results.  

To all of my female athletes out there – it’s official; recovery nutrition timing is more important for women than for men.  A woman’s metabolism returns to baseline quicker than men so the optimal timeframe is more important and generally intake must be within 2 hours for it to make a difference.  Again, the sooner the better, so plan to get in recovery nutrition within 30 minutes of the effort especially during high training times and races.

Now that we know when to take in recovery nutrition, what should we be taking in? 

We definitely need carbohydrates (aka carbs).  One of the main goals of recovery is to replenish glycogen stores, and carbs are the major player for this process.  Why?  It’s simple.  Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, and glucose comes from carbs.  An important note for women: it’s been found that women use more fat during endurance efforts, which spares glycogen, so overall carb intake can be in the lesser range to avoid unnecessary energy intake.  That being said, it is also important for women to shift carb intake to the post-workout snack or meal to take advantage of the shorter recovery window.  An important note for all athletes: the body can’t effectively use more than 1-1.2 g/kg/hr of carbs so don’t go over this ratio.  A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 50g, more or less depending on your size.

Protein is necessary for our muscles, cell structure, function, and signaling.  Its value is extensive, so how can we make sure we are getting enough to balance our macronutrient intake and getting the right type to ensure proper protein balance?  According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, if you are involved in a general fitness program, you can generally meet protein needs by ingesting 0.8 - 1.0 grams/kg/day.  Older individuals may benefit from a higher protein intake with 1.0 - 1.2 grams/kg/day.  If you are involved in moderate amounts of intense training, aim for 1 - 1.5 grams/kg/day.  If you are involved in high volume intense training, you should aim for 1.5 - 2.0 grams/kg/day.  Generally, this can be met through a normal and well planned diet but supplementation can come in handy for larger athletes with higher calorie needs.  Protein supplements are also useful for convenience. 

When it comes to recovery, including protein along with carbs can improve restoration of muscle glycogen, as well as promote muscle synthesis.  It has been shown that the 3 (carbs):1 (protein) ratio is most beneficial.  Women need to be more diligent about protein intake during the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle, when protein is naturally used up more.  Daily intake and recovery nutrition should address this increased need.

Lastly, we shouldn’t ignore the fats.  Women particularly depend on intramuscular fat, so proper intake is important.  Moderate intake of 30% of daily calories is recommended and can go up to about 50% during high volume training.  Most fat intake should be Omega-3 fats and unsaturated fats, from fatty fish, nuts, etc.  Fats should be spread throughout the day and can be included around workouts as tolerated.

To wrap it up, recovery becomes more important as efforts become longer and more intense.  As time between efforts decrease, as with two or more-days or multi-day races, recovery should be a priority.  The ideal window of opportunity for your cells to take in recovery nutrition is within two hours.  This window is even more important for women, and the sooner is always better.  If adequate nutrition is taken in pre- and during the effort, recovery nutrition should focus on adequate carbs and protein with at least a 3:1 ratio.  Real food is always ideal, but supplements can be used for convenience and for those with higher calorie needs.  In addition to the macronutrients, be sure to rehydrate and address fluid and electrolyte losses.  

If you don’t have a meal planned within the recovery window, some easy recovery snack ideas are below:

  • Nut butter and fruit wrap
    • Pro tip: Opt for a combination of different fruits for a nutrition bonus.  Try banana for added potassium, and berries for their antioxidants.
  • Yogurt w/granola and fruit
    • Pro tip: Choose Greek yogurt for extra protein.
  • Homemade smoothie 
    • Pro tips: Including 2 fruits + 1 veg is a good rule of thumb for best taste.  Frozen fruits will eliminate your need for added ice, reducing volume.  Add protein powder and milk of your choice to complete the recipe.

If you prefer a savory meal post-effort as I sometimes do, eggs and quinoa are a simple and quick way to get your recovery. Here’s a recipe for a quick egg scramble:


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup, chopped or sliced tomatoes
  • 2 cup spinach (or other greens such as kale)
  • 1/2 cup, chopped red bell or sweet peppers
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked


1. Get quinoa cooking or reheat from previous batch.  For cooking quinoa, use a 1:2 ratio (quinoa: water or broth), bring to boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.  Let it sit for ~5 minutes covered, then fluff with fork.  I recommend making in bulk batches, portioning, and storing in fridge or freezer.  1 cup uncooked quinoa will yield about 3 cups cooked so plan accordingly.

2. Heat saute pan on medium heat with non stick spray or oil

3. Add chopped vegetables (except greens) to pan and saute until starting to soften - ~3-5min.  Add spinach/greens when other vegetables are starting to soften.

4. While vegetables are cooking, mix eggs in bowl then add to pan when vegetables are softened.  Cook until set to desired firmness.  Be sure to move the eggs and veg around in the pan.

5. Serve egg veg mix atop quinoa.

For more great ideas and plans to improve your performance and recovery nutrition CLICK HERE

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kettlebell Max™: Dynamic Strength Training for Cyclists

By PCG Elite Coach Charles Gary Hoffman

In 2006, I hired my first cycling coach, a former collegiate and professional champion, who lived in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. In my first prescribed training cycle, I noticed strength training was on my schedule every Monday. I didn't belong to a gym, didn't have any weights at home, and the idea of strength training for cyclists seemed ridiculous to me. I had been road cycling and racing for over 25 years; how could a road cyclist improve his or her performance by lifting weights? It didn't seem to make sense.

Around that same time, I attended a cycling webinar conducted by a well-known and respected cyclist, researcher, and scientist. It was of his opinion that strength was irrelevant for endurance cyclists(!). That didn't make any sense either.

I listened to my coach, joined a gym, and began to follow a consistent pattern of strength training, once a week during the racing season, more in the off-season. Later that same year, I won my state Masters Championship 60-mile road race, handily winning the field Sprint.

After I became a power based cycling coach in 2007 with Hunter Allen, and later an NASM certified personal trainer, I became fascinated with the concept of strength training for cyclists and in particular for aging cyclists, which I define as anyone over age 35 to 40.

NASM defines strength as “the body's ability to provide internal tension and exert force against external resistance.” In the NASM OPT model, there are various forms and phases of strength development: 1) stabilization strength, 2) strength endurance, 3) maximal strength, 4) speed strength, and 5) power (i.e. explosive power). Muscular strength adaptation requires training using different exercise parameters to adapt progressively and ultimately to the specificity of the event or sport. In the physics of power, Power = force X speed, therefore force (the ability to apply tension to the pedals at speed) is an integral component of power. Our Kettlebell Max™ training system is designed to develop strength dynamically targeting the NASM phase 5, so that the cyclist will increase strength, but more importantly, explosive power on the bike.

Here are some discoveries that I made in my own personal training and working with my coached athletes over the last 5 years:

  1. Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of muscle (mass, quality, and strength) associated with aging. Many studies cite muscle loss beginning over age 30 at a rate of 0.5% to 3.0% and at a substantially accelerating rate over age 50. This is true not only for sedentary adults but athletes as well. If you don't believe this, check out the podium shots of Masters cycling athletes at age 50, 60 and above. 
  2. Traditional strength training can offset muscle loss and in fact lead to muscle gain regardless of age. Strength training (and specific strength training on the bike) combined with nutritional timing post exercise and especially daily protein targets (of between 80% – 90% PRO grams/lbs. body weight), can help feed, nourish, and grow the muscles of cycling athletes. 
  3. There is a progression of strength training exercises which are more dynamic, and include more muscle groups and require more stabilization (which in turn burns more calories): a. Strength training machines, generally speaking, isolate only one muscle group. b. Free weights are much better and recruit more muscle groups than machines. c. While barbells are most often used in the 3 primary strength exercises ─ squats, deadlifts, and bench press ─ dumbbells require even more stabilization. d. Kettlebells require the most stabilization of any strength training exercises using weights.Because the primary weight of the bell is in the bell, outside of where the hand grips the bell handle, when swinging or moving a bell the weight and its relationship to the body is constantly and rapidly changing. This change requires maximum muscle recruitment (and maximum calorie burn ) across the entire body, but particularly the core, legs, and posterior chain, in order to stabilize during each exercise movement. 
  4. Strength training in a dynamic and explosive fashion can help to develop explosive strength on the bike while recruiting fast twitch type II muscle fibers, which in turn improves the ability to generate explosive power. This is especially true utilizing Kettlebells. In our Kettlebell Max™ training system, we use over 200 movements executed explosively, rotating through primary body parts in a HIIT or high-intensity interval training format. In addition to developing explosive strength, the system due to its format, naturally recruits testosterone and human growth hormone, and burns a maximum amount of calories in a minimal time frame (similar to HIIT hill intervals done on a bike). 
  5. In addition to leg strength, Kettlebell training will lead to dynamic strengthening of the core, upper back, and arms, and improve body composition, i.e. reduce the dangerous belly fat that is difficult for many amateur cyclists to remove. 

Since I introduced KB training in 2012, all of my coached athletes have seen significant improvements in: core strength, upper body strength, sprinting speed, acceleration, improving muscular strength, and body composition.

One athlete, Adam C., was preparing well for his 35+ national Masters Track competition, but was temporarily set back by a serious inflammation of asthma. For 30 days he wasn't able to train normally. Since he was training for about a year using our Kettlebell Max™ training system, I advised that he continue with that dynamic strength training, yet take longer breaks between his 4 minute sets. That, in addition to easy rides on his bike doing high-speed bursts of up to 150 RPMs, was all that he was able to do for 30 days prior to his championship events. He went on to win 3 national championships (!) in the sprint/speed events, which were his first national championship wins ever.

In July of 2015, one day after winning my Virginia state Masters criterium championship, I slid out on some loose gravel driving my moped, badly breaking my tibia and fibula in my right leg. Before my surgery, I told my doctor about my athletic goals and that I wanted to recover completely as soon as possible. He encouraged me to get back on my bike (trainer) as soon as possible and that in fact I could continue with my Kettlebell training if seated and on one leg (!). After surgery, which required a 12-inch titanium rod to be hammered into my tibia and a metal plate to my ankle bone, at 4 weeks of recovery my right leg wasn't strong enough to even pull my body weight up one stair step. However, after 6 weeks of rehab and physical therapy, and almost daily Kettlebell exercises (combined with fine tuning my diet), even though the muscle mass was greatly reduced in my right leg, my overall body fat composition was lowered to 7%; this was a figure I hadn’t seen since high school! Going forward, I became even more diligent about my strength training doing Kettlebells 3 – 4 times per week as a supplement to training on the bike. In May of 2016, 10 months after my surgery, I was able to win the field Sprint for 3rd in my 65+ USA Masters national 60-mile road race in North Carolina, taking 1 second out of the field from 200 meters.

In addition to performance on the bike, most amateurs have as a priority their overall fitness and losing weight (body composition). It's healthy to have muscle and to look and feel good. As a rule of thumb, most track cyclists spend almost as much time in the gym as on the bike. One argument that cyclists have is that if you have muscle in your upper body (or too much muscle in your legs), that's extra weight that you have to carry uphill and it slows you down. But if you could have more muscle and reduce fat (i.e. improve your body composition) while reaching a lower weight, how is it that that wouldn't be better? As cyclists we strive to have a greater power to weight ratio.

We need upper body strength to sprint, accelerate, and climb out of the saddle, and significant core strength to impact our ability to apply force onto the pedals. In addition to all that, why not look good, get rid of your paunch, improve your sprint, improve your ability to accelerate, generally get faster on the bike, and possibly even gain a six-pack in return?

At Peaks Coaching Group, we plan on launching the Kettlebell Max™ dynamic training system for cyclists in the fall of 2016. If you're interested, please comment below.

Charles Gary Hoffman,

CFNS™ USA Cycling and PCG Elite Cycling Coach

[1] Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time, American Council on Exercise, ACE Fitness Matters, Jan/Fed 2010. In the results of this study, researchers found an average 20 calorie per minute burn, equivalent only to “cross country skiing uphill at a fast pace”.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Youth Cyclists - Coaching and Training

By PCG Elite Coach Axel Santiago

A coach is a very important element in the development of a young cyclist.  For parents, it is an important and sometimes difficult task to select the right coach for their child.  The right coach must have sufficient knowledge of the sport and training, enough experience working with young athletes, proper teaching skills, a good philosophy and style, and the ability to relate well with others.

When working with youth cyclists, all of the work and effort should be directed to the following important aspects: 
  1. building their character
  2. teaching them honest and fair competition
  3. developing teamwork skills
  4. teaching them self-respect and respect for others, and 
  5. teaching them how to win and how to lose.  

Youth training is not simply training an adult on a smaller scale.

I will not discuss structured physical training for youth cyclists because at this age the most important aspects are the ones listed above.  Physical training will come naturally while learning and enjoying the sport of cycling.  Riding their bike with coach guidance, they will spend time on pedaling skills, maneuverability, and learning the importance of keeping well hydrated, eating well, and getting enough sleep.  A good example would be: A young mountain biker must devote much of their training to balance skills and the ability to bypass obstacles, while they enjoy biking up the mountain.  In addition, at the ages of 14 or 15, one of our goals for these young cyclists should be to assure that their desire for training and competing stays at the same level over the years.

When it comes to their tools, such as the bicycle, shoes, helmet, etc., my recommendation is not to invest in very expensive items since children often grow very quickly, and within a year a cyclist may outgrow their tools and need a larger size.  Cycling can be a very expensive sport so we must be reserved with these types of expenses.  Where you should invest is in training measuring devices, such as cycle computers, heart rate monitors, power meters, etc.  The young athlete should begin to relate to them, learn to manage them, and begin to understand the importance, and the immeasurable value, of the data that they can provide.

A journal is another tool which the coach should start teaching how to use and how important it will be to young cyclists.  Weight, pulse, amount and color of urine, menstrual cycle, etc., are just a few of the metrics that they must learn to document.  Currently, there are online diaries to document this type of data.  One such program is included in TrainingPeaks.  With this tool, the rider learns to know himself/herself better, which is the whole purpose of journaling these metrics.  A cyclist who knows his/her body, even without the advantage of training, still has a great advantage over the competition.

We should not ignore those young cyclists who are not starting out as stars.  Not all children develop at the same age, rate, or learn the same way.  All young cyclists should feel welcomed and appreciated for their efforts.  An athlete, who at fourteen years old may be a little behind or seems to be lazy, can become a surprisingly good athlete in a few short years.  At this young age, because of their rapid growth, they often experience joint pains, mainly in their knees, ankles, and lower back.  This limits them from exercising at full capacity.  Therefore, if you do any work with strength training, my recommendation is to use only the weight of their own body.  Have patience with them and listen to them. 

Finally, it is of greatest importance that parents give their support and attention to these young cyclists at all times.  Sports training includes discussions about their bodies and how they are changing as they progress.  Tracking metrics as mentioned above, amount and color of urine, menstrual cycle, etc., can be embarrassing and can lead to misunderstandings.  It is important that the athlete feel comfortable discussing these topics with their coach and their parents.  The parents should monitor and ensure that their children are developing and training in a safe environment, where they are protected from negligence, and from any type of abuse whether it be of a sexual or emotional nature.  Keep the lines of communication open with the child and the coach.  Have the conversations necessary to keep everyone on the same page and working together.