5 Steps to getting to your Peak Race Weight

There are so many voices out there telling you how you need to get down to your peak race weight- Here I'm going to boil it down to 5 steps- that while easy- are also challenging, to help you get lean AND fast as you head towards your peak race in mid-summer (Late June to Mid-July).

But first, let's make one things crystal clear from the outset: If you see that at any point in your weight loss journey that your recovery time is INCREASING (longer to recover from workouts), Your energy levels are dropping, or your Watts per kg are going south, You need to take a step back and really re-evaluate what you're doing, because something is NOT working. If not recognized quickly, this can completely derail your season, leaving you tired, upset, sick, and even injured. 

If you're looking for a short post with bullet points, this isn't it. 
I'm going to give you quality, Expert Advice, in moderate detail, so you can stop messing around, and bring your efforts into full focus so you can have your best season yet. 

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks:

No, you Shouldn't fuel for races like this!

No, you Shouldn't fuel for races like this!

What is "Racing weight" or "Peak Weight"?

Racing weight is where you have the optimal body composition that will allow you to perform at your absolute best, while allowing you to be light, HEALTHY, and super competitive. 

The riders of the Grande Tours are NOT at healthy weights in the last 5-8 days of those competition. 

I want to make sure that you got that last point, so I'm going to say it again:

The riders of the Grande Tours are NOT at healthy weights the last 5-8 days (if not longer!) of those competitions. That means the winners and podium finishers for the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta e Espana, are at very unhealthy body compositions for the ends of those competitions. In fact, this applies to nearly all the FINISHERS of these races. 

These are professional athletes, with a full-on sports medicine team, including Registered/Licensed Dietitians, and a full medical staff AND Kitchen staff, dedicated to ensuring that they remain healthy to finish the race, and then recover. 

So when your cycling buddies are sitting around sipping on Calorie free soda after your hard group ride, talking on and on about how they're going to get down to 5% body fat like Chris Froome for the TdF, take a big swig of your Cappuccino, and laugh your butt off- cuz those numbers are incredibly hard to attain without that full-on professional support staff, and can lead many an average cyclist astray should they try to attempt them.

Now, back to you- Your optimal Body Composition (or Body fat %) is going to depend on a number of things, including your age, sex, competitive level, length/duration of the race you're building for, as well as your fitness and training background. And hate to break it to you (ok, no I don't hate this, I LOVE doing this, because it gets you on the right path!), but REALLY this body composition number can only be determined with the help of a Registered Dietitian. If you want to be real about it. 

So if you're "Super serious this year dude!" then step up and hire a pro to help you- no, not the ripped Bro-dude at the gym who has some "Nutritionist certification" from NoRep University online, but someone who has had proper training and vetting. Hire an RD/LD, preferably who specializes in sports nutrition in your sport of focus (different sports have different nuances).

Don't take Advice from some Bro at the Gym, just cuz he's ripped, or from some other rider, because he lost 30lbs in the last year  on the "Juice Detox diet". 

Get a PRO to help you.



Bro Science #1: Dom explains Bro Science. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BroScienceLife T-

 


Now that Step #1 is covered -It's hire a pro to help you- if you decided that you aren't "Super Serious dude" and want to start on your own, let's look at this in a healthy, lifestyle goal fashion and move on to Step #2

 

Step #2
Improve your body composition over a longer period of time, not 4-6 weeks!

You should be determining what you would like your peak race BODY COMPOSITION to be for a June-July peak, RIGHT NOW at the end of January, NOT in late May!
(Note I didn't say body fat %, but Body Composition!)

Why?

 Because to get there while BOOSTING your performance we should look to lose up to/around 1 lb of FAT per week, between now and then....

The bodies Fat mass is an incredibly important number to know, as this will give you a very REAL idea of what is actually attainable. What do I mean?

Let's say you weight 187 pounds, and are at 8% body fat right now. Thinking you can lose 10 pounds, and race at 177 pounds it pretty unrealistic, as it would mean losing a good amount of muscle mass along with the fat, and putting yourself at risk of getting sick due to too low body fat. (a more realistic goal would be 181-ish in this instance).

Body fat serves us in a number of functions, including, but not limited to:

  • Storage of fat soluble vitamins
  • Aids in Hormone balancing within the body
  • Serves as energy stores (3,500 calories are stored in each pound of body fat)
  • Aids in thermoregulation (maintaining body heat/warmth)

It's also important to note that dropping weight is incredibly stressful on the body, and being at a healthy body composition for the vast majority of the year (NOT Peak race weight) is vital to athletes as it helps support the bodies immune system functions, as well as allows for the body to focus on soft tissue repair that is necessary due to the wear and tear that constant training places on it.
 

Farewell, until after my peak race......  

Farewell, until after my peak race......  

Step #3
Cut the crap out of your diet

Processed sugars, foods that you're "Eating because I can because I'm riding so much", and in general highly processed foods, all have to go. Especially for post-workouts. This is where many well-intending athletes have gone awry, including myself when I first started training and riding seriously. 

This is a really simple mistake that many people make, and yet, it is also incredibly easy to fix, by simply doing the following:

  • Read nutrition labels
  • Educate yourself as to what the different terms for added sugar are (I.e. Concentrated Apple juice)
  • Start eating more fresh produce
  • Cut ALL Alcohol out of your diet- nothing but empty calories

 

Post-Ride meals are an important part of training and racing, but can totally derail your efforts to lean out, IF you are not careful!

Post-Ride meals are an important part of training and racing, but can totally derail your efforts to lean out, IF you are not careful!

Step #4
Slightly short yourself on the post- ride calories...


But do so with Nutrient DENSE foods (Ahem, Fresh produce).

For me, way back when I started riding, it was "I ride a lot so I can eat a lot". However, I ate relatively healthy things- Home made pizza light on the cheese and with lots of fresh veggies on top, Pasta, Lean beef, chicken, rice...they were all healthy foods. 

But I made a mistake that cyclists of all backgrounds tend to make, and that is over-estimating their caloric need in the time immediately after a ride. Needless to say, it was SUPER frustrating to see the scale going up, even the slightest, when I was "EATING THE RIGHT THINGS!!!"

It's in the time immediately post-ride that can have the biggest impact on a riders weight, and ability to lean out. Mid-day or late-night "snacks"- when one has done a poor job of timing their nutrition (more on that later)- is the second leading cause of body composition frustrations in endurance athletes.

Let's do a quick overview of how eating too much post-ride happens, and how one SHOULD BE calculating caloric needs based on their ride.

 

  • Pre-Ride meals/nutrition PLUS on-bike Nutrition tend to supply about 50% of the total caloric needs for that ride
  • Post-Ride recovery shake/ drink (You ARE drinking these, right?)  is 15-25%
  • Post-workout meal is there to replace 20-30% 

 

It's this last part that those looking to lose weight tend to overshoot. We think "Hey! according to my powermeter I just burned 2,050kj, so I can eat 2,050 post-ride!" 

Really, the thought should be:
Power meter says I burned 2,050 kj.... How should I fuel now?
Let me think about about what I ate so far for the ride:

Ok, So I had breakfast, which was around 450 calories about 90 min before the ride.
Then on the ride I had:
4 gels (x100cal)= 400 cal
1 cliff bar= 250 cal
1 bottle of sports drink =300 cal
3 bottles of water

So that's 950 on the bike, plus 450 for breakfast, so that's 1,400cal so far.  

My Post-Ride Recovery smoothie gave me another 400cal.

Hmmm, So what should I eat for recovery to keep me moving in the right direction for my peak race, I have a debt of 250 calories right now...

 

Unfortunately most folks are not thinking this way, and instead think post ride they can eat the SAME amount of calories that their powermeter says they burned....

In the 2 -2.5 months leading up to your peak race (this is early spring for those peaking in Mid June/July), slightly undercut replacing all of your calories burned on each ride, BUT when you do this ensure you are getting enough healthy fats, proteins, and are increasing the fresh produce into your post-ride food. 

This can be as simple as adding in fresh or frozen berries or greens into your post-workout recovery smoothie/shake to make them more filling/nutrient dense. 

Then, the last 4-6 weeks pre-peak race (at this point you should be just 2-3 pounds away from goal body composition) aim for fresh produce and some proteins for your post-ride meal, cutting down the caloric density significantly to help you get to your goal Body Composition.

You can get to your Peak Race in great shape, and body composition, with the help of an RD/LD, or by putting thought and care into your daily nutrition

You can get to your Peak Race in great shape, and body composition, with the help of an RD/LD, or by putting thought and care into your daily nutrition

 

Step #5
Start utilizing NUTRIENT TIMING to maximize the impact of everything you eat, so you can support your training, AND your leaning-out efforts appropriately!

This is where the post-ride smoothie comes in to play, and can really help you along the way.

Or, If you are not one for recovery drinks/shakes, you can try to time your rides so that when you get back it is time for one of the major meals of the day, thus helping you eat less due to fewer "snacks" or "Small meals" throughout the day. 

Use pre-Ride meals (2-3 hrs pre-ride) to set you up for a strong ride, and try to eat REAL foods on the bike, in smaller amounts (but meet your bodies needs!) throughout the ride. Be smart here, as no one likes to have to stop for a bathroom break every 2 hours (Mind your fiber!). On-the bike we want to meet our caloric needs as best as we can. 


Of course through this all, it is important to ensure that you are eating appropriately to support normal body functions, eating enough to support your training and racing, as well as to check that you are NOT losing more than 3-5 pounds of muscle mass a year (if you're coming from a sport where more muscle has been added, such as American Football or Basketball), as doing so can create a huge negative hit on your training quality.

There is a ton of information I wish I could give you on leaning down for peak races, but I hope this post has opened your eyes a bit about the significant considerations, and the complexities that lie within, of how to properly change your body composition to get to your goal race in tip-top condition. 


Remember if you're "Super serious this year dude!" spend the time and money to work with a Registered/Licensed Dietitian. If you're looking to just dip your toe in the water, ensure that you are in good health, are keeping a Training/racing and food logs, and remember that if you're losing weight, but:

A. Getting sick more often
B. Suffering 'small injuries' from normal training
C. Have had a change in personality such that your friends and family turn heel and walk the other way
D. Seeing your power number drop and can't figure out why

Chances are you're doing it wrong, and should seek help immediately. 
 

Some of you may be wondering "What about Sober Rides (Endurance rides with no eating before or during)?" 

That is a topic for another post....
 

 


Menachem Brodie is a USA Cycling Expert Level, and Power Based Training Certified Coach. He is also a certified NSCA-CSCS (Strength Coach) with extensive experience working with athletes from the professional to amateur levels around the world. 

Learn more about working with Menachem here.

Physical Therapy: You're missing half the point

Physical Therapy: You're missing half the point

We must begin to think beyond the label of an athlete being injured, and recognize the fact that THIS is the time where we can truly MAKE the athletes will and determination infallible. It is an incredibly vulnerable time for the athlete, one in which they will often have negative self-thoughts, bouts of depression, and even "go to a dark place" which can totally derail them from their pre-injury optimistic and positive character.... and this can have a massively negative lifelong effect.

January: Setting the table for success

January: Next season is just up the road....get started on the right foot! Photo property of Menachem Brodie

January: Next season is just up the road....get started on the right foot!
Photo property of Menachem Brodie

The dead of winter is upon us, as January has just hit its halfway mark. This is the time of year for trainer rides and Strength Training; for sharpening your mental abilities as much as you are your physical abilities. But with all the changes in the approach to training for Cycling, what should you actually be focusing on RIGHT NOW, if the meat of your season falls in July-August?

There are many variable that one can look at when trying to answer this question, but we're going to look at the ones that can have the biggest impact on your season:
1. On-bike workout focus
2. Strength Training
3. Racing-Weight Game Plan

 

 

1. On-Bike workout focus
Have you ever tried riding on ONLY the trainer for more than 3 weeks in a row? 

It's mind-numbing, and can really push you to your mental limits (here is where I want to give mad props to those living in Minne-Snow-ta, and other heavy snow-precipitation areas), as not only is it as fun as having your cavities filled, but it also can topple a great fall base period.
So how do we keep on track?

For the serious cyclist out there, the base period should take up 10-16 weeks of the training year. Why? Because the broader and deeper (deeper is pretty key here!) the base one builds, the higher fitness which one can build on top. That being said, we mustn't ONLY focus on endurance (breadth), as we also need to work on our major weaknesses within the base time of the year. For some of you this may be 3 minute VO2 Max efforts, and for others it may be 8-10 second sprinting abilities...

This is where I've broken a bit with more "traditional" coaching philosophies for my non-professional/non-elite riders and Triathletes, as we will absolutely do baseline Lactate Threshold (zone 4) work, as well as start to build a better platform for energy systems that the specific athlete may have struggled with the past 1-2 seasons. 

Yes, my professional riders and triathletes will do this threshold and other higher-energy system work, but we'll save that for another day, as that is a whole other level of training.

 

 

"Width is cute, but depth is everything."
- Gary Vaynerchuck

 


Yes, you read that correctly, there IS intensity in base. After all, the whole point of base is to get you up a few levels from where you currently are, so we can build even higher. And that means diggin' your fitness well a bit deeper AND wider.

Now, that being said, this addition of intensity, does NOT come at the expense of longer, strictly endurance rides, as those are absolutely integral. But, it does mean that for most of those athletes who are training 3-4 days mid-week, that 2 of those day will be high intensity, and somewhat shorter rides, to allow us to punch the specific energy system up.

 

Take home: January is a fantastic time to start thinking about which energy systems were not up to par last season, and to begin adding in 2x a week SHORTER workouts, with those as a focus.
 

Image property of Menachem Brodie

Image property of Menachem Brodie

2.Strength Training

10 years ago, when I started Human Vortex Training's studio at Big Bang bicycles, riders literally laughed at me when I told them they needed to do off-bike strength training in order to perform better on the bike. 

Thankfully the mentality towards strength training has changed, and riders finally understand the importance of PROPER and APPROPRIATE strength training in boosting performance. 

While "CrossFit Endurance" seems like a nice start- it is very trendy and the "it" thing to do right now- it is not the best option for 90%+ of you....Nor are the specialized weight machines at the gym. 

Teaching you how to actually MOVE and feel HOW you are supposed to move, should be done using free-weights, barbells, resistance bands, & bodyweight for the first few months. For many of you reading this, this will (usually) mean your ENTIRE first year of strength training. 

The focus of your first few weeks of strength training, should be on learning what movement deficits you have, and learning the dynamic warmups (You can see examples of dynamic warmups on my YouTube Channel, such as Healthy Cycling Series™ #5 Lunge Reach Twist Psoas Stretch, and Healthy Cycling Series™ #6 Wall Hip Flexor Warm-up) along with movements that will help you being to "wake up" the body to move more properly.

And while Box jumps and Plyometrics are a lot of fun, look super cool, and DO have a proper place in a cyclists off-bike training program, your first few months of strength training is NOT it. Instead, what we want to do, is make sure that you prepare your body to handle these forces by shifting the joints into better alignment by strengthening weaker muscles, so they (muscles) can do their jobs of protecting and moving the joint.

Take home: Start strength training with learning how to do the 5 basic human movements, with great technique, and learning dynamic warmups/movements to help you shift back towards better joint balance/health, especially at the hips and shoulders!

The 5 basic human movements we want to focus on are:

1. Squat
2. Hinge (deadline, Kettle bell swings)
3. Push
4. Pull
5. Press (overhead- this one you need to be very careful of, as most cyclists have poor shoulder mobility/stability overhead)

And of course, learn how to use the obliques in their strongest role- aiding in the transfer of power, by locking the hips and ribs together. (You can do side-bends and sit-ups, but please, it won't improve your sprint).
 

Photo property of Menachem Brodie

Photo property of Menachem Brodie


3. Racing Weight game plan

For those who are just getting into the whole "racing weight" scene, or those looking to find a "better" racing weight for this coming season, there a few things you should keep in mind.

In order to "get" to an ideal racing weight for the peak of your season, you should be coming UP from that weight in the fall/early winter, by about 6-10 pounds (Yes, you read that correctly). However, this really only applies to those who lost 4-10 pounds for their peak the previous season. If you did not lose weight into your peak the last season, then you can skip the weight gain part.

This is absolutely vital to allowing you to recover from the past season and prepare for the stress of the next season for a few reasons, as body fat serves a number of purposes in the human body that allow for normal, and sport performance. These reasons are:

A. Fat serves to allow us to regulate our hormones better
B. Fat is simply energy reserves. A pound of fat =3,500 calories in storage.

And on top of these very vital reasons, by putting on a few (less than 12!) pounds, one is also providing the body with the essentials to repair damage done to the body by the last season of racing. 

This is NOT an athlete I've coached, but rather gives you a realistic idea of what 15% and 10% body fat looks like on your average guy.
Photo Via:
https://jasondoesstuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/day-1-30-60-90.jpg

One last thought on this topic, and one that must be made 100% clear- 
IF you are carrying around more than 10-12% body fat (this "looks" fatter than many of you may realize, as mainstream media has us thinking that 5% body fat is "normal"), then this rule of putting on a few pound over your last seasons racing weight, does NOT apply to you, UNLESS you dropped down to 6-8% body fat, in which case, you should ONLY put on enough weight to get back up near your starting point.

For the average racer, who has a 9-5 job, and trains regularly to be competitive, holding a body fat around 10% +/- seems to be ideal as a starting point, as any more than 10% body fat can put a serious damper on your season, and really weigh you down (literally).

In my own practice, I've found that riders who start the season around  10% body fat, and who eat well/clean in order to properly support their training and performance, tend to see, with a few small adjustments to the food intake TIMING and meal composition- a drop of 2-3% body fat through the build portion of their season. 

This brings them to the meat of their racing calendar having a great life balance, as well as in fantastic shape to crush it. 

If you're looking for specific questions, have been stymied by the complexities of getting down to your racing weight, or you simply want someone to guide you on this part of your journey, then you should seek out a Registered and Licensed Dietician to help you.

Take home: If you got down to being that "skinny fast guy" during your peak last year, trying to hold that weight year-round can be extremely detrimental to your performance, and long-term success.  If you raced last year and went rom 16% body fat to 10% body fat, you should look to maintain that body fat % through base, and slowly get down to a leaner, yet sustainable number, through your build phase.

*NOTE* Healthy body fat %'s are HIGHER for females. 



Bottom lines for January Training (for a July-August peak):
1. Intensity is a GOOD thing, as long as it is the right amount, at the right time, and in balance with the pure endurance rides that are appropriate in duration (mileage/distance) for your upcoming seasons demands. 

2. Strength Training is great- but make sure you're learning HOW to move first. Save the plyometrics for the spring, after you've gotten a better balance at the joints, and have addressed your major movement issues.

3. Now is the time to start thinking about your ideal racing weight for the season, and beginning the process of slowly getting leaner, as you increase your strength and prowess on the bike. 

Learn from Coach Brodie

Over the last few years, Coach Brodie has shared some of his knowledge with the world through blogs, presentations, and videos. 
Below you can find some of his Previous Presentations for USA Cycling on "Strength Training for Cyclists", an area he is highly sought out for. 
 

Strength Training for cycling has been Coach Brodie's specialty since 2008.

Strength Training for cycling has been Coach Brodie's specialty since 2008.

Recorded Webinars:

USA Cycling Coaches Seminar- "Strength Training: How to program your athletes for success"
Instructor: Menachem Brodie, USAC Expert Coach, Power Based Training Certified, SICI Certified Bike fitter
This webinar examines the how’s and whys of strength training for cycling success, including looking at common target areas to help your cyclist both young and old, enjoy more success and more time on the bike and decrease their risk of developing injuries.

 

USA Cycling Coaches Seminar-  "Pre-Season Strength Training: Areas of greatest return"
Instructor: Menachem Brodie
This presentation provides attendees with the necessary tools to build a solid foundation for their athletes allowing them to push their physiological limits on the bike with a solid foundation keyed in to decreased risk of injury and increased performance.

 

USA Cycling Coaches Seminar- "How to keep your athletes healthy for a full season"
Instructor: Menachem Brodie
This webinar covers the small things that can have a big impact on performance as well as touching on the athlete-coach relationship ensuring the best season each athlete has had yet.

 


USA Cycling Coaches Seminar- "Collegiate Cycling: The road less taken to the Elite levels"

USA Cycling-Coaches Seminar- "Strength Training for Success"

***Please note, that for all USA Cycling Coaches Webinars, that you MUST log-on to USA Cycling's website, and create an account. All proceeds from these webinars go to USA Cycling.