3 Things That Will Make You a Faster Cyclist, This Week!
Often, when we think about improving our cycling skills, we imagine a long gradual process, where we slowly get better, over time. In this article, we are going to show you why this understanding of cycling progression isn't true, and why you should be improving as a cyclist each and every week.
Before we go any further, we want to point out that improvements are variable to your current level fitness level and overall cycling skill level. These 3 points would benefit even the most advanced rider, in fact, most of the professional riders practice these 3 fundamentals, weekly. If you're not already incorporating these principles into your life, consider giving them a shot. These tips will provide a big boost to casual cyclist's overall performance.
1. Start Doing Interval Training:
An interval is a period of time within a workout or ride, where the intensity is increased to a zone above your average training zone. For example, if you typically cruise along at 65% of your maximum heart rate for 1 hour, an interval zone could be anywhere from 75-100% of your maximum heart rate. Typically, the longer the interval is in time, the lower the intensity should be. For example, an interval performed at 75% of the maximum heart rate could be performed for 20 minutes, while an interval at 85% maximum heart rate might only be performed for 5-10 minutes.
Think of interval training like doing sets of weights. Before you head out for a ride you should have an idea of how long you are going to be out on the road. Plan your intervals accordingly, if you're going to go out for a long ride 2+ hours, think about doing some longer higher tempo intervals, maybe 3 sets of 20 minutes. Whereas, if your only going to be out for an hour, think about doing some shorter, more intense work, where you reach 85% of your maximum heart rate for 5 minutes 3-5x throughout the course of the workout.
One more important component to interval training are rest periods. The easiest way to structure your rest periods is equal to the interval length. For example, if your interval is 5 minutes in length, and you've completed the interval, drop down to your cruising heart rate of 60% or so of your max heart rate, for 5 minutes, before beginning your next set/interval. This fundamental is tried tested and true, give it a shot if you're not already doing them.
2. Dial in Your Nutrition
Endurance specific Sports nutrition is arguably one of the most challenging categories to perfect. In order for someone to really figure out exactly how to fuel their body for their genetic, and output requirements, it's going to take some trial an error, and probably a good amount of time. However, sports nutrition is also one of the biggest factors in the overall performance of an athlete. For this reason, we've put together these sports nutrition tips that will help you skip a few steps, and bring your performance up as soon as your start using these tips.
First Tip, give yourself a basic understanding how the 3 fuel sources in your body work. The human body is an incredible machine, and most of the people out there don't pay a lot of attention to things they consume. The 3 fuel sources of your body are Fats, Glycogen, and Proteins. In other words, Fat, Carbs/Sugar, and protein/muscle. Now that you know what the 3 sources of fuel or energy are, let's briefly talk about how your body uses the different sources, and how you can manipulate them to maximize your performance.
Let's start this part of the discussion with fats. Healthy fats are a great source of energy, but in order to utilize them in the right way for sports performance, you need to understand how they work! Fat's are a slow digesting, long lasting energy source. This means that if you're going out for a 2 hour + training session or race, you're going to want to have some form of healthy fats in your nutrition arsenal. Look for sports bars, that have nuts in them, as well as a grain. You want to start eating your foods with fats in them before you start to get hungry, the best advice we can give you is to figure out a rough idea of how many calories you are burning an hour and try to consume at least 40-50% of the hourly rate every 30 minutes, this way you can stay in a healthy caloric balance. While the body can perform well in a caloric deficit, it's important not to drop into that deficit too far away from the finish of the training session.
Now let's talk about Carbs. While for the past decade, or maybe longer, there has been a stigma that carbs are bad, and they "make you fat", Carbohydrates play an essential role in sports performance. Think of carbs as your premium fuel, and protector of the universe against alien invaders. Why are carbs so important? Because they are easiest accessed fuel source in your body. As you go through your workout and burn calories you are depleting your glycogen energy stores (glycogen is carbs). When the intensity is high and the body runs out of carbs/glycogen it will dip heavily into its protein reserves for energy. (this means your body is eating its muscle for energy, and it's really bad) If you are within the final hour of your workout, then your main concern should be consuming fast-acting carbohydrates. Something as simple as a tablespoon of honey can do the trick, however, that can be a little bit hard to access which is why you see so many riders using gel's in the closing KM's of the races. During the closing moments of a hard effort, you want to avoid foods with fats in them because fats will slow down the absorption of the carbs, thus taking longer to get to your muscles, thus making you slower.
Let's quickly touch on the protein energy source. Often overlooked is PROTEIN, when it comes to sports performance. However, many studies have shown us that consuming muscle protecting agents like Branch Chain Amino Acids, will significantly improve the overall performance of an athlete both immediately during an effort, and with recovery after the ride. Protein is typically only used for energy when the body is under a lot of pressure, and out of glycogen. Fueling while your ride with BCAA's will help you keep your body from metabolizing its muscle. However, there is about 30-60 minute time frame where the BCAA's just won't stand up to the pressure of output, and inevitably the body will start to metabolize muscle under these high-intensity circumstances.
The nutrition portion can be a little overwhelming for anyone reading information like this for the first time, so we do encourage you to reach out to a sports performance expert in your area, or contact us and we can direct you to somebody that we know.
Tip 3, Get LIGHTER
If you're not already in single digit body fat this tip will significantly change your riding performance. There are essentially two ways a cyclist can drop weight, buy some new lighter weight bike parts, or drop some body mass. We recommend that you download a nutrition tracking app like MyFitnessPal which is available on IOS andriod and desktop. You'll want to go in and manually set up all of your information in the app ie; Age, weight, activity level, then you'll want to head over the goal section and enter your goal ie; lose 10lbs. Once you've set it up, simply start tracking every single thing that you eat in the app. This will give you a fantastic understanding of what your consuming, and how you can drop body weight just by eating better. Don't forget to track your bike ride's and workouts in the app as well, as these will change your caloric requirements.
So that's it for this article everyone you have 3 tips, that can significantly change your riding performance in just 1 week's time! We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions we are happy to answer them for you.