Cycling Q&A - Nutrition, Supplementation, Workouts And More, No. 2

This is a Q & A on cycling and what recommendations can be made in regard to starting a new season, supplementation and group rides. Get a good start with some great information right here.

Q / Hello. I've read your articles and thought you might have some info for me on cyclists taking additional B vitamins. I know that some pros receive B12 injections to assist in cleansing their livers, but I've never seen B12, or any B vitamins, listed in a list of supplements recommended for cyclists. Any thoughts for or against?

Patrick Hawley

Pat, interesting question. Endurance athletes have been shown to benefit from B vitamin supplementation. So why the dearth of info on the subject? It's because the vitamin B complex vitamins are one of the most plentiful and easiest to obtain through basic good nutrition.

In addition, B vitamins are commonly added to other foods to "enhance" their nutritional properties as well as being common additives to many other supplements.

There's a tendency these days to supplement for supplementation's sake! One needs to take a long, hard look at one's REAL supplementation needs.

First review your diet. If you eat cleanly and from a wide variety of food sources spread out evenly throughout the day I'm sure you'll find that, in most instances, you are well above the recommended daily allowances of most vitamins in the first place.

This is especially the case with B vitamins. Then cast your eye on the areas that need additional supplementation. Antioxidants? Healthy omega 3 oils? This process resulted in the stack I use today.

Vitamin & Supplement Stack

Before Weight Lifting/Racing/Hard Ride:
  1. Korean Ginseng (648mg) - Great for energy!
  2. Leucine (1-2g) - Amino acid shown to aid in muscle growth/recovery
  3. Carb/Protein Drink @ 3-4 part carbs to 1 part protein (I'm a big fan of nutrient timing)
After Weight Lifting/Racing/Hard Dide (Within 45 Minutes):
  1. Glutamine (1-2g)
  2. Leucine (1-2g)
  3. Protein drink
  4. Antioxidant (primarily with vitamins C, A, E, alpha lipoic acid)
  1. Multivitamin (contains most of the B vitamins you'll ever need)
  2. Milk Thistle, 175 mg (2/day) - For liver health
  3. DHEA, 100mg in the morning - Hey! I'm 51 already!
  4. Fish Oil, 1,000mg (2/day) - Great source of omega 3 fatty acids.
  5. Lecithin (2,400 mg/day) - Cardiovascular protection, Promotes energy, Delay fatigue
  6. Calcium & Magnesium Citrate, 750mg, 500mg (2/day)
  7. Green Tea Extract (470 mg/2x Day) - Great antioxidant!
  8. Snooze-In: Calcium (40mg), Magnesium (30mg), L-Taurine (50mg), Melatonin (3 mg), Valerian (100 mg), Hops (75 mg), Skullcap (75 mg), Chamomile (75 mg), Passion Flower (50 mg) - 1 cap, 1 hour before going to bed for deep, REM sleep.

If you want to experiment with the use of B complex vitamins or feel that your diet would benefit from such supplementation (eat more whole grains!) they're pretty inexpensive and safe. They're water soluble and your body will secrete any excess through your urine (which you will notice turns a bright, neon, day-glow yellow).

For this reason, remember to spread your dosages evenly throughout the day or else you will accomplish little else than producing expensive urine!

Another thing to consider, B vitamins work best when used together. Take a good vitamin B COMPLEX rather than individual dosages of the various B vitamins alone.

As for Vitamin B12 shots? Professional racers appear to be taking MANY things I wouldn't recommend.

The question that begs to be asked is, are you so perfect in your training, diet, strategy and technique that the only way you can improve is by taking B12, or any other for that matter?

Get to work and forget about them shots!

Q / I have been taking 3g of fish oil for the last 3 years (hereditary high cholesterol), and I noticed in Callum Mahoney's recent article on (part 3 in his series which focused on supplements).

I'm wondering what leads you to take 2g/day and not more, or phrased directly, what is your take on Mahoney's 6g/day recommendation?

Indeed ... I wasn't intending on getting B12 shots. I simply heard about pro racers using them to help their livers repair themselves and was wondering if a B Complex would be helpful for us lesser athletes.

I liked your amusing lines at the end ... I'm a big advocate of one losing the extra 10 pounds sitting on one's waist rather than spending $150 more on a bike component that is 75g lighter!

Thanks again for your valuable insight!

Pat, with regards to your question concerning Callum Mahoney's recommended 6-10g/day of fish oil:

  1. Callum's article makes no mention of dietary intake of fatty acids. As I recommended in my previous response, one needs to take a serious look at dietary intake before supplementation in order to ascertain areas of deficiency so as to avoid over supplementation or supplementation for supplementation's sake.

    Personally, I favor whole foods and regularly eat fish high in fatty acids 2 - 3 times per week. Preferably, these fish are of the cold salt-water variety. In addition I regularly use flax seed on my soups and salads thereby naturally increasing the amounts of omega 3 fatty acids I ingest.

    In light of this, I find that supplementation of 2g/day is more than adequate. When considering my dietary intake, along with my supplementation, my total intake of fatty acids falls well within the range set forth by Callum.

  2. Another consideration is total caloric intake and its constituent parts. I try to maintain a dietary intake of 20% healthy fats, 40% carbohydrates and 40% protein, unless I'm carb loading before a race.

    I also try to maintain a daily caloric intake of 3,000 calories. It can be seen that daily caloric intake and compositional breakdown of that intake into its component parts will directly effect how much additional intake of fatty acids, in the form of supplementation, is necessary.

In other words, a person maintaining a dietary intake of 5,000 calories a day with a compositional make up of 30% - 40% - 30% will need to consume more fatty acids than a person, such as myself, maintaining a daily caloric intake of 3,000 calories compositionally made up of 20 % - 40% - 40%.

With regard to your observations, Amen! So many racers I know would rather spend big bucks on titanium widgets and carbon gadgets than give up that bowl of ice cream! Oh well, that's what makes horse racing, I guess.

No, I didn't think you were going to run out and get B-12 shots, just making a point that quick fixes rarely work for long and that our focus, as racers and athletes, should be on proper training, nutrition and lifestyle. As for us lesser athletes, try milk thistle as an inexpensive and safe alternative to B-12 shots.

As an aside, one might argue that I contradicted myself through my use of lecithin supplementation, as the primary constituent of lecithin is choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient, a b-vitamin and can be manufactured in the body (from the amino acid methionine), although there is some debate whether it can be made in sufficient amounts for optimal health.

Among endurance athletes, choline supplements may be warranted due to a presumed low intake of choline (due to reliance on a high carbohydrate diet for energy) and an increased loss of choline following exercise.

On A Final Note:

This discussion assumes that you are NOT a vegetarian! Vegetarian athletes might do well to consider B complex supplementation.

Again, as I have previously emphasized, one needs to take a good hard look at one's dietary intake, caloric intake, and dietary composition before undertaking ANY supplementation plan.

Q / I'm a D.C. area rider thinking about getting fit and racing, maybe starting as early as next spring, and I need a bit of training advice if you are willing to provide it.

First, where I am right now is old (38) and a recovering weightlifter/rugby player, two months into my "reborn" cycling career. (Re-cycled?) Think "retired linebacker" and you'll have a good idea of what I look like.

In my youth (think "running back" and you'll be in the ballpark for my size and build) I was a fair time trialist, mid to upper 20s for 10 milers. The weight is pretty much falling off me these days, and I'm getting a little bored with touring rides with PPTC since I'm a hopeless type A personality, and getting competitive on a hill with your touring ride group often just irritates them.

I'm a strong CC/honest B rider, finished last week's Historic Backroads Century averaging 16.5, without undue strain other than a 5-mile portion around mile 45 where I was riding comfortably in a weaving pattern somewhere near Neptune with John Tesh and Deepak Chopra. (I'm not kidding, I was out of it).

On shorter moderately hilly rides around my home near Crownsville, I can pull an average of about 18 - 18.5 for up to 25-30 miles, and I'm learning to keep my speed up around 14-15 even on fairly long hills. Not ready to push with the BB's yet, or with the skinnier B's on a really hilly course, but working on it.

By next spring, with the help of my rollers and some winter training rides, a couple spin classes a week and a little dieting and targeted time in the weight room, I hope to be at around 220 lbs or a little lower, and ready to start getting my a** kicked by little kids, grannies, 1-legged men and pretty much everybody else in races.

I can do aerobically based exercises pretty well - I've played rugby up to just below the national level (fair pain threshhold), and at one point in my mid 20s was running 6 fast miles a day, and doing a sub 10:30 two mile on my Army PT test.

So I know I have some potential to at least ride with the squids and that's why I am pretty set on trying to race; but I accept that nobody who weighs as much as I do at max thinness will ever be a great racer.

All that said, I don't care, I accept that "A" riders will offer me donuts as they pass me on steep climbs, I still want to see what I can do. Starting from the assumption that I'll never win the Tour de France or an Olympic gold, but could maybe some day potentially not pose a road hazard to other racers, and maybe even dust a few people off as I haul (considerable) butt past them, here are my questions:

  • I know paceline work in races and serious training is faster and in some ways easier than training alone; how fast/strong should I be on my own, before I start working in?
  • Aside from the obvious - ride more - what kind of riding and fitness exercises should I be doing to build rudimentary fitness to try to work in on group training rides? (I know I'll suck for a while but don't want to make rides suck for others).

    I have Joe Friel's book and it's wonderful, but a guy who weighs 260 doesn't need to understand the intricacies of rear hub Watt meters to know that he needs to improve his power/weight ratio). I'm looking to keep up maybe 120 miles per week over the winter, with 30 - 50 minutes on the rollers a couple times a week, and maybe a spin class once a week, upping it when spring rolls around.

    If you know where I can find a good rudimentary roadracing training program for Phreds like me, I'd appreciate it.
  • Where might I find a good club to start with around D.C.? Again, this is sort of a cultural question, some clubs seem really deadly serious, others seem kind of welcoming, and others seemed focused on fielding developmental sides. This question is linked to questions 1 and 2, obviously.

See you on the road either way.
Jim McNeely

Hey Jim! First off, I'm a ride leader for PPTC and lead a number of "CC" & "B" rides, most originating in the Laytonsville area of Maryland, which should be right up your alley.

I'll be leading a great ride on Sunday, October 23rd leaving from Laytonsville Shopping Center if you're interested in joining me for a ride and some talk. If not, I'm sure we'll bump into each other eventually. Check it out on the PPTC Website.

Getting back on subject, great letter! You sure provided me w/enough info to make some recommendations. I have one word to say to you: NOW!!! That's right, NOW!!! Now is the time to get started laying the groundwork to start racing this coming season. What do you need to do? Four things:

1. Set A Goal

Being a self-described "Type A" personality you need something to work toward. Assuming you want to start racing at the start of the next season, I would make participating in the Tradezone Training Race Series my top priority.

Tradezone is a series of training races usually held every Sunday between the third week in February through the third week of March. They are held at the Tradezone Business Park in Upper Marlboro, MD.

What is a training race? Just that, a race where no BAR points are awarded - the goal being to see where you're at after a winter of, hopefully, training.

These are great for newbies to participate in, as they tend to be a lot less competitive in nature yet remain true to the spirit of racing. A great place to get used to pack riding, rider etiquette and pack dynamics.

2. Start Doing Laps At A Local Business Park

Thursday nights find me doing laps at Gateway Business Plaza in Columbia, MD. Gateway consists of an approximately 2-mile loop shaped roughly like a "D". Half consists of a slight decline, the other half incline with one 90-degree turn.

I know I can always find riders from different clubs there to practice with or ride alone if I so choose. Doing laps is a great way to develop technique. In the winter, doing laps is a great way of developing a good aerobic base.

Have a mechanical or just get cold; your ride is always within walking distance. In the spring and summer doing laps is a great way to develop paceline skills as well as practicing attacks and sprints with the other riders. Riding alone I focus on my speed work and intervals.

Usually I start out with a few warm-up laps just spinning. Then I alternate hard, fast laps where I sprint up the inclines with a recovery lap. Somewhere along the line I fall in with a group of riders practicing high-speed paceline work, which usually results in riders attacking off the front as I try to reel them back in.

A few recovery laps and it's time to go home with 25 miles or so under my belt. Find a business park with little weekend traffic near you.

3. Group Rides

No matter how many laps you do, nothing will get you race ready as participating in group rides.

As you point out, touring clubs such as the PPTC and BBC are NO places to do this. Usually group rides originate, and are sponsored by, local bike shops (LBS).

To find good group rides near you, the best place to start is at your local LBS who can usually point you in the right direction. But brace yourself; these rides are not for the feint of heart or the thin-skinned. Group rides are brutal!

Bicycling is a traditional sport and traditionally, the way to get race ready is to participate in a group ride, holding on for as long as you can, until you blow up and get dropped. Getting dropped NEVER feels good!

My suggestion is to let the ride leader know that you're new and that in the event of you getting dropped to just let you fend for yourself. Over time, as you regularly participate, you'll hang on to someone's wheel for longer and longer periods until you can hang with the best of them.

You'll notice something else too; riders really appreciate tenacity over skill level. Skill level is an increasing commodity when tenacity is present!

To get you started, here are some regularly held group rides in the Baltimore/Howard County area:

  • Saturday and Sunday Team Training Rides: Group rides leaving from Mt. Washington-Joe's Bike located at Falls Rd and Kelly Ave (5813 Falls Rd). 410-323-2788.
  • West Side: Group ride from the soccer field parking lot at the junction of Carrs Mill Road and Rte 97 in Howard County. This location can be reached from I70 by getting off at the Rte 97 exit and heading 2 miles south to the traffic light where Carrs Mill and McKendree cross Rte 97. Ride starts at 9 a.m. Contact Bill Neuman,
  • Saturday mornings: Max Prola host's rides meeting at Princeton Sports, a bike and ski store in Columbia. Driving North on 29, take the main Columbia Entrance that takes you to the Mall. Make a Left on Little Patuxent Pkwy, (just before the Mall) pass one light, and Princeton is to the right as you go up the hill toward Howard Community College. Group generally meets @ the start time and leaves about 15 min after the announced time. If it is too cold, trail rides on the Columbia bike paths are substituted.
  • Wednesday Night Ride: Catonsville Bike Shop (410-747-0205), 6400 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City Loop - 25-35 miles, 2 Groups - A & B.
  • Sunday & Sunday Morning Ride: Rolling terrain for a distance of approximately 50 miles. Feel free to call Mike Walther 410-370-7577 (cell), 410-461-2143 (home).
  • North: Lateral Stress's Kris Auer has Thursday night at 6 pm cyclo-cross rides/training at the multi-purpose playing fields located at Falls & Joppa. The fields are lit at night so a bike light is unnecessary.
  • Wednesday night at Oregon Ridge: 6 pm a mix of triathletes, BBC men & women, and old Chesapeake Wheelmen breathe heavily over the hills of Northern Baltimore County.
  • City: Lake Montebello is always good - lights, front and rear, recommended for night riding.
  • Germantown Training Ride: Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at the traffic roundabout in the south Germantown Recreational Park. Parking and bathrooms aplenty, pace will depend on who shows up but we will push it regardless. We'll head toward Poolesville and be sure to hit some hills, Contact Kyle Novak:
  • Snow Valley/LSV Tuesday Night Ronde: Where: Starting at the Rolling Rd/195 Park-n-Ride. When: Every Tuesday, Wheels rolling at 6 p.m. no waiting. ~27 hilly miles. If you live up in the Ellicott City area and are looking for a fast group ride on Tuesday nights, LSV runs a nice ride of about 14 men and women from Catonsville Park and Ride at 195 off of I-95.

4. Join A Club, Already!!!

I can't emphasize enough the importance of belonging to a good race club. Shop around. A good club should have riders who are better than you but are supportive in nature. Having a team coach is definitely a plus.

Go out on group training rides with as many clubs as you can. You'll know when things "click." Where do you go to find clubs? Your group rides are a good place to start. Usually many different clubs are represented on any given group ride, just let the word out that you're, "in the market" so to speak.

You're in a great area as Maryland and New Jersey are the hot spots of east coast racing.

Well Jim, I hope this info will encourage you to bite the bullet and commit to the racing lifestyle.

Give me a yell if I can be of any more help.

Part 1 | Part 2

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