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Cycling Q&A - Nutrition, Supplementation, Workouts And More!

Here is a great Q & A on cycling and what recommendations can be made in regard to nutrition and training. Hope you find these useful in planning out your training program.

I enjoyed your brief summary of Bicycle Racing 101, but I am most interested in learning more about nutrition and supplementation

For example, what is best for recovery after a TT (when you feel like you are going to throw up)? I look forward to that article.

Take care,
Trent Kolbe
Business Manager, Clinical Affairs
College of Dentistry, University of Saskatchewan


Thanks for the feedback! To be honest, my first article's primary purpose was to troll for areas of interest within the subject of competitive cycling.

As your message indicates, the subjects of nutrition and supplementation came up at the head of the list along with pre-race preparations, tactics, and periodization. My intent is to focus on pre-race prep and then nutrition in following articles.

To quickly address your question: recovery, in any type of competitive event, is based much more strongly on what you do before the race rather than after.

Training: From a training perspective, without the proper aerobic base you will never sustain the speed work that comes later on, never mind sustaining an effort just below your anaerobic threshold for the duration of a TT.

Nutrition: From a nutrition perspective, a proper diet (I maintain a 20% fat, 40% carb, 40% protein diet) is imperative along with carb loading the week before an event.

Carb loading ensures that you start the race with maximal glycogen stores in your muscles as well as your liver. Proper nutrition (20%, 40%, 40%) coupled with a proper aerobic base enables your body to burn fat as a primary fuel source rather than relying on glycogen alone.

If proper pre-race training/nutrition has been rigorously established, little more than proper hydration and judicious use of GU's will get you through. Followed, of course, by a major pasta pig-out!

Hope this helps & thanks again for the feedback.

I am actually new to the sport and I was wondering if you knew of any place that I could find some good workouts and meal plans? Any advice please let me know! Thanks!

Eric Eagan
Recreation Coordinator
The Arc of Monroe County

Hey Eric!

There's a lot of good info available on the Internet and a google search should turn up tons of results. Websites such as provide useful forums to ask questions and post views on a wide variety of topics with cyclists from all over the world, at all levels of expertise.

Another good resource is They provide a Website, a free weekly newsletter, as well as a fee based service all full of excellent information on all facets of cycling.

Although Websites are a great way to keep up on the latest training and nutrition trends, I find that the following books provide a good overall foundation for the beginning cyclist.

On the subject of nutrition, the following are my favorites:

As for books on training, it depends a lot on the type of training approach is best for you and, more importantly, just what are you training for? Racing? Long distance? Randonneuring? Recreational? Just getting started and don't know yet?

For racing, Joe Friel has popularized the concept of "periodization" first used by Eddie B. as the Director of the Polish National Cycling Team. He has a number of excellent books on the subject of training and nutrition. In addition, I find the following books great for racing tactics:

For authors who have written excellent books ranging from recreational to racing try anything by Edmund Burke, PhD, especially his book on long distance training, and Arnie Baker, MD.

These books and Websites will provide you with a good foundation for the beginning, serious cyclist. Good luck & feel free to e-mail me with any further questions you may have.

Good legs,

I would like to start road cycling and I've already looked at some bikes and gear.

Well basically I want to do it for fitness and weight loss ... I was athletic a few years back (I'm 29 now), I am kind of still athletic and engage in some sports but I've found jogging to be a bit painful and hard to do it for longer than 30-40 minutes. That's why I want to cycle so I can ease the pain on my joints; I'm not as light as when I was younger.

What Cycling Training Would You Recommend For fat loss, and to become a better cyclist and work my stamina up to become the next Miguel Indurain

Thanks for your help,
Sydney, AUS.

Hey Glenn!

Sorry about the knees but it's pretty common for runners and dual/triatheletes to turn to cycling when their knees start to bother them. Before I answer your questions let me give you a pointer about your knees in relation to cycling.

You're going to want to develop a good spinning style in order to take the strain off your knees. Pushing big gears 'alla Jan Ullrich may be fun but it's murder on your knees and legs.

By spinning at a cadence of 90 rpm or more, using relatively easy gears, you'll take the strain off your knees and legs and put it on your cardiovascular system. Try spinning a 39/14-15-gear combination at a cadence of 90 rpm or more, especially when going up hills.

What you're really driving at is the concept of periodization first developed by Eddy B. when he was head of the Polish National Team and introduced into the United States when he coached the U.S. cycling team to nine gold medals in 1984! The concept of periodization was further developed and popularized by Joe Friel.

Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach, has applied the concepts of periodization to the field of nutrition in his recent book. I highly recommend the books authored by Joe Friel for a detailed explanation of this training technique.

To summarize this approach briefly and to apply it to your particular situation, Glenn, you need to first estimate your maximum heart rate. You can go to a doctor or sports center to do this, or you can arrive at this estimation on your own. Get on your bicycle or indoor trainer and perform a good 20-30 minute warm up.

After warming up shift down to your easiest gear, usually your 39/25. Spin at a 90-rpm cadence for a minute then shift up to the next gear, spin at this gear for one minute then shift up again. Do this until you are in your hardest gear, usually your 52/12, and then stand and sprint for as hard and as long as you can while a friend monitors your heart rate with a heart rate monitor (which can be purchased at any cycling supply store).

Have them record the maximum heart rate you achieve before your effort diminishes due to fatigue. This is your maximum heart rate (HRmax). Keep in mind that there are several "scientific" equations out there to estimate HRmax but these methods are highly unreliable.

Now you need to use your HRmax to calculate your performance zones. This is done in the following fashion:

Excercise Zones Calculator

Enter Your Age - Then press Calculate.
Maximum Heart Rate
Zone 1: (< 65%) Easy riding, recovery
Zone 2: (66-72%) Basic endurance, aerobic capacity
Zone 3: (73-80%) Tempo, aerobic capacity
Zone 4: (84-90%) Anaerobic threshold
Zone 5: (91-100%) Vo2, sprint training, max efforts

The Zones Explained

1 / This zone is used mainly for recovery rides or not at all

Personally, I prefer to not cycle at all on days I would ordinarily cycle in Zone 1.

2 / This is the zone that most fat burning occurs

Long (45--65 mile) Zone 2 rides are excellent for building aerobic capacity while tuning your body to burn fat.

3 / This zone is called, "The Dead Man's Zone" as little is accomplished cycling in this zone

Interestingly enough, this is the zone we most tend to peddle in when left to our own devices.

The trouble with Zone 3 is that it's not demanding enough to increase anaerobic performance yet is too demanding to increase aerobic performance. It may feel good to pedal in this zone but it doesn't accomplish anymore than that.

4 / This is your anaerobic threshold zone where most speed work is conducted

It should be noted that Time Trials are performed in Zone 4.

5 / Zone 5 is the anaerobic zone and can be sustained for short intervals, primarily during sprint finishes

Riders capable of riding in this zone after cycling 125 miles or more, such as Petacchi and the great Cipo, are valued for this rare ability.

What does all this have to do with the price of bananas, you ask?

Put all this zone work together and you have a typical race cyclists training schedule. During the winter months I partake in long, slow, aerobic rides in zone 2 in order to burn winter fat, increase my bodies fat utilization ability and most importantly, to establish my aerobic base.

I can't stress enough the importance of establishing a strong aerobic base. This base is the foundation of your training and you won't be able to develop speed and strength skills without a robust aerobic base.

In the spring, I maintain my Zone 2 rides on the weekend but start performing interval training and speed/strength training during the week.

Interval training involves sustaining workout intensities in the Zone 4 and 5 areas for a minute or more at a time then slowing to Zone 2 to recover.

Often, sitting in my basement on my indoor trainer I'll turn my TV onto a favorite show. During the commercials I pedal at a high cadence/intensity sustaining Zone 4 levels of exertion. I recover during the show, peddling at a Zone 2, aerobic rate.

As the season progresses, so does the amount of interval training until April when I start to race. During the race season, my typical schedule is as follows:

  • Monday - Rest day
  • Tuesday - Spin 1 - 2 hrs
  • Wednesday - Weight training; arms and back
  • Thursday - Laps at a local Business Park; intervals
  • Friday - Hill intervals
  • Saturday - Race or Team Ride (45-100 miles)
  • Sunday - Race or Team Ride (45-100 miles)

So there you go, Glenn! I hope I answered your questions! Stick to Zone 2, aerobic training to increase fat loss. Periodize your annual training schedule to ride like Miguel Indurain!

Get back to me if you have any more questions.

Part 1 | Part 2

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