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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 03-03-09, 06:51 PM   #1
td.tony
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Caloric Deficit good or bad for strength building?

I'm 19 years old, 5'6 and 165-170lbs. Im trying to lose some weight, so obviously im going to be biking a lot and reducing my meal portions throughout the day, leaving me with a caloric deficit leading me to lose weight. But, the real goal of my weight loss is to be able to bike longer, harder, and faster. I also want to be a better climber. To do that, I not only need to lose weight, but I also need to gain strength in my legs.

SO, my question is, does a caloric deficit hinder your ability to repair and recover from bike rides leading to less improvement in strength and endurance than if you were to eat more calories?


If so, I'm wondering if cyclists train similarly to weight lifters, i.e. bulk in the winter for strength, then cut in the early spring to lose weight.

I know that a cyclist's leg muscles is only one small part, and that performance mainly comes from your cardiovascular health, correct? thats why I would assume that one does not need to intake more calories to repair their leg muscles since the size and strength of the leg muscles themselves aren't a huge factor in being a better cyclist. Thats my guess so far..
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Old 03-03-09, 11:09 PM   #2
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SO, my question is, does a caloric deficit hinder your ability to repair and recover from bike rides leading to less improvement in strength and endurance than if you were to eat more calories?
Yes.

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If so, I'm wondering if cyclists train similarly to weight lifters, i.e. bulk in the winter for strength, then cut in the early spring to lose weight.
Many do the opposite- lose weight in the winter and try to hold that during the summer. You don't want to be running too much of a calorie deficit at the same time you are putting in a lot of training, since it slows recovery and muscle tissue regowth. When you stress muscle cells they grown back stronger but you need to eat enough to provide the materials for that regrowth.

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I know that a cyclist's leg muscles is only one small part, and that performance mainly comes from your cardiovascular health, correct? thats why I would assume that one does not need to intake more calories to repair their leg muscles since the size and strength of the leg muscles themselves aren't a huge factor in being a better cyclist. Thats my guess so far..
You do need to rebuild your legs muscles from training. You need cardiovascular (lungs and heart) to get oxygen to the muscles, but the muscles are what's doing the work. Cycling is not a strength activity in that you don't need a lot of brute strength like you would do to a dead lift in the gym. But your leg muscles need to be able to drive the pedals around many thousands of times, every ride. That sort of endurance requires that your muscles reformulate themselves. They may not become that much bulkier but they will get stronger, more effecient and better able to store energy (muscle glycogen). All that takes raw materials.

You can lose weight while training and not lose strength if you lose the weight slowly. The usual rule of thumb is no more than a pound a week of weight loss. A slower rate of weight loss is less likely to slow muscle development. You should make sure that your food is high quality and that you get a good amount of protein and complex carbs.

Keep in mind that speed up long climbs is detrmined by your functional power/weight ratio. It's not just light weight. If you lose a lot of weight and lose power as a result, you may wind up with a lower power/weight ratio than if you didn't lose as much weight and also didn't lose as much power.
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Old 03-04-09, 12:06 AM   #3
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Keep in mind that speed up long climbs is detrmined by your functional power/weight ratio. It's not just light weight. If you lose a lot of weight and lose power as a result, you may wind up with a lower power/weight ratio than if you didn't lose as much weight and also didn't lose as much power.
yeah thats exactly what I'm afraid of doing. But it seems that i dont have that problem, for the last 4 weeks i thought i've been eating less (trying to eat 500 calories less each day), but apparently i only lost one pound, tops. I guess thats better than nothing, but somethings up. i think im intaking more calories than i think, and not biking as hard as i should be in my one hour ride everyday.
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Old 03-04-09, 08:59 AM   #4
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The trick for weight loss for me is to actually track the calories. It's amazing how much I was eating and not even really noticing it. Snacking while making a meal is the biggest culprit for me. I'm using Sparkpeople, it's got an annoying user interface but I haven't found a better one. I'm tracking every single thing I eat. (and I'm sick of it, but it's working). -5, -2 to go.

Be especially careful of the post-ride meal - it's easy to get really hungry, feel like you got a great workout, and eat too much because you feel like you're allowed to b/c you just worked hard. Keep it small. If you're hungry again soon, then fine, have some more, but don't over eat for that first meal.
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Old 03-04-09, 11:30 AM   #5
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yeah thats exactly what I'm afraid of doing. But it seems that i dont have that problem, for the last 4 weeks i thought i've been eating less (trying to eat 500 calories less each day), but apparently i only lost one pound, tops. I guess thats better than nothing, but somethings up. i think im intaking more calories than i think, and not biking as hard as i should be in my one hour ride everyday.

How are you calculating your calories burned? Most bike computers that aren't true power meters overestimate calories burned, sometimes by quite a bit.

An hour a day isn't that much if you want to race. Do some long rides on the weekends. If you have the time, more hours at a lower intensity will burn more calories total.
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Old 03-04-09, 11:59 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by td.tony View Post
But, the real goal of my weight loss is to be able to bike longer, harder, and faster. I also want to be a better climber. To do that, I not only need to lose weight, but I also need to gain strength in my legs.

SO, my question is, does a caloric deficit hinder your ability to repair and recover from bike rides leading to less improvement in strength and endurance than if you were to eat more calories?

If so, I'm wondering if cyclists train similarly to weight lifters, i.e. bulk in the winter for strength, then cut in the early spring to lose weight.
To meet your goals I would say you don't need to build strength, you need to increase your endurance. Ride lots and you shouldn't have any problem dropping 1 to 1.5 lbs/wk while increasing your muscular endurance. You'll be faster, lighter and be able to ride longer. Forget about 'bulking up' your legs unless you are a track sprinter.

To repair and recover from hard efforts you need to ensure you build sufficient R&R into your training. Extra calories alone won't repair anything if you don't give yourself periodic breaks.
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Old 03-06-09, 08:03 AM   #7
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I know that a cyclist's leg muscles is only one small part, and that performance mainly comes from your cardiovascular health, correct? thats why I would assume that one does not need to intake more calories to repair their leg muscles since the size and strength of the leg muscles themselves aren't a huge factor in being a better cyclist
All of your activities compete for the nutrients you ingest through your daily diet. Whether or not you meet specific dietary requirements is different from whether or not you meet optimal nutrition for exercise during weigh-loss period.

Instead of getting bogged down in an explanation of balancing competing aspects of exercise and weight-loss nutrition - the easiest concept to understand is simple.

You need hours and hours and hours of sub-maximal exercise -while maintaining a normal balanced diet. These conditions will assure that your long periods aerobic activity will draw down thousands of calories of fat-stored energy while not unduly challenging specific muscle fibers.

The solution to your goals, lay in time spent during exercise, not the type nor intensity. It will be these long periods if increased caloric expenditure that offer the best chance for weight loss while maintaining a normal, balanced diet. In other words, you raise caloric-expenditure to create your deficit, not restrict your intake.

Of course, if you have the willpower , you can always do it your way, but its hardly as easy.
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