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Great myths of training that refuse to die.

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Great myths of training that refuse to die.

Old 12-27-12, 08:48 AM
  #1  
Creakyknees
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Great myths of training that refuse to die.

Just a few from the top of my head:

1 - Max pulse = 220 minus age
Busted: it's based on bad science, was never intended for the purpose of being printed on millions of fitness posters, and anyway, max hr is not a useful tool for anything involving endurance training.
Better: understand how to find your "threshold" heart rate and/or power; that is a useful concept in training.

2 - "fat burning zone"
Busted: the body always prefers to burn fat before glycogen. At rest / slow workloads, most of the calories you burn will naturally be from fat. As you exercise harder, you'll need more glycogen to maintain the effort. So the ratio of fat to glycogen decreases, but you're still "burning fat". Not that it matters, since "losing fat" is mainly a matter of calories in minus calories used.
Better: if you are trying to lose body fat (who isn't!) then eat right, count calories, and do intervals.

3 - Protein for post-workout recovery
Busted: Hey I love chocolate milk as much as anyone. The problem is, this idea is based on a single flawed study where the scientists failed to control for the fact that protein is more calorie-dense than carbs. So if you feed 100g protein to one group and 100g carbs to the other, the protein group gets more calories and therefore recovers faster. It's the calories that help you recover, not the protein.
Better: the "glycogen window" is real.

4 - "base miles" build capillaries, or otherwise do some magical thing that makes you faster
Busted: "The exercise science principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. What this means is that in order to improve our fitness, strength or endurance, we need to increase the workload accordingly." Meaning, if you just ride along at a moderate steady pace for hours on end, you'll never get faster because you are not overloading the body.
Better: If you want to get faster, you have to GO faster. Intervals, my friend.

Who has some to add?

Last edited by Creakyknees; 12-27-12 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 12-27-12, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
The problem is, this idea is based on a single flawed study where the scientists failed to control for the fact that protein is more calorie-dense than carbs. So if you feed 100g protein to one group and 100g carbs to the other, the protein group gets more calories and therefore recovers faster.
Everything I read says carb and protein calorie density is the same. 4 calories per gram. Fat, on the other hand, is higher at 9 calories per gram (actually that is over simplified, but it will work for now).
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Old 12-27-12, 10:27 AM
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Carbs leaves your digestive system as glucose. Glucose not used as fuel (etc) is processed with insulin to become fatty acids. The fatty acids are processed with glycerol-3-phosphate into triglycerides, ready to store as fat.

Protein leaves your digestive system as amino acids. Amino acids not used for muscle repair (etc) are processed by the liver into glucose, which then follows the glucose path above.

Your body is much more efficient at processing carbs than it is at processing protein. The end result: 300 calories of carbs can be stored as, at most, about 210 calories of fat. 300 calories of protein can be stored as, at most about 105 calories of fat.

[The above is paraphrased from The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor.]

Also: As hyegeek mentioned, carbs and protein each have ~4 calories/gram. So, stating "...protein is more calorie-dense than carbs" is just wrong.

+1 on "doing intervals", though. HIIT is where it's at.
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Old 12-27-12, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
Just a few from the top of my head:

2 - "fat burning zone"
Busted: the body always prefers to burn fat before glycogen. At rest / slow workloads, most of the calories you burn will naturally be from fat. As you exercise harder, you'll need more glycogen to maintain the effort. So the ratio of fat to glycogen decreases, but you're still "burning fat". Not that it matters, since "losing fat" is mainly a matter of calories in minus calories used.
Better: if you are trying to lose body fat (who isn't!) then eat right, count calories, and do intervals.
Sorry, not a myth. Whether you choose to do anything with the information or not, there is a fairly broad zone of exercise intensity where fat oxidation is maximized:


3 - Protein for post-workout recovery
Busted: Hey I love chocolate milk as much as anyone. The problem is, this idea is based on a single flawed study where the scientists failed to control for the fact that protein is more calorie-dense than carbs. So if you feed 100g protein to one group and 100g carbs to the other, the protein group gets more calories and therefore recovers faster. It's the calories that help you recover, not the protein.
Better: the "glycogen window" is real.
The 'flawed' study you're referring to was looking at the benefits of protein during a ride not after. There have been studies showing increased rate of glycogen replacement when protein is added.

4 - "base miles" build capillaries, or otherwise do some magical thing that makes you faster
Busted: "The exercise science principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. What this means is that in order to improve our fitness, strength or endurance, we need to increase the workload accordingly." Meaning, if you just ride along at a moderate steady pace for hours on end, you'll never get faster because you are not overloading the body.
Better: If you want to get faster, you have to GO faster. Intervals, my friend.
This is as wrong as most of the rest of your post so I won't bother commenting.
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Old 12-27-12, 10:53 AM
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I agree with #1 but that is about it.
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Old 12-27-12, 12:27 PM
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Kinda disagree that these are myths. Rather they are often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and/or misapplied.

1 - Max pulse = 220 minus age
True for an average over a lot of people, just not true for any specific individual. Same for BMI, BTW.
2 - "fat burning zone"
True. There is a zone where the greatest proportion of calories burned is from fat. It's just not the zone where the greatest amount is burned.
3 - Protein for post-workout recovery
True. Protein is needed in the rebuilding of muscle tissue after intense exercise. Carbs too to help replace energy consumed and to prevent the body from catabolizing muscle tissue.
4 - "base miles" build capillaries, or otherwise do some magical thing that makes you faster
Busted: Pretty much IMO. Though it does help you get accustomed to spending long hours in the saddle, which makes shorter rides seem...shorter..?
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Old 12-27-12, 02:07 PM
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Old 12-27-12, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post

This is as wrong as most of the rest of your post so I won't bother commenting.
Come on now, that's why I posted it. Let's get to the truth.
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Old 12-27-12, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
Come on now, that's why I posted it. Let's get to the truth.
OK. Spend the next 3 months riding 15-20 hrs/wk with one long ride each week of 4-5 hrs at an average power of 200-220W. At the end of 3 months your FTP will be considerably higher than 220W. You won't be at a peak but you'll be a lot higher than you started. You can add some intervals at that point to improve your top end speed.
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Old 12-28-12, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
OK. Spend the next 3 months riding 15-20 hrs/wk with one long ride each week of 4-5 hrs at an average power of 200-220W. At the end of 3 months your FTP will be considerably higher than 220W. You won't be at a peak but you'll be a lot higher than you started. You can add some intervals at that point to improve your top end speed.
And you can bet your sweet bippies that this is no myth.
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Old 12-28-12, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
OK. Spend the next 3 months riding 15-20 hrs/wk with one long ride each week of 4-5 hrs at an average power of 200-220W. At the end of 3 months your FTP will be considerably higher than 220W. You won't be at a peak but you'll be a lot higher than you started. You can add some intervals at that point to improve your top end speed.
If your FTP is 220 W, riding 15-20 hrs/wk at an average power of 200-220 W (91%-100% of FTP) is not "moderate steady pace" and it is not what's usually meant when people recommend to build "base miles". "Base miles" in training guides almost always imply the intensity of no more than 75% of FTP, sometimes as low as 60% of FTP.
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Old 12-28-12, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
If your FTP is 220 W, riding 15-20 hrs/wk at an average power of 200-220 W (91%-100% of FTP) is not "moderate steady pace" and it is not what's usually meant when people recommend to build "base miles". "Base miles" in training guides almost always imply the intensity of no more than 75% of FTP, sometimes as low as 60% of FTP.
I agree I should have used a % rather than an absolute number. Amended to be ride at 70 - 75% of your FTP for 15 hrs/wk. Your FTP will improve significantly in 3 months.
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Old 12-28-12, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
I agree I should have used a % rather than an absolute number. Amended to be ride at 70 - 75% of your FTP for 15 hrs/wk. Your FTP will improve significantly in 3 months.
If you ride at 70-75% of FTP for 3 months.. you 'will' improve your FTP?? Don't you have to ride harder to gain? For example, if you want to improve speed, you go faster (ie. through intervals). That's what I've been taught.
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Old 12-29-12, 12:08 AM
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I understood the prescription as 15-20 hrs., riding however, with the long ride at 200-220 watts. I've always thought it best to go hard on the long ride, keep the rest easier.
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Old 12-29-12, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by sstang13 View Post
If you ride at 70-75% of FTP for 3 months.. you 'will' improve your FTP?? Don't you have to ride harder to gain?
Count me as skeptical too.
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Old 12-29-12, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by sstang13 View Post
If you ride at 70-75% of FTP for 3 months.. you 'will' improve your FTP?? Don't you have to ride harder to gain? For example, if you want to improve speed, you go faster (ie. through intervals). That's what I've been taught.
Your FTP will go up. Not as fast as if you were doing intervals but there are adaptations that occur when you do long rides at moderate intensities. If nothing else it's a relatively easy way to drop a few bounds during the off-season and provides a solid foundation once you start adding intensity.

The point is you can 'overload' your body with high intensity or long duration, both will result in performance gains although the high intensity route is more time efficient and ultimately will result in higher gains.
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Old 12-29-12, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Your FTP will go up. Not as fast as if you were doing intervals but there are adaptations that occur when you do long rides at moderate intensities. If nothing else it's a relatively easy way to drop a few bounds during the off-season and provides a solid foundation once you start adding intensity.

The point is you can 'overload' your body with high intensity or long duration, both will result in performance gains although the high intensity route is more time efficient and ultimately will result in higher gains.
Smart man. Put it that way and it all makes sense. When you say 'significant gain in 3 months', do you mean from, for example, a 3.00 FTP to 3.10? Or more of like a 3.00 to a 3.05? I've had rides that that for many weeks now throughout the winter where I ride 1.5 hrs at 60-75% FTP.. this info is good to know
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Old 12-29-12, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Your FTP will go up. Not as fast as if you were doing intervals but there are adaptations that occur when you do long rides at moderate intensities. If nothing else it's a relatively easy way to drop a few bounds during the off-season and provides a solid foundation once you start adding intensity.

The point is you can 'overload' your body with high intensity or long duration, both will result in performance gains although the high intensity route is more time efficient and ultimately will result in higher gains.
Isn't the point that the "moderate intensity" part is a moving target?

As you ride, your body becomes more efficient, and therefore the intensity you started with needs to move up incrementally as the weeks/months pass. Losing the weight also means an increase in efficiency.

I think that's the issue with LSD -- people have interpreted it as Long Slow Distance but it really should be Long Steady Distance in which the speed maintained is dependent on the fitness of the rider.
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Old 12-29-12, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
Isn't the point that the "moderate intensity" part is a moving target?

As you ride, your body becomes more efficient, and therefore the intensity you started with needs to move up incrementally as the weeks/months pass. Losing the weight also means an increase in efficiency.

I think that's the issue with LSD -- people have interpreted it as Long Slow Distance but it really should be Long Steady Distance in which the speed maintained is dependent on the fitness of the rider.
What do you think the beatles have interpreted LSD as?
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Old 12-29-12, 09:58 PM
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I never thought of base miles as endless hours of mediocre effort, but rather as pushing yourself enough to improve endurance and to create accommodative changes in your body, as well as a chance to work on road skills and mental tasks. When I do a 50-mile training ride, even steady distance, my goal is always to shave just a bit of time off of the last time I did the same route.
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Old 12-30-12, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
As you ride, your body becomes more efficient, ...
There is no consensus that this is true, and the data to support that conclusion is highly suspect. It is certain that there is no correlation between weight and efficiency.
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Old 12-30-12, 06:25 PM
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I do have another myth to add.

Myth: you have to consume sugary drinks once an hour during the ride and then copiously in the first two hours after the ride.
Reality: this is a nasty one because it's based on good scientific facts, but it tends to be promoted wildly out of proportion to its real applicability.
Your body has a limited amount of glycogen in your leg muscles. Unless you're a pro or otherwise a highly trained cyclist, if you're well rested/fed, you have enough to keep you going for 3-4 hours at FTP or perhaps 5-6 hours at a moderate pace. That's in addition to glycogen in your liver and whatever glucose continuously entering your bloodstream from the meal you ate before you went for a ride. Even if your muscle glycogen is fully depleted, it will return to normal levels within 48 hours if you just consume your normal diet.
Bottom line: unless you go on really long rides (4 hrs or more, depending on intensity) or maintain really large training volume (more than, say, 3 hours/day every day), force-feeding yourself sugary drinks is, at best, pointless, at worst, harmful because it would sabotage your efforts to lose fat.
Better: drink water and electrolyte tabs during the ride to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and a protein shake (30 g protein powder + some nominal carbs to aid digestion + 24 oz of water) after the ride to promote recovery.
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Old 12-30-12, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
There is no consensus that this is true, and the data to support that conclusion is highly suspect. It is certain that there is no correlation between weight and efficiency.
Are you talking biomechanically or physiologically?
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Old 12-30-12, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
I do have another myth to add.

Myth: you have to consume sugary drinks once an hour during the ride and then copiously in the first two hours after the ride.
Reality: this is a nasty one because it's based on good scientific facts, but it tends to be promoted wildly out of proportion to its real applicability.
Your body has a limited amount of glycogen in your leg muscles. Unless you're a pro or otherwise a highly trained cyclist, if you're well rested/fed, you have enough to keep you going for 3-4 hours at FTP or perhaps 5-6 hours at a moderate pace. That's in addition to glycogen in your liver and whatever glucose continuously entering your bloodstream from the meal you ate before you went for a ride. Even if your muscle glycogen is fully depleted, it will return to normal levels within 48 hours if you just consume your normal diet.
Bottom line: unless you go on really long rides (4 hrs or more, depending on intensity) or maintain really large training volume (more than, say, 3 hours/day every day), force-feeding yourself sugary drinks is, at best, pointless, at worst, harmful because it would sabotage your efforts to lose fat.
Better: drink water and electrolyte tabs during the ride to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and a protein shake (30 g protein powder + some nominal carbs to aid digestion + 24 oz of water) after the ride to promote recovery.
That's a good theory, but from my experience there's a lot of individual variation regarding on-bike feeding. I ride with a fellow who doesn't eat on a 3 hour ride and will only drink 1/2 bottle in the summer. He'll have a couple gels before the 4th hour. OTOH, he has a lot of trouble on longer rides because he isn't used to eating and drinking. I will start to bonk if I don't keep it coming on any ride over 2 hours, meaning my HR drops off and I lose power. I have to go through at least 750 calories on a 4-hour hilly ride and drink the usual bottle/hour. It feels like the early glycogen is more available than glycogen later in the ride.

Agree about the after ride nutrition as long as one isn't going to ride or work out again for 48 hours, but most folks do, hence the prescription to have some carbs and protein after a ride. About once a week this winter I'll downhill ski, go to spin class in the evening, and then lift weights. One's not doing that on no food. I'll have a 300 calorie recovery drink after skiing and then take a 250 calorie bottle to the gym with me, then have dinner. That works about right, though my blood sugar will be through the floor after lifting. I don't care for "sugary" drinks. Give me the malto every time.
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Old 12-30-12, 11:35 PM
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I don't care for "sugary" drinks. Give me the malto every time.
I would include maltodextrin under the general heading of "sugary drinks". It's something one consumes during centuries. The mistake is to turn it into an everyday nutrient.

Yes, multiple workouts in a single day are the best counterexample, that's one of the few scenarios where one would really want to replenish glycogen as fast as possible. If you rest 24 hours between workouts, it's best to discover for yourself whether normal diet is adequate. (Personally, I couldn't do intensive 3-hour rides every 24 hours for more than 2-3 days in a row, glycogen or not, DOMS would get me.) If you rest 48 hours between workouts, sugary drinks can be safely omitted.
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