We start today’s Q&A with a discussion on returning from injury. That’s because Renee Eastman, our guest coach on this episode, just suffered a nasty crash. She’s also come back from many injuries and bone breaks: “I’ve broken just about every bone in my body, including back (L1-3 fusion), elbow (with reconstructive surgery), clavicle (2x), hand, foot, kneecap, and now ribs,” she says.
So, we start with some big questions:
- What are the best practices when returning from injury?
- How do you prepare your body to reduce the risk of injury from what can be an injury-prone sport?
- How do you deal with the long-term side effects or manage pain from past injuries?
The importance of consistency
The next question comes from Amanda Johnson in Middlebury, Vermont. She writes:
“As a working mother of two kids, I struggle to find the time to train at the level I want—I’m not trying to be a pro, I just love being active and racing at a decent level. Given my work and life schedule, I seem to ride a rollercoaster when it comes to training, which leads to big swings in my motivation, nutrition, and even sleep. Do you have any tips on how I can bring more consistency to my training? Also, what should I expect of myself if I can find that consistency? Big gains or simply less of a rollercoaster ride?”
Weight versus performance
The next question comes from Dom Porzak in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He writes:
“As someone who is naturally built more like a linebacker than a cyclist, I know that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to power-to-weight ratios. I don’t lift, I’m just muscular. I eat well—lots of fruits and vegetables and no grains—but I’m not lean. So, my question is, is there anything I can do to better manage my weight so that my performance on the bike naturally increases?”
Fast-twitch muscle fibers
This series of questions, all about fast-twitch muscle fibers, comes from Velibor Dokic in Norway. He writes:
“There is so much talk about slow- and fast-twitch muscles, and how it’s genetically pre-decided how many fast-twitch fibers we have and how little we can do to change that. How are fast-twitch muscle fibers distributed? And where do we have most of our fast-twitch muscles? (Not taking into account our upper body.) Are fast-twitch fibers more collected in a group of fibers or randomly placed? Or since one fiber can be as long as 40mm, are both types of fibers in one length? If I do a fasted ride and go totally empty of glycogen, will the fast-twitch muscles burn fat the rest of the ride?”
Chris Case 00:12
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance.
Chris Case 00:18
Sitting down today with Trevor Connor and Head Coach Ryan Kohler in the studio, and we have Renee Eastman on the line today.
Chris Case 00:27
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Renee Eastman: Experience as a Coach
Chris Case 00:30
Renee, tell us a bit about your vast experience as a coach.
Renee Eastman 01:01
Well, first, thank you guys for having me on your show, I am an avid listener to your podcast, I always get some good tips from you guys. I am a professional coach, I’ve been a full-time coach for the last 20 years with Carmichael Training Systems, and that means I’ve been with Carmichael Training Systems almost since the beginning of time, if you will, beginning of Carmichael’s time anyway, and I’ve actually been working with Chris Carmichael as a mentor since the 1996 Olympics. That’s when I started working in Sports Science, specifically in cycling, through USA Cycling, I had the good fortune to go to the 1996 Olympics with the cycling team and have been working professionally in cycling since then. As I said, I’ve been a coach for the past 20 years, and through that time, I’ve also picked up my master’s degree in exercise science, I’ve got an ASM Sports Nutrition Coach, NSCA, CSCS. So, kind of the full gamut of exercise sports and physiology. I guess I’ve got somewhat of a Ph.D. in racing, for racing for the last, you know, 20 to 30 years, on the road and on the track.
Chris Case 02:41
Trevor Connor 02:42
Chris Case 02:43
Well, we wanted to start today’s q&a, unlike we normally do, we want to turn our attention to you a little bit, and that’s because you’ve recently had a nasty crash. It turns out you have a history of some injuries, several broken bones, and other things. So, we wanted to ask you a big question about returning from injury, because it’s been on your mind, and you’ve done it before, so we want to tap into that experience and knowledge. I know it’s a big question I want to set the stage with, what are the best practices when returning from injury? I know that’s maybe an impossible thing to answer because every injury is different, but do you have a few tips?
Best Practices When Returning From Injury
Renee Eastman 03:31
Yeah, I do. As you noted, I did just crash pretty heavily over the weekend, but this not my first time getting injured or breaking a bone on my bike. I think as you noted, it really depends on the injury, the severity of the injury, and how it’s taking you out of your normal routine. I would say the number one thing is that you just got to be patient, patient to allow yourself to heal, patient for the changes that you might have to make in your training or in your plan. I think it’s important to focus on the factors that you can control with coming back from injury. Things like focusing on your sleep, focusing on your nutrition, taking time to focus on your mental skills, or you know, for myself, I can’t get out on the road for about three or four weeks now. So, what I’m going to do for focusing on what I can control and things like that is taking time to study the courses that I’m going to race in the future, I can’t go preview them out on the road, but I can get online and ride with GPS and get the street view and all sorts of things like that. I think there are some other things that I can take the time to focus on with this time off the bike, time off from training, is to focus on the things that make me healthier and stronger overall, like maybe more time doing yoga or stretching, doing more strength work, rehab work, and I think we’re going to get into that a little bit as well. I’m even going to use this time about the things I can control to actually invest more time at work so that when I get back on the road, I have plenty of time to do my training. So, I’m going to kind of front-load my work. So, those are all kinds of things that I can do in my control that are kind of active practices to set me up for when I’m fully healed.
Chris Case 06:13
You mentioned this strength work, I want to turn our attention because you’ve had several injuries, and I would assume they’ve been over these 20-30 years that you’ve been riding a bike, what have you done to prepare your body to reduce the risk of injury when you do crash?
Preparing Your Body To Reduce the Risk of Injury
Renee Eastman 06:34
Lots of strength training. I’ve always enjoyed strength training as some people love going to the gym, some people don’t, I actually don’t work at a gym, I workout at home, but I do a lot of functional work, you know, bodyweight push-ups, squats, pull-ups, and I tend to do it frequently, like three, four days a week, throughout the year. With that functional strength, I think it’s also important to incorporate mobility work, range of motion, I think a lot of people can tend to get into heavy lifting, like that’s kind of the buzz, especially for master’s athletes, is like, oh, you got to lift heavy. Well, a lot of people might be lifting heavy, but not through a full range of motion. So, I think maintaining our mobility in balance is more important than peak strength because that range of motion and being able to maybe do a full squat, or, you know, get your arms up above your head helps you with strength in functional ways for life. A lot of my athletes, when they get injured, I would say half of them get injured off the bike. They were like, “I was taking in groceries, and I pulled my back, and now I’m off the bike for three weeks.” So, that’s a long-winded way to get to the simple answer is I do a lot of functional strength work.
Trevor Connor 08:30
I think that’s a great point and like to hear you say that because I always get concerned when I see these cyclists who are only spending time on the bike, and you can almost recognize them, and they don’t have that functional strength, they don’t have that mobility, and when they crash, they can get really injured because their bodies just aren’t ready for it. I think it’s really key to give that time to do the off the bike work even though the whole body strong, and I’ve had people in the past say to me when I recommend that and then I go well, “How’s that can make me stronger or faster on the bike,” and sometimes my answer is doesn’t really make you faster, It’s just inevitable that you’re gonna be in a crash, and do you want to walk away from the crash or do you want to be carried away from the crash? That can be the difference.
Ryan Kohler 09:20
Yeah, I think two other interesting points that you mentioned were mental skills and patience. When we talk about returning from injury, I think about that side of it too, with helping athletes realize that when they do get injured, it might not be a quick thing, but there’s also that aspect of, you know, well what caused the crash? If it was on some piece of gravel and you went down and got an injury and now, you’re off the bike for a while, it can be pretty difficult mentally to allow yourself to get back to your normal speeds again and feel that comfort zone. It’s almost like your bubble, like your comfort zone now shrunk down. So, we have to really give that time to expand again to its normal place. So, yeah, I think all those suggestions of yeah, like the functional training, the mobility, you’re going to help now address those deficits that were created by the injury, but at the same time having them consider that mental side of like, where am I within my comfort bubble? Can I expand it to where it’s back to normal?
Chris Case 10:28
I would ask a final question here about some of these injuries that may have happened long ago, but you have lingering side effects. How do you deal with those long-term effects? Maybe there’s a pain element to it, maybe there’s a lack of mobility element to it? Any words of wisdom here, Renee, Trevor, Ryan, on dealing with those types of injuries?
Dealing With Long-Term Effects of Injuries
Ryan Kohler 10:56
I’m still dealing with my shoulder from last year. So, I had a crash on the mountain bike, a shoulder injury, and the strength deficit was pretty significant, and now this is coming up to 10 months since then, and there’s still a deficit in the strength. The long-term piece is kind of hard to work with, but you look for those little milestones along the way to see progress, and it’s really motivating to kind of progress along that path. Yeah.
Chris Case 11:26
Right. So, patience being key here as well, very key.
Ryan Kohler 11:29
Chris Case 11:30
Yeah. Renee, what would you add?
Renee Eastman 11:33
Yeah, I have broken a lot of things, and actually just speaking to that pain management, if I did not do the level of strength training I do currently, I would be in chronic pain. In fact, I was, you know, four or five years ago, kind of got out of the all my good habits, I had taken a break from cycling for a few years, and also took a break from training, and, you know, kind of snuck up on me, I’m almost 50 now, like, injuries add up, where I kind of got into that pattern, where I’m like, just thinking that it’s supposed to take 10 minutes to get out of bed in the morning, and like, you just have to deal with these things. Fast forward to putting a little bit more emphasis into that functional strength and mobility work, yoga is a big part of my routine. There are some mental components that I like to yoga, as well as the mobility and range of motion, but I found that, that in working on like dynamic range of motion, has helped me manage that chronic pain aspect of all my past injuries. The biggest being I have a lumbar fusion, L1, L2, and L3 are fused together, so that means that I should have chronic back pain, but I don’t. I do a lot of glute work, a lot of glute activation, a lot of mobility work, and a lot of core work, and for all those reasons, I get very little back pain unless I do something dumb. I’ve learned over the past 25 years not to do that, and I wanted to kind of you know, the preventative, I was reminded of this with the preventative in the core strength and everything. In my most recent injuries, I broke some ribs, first time breaking ribs, which are of course very painful, but I’m very grateful that I’ve been doing a lot of core work lately, because every time that I’m trying to get up out of bed, I can ask my core muscles and brace myself against the pain of those, those ribs. Luckily enough, I just came off of like a block of strength training, because I went through May I’d been doing a lot of racing where my strength training was really falling away because I was doing a lot of racing through May, so I just came off a three-week block of getting back into strength training, and it really paid off with this recent crash. So, I was reminded of that pretty well every time I get out of bed with these broken ribs.
Trevor Connor 14:57
Well, the one thing that just comes to mind for me and this might be a little controversial, but both with myself and with a lot of the athletes that I work with, I see this interesting contradiction where people have been athletes for a long time you start asking them, what are your injuries? They can give you a real long list. Like I remember one time going to this chiropractor who had never seen before, and he went into his office, he said, “How can I help you?” And I said, “I need to work on my back and neck.” And he went, “No, no, no, tell me stories.” Like, “what do you mean?” He’s like, “Well, tell me the stories of you.” And I went, “Oh, God, can you give me a little more details?” He was like, “Well, have you had any hand injuries?” So, I told him about my hand injuries, and then he goes, “Wrist?” I tell him about my wrist injuries, and then he starts going up each of the joints of my body, elbow, shoulder, and everything I had something to tell him about, and the whole time, he’s taking notes. Finally, he just stops and looks at me and goes, “I’m on page four. I’ve never gotten to page four before.” Then he just says, “So back and neck? And I went, “Yep.” So, anybody who’s been a lifetime athlete can probably do similar things of sharing these injuries, but when I look at people who, like you, Renee are careful to do this sort of work, as they get later in life, even though they have all these injuries, they tend to be more functional than people who don’t have the injuries but aren’t active, spend their life at a desk and don’t do a lot of activity. I think our bodies can handle a certain amount of injury, and though you can say, well, I’ve got this old war wound and that old war wound, if you take care of yourself, I actually think you’re gonna be in a better place.
Renee Eastman 16:51
I agree 100%. Yeah.
Chris Case 16:54
Let’s move on to our next question here, shall we? This one comes from a listener that we’ve spoken about before on the show, his name is Belabor Dockage, I believe he lives in Norway, he’s not originally from there, but he was the one that introduced us to coach Janis Musins, if I have that correct from several episodes ago. This one is a bit technical, a bit nerdy, you might say. He writes, “there’s so much talk about slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and how it’s genetically pre-decided how many fast-twitch fibers we have and how little we can do to change that.” He has several questions here. “How are fast-twitch muscle fibers distributed? And where do we have most of our fast-twitch muscles?” He says, “not considering our upper body are fast-twitch fibers more collected in a group of fibers or randomly placed? Or since one fiber can be as long as 40 millimeters are both types of fibers in one length? Finally, if I do a fasted ride and go totally empty of glycogen will the fast-twitch muscles burn fat the rest of the ride?” Trevor, I’m going to turn it over to you because I know you love your fast-twitch muscle fibers and your slow-twitch muscle fibers and all the other muscle fibers. So, let’s have you start this one.
Slow and Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers in Training
Trevor Connor 18:18
That’s quite the introduction, thank you. Yes, I love my fibers. There are some things to address here. One of them is his point about we’re kind of doomed to the fiber ratio that we have, and that’s not actually the case. I think that was believed a while back but it’s since been demonstrated that we can actually convert fibers. So, that’s one of the important things to know is it takes time, but fiber conversion is possible, and actually, that’s one of the explanations of the agent effect. So, a big agent effect is we become these giant aerobic animals but really lose that explosive powerful muscle strength. So, explosive sports tend to be more for the teens and people in their 20s, in endurance sports tend to be more for older adults. One of the explanations I’ve recently read about this, I’ve read several studies about this, is you have to think of this as motor units. So, there’s a nerve that will branch out and innervate multiple fibers, when that nerve is active, all those fibers that it innervates will contract. Within a motor unit all the fibers will be of one fiber type, and what you see as we age is fibers will become de-innervated your body doesn’t want, so it will find ways to re-innervate that fiber, but it’s sometimes not the same motor unit, it’s a different motor unit that will re-innervate it, and it’s usually the motor units that control slow-twitch fibers that will reach out and reinnervate this fiber. As soon as it re-innervates, whether that was a fast-twitch fiber previously or slow-twitch, once has been innervated by slow-twitch motor unit, it will convert to a slow-twitch fiber.
Chris Case 20:13
Trevor Connor 20:14
So, what you’ll see in adults is that conversion because of that re-innervation, the other thing you’ll see is the number of motor units will decrease. So, you’ll have fewer motor units that innervate more fibers, which is also why with age, you can lose a little more of that fine control that you had as you’re younger. So, that’s one important thing to realize is yes, it is possible to convert fibers.
Chris Case 20:39
That being said, there’s probably a limit to how much that conversion can do, for example, you will never be a sprinter because you were born a certain way and you’ve tried and tried but you’re only going to get so far.
Trevor Connor 20:52
Well, so there’s another expression, which is all training causes a conversion from fast-twitch, slow-twitch. So, even if you think about something you think would be all fast-twitch you look at bodybuilders, well, bodybuilders have those giant veins pop out whenever they lift, because, you’re seeing in them most of that hypertrophy and slow-twitch muscle fibers. So, there’s just that generally, all training will cause that move towards slow-twitch muscle fiber. Animals that are very fast-twitch dominated, what do you see them doing most of the time?
Chris Case 21:30
Trevor Connor 21:31
Right. Think of a tiger, think of a lion, they’ll just sit there most of the time and then do a very fast explosive motion and sit around. So, thinking of cycling, who are the athletes that need the highest ratio of fast-twitch muscle fibers? It’s your track riders, and what are track riders doing most of the time at their workout?
Chris Case 21:49
Yeah, sitting in the infield.
Trevor Connor 21:51
Right. So, yes, if you are out training, you’re generally going to see that conversion towards slow twitch. A guy like me who has been training for decades, probably don’t have fast-twitch muscles.
Chris Case 22:05
You’re screwed, you’re screwed.
Trevor Connor 22:06
Joking aside, all muscles will have a mix, but some muscles will have a higher ratio of one, some others will have a higher ratio of the other. So, for example, a muscle that’s commonly used when they want to do research on slow-twitch muscle fibers is soleus, because it’s about 70% slow-twitch. Compare that to the vastus lateralis, which is only about 32% slow-twitch in most people. So, you will see differences muscle to muscle.
Chris Case 22:37
What about this last question here about fasted riding?
Trevor Connor 22:40
Again, a little bit of a misconception here, it’s really important to remember that when we talk about fasting and depleting your glycogen, we are talking about liver glycogen. If you fasted to that point, again, I haven’t seen research on this because they couldn’t do the research on this, but I’m willing to bet money that if you fast to the point that you actually depleted all of your muscle glycogen, you’d be dead,
Chris Case 23:04
Right. Yeah, if you weren’t dead, you wouldn’t be in a very good place.
Trevor Connor 23:09
Right. So, people hear this all the time you need to fast you need to deplete the glycogen, we’re just talking about liver glycogen. Often you can be in that fasted state and your muscles will still be pretty replete with glycogen, and even if you are in that fasted state and you’re burning more fat, your body is ramping up gluconeogenesis to get that glucose to your muscles. So, even in the fasted state where you go, my glycogen is depleted, your muscle still have some glucose to rely on.
Chris Case 24:01
Let’s, turn our attention to another question here from a listener. This comes from Amanda Johnson, she’s up in Middlebury, Vermont, and she writes, “as a working mother of two kids, I struggle to find the time to train at the level I want. Not trying to be a pro, I just love being active and racing at a decent level. Given my work and life schedule, I seem to ride a roller coaster when it comes to training, which leads to big swings in my motivation, nutrition, and even sleep. Do you have any tips on how I can bring more consistency to my training? Also, what should I expect of myself if I can find that consistency? Big gains? Or simply less of a roller coaster ride?” Renee, I’ll start with you.
Tips on How To Bring Consistency Into Training
Renee Eastman 24:48
Thank you. I think this is one of the number one factors for the majority of athletes that I coach is just consistency. The athletes that I tend to coach are master’s level, family, full-time jobs, where life often gets in the way of that perfect schedule in that ideal schedule, and I’ll maybe start on that. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress, I think it’s pretty easy to get frustrated with, oh, I can’t do exactly what’s on my train plan, but instead of that it’s focused on, what can you do? Instead of what you can’t do. Maybe you can’t go out on that three-hour ride today, but what can you do? I’m often emphasizing to people too, yeah, focus on what they can do, and something’s better than nothing, are 10 push-ups better than zero push-ups? And I would say, yes, you know, you maybe you can’t spend an hour at the gym doing a strength workout, but can you do, you know, 50 push-ups, 50 squats, and a couple of planks? Then that took 10 minutes, and you did something. That’s going to get a little bit towards of a bit of a, I guess, philosophy of training. It comes to the core fundamentals of taking care of your body first, and kind of being an athlete second, it’s going to circle back to the consistency, but my five fundamentals are sleep, nutrition, hydration, daily activity, and mental health, of taking care of kind of the core of your health, happiness, wellbeing, and then worrying about your athletic or your training program, because I think a lot of people can get, especially if their time-crunched get so wrapped up into, I just got a jam this hour of training in, and they’re not even taking care of the core fundamentals where the core fundamentals have to come first, before the training plan. Then when they do get to train, there are a whole lot better for it.
Time-Crunched Athletes and Consistency
Chris Case 27:34
Ryan, I know you are also a time-crunched athlete, you’re not a working mom, you’re a working dad. I’m sure you have some tips here about what consistency can do for you and how to make consistency a part of the training program.
Ryan Kohler 27:50
Did you know I wrote this question and submitted it for myself? No. Yeah, no, this one speaks to me a lot. It’s interesting looking at the question, it’s, you know, struggling to find the time to train at the level I want, and there’s this qualifier like, I’m not trying to be a pro, I just love being active and racing at a decent level. So, I think going back to Renee’s fundamentals touch on this really nicely, because I want to be active in the race at a decent level. So, we see, you know, the roller-coaster swings in motivation, nutrition, and even sleep. So, what are the things that are going to help you have fundraising at a decent level, stay active, stay healthy, and it’s the things that this listener mentioned, motivation, nutrition, and even sleep. When I look at this, you know, we always come back to the consistency, and I also think about prioritization of we might not be able to get that big ride in, but it seems like sometimes it’s easy to focus on the training aspect of it, where, when we do miss that ride, those other areas start to tank as well. So, I do this a lot with my nutrition clients, where we have essentially nutrition training days, and it’s not a day to focus on the bike, it’s not a day to focus on other things, it’s a day to focus on your nutrition. So, I think about how we can prioritize for athletes like this to say, all right, well, if we’re not going to get that big, three, four-hour ride in that’s fine, what areas can we focus on instead that is still going to help us move toward that being active and racing at a decent level? Maybe we had a horrible night’s sleep the night before, so instead of the ride, it’s a nap and good nutrition that day. Then the next day maybe we’re back to something where we can find a training ride. I like the way Renee put it with those fundamentals because we’re always trying to balance those and at certain times, we just need to prioritize one over the other.
Renee Eastman 29:42
Yeah, Ryan. I really liked your idea, how you phrased it the nutrition training days, because I to find that people are either like all in or out, like if their training gets all jumbled up, and they can’t train, well, then their nutrition goes out the door too. It gets back to, what can you control? You can’t always control your time schedule, and your time available to train, but you can always control what you eat, and how much you eat, or how much you hydrate yourself, or getting a good night’s sleep so that when you do get back to training, your body is in tip-top shape to take that training load.
Trevor Connor 30:33
So, I’m going to look at this from that consistency approach. I think both of you have made fantastic points, I do want to address the consistency question, and say that I do think consistency is king. I do think it is really important to have some sort of consistency week to week. Meaning I would rather have an athlete train five to six hours a week, then have an athlete go two weeks where they’re getting one ride in each week, and then has a week where they do 18 hours. I don’t think you see the same sort of results when you, and I’ve seen this with athletes where they just take huge blocks of time off and then try to make up for it, and it’s the cramming for exams approach, which is not how our bodies work. We just had the episode where we talked about how our physiology adapts and brought up the fact that there are structural changes, and there are biochemical changes. I think when you have a long period of time off, and then you hit the body hard the body goes into emergency mode, kind of says what is this? What’s going on? Then you’re going to see mostly those biochemical adaptations to try to deal with a sudden insult, where I think the consistency is what brings about those structural changes. Now, I don’t have a study to back that up, that’s my opinion, but it’s hopefully an educated opinion. So, when I work with athletes, and they’re very time-crunched, I’m very big on finding that consistency, and basically talking about how much time do you feel you can set aside? And being very selfish about that time, saying even if it’s just five hours a week, schedule out that time, say this is your time and make sure you get it but make sure you get it each week. I find that planning out ahead scheduling it really helps because otherwise you get caught in the day-to-day, and if you don’t say well ahead of time, I am going to do a workout at five o’clock, the day suddenly gets away from you. I actually have an athlete right now who I’ve been talking about with this, because she doesn’t want to schedule it out and says she’ll get to this work, but I can’t tell you how many days she’s hopping on the bike at 10 o’clock at night, because she let the day get ahead of her, and I have told her you to need to plan it out you need to set that time where you say, I’m going to go ride now.
Being Diligent and Creative About Training
Chris Case 33:04
Yeah, I think scheduling is one thing. To Ryan’s point, I think you have to be a little bit creative at times, can’t just think the ride is the thing I need, and if I don’t get the ride, nothing else matters. It’s no, if you don’t get the ride, you can do mental skills training, you could do nutrition, you can think about that, you could do what Renee is doing when she’s off the bike this week and looking at courses for the next race and just taking that time to do something that leads to progress. I think this is where some athletes are creative enough, and they have an understanding of all the things that it takes to improve, and so they can juggle those things and say, I can’t get to this, but I can get to this today. Other athletes probably can’t do that, that’s why the guidance of a coach would be invaluable for somebody like that. But yeah, you can make plenty of progress if you only have five days a week or five hours a week, I should say to train, you just have to be kind of diligent about it and creative about it. Would you agree everybody?
Trevor Connor 34:10
Renee Eastman 34:12
Right, I second the consistency is king. If you’re consistent, then you’re going to you know, make the progress. I think one of her questions was about you know, what kind of gains can she expect from being consistent? Everybody’s looking for that quick fix, that quick fix is temporary. The big gains come from consistency over time. I see it all the time with people who go out for you know, the big spring training camp in March or whatever, and expect that to fix a winter of not training very well. Well, it doesn’t, the long-term gains come from months and months of training, and it’s like with anything good, it takes time to get there. I had another couple of ideas on consistency and things that I do myself and things I encourage my athletes to do with, I would say like reducing decision fatigue, about like, when am I going to work out? Like finding that time to work out, you know, the more that you can make your life a routine, the better. Now, of course, schedules change, and work demands change, family demands change, but finding a routine of, you know, consistent bedtime, consistently get up time, consistent workout time, can help smooth out all these factors. If you say, oh, I’m hard to stop, I’m in bed at 10 o’clock, so that I’m up at five o’clock, so I have that 45 minutes before the day starts, that I can work out. I find that people who tend to be the most successful with consistency, do an early morning workout. I know that doesn’t work for everybody, but people who must let it wait till the later in the day, there’s always something that comes up, always a meeting, pick up the kids late, this and that and the other. That routine of your daily rituals, if you will, that I just get up, I workout, and then I’m on to my day, that it’s not thinking thought like I’m not deciding to get up and do it, it’s just what I do. I don’t know if that makes sense to you guys or not?
Chris Case 37:15
Absolutely. I think that routine, and it goes back to Trevor’s point, I think a little bit about scheduling, and if it’s on the calendar at a consistent time of day, and for some people that is morning, some people can consistently do it in the afternoon or maybe even at midday, might be lunchtime work-outers, so to speak. That is very helpful, you’re not saying, oh, man, I missed my opportunity this morning, let me see if I can fit it in during the day, that didn’t work out, oh, now I got to get home for dinner, after dinner. It leads to this case of the athlete you’re working with, you’re on the trainer at 10 o’clock at night, that’s no fun, that’s not when you want to do it.
Trevor Connor 37:59
Chris Case 37:59
You should be in bed at that point, basically, and you’re sacrificing good sleep for getting in a ride that you think you need to have, and then maybe that disrupts your sleep even more after the fact, probably would for me if I was writing at 10 o’clock at night.
Chris Case 38:15
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Chris Case 39:00
Let’s move on to our next question here, shall we? And this one comes from Dom Porsac, he’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He writes, “as someone who is naturally built more like a linebacker than a cyclist, I know that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to power to weight ratios. I don’t lift I’m just muscular, I eat well, lots of fruits and vegetables and no grains, but I’m not, quote, unquote lean. So, my question is, is there anything I can do to better manage my weight so that my performance on the bike naturally increases?” Renee, I’ll turn this one over to you first as well.
Renee Eastman 39:40
Well, weight management is something that comes up with I would say 99% of my athletes in some way, shape, or form. So, it’s a prevalent topic. I subscribe to that philosophy of its calories in, calories out about weight management. The things that this gentleman said about, you know, eating healthy and things like that, I think a lot of my athletes eat healthy, a lot of people eat healthy, but it’s very possible to eat too much of healthy foods. If you’re not at the weight that you want to be, then you’re consuming more calories than you need to, to be at the weight that you want to be at. In one part, your people get that idea of, oh, this is healthy, so, therefore, you know, maybe it doesn’t matter how much of it I eat, and that’s not necessarily the case. That’s how I make the analogy of like, when I’m a product of the 80s when you know the snack wells came out, and like the fat-free foods, and people are like, oh, I can eat so much of this, because it’s healthy food, but it really matters how many calories you’re taking in. The other thing I see with weight management in you know, probably what this gentleman is talking about, because he sounds like he is very active and does a lot of riding training, that old saying you can’t outrun a bad diet or you cannot run too many calories, so to speak, a lot of people get into an unfortunate habit of overcompensating their calories. If he’s not as lean as he wants to be, that might be what’s happening. If weight is on his mind, what may be happening because I see this a lot is people go, people who are weight conscious, can often go into workouts a little underfed, because maybe they’ve been dieting all day long or all week long before their big training rides, and then they get into their training sessions, and then with mixed success, if they’ve been, you know, restricting, but then after their training sessions, they become a bottomless pit of hunger. Then they’re shoveling food in their face all afternoon after the ride, either because they’re, oh, I just burned 1000 calories on my ride, I deserve this, or it’s just they’ve created such a deficit on the ride, that it’s hard to manage their hunger. So, the tip that I’m going to say is fuel your workouts, fuel your workouts focusing on pre-loading your workouts, and focus on eating enough during your workouts, and then you can manage your calories a little bit better after your workouts so that you don’t get into that overcompensating cycle. That might be the number one thing I see for people who are struggling to manage their weight, despite their activity levels because every cyclist I know rides enough to manage their weight. That’s not the problem, how much you weigh is a factor of what in how much you eat, more so than how much you exercise.
Chris Case 43:34
Ryan, I know you have some thoughts here. You talk about being under-fueled and how that affects a lot of things often. So, what would you share here?
Effects of Being Under-Fueled
Ryan Kohler 43:45
This is a hard one. I have so many questions for Dom right now. Yeah, so with Dom’s question here, it’s, we’re getting self-reported information, which when we’re talking about nutrition is always difficult. So, he says, you know, I don’t lift I’m just muscular, how muscular? What’s your body composition, right? We have I eat well, lots of fruits and vegetables, no grains, but I’m not lean, we’re getting into a little bit of this self-reported intake, which is questionable for anyone, especially when it’s not written down, and this is where I definitely get into the data, and I want to see it. When we talk about is there anything I can do to better manage my weight so my performance on the bike naturally increases, the same thing, what’s your performance now? What’s your goal? Is this a realistic goal of what kind of performance we’re looking to see? So, there’s a lot of questions that will feed into something like this, and it’s a really common question that I get from athletes too.
Chris Case 44:42
So, what would you do? If Dom was here in front of us, what would you be asking him? How would you work with him as a nutrition client of yours?
Ryan Kohler 44:52
So, I think Renee touched on some great points about some of the factors that can impact that weight loss. We have a big deficit, and then we sometimes will overeat, or go into rides under fueled. I always come into looking at the other side of the coin, making the assumption that Dom potentially might be under-fueled chronically. So, I see a lot of athletes that are describing their intake like this, I eat well, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, I hear that all the time, but then when we actually look at the data, what we find out is that they’re existing in this low energy state, and they’re not going to see changes in body composition or weight loss, because they’re never feeling enough. So, they’re always existing in this kind of chronic under-fueling. So, as Renee said, they would go in under fuel to the rides, and they would do the ride, have this big deficit, and then if they don’t overeat, well, sometimes if they’re focused on eating healthy all the time, they may also under eat, and then that’s also going to not allow them to change, because when we start to get that energy availability too low, then that impacts our ability to make any changes, then we can add a more extreme level see body composition actually increase, and then it becomes difficult to lose that. So, I think we have two sides of the same coin here to look at, and it’s always hard to tell athletes where they stand. So, my tip is always to let’s collect data because that’s going to inform our next steps.
Chris Case 46:23
Let me ask a question putting myself in the shoes of the listeners out there. It sounds like you’re saying, in terms of this calories in, calories out, if you eat more calories than you’re burning in a day, then the weight would go up, but if you’re eating too few calories during the day, your weight might actually go up as well, or you might not lose the weight you think you’re going to? Is that correct?
Ryan Kohler 46:48
Yeah, often, I see the complaints from athletes being I can’t change my weight, I can’t lose weight. Typically, they’ll see weight as relatively stable, but body composition might change because now nutrition becomes an added stress on the body. So, we have training creating stress, and now if we’re chronically under fueling even just a little bit day after day, that becomes a larger deficit over time, and now nutrition becomes another stress. So, when the body is under-stressed, it’s just like we’ve talked about with training stress, right? If we create too much, and we dig too deep of a hole, it’s going to take a really long time to come out of that, and we won’t get that adaptation. It’s the same thing with weight loss, where if we create this chronic stress on the body from under-fueling, then the body won’t create that change, it won’t adapt, and if we want to lose weight, we won’t lose the weight.
Trevor Connor 47:38
I do want to be careful about this because I don’t want to mislead our listeners or make you think that I’m being in any way judgmental, I’m just talking right now about the pure physiology of it. I am a big believer that if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you’re going to lose weight. That just laws of physics, there’s no way around that. So, Ryan addressed it in your response to this, but my feeling is if somebody is under consuming, what is happening is they are either really reducing the amount of work that they’re doing so that they’re still keeping their calories out lower, or alternatively, they’re just not reporting correctly. That’s what I tend to see is people will go a couple of days trying to starve themselves, ultimately can’t handle it, and then because that’s not a really healthy way to do it, and then we’ll dramatically overconsume.
Ryan Kohler 48:39
Yeah, I think the underreporting is huge. I think in terms of the work that they’re doing, that’s a good point, because what we see that usually comes along with this is they’re looking to increase their performance, and if we actually go back and look at the work they’re doing or look at their progress, it’s been relatively stagnant. So, they don’t have the energy onboard to do the work that they could do previously. So, yeah, I think that’s a huge thing, they might feel like they’re still doing the same work, the perceived effort might still be there, because they’re doing it all under fewer calories, but if you look at their output, and how many kilojoules they are doing, they just can’t do as much work. Yeah.
Chris Case 49:19
Let me ask this question, not something Dom asked, but maybe flipping this around and looking at it through a different lens. A person comes to you and says all these things, and then you know, the nutrition checks out and everything kind of quote, unquote, checks out. Would you ever go to somebody and say, well, you’re built like a linebacker, and that’s kind of the way you’re going to be, so let’s try to find ways for you to perform at the types of events that you will excel at? Trevor?
Different Body Types in Cycling
Trevor Connor 49:50
Yeah, I mean, you have a body type, and if somebody, yeah, I have athletes come to me all the time and say, I don’t like my weight, I want to bring it down. That’s one of the first comments sessions I’m going to have with them. If they’re eating healthy, if they’re a reasonable weight, then the question is, do you really want to be that scrawny, super-thin cyclist, because I’m going, to be honest with you, there are no simple tricks of this, that’s hard. You must constantly be hungry, and you can’t break the rules. So, that’s the biggest issue I see is, people will be pretty well most of the time, but then go I well today, so now I’m going to eat this bag of Doritos, well you just undid everything. You talk to any professional cyclist, and like they go out to restaurants with their family, they watch our families eat all these great foods, and they’re ordering the salad and feeling miserable.
Chris Case 50:38
It’s a struggle.
Trevor Connor 50:39
If you want to be that weight, that light cyclist’s weight, you’re going to be making a whole lot of sacrifices all the time, you can’t break the rules, it’s not a lot of fun. So, when somebody comes to me, and they are what I consider a healthy weight and eating pretty well, and say I want to get my weight down, they have that body type that’s bigger. That’s the question, is this really worth it to you? Or would it be better to focus on the type of race that you’re strong at? I think of an athlete I work with who had that, you know, he’s a big kind of muscley guy, and he came to me wanting to do well at Hilo, which is one of the biggest climbing races in North America, and I was like, “You really want to focus on this one?”
Chris Case 51:22
Yeah, not the best choice.
Trevor Connor 51:24
Yeah, he’s a great crit writer. So, he said yes, and I only had three months to work with him, and we built them for her. Even though I had this conversation with him multiple times very disappointed, because he wasn’t winning the climbs. I’m like, you’re not in three months going to dramatically change your body type and become that climber, let’s next time focus on an event that suits your body type and the type of rider you are.
Consistency in Nutrition
Renee Eastman 51:53
We talked a lot about consistency with the last question with how that you the best results in training and Fitness. It also yields the best results with weight management and nutrition. Trevor, that thing about your pros when they’re at restaurants they make certain choices because they’re managing their weight and things like that, that you can’t expect to yield those really good results if you’re not consistent with your diet. Another trap I see people kind of fall into, the quote is I tried everything, and I’m working so hard, but I’m not losing weight, because they are working hard five out of seven days, or they’re working hard for 12 out of 16 hours a day, and then they ultimately kind of lack that consistency to follow through with seven out of seven days, and you know, they go off the rails on Friday night with beer and pizza and whatever, that lack of consistency, it feels like you worked really hard because you were suffering and you were making certain choices all week long, and maybe you were a little hungry on certain days, but then you blow it on two days on the weekend or whatever. So, the consistency matters with the nutrition as well, the consistency is also needed to kind of follow-through to the finish line to make the suffering worth it if you will, because it doesn’t do anybody any good to suffer for, oh, I was really good at breakfast and lunch and snacks, and then raided the cookie jar at midnight kind of thing.
Trevor Connor 54:11
I will give you an example, a personal example of this because I’m right now five pounds over my race weight and I’m trying to get that final five pounds off. So, last week I finally said okay, I’m going to start counting calories, it doesn’t get to me mentally, I generally don’t recommend counting calories but I’ve always been able to do it without getting negative or obsessive about it, so I’m okay doing it every once in a while. So, I did last week and every day, but Friday I counted my calories and I was as best I could tell under consuming every single day, but Friday didn’t count my calories, I got home on Friday and just went house. I don’t even want to know how much I dramatically overate on Friday, or why I let myself do it, but it was just one evening, that was it. I finished Sunday a pound heavier than I was on Monday.
Renee Eastman 55:11
But didn’t it feel like you’re suffering all week long? Or like working really hard all week long?
Trevor Connor 55:17
Yeah. No, I was working hard all week long, and it took one giant binge session to throw all that out the window.
Chris Case 55:26
Renee Eastman 55:26
Chris Case 55:27
I mean, it’s such a powerful urge that lives within all of us, right?
Trevor Connor 55:34
Yeah. So, I agree with you it’s consistency. In the past, when I’ve gotten down to race weight, you don’t have a binge day. You’re just consistent every day.
Chris Case 55:46
Excellent. Thank you, Trevor, for that explanation. I know you love your fibers. With that, let’s closeout. Renee Eastman, it’s been a pleasure having you on Fast Talk today. Thank you.
Renee Eastman 55:57
Yeah. Thanks for having me, guys.
Trevor Connor 55:59
It was a pleasure having you, thanks for joining us.
Chris Case 56:03
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast and be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback, join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at fasttalklabs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Renee Eastman, Ryan Kohler, and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.