30 December 2014

Effect of pedaling rate

I just came across a recent study that addresses a topic of particular interest to me.

Effects of 2 weeks of low‑intensity cycle training with different pedaling rates on the work rate at lactate threshold, Eur J Appl Physiol, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-014-3081-9

This study suggests that training time spent doing low-cadence strength-type workouts is time well spent. In a nutshell, they found that low-cadence workouts at LT power had a greater impact on improvement of work at LT than higher cadence work at the same workload.

Conclusion:  "Pedaling rate and the corresponding pedal force and peripheral oxygenation during cycling exercise influence the effect of training at LT on WorkLT. Two weeks of training at a low-frequency pedaling rate (35 rpm), but not at a high-frequency (75 rpm), improved WorkLT."

Unfortunately, the study used untrained individuals and tested cadences that could all be considered low. Also, a longer study period (only 2 weeks?) would have been much better. Arguably, the improvements measured might be attributable entirely to enhanced neuromuscular function that was stimulated more effectively at the higher pedal forces.

Nonetheless, the discussion of how cadence impacts VO2, blood pressure, heart rate, blood lactate, and oxy-hemoglobin/myoglobin concentration at the vastus lateralis is interesting and seems to make sense.

Obviously, this training technique can be taken too far and there is probably some increased risk of injury. However, two factors suggest that the risk of injury is not unreasonable:

  1. generally, on-the-bike low-cadence work results in lower pedal force, and therefore joint stress, than strength exercises in the gym
  2. generally, the workouts incorporating low-cadence work, do not result in greater pedal forces than you'll experience during maximal efforts at more typical cadences (sprints, intervals, race efforts)
I would suggest that increased injury risk comes from "overdoing" these workouts in some way.

Of course, there are some studies out there that conclude the opposite or at least find less benefit attributable to this technique.

One such study, Low cadence interval training at moderate intensity does not improve cycling performance in highly trained veteran cyclists (2014), concluded the opposite. I have a hard time buying the conclusion of this study though. Partially because I have some bias or belief that it works, but also because there is no logical reason why it wouldn't at least work just as well as higher cadence efforts at the same workload. Or in other words, how could applying the same central load (aerobic workload) and greater peripheral load (required muscular force), result in diminished improvement? It seems like the authors found that 1+0=2 and 1+1=1. There are some issues with the methodology employed that could have contributed to the result. However, the result still should be considered in evaluating all the evidence.

In any case, these two studies illustrate the difficulties associated with looking at studies of training techniques done in the laboratory for the purpose of publishing an article and trying to translate them into real world training methodologies. On the one hand, the real world is much more complicated. But, at the same time, we are able to apply techniques over a more realistic time period and to our exact set of variables.

Bottom line? In my opinion, formed from personal and coaching experience, and finding support in the scientific literature, this type of work will benefit your riding if done "properly".

Happy Holidays!

09 December 2014

Protein timing....pfft.

A recent Bicycling article claims that "[c]onsuming protein and after rides can help stave off muscle loss". The article even references a study published in Sports Medicine as support. Unfortunately, there is no link to the study itself so it is difficult to comment on the specific support claimed by the author. However, a quick search of recent scholarly articles across multiple journals tends to conclude the opposite

A recent meta-analysis in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concludes that their study "refute[s] the commonly held belief that the timing of protein intake in and around a training session is critical to muscular adaptations and indicate that consuming adequate protein in combination with resistance exercise is the key factor for maximizing muscle protein accretion." See http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1550-2783-9-54  A 2009 study concludes:  Results indicate that the time of protein-supplement ingestion in resistance-trained athletes during a 10-wk training program does not provide any added benefit to strength, power, or body-composition changes. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19478342

Of course, protein intake is important. You should be ingesting at least 0.8g protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This is a global consensus figure for the adequate amount to satisfy the protein needs of a healthy adult. There is less agreement as to whether athletes require more protein, and if so, how much. There are negative effects associated with excessive protein consumption (and counter-examples as well), so "more is better and can't hurt" probably doesn't apply. Also, if you are at all concerned about body weight, excessive protein ingestion could contribute to weight gain (assuming you continue to consume the same amount of fat and carbohydrates). Also notable, studies indicate that female athletes tend to under-consume protein as compared to men.

The bottom line, 1.2g/kg/d to 1.6g/kg/d is probably a reasonable range for most training cyclists. Adjust your diet to this range and then stop thinking about it. 

As always, caveat lector.

08 December 2014

Wrapping up 2014

2014 is almost done. Things have been going well, except for posting to this blog!

Here's a few highlights:

Go Buffs!

I am now the Head Coach for the University of Colorado Boulder Cycling Team and coach all disciplines:  Road, Track, MTB, and Cyclocross. It was quite an adventure this fall working with the MTB team. I had to learn a lot new faces and get a handle on the gravity discipline. I had a lot of fun and made some strides towards "professionalizing" or "varsity-izing" the program. This was a learning season for me with MTB, but now I feel like I have a good handle on things.

The team had a great season winning both the RMCCC Team Title (conference) and National Team Title. We're the first "club team" to win a national team omnium in the last five years in either division and in any discipline! Kind of a big deal, that's 46 consecutive national team omniums (or is it omnia?) won by varsity teams.

Rapha Gentlemen's Race

I was lucky enough to get included on a team for the Rapha Gentlemen's Race in August. I rode with the Boulder Cycle Sport Team and it was a fun, long day on the bike:  104 miles, 13,000+ft of climbing. Good times! More...

Other than that its been a lot of the same:  riding, coaching, living the dream in Boulder, CO.

Looking forward to 2015!