Friday Group Ride #209

Friday Group Ride #209

I fired down the first piece of pizza cold while I jammed the rest in the toaster oven to warm up. I was that hungry, even though I’d topped my breakfast toast, four pieces washed down with three cups of coffee, with a donut and a half after my arrival at the office.

The off-season, or winter as civilians call it, provides something of a double dose of fitness trouble for me. On the one hand, I use the cold and snow as a reason not to be on the bike. On the other hand, I eat like Robinson Crusoe at a cruise ship buffet. Really, culturally, American’s set themselves up for failure, scheduling our Thanksgiving feast in late November, just as the cold is setting in. The caloric excesses of that holiday tend to dovetail nicely with the pre-Christmas calorie orgies, followed quickly by the holiday itself and then New Year, when food and drink again become the center of social interaction.

By then, bad food choices have become bad food habits. I spend January (and most of February) trying to get back to something like a reasonable daily intake, to incorporate a vegetable somewhere during the day, if not the week.

Really, I do the opposite of what makes sense. In the summer, when I’m riding the most, I eat the best. When I let myself go, late in the fall, I really let go.

I am lucky. My genes keep me thin and my cholesterol low. Outwardly, there is little indication that I am completely off the dietary rails. But when I get back on the bike I know it. I may only be five pounds from fighting weight, but I’m a lot farther from true fitness, and I know I need to eat better to feel better.

I know I’m not alone in this. The Group Ride this week asks how hard you think about your food? Do you carefully monitor everything that goes into the tank, or do you ride hard so you can eat whatever you want? Do you eat differently in the off-season, or do you maintain a consistent diet? What’s your weakness? Mine is sweets, but I have been known to abuse french fries, too.

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  1. Mike Hancock

    By tracking calories and following a structured training plan, I lost 15lbs last winter and had my best road season ever. However, once I found success on the road (target race won, some success in other races), my motivation to maintain that weight faltered. I gained a few towards the end of the season. Then a few more. Then a few more. Now I’m back on the wagon (more or less), but finding it hard to maintain the same sort of focus I had last year. Odd, because the losses I was amazed at last year I now see as a real possibility- if only I stop stuffing my face. I likes me some bacon.

    My training volume intensity didn’t vary from the plan (and all of the cycles therein), so I’m still maintaining or making gains, but those are more offset by the gains around my waist. If I manage to drop the weight, I’ll likely make all sorts of promises to never return to previous levels. History has shown a string of broken promises to myself in that regard, so next year I’ll be in the same position. And the next year. And the next year. Until one day when I no long consider it worth the effort. I hope I can delay that day as long as possible.

  2. Shawn

    Wow: we have nearly identical winter fitness and diet habits. I may only pick up a few pounds over the winter, but it’s enough to make me feel like I need to hold my breath to tie my shoes, and I oh-so feel it when I start riding again after the cold.

    Unfortunately, I treat my stomach like Doc’s Mr. Fusion reactor and fill it with garbage … and hope to get my 1.21 jiggawats out of it.

  3. Patrick24

    There is an bike column blogger that has a caricature of himself wearing a jersey that says Old Guys That Get Fat in Winter. I so want one of those.

    1. Padraig

      Patrick24: That would be our friend Patrick O’Grady, who helps Charles Pelkey with “Live Update Guy” during the grand tours. You can see plenty of his work here. And you can visit his blog here. He’s an immense talent and, sometimes, an even bigger guy.

  4. Scott

    Most diets start with “Don’t.”
    Last year, I took a new approach. Rather than focus on what I couldn’t eat, I made a New Year’s resolution: “Eat More Salad.”
    It’s the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept.
    It’s simple to remember and simple to execute. There no requirement to eat salad every day. And there’s no pre-packaged food to buy. It really doesn’t matter what salad you eat, except perhaps that of the potato. The point is, you’ll get more fresh vegetables and greens and stop eating crap.
    Bottom line; it saved me 10 lbs. that I no longer have to drag up Salmon Falls Rd.
    Now if I could just avoid office treats and candy, I could probably drop 10 more.

  5. ScottyCycles62

    I became a Sports Nutritionist after wanting to learn more about how my eating habits affect my on the bike performance. I learned a lot in the last 6 months about how my food intake affects my rides. So by paying attention to what you eat and WHEN you eat it are an important part of improving your fitness, losing weight, gaining lean muscle mass. I usually recommend tracking everything you eat for 30-60 days (lots of apps out there make it easy!)until you have gained an understanding of how you eat. After that you have usually developed better eating habits and only occasionally have to be anal retentive about logging every morsel. No reason to give up your favorites either just moderate their consumption.
    Certified Sports Nutritionist


    I am a big guy by cycling standards, 6’3″, 190ish. To complicate matters I live in the mountains and ride with smaller guys. Since loosing 15+ lbs I have maintained decent winter weight by following a paleo diet. During riding season I can mix in some carbs and find that I still have the power I need. Bacon plus better riding gives me hope…

  7. Pat O'Brien

    My diet is healthy, year round. But I have a weakness, beer. Really good beer. And even though my weight doesn’t doesn’t go up much in the winter, I am the proud owner of a current “Old Guys Who Get Fat in Winter Racing Team Jersey.” Now if we can convince Mr. O’Grady to produce it again, preferably with Voler, I would own two.

  8. Peter Lin

    I try to eat healthy balanced meals year round and mostly succeed, though holidays I let go and have fun. What’s the point of all that riding if you can dig into a juicy turkey and the fixings.

  9. Chad

    The food check voice in my head simply asks: “can you afford a lighter bike?” Usually takes care of over indulgence.

  10. Andrew

    I try to be good. One thing I’ve done at work is to only snack on fruit, none of the cookies etc that the secretaries constantly have in massive quantities. It’s hard to avoid all these home baked goods, but it’s a slippery slope. Some days I eat like 6 apples, or 3 apples and 2 bananas. Occasionally some animal crackers. The meal I have trouble being restrained at is dinner, especially if I’ve ridden after work. I can still eat like a teenager without much prompting… Anyway, I’m holding 163-5 through the winter, which isn’t bad at 5’11”. Hopefully I’ll drop another 5-10 once I’m back to riding outdoors twice/day in the warmer months. On the weekends I let myself be a little less disciplined, have a cookie or two. I hate watching my weight, but I’m just a fat sponge otherwise!!

  11. Michael

    My weight is the same as it has ever been, sitting at 138 and 5’9″, but it seems like the muscle turns to fat more quickly as I have aged. It doesn’t seem like I am having trouble with food intake, just not always getting enough time on the bike or running the trails. Still, I am fortunate so far that I don’t seem to put on a lot of fat weight.

  12. Dean

    I stopped eating red meat year round and honestly I feel great. And if I ride 40+ miles I get to have Hagen Danz ice cream that night. Soooo good, and has only four ingredients

  13. Dave

    I think you are asking the wrong question. I think the better question regarding what to eat is what can I eat and not die from it long term. This is poignant to me right now as my Sunday riding buddy died of a heart attack at 47 two weeks ago. It’s poignant to me that the last meal I ate with him was the first I saw of his dietary habits. I had a vegan burger and Hank had a hamburger. Sadly Hank had bad eating habits and, perhaps, believed 200+ miles per week would insulate him from the consequences. The evidence is in; if you do not want to die from your food than meat and dairy are not part of the equation-even if you are riding 300 miles per week and even if you have no family history. I have been vegan for 5 years now and suffered no loss of performance or recovery. When I back off training in the fall instead of gaining weight l actually lose weight.

  14. Wisco

    I stopped worrying about my weight a few years ago and just enjoy riding. I have a sweet tooth, enjoy fried food in moderation, drink some wine and enjoy eating. Not junk, but life is too short to force myself to eat this or that at 46 years old.

    Yes I’m not going to win a bike race, but I ride and enjoy myself with the right gearing on my bike (34 x 50 with a 11 x 29, 10-speed Campy).

  15. Tom in albany

    I just keep on exercising. I give up the bike for the Y and run, lift, and do tabata/urban adventure classes. I’ll also XC-ski or snowshoe for 30 minutes at lunchtime. I try to keep the food intake consistent throughout the year and cheat when I want. I was blessed with good genes. So far, at 48-3/4 years old, I’m still below my college beer-drinking-pizza-eating-sit-on-my-ass weight (135). I weight 127 in season and have gone up as high as 132 in the off-season. I hope this holds.

    Note: When my kids were born about 8 years ago, I pretty much quit drinking. I have one or two drinks a week, at most. I think this was the real key.

  16. Tom in albany

    Yup. Pretty much means I haven’t put on more than 5 lbs of muscle since I got out of high school. I’m doing something wrong.

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