In the O: Weight-obsessed? Lighten up.
Looking for the Recipes?
If you’re looking for the recipes mentioned in yesterday’s Oregonian column, look no further.
This week’s column for the Oregonian is a humorous (and personal) look at cyclists’ obsession with weight and weight loss with a few winter tips thrown in for good measure:
Read it at the O here 0r read the full “director’s cut” version below.
The Director’s Cut
The party’s over.
It’s the middle of January. The holidays are long gone, cyclocross season has been done for more than a month, and the beer and Belgian fries have taken their toll.
My mother (bless her heart) disagrees, of course: “Oh, honey, for heaven’s sake, you’re not fat!” But she’s only half right.
In the world of levelheaded human beings with balanced lives and normal body images, I’m fit. In the world of data-aggregating, gram-counting, mile-tracking competitive cyclists? Fat. Or at least definitely not fit.
This was made clear to me when I went out for my first winter training ride with the team a few weeks ago. I hadn’t done long miles in months and, when the grade turned up, the little girls moved around me to the front and rode away like they were filled with helium — effortless and happy. Meanwhile, I gritted out the ascent with the grace and speed of a Mack truck on a mountain pass.
It’s a simple matter of science. The more you have to carry, the more energy it takes to go uphill. If you’re a physiological freak of nature cranking out mega-wattage, then it might not matter if you’ve got a 10-pound beer belly strapped to your waist. Unfortunately, mega-wattage isn’t part of my repertoire, so when the weight goes up, the Swift goes backward.
It’s time for winter training. It’s time to do the dirty work of the off-season. To lay the foundation for the coming year’s goals that will the body into some kind of respectable form.
It’s time for lose-the-fat camp. Long hours in the saddle, weekly dates with the bathroom scale and a healthy dose of mindful eating and high-quality nutrition.
It’ll be a long road, but least I’m not alone.
Performance-driven weight loss is nothing new to my Sicilian boyfriend, Sal, who often curses his cannoli heritage as he’s getting whipped by whippets up the local slopes. For years he’s been striving for the perfect T. rex silhouette: crazy big legs for mashing pedals and a little bitty upper body designed to be as light as possible. So concerned with maintaining correct proportions was Sal that when we first met he often requested I move heavy boxes or furniture lest he develop muscles in his arms.
“The only reason I have arms is to keep my face from hitting the bars,” he would say.
For better or for worse, ours is a sport that favors the lean and gristly.
After years of “working out” for the sake of weight loss or a skinny pair of jeans or an unrealistic magazine ideal, I can tell you this much: Training in the name of the bike is a heck of a lot more rewarding.
Mean, lean eating machine: tips to get you going
Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t need to diet; you need to optimize your intake. You’re a cyclist, not a supermodel — the goal is to drop pounds without losing power. Give your muscles what they need to grow, focus on high-quality nutrition and exercise a little old-fashioned self-control.
Be present: Avoid multitasking when you’re eating. Instead, focus on the flavors and truly experience your meal. When you eat while you’re watching TV or using the computer, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re putting in your mouth.
Plan and prepare: Carve out a little time to do food prep on the weekend. Chop vegetables, make meals you can reheat or easily grab when the week gets busy. Never cook only one meal at a time — make multiple portions and store leftovers for later.
The most important meal of the day: Eat breakfast and make it count. Not only will you fuel your active day (and burn off what you put in), you’ll also help minimize afternoon and evening hunger pangs.
Eat smaller meals more often: Eating five or six small meals a day instead of the traditional Big Three helps prevent the kind of intense hunger that can often lead to overeating when you wait five or six hours between meals. If it helps, think of it as three small meals with two or three snacks.
Remember lean protein, healthful fats and fiber: All three take longer than carbohydrates for your body to digest and will help curb cravings throughout the day. Essential fats can be found in salmon, flaxseed and most nuts and are powerful allies in achieving your ideal performance weight.
Measure something: The old saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Track your caloric intake or commit to a weekly weigh-in. Keep notes to monitor your progress.
Smart workout fueling: As a cyclist, you need fuel for long rides, but be careful not to overdo it. You should aim to replace about 25percent of the calories that you will burn during your effort with on-bike nutrition (like bars, gels or sports drinks). Any more and you invite gastrointestinal disaster, less and you might bonk. Also, try to avoid the post-ride urge to pig out. (We’re notorious for overeating after a hard ride because we tend to feel that we’ve earned it.) Instead of gorging, be sure to get a quick hit of nutrition like a recovery drink within 15 minutes of stopping and then eat another high-quality meal in the next two hours.
“Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance,” Matt Fitzgerald, VeloPress, $18.95, 224 pages. This is the only book I know of written specifically to help endurance athletes with weight management and weight loss. It includes tools to help you determine your ideal “racing weight” and body composition.
“Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting,” Bethenny Frankel, Fireside, $10.88, 304 pages. A really annoying name (and mildly annoying book) with a powerful message. It’s about our psychological relationship with food, and it features 10 concrete, actionable strategies for rethinking the way that you deal with food issues. More than any other book I’ve read, this one really starts to get at the core of eating in a healthful, non-obsessive and joyful way.
“Time-Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week,” Chris Carmichael, VeloPress, $19.95, 256 pages. Cycling is a time-intensive endeavor. It’s one of my biggest gripes about the sport. You’ve got a job and a family and (gasp) some other hobbies you’d like to get to every now and then. You don’t have time to ride 20 hours a week to ride your way to racing weight. Not to worry. Lance Armstrong’s renowned coach, Chris Carmichael, published a book made specifically for real people who have a limited amount of training hours at their disposal. By focusing on intensity, it’s possible to get big-time results without giving up your entire life.