Cycling & Weight Management

Don't leave the bread behind

Bonking & Bulimia

5“I never understood the term BONKING until I started cycling.” Dr. Al Bowman, Cyclist

Weight management is a constant priority for cycling performance. An optimal eating style is an art of personal preference that relies heavily on the science of nutrition and mathematics: Energy In=Energy Out.

With this focus come abuses and excesses. In women’s cycling, there’s a risk within the female athlete triad for bulimia/anorexia. While it’s important not to pound poundage – become obsessive about it, svelte strength-to-weight ratios are the fundamental unit of measurement for successful performance.

Some riders try to address weight management and race fueling issues by bonk or depletion training. We did bonk, we do bonk, we will bonk. It’s not always possible to get the right amount of carbohydrates in time to avoid hypoglycemic shut-downs. The brain and muscles are functionally affected. We feel ripped off and humiliated when something so simple to maintain robs us from potential performance. But training in a bonked state is a bad idea. The basis for bonk training begins a day sans breakfast and then goes for a ride. In reality, this slows not speeds metabolism 6. Metabolic processes burn more energy so eating more regularly improves metabolism. Glycogen depletion contributes to poor immunity, risking illness. Training starved can lead to less intense training. Intense training is the side of the strength-to-weight ratio that really matters in race performance. Sometimes being a bit beefier helps keep up the power numbers.

Also muscle mass is heavy so targeting weight in poundage isn’t the meal ticket. Lean mass mass + power output are the two indicators to watch.

Instead of starving, eat for fuel with pleasure. The French seem to have it licked – small tasty portions with variety, in-season freshness and something alive in each meal. This translates to performance meals that are a tasty source of high-calorie, quickly-processing snacks à table or from a musette. Eating wisely and well for performance and a perfect waist line do not have to be distasteful.

Prayer for Weight Management
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 1:2

We recognize this as a hard discipline and are glad for all the delicious food choices to maintain good health and high performance. We ask for responsible weight management.

Ponder Am I well-fed AND svelte? Affirm I love eating well and wisely. Watch the hard continue to ride.

5“Fuel for Cycling,” by Al Bowman posted under “Cycling Nutrition” as of 9/30/08 on

6“Mythbusters,” a webinar presented by Stephen J. McGregor, Ph.D. on 3/18/08 arranged by USA Cycling. Stephen is part of USA Cycling Science & Education faculty and Applied Physiology Laboratory of Eastern Michigan University.

7The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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