Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cycling Performance Tips

Your potential as a cyclist is defined by your genes, your training (to strengthen the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems; to help us plan race day strategies), and your nutritional programs that provide the "fuel" to power us for an event or ride.

Our athletic potential is, in the end, limited by our genes. But what we actually will achieve is determined to a much greater degree by the training and the nutritional programs we choose to follow. 

So where does a new rider, committed to maximizing their performance, start?  The first challenge is to get past the anecdotes that are found on almost every training website. These are the recommendations and claims based on personal opinions and "experience" rather than firm factual information.

But "factual" articles can be just as misleading as anecdotes. The positive result in a study of a supplement, or training change, might actually be a placebo effect - a one time (not reproducible) improvement that is not related to the intervention (training program or nutritional supplement) being studied but rather the user's anticipation of benefit and subconscious biasing of a result. One way to minimize the possibility we are seeing result that is a placebo effect is to focus on articles that have been subjected to a rigorous review (generally in peer-reviewed journals) of the study's design and analysis of results. For that reason,  you will notice that many of my references are from PubMed, a compilation of abstracts from peer reviewed studies.

Another question to ask yourself is about the study model. The results of a study done in animals may not transfer to humans, and some interventions which are positive in an animal model can actually produce a negative result when studied in human athletes.

And finally we have the conundrum of a non linear dose-response relationship - that is the concept that "...if a little is good, a lot is better."  Occasionally, while there may be an initial positive correlation with a small dose of an intervention or supplement, as the dose or volume (of exercise) is increased further, these benefits start to fall off. Thus when a manufacturer or promoter uses an article that shows a benefit of a small dose to support a product that has a much higher dose of ingredient, the risk of a loss of effectiveness or even a negative impact increases.

To help you sift through the many claims on the internet, what I'll call "urban legends", it is my hope to collect and discuss performance tips (nutritional, training, and equipment) that are supported by scientific evidence (controlled studies, published in the peer reviewed medical literature), or based on well accepted principles of nutritional physiology. This information will then let you, the reader, decide when and how to apply a particular study or finding to your own unique situation.

It can be a long and tedious search to find those training and nutritional tips which will help you gain a competitive edge. While one always hopes to find that magic shortcut, or unknown supplement, it is more commonly the application of tried and true training basics, not shortcuts, that will get you to your goals. Hopefully this website will point you to the best training (and riding strategies) for you.


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