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STING DECIDES TO CUT THE CRAP

I have been cycling for over two years now and racing (at least I think I'm racing) my bike for one and a half. Over that time, I've spent a large portion of my income on my bike and biking affiliated stuff (money that I coulda spent on women or at least looking for women) and I've drawn my own conclusions on certain issues. Weight-weenie gadgetry, high-tech nutrition, special dieting plans - you name it, I've read about it, thought about it and most probably tried it. I am an internet junkie and have probably read through all the performance "enhancing" methods known to man. I'm going to write a little bit about all the foodstuff I've gone through and what I think works and what doesn't. I think I'm somewhat qualified to speak about this, because I'm a geek. And geeks keep little journals of things like resting heart-rate and a record of small minor changes to the diet and stuff. So I know pretty much what works and what doesn't.

You are what you eat. The most over-rated slogan of the last century.

We live in an era where people are mad about weight. You read in the press about pros who weigh their food; you are bombarded with articles of weight loss supplements (and how they can help you train faster and stronger). You receive promotional emails touting the latest and greatest high-tech "sport" supplement that will remove lactic acid, utilize more fat, prevent cramps and turn you into a World Champion. Or should I say World Chump - because if you really believe all that then you must still believe in the tooth fairy.

Because these things don't work. Over the counter GNC type supplements are really of questionable value. In a day and age when food of all kinds are already supplemented with Vitamins and minerals, why do you have to continue popping pills? Oh, because the 200% overdose of vits and mins from your normal diet is not enough right? We need to overdose on 1000% of the Recommended Daily Allowance. Yea, right.

When I started cycling I wanted to see huge gains fast. So I was willing to try anything. I trained hard and at the same time followed the advice of friends to take supplements. I was willing to believe in the idea that what you eat will affect your performance. Plus the people around me also had a pseudo-scientific understanding of all these stuff. Well, let me just say that so called "scientific" data based on supplementation is also of questionable value. In many cases, they probably work well as placebos.

So I trained my butt off and religiously took Multi-vits, Ester-C and stuff and sure enough, the fitness came. I got stronger and stronger and rarely fell sick. Ah, so it works, right? Fast forward to one year later and I've been off all that supplements for 6 months and guess what? I don't suffer any lack in performance and haven't fallen ill either. I even posted my best time-trial time yet and did it supplement free. Plus I've got more mullah in my savings plan. What a crock. I never needed those supplements anyway. If anybody wants a stash of multi-vits from GNC, call me I can pass you all my leftover supplies.

Over the past two years I've lost about 10kg. When I first started out, I reached a plateau of weight loss and I hovered at 65kg for a little while. I was getting desperate. I tot that this would affect my ability to get over any hill longer than 50m. (Ha, what was I thinking? Racing in Singapore, one never has to worry about hills and weight, what you have to worry about is your power - because in Singapore, all our racing hills are pure power hills).

Being desperate and a geek, I read up on what some top amateurs and pros did and cobbled up a "special" diet with little fat, lots of protein and less carbo. You know how freaking hard it is to eat like that in Singapore? You gotta cook it yourself. It takes a damn long time to prepare this sorta food I tell you - all that shopping and cooking. You know, when you read of those nutty pros like Robert Millar eating only veggies, you say, wow, maybe that's what you oughta do. Bullshit I say. People like Millar are talented. They could eat Mickey Ds forever, ride a trike and still beat me. My new hero is Chris Horner. That guy is normal and loves the menu at the Golden Arches and still wins races. He da man. I'm back on eating normal food and guess what - I lost even more weight. In the offseason I tend to stay at 62 and my in form weight is now 59-60kg and at 1.7m, I would say thats a pretty decent weight/height ratio. Wanna lose weight? Go for those long 5 hour rides and do some weights. Those would burn the flab right off.

Speaking as a bike racer, I gotta warn you all about those weight loss supplements. While I was stuck in the 65kg plateau, I came across stuff like Xenadrine that was tauted as being super for athletes. Fortunately, being a geek, I always read up on the ingredients - these weight loss stuff like Xenadrine contain Ephedrine and Caffeine in huge amounts. Those stuff make you uncomfortable and can kill you. Furthermore, in cycling Ephedrine is banned - so don't be a dope-head. Just eat normal and train more. (I still wonder how sports like boxing and American football can condone Xenadrine as a supplement - guess doping tolerance in different sports is different).

Finally, there are those "sports drinks" like energy bars, gels and powders that you mix up. On the bike food is definitely important. Its important to take in a little protein and lots of easily digestible carbo while doing a long race or training ride. But what makes good race food? The only thing that matters is packaging I tell you. Packaging in the sense that - how easily carried and consumed is that food? In a bike race, you don't want to be fumbling around, peeling bananas and trying desperately to open a package. In terms of caloric content, all energy bars and gels and powders are the same. The difference is that some companies are better at marketing than others and can charge a premium. I've tried quite a few "powders" and they all work about the same. I've tried a few gels and they all work the same. I know what doesn't work is candy and heavy meaty sandwiches. Over time I've drawn my conclusions - I know drink good old Milo as an energy drink and 100 Plus for salts; for solid food, I make Nutella sandwiches cut into small strips for easy munching. The only high-tech stuff I use is HammerGel cause its tasty and comes in a friendly bottle. Honey would do just as well 'cept, honey tastes quite boring after awhile. Converting to these normal everyday foods has saved me a bundle and has not taken my performance away at all.

In the end, all I can say is draw your own conclusions. After two years of racing my bike, I kinda know what I like and what works for me. What works for me is normal everyday food that you can buy in supermarkets and is cheap. I have a suspicion that for the majority of you recreational racers out there, it will work for you too. 'nuff said. Time for my five hour bike ride.

Comments or criticism can be sent to sting@teamabsolut.net
 

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