Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quick Nutrition on Hot Days

Microwaved Pepper Chicken Breast

Here's a quick, nutritious meal you can make on a hot day without heating up the whole house. It's packed with easy to digest protein, antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, slow carbs, smells wonderful cooking, and tastes great. Don't be surprised if you find yourself doing a "re-do" as you may start craving a 2nd helping.

The grapefruit juice tastes great, adds acid to help digest minerals, adds vitamin C, and starts the digestion of the meat for you, so it hits hungry legs FAST!

  • Half a red onion, diced
  • One fresh red or yellow bell pepper (or frozen mix is great)
  • One chicken breast marinaded in Ruby Red Grapefruit juice for 1-10 days
  • 2 tablespoons of Ruby Red grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 rd cup of Craisins (cranberry 'raisins') or organic dried cranberries
  • Olive or Canola oil (critical for generating heat in microwave)
  • Salt

Pour 1 tablespoon oil in bottom of Pyrex dish. Lay chicken breast smooth side down in the bottom of the dish. Add 2-3 tablespoons of fresh Ruby Red Grapefruit juice. Smother with mixed onions, bell peppers, and Craisins.  Sprinkle with salt. (If the rough side is down the chicken breast will trap steam and explode your dinner all over the inside of the microwave. Don't ask....)

Microwave loosely covered dish 12-15 minutes. My baked potato setting works great on my microwave. Cook until reduced enough that the onions or peppers start to caramelize a little. Chicken breasts are usually 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound, so about 40-65 grams of protein. Great with milk, and dark chocolate for dessert.

If you hate chopping onions, there's a 'new' way that's safer and without tears. Cut the onion in half top to bottom. Using the root to hold the onion together, slice off the top and then cut down through the onion in a fan pattern without cutting all the way back to root.

Finally, slice the onion from the top down towards the root in 1/4 inch slices. The rings of the onion will create the phantom 3rd cut to create perfect diced onions. They also keep longer sliced this way, if you decide to pre-slice an onion or 2 and store in the fridge in some Tupperware.

Techie Tuesday - Prepping for Long Miles

Lake near top of Ebbet's Pass. June 11th, 2011.

It's raining here again today, perhaps as much as a half an inch. Wow, really? In late June? Unheard of! Likely this still frozen lake will get another foot of snow tonight. Wow!

I've been ramping up my mileage again, with a goal of 100 miles per week, every week, week in and week out. Recovery time can make this difficult sometimes, so I've yet to hit 400 miles in a month, but I managed to get in 137 miles last week, in spite of 100+ heat on Tuesday.

When I start riding 100+ miles (and climbing 7,500+) I start to notice little things that become more important.
  1. Getting my clothes washed so they're clean, dry, and ready the next day
  2. Keeping the drivetrain properly cleaned and lubed
  3. Inspecting the rear tire before I'm riding on thread-bare tires
  4. Making those little adjustments that irk me on the ride, but I forget once home (a note pad, voice message or email to yourself also works well)
  5. Cleaning the bike and wheels before totally filthy
  6. Having pre and post-ride food prepped and stocked. Rice, potatoes and milk respectively in my case
  7. Having spare stocks of Gatorade, PowerBars, electrolytes in the cupboard
  8. Keeping waterbottles clean, sterile and in the fridge if filled
  9. Having meals, especially protein rich meals, prepped or at least stocked
  10. Having spare tires and wheels on hand
  11. Having plenty of spare inner-tubes, and patch kits on hand
  12. Remembering to patch or replace the tube in my saddle bag
  13. Keeping fresh or freshly charged batteries in my lights
  14. Recharging the Garmin after each ride, and deleting old rides from it
  15. Keeping my activities uploaded to the computer and tracking my progress.
  16. Remembering to stop and smell the roses when serendipity happens
The biggest challenge seems to be updating my grocery list and making small adjustments to the bike. Since I'm still dialing in my seat choice, and seat position, I've ended up making adjustments in the field of late. I'm still tweaking the shifter position, handlebars and aerobars too as longer miles aggravate my wrist pain.

Specialized Avatar Gel Saddle. My next iteration in the search.
 Spares, in general, just become so much more important when doing serious training. Sure, you can run to the bike shop for something you need, but there goes your training window for the day. When you're at the bike shop pick up some extra tubes and patch kits, and maybe some more ride fuel.

Serious training is much more of a logistics battle than recreational riding. It's an unwelcome distraction to have to break your routine, or from you planned training because of poor planning and preparation. Fortunately, a few lists can make things very manageable.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Techie Tuesday - SWF Hydration

I found this incredible product. You just add water, and **poof**, instant single, white, female. Sadly, NOT true!

We have been having a heat wave here though - 103 in the shade. Kind of late, but otherwise the expected heat after months of cool, rainy weather that characterized the Amgen Tour of California. So now I am on the prowl for SWF - but not the kind you'd expect. In this case S.W.F is an acronym for
  1. Salt
  2. Water
  3. Food
... which is the sequence, and priority of consumption to keep hydrated, fed, and prevent cramping, and nausea.

Salt, or more specifically, sodium, is needed to transport water (study the animation and read the remarks) into your blood, generate thirst, and is necessary in the small intestine to enable transport of glucose from the intestinal brush border into the bloodstream.

In addition, salt must be added to digested water to maintain the isotonic salinity of the blood, which just happens to be identical to seawater. Supporting glucose transfer doesn't use up sodium, but maintaining isotonic electrolyte levels in your blood does. Africans, and their descendants, are genetically predisposed to hang onto sodium tenaciously. It leads to might higher rates of hypertension, but on hot days, the brothers have an advantage!

As such, sodium, typically as sodium chloride (table salt), or sodium citrate (typical source in sports concoctions), is the foundation for proper hydration, which in turn is the foundation for proper nutrition. You will need between 400 and 1,200mg per hour, and maybe more, to keep up with losses on hot days. That's between 1/6th and 1/2 of a teaspoon. Easy numbers to remember, as you will burn 400-1,200 calories per hour to fuel your ride. Happy coincidence, and nothing more.

Sodium and water, as well as all the high GI ride fuels you eat during cycling events, are processed in about the first 40cm of the small intestine - at least if all goes well. When things don't go well, food and water are swept past the absorption/diffusion zone in the small intestine and into the large intestine where bacteria await their next meal, which they will ferment, causing nausea, gas, bloating and cramping. Worse, you'll be feeling weak at the same time because you don't have enough sodium to get water and glucose into your bloodstream.

The good news is - with one caveat - that your large intestine will absorb almost any water it is presented with, and it's more efficient at absorbing water than the small intestine. The caveat is, while the large intestine can absorb water, and some sodium at the same time, it is also tasked with ridding your body of a lot of toxic substances, some of which are minerals, and lack of water and some fresh fiber makes simultaneously absorbing sodium and dumping toxic minerals very difficult.

A little pre-ride planning can be very helpful in this regard, as squeaky clean bowels, with a little fresh fiber thrown in from say, fruit, will make your event ride go well, while stale poo will be full of toxins that will tend to get reabsorbed. In essence, fiber in your bowels will act as a sponge saturated with toxins that will poison you each time you hydrate.

I have endured this condition on several occasions and it absolutely saps your strength and makes you feel sick, weak, and lethargic, just when you expect you should be feeling strong. The RX is to eat enough healthy fiber on the ride to get clean FAST. Your energy will improve almost immediately.

A great practical remedy is to drink 8-16 oz of premium prune/plum juice after your evening meal the night before the ride. Not only will you start the day clean, but prune juice is packed with good minerals and a whopping 41mg of quality carbs per serving. During the ride things like watermelon, strawberries, and grapes, will keep things moving in a good direction. Citrucel and FiberCon also work, and will NOT ferment, but have no antioxidants. Still, a good thing to have in your arsenal.

Cliff Bars are a  god-awful synthetic concoction masquerading as something 'natural'.  They contain lots of brown rice syrup, a completely man-made substance that breaks down brown rice flour with heat, and enzymes from bacteria, to 'predigest' the rice for you in much the same way corn flour is turned into maltodextrin.  More to the point, it is spiked with inulin to provide fiber.

Inulin is a creamy substance food mfgs love because the tongue perceives it as sweet and creamy, but it has no oil. It's fiber that's made from chicory, is IMPOSSIBLE for human beings to digest, but ferments very quickly in the large intestine. In short, it is the perfect recipe for massive doses of gas and bloating. Fruit fiber is the best, and mother nature has provided huge amounts in yummy packages, usually attendant with lots of antioxidants, so stick to fruit.

While we are slaying sacred cows, Hammer Endurolytes have so little sodium in them (40mg) that you'd have to ingest 59 of them just to meet your normal daily requirement of  2,360mg. Given that they have 330% of your RDA of vitamin B6 per casual, you'd be ingesting toxic amounts of of B6 in doing so. 

I'm going to list the sodium content of some common sports concoctions below, but before I do I want to hit the SWF order again. A nice, even, steady, constant flow of sodium into your system lays a very solid foundation for the same in your hydration and nutrition.

For this reason I highly recommend time-released salt tablets. My favorite is ThermoTabs, and I have been using them for over 30 years. 1-2 an hour will keep you on a nice even keel. As always, your kidneys will filter out any excess.

On that note, there's a very practical way to determine how much sodium to ingest, increase the rate of ingestion until your kidneys start to hurt (low-mid back pain), and then back off a bit. The entire surface of your skin acts like a 3rd kidney, so excess salt is very quickly (15-30 minutes) removed.

Be aware that things like Gatorade have sodium, sugar and water together, which is fine until you have to ingest so much Gatorade to satisfy your water and sodium requirements that your small intestine can't digest the sugar fast enough to keep it out of your large intestine. The usual remedy, watering it down, deprives you of the sodium you need, so either add something like PowerBar Electrolytes to your mix, or take 1-3 ThermoTabs per hour.

Don't try to increase the strength of your Gatorade mix to get more sodium. It's not just salt that increases osmotic pressure. Sugar is used in canning fruit for exactly the same reason salt is used to cure meat - they both create high osmotic pressures to extract water. Your GI tract cannot work against this kind of pressure, and when osmotic pressures get high enough, water will actually be drawn out of your blood and into your gut. Very, very bad.

The remedy for avoiding high osmotic pressure due to excessive sugar, is to substitute starch, or it's chemically altered cousin, maltodextrin. (GU, Perpetuem, 50lb bags of the stuff from GPC in Iowa)  In my experience short-grain, waxy Sushi rice will best any of these, and contains only small amounts of sugar if made as usual.

You should always monitor the color of your urine, but know that simply being able to urinate is not a reliable indicator that you're properly hydrated. If you're very low on sodium, your body will be forced to excrete water to keep you from going into a state of hyponatremia (low sodium). Thus, it's possible to be dehydrated, but still be urinating.

With intense heat, it's not VO2max, or muscular endurance, or glycogen depletion that limits athletic performance, its your body's ability to digest water fast enough to prevent dehydration causing the body to hoard the last of its water to maintain blood volume by arresting sweating, and closing capillaries, which leads to very high core temps, internal organ failure,  brain damage, heart attack, and death.

The best way to recover from impending heat stroke is to cool the body without requiring sweating. This means pouring water down your back, over your head, or immersing yourself in water. Ice packs can help, as can cold drinks. Packing your thighs with ice is very good. Fans won't help. You've stopped sweating, so they won't help unless you have external water sources to power evaporative cooling.

The bottom line for sodium, is it's almost impossible to get too much, and very easy to get too little. More is almost always better. Salt, Water, Food.

  • Morton's Salt: 590 mg per 1/4 tsp serving. 491 servings per $0.99 box
  • 1 sausage link: 500-600mg
  • 1 serving spaghetti sauce: 400-500mg  
  • Nuun 1 tablet serving 360mg (with an awkward 16oz of water)
  • Succeed S-Caps: 341mg per capsule
  • Gatorade powdered mix: 338 mg per 24oz cycling waterbottle or 450mg per 32oz quart
  • Powerbar Electrolytes: 260mg per foil stick
  • ThermoTabs: 180mg per time-released tablet
  • 2 tsp salsa: 110mg
  • 2 tsp peanut butter: 90mg
  • Hammer Endurolytes: 40mg per capsule (lick your finger and poke a salted tray. Just as effective)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First 100-mile 'Week'

For the first time this year, I've managed to put in 100 miles in 7 days. The perpetual rain finally stopped last Tuesday, so I joined a club ride on their Beal's Pt Sprint ride, from the Fish Hatchery up to Beal's Pt. This was pretty much my bread and butter Beal's ride - except for the pace - since I rode to the start.

When I got there a few of the riders I knew were riding slow laps of the parking lot to warm up, which I didn't need to do, but it was nice to catch up with them. As the minutes ticked by we picked up riders, some who just happened by, and some, like me, were there on purpose. Few of the HWs rides have been well-attended this year, so everyone was pleasantly surprised that we headed out with ~ 14 riders.

Once we crossed under Hazel Ave on the newly reopened underpass loop, we headed up over the bridge and then down the 'chute' for the dam. On the ride briefing, Jeff had recommended we wait till around the dam before putting the hammer down, so when nobody seemed to want the lead I thought it might be a slow sprint ride.

NOT! We got 500 yards past the dam and the group started to get organized. I started passing riders as we had a pretty good tail-wind, and 23 mph just wasn't that hard. I ended up near the front of the 'fast' group of 5, and checking the Garmin trace when home, we averaged 22.7 on the 3.5 mile false-flat from there to the Negro Bar.

We did the flat stretch along Lake Natoma between 30 & 31mph, and I averaged 155bpm on that leg. The approach climb up onto the plateau of Negro Bar pushed me right to red-line for the first time, as the kites blew past me. I grabbed my waterbottle and tried to get some hydration, wind, and ride fuel in me for the main Beal's climb, now 1 mile ahead.

I regained contact with the kites, much to my surprise, but they dropped me a 1,000 yards into the climb where the 5-7% grade starts. Since I usually rest and hydrate at Negro bar when riding solo, I knew my HR was going to soar on the climb. I averaged 96% of max HR for the 14:22 it took to get to the top, and finished the last 100 yards at 102% of max.

Jeff, the owner of HWs had been laying back, saving himself for the climb, and though I held him off on the bottom part, just before we went under the bridge he and Julie went by me. Blowing hard I dropped into the aerobars and put down a few meager watts on the shallow downgrade heading under the Johnny Cash Bridge, and caught their wheel.

I stayed right on their wheel until the 9-10% kicker on the last 400 yards. Jeff was climbing out of the saddle, and started to drop Julie and I. 200 yards from the top I dropped Julie and hammered for all I was worth. I got within about 10 yards of Jeff, but couldn't catch him. I rolled past him, and as I looked back he was ballistically puking his lunch all over the road. I rolled into the concessions area gassed, but smiling, and saw the kites were dismounted and sucking hard on waterbottles.

After a break we headed across the parking lot, and back down the hill. I moved to the front, as I go downhill like a rocket, and didn't want to be riding my brakes the whole way. I picked up another rider going back under the bridge, and made a very fast technical descent, dropping him on the Oak Hill exit straight before the steepest, most technical (really broken up surface due to tree roots) stretch.

I dropped into the aerobars and tried to catch my breath as I rounded the last bend and headed down the straight stretch for Folsom. I stomped the hill leading out of the bottom between the bridges, and felt OK, but my legs didn't have their usual snap, so I eased off a bit, and tried to get my HR back into zone 4.

I stayed in front of the entire group for 5.5 miles, but the peleton caught me on the one good hill coming back. We were only 2.5 miles from the dam, but heading into the wind, I didn't want to have to ride solo. I was lucky in that there were a few weak climbers at the back, and I had saved just enough to catch their wheel.

The peleton was pretty ratty by this time, and not calling traffic, so as my wind came back I stared barking out 'bike ups' and the group seemed to collectively understand we were once again a cohesive unit. With rotations at the front, and some strong pulls by a few of the riders we managed 21 mph back to the dam. I was surprised to look back when climbing up onto the bridge to see our 14 man group had swollen to about 25. With a headwind, nobody wanted to ride alone!

I ended up on Jeff's wheel, and with faster traffic behind, and a nice gap ahead of me heading under the Hazel Ave Bridge, I decided to pass him. Yes, it was a bit of guilty pleasure, but I gave him plenty of time to step up the pace, so a righteous move. A split second later a squirrel darted across the trail, right between my wheels, and I actually felt my back wheel break loose for an instant as I ran over his tail. Jeff caught up to me and said "man, you're the luckiest guy alive!". I was leaning into the turn pretty good when it happened, so he was right!

When I got home and uploaded the Garmin I knew I was going to be tired the next day. A full 30 minutes in Zone 5, and HR averaging 87% of max, with the 102% kicker. I also averaged 263 watts, just 3 short of my PB when hopped up on Claritin, and that in spite of lolling around the parking lot doing circles in Zone 2. If I could figure out how to remove that segment, I'm sure this would be a new PB wattage.

My BP after a cool shower was in the 100/55 range, and HR around 95, so I should have taken a salt tablet, but have been wanting to ditch my BP meds, so I decided with (finally) sunny weather in the forecast I would just use that as a running start towards kicking the habit.

Long story short, I was horribly fatigued the next 2 days, sleeping most of the day. With low sodium comes low blood volume, and that creates a lot of extra work for a tired heart trying to maintain adequate blood pressure and flow. The next day it all went awry, and I ended up at a clinic with BP of 180/118. By the time the doc came in and took my BP, it was down to 160/105, but he still wanted to send me to the ER. I talked him out of it, but my headache and light headedness told me the same thing - even if I hadn't had a cuff at home.

24 hrs later I went for a flat ride down to Sac State (CSUS), up to Hazel, and then back home. I would sprint and then fade, not being able to settle on a pace. When I got home I realized I was over-medicated and lacking sodium. This is a very good simulation of high heat. I took a ThermoTab (time-released salt), waited for my BP to get back into the 130/75 range, and went to sleep. I took more med in the morning, and things started to settle down nicely.

Yesterday I did the identical route, this time without accidentally turning off the Garmin in the middle of the ride, and things went a lot better, even though the heat was a factor early in the ride. I took a ThermoTab again after my shower, and then a med before bed, and was in great shape this morning.

I think going that hard is not good training for me. It creates lingering fatigue, but I'd have to ride in the morning, away from the heat of the day to make a good call on that. I followed a big brick from CSUS back to WBP last night, and averaged 22.0 on the blocks the whole time. I'm riding in peletons a lot more these days, and am working on more speed up on the blocks. I thanked my locomotive as I peeled off.

Just as I pulled over at the drinking fountain at WBP, a group of 4 riders pulled up on 80's vintage steel bikes. One of those bikes was a Gitane! My first 10 speed bike was a Gitane, so I was thrilled to see one again in real life. We talked a lot about restoring old bikes, and local bike clubs they might be interested in. I met them 45 minutes later coming back towards them from Hazel. They were all smiles as I waved and gave them a shout. Hope I see them out there again soon!