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On The Road To Recovery

Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed that my usual “three reviews a week” schedule has not adhered to for the past two months and fellow-bloggers might have noticed that recently I haven’t been commenting on other blogs very much—so I think a word of explanation might be in order.

Back in February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly. On Thursday, March 28, I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps slightly above freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word “hurting” doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Since I have asthma I assumed it was just an asthma attack (something I’ve not had in 12 years) and waited till the next morning to see a doctor. After a very thorough examination the doctor agreed that it was asthma and not a heart attack, so he gave me a prescription for prednisone and sent me home. Unfortunately, the prednisone did not relive my symptoms and, to make a long story short, I am still not sure what is wrong with my lungs.

For the first five weeks I couldn’t ride my bike or lift weights at all—now I am slowly getting back to riding. I’ve gone through numerous medical tests and so far the only thing we’ve found out is that my heart is in incredibly great shape (thanks to a nuclear stress test and echocardiogram). Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is 50 to 52 BPM, and my morning blood pressure is averaging 104/62 (not bad for a man my age). Today I saw a pulmonologist (lung specialist) and have a few more tests scheduled. At the moment, the working theory is that back in March I contracted a serious viral lung infection and though the infection is now gone my lungs are just taking a very long time to heal.

Last week was the first time I tried to ride since this whole mess began. My first ride out on a road bike turned into a cyclocross event since the heavy rains we had in April washed out one of the roads I use. I was glad I had a lightweight bike since I had to climb down about three feet into the chasm left by the rain and then walk through a bit of mud and sand before I could climb back up to a path and carry my bike to a nearby road.

Road washed out due to heavy rains

Road washed out due to heavy rains—time for cyclocross!

By the way, the road that was washed out by the rain is the same one that was blocked a few months ago when beavers cut down several trees. After I carried my bike across the chasm an older couple carried their bikes across and rode with me for a mile or so. Thought these people were at least 15 or 20 years older than me, I won’t call them elderly—in my opinion you don’t become elderly until you stop riding your bike.

An older couple decided to join me for a little while

An older couple decided to join me for a little while

At the moment my lung capacity is very limited, so if you want to know what I feel like while riding just try this: put on a pair of nose plugs so you will be forced to breathe through your mouth, then close your lips around a straw and try to breathe through it. Yeah, it sucks. However, this past Saturday I rode through a small college campus in Wisconsin and passed a lot of the students who were riding their bikes.

Hopefully next week I will be back to writing product reviews!

 
130 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

Hopefully you’ve gotten the word by now that on long bike rides you need to consume protein in addition to carbohydrates if you want to avoid muscle and brain fatigue (better known to cyclists as bonking or hitting the wall). To paraphrase a familiar verse of the Bible, “Cyclists do not live by carbohydrates alone.” One of the easiest ways to get the needed protein is to buy a carbohydrate gel with protein already in it. Unfortunately, most energy gels that include protein taste rather dreadful. A couple of years ago PacificHealth Laboratories (the creators of Accelerade) introduced 2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel and it not only tastes great, but has carbohydrates, electrolytes, proteins, caffeine and antioxidants.

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

I always carry a few packages of 2nd Surge with me on longer rides. The truth is that I was hooked with the first package I tried! The chocolate gel is very smooth and has a rich chocolate flavor. Most (but not all) of the other chocolate gels I’ve tried over the years tasted like artificial chocolate, but 2nd Surge is the real deal. Each package of 2nd Surge has 90 calories and includes 18g of carbohydrate, 3g of protein and 100mg of caffeine.

2nd Surge is an all-natural energy gel. I hate giving a long list of ingredients in a product review, but the ingredient list in 2nd Surge is rather impressive. The ingredients include: Agave Syrup, Brown Rice Syrup, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Water, Whey Protein Isolate, Glycerin, Pea Protein Isolate, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Green Tea Extract, d-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Salt, Grape, Pomegranate, Mangosteen, Goji Berry, Blueberry, Chokeberry, Cranberry, Apple and Bilberry Extracts.

At the moment this product is only available in two flavors: Chocolate and Double Expresso. I love the chocolate gel and the local bike shop always keeps it in stock for me. For the record, I did not try the Double Expresso, mainly because I have never been a fan of any food product that has the word expresso (or espresso) in the title. I hope PacificHealth Laboratories adds a few new flavors before long.

A box of eight packages of 2nd Surge retails for $16 and is available on the PacificHealth Laboratories Website. On the other hand, you could just have your local bike shop order it for you—you will pay the same price but will save the cost of shipping. In addition, your local bike shop might be willing to keep this product in stock for you as well!

 

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The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery by Sage Roundtree

The Athlete's Guide To Recovery by Sage Roundtree

The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery

I am always amazed by cyclists and other endurance athletes who spend thousands of dollars buying the best equipment so they can get a competitive edge in their next race, but then neglect the steps necessary to help them recover faster after the event. A great bike ride doesn’t begin when you put your Lycra on—it actually started the moment finished your last ride. If you would like to improve your athletic performance I would highly recommend you buy a copy of The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery by Sage Roundtree (VeloPress, 2011).

This book is divided into three sections. The first section is rather short and deals with how we measure and define recovery. The second section is the heart of the book and deals with specific recovery techniques, such as nutrition, hydration, supplements, sleep, massage and other recovery aids. The third and final section discusses how to put all the pieces together.

One of the most valuable sections of the book is the one on Nutrition And Hydration (chapter 9). Most athletes have heard of the recovery window (AKA, the glycogen synthesis window). This window is the short period of time after exercise when, if you follow the right steps, your body can quickly absorb nutrients and give a jump-start to your recovery process. Consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates and protein after exercise will replenish your energy stores and help rebuild muscle fiber. I was surprised to find out that “female cyclists responded very differently than male cyclists when they ingested a recovery snack containing protein” after exercise. In addition, if you are a vegetarian you need to pay special attention to your protein intake since plant proteins are not digested the same way as animal proteins.

The section of the book on Technological Aids (chapter 13) discusses products like therapeutic ultrasound devices and electrostimulation (E-stim). A few years ago I bought both an ultrasound device and an E-stim unit and they make a world of difference in my recovery time. However, I know of very few cyclists who have invested in these devices—even though they are both cheaper than a good saddle.

If you suffer from muscle pain very often you are going to appreciate the section on Self-Massage (chapter 15). Not only does this chapter explain the importance of foam rollers and beaded sticks, but it shows you how to use them properly. You can buy a foam roller at most sporting good stores for around $30, and if you follow the instructions given in the book you can massage your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and IT bands and you will feel like a new person in just 15 minutes or so.

This paperback book is loaded with charts, graphs and tables (for my fellow visual learners). This book is very well documented and illustrated. There are some chapters that will probably tell you more than you want to know, but I am one of those people who likes to see authors “prove their work.”

Like most amateur cyclists, I’ve never had a coach or fitness instructor and everything I know about muscle recovery had to be learned the hard way. If I could have found a book like this ten years ago it would have saved me from a lot of grief and pain.

The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery is 248 pages long and retails for $19, but Amazon.com sells it for under $13. If I haven’t convinced you yet that you need this book, you can download a free preview of The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery from the VeloPress Website (see link the bottom of that page). The preview is a small PDF booklet that contains the table of contents, preface, and first chapter of the book, along with a few other sections.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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NeoCell Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex

If you want to go from being a mediocre weekend rider to a distance cyclist one of the things you have to work on is your post-ride recovery. You probably already know that protein is essential for muscle recovery, but how can you help repair the connective tissues in your tendons and ligaments? The folks at NeoCell Corporation in Santa Ana, California recently sent me a container of their new Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex to try and I think any aspiring distance cyclist should give this product a try.

Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex for muscle recovery

Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex

Like most quality protein drinks the Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex contains whey protein isolate and is loaded with essential and branched chain amino acids (including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine). I am not going to reprint their entire product label, but one serving has a wide range of vitamins (about the same as in a multi-vitamin) and 1,000 grams of L-glutamine, the main amino acid that drives nitrogen into muscle cells for muscle synthesis and repair. Each serving also has 50mg of pomegranate extract, a powerful antioxidant.

Most of the time we choose nutritional products because of what they contain. However, Collagen Sport stands out because of what it does not contain! Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex contains no gluten, wheat, sugar, lactose, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, fillers or synthetic ingredients.

The biggest problem with most protein drinks is the taste and/or texture. I don’t suppose anyone will ever confuse a protein drink with a milkshake from the local ice cream shop, but the  Belgian Chocolate Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex actually has a decent flavor. However, what is more important to me is the texture. Most of the protein drinks I’ve tried in the past have been rather gritty (and that is being kind). Surprisingly, Collagen Sport dissolved easily in water and did not clump like nearly every other protein drink I’ve tried.

I don’t usually share recipes, but here is my favorite way to prepare this protein drink: Pour one scoop of Collagen Sport Complex and eight ounces of cold water into your blender, then add one banana and two cups of frozen strawberries, then mix until smooth (about 30 seconds). You should end up with something like a smoothie, but this one not only has the 30 grams of protein, but also gives you three servings of fruit and weighs in at under 350 calories. It takes me about three minutes to prepare this smoothie and it is very refreshing after a long ride.

This product is available in two flavors: French Vanilla and Belgian Chocolate. I tried the chocolate flavor, but   vanilla flavored protein mixes offer more versatility if you want to mix it with fresh fruits or juices to make a smoothie. A three-pound container (30 servings) of Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex retails for $50, but you can buy it from Amazon.com for around $33.

 

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Low-Fat Chocolate Milk As A Sports Recovery Drink For Cyclists

Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk

This past summer it seemed like every sports magazine or nutrition blog carried an article about using low-fat chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink. The articles were based upon several recent studies, including one from the University of Connecticut’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and two from the University of Texas at Austin. The University of Texas study was the most interesting since it dealt specifically with cyclists. The bottom line for cyclists is that if you drink a 16-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes after a strenuous ride your muscles will recover faster, you will build more muscle and shave off more fat during training.

For distance cyclists finding something that will speed up recovery time is like finding the Holy Grail. I am 52-years old and the last time I drank chocolate milk was in high school, however, after reading the aforementioned studies I decided to give chocolate milk another try. The only part of the studies that made me hesitate a bit was the emphasis on low-fat chocolate milk. When I hear the phrase “low-fat milk” I immediately think of something like “milk-flavored water.”

My first three attempts at finding a good brand of low-fat chocolate milk were not successful since all I could find were bottles of 2% or 1% low-fat. Even a bottle of 1% low-fat milk has far too many calories from fat for me to even consider drinking. I was finally able to find a fantastic product at a local dairy store that suited my needs perfectly: Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk. I believe this product is only available in Oberweis retail stores, but it is certainly worth the effort it might take to find one (sorry, but they seem to only have stores in the upper Midwest).

In addition to great tasting chocolate milk, here is what you get in a 16-ounce glass: 180 calories, 450mg of sodium, 16g of protein, 26g of carbohydrates, and a boatload of vitamin D and calcium. This product has no added sugar. To avoid selling milk that reminds you of water, Oberweis adds carrageenan to this product (carrageenan is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin). I don’t know if you will ever find a low-fat chocolate milk as good as Oberweis at your local dairy, but you owe it to yourself to try to find out! I also realize that my personal experience with using low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink is highly subjective, but it really does seem that I am able to recover after a long ride faster since I switched from protein bars to chocolate milk (though I still use the protein bars when I forget to stop at the dairy).

 

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DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

Those of us who live in the Upper Midwest have already had a few fairly cool mornings and have had to decide whether to put on knee warmers for our morning rides. I try to put off wearing knee or leg warmers as long as possible, so I started using DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream on my legs before I ride and have been very happy with the results.

Embrocation creams contain vasodilators that warm up the skin and muscles. They also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements. The company Website says this particular cream was “developed and tested on the European roads by Garmin Transitions and Columbia HTC professional cycling teams to be an essential training and racing tool.” For many of us, embrocation creams are them main reason we shave our legs (just don’t shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream).

If you have never used an embrocation cream before you are probably wondering how this product works. About 15 minutes before you go out for a ride on brisk day you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes for you to feel the cream working, but once it does you will feel the warmth and be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold.

When your ride is finished you will be pleasantry surprised that the cream did not pick up road grime as you might have expected. I’ve used this cream on long off-road rides on dusty trails and haven’t  had much dust stick to my legs.

It has been my experience that the greatest amount of heat is felt once your ride is finished. While you are riding in the cool weather you don’t really feel the cream working, but then again, you aren’t feeling the cool air on your legs either. Once you put your bike up and go inside you can feel your legs getting warmer and this will keep your muscles from getting tight after a ride. The DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream washes off easily with just soap and water, but you can still feel it a bit even after you are out of the shower.

One important word of advice: Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you have put your cycling shorts on! If you put the cream on your legs first and then pull your cycling shorts up some of the cream will stick to your chamois. This cream has capsicum in it (think red-hot chili peppers and police pepper spray). If the capsicum comes in contact with your nads you are going to experience a level of pain that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay never even dreamed about (I speak from experience—and a very painful one at that).

DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream comes in three strengths (low, medium and high). The low heat cream is good for rides down to around 50 degrees. I’ve not used the other creams yet, but I am certain I will before the winter is out (I ride all year long). A six-ounce tube retails for around $20, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon.com. You should be able to get 15 or 20 rides out of a single tube.

In case you were wondering, the “DZ” in DZNuts is for cycling legend David Zabriskie.

 

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2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

Hopefully you’ve gotten the word by now that on long rides you need to consume protein in addition to carbohydrates if you want to avoid muscle and brain fatigue (better known to cyclists as bonking). To paraphrase a familiar verse of the Bible, “Cyclists do not live by carbohydrates alone.” One of the easiest ways to get the needed protein is to buy a carbohydrate gel with protein already in it (or make you own gel for use in a HomeGOO flask). Unfortunately, most energy gels that include protein taste rather dreadful. PacificHealth Laboratories (the creators of Accelerade) recently introduced 2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel and it not only tastes great, but has carbohydrates, electrolytes, proteins, caffeine and antioxidants.

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

Last month I purchased a box (an 8 pack) of 2nd Surge and have used the gel on some of my longer bike rides. I was hooked when I tried the first package! The chocolate gel is very smooth and has a rich chocolate flavor. Most of the other chocolate gels I’ve tried over the years tasted like artificial chocolate, but 2nd Surge is the real deal. Each package of 2nd Surge has 90 calories and includes 18g of carbohydrate, 3g of protein and 100mg of caffeine.

2nd Surge is an all-natural energy gel. I hate giving a long list of ingredients in a product review, but the ingredient list in 2nd Surge is rather impressive. The ingredients include: Agave Syrup, Brown Rice Syrup, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Water, Whey Protein Isolate, Glycerin, Pea Protein Isolate, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Green Tea Extract, d-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Salt, Grape, Pomegranate, Mangosteen, Goji Berry, Blueberry, Chokeberry, Cranberry, Apple and Bilberry Extracts.

At the moment this product is only available in two flavors: Chocolate and Double Expresso. I loved the chocolate gel and have already ordered another box. For the record, I did not try the Double Expresso, mainly because I have never been a fan of any food product that has the word expresso (or espresso) in the title. I hope PacificHealth Laboratories adds a few new flavors before long.

A box of eight packages of 2nd Surge retails for $16 and is available on the PacificHealth Laboratories Website. The best price online I’ve been able to find is at Performance Bike—they have it listed at $13 a box.  However, if you “Like” the PacificHealth Laboratories Facebook page you can get a 20% discount on your next order (I don’t know how long this offer is going to last).

 

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