Gaining weight "the right way"

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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robeambro
Posts: 743
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:21 pm

by robeambro

Hi all, I have a peculiar question. I would like to gain a few kilos, but do it in the right way. I tried Google but I've only found info on a) "how to lose weight" or b) "why am I not losing weight".

The reason why I want to do it is mostly because keeping my weight in order is quite stressful sometimes (I'm 178 x 70, so not super light but surely not chubby.. I don't count calories, but I try whenever possible to limit my portions. This has allowed me to keep my weight very stable over time) whilst also not yielding me much of -if any- advantage on the bike, since I don't quite live in the Alps (Scotland), it's mostly rolling terrain with a wide choice of short-ish climbs (from 5 to 10-20 mins tops) with gradients that are far from punitive (surely some sections with 10%+, but average gradients rarely exceed 6%).

That said, I don't want to put on "useless" weight, I want to increase my wattage accordingly. So if say I go from 70kg to 75 which is roughly a +7% in weight, I also want my FTP to increase by roughly the same. And I doubt that if I just started eating more pastries, this will happen. (edit: I realise the wording here may lead some to think that I expect FTP to magically increase, which I don't. I understand I still need to train, however I would guess that there might be a "bad" way to gain such 5kg and a "good" way to do so, which could surely lead to some kind of an increase in wattage I can sustain).

Broadly speaking, how do I achieve this? Provided that I will still get enough of all macro & micronutrients, should I ramp up on say protein-rich foods?

Ideally if gyms were open I would consider adding some strength training to my routine, but it's a long way to Phase 3 :smartass:

AeroObsessive
Posts: 113
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2018 7:42 am

by AeroObsessive

To gain weight, and in this case specifically lean muscle mass, you need to up calories. How much... it depends. An initial increase of 200 cals per day mostly protein, would be a safe place to start. Wait about a month, assess/reassess and adjust from there either up or down.

Gym work is not necessary, on bike work and body weight can provide enough stimulus for extra muscle growth. Lots of core work, and unilateral leg work tends to have better transfer. Lunges, cossack squats and pistol squats are good. Lots of calf raises etc.

Plyometric unilateral work can be very good, but if you haven't been doing anything like this kind of exercise it will take several months of ground work before you can safely embark on that without undue risk of injury.

On bike training of short sprints, "power climbs" (40sec or less), etc will build muscle too. Recovery should be longer than standard intervals - you need to tax the right muscle (and energy system) otherwise there'll be no real stimulus.

Adaptions take time, don't rush the process and make small changes.

by Weenie


altuna98
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:52 pm

by altuna98

I know the question is how to gain weight, and not whether to do it or not. But 70kg would put your bmi over 23, which is not ideal. And, even if you are over 23 but your body fat percentage is low, your risk for illnesses increases and lifespan goes down. Maybe you prefer gaining power and compromising the others, which can be the case.

If so, increase calorie intake in the form of mainly carbohydrates and protein. If you only eat protein you will activate muscle protein synthesis but without increasing carbohydrates you won't properly support the needs for an increase in power. Carbohydrates+exercise alone can lead to an increase in muscle, if you combine it with a little bit of protein you get the best of both worlds.

Regarding what exercises you should do, it depends on how you want to change your fitness. If the goal is to increase mainly FTP or endurance, then you shouldn't do too much anaerobic work as it will lead to an increase in fast twitch muscle fibers and potentially decrease aerobic capacity. Short sprints, however, can help promote muscle growth and improve endurance.

robeambro
Posts: 743
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:21 pm

by robeambro

AeroObsessive wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 12:33 pm
To gain weight, and in this case specifically lean muscle mass, you need to up calories. How much... it depends. An initial increase of 200 cals per day mostly protein, would be a safe place to start. Wait about a month, assess/reassess and adjust from there either up or down.

Gym work is not necessary, on bike work and body weight can provide enough stimulus for extra muscle growth. Lots of core work, and unilateral leg work tends to have better transfer. Lunges, cossack squats and pistol squats are good. Lots of calf raises etc.

Plyometric unilateral work can be very good, but if you haven't been doing anything like this kind of exercise it will take several months of ground work before you can safely embark on that without undue risk of injury.

On bike training of short sprints, "power climbs" (40sec or less), etc will build muscle too. Recovery should be longer than standard intervals - you need to tax the right muscle (and energy system) otherwise there'll be no real stimulus.

Adaptions take time, don't rush the process and make small changes.
Thanks, this helps. Will totally have to research some of these exercises - I don't know if I'll ever be the kind of person who does these often, as I kinda hate repetitive work (and then I sit on a bike pedalling for hours, go figure..).

My intensity training as of late is mostly with 40/20s and 60/30s so possibly in line with what you're describing. However, getting faster is not necessarily too much of a concern, since I can only train 6-10h per week, I know I will never be as fast as others. I just want to adapt my "rider profile" to suit what I usually ride (kinda annoying to be light, suck on the flats and still not being able to overperform on climbs vs the big boys).

altuna98 wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 12:43 pm
I know the question is how to gain weight, and not whether to do it or not. But 70kg would put your bmi over 23, which is not ideal. And, even if you are over 23 but your body fat percentage is low, your risk for illnesses increases and lifespan goes down. Maybe you prefer gaining power and compromising the others, which can be the case.

If so, increase calorie intake in the form of mainly carbohydrates and protein. If you only eat protein you will activate muscle protein synthesis but without increasing carbohydrates you won't properly support the needs for an increase in power. Carbohydrates+exercise alone can lead to an increase in muscle, if you combine it with a little bit of protein you get the best of both worlds.

Regarding what exercises you should do, it depends on how you want to change your fitness. If the goal is to increase mainly FTP or endurance, then you shouldn't do too much anaerobic work as it will lead to an increase in fast twitch muscle fibers and potentially decrease aerobic capacity. Short sprints, however, can help promote muscle growth and improve endurance.
Thanks for this. Well, I don't look at BMI much since as you know it has limitations for very active people. But even so, NHS in their very basic online calculator suggests that for "active people" of my height (which for them means up to 150 mins per week, so very much less than my usual training week), a healthy weight would be up to ca. 79kg. Other calculators still suggest BMI's of around 25 being the higher threshold for a "healthy" level. So I would still be comfortably under that.

I think I'm fine with carb intake to be honest (ie I get plenty, and I am very very scientific on timing, never skip getting carbs right after a ride, etc), if anything I sometimes struggle with protein (as I am veggie and don't count calories etc, there may be days where I'm not paying too much attention and definitely not getting enough). Since you both mentioned protein as a good thing to do, I will look into being more consistent in getting a good daily intake (say hello to nuts!).

altuna98
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:52 pm

by altuna98

robeambro wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 1:23 pm

Thanks for this. Well, I don't look at BMI much since as you know it has limitations for very active people. But even so, NHS in their very basic online calculator suggests that for "active people" of my height (which for them means up to 150 mins per week, so very much less than my usual training week), a healthy weight would be up to ca. 79kg. Other calculators still suggest BMI's of around 25 being the higher threshold for a "healthy" level. So I would still be comfortably under that.

I think I'm fine with carb intake to be honest (ie I get plenty, and I am very very scientific on timing, never skip getting carbs right after a ride, etc), if anything I sometimes struggle with protein (as I am veggie and don't count calories etc, there may be days where I'm not paying too much attention and definitely not getting enough). Since you both mentioned protein as a good thing to do, I will look into being more consistent in getting a good daily intake (say hello to nuts!).
Then beans, lentils and chickpeas are your friends, best way to get plant protein in

boots2000
Posts: 1617
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 9:28 pm

by boots2000

Lots of good info here.
1.) Increase calories- But make them good calories. Not jun food. Maybe try to eat more whole foods and less "bike foods". Specifically more protein.
2.) Train the specific areas that you want to improve. The steeper climbs, bigger gears, etc.
3.) Do strength work- Especially things like step-ups. You also can get a lot done with lighter weights. During lockdown I have been doing lots of goblet squats, single leg deadlifts, etc.. All of this transers well to padaling.
4.) Decrease volume in general- Riding too much keeps you from adding muscle mass.

AJS914
Posts: 4119
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

So if say I go from 70kg to 75 which is roughly a +7% in weight, I also want my FTP to increase by roughly the same.
I just don't think you can count on this. 5kg of pure muscle sounds like a lot especially if it was just cycling muscles and not upper body.

As previously suggested, get on the weight training. Also, make sure you are getting a dose of protein 3 to 5x per day. Muscle synthesis kicks off when you get 20 grams of leucine from a meal plus the other necessary amino acids (so don't just take a leucine supplement).

It only takes a small 4 ounce portion of protein to kick off muscle protein synthesis so to maximize it, it would be better to eat 4x4 ounces of protein spaced throughout the day versus no protein in the am, 6 ounces at lunch and a 10 ounce steak at dinner.

This video is not sports oriented but explains the concepts:

https://youtu.be/SdNc_6F15mc

robeambro
Posts: 743
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:21 pm

by robeambro

boots2000 wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 5:49 pm
Lots of good info here.
1.) Increase calories- But make them good calories. Not jun food. Maybe try to eat more whole foods and less "bike foods". Specifically more protein.
2.) Train the specific areas that you want to improve. The steeper climbs, bigger gears, etc.
3.) Do strength work- Especially things like step-ups. You also can get a lot done with lighter weights. During lockdown I have been doing lots of goblet squats, single leg deadlifts, etc.. All of this transers well to padaling.
4.) Decrease volume in general- Riding too much keeps you from adding muscle mass.
Thanks. Will have a look at those strangth exercises.
AJS914 wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 6:48 pm
So if say I go from 70kg to 75 which is roughly a +7% in weight, I also want my FTP to increase by roughly the same.
I just don't think you can count on this. 5kg of pure muscle sounds like a lot especially if it was just cycling muscles and not upper body.

As previously suggested, get on the weight training. Also, make sure you are getting a dose of protein 3 to 5x per day. Muscle synthesis kicks off when you get 20 grams of leucine from a meal plus the other necessary amino acids (so don't just take a leucine supplement).

It only takes a small 4 ounce portion of protein to kick off muscle protein synthesis so to maximize it, it would be better to eat 4x4 ounces of protein spaced throughout the day versus no protein in the am, 6 ounces at lunch and a 10 ounce steak at dinner.

This video is not sports oriented but explains the concepts:

https://youtu.be/SdNc_6F15mc
Thanks, I honestly had no idea about how important timing is for protein intake. Is this only beneficial for hypertrophy, or also in general to become a faster rider? I've watched & read plenty of cycling nutrition videos / articles but this was never quite mentioned..

scapie
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:19 am

by scapie

i'll chime in. i think there are good gains for people who don't train huge volume with strength training. its just my own opinion, and what i do myself,i don't have anything to back this up though, so take it as such.

because of the gym closure you could start with bodyweight like aeroobsessive suggested but i'd consider resistance bands. the long ones and the lightest load, i think around 10lb.

you can do the squat, hinge and lunge movements with bands and maybe a pair of carpet sliders. you don't really need a huge amount of load just focus on time under tension and good muscle contraction and that will get the job done.

if you're interested i'll post more

robeambro
Posts: 743
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:21 pm

by robeambro

scapie wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:31 am
i'll chime in. i think there are good gains for people who don't train huge volume with strength training. its just my own opinion, and what i do myself,i don't have anything to back this up though, so take it as such.

because of the gym closure you could start with bodyweight like aeroobsessive suggested but i'd consider resistance bands. the long ones and the lightest load, i think around 10lb.

you can do the squat, hinge and lunge movements with bands and maybe a pair of carpet sliders. you don't really need a huge amount of load just focus on time under tension and good muscle contraction and that will get the job done.

if you're interested i'll post more
Thanks! I could be interested in all of these but to be honest all gyms are closed for the time being and I don't quite have the space (nor the willpower to be honest) to train at home.. I'm lazy like that.

On another note, I have bought some pea protein which I will start taking today. From what I have learned thanks to the above posters it might not be ideal as it won't be rich in leucin, but hey ho - surely can't hurt to have some more protein, as nowadays I'm very much dependant on whether I have nuts / legumes on the menu..

petromyzon
Posts: 482
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:14 pm

by petromyzon

1. You mention portion size restriction. I think you first need to get an honest, third party assessment of whether your dietary intake is limiting your performance and to get an idea of roughly where your body fat percentage lies.

2. Are you strong enough to meet your goals, or would you like to be stronger for other reasons? (e.g. look better, healthy ageing etc.) I found this helpful - it's just one person's opinion but it helps put some numbers on "what is strong enough?"

https://blog.trainerroad.com/coach-chad ... -cyclists/

3. What are your cycling goals? In the UK, with no massive mountains, to win a road race you need adequate fitness for long (20min to 3 hr) efforts and then either a really good sprint or pretty solid 5 min and 1 min power. 70-80kg lean bodyweight is about right.

4. What is your power profile and how well does it fit with your goals? Do 5 sec/1 min/ 5min/ FTP tests and find out.

For me only then can you work out if you need to gain weight. To be honest if you just want to be a generally strong rider you are probably best served by training to increase FTP, in the knowledge that your weight might drop further.

If you want better Anaerobic/glycolytic power then max effort intervals with long rests are the way to go. NB this may actually decrease your FTP. Remember that 40/20s will primarily target your aerobic fitness and stuff like torque/muscular endurance work will improve your threshold rather than your peak power.

Finally, if you really do want to gain 5kg of lean muscle to get strong then you need a calorie surplus, adequate protein and a lot of commitment to a resistance training plan IMHO. For many people including myself 5kg of pure muscle will not come easily.

scapie
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:19 am

by scapie

robeambro wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 11:54 am
Thanks! I could be interested in all of these but to be honest all gyms are closed for the time being and I don't quite have the space (nor the willpower to be honest) to train at home.. I'm lazy like that.

On another note, I have bought some pea protein which I will start taking today. From what I have learned thanks to the above posters it might not be ideal as it won't be rich in leucin, but hey ho - surely can't hurt to have some more protein, as nowadays I'm very much dependant on whether I have nuts / legumes on the menu..
if you want to get stronger you're going to have to put in the work. you can't build muscle by just eating more and doing nothing. get a good routine that is achievable. you don't need motivation or will power. once you have a routine that can work with your daily life then you can just semi automate your training.

training at home is the best. you don't need to waste time getting ready, commuting to/from the gym, waiting for equipment etc and most of all you don't need to spend any time surrounded by posers who are doing 30mins of exercise and 60mins of thirst quenching.

bands and sliders are a simple solution you can use with no space and are a very minimal outlay. heres a couple of videos from this OG;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXS5di58qf0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykf6aQGtrQg

by Weenie


NordicSal
Posts: 144
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:09 pm

by NordicSal

I am 198 cm and 75 kg. Can I become a climber? My bodyfat is naturally around 10% or lower and my arms are skinny af.

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