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Eating Disorders in Pro Cycling

dish_dashdish_dash Posts: 5,254
edited November 2015 in Pro race
There's an interesting piece written about some of the extreme eating habits of the pros as they seek to lose weight and the challenges/risks this poses.
http://www.ridemedia.com.au/features/eating-habits-of-pro-cyclists-the-weight-debate/

I'm thinking the concerning quote below is referring to Garmindale, as its the only World Tour team that is US based. Trek and BMC are both US registered but hardly US based... not good!
I can think of one prominent US-based WorldTour team which seems to be responsible for more eating disorders in young men than any other causal factor I’ve come across. I’ve seen the emails, the texts and heard the phone calls and post-race berating. This isn’t encouragement towards a common goal, this is bullying. It’s not right and it’s not safe.

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  • There's an interesting piece written about some of the extreme eating habits of the pros as they seek to lose weight and the challenges/risks this poses.
    http://www.ridemedia.com.au/features/eating-habits-of-pro-cyclists-the-weight-debate/

    I'm thinking the concerning quote below is referring to Garmindale, as its the only World Tour team that is US based. Trek and BMC are both US registered but hardly US based... not good!
    I can think of one prominent US-based WorldTour team which seems to be responsible for more eating disorders in young men than any other causal factor I’ve come across. I’ve seen the emails, the texts and heard the phone calls and post-race berating. This isn’t encouragement towards a common goal, this is bullying. It’s not right and it’s not safe.

    There was a great feature about Nathan O'neil (aussie road / TT rider) many years ago. Definitely worth finding if you can.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,310
    I find the line about the guy who has put on 20kgs and now has better results a little unlikely but thanks it is an interesting article. Unfortunately peak performance will always come close to the edge of what is healthy and clearly many riders are not getting the guidance you'd expect them to in the 21st century. I remember reading a bit by Nico Roche about him bonking during a stage of a grand tour because he was trying to restrict his calorie intake - during a 3 week stage race that seemed like madness but obviously within the world of pro cycling an otherwise sane person can come to make such stupid decisions.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • I find the line about the guy who has put on 20kgs and now has better results a little unlikely but thanks it is an interesting article. Unfortunately peak performance will always come close to the edge of what is healthy and clearly many riders are not getting the guidance you'd expect them to in the 21st century. I remember reading a bit by Nico Roche about him bonking during a stage of a grand tour because he was trying to restrict his calorie intake - during a 3 week stage race that seemed like madness but obviously within the world of pro cycling an otherwise sane person can come to make such stupid decisions.


    I've referred to it before but Sean Yates' tales of surviving on an apple and 300km training rides, and taking himself off to bed at 4pm to try to sleep through hunger attacks....

    You have ex-pros running teams - and acting as coaches - and in some cases, you just get this mentality proliferating...
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 23,205
    My dear little sister went out with an ex-pro cyclist last year and he told some scary stories about dieting. As people have suggested, most of the impetus came from his coach who, to him, appeared to regard cycling as secondary importance to weight loss. He stopped in the end becasue he was not able to cope with being so unhealthy - I bet most of you have read that and a small part of you thought "weak" or "quitter"

    The issue is also serious in the womens peloton - http://marijndevries.nl/we-are-skinny-but-we-gulpe/ - an it appears that Jolien d'Hoore is the most recent person to speak out - http://www.thebikecomesfirst.com/belgian-champion-jolien-dhoore-speaks-about-anorexia-problems-in-the-peloton/
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • Yellow PerilYellow Peril Posts: 4,466
    My dear little sister went out with an ex-pro cyclist last year and he told some scary stories about dieting. As people have suggested, most of the impetus came from his coach who, to him, appeared to regard cycling as secondary importance to weight loss. He stopped in the end becasue he was not able to cope with being so unhealthy - I bet most of you have read that and a small part of you thought "weak" or "quitter"

    The issue is also serious in the womens peloton - http://marijndevries.nl/we-are-skinny-but-we-gulpe/ - an it appears that Jolien d'Hoore is the most recent person to speak out - http://www.thebikecomesfirst.com/belgian-champion-jolien-dhoore-speaks-about-anorexia-problems-in-the-peloton/

    I certainly didn't think weak or quitter Dave but I know what you mean. I applaude your sister's ex for saying enough is enough. One thing I can't get my head around is the achievement of riders who apparently eat nothing but dust. It goes against my understanding of the laws of thermodynamics. Surely if pro's are riding huge distances on nothing the body starts to consume itself and its muscle? Perhaps it's why amphets were so popular at one point .
    @JaunePeril

    Winner of the Bike Radar Pro Race Wiggins Hour Prediction Competition
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,968
    Like ddraver, I've heard all this first-hand. For all the modern technology, some of the training and nutrition aspects - team dependent - are a bit 'old school'.
    Ben

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  • CrampeurCrampeur Posts: 1,065
    Bjarne Riis used to do 5hr training rides on no food, get home and pop a couple of sleeping pills (amongst other things), hoping that he would wake up in the morning.
  • this is probably aa big part of why sky do so well, i imagine there is a lot more care and thought taken regarding their weight loss than some of these other stories suggest
  • I bet the thing here is that the fitter and lighter you get the harder it is to lose the last couple of kg that could make the difference at the sharp end of the pro peloton.

    If I were to use myself (by no means a competitive cyclist) as an example, i started this year as a 100kg commuter and ended it as a 77kg cat3/4 occasional racer and whilst the first 20kg took about four months to shed, the last 3kg took the same amount of time because you get to the point where you can't run a significant calorie deficit (i was doing a 1000 cals a day deficit at first) without feeling like censored . So if you don't have to compete I guess you could get down to whatever weight you wanted but if you're racing it's just not plausible.

    So whereas USPS used to race their GC contenders (well, Lance) in only a few targeted races a year to avoid the old anti-dopage, maybe SKY et al. do the same thing so they can lose/maintain weight without the stress of racing.

    My mind was a little bit blown this summer when I heard (maybe on the telegraph cycling podcast) that riders were deliberately keeping themselves on the cusp of dehydration so as not to be retaining water which would hinder them up the climbs - now that seems all sorts of bonkers and a little bit dis-intuitive as far as performance goes, but what do I know eh?
  • ocdupalaisocdupalais Posts: 3,947
    "the real arrival of the heroin chic Grand Tour contender can be traced to Wiggins’ ride to fourth place at the 2009 Tour de France" !?!
    What a load of tosh.
    Fausto Coppi would make any recent GT winner look a porker.

    The first hand accounts in that Ride article are an interesting read - but I could do without the introductory assertion that extreme dietary tendencies are a new thing in the peloton. I remember a Tour doctor recording Hinault's body fat as 3% by the time he finished a Tour - a figure I'd be very surprised if even Wiggins or Froome got down beyond; so the Badger's not a great choice of example of how it used to be. Similarly, I remember being very surprised when they announced that Daniele Nardello had the lowest recorded body fat of any rider at the Tour one year (2003 ish) - when so many other riders looked so much thinner.
    Wiggins was always a streak of p!ss; Froome was always a scrawny bush-boy. I'd be very surprised if the slender Nibali and Contador have body fat percentages below 6%, even after a GT... So I'm not really sure what this writer's(James Stout) point is other than throughout the history of cycling there have been some perverse attitudes towards diet, some of these pervade and that some poor souls fall foul of them with poor education and even poorer guidance.
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 23,205
    I
    My mind was a little bit blown this summer when I heard (maybe on the telegraph cycling podcast) that riders were deliberately keeping themselves on the cusp of dehydration so as not to be retaining water which would hinder them up the climbs - now that seems all sorts of bonkers and a little bit dis-intuitive as far as performance goes, but what do I know eh?

    In his infamous book. Tyler Hamilton says that he would far rather have lost 2-3 kg than gained 2-3 points on his heamatocrit using all the nefarious methods. As a pre weight loss Gentleman Bear - it really does make all the difference.
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,349 Lives Here
    Bjarne Riis used to do 5hr training rides on no food, get home and pop a couple of sleeping pills (amongst other things), hoping that he would wake up in the morning.

    Easier to do that and not be ill when you're taking enormous amounts of PE drugs.
  • philbar72philbar72 Posts: 2,228
    Bjarne Riis used to do 5hr training rides on no food, get home and pop a couple of sleeping pills (amongst other things), hoping that he would wake up in the morning.

    Easier to do that and not be ill when you're taking enormous amounts of PE drugs.

    surely there has to be long term health issues attached to that way of working. blood like treacle (60% haematocrit) on a diet of not even bread and water must cause issues..
  • ManOfKentManOfKent Posts: 392
    I
    My mind was a little bit blown this summer when I heard (maybe on the telegraph cycling podcast) that riders were deliberately keeping themselves on the cusp of dehydration so as not to be retaining water which would hinder them up the climbs - now that seems all sorts of bonkers and a little bit dis-intuitive as far as performance goes, but what do I know eh?

    In his infamous book. Tyler Hamilton says that he would far rather have lost 2-3 kg than gained 2-3 points on his heamatocrit using all the nefarious methods. As a pre weight loss Gentleman Bear - it really does make all the difference.
    He also wrote about drinking sparkling water to feel full, discreetly discarding food into plant pots and being on the very edge of eating disorders. That part of the book has stayed with me, showing just how dysfunctional is the sport we love.
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 25,491
    I think the problems come when riders are put under pressure to lose weight but are given no guidance on how to do it. So we get the extreme starvation stories from the likes of Hamilton.

    A serious big time team should have a coach, nutritionist and a chef working together and providing riders with appropriate eating plans and teaching them how to cook.

    (People wonder what Sky did differently to other teams - but it's just that. They're all about maintaining the athlete throughout the year. Others now do it, but some still don't)
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • I don't think the issues surrounding weight are solely related to cycling. I think sport in general has issues.

    For example, I haven't been to a football match this season where one or other set of fans hasn't identified an opposing player as "fat" and then abused them.

    Cycling should have enough intricate disciplines to allow all to shine regardless of body shape, size and density.

    The challenge is that riders try and defy their genetics to become a different sort of rider.
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 25,491
    Cycling should have enough intricate disciplines to allow all to shine regardless of body shape, size and density.
    It's a poor sport for that though as it has a low level of skill. It's mostly genetic.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • olake92olake92 Posts: 182
    The challenge is that riders try and defy their genetics to become a different sort of rider.

    I can relate to that. I used to be 62kg at 179.5cm and wondered why I didn't have the power to keep up with guys on the flat. Even last year I was watching my weight. Now I've said sod it; I'm almost 6ft tall and I don't want to look like all the 6ft tall GC contenders (skinny alien bone freaks), I'd rather look like all the 6ft tall classics riders. My GF is rather pleased that I'm nudging closer to 70kg nowadays! Importantly, I feel healthier and enjoy eating a bit more.

    I can totally understand how sports people develop eating disorders, particularly when faced with some managers who don't understand managing people, nutrition or development (they were good at sport, why would that make them good at anything else?).
    RichN95 wrote:
    Cycling should have enough intricate disciplines to allow all to shine regardless of body shape, size and density.
    It's a poor sport for that though as it has a low level of skill. It's mostly genetic.

    I object to this btw. No class rider that I have met has ever said they got where they were because of genetics, it's always that they train much harder than everyone else. The kind of genetic disposition I talk about is my height - ain't nothing (hopefully) gonna change that!
    I'm on Twitter! Follow @olake92 for updates on my racing, my team's performance and some generic tweets.
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 25,491
    Cycling should have enough intricate disciplines to allow all to shine regardless of body shape, size and density.
    It's a poor sport for that though as it has a low level of skill. It's mostly genetic.
    I object to this btw. No class rider that I have met has ever said they got where they were because of genetics, it's always that they train much harder than everyone else. The kind of genetic disposition I talk about is my height - ain't nothing (hopefully) gonna change that!
    I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. I bet every single one of those that you talked to was instantly better than average the very moment they sat on a bike. I read Michael Hutchinson's book and he said he went under 22 minutes in his first 10. Few will ever do that.
    There are sports that have a higher skill level and they are more reliant on the level of practice. The repetition of actions. They are unnatural abilities.
    Many sports a person can overcome their deficiencies through practice. But cycling is not one of them.



    I somehow ballsed up the quoting there - sorry.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • olake92olake92 Posts: 182
    Cycling should have enough intricate disciplines to allow all to shine regardless of body shape, size and density.
    It's a poor sport for that though as it has a low level of skill. It's mostly genetic.
    I object to this btw. No class rider that I have met has ever said they got where they were because of genetics, it's always that they train much harder than everyone else. The kind of genetic disposition I talk about is my height - ain't nothing (hopefully) gonna change that!
    I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. I bet every single one of those that you talked to was instantly better than average the very moment they sat on a bike. I read Michael Hutchinson's book and he said he went under 22 minutes in his first 10. Few will ever do that.
    There are sports that have a higher skill level and they are more reliant on the level of practice. The repetition of actions. They are unnatural abilities.
    Many sports a person can overcome their deficiencies through practice. But cycling is not one of them.



    I somehow ballsed up the quoting there - sorry.

    No problem with the quotes; you should see the mess I made over on the Dan Stevens doping thread!

    There's a whole host of literature and scientific debate on nature vs nurture, and I doubt we'll work it all out in time for bed, just know that I will disagree with almost everything you say ;) still, if I'm ever of a level where people say I'm naturally talented, you can remember this moment and take my word for it that I am not.
    I'm on Twitter! Follow @olake92 for updates on my racing, my team's performance and some generic tweets.
  • fearbyfearby Posts: 245
    "the real arrival of the heroin chic Grand Tour contender can be traced to Wiggins’ ride to fourth place at the 2009 Tour de France" !?!
    What a load of tosh.
    Fausto Coppi would make any recent GT winner look a porker.

    The first hand accounts in that Ride article are an interesting read - but I could do without the introductory assertion that extreme dietary tendencies are a new thing in the peloton. I remember a Tour doctor recording Hinault's body fat as 3% by the time he finished a Tour - a figure I'd be very surprised if even Wiggins or Froome got down beyond; so the Badger's not a great choice of example of how it used to be. Similarly, I remember being very surprised when they announced that Daniele Nardello had the lowest recorded body fat of any rider at the Tour one year (2003 ish) - when so many other riders looked so much thinner.
    Wiggins was always a streak of p!ss; Froome was always a scrawny bush-boy. I'd be very surprised if the slender Nibali and Contador have body fat percentages below 6%, even after a GT... So I'm not really sure what this writer's(James Stout) point is other than throughout the history of cycling there have been some perverse attitudes towards diet, some of these pervade and that some poor souls fall foul of them with poor education and even poorer guidance.

    I heard a Coppi anecdote once: he said the most important muscle for cyclists was the forearm so you can waggle the forefinger to say no thanks when someone offers you food.

    Great story and shows this has been going on for a long long time.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,349 Lives Here
    Some people can be healthier at lower weights than others.

    Part of the talent of being a pro cyclist.
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    If you don't have a body that will take training while keeping your weight perilously low pro cycling is not for you.
  • I think the problems come when riders are put under pressure to lose weight but are given no guidance on how to do it. So we get the extreme starvation stories from the likes of Hamilton.

    A serious big time team should have a coach, nutritionist and a chef working together and providing riders with appropriate eating plans and teaching them how to cook.

    (People wonder what Sky did differently to other teams - but it's just that. They're all about maintaining the athlete throughout the year. Others now do it, but some still don't)


    Geraint Thomas's anecdotes in his book are good on the diet aspect. Being in an almost permanent state of hunger all the year round except the off-season, is a recurring theme.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,349 Lives Here
    I think the problems come when riders are put under pressure to lose weight but are given no guidance on how to do it. So we get the extreme starvation stories from the likes of Hamilton.

    A serious big time team should have a coach, nutritionist and a chef working together and providing riders with appropriate eating plans and teaching them how to cook.

    (People wonder what Sky did differently to other teams - but it's just that. They're all about maintaining the athlete throughout the year. Others now do it, but some still don't)


    Geraint Thomas's anecdotes in his book are good on the diet aspect. Being in an almost permanent state of hunger all the year round except the off-season, is a recurring theme.

    I've heard he's found this seasons weight loss regime (though effective) very difficult.
  • I think the problems come when riders are put under pressure to lose weight but are given no guidance on how to do it. So we get the extreme starvation stories from the likes of Hamilton.

    A serious big time team should have a coach, nutritionist and a chef working together and providing riders with appropriate eating plans and teaching them how to cook.

    (People wonder what Sky did differently to other teams - but it's just that. They're all about maintaining the athlete throughout the year. Others now do it, but some still don't)


    Geraint Thomas's anecdotes in his book are good on the diet aspect. Being in an almost permanent state of hunger all the year round except the off-season, is a recurring theme.

    I've heard he's found this seasons weight loss regime (though effective) very difficult.


    Fat-free Welsh Cakes must be a nightmare
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