On Saturday, July 15th 2017, Kevin Metcalfe and Dan Bryant, masters cyclists on the Peet’s Coffee Racing team in northern California, will attempt to set world records at the Aguascalientes Velodrome in central Mexico. Both athletes are targeting The Hour Record, one of cycling’s most prestigious benchmarks. The task facing the riders is simple: pedal as far as you can in 60-minutes. This is endurance athletics stripped down to its basics—a rider and a bike pushing against the very boundaries of the possible.
GU Energy Labs has teamed up with these athletes to provide a data-driven approach to their nutrition. In record attempts like this, every watt and every second will matter. Once they start, each cyclist will be alone. They’ll be wholly focused on the track and on keeping their power level up, even around the banked turns of the velodrome. There’s no time for fueling, not a single moment to rehydrate. So in training for the event, it was essential that Dan and Kevin optimize their diet for peak performance. With nutritional and product support from GU Energy Labs, coupled with blood-based biomarker analysis, personalized nutrition, and supplement recommendations from InsideTracker, the athletes have improved and sharpened their training strategies well beyond the bicycle. Their bodies are primed to perform and fueled to shatter records.
“There’s no turning back”
Both Dan (age 47) and Kevin (age 55) certainly have what it takes to target, and break, world records. Dan has won multiple national time-trial championships for his age group. In 2016 he won the UCI Gran Fondo time trial championships in Perth, Australia. Kevin’s accomplishments are equally impressive. He is a sixteen-time Masters national champion and is the current national hill-climb champion. Both are members of the Peet’s Coffee Racing team based in northern California. They have extensive experience in elite competitions in various disciplines: road races, criteriums, and on the track of a velodrome.
When they roll off the start-line of the Mexican velodrome, Kevin and Dan will also rely on specific preparation for the event. They’ve trained innumerable hours and logged thousands of miles in the saddle. They’ve done meticulous research for the attempt, scoping out an ideal location at high altitude to ensure low air resistance. BMC Racing has provided prototype time-trial bicycles, tuned to match their ideal cadence and power goals. “There’s no turning back once you start,” says Kevin. “Most of the challenge with The Hour revolves around preparation for the event: picking your gear properly, determining the right cadence, and fueling appropriately before the event.”
Even the starting time has been taken into account. Dan and Kevin will push off when the temperature is hot enough to create optimal air density (ensuring less resistance), but not so warm that they overheat. All this work has staged an audacious attempt to pedal farther in a single hour than anyone in their age groups have ever traveled before.
Baselines and Strategy
It was vital that the team of athletes, product advisors, and performance nutritionists have performance baselines to create a strategy for success. In two visits over the spring and summer, Kevin and Dan traveled to the UC Davis Sports Medicine Center in Sacramento, CA for DEXA (dual emission x-ray absorptiometry) body scans and Metabolic Efficiency Tests. The DEXA scan determined their body density and fat percentages, while the metabolic efficiency test determined the quantity and type of fuels—fat or carbs—they should use during exercise at various intensities.
This was not a comfortable experience. During the metabolic efficiency test, athletes are forced to wear a mask and nose plug so that all expired air can be analyzed. As Dan and Kevin pedaled, the resistance was increased at intervals, steadily becoming more difficult. At each increase, their skin was pricked and their blood was analyzed for lactate. Eventually both Dan and Kevin reached their metabolic “tipping point,” when the body’s ability to clear lactate is no longer capable of offsetting the rate of blood lactate accumulation. It was painful and it was hard.
But the testing baseline provided the team with a guide for daily training. GU’s Sports Nutritionist, Roxanne Vogel, worked with the athletes from the outset of the project. The testing revealed that both cyclists were drawing energy predominantly from carbohydrates, even at lower intensity efforts. “The testing had interesting results,” says Vogel. “Because Dan and Kevin both rely primarily upon carbohydrate oxidation to fuel their efforts, and they cannot take any supplemental carbohydrate during the ride, they will be pulling from limited muscle and liver glycogen stores. In the absence of supplemental carbohydrate, if glycogen stores become depleted, an athlete will fatigue, which leads to performance decline,” says Vogel. “So one important change was moving away from a very high carbohydrate diet, which is common practice for endurance athletes, to one that would improve their metabolic flexibility, or the ability to burn a greater proportion of fat as fuel across a wider range of exercise intensities.” The cyclists shifted to a nutrition regimen that incorporated more protein and fat with every meal and snack.
Bear in mind that Dan and Kevin are not full-time professional athletes. They have lives outside of cycling. “I’ve got a job and family,” says Kevin, “so during the week I fit my rides between other big obligations.” Like most of us, they squeeze their training in when they can, waking up early to train before work and riding longer on weekends. But the world record project has shown that a data-driven nutrition strategy can optimize performance, even for those outside the professional European peloton. “I need a quick breakfast in the morning to squeeze in rides before the day’s work,” says Kevin. He switched from packaged cereals to rolled oats, yogurts, and protein powders. With Vogel’s advising, he was able to holistically improve his energy usage by tweaking his diet, despite the time constraints of the workweek.
These were still realistic dietary changes, which allowed the riders to balance optimal training with the demands of everyday life. Continual biometric data allowed the athletes to tweak their diet as the training cycle progressed. By using InsideTracker’s blood testing service, the cyclists measured (and improved) performance markers of iron, vitamin D, and white blood cell count, all of which are strong indicators of athletic performance and the oft-overlooked side of training, recovery. “I feel like I’ve been dropped onto a ProTour team,” Kevin chuckles.
The project also forced the team to confront fueling challenges specific to masters athletes. “We’ve really emphasized hydration in order to maintain better thermal regulation, which tends to become more challenging with age,” notes Vogel. Increasing the amount of fluids throughout the day can be annoying (i.e. numerous bathroom breaks), but adequate hydration and electrolytes ensured better thermoregulation during exercise, easing cardiovascular strain, throughout the buildup.
Kevin and Dan focused heavily on upping their post-workout protein intake. As athletes age, more protein is needed to kick start the process that initiates muscle repair and aids mitochondrial adaptation. This is especially the case with men. So, the cyclists relied on the convenience of GU Recovery Drink Mix, taken immediately after all workouts, to maximize their protein synthesis response, replenish glycogen levels, and ensure optimal recovery.
On the bike, Dan and Kevin have incorporated more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) into their longer weekend rides. During sustained endurance efforts, the body inevitably pulls amino acids from muscle. To combat this, the riders incorporated fuels filled with BCAAs to keep muscle breakdown to a minimum. “We call it ‘muscle insurance’,” Vogel quips. When the riders were in the saddle, they used Roctane Energy Mix and Energy Chews, along with Roctane BCAA capsules prior to exercise, to encourage a stable amino acid supply, preventing the body from running into deficits.
On Track for Race Day
New fueling strategies will also be implemented in the days and hours leading up to the event. Riders aren’t allowed to consume food or drink during The Hour. So, the cyclists need to dial in their pre-race nutrition for peak race performance. “Unlike a longer road race, this will be incredibly intense from the start,” notes Kevin. In the hours leading up to the race, the cyclists will eat light meals. With 30-60 minutes before the start they will rely on a proprietary pre-workout mix, currently in development at GU Energy Labs. The cyclists will then roll onto the track. At this point they will be on their own: a rider and his bike against the clock.
GU Energy Labs is Proud to Support this Effort
We will certainly be following the action (and hope you will be too!). GU is not only committed to crafting the best nutritional products, we’re also dedicated to providing the expertise and knowledge that allows athletes to redefine what’s possible. This commitment is embodied in Kevin and Dan’s attempt to break The Hour. We are proud to provide support that enables these athletes to strive for their ultimate potential.