Magnesium For Cycling – Part 2

19 11 2008

Magnesium, the promised elixir?

Last week I asked Dr. Sipser about what all the hype was about Magnesium in all these sports drinks.  Will it make me faster?  Is this the magic pill I’ve been searching for?  Judging by its entertainment value it had in high school chemistry I just had to find out more about this.  See part 1 here.

The benefits we’ve discovered with using magnesium for cycling are immense and science is uncovering more all the time about how magnesium in concert with calcium cause proper muscle contraction and just as importantly-relaxation or ‘de-contraction’. In Lance Armstrong’s last Tour ride, the team Chiropractor Dr Jeff Spencer in conjunction with their team nutritionist used a magnesium salt solution in their drink bottles to minimise lactic acid build-up. The water tasted foul so they needed to find an alternate source and that is why and what i now use in practice for my patients. The second instalment of this topic is below.   Enjoy.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of magnesium in humans

Another study looked at lung function and in particular whether dietary antioxidants might protect lung tissue against reactive oxygen species-induced injury, adverse respiratory effects and reduced pulmonary function. Healthy, non-smoking freshmen students who were lifetime residents in the Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay areas of California completed comprehensive residential history, health history and food frequency questionnaires. Blood samples were also collected and forced expiratory volume (lung power) measurements were obtained. Using a statistical technique called multivariable regression, the researchers showed that the higher the intake of dietary magnesium, the more positive the lung function (indicating healthier more elastic lung tissue).

A third study published just a few months ago examined the effect of magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers in patients with chronic heart disease. The study, conducted by Israeli researchers, compared the levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in patients given 300mg a day of magnesium citrate with a control group given no magnesium.

The result showed unequivocally that the extra magnesium produced a significant drop in C-reactive protein levels, indicating reduced inflammation, so much so that the researchers commented that ‘targeting the inflammatory cascade by magnesium administration might prove a useful tool for improving the prognosis in heart failure.’

Optimising dietary magnesium intake

Magnesium is well supplied in unrefined whole grains, such as wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals, and also in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, peas, beans and lentils. Fruit, meat and fish supply poor levels, as do refined/sugary foods. Contrary to popular belief, milk and dairy products are not particularly rich sources of magnesium. Magnesium is a fairly soluble mineral, which is why boiling vegetables can result in significant losses; in cereals and grains, it tends to be concentrated in the germ and bran, which explains why white refined grains contain relatively little magnesium by comparison with their unrefined counterparts.

Implications for ‘Budding Lance’s’

The latest research on magnesium and lactate adds further weight to the evidence indicating that a healthy magnesium intake is vital for both endurance and anaerobic performance. In the longer term (and perhaps more surprisingly), it appears that an optimal magnesium intake may also be essential for antioxidant protection and for the correct regulation of inflammation, both of which are desirable for athletes, young and old. In my recently released book, 7 things your Doctor Fogot To Tell You  I cover more on this topic and how to fuel your body better.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC



Beginner Climbing Tips

17 11 2008

Some people hate climbing, some people love it. I used to hate it but have learned (and trained) to love it. Or some aspects of it anyway.

There are a few different types of climbs:

#1 The short “power climbs “: These can be fairly steep (10-12%) and suit strong and heavy guys.

#2 The long and gradual climbs : These are about 6% and don’t necessarily separate the pure climbers from the guys like me. They aren’t easy yet they aren’t hard enough to really spilt up a group. During these climbs you still go fast enough to benefit from drafting and the forces of gravity aren’t large enough to penalize the heavier riders.

#3 The long and steep climbs : Where the pure climbers tend to shine.

If you’re reading this and looking for tips on climbing, then you probably don’t fit into the category #3. I won’t even touch on how to keep up in these types of climbs. Let’s be clear – genetic ability, proper training, and optimum power to weight ratio (6-7 watts/kg) will determine if you are a true climber. For example, a guy like Lance Armstrong can generate almost 500 watts over a 40 minute period and he’s less than 70kg!

What you can do:

If you want to improve your climbing (#1&2), the easiest way to do it is by simply doing more hills. That’s it! Get off the flat stuff and choose hilly rides two or three times a week. Mediocre climbers often head for the flat roads.

Spin those legs at a higher cadence. Swallow your pride and get a 27 tooth cassette if your having problems pushing the 23 up those climbs at over 80rpm. You’re knees will thank you for it and you’ll climb faster than if you’re pushing big gears.

Mark off intermediate goals. It can be a long way to the top of a 10km climb. It can be mentally excrutiating. Break the climb off into smaller goals and tell yourself that you’ll maintain your pace until the next turn. Once you’re there, set another goal. Just as using a high cadence breaks the effort of pedaling into smaller chunks, mentally breaking down the climb makes it more manageable.

Weight – For example, if a 75kg rider loses 4kg while maintaining the same power output, then he/she will save 2 minutes on a 3km climb. Need I say more? If you want to be a better climber, reduce your weight as much as possible so that you’re not loosing power.

Position – This is very individual. On average, when you stand up during a climb you use much more energy as well as slow down (because you usually reduce your cadence). Smaller riders can often stand with less penalty because they have less weight to support. That’s why a guy like Armstrong will climb while standing more than a guy like Ulrich. Also, keep a relaxed upper body. You see most of the best climbers with their arms and shoulders relaxed while their hands are loosly gripped on the tops of their handle bars. Muscle tension in these areas expend energy that’s better spent on turning the pedals.

Breathing – You might say that I’m digging deep for things to say when I bring up breathing. But consider this analogy. If you’re doing 5 chin-ups where little effort is required, you won’t need to focus on technique. However, if you’re trying to do 20 then its a different story.You need focus and technique to minimize your energy and maximize your effort. When cycling and especially climbing, focus on breathing. Its the key to self monitoring your effort and developing your maximum potential. Breathing is so important that it deserves a write-up on its own.

Training – This also deserves a blog entery all of its own but good climbing obviously requires specific training for specific elements of fitness. The first and most important training advice is to get out and hit the hills!

Rest Periods

14 11 2008

Here in Australia we’re lucky enough to be able to cycle all year round.  The winter here is road season and the summer is track and crit season.  What more could you ask for???

The downside of this is that if you’re motivated enough to jump from season to season of never ending cycling heaven, burnout can easily creep up on you.  You can prevent this by setting some rest periods throughout the year before burnout occurs .   The temptation is that sometimes you’ll be riding really well and feeling fit and you won’t want to stop.  This is the trap and this is exactly what will happen.

There are three of different types of rest periods that I try to stick to:

1. Schedule a rest week after every 4 weeks of training.  This rest week doesn’t necessarily mean no riding.  It means that your ride 2 or 3 times that week and don’t kill yourself doing it.  Your body needs this break even if you are feeling good.

2. Schedule a rest week after the second 4 week period of training (i.e. do a 4 week period, rest week as above, another 4 week period).  At this stage I will usually take the week completely off the bike.  I’ll try to change things up a bit by doing a bit of surfing, running or swimming. Don’t worry – you’re not going to loose any fitness in this time. This rest week can come in handy to  get caught up in work or personal things that you’ve been neglecting.

3. After about 4-6 months of continuous training (along with those breaks mentioned) take 3-4 weeks off the bike.  Missing this rest period is often where the fine line of progression and overtraining is crossed.  Since we’re not forced to get off the bike because of foul weather here in Australia, I have been guilty of continuing on through this time fearing that I’ll loose all that I’ve worked so hard to gain.  I’ve gotten caught into the trap of riding harder and longer because I feel like my performance is diminishing.  This is classic overtraining.    You probably will lose some fitness in this time off but you’ll be better for it in the long run.  Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to get two steps forward. This is a good time to take that yearly vacation with your wife and do something that she likes to do.  Cycling can be a selfish sport and this is a great time to give back and show her how great of a guy you are!

Creating a training plan with these rest periods scheduled far in advance while you’re thinking objectively is extremely important.  When creating this plan you can see a macro view of your racing/training year and you’ll know exactly when your important events are and when you should take a break.  Overtraining is an easy trap to fall into and it’s difficult to see for yourself if you don’t have a coach.

On that note, I’m off for a two week vacation in New Zealand.  I’ll try posting tips while away but they may not be every day (and they may not be about cycling either!).

Using Magnesium to Peak Your Performance

13 11 2008

In the last couple of years there’s been a number of sports drinks that have been marketing the benefits of Magnesium.  I’ve understood the basics of the more common electrolytes found in these drinks, but wanted to know what this new Magnesium craze was all about.  Well, I didn’t have to go much further than asking my good friend and Chiropractor, Dr. Warren Sipser.

As a keen cyclist and performance enhancing Chiropractor, I am always searching for improved ways to better my own scores as well as those of the athletes who seek my care. Chiropractic offers athletes and ‘weekend warriors’ the opportunity to function at their genetic maximum by removing any interferences affecting their nerve systems. It is the only profession that focuses on the delicate relationship between the performance of the nerve system and how the spine can interfere with normal function.

In my next article I will cover some ground breaking scientific studies about heart rate variability and why it is the brain and not the heart that will actually cause you to ride stronger and faster as well as recover more quickly.

Today we are going to begin a 3 article odyssey on the amazing benefits of magnesium and why the secret is now out.

While not all magnesium is created equal, a highly soluble, good quality form can aid enormously in not only your power and stamina, but also your recovery time. For more information about which types, feel free to contact me.

A key nutrient that we often overlook is magnesium. It is the agonist and antagonist to the much publicised calcium and both are needed for active muscle contractions and relaxations.The mineral magnesium is something of a ‘Cinderella’ nutrient. Most sportsmen and women know that it’s required for health, but few really appreciate its importance for sport performance.

Current studies show that we do not ingest enough magnesium in our diest and we have declined to less than a half of those recorded at the end of the 19th century and are still falling.

–  A study of male athletes supplemented with 390mg of magnesium per day for 25 days, which resulted in an increased peak oxygen uptake and total work output during work capacity tests
–  A sub-maximal work study, which showed that magnesium supplementation reduced heart rate, ventilation rate, oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production for a given workload
–  A study on physically active students, which showed that supplementing with 8mg of magnesium per kilo of body weight per day produced significant increases in endurance performance and decreased oxygen consumption during sub-maximal exercise.

A magnesium shortfall also appears to reduce the efficiency of muscle relaxation, which accounts for an important fraction of total energy needs during exercise.
Very recent research has indicated that magnesium supplementation could enhance performance in a hitherto unrecognised way – by reducing the accumulation of fatiguing lactic acid during intense exercise.

The researchers concluded that ‘magnesium supplement may positively affect performance of sportsmen by decreasing their lactate levels’.

All of this sounds really important and the studies that I have summarised below from a great article on magnesium lends credence to it’s importance in overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.

What is magnesium and why does it matter?

Pure magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in cells after potassium, but the 2oz or so found in the typical human body is present not as metal but as magnesium ions (positively charged magnesium atoms found either in solution or complexed with other tissues such as bone). Roughly one-quarter of this magnesium is found in muscle tissue and three-fifths in bone; but less than 1% of it is found in blood serum, although blood magnesium is used as the commonest indicator of magnesium status. This blood serum magnesium can further be subdivided into free ionic, complex-bound and protein-bound portions, but it’s the ionic portion that’s considered most important in measuring magnesium status, because it is physiologically active.

The researchers concluded that not only did supplemental magnesium help suppress lactate production, but that it also somehow increased glucose availability and metabolism in the brain during exercise. This is important because scientists now believe that the brain and central nervous system play a large role in determining the degree of muscular fatigue we feel; higher brain glucose availability could in theory translate into lower levels of perceived fatigue.

OK, so now that we have covered the first step about it, keep posted for the 2nd and 3rd installments which will cover when to use it, how to use it and why it boosts recovery time.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC


Rubber Gloves – All Sorts of Uses

12 11 2008

Another good tip from Jeff Bolstad.

For the past couple of years, I’ve kept a stock of nitrile gloves in my race bag and I keep thinking of new uses for them, mostly related to the hideous climate that I live and ride in. For instance, I love hot balm on the legs on chilly days and in the rain, but the stuff is murder to get off your hands (assuming that you have a sink and soap to try, which you often won’t at race venues). Rather than risk rubbing it in my eyes, I’ll use a pair of gloves to put it on. The same argument applies to chamois cream and greasing your chain for the rain.

On those same wet days, which are often also cold days, a pair of rubber gloves worn over long-fingered gloves will keep your hands warm. Buy them in a color to match your kit and a size larger than you would usually use so you can fit them over gloves. I prefer black.

Our Friend Lactic Acid

11 11 2008

j120px-lactic-acid-3d-ballsLactic acid has gotten a bad rap.  We’re always cursing it when we put in too big of an effort and then blame all our pain and suffering on it.  You know what?  It is actually our friend. Lactic acid is a fuel, not a caustic waste product.  It’s responsible for helping create more ATP (ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism) and is more efficient at traveling between muscle tissue than glucose (the sugar ATP is made from.)

Every time you move lactic acid is produced.  It  is constantly produced in and reabsorbed into our muscles all day long. However, when we engage in very intense exercise, also known as anaerobic activity, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and the concentration begins to rise.

During the process of our bodies breaking down glucose as fuel for our muscles, the glucose gets broken down to lactate and hydrogen ions are released. You know what though?   It’s actually the hydrogen that causes problems! The hydrogen ions causes pH to fall and creates a state of acidosis, which then leads to the pain and discomfort you always blame on the “lactic acid”.  BUT, the lactic acid then tirelessly works in our favor again by helping to carry the hydrogen ions away where it gets removed in the liver which then converts the lactic acid back to glucose. A thankless job…

I’ve missed quite a few important details in the whole process in the intrest of keeping it short and sweet. You can find those details here

The best thing you can do to raise your tolerence is train yourself to increase your lactate threshold. By performing regularly at levels with the increased amount of lactic acid, your body will adapt and be able to handle the load. This is best done through interval training, and maintaining sub-threshold intensities for extended periods of time (8-20 minutes) and typically 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. As an example, maintaining 80-85% of your max. HR for 8 minutes helps to gently and efficiently ‘push’ your lactate threshold up to higher levels.

I’ll write about an easy method to test your lactate threshold HR or power output in a future post.

Your Chain In The Rain

10 11 2008

Most of us won’t even think of going out riding when you know that you’re gonna get drenched. However we’ve all driven hours to an event and it starts pouring cats and dogs as soon as you arrive. I have to admit, I’ve DNS’d some of those races before, but there’s many more that I’ve reluctantly started. Lubing your chain properly in these conditions to have your drivetrain running smoothly will give you one less thing to worry about.

There’s two common types of lube – wet and dry. Dry lube tends to suit most conditions. Compounds that reduce friction, such as Teflon, is suspended in a carrier fluid that penetrates in-between the links. Once it’s applied to the chain, you should wipe off the excess on the chain and the Teflon will be left inside the links. Wet lube is more like a traditional oil. It will last longer in wet conditions but will attract more dirt and road grime.

On the days where you know you’ll be riding in the wet, greasing your chain will keep your drivetrain working smoothly in the worst downpour, even if it is a pain to clean afterwards. Oil your chain as normal (with WET lube), but instead of wiping off the excess, seal it in with a layer of grease. This is a job better done with a rubber glove than your hand. This will keep your drivetrain running and shifting smoothly in the worst of wet conditions.