Registration encouraged by invitation. Write to invitations at this website name.
RoadSkater.Net skating & cycling photos!

Donate to keep RoadSkater.Net free!

Search & shop eBay to support RoadSkater.Net...
Search RoadSkater.Net via Google...
Search the web...

Book Review: Chris Carmichael's Food for Fitness

eebee's picture

The Lance Armstrong Performance Program, by Chris Carmichael and Lance Armstrong, brought me successful results during last Summer's training. So I decided to check out a nutrition book, also written by great American cyclist and cycling coach Chris Carmichael, called Food for Fitness, which came out in 2004.

I was happy to find answers to some of my long-standing diet and fitness questions in the first thirty pages! Granted, they're Carmichael's answers, but he seems credible enough to me. I checked Food for Fitness out of the library because I was hoping to find ideas I could stick with and benefit from earlier in the training season this year, and to hopefully stop me from gravitating back to my default approach of lugging a surplus 12lbs around the first four months of training.

Some folks do better committing to a particular food regime for a certain length of time, and others prefer to modify their diet in healthier ways over time. Chris Carmichael takes the latter approach, stating that major changes to your nutrition program (eliminating foods, and changing caloric intake by 500 cals per day) can be 'significant shocks to your body'.  It may well be a no-brainer that the healthiest way to lose weight is by gradually changing your eating habits while being on an exercise program. The big catch there, is that it takes a lot of time and effort to change your eating habits.

The South Beach Diet worked for me for about 2 months last year, mainly because I considered it finite. It did the job for me, short term. However, I can't deal with such a small amount of carbs on a long-term basis - even after reaching Stage III of SBD - as long as I am training for T2T, A2A, or want to simply get up one morning and decide on a whim to spend a sunny day skating 80 miles on the Silver Comet Trail.

As I sit here wolfing down guilt-free leftover spaghetti and salad for lunch, I'm going to list some noteworthy highlights from this book:

  • Carmichael teaches nutrition periodization to complement your athletic training periodization. I.e. The daily carb+protein+fat percentages range from 60%+18%+22% in your transition period (long, slow, distance & cardio base training - for us outdoor skaters over the winter months), to 70%+14%+16% in the specialization period (race/peak time). For all the low-carbers out there, this'll seem like a retro-recipe for disaster, weightloss-wise.
  • Carmichael says that pretty much all the popular diets out there are not meant for athletes, but for the average American who refuses to get moving!
  • He suggests considering your total calorie intake from a rolling, 3-day window perspective, because of the impracticalities of food and life in general.
  • Carmichael also suggests not trying to change your diet all at once, but instead to change one meal a day for about a week, then move on to the next meal the next week and so on, to change your eating habits effectively. 
  • He has strapped heart-rate monitors onto Motocross champions and Indy car drivers, and determined that they too could be considered athletes.
  • Carmichael has found that general running as cross-training hinders sport-specific performance, such as basketball and hockey. He suggests cycling instead - but I'd suggest long-distance inline speed skating. Hah.
  • He offered a solution to my long-standing puzzlement as to why skating burns more calories per hour than, say, rowing: It's all down to whether the exercise is weight-bearing, or not. In other words, if you're supporting your own weight during a sport, you'll burn more calories.
  • Calorie ranges are basically well above 2,000 per day, even for a 135 lb athlete, and extend up to over 4,000 a day for heavier folk. Of course you have to be actually training for this to work.

The book does not give specifics to the four periods of training throughout the year, because that's what his online coaching services sell! So I turned to Barry Publow's cardio-base-training suggestions in his book, Speed on Skates, but each time I tried to read it, I fell asleep. Carmichael's Food for Fitness contains plenty of useful information, and I have a hunch this is how I will spend my Barnes & Noble gift card. The type of food he suggests is nothing earth-shatteringly different from what common sense tells you: healthy carbs made up of whole grains, fresh fruit and veg, watch your fat intake and try to limit it to mostly unsaturated, don't load yourself down with great chunks of protein or protein supplements, and generally try to get the most nutrient-dense bang for your calories. I have failed at this approach in the past, but I'm willing to try harder, putting more of an effort into lowering my fat intake and getting nutrient-dense carbs. Carmichael emphasizes that vitamins, minerals, carbs, protein and the rest don't exist in vacuums, and the more you nourish yourself as an athlete, the better your body will perform.

Carmichael does not promise spectacular weightloss on his nutrition program, stating that your weight will probably stay about the same. I will report my experience on this later. My main goal is to have all the energy I need to skate many hours per week, with secondary goals of weight maintenance or loss. (Back of hand on forehead) I'm willing to use myself as a carb-feasting guinea pig to find out for sure :-)

After trying this approach to nourishment for the past few days, I haven't experienced the South Beach Diet's incredible shrinking belly. However, I have found it's nice to actually have the energy to get out the door and go skating! I am looking foward to more food and more skating.


timv's picture

Carmichael book

Thanks for the detailed review, Eebee. I'd been wondering about that one for a while. It's a part of Armstrong's development as a rider that I find interesting, how much attention he and Carmichael gave to finding the ideal balance between his body weight and his power output. I've gotten the impression from somewhere that Lance was turned into a real "numbers guy" by his experience with cancer, tracking different protein and hormone levels in his blood analysis as indicators of progress, and even counting individual drops as a way to get through chemotherapy treatments.

As you say, maybe they're "Carmichael's answers" but I'm inclined to give a lot more credence to his answers than some other author I know nothing about.

Interesting point about running inhibiting specific performance in certain sports. I've noticed this myself, both ways in fact, and probably more noticeably in the other direction. Doing a lot of cycling or skating leaves my legs pretty heavy and flat-feeling for running. But when you're talking about weight-bearing exercise, it's hard to beat running where you're supporting twice your weight or so each time you put a foot down. I've never found anything to match it for burning calories and generally tightening things up, and there's a major difference between skating for an hour (no big deal) and running for an hour (pretty serious) so it's time efficient--if one's body can handle it, and lately I haven't been handling running so well.

That's also an interesting suggestion about changing your diet one meal at a time. I like that. It sounds very practical, and it you think of it as a permanent dietary change--as opposed to losing 15 pounds before the start of swimsuit season--there's less reason to be in a rush to change a lot of things at once.

eebee's picture


Thanks! Another good thing about this approach to an athletic diet is that it's cheap. In the book's introduction Chris Carmichael remembers back in the day when he was but a mere struggling professional cyclist, having to mete out his race winnings carefully. He talks about making only wise purchases in the grocery stores, ignoring the junk, but having to ignore sometimes pricier healthy foods too. Oatmeal, Wal-Mart's 9 grain bread, dry beans and a 10 lb sack of potatoes is a whole lot more doable for my budget than trying to find cheap, low-fat protein that I won't gag on. I still need low fat protein, but not nearly as much as on South Beach Diet, or Body For Life Diet, or Zone Diet...etc. What with this latest bout of inflation, it seems like prices of dairy (cheese, milk), and meats/fish have skyrocketed. The stodgier things are, for now, still affordable. At some point I hope to try out yours and Andrewinnc's recipes.
roadskater's picture

Great Book for Skaters, Cyclists and Other Mortals Who Exercise

Wow. What a great book review. Concrete, specific, informative, with just the right amount of personal opinion and experience! Thanks for giving this to us and to the world. I'd like to say more but I think I should just say, do you want to go skate? Skateylove, roadskater
roadskater's picture

Eebee Gets Some Boxxetlove

Hey I just noticed that eebee's detailed review got picked up on boxxet.com. Isn't it nice when someone notices? http://www.boxxet.com/Lance_Armstrong/Source:roadskater.net I don't know if this was aggregated via Google Blogs (in case you want to promote an event or otherwise be heard, we get almost immediately indexed by Google Blog Search, often before I can edit titles for searchability, much less look over the text) or by promotion by someone at Boxxet. Either one is great, meaning eebee's article will get more exposure and hopefully someone will drift over to our other stories of skating and cycling and charity exercise and life in general. Sweet!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content Syndicate content