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Cycling cannibalizes muscle?(21 posts)

Cycling cannibalizes muscle?girodebirdman
Aug 28, 2001 8:49 AM
When watching world-class cyclists on TV, I can't help but notice that almost everyone has the upper-body of a 12 year-old schoolgirl. Is this due to Cycling requiring massive amounts of energy and therefore burning unneeded upper-body muscle? Or, are these guys just naturally built like this? It seems that very few people are THAT skinny, it is just that perhaps the cyclists are burning 4500 calories a day, and therefore have no excess unused muscle. What are your opinions?
Trollman doesnt know what to think...Trollman
Aug 28, 2001 8:59 AM
Trollman thinks this is one of the most unscientific posts he has ever read.
Only time in history I've agreed with Trollmancory
Aug 28, 2001 9:50 AM
And it won't happen again soon.
I don't agree with anyone who speaks in third-person.Wil
Aug 28, 2001 10:25 AM
Trollman thinks this limits you in life.Trollman
Aug 28, 2001 11:04 AM
I think so...UncleMoe
Aug 28, 2001 9:03 AM
I have lost a ton of size and some strength in the upper body over the past 3 months since I began riding 150 miles+ per week. I also don't spend as much time in the gym, but I wouldn't have lost so much this fast if I wasn't riding. My legs are like tree trunks though.
re: Cycling cannibalizes muscle?Tig
Aug 28, 2001 9:17 AM
If you've ever tasted amonia in your mouth or throat after an intense ride, your body has "cannibalized" itself. This is a byproduct of the body actually using it's own cells to fuel it's needs!

Those guys easily burn 4500 and more a day during long races and stages. It's not likely they will have much body fat this late in the season. You may have been looking at the climbers, who are lanky in the first place. Extra muscle means extra weight to haul up mountains, just ask Cippo!
Ammonia SmellGW Rider
Aug 28, 2001 9:28 AM
Could you go into more detail regarding this process and its results?

I have smelt ammonia after a hard ride, but never tasted it. I remember a post from a while ago on this topic but it was never resolved as to the source of this phenomenon.

Keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down.
Ammonia SmellTig
Aug 28, 2001 10:04 AM
"It smells like... victory!"

I'll try to remember, but it's been several years since I read the article in Velonews or someplace. It was confirmed by a local sports medicine doctor as well. Your body first uses blood, liver and muscle glycogen while riding. It also uses fat stores (converts them to glycogen first), but this happens later. During peak intensity after you've been riding a while, your body can't always metabolize glycogen stores, especially when they are depleated. It must meet the demands, so it actually cannibalizes small portions of soft tissue like muscle. I forgot the role lactic acid plays in this though. The result that we notice is the smell of amonia. I should have said smell and not taste in the first post. There is an actual medical name for this process. If someone can mention it, I'd like to search some medical sites for more info. Hope this helps a little.
re: Cycling cannibalizes muscle?Lou M
Aug 28, 2001 9:43 AM
very interesting, I have experience something similar after a tough ride. I have smelled something close to amonia or other cleaning chemicals while showering, I thought that my girl had just cleaned the bathroom. later to find out that wasn't the case.

Anybody else who can expand on this?

Same here, wondering what that ammonia smell was from. . .JS5280
Aug 28, 2001 10:56 AM
I've been perplexed by the same ammonia smell thing too. Thought it might be my hair gell mixed w/ sweat or perhaps coming from the drain and I was more sensitive to it after working out.

My non-scientific opinion why most pro cyclist have smaller upper bodies is that those body types excel at the sport. Lance is a good testimony because he lost a lot of bulk with the chemo and has been known as a incredibily strong climber since. Also I think that the upper body is worked out just enough cycling that it burns away the fat leaving a toned, abeit thinner, upper body. We're talking small efforts but high reps which is the classic toning workout. I know that is certainly the case for myself as I ride more often. Would love to hear the real story on that ammonia smell. . .
I have this happen after weekend rides with our A groupLive Steam
Aug 28, 2001 11:01 AM
It is usually every man for himself so the rides are very intense. I usually get a chemical taste accompanied by an odor of , I guess ammonia? I would think this is more fat stores being burned rather than muscle. Please post when you get more info. Couldn't it just be a higher concentration of lactic acid in the blood instead of what you mentioned?
Just look at a pro tennis playerLC
Aug 28, 2001 9:17 AM
His racket arm is huge and the other just a little twig. If you devote that much time into specific type exercise, the others will just sort of fall off and die.
Doh!grzy mnky
Aug 28, 2001 9:21 AM
How about they spend most of their time pedaling and therefore these are the muscles that get developed? Ultimately they have the muscles they need and big shoulders is just more excess weight to accelerate.

Use your brain.
burnin' and lootin'cypher
Aug 28, 2001 9:27 AM
skinny upper bodies are both a natural result of an intense focus on cycling and a desirable predisposition. if you remember the '99 Tour, everyone was commenting about how much weight lance lost for the better, particularly his bulky upper body from his triathlete days. the advantages are basically less weight to pedal around and less drag. some of these guys condition their upper body, but dont look to put muscle where it doesnt belong.
big legssteveuk
Aug 28, 2001 12:55 PM
Pros - their upper bodies are quite normal - they just look small next to their GIGANTIC leg muscles!!!

Actually I think you'd find muscle bulk on pros upper bodies is totally with in the norm but that the #fat stores# are minimal so there is a 'thin' look. Riders out of the saddle show thier biceps and they look fine. Infact out of saddle riding + sprinting requires good upper body strength so it's a fallacy that riding leads to a weak upper body. Fast twitch muscles - used for boxing, weight lifting, DIY etc are bulky. But endurance/slow twitch are thin but still very healthy.
re: Diet has alot to do with itcyclopathic
Aug 28, 2001 12:52 PM
there was a study on TdF team it found because cyclists did not get enough (100-200g) protein they were loosing muscles.

Beware if you don't exercise muscles you loose them even if you do nothing, look what happens to body builders and college football players 10 years later.. what muscles??
Look at elite marathon runnersfiltersweep
Aug 28, 2001 4:49 PM
... it's pretty basic that long-term intense cardio "cannabalizes" both body fat and muscle, but the body can't selectively just burn upper body muscle and not lower body muscle, it just doesn't work that way! My guess is the very nature of cycling involves legs more than arms, so legs become disproportionately developed, and most elite cyclists probably know that a heavy upper body is just dead weight to haul around, so they don't go out of their way to develop that area. Ironically, marathon runners appear to have no muscles at all (and some even have lots of loose skin), vs. sprinters who these days look like miniature steroid-enhanced body-builders (endurance vs. power).
no, but it does cannibalize brainsDog
Aug 28, 2001 7:34 PM
Biking too much does eat up brain cells. The glucose and oxygen deprivation kills off millions of cells with every long ride.

The parts you use get bigger. The parts you don't use don't. Pretty simple.

Am I getting stupider?peloton
Aug 28, 2001 8:40 PM
Millions of cells? Really? I guess it couldn't be worse than a lot of other things. I've read findings that show the brain performs better after exercise. Maybe we are just killing off the weak ones, huh?
Aug 28, 2001 10:24 PM
That explains a lot. And I was afraid it was just the aging process.