Subaru NSWIS NKC road cyclist Hollee Simons can talk a lot about the difference five weeks makes.
That’s all it took for her to start seeing massive improvements in her riding and her results, and she attributes much of it to a change in coach and in her nutrition plan. In five weeks a different training programme and a new approach to nutrition on and off the bike has helped Hollee take out three of four State Championships (the fourth was a Silver, mind you) this year alone. We caught up with Hollee to find out more.
First tell us a bit about your riding background
I started racing when I was 11, so seven years ago. It was my dad who got me involved. He started bike riding to crosstrain for motorbike racing, but then realised he preferred the pushbike. It’s funny to think but I was actually riding with training wheels until I was seven. That said I made up for lost time and by 11 I got my first race bike under the Christmas tree. Soon after I was in Coffs Harbour participating in my first race.
By my early teens I was quite committed to the bike.
Instead of other girls who were out riding maybe twice a weekday and once a weekend, I was on the bike pretty much every day. I was only riding 20km or so a day but for a 12 year old that’s not bad! I entered U13s racing and won three state medals in one weekend. That’s when I realised I had something. I also realised that I was a lot more aggressive on the bike than other girls my age. Whereas they would be reticent to break away, I would be right into it. So I realised I raced differently as well.
And where are you at now?
A lot of this year has been spent racing in the NRS. I am the rider in the bunch who is completely surrounded by way more experienced and skilled athletes. But I am learning so much from the exposure to them, and my team mates have been exceptional sharing so much with me. It is definitely making me a better rider.
What is it about riding/racing that gives you a buzz?
I love the culture of riding. You can choose to ride with mates and sit in a bunch and chat, or you can go hard and race. Riding caters to everyone. When it comes to racing, it is such a complex sport. Anything can happen and each race is different. You really have to use your head as well as your legs. For me, I find that riding gives me a chance to express myself in a constructive way.
You’ve been selected for the Etixx Academy in 2015. Tell us about that.
The Etixx Academy has been set up to assist younger athletes (between 15 – 20 years) achieve their health and performance goals. Dr Gary Slater leads the team and I have had a lot of involvement with him, as well as the incredible Kate Bates. Gary works with me from the scientific nutrition perspective and his insights and experience have had a huge impact on my performance. He is essentially responsible for developing and maintaining my eating plans, whereas Kate provides a lot of mentoring support. She has such a depth of knowledge and experience, it is inspiring. When Kate congratulates me on something, I really appreciate just what this means; it’s not something I take lightly.
I think you need a balance between both the science and the emotion to succeed as an athlete and I certainly value both equally.
You’ve just alluded that much of your success this year is attributed to the Etixx Academy. Can you explain that a bit more?
I came on board as an Etixx Ambassador towards the end of last year. At the Santos Tour Down Under this year I met with Gary in person. He asked me to step him through my meal planning at the time, as well as my training and racing nutrition. He was actually pretty surprised at what I told him. I am naturally so interested in this side of the sport and have always been fascinated in finding out as much as I can. He said I’d done a pretty good job at determining what I should be eating when. But where I was letting myself down was in the quantities – I was eating way too much.
So we worked on an eating plan that would help me shed weight I just didn’t need. I will be honest – it came as a bit of a shock to think I would have to cut down on volume. Also at this same period in time Nat Bates (Kate’s sister) had come on board as my new coach, so my training had ramped up. My body took a few weeks to adjust – I was expecting more from it, but I was giving it less food.
So how did you manage this?
That’s where Gary was so key. I think the best advice he’s given me so far was around managing my thinking in relation to the new eating plan. He told me not to regard it as a diet, but a lifestyle. He advised me to wake up in the morning and think that I am about to eat the right amount and type of food that I should be eating. Not to wake up and think I was eating less. If I stopped thinking of it as something I was losing and just accepted it as a step towards becoming a better athlete, I would find it a lot easier to handle. He was right.
Five weeks later we ran the same skin fold tests we did when I first met him at the TDU. But I didn’t need the tests to tell me what I was feeling. I was already feeling lighter, more energetic. Gary later sent me an email congratulating me on what I’d achieved in such a short period. It was a major confidence booster and I knew I was on the right track.
And now – well now it’s just normal.
What other adaptations did Gary recommend?
What he did do really well was incorporate my day-to-day eating into the plan he developed. He asked me questions and listened to my answers. I liked to eat eggs and bread in the morning? OK – he could work with that. It made a massive difference. But he did start to tweak certain areas, like my meat consumption. I still eat meat, but less of it, and the right kinds of meat to maximise my iron and protein intake.
He also discovered that I wasn’t taking in much food whilst I was training, so he set about to quickly change that. I noticed the impact almost immediately – I started recovering so much better and faster.
I have a form of coeliac disease, which adds a layer of consideration over everything Gary works on for me.
I am very confident these changes have influenced the results I’ve been getting this year. In 2014 I wasn’t a hill climber – this year I’ve won a hill climbing event. I’ve won three out of four State Championships. I am really happy with how things are progressing.
What Etixx Sports Nutrition products have been incorporated into your eating plan, your training and your nutrition?
These are strictly race day food. I will have one approximately 15 minutes before a race, giving the caffeine time to enter my system. It’s important to then maintain these levels whilst racing as the last thing you want is to have a caffeine slump in a race environment. So that will mean if for example it’s a 20 minute Time Trial event, then that first gel will suffice. If it’s a 100km road stage then I’ll have the first one 15 minutes prior, then one at the 25km mark, again at the 50km mark and a final one at the 75km mark.
When you’re taking in that many gels you start to appreciate what makes Etixx products so awesome. They’re a good consistency so you don’t have to take one in and the suck half a bidon to make yourself feel better. This is a major plus. I leave the gel in my mouth for just a little while as the gums can absorb some of it and get it into my blood stream fast. They’re also easy to use – it’s super quick to rip off the top, throw it in your mouth and keep up the pace on the bike.
These are ideal for training. You can actually see oats in the product so you know you’re eating actual food. With my coeliac condition this is important as in the past my system has rejected products that are overly processed. Because you’re taking on a solid you feel satiated, which is fine in training.
I also use the bars as a recovery product. I don’t rely on recovery shakes anymore, and this is a really bespoke part of the eating plan Gary has provided for me. Basically we realised that in the past I was taking on way too many calories via recovery drinks and Gary asked me a pretty simple question. If I had to choose between getting a portion of my calories via a recovery shake, or a portion via a super sandwich, which would I prefer? The answer is pretty simple. So we dropped any shakes.
I’ll take in one bar at the end of something like a 30 minute Time Trial, but two if I’ve finished a 100km road stage.
I love this because it’s not too sweet. If you’re taking in a sweet gel, a sweet bar and then on top of that a sweet drink, it’s just all too much. But the real winner here is the truckload of Magnesium in the product. In the past I’ve had to add my own pure Magnesium, whereas with Etixx it’s done for me. If you ask me, Magnesium is like the Holy Grail for cramping. It’s key in preventing it from happening. If for example I am racing a 100km road stage then I will have two bidons at full strength, whereas in training I will have one bidon of water and one of Isotonic. But water only is a waste of time in a race.
The following is from Dr Gary Slater.
Hollee's meal plan has been specifically developed to meet the unique nutritional needs and goals of the individual specified in this document and is based on the information presented at the time of consultation. It is a guide to the types and quantities of food you need in order for Hollee to:
-Achieve all nutrients essential for health
-Manage her weight and body composition appropriately for her sport or activity
-Maximise her exercise performance at training and promote recovery between sessions
It should not be followed by any other person unless under the direct recommendation and supervision of your sports performance dietitian.
Hollee's Nutrition Plan
175g Puregg egg whites (chilled section; flavoured varieties OK) OR 2 poached eggs
½-1 cup grilled veggies e.g. tomato, mushies (more veg on non-training day)
2 slices GF toast; no butter
250-500ml water (no juice)
40g GF oats + 175g Puregg egg whites mixed together to make pancakes; add Queen sugar free maple syrup You should be waking up slightly hungry
1-2 espressos with dash of milk + 1 tsp sugar, plus…
If training <90 min…
If training 90-120 min…
1-2 pieces fruit e.g. banana, apple, pear
If training >120 min…
2 slices GF toast + jam/ honey (no marg) You should be waking up slightly hungry
See guide below + water as per thirst
170g Chobani natural low fat Greek yoghurt + 15g WPI
1-2 pieces fruit
250-500ml water If no training
90g cooked chicken breast/ seafood/ fat trimmed steak
½ cup (cooked) rice, GF pasta OR 2 slices GF bread OR 1 cup potato
2+ cups veggies (cooked or salad)
500ml water 90g cooked = 120g raw
If NO pm training…
170g Chobani natural low fat Greek yoghurt + 15g WPI
If pm training…
170g Chobani natural low fat Greek yoghurt + 15g WPI
½ cup berries
See guide below + water as per thirst Use dinner as recovery snack
90g (cooked) fat trimmed beef/ skinless chicken breast/ seafood
2-3+ cups veggies (cooked or salad)
Fri night, add…
½ cup (cooked) rice, GF pasta OR 2 slices GF bread OR 1 cup potato 90g cooked = 120g raw
± 250g diet jelly Only if hungry
Supplements to add to meal plan…
WPI (whey protein isolate) to fortify existing foods like the yoghurt
Carnitine – 2 grams daily
Training Nutrition Support
If session < 90 min… water only
If session 90-120 min… 20g carbs/ hr
If session 120-180 min... 30g carbs/ hr
Sessions 180-240 min... 40g carbs/ hr
20 g carbs equates to…
1 GF muesli bar
1 Vegemite GF sandwich 300 ml sports drink
1 sports gel – If you want a caffeine hit, try the caffeinated gel
½ sports bar
½ jam GF sandwich (thick)
200 ml Cola
200ml energy drink (~2 hrs into long ride)