It’s not easy being lean

Here’s the problem:

To be a really good cyclist you’ve got to be lean. To get lean you’ve got to eat lean foods, and the really tasty foods are the ones with things like fat and sugar in them, which are not lean.

In addition, neither is alcohol, which is not a food, but will prevent you from becoming lean.

Sir Bradley - lean (Photo: Josh Hallett - Flickr CC)
Sir Bradley – lean
(Photo: Josh Hallett – Flickr CC)

The food is one thing – it’s very easy to understand why deep fried Mars bars and donner kebabs are not going to help matters – but surely a drink is just something that runs down into your tummy, sloshes around a bit, and comes out again?

When did we start thinking about the amount of calories involved?

Take wine, for example.

The ‘scientists’ and ‘nutritionists’ tell us it’s packed with calories; does that sound plausible to you? Are we just going to accept that without further investigation? We’ve all heard the phrase ‘beer belly’, but do you know anyone with a ‘wine belly?’


Having said that, I’ve had many a friend over the years only to happy to point out the evils of alcohol:

“To be honest, once I gave up alcohol the pounds just fell off – it’s great!”

No…it’s not great, it’s disappointing.

Great would be:

“Actually, it turns out this whole ‘calories in wine’ thing is just one big mistake, sorry folks. Crack on!”

Whatever the truth about wine, we are left with the simple fact that to be lean takes sacrifice.

It requires willpower (and frankly, self-delusion) for me to walk past a stall at the Saturday food market here in my home town, and convince myself that the smells coming from the various delicacies on offer and wafting up my nostrils would not improve my afternoon.

It requires willpower to not drink wine on a Friday night (and sometimes on a Thursday, and occasionally Wednesday…) – wine that in my house is also known as, ‘the reward’.

The Reward (Image:
The Reward

In extreme cases, where the goal is the kind of physique sported by a diminutive Italian cyclist who specialises in riding superhumanly quickly up mountains, it requires commitment to a strict diet of espresso, peaches, San Pellegrino sparkling water, and unknown substances which are stored at the back of the fridge and we don’t talk about.

No, my friends, lean just might not be for me.

Just to be clear, I’m not fat.

You might even, in a more generous moment, describe me as thin(ish). I suppose the (ish) is a problem (if we’re saying that not being lean is a problem). The (ish) is the bit to get rid of to achieve lean. The (ish) is donuts, pastries, pies, curries, and…(sob!)…wine.


But I’m not bothered.

Don’t let the fact that I’ve chosen to publish 500 words about this topic give you the impression that I’m bothered. Because I’m not. I’m a pretty good cyclist, who’s reasonably quick, fairly thin, and quite healthy.


Oh no no no!




      • At the original (Italian) version of l’Eroica, each feed station has gallons of Chianti or Montalcino. They make for a merry ride and simultaneously ease the pain of climbing all those sharp, gravelled hills, which is to say that they yield giant leaps. Forget all the dribble about marginal gains. Giant swigs, giant leaps. It’s all science.


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