If you are keen on cycling, you’re probably interested in your diet, health and weight as well — but if you find nutrition information dry, chewy and a real headache, it’s time to go back to basics.
Get these things right and the rest is just the icing on the cake. From the importance of carbohydrate and protein to when and what to eat and drink before, during and after a ride, Monique Ryan and Lynn Clay have the answers.
Fueling Up for the Ride
A pre-ride meal tops off liver and muscle glycogen stores. At any training intensity, muscle glycogen is an important piece of the fuel pie, with a larger slice needed for harder training intensities.
In contrast, smaller but essential amounts of liver glycogen maintain blood glucose levels. Blood glucose keeps muscles pumping when muscle glycogen runs low, which is after about 60 to 90 minutes, and is also your brain's only fuel source, helping to maintain focus and concentration during challenging rides.
In addition to these performance benefits, starting out with optimal carbohydrate stores and maintaining blood glucose levels during a ride can also lessen the stress that intense training inflicts upon the immune system. Of course, it is always important to begin a training session well hydrated.
There are several ingredients essential to the pre-ride meal and it should include easy-to-digest, familiar and enjoyable foods, mainly from carbohydrates such as cereals, toast and bagels, while tempering protein and fat levels appropriately. Generally, for more sensitive gastrointestinal systems and when there is less time to digest them, it is best to eliminate or reduce the consumption of whole grains and higher fiber foods.
Different carbohydrates affect blood glucose differently. Foods with a lower glycemic index, such as whole grains, brown rice and honey, cause a slower and more sustained release of blood glucose, while high GI foods like waffles, pancakes and white bread cause a more rapid rise in blood glucose. Some research has suggested that low GI carbohydrate foods are useful before exercise to provide a more sustained carbohydrate release.
Fifteen to 60 minutes before an early morning ride, aim for 50 to 85 grams of carbohydrates along with 24 to 32 ounces of fluid Example: 64g of carbohydrates could include 2 slices of toast (44g) with 2 HONEYSTICK
Two hours before an evening ride, consume the equivalent of carbohydrates in grams as your body weight in pounds, for example 150 grams for a 150-pound cyclist. Keep protein amounts low, with virtually no fat. Example: 130g of carbohydrates could include: 8 ounces of yogurt with fruit (40g), 3 HONEYSTICK (30 g), 1 medium banana (30g), 8 ounces of juice (30g). Ideally, consume a fairly large breakfast three hours before a challenging weekend ride. Aim for 1.5 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of weight, or 225 grams for a 150-pound cyclist. Concentrated carbohydrate sources include waffles, pancakes and higher calorie cereals. Carbohydrate choices: Cereal, toast, waffles, pancakes, juice, fruit, maple syrup, jam, bagels, low fat muffins, rice, pasta, skim dairy products.Protein choices: Eggs, egg whites or peanut butter.Example: 215g of carbohydrates could include: 2 cups of cooked oatmeal (60g), 2 teaspoons of raisins (30g), 8 ounces of juice (30g), 1 cup of berries (15g), 2 slices of toast (30g), 2 HONEYSTICK (20g), 8 ounces of yogurt (30g).
Fuel your ride properly
If you are heading out for a longer or more intense ride, however, topping up your carbohydrate stores will support better performance so that you still have plenty of strength towards the end of your route.
Studies indicate that a fuelling plan delivering between 30g and 60g of carbohydrate per hour of riding is optimum, so experimenting within this range is a good start point. You can opt for a carbohydrate drink, a HONEYSTICK (10g carbohydrate/pc), or a mixture of water and honey.
Recovery food: when and what to eat after you’ve ridden
The first 20 minutes after a ride is known to be the optimal refuelling period where nutrients are taken up more efficiently and transported to the muscle stores. Taking on a carbohydrate-rich meal or drink in this period will improve the rate at which your energy stores refill, which will have a direct impact on how much stored energy you have available for your next ride.
With research indicating that an intake of 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram you weigh during this time is perfect for refuelling. (1 HONEYSTICK = 10g carbohydrate) Combining this with 10g of protein will reduce your likelihood of getting injured, assist muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness and has even been shown to speed up carbohydrate muscle refuelling.