RSS
Facebook
Twitter

 

WHY IS NUTRITION IMPORTANT FOR CYCLING?

Without proper nutrition, training effort is wasted.
Nutrition does not take the place of training but it does enable more intense and appropriate training, faster recovery time, a lower risk of injury, delayed fatigue, and attainment of optimal body weight/lean mass for the activity.  Additionally, it helps:

  • Maintain bone mass.
  • Maintain muscle mass.
  • For cyclists, optimally PROPULSIVE muscle mass, not cosmetic.
  • Meet the body’s energy needs (calories) from carbohydrates, protein and fat.

 

CARBOHYDRATES

  • Carb intake is the primary way to replenish GLYCOGEN reserves in the muscles and liver.
  • Glycogen is the main source of energy for muscular work.
  • Simple carbs (sugars) + complex carbs (starches)
  • 1 gram of carbs yields 4 calories of fuel.

Ideal Carb Intake:

  • Sedentary men/non-pregnant women: approx. 31 calories per day, per kg of body weight eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) person needs 2,170 calories per day. 45-65% should be from carbs.
  • Recreational Athletes (Most Bike Rally participants would fall into this group):  Approx. 33-38 calories per day, per kg of body weight, eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) person needs 2,300-2,660 calories per day. 55-60% should be from carbs.
  • Endurance Athletes: Approx. 35-50 calories per day, per kg of body weight, eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) person needs 2,500-3,500 calories per day. 8-10g carb per kg body weight, when training over 75% VO2max for more than 3 hours per day.

 

CARBOHYDRATES: GLYCEMIC INDEX

The glycemic index of a food tells you how quickly sugar hits your bloodstream. Low-glycemic foods are more gradual, while high-glycemic foods are a quick blood-sugar jolt. Most sedentary people should avoid high-glycemic carbs, but distance cyclists need to rapidly replenish fuel at the end of a long day, so high-glycemic carbs have a specific place in the diet.

Low Glycemic Index (pre-exercise meal, during exercise)

Pumpernickel bread, all-bran cereal, barley, skim milk, yogurt, apples/apple juice, peaches, pears, berries, legumes, lentils, vermicelli, peanuts, almonds, unripe bananas, sweet potatoes

Medium Glycemic Index (pre-exercise, during exercise, post-ride)

Bagels, bran muffins, oatmeal, shredded mini-wheat, long-grain rice, low-fat ice cream, orange juice, soft drinks, popcorn, raisins, brown rice, cookies, papaya, mango, beet, apricot, over-ripe banana

High Glycemic Index (immediately after arriving in camp ONLY)

White bread, corn flakes, rice krispies, carrots, parsnips, baked potatoes, instant potatoes, jelly beans, dates

 

PROTEIN

Protein contains amino acids, which maintain the tissue structure of the body such as organs and muscle. Protein is also a secondary fuel that is broken down in the absence of sufficient carbs, and 1 gram of protein yields 4 calories of fuel.

  • Sedentary men/non-pregnant women: Approx. 0.8g protein per day, per kg of body weight, eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) sedentary person needs 56g of protein in total per day. Example: One chicken breast, roasted = 53g protein
  • Recreational Athletes (Most Bike Rally participants would fall into this group): Approx. 1.0g protein per day, per kg of body weight, eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) recreational athlete needs 70g of protein in total per day. Example: One chicken breast, roasted = 53g protein; 1/2 cup oats = 13g protein; 1 egg = 6g protein
  • Endurance Athletes: Approx. 1.2-1.7g protein per day, per kg of body weight, eg. a 155 lb (70 kg) endurance athlete needs 84-120g of protein in total per day Example: One chicken breast, roasted = 53g protein; 1/2 cup oats = 13g protein; 1 egg = 6g protein; 1 cup Greek yogourt = 23g protein; 85g (3 oz) tofu = 12g protein

 

FAT

Dietary fat is needed as a transport mechanism in many chemical processes in the body. Excess dietary fat is stored as body fat, which is a fuel store that also increases when carbs and protein are over-consumed. This fuel store is the LAST to be liquidated, and contrary to popular belief and sales pitches, fat loss cannot be “targeted”.  1 gram of fat yields 9 calories of fuel.

  • Sedentary: no more than 30% of calories from fat
  • Recreational Athlete: 25-30% of calories from fat, after carb and protein needs are met.
  • Endurance Athlete: at least 1.0g of fat per day, per kg body weight, after carb and protein needs are met.

 

VITAMINS, MINERALS & WATER

With a proper diet satisfying protein, carb and fat requirements, athletes can very easily get all required daily doses of vitamins and minerals from REAL FOOD alone. Supplements are not a dietary necessity unless you have a medically diagnosed deficiency, or part of your digestive tract has been surgically removed. However, supplements may help people whose diet options are limited.

Water is essential for regulating body temperature, transporting glucose and other nutrients to cells, and removing waste products.

  • Drink 500ml fluid 2-3 hours prior to exercise.
  • During exercise, drink 150-350ml fluid at 15-20 minute intervals.
  • After exercise with significant sweating, drink 450-675 ml fluid for every 0.5kg weight lost.
  • Exercise over an hour: ongoing electrolyte replacement is a MUST.
  • Dehydration Accelerants include Alcohol and Caffeine. If you enjoy them, please do so AFTER you have already sufficiently rehydrated.

 

PREPARATION FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Pre-Exercise Meal: Carbohydrate: HIGH;  Protein: MODERATE; Fat: LOW

  • 1-4 hours before exercise: 1.0 to 4.5g carb per kg body weight. Closer to 1g if 1 hour before, and closer to 4g if 4 hours before.
  • For carbs, choose low or medium glycemic index foods pre-ride. Avoid high-glycemic index foods until post-ride.

Pre-Exercise Meal Example:

  • Orange Juice 172 cal (40g carb, 3g protein, <1g fat)
  • Carb/electrolyte beverage 60cal (15g carb)
  • Bagel w cream cheese 270cal (47g carb, 9g protein, 5g fat)

 

DURING A RIDE

Take carbohydrates steadily to delay fatigue, replenish glycogen, and prevent hypoglycemia. During intensive cycling such as prolonged elite hill racing, carb intake hinders performance for some athletes, but for the intensity required during the Bike Rally, a steady carb intake is highly recommended to prevent depletion of muscle glycogen.

Drink before you’re thirsty! If you have to stop in order to rehydrate, you may be tempted to forgo hydration to “keep up”. Learn how to drink while cycling at speed.

Eat before you’re hungry!

  • Gastric emptying: 600ml per hour.
  • Fat empties from your stomach at half that speed, so include a small amount of fat in your pre-exercise meal to feel full longer.
  • Chewing faster doesn’t speed up gastric emptying of the same contents.
  • The more you eat in one sitting, the longer digestion takes.
  • Digestion pulls blood into the digestive system, away from the muscles that you need for propulsion.
  • Eat frequently, moderately, and efficiently.

 

END-OF-DAY NUTRITION

  • The top end-of-day priority for distance cyclists is to replenish muscle glycogen through carb intake and rehydrate. Muscle damage interferes with replenishment of muscle glycogen. To reduce muscle damage on the ride itself, TRAIN EARLY and TRAIN METHODICALLY.
  • Distance cyclists who have just exerted for 5-6 hours need to intake medium to high glycemic foods soon after arrival in camp to rapidly regenerate muscle glycogen. Then eat more moderate glycemic foods for the balance of your carbs that night.

Within 1 hour of arrival in camp:

  • Consume 1g medium/high glycemic carbs per kg body weight.
  • Consume 6-10g carbs per kg body weight, every 24 hours.
  • Carb replenishment and rehydration are top priorities.

Complete muscle glycogen regeneration takes 20 hours.

  • During a 6-day Bike Rally your muscle glycogen will not fully recover on a day-to-day basis, no matter how much “extra” carbs you eat.
  • Careful and methodical replenishment soon after arrival in camp is the best strategy to manage the multi-day decline curve.
  • Carb replenishment and rehydration are top priorities.

Protein Replenishment:

Within 1-2 hours after arrival in camp and cessation of strenuous exercise (a period called the “anabolic window”), consume at least 8-10g protein (regardless of body weight) to provide starting material for muscle repair.  Then be sure to take in sufficient protein during dinner.

Indicators of Dehydration:

  • Thirst
  • Dark Urine
  • Greater than usual body weight loss from sweat
  • On arrival in camp, weigh yourself and drink 450-675 ml fluid for every 0.5kg weight lost that day.
  • Carb replenishment and rehydration are top priorities.

 

BONKING

In the cycling world, a bonk is not a good thing. It essentially means ‘hitting a wall’in a physical and emotional sense, meaning that you find it very difficult, if not impossible, to carry on.

  • Bonking is actually very serious and can be caused by dehydration or hypoglycemia.
  • When you haven’t taken in enough carbohydrates and have exhausted your body’s glycogen stores, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels, you have hypoglycemia.
  • Your body can only store enough glucose (in the form of glycogen) to last you for about 90 minutes of moderate exercise.

What does a bonk feel like?

  • Extremely weak and tired
  • You may shake, sweat a lot and feel dizzy or light-headed
  • You may also have heart palpitations and will probably be very hungry
  • Bonking can also affect the brain as that too burns glucose, and you may feel anxious, irritable, confused and emotional.
  • At the very extreme, a bonk can induce a coma

What should you do if you bonk?

  • Ingest some simple carbs that your body can quickly absorb in order to raise your blood glucose levels again.
  • Simple carbohydrates include food such as energy gels (make sure you drink water with these), jam sandwiches, sugar cubes or sweets such as jelly beans. Think high GI foods.
  • However, if you are showing more serious symptoms, it is important that you get off your bike and give yourself a bit more of a chance to recover.

What happens after a bonk?

  • If you have caught the bonk early enough and have successfully ingested some simple carbs, you should be able to recover fairly quickly and carry on with your ride.
  • Be sure to refuel often. Eating lots of high carb foods at regular intervals of 30 minutes or so will ensure your glucose levels do not dip again.
  • You should also be aware that even though your body may have recovered and you feel OK, your mental faculties may not have fully recovered.
  • It is therefore important to take extra care, especially on busy roads.

 

TRAINING & CONDITIONING

A proper training regimen in the weeks and months leading up to the Bike Rally will:

  • Reduce muscle stress and damage during the actual week
  • Guide your nutrition habits
  • Teach you proper hydration habits

Proper nutrition fits into an annual training program for distance cyclists that should include the following:

  • Indoor cycling (spinning) and outdoor training rides
  • Core training to improve posture and reduce muscular-skeletal fatigue
  • Balance training to improve stability
  • Resistance training to build endurance in the propulsion muscles
  • ACTIVE REST for muscle recovery
  • Cross-training in a sport that doesn’t primarily use the same muscle groups as cycling
  • Complete nightly regimen of stretching for flexibility and muscle repair.