Cycling_Nutrition for Beginners
Updated: Feb 10
Nutrition for Cyclists falls under the category of endurance or aerobic
exercise, it helps increase life expectancy, reduces risk of premature heart attacks, decreases body weight and body fat and also improves psychological and social well-being. When physical activity is increased, the body needs to be provided with sufficient energy to help complete the task. Carbohydrates, protein and fats are the macro-nutrient fuels that are oxidized by working muscle to produce energy. The amount of energy provided by each of them can be given by the thumb rule i.e 60% by carbs, 20% by protein and 20% by fat. The increase in energy for a cyclist can be estimated by multiplying the distance traveled in miles to 40 - 50 calories ( For example : For a 30 miles ride the estimated increase would be of 1,200 to 1,500 ) Carbohydrates Carbs - The main source of fuel to the body and therefore consuming enough carbs is essential. It is recommended to carbo-load your diet the previous night (night before the day you cycle) as it takes 12 to 24 hours to digest carbs in muscle and liver to form glycogen.
Foods rich in carbs : Rice, legumes, bananas, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, corn, whole grains, pasta etc. However carb rich food can be eaten in breakfast (before riding) as well. Foods like oatmeal, pancakes, egg bhurji or bananas or even avocado would do good. As carbs are the main source of energy to the brain, not having adequate amounts of carbs in a diet makes it more likely to make one feel more anxious. During long rides, raisins, peanut-butter and bananas can be carried along as a snack. Protein - The primary role of protein is to build, replace, repair and maintain cellular structures
and functional body proteins. Foods high in protein : Eggs, pulses and dals, almonds, chicken breast etc are high in protein. (Scrambled eggs with spinach is considered to be super food for cyclists as it is high in zinc, protein and fiber content and low in fat and cholesterol. It is also good for the vision)
Fats are also essential in a diet. Most of the visible fat is usually a part of preparing a meal (oil / ghee). However avocado is a fruit rich in fat and can be recommended along with the breakfast. Fluid - Cyclist often experience the feeling of dry mouth as they breathe heavier and wind resistance can have an effect on the production of saliva. Hence one must regularly sip water to encourage saliva production. Fuel and fluid is what you need to sustain yourself on a ride.
While the fuel is being provided by the carbs and other macro nutrients, one needs to stay hydrated at all times. The primary functions of water during activity are to transport nutrients in the blood, to participate in metabolic reactions and most importantly, to cool the body. Adequate cooling is essential during exercise because the body can tolerate an increase of only about 5°C after which the performance is impaired. Activity longer than about 60 minutes is likely to result in production of 1 to 1.5 liters of sweat per hour and therefore one must maintain hydration levels by matching the sweat loss. Some good easy drinks to carry along can be 1. 500 ml water + 200ml coconut water + 1/4 tsp of salt + 10g sugar. 2. 800ml water + 60ml pineapple juice + 2tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp honey + 1/4 tsp salt Or even other diluted fresh fruit juices.
Nutrition supplements - "What is a supplement?
It is functionally a supplement to the diet, so it makes sense to work at getting the diet right first and then perhaps there will be no need for supplements. Sports foods and drinks such as bars, gels, sports drinks and recovery drinks do supply nutrients i .e convenient way but ordinary food such as banana, cereal bars etc can do the same job and probably at a much lower price" says Jane Griffin in his book Nutrition for cyclists.
Points to remember
1. One can break the 3 main meals into small meals over the day to maintain the energy levels. And try and follow the 'my plate' rule which is basically including almost all food groups in one meal and making it nutrient dense.
2. One must have a good breakfast as it provides all essential nutrients and the energy that is required.
( foods like eggs, porridge, fruits, pasta etc)
3. Carry carbs rich snacks along with you during the ride.
4. Stay hydrated at all times.
5. Have a carbs and protein balanced diet post ride and re-hydrate yourself.
6. Some foods beneficial for cyclists - Spinach eggs, peanut butter, avocado, sweet potato, tomato, beans, garlic, honey, beets, dates, chia seeds, nuts and dry fruits, watermelon, pickles (as they help to replenish the electrolytes), tea (green) etc.
- Ms. Meghana J Rajpurohit, Teamparikrama - Nutrition practitioner.
Reference: 1. Food science by B Srilakshmi. 2. Nutrition across the life span by Mary Kay Mitchell. 3. Internet.