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Nutrition for cyclists - the very basics

Nutrition for cyclists - the very basics

OK hands up, I’m not really the person who should be writing this, my usual choice of food in the saddle is Jelly Babies, my preferred rehydration plan comes ice cold in pint measures in the form of energy ale and I’m writing a blog advocating homemade fudge as a pick-me-up. Stop reading now!

Google nutritional advice and you’ll find reams on diet and exercise, generally the more seriously you take your sport, the more important your diet becomes but the basics apply to everyone. The body needs food and drink to work, so it's worth thinking about the overall process the body uses to convert food to energy along with how it stores and retrieves it.

At the extreme, you may have heard marathon runners talking about ‘walling it’ or ‘bonking’. These are layman’s terms for when the body runs out of easily accessible energy - it’s not fun, you become giddy, light-headed, listless and have very weird fantasies about FOOD. In my case it’s Quality Street chocolates – dunno why, but I do and I don’t even like them very much!

 So, if you’re heading out on a ride tomorrow – here are some tips:

  • Start preparing tonight, don’t miss dinner as overnight the body will convert part of it into glycogen and store this in your muscles. Here it’s easily accessible and quickly converted to energy on demand. Good when you come to that hill tomorrow. 
  • Don’t skip breakfast.  Stodgy boring old porridge is a winner, its slow release of energy keeps you going as the stored energy from last night’s dinner is used.
  • Eat during the ride – remember it takes time for the body to convert food to go faster fuel so you should always eat BEFORE you feel hungry.
  • On a long ride you’re looking for a food with a mix of carbohydrates that are digested at differing rates, for example sugar is easily and quickly converted to usable fuel in spikes whereas grains take longer to convert.
  • On a longer ride you are consistently using fuel which must be replaced in a consistent way; my flapjacks do this with loads of quick release energy in the sugar and dried fruit combined with slow-release energy from the oats.
  • Finally, eat something after the ride, don’t skip on dinner, the body needs energy to restock and repair those muscles you have hammered today. 

But what about the fudge? – I’ve yet to find an article advocating fudge as a serious sporting nutritional aid – but it has loads and loads of sugar and does taste totally yummy….

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