Basic Nutrition for Riders: Part One, Protein and Carbs

The pros are pampered, they’ve got a nice tour bus, mechanics to look after any squeaks or worn components, and at the end of a hard ride they’ve got a chef who’s nutritionally qualified to come up with some tasty food to make sure they perform well. The truth is that they deserve to be pampered, they need to be able to concentrate on one thing, and one thing only: riding hard. We’re a lot less fortunate...

Part One, Protein and Carbs

The pros are pampered, they’ve got a nice tour bus, mechanics to look after any squeaks or worn components, and at the end of a hard ride they’ve got a chef who’s nutritionally qualified to come up with some tasty food to make sure they perform well. The truth is that they deserve to be pampered, they need to be able to concentrate on one thing, and one thing only: riding hard. We’re a lot less fortunate, we’ve got to go to work, do the commute and then when life allows we get out on the road or the trails to ride as hard as we can before the next of life’s challenges pops up. At the end of a hard day riding or slaving at a desk it's hard to make sure you're getting the right food inside you. Here’s a quick guide to make sure you’re getting somewhere near the right sort of foods.

Protein

Protein

Our muscles mostly comprise of protein, when we ride hard our muscles ache at the end of the day. This is actually a good sign, it means that you’ve pushed the muscles beyond their capability. This sends a signal to the body that the muscle needs to be repaired, and repaired stronger than before. This is how muscle is built. The building blocks of muscle is protein. Meat is known as a protein source, but there are many other sources too: pulses and beans are often a great source of protein, they’re also lean too, meaning you won’t add fat to your newly grown muscles. Fish is another great source of lean protein, with the added bonus of extra omega oils to boot. If you struggle to get enough protein you could always supplement with a protein shake or bar. These mainly use whey protein, made from milk and are often a very convenient way to get protein during a busy day.

Carbohydrates

Carbs

Most people in the western world get enough carbs, easily. But for endurance events like 12/24 mountain bike events or sportives there is a real risk of running out. This can be avoided by carb loading the day and night before. By consuming starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potato or oats your body is taking and storing those carbs ready for use the next day. During events there is still the risk of using them up, so carrying an energy gel as an emergency is a great idea. These contain glucose, the body’s main fuel in ready-to-use form and need no processing by the body. Another option is to carry more complex carbs and consume them little and often whilst out on the course. Complex carbs like those starchy foods above will slowly release the carbohydrates into the body allowing you to slowly refuel. If you suddenly feel weak and shaky you may be “bonking”, this is when your body has run out of carbs for fuel, at this stage glucose will work fastest.

See part two for fruit & veg, water and fats

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