Basic Nutrition for Riders: Part Two Water, Fruit & Veg and Fats

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...

Water

Breathing and sweating makes you lose water, so hot days and lots of exercise will mean you lose a lot. Drinking water is great for normal activity, but for long rides on the heat you’ll need to replace salts that your body loses through sweat. These are known as electrolytes, they included sodium and potassium amongst others and are essential for staying strong. Drinking an electrolyte drink will rehydrate you faster and replace these lost salts. Drinks like this can come ready mixed, but are often in powder form. They may or may not also include sugars or simple carbs, this will add energy and help you absorb the water faster.

Vegetables and Fruit

The cellulose cell wall found in plants acts as fibre and ensures that all of the above food are carried through the digestion easily. So plants are a very necessary form of food from that perspective, but they also carry huge amounts of micronutrients. For instance beetroot is often hailed as a superfood, so much so that pro riders down the stuff on a daily basis. But there is in fact science behind this; the naturally high levels of nitrates have been found to open up blood vessels and ensure the easy carriage of blood and oxygen around the body. This is massively important for cyclist for obvious reasons.


Fats

Fats have a bad name, but there are good and bad fats, and we even need a balance of both for a healthy body. On the whole advice for anyone is to limit animals derived fats like fats in dairy products and fat from meat. Fish are a good source of healthy fats as well as avocados and olive oil and nuts. Fats are important for various parts of our body and especially in the brain, hence why omega 3 oils are said to make you smart. Fats can also give you energy, they are the most energy-dense food available, but they take longer to break down than carbs. So as a long term energy source things like nuts are great, but they take a while to give up the energy, for this reason we say that carbs are better for instant energy.


On the whole we’re told that a varied diet is best, and we’d agree. You can adjust your diet when you do different activities or when your body tells you it needs more of certain thing. If you feel weak during a ride, more carbs will be the answer. If your muscles ache for a few days after a ride, this is your body repairing and will need more protein. If you have a headache during or after a ride, then you will be dehydrated and need more water and electrolytes. By using this guide you should be able to give your body everything you need to increase your performance.


Image: Flickr user: Garry Knight, Dirklaudio

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