As the weather continues to improve, we start to turn our intention to summer goals, longer riders and greater intensity. That means nutrition becomes all the more important in terms of both timing and actual food consumed. The body needs fuel like any other machine and if you’re to get the optimum performance out of it, you have to treat it right. You wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel car, and it should be the same mindset if you want to get the best out of your body.
The professional line is that you should front-load a training or racing day with carbohydrates, taking in a good slow-release energy source at the beginning of the day – exactly when you need it. There was a time when cyclists would fill up with pasta and rice before a big ride, and while there are still those who stick by that heavy carb breakfast, porridge is a more common and more palatable kick-start to the day. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter for a bit of extra energy and for a change in taste.
On the bike
If you’re wanting to perform well, achieve targets during a ride, or – better still – win a race, you’re going to have to build a good base with breakfast and then maintain your energy intake on the bike.
The advice is that if you feel hungry or thirsty on the bike, you’ve left it too late. What you choose to eat while out riding depends very much on the individual. Some people can’t stomach energy gels and powders, choosing instead to eat freshly-made rice cakes and flapjacks, while others might struggle with solid foods during high effort rides. We’ve got loads of energy food to choose from, with a huge range of flavours and packed with different supplements to optimise performance. You’ll want to test what works for you before implementing your chosen nutrition when it really matters, but luckily our broad selection means it should be easy to find something that suits you.
At the café
When you see that one of the world’s top teams is sponsored by an Italian coffee company (Trek-Segafredo), it becomes clear just how important that rich caffeinated deliciousness is to the cycling world. A ride is not complete without a café stop, a good artisan coffee and a moist cake or a flaking buttery pastry. There’s nothing quite like gathering your riding mates together, having a good smash in the lanes and then rewarding yourself with a chinwag in your favourite coffee stop.
Recovery is hugely important for cyclists wanting to capitalise on the work done and to maintain consistency for the rides yet to come. What you choose to eat post-ride will depend on the day’s work and what you’ve got coming up. It’s important to note that to maximise recovery, you need to be taking on some food within the first half an hour after walking in the door. It’s easy to reach straight for the chips – like Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) and Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac) in the photo below – which is perfectly reasonable if you’ve just finished one of cycling’s Monuments, but the best thing for efficient recovery is a dedicated recovery drink or else a pre-prepared meal packed full of lean protein like oily fish or white meat. This will replenish all the nutrients lost as you sweat during the ride and begin to rebuild tired muscles.
Next stop, café!