When you think of cycling nutrition, your mind will immediately drift to thoughts of energy gels, isotonic drinks and energy bars on the bike, all before getting home and chugging a high protein recovery shake. However if you are fed up of the tedious artificial products that keep your body ticking over, there are natural alternatives that will not only give you similar performance benefits but also tingle your taste buds.
The importance of nutrition within physical activity cannot be underestimated and it can play just as big a role in your cycling make up as training itself. Failing to devise a nutrition strategy may mean you falter when it really matters when riding a sportive or in a race situation. It can also mean you don’t recover optimally which will have a direct knock on effect on your training intensity.
Your body requires a number of different nutrients to keep it going when cycling: the main source of energy the body uses comes from carbohydrates, which is stored as glycogen within the body. Experts suggest that the body requires 30-60 grams of carbohydrates an hour to maintain physical performance at its optimum level.
It is important not to overload the body with any singular nutrient as this will not provide anymore of a performance boost and could even become detrimental to your cycling. Eating a banana before or during a long ride will give you a natural carbohydrate boost that an energy bar or gel also provides but without the artificial taste.
After a ride your body’s nutrient levels can be severely depleted, it is important to restock these as soon as possible once you step off the bike. It isn’t just about replenishing energy levels, but also repairing muscle tissue damage that may have occurred whilst out on your ride.
The body requires proteins to help rebuild and grow muscle tissue and one of the easiest ways to top up these stores is to have a bowl of cereal when you get back home. The cereal itself is high in carbohydrates whereas the accompanying milk contains the proteins that will start the muscle recovery process immediately. Make sure you select the right cereal that is beneficial to the body, rather than high sugar alternatives, which will only provide a short-term energy boost.
Muscle soreness can be one of the main contributing factors in keeping a cyclist off the bike after a long ride, these can be combated with certain supplements. However there are other ways to reduce the effects of these pains as well as rebuilding the muscle. Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel can be ideal foods to eat after a long ride. Containing high levels of Omega 3, these foods can help reduce muscle soreness and increase range of motion, they are also great sources of protein.
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Paul Knott is a fitness and features writer, who has also presented Cycling Weekly videos as well as contributing to the print magazine as well as online articles. In 2020 he published his first book, The Official Tour de France Road Cycling Training Guide (Welbeck), a guide designed to help readers improve their cycling performance via cherrypicking from the strategies adopted by the pros.
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