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Monday, July 5, 2010

What, when and how to eat for cycling performance

I am the world's leading authority on diet.  If you Google diet and cycling you will almost certainly find links supporting this, including many mentions of my award winning research papers on this topic.  Oh yeah, I also invented the internet

Ok, I am just kidding.  Diet's not quite my schtick.  I used to live off of McDonalds, Snicker bars and Cokes and was still thin and fit.  I no longer eat this way, but truthfully I think that a young and healthy cyclist can occasionally consume lots of food products that sedentary folks generally shouldn't.

Here's what I do.  Typically I eat my meal about 3-4 hours before a race.  I tend to eat heavier on the carbohydrate side of things, such as bread and pastas, pastries, cakes, pancakes, fresh fruit, jelly beans etc.  I also would eat some meat, but not a large quantity.  Basically, I would eat practically anything I want, and drink a good volume of water  or milk (2 normal glasses).

As the race approaches I tend to lightly snack on foods that I believe to be easily digestible such as bananas, or fig bars etc.  Energy bars or GU would be fine.

If a race is shorter than 2 hours I don't eat during the event.  I do drink as much water as I reasonably can (at least one bottle per hour or more).  Body glucose stores are generally adequate for exercise up to 2 hours.   Dehydration due to sweating can cause poor performance pretty quickly.  Hydration is extremely important.  I would also recommend drinking fluids with an electrolyte supplement for events over an hour long, especially in hot environments. Drinking large amounts of plain water can cause cramping (technically you can kill yourself by over hydration)

Road races are generally much longer than 2 hours and require calorie consumption.  I eat GU at the rate of one per every 30 minutes.  This will only supply 200 calories per hour and I can burn up to 700-1000 calories per hour.  The problem is that the human body can not replace calories as usable muscle fuel as fast as it uses or burns it.   Basically 300 or so calories is the maximal level of absorbable calories that a body can process  (body mass is a factor for quantity absorbed).  Greater amounts can cause stomach pain and also mess with hydration levels due to problems related to osmolality conditions.  Clearly the pre-race meal is critical for road races.  For a good description of the Basic of Nutrition Physiology click this link.

I also recommend eating immediately following exercise. There's a fancy name for what is happening with your body following exercise called "glycogen super-compensation".  In short your body is like a sponge that will suck up glycogen much faster immediately following exercise than say 30 minutes later when the window for glycogen super-compensation closes.  Eating immediately following exercise leads to quicker recover than waiting more than 30 minutes.  Also extremely important is consuming water until your urine stream returns to a lightly colored appearance (dark urine is a sign of dehydration).  Hydration is also extremely important for speedy recovery.  I usually add electrolytes to my drinks following long exertions.   

If you want to learn  alot about nutrition I recommend this the following link to a site called Cycling Performance Tips created by Richard Rafoth, MD (gastroenterologist)




I particularly liked the following and thought it was entirely worth copying and sharing:

Bottom Line:

"1.  Eat breakfast
2. Eat the bulk of your carbohydrates at breakfast and lunch
3. Take those vitamins with a glass of cranberry juice.
4. Take a multivitamin daily - and be sure it has 800 units of vitamin D; add in 1 gram of fish oil as a capsule and also magnesium supplements
5. Eliminate as much as reasonable all white flour, white rice, and potatoes - use brown rice and whole grain breads.
6. Eat a cooked whole grain cereal or steel rolled oats when possible for breakfast (cold cereals are not comparable, even granolas).
7. Use only low fat milk.
8. Peanut butter on a piece of 100% whole grain toast is a quick breakfast
9. A couple of cups of coffee a day can be a good thing - even three or four
10. A snack during the day might be a handful of almonds (raw or at least not roasted in transfats).
11. 1 alcoholic drink a day - make it red wine if possible
12. Use olive oil whenever feasible (canola is second)
13. The more vegetables the better.
14. Sweets only for special occasions - grab the dark chocolate if you have it handy
15. Have fish as often as possible
16. Blue cheese and other aged cheeses are better than processed cheeses
17. Fat Calories are not necessarily bad - even if you want to lose weight - and may be better than an equivalent number of CHO calories"

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2 comments:

  1. Great post! Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely be sharing this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. excellent info, hoping this helps me overcome some stomach issues i had during my last race.

    ReplyDelete

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