Sports Nutrition; for who doesn’t see the wood for the trees

Sports nutrition is no easy topic. There are still a lot of unclarities amongst us cyclists. What do you put in your bottles? Do you take the same food with you on a long ride as you do on a short ride? How much should you be drinking? When should you eat? What about food supplements? There’s so much on the market, that you don’t see the wood for the trees. The thing is, there are no real strict rules. Every human body is different. Each individual person’s digestion works on another speed. Big people need more food than the smaller types, and so on. But there are a few guidelines everybody can use during their rides. To make things a bit more simple I asked Arne Heyse from ‘Sanas’ to help me make an overview.

Pre-training/racing  

Always make sure you start a race or intensive training well-hydrated and carbo-loaded. In case of very tough races or granfondo’s for example, try following:

Depending on the duration and hardness of the ride, start eating carbs 1 or 2 days before. ‘Good’ carbs…like pasta, rice, bread, beans, nuts, lentils, vegetables, fruit, oats etc. The list is long, luckily. Try to consume small portions throughout the day.

The evening before it is best to choose for a light meal without too many fibres. Just to make digestion easy on your intestines.

On race day have a good meal 3 hours before the start. Enough carbs but no fibres like white rice, pancakes, pasta or white bread. It is important to stay hydrated as well! Drink water, water and some more water ?.

Rides ≤ 1,5 hour/ coffee ride/ easy ride

Normally when you leave for a training ride you’ve had breakfast or a snack just before. This should provide your body of a sufficient amount of energy to keep on pedalling for max 1,5 hour, enough for an easy ride. In other words it’s not necessary to take any extra food with you and with just water in your bottles you have enough to quench your thirst. In case of emergency (=a sugar flat) you could always put a sports bar or gel in your back pocket.

Rides ≥ 1,5 hour/ endurance training

For the longer rides your body will need more energy to keep you going. And not just that. More importantly, to keep on training efficiently.

It’s recommendable to consume 1 sports bar or gel for every hour that you’re riding. The good quality bars and gels are a combination of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ sugars (‘fast’ to give you an instant energy boost, ‘slow’ to keep you moving over a longer period).

Fill up your bidons with an isotonic drink (Isomix @Sanas). To drink 1 bidon every hour is a good amount. Try sipping your bottle every 10 min. Not only it is good to keep you perfectly hydrated, it also keeps your head busy during the long monotone rides.

Interval training/ racing

Interval sessions or climbing asks your body for much more energy. One gel every 40-50 minutes will keep your performance optimal depending on how hard the training or course is. Listen to your body, is the best advice! But whatever you do, don’t forget to eat and drink because the price you will pay for your nonchalance afterwards, will be high and painful. Not only sports nutrition is key for your performance during training sessions and races, it also gives you steps ahead in your recovery afterwards.

After training/racing

A good rule to keep in mind here is, ‘the faster the better’. For optimal recovery it’s good to eat carbs directly after training (Remember mister Sagan stuffing gummy bears in his mouth right after racing). Your body not only needs energy to perform well but also to recover. To prevent your muscles from breaking down and get stronger instead, they need proteins (egg whites). Most sports nutrition brands have ‘recovery shakes’ in their range. It should be a combination of carbs, proteins and minerals in powder form which you mix with some water, milk, rice milk or almond  milk (Carbomix Recovery Shake @Sanas).

For some extra protein intake you could consume a protein shake (without carbs) before going to bed (Super Protein 95/ 100%/ Whey Protein @Sanas).

Weight loss/ training on an empty stomach

Training on an empty stomach sounds very unhealthy. And if you do it uncontrolled it could be. But it’s a great way to lose those extra pounds of fat you really don’t need in the climbs of your upcoming big race. How to do it?

Try to eat a low carb meal the evening before you plan to train on an empty stomach. Instead of eating, drink a protein shake (Super Protein 95/ 100% Whey Protein @Sanas) just before training. It prevents the muscles from breaking down and gives you the feeling of a full stomach. Caffeine is a fat burner, so drinking a pre-training coffee is a good move to do.

Rides on an empty stomach should not take longer than 2 hours and should be done on a very low and constant heart frequency to stay in the fat burning zone. After the ride you follow the same guidelines as after every training session.

To prevent yourself from falling from your bike because your blood sugar level dropped below zero, always take a gel/ bar or some candy with you.

Food supplements

Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, BCAA’s,… There is so much to find in the list of food supplements but what do we, as women, really need extra, next to our regular daily intake? If you’re cycling on a recreational base, which means maximum 2 rides a week. And you are eating healthy. It is not necessary to put money in expensive supplements. Ladies who take cycling to the next level of competition and serious training could use some extra’s. Food alone can’t compensate for all the used nutrients. This could be a good list of supplements to use (But before you do, it is recommendable to go to the sports doc for a blood check-up, to track your possible deficiencies. )

  • Omega 3
  • Multi vitamines (Super Polyvitmin @Sanas)
  • Beta alanine: a molecule that helps buffer lactic acid in the muscles. Works best after 2 or 3 weeks so it’s best to plan when to start taking it. The optimal intake is 3,2gr/day. Take a break for about a week after every period of 3 weeks.
  • BCAA: (Branched-chain amino acids) Muscles cannot grow without protein and despite their variety, all proteins are composed of just 20 different amino acids. The eight that the body cannot produce (isoleuceine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), are called essential amino acids because they must be ingested in food or supplementation. 5Gr/day is recommended.

And just to save the best for last; Sanas has a protein pancake powder mixture!!! Praise the lord!

For more info about Sanas food supplements, check out their website: http://www.sanas.be/en

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