Whenever I advise athletes about nutrition, I tell them that they don’t need a special diet to fuel performance. – By James Herrera
The one that’s best for health is also the one that’s best for strong results. If you want all your systems firing at 100 percent, you need to feed them the best-quality fuel possible.
Follow these three simple nutrition rules for cyclists, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a faster and healthier cyclist.
Rule 1 // Real food doesn’t need a label
Ever see an ingredient list on a tomato, almond, or egg? Packaged foods are often loaded with added sugar, salt, and fat that stimulate the brain’s pleasure centres, which encourages us to keep eating even when we’re full. Plus, the body processes nutrients more efficiently when they come from whole foods. There is a synergistic effect when vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (substances that give produce its colour and may provide health benefits), and other nutrients interact with one another. It’s easier for your body to absorb the vitamin K in spinach, for example, when the greens are paired with a monounsaturated fat such as olive oil. One easy way to take advantage of this benefit: eat a salad that contains a variety of colours.
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Rule 2 // Eat less meat
The populations that live longest consume a more plant-based diet than the average westerner. Some pro cyclists, including Levi Leipheimer, eat no meat at all. Aim to get 50 per cent of your kilojoules from vegetables and legumes, 20 per cent from fruits, 15 per cent from whole grains, and 15 per cent from protein sources like nuts, dairy products, or meat.
Rule 3 // Fill up on nutrients
One of the biggest problems with processed treats like biscuits is that they’re light on nutrients, yet pack a large number of kilojoules into a small volume. Stock your kitchen with foods that contain more water and fibre (think baked potato versus potato chips). Some healthy foods – like nuts and avocados – are also kilojoule-dense, so you should eat them in moderation.
My Favourite Fuels
A wholewheat cereal that’s high in energy, carbohydrates and dietary fibre, Bokomo ProNutro Wholewheat will fill your belly and top up your body’s glycogen stores to get you up and going for the day.
On the bike
Sick of packaged bars, gels, and chews? Try a real-food energy source on your next ride, such as a baked sweet potato, biltong, or a potato with a bit of salt.
A fresh smoothie is an easy way to pack nutrient-dense foods into your diet. One of my go-to combos: broccoli, baby carrots, celery, cucumber, frozen berries, and a banana (you can also add protein powder).