Eat real food
Regardless of diet, preference, or theme what separates a good diet from a great diet are the ingredients you start with. Begin with fresh, whole foods that come in their own wrapper with as many of their parts intact as possible—foods that are minimally processed, grown locally by real farmers.
Don’t ride on empty
Most athletes find that eating about three hours before competition or two hours before training works very well. You’ll need ample time to digest your food. Sometimes athletes will have a little snack, like one of my portable rice cakes or an energy drink, about 30 minutes before competition to keep their blood sugar normal.
One thing to realize, though, is that eating too close to beginning a ride can lead to a pretty rough first hour because of how your insulin levels react to eating. If you are stuck beginning a ride with an empty fuel tank, consider waiting to eat until you have started exercising. It’s not an optimal approach, but it’s better than nothing.
When exercising, it’s recommend that athletes replace about half of the calories they burn per hour with solid food and a sports drink.
After riding more than four hours, it’s critical that you eat carbs within 30 minutes of getting off the bike. After the 30-minute window, your body will be reluctant to refuel as quickly and completely as if you can take in a few hundred calories right away. Don’t dally around the stage finish – get eating as soon as you can and then have a real meal within two hours.
Hydration: what to drink and how much
A surprisingly small loss of body fluids can have a outsized effect on performance. Just as we advocate eating real food, we think cyclists will hydrate best by avoiding artificial drinks. Yet there is no situation when water alone is superior to a sports drink with about a 4 percent carbohydrate solution and some sodium.
It’s difficult to find a sports drink that is not full of artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic flavoring agents. Skratch Labs, the official energy drink of Pedal The Plains, makes a hydration mix that is all natural, tastes great and balances electrolytes and sugars to minimize digestion problems.
You’ll want to hydrate enough to limit your water losses to no more than 3 percent of your body weight. The best and easiest way to tune your hydration is to practice. In the weeks before Pedal The Plains, weigh yourself before and after rides during which you’ve drunk but not eaten. Your goal is to take in enough fluids that you weigh about the same before and after. Get familiar with how much you sweat in different types of weather and adjust your fluid intake so you stay hydrated.
Many recreational cyclists ride not just because they enjoy it, but also because they want to lose weight and get in shape. If you are interested in losing weight, it’s recommended that you make it your goal to lose one pound per week using this simple rule of thumb about being hungry.
One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. For many riders, this amounts to a 500-calorie deficit each day, which means you will be going to bed a little hungry.
When you’re not riding much, it’s okay to be hungry. When you are training, be a little hungry.
But during Pedal The Plains or during any event or race, you want to make sure that you aren’t hungry while riding or before you hit the sack. You need to fuel for your ride, so eat enough that you aren’t hungry before turning in for the night yet not so much that you reach full-blown food coma.
Some Examples Dishes
- Biju’s Oatmeal provided professional cyclist such as Chris Horner and the RadioShack Team the power needed to conquer the 2011 Tour of California.
- Blueberry & Chocolate Coconut Rice Cakes are the true sweet treat portable.
- Fish Tacos are excellent year-round. Stock your freezer with frozen filets, which are affordable and readily available!
- Cinnamon Almond Pancakes will fuel you all morning with a mix of carbs, proteins, and fats that are ideal for long-distance riders.
- Sweet Rice Porridge will top off the tank. High glycemic white rice will push fuel into muscle cells, making this dish an excellent way to start the morning after yesterday’s long ride.
- Chicken Fried Rice is the favorite post-ride recovery meal of pro cyclists at the Tour de France. Savory, salty, and packed with the ideal mix of carbs, proteins, and fats, Allen Lim’s signature dish will rejuvenate tired legs and weary souls.
- Allen Lim’s famous Rice Cakes are the portable snack that will agree with your belly. Over many days of riding, eating real food is far healthier and more satisfying than cramming highly processed foods again and again.
- Fig and Honey Rice Cakes are a sweet and savory portable snack that are simply delicious morning or afternoon.
Download the PDF Recipies
When it comes to refuel after exercise; there are few foods that compare to the nutritional powerhouse of milk.
Emerging research in adult athletes has demonstrated that one serving of cow’s milk post-exercise may help reduce muscle damage and improve muscle recovery – which in turn, may help the body perform better during its next workout.
So what happens to the body during exercise and why is recovery nutrition so important?
- When you exercise, you lose fluid in the form of sweat. The harder you exercise, the more fluid is lost. In addition to fluid, electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are depleted as we sweat.
- During exercise, your body relies on blood glucose and stored muscle glucose (glycogen)as fuel – or energy. This stored muscle glucose is often depleted after exercise and needs to be replaced, in the form of dietary carbohydrates.
- Lastly, during activity, muscle is broken down. While this is a natural result of strenuous activity, future athletic performance in practices and games is largely impacted by how well our muscles rebuild and resynthesize new muscle fibers after a workout. Protein aids in this recovery effort.
Milk, both white and chocolate, provides key nutrients needed after exercise.
- Milk is 90% water and a great tasting choice after practices and games. Milk’s fluids and electrolytes, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, rehydrate the body and replenish what is lost in sweat.
- Carbohydrates in milk refuel muscles and replenish glycogen (energy) stores.
- High quality protein aids in muscle recovery and repair.
- Calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus build and maintain strong bones.
- Milk provides potassium to help ward off muscle cramping.
- B vitamins in milk help convert food to energy.
For the past three years, Pedal the Plains riders have been refueling with Colorado chocolate milk provided for free by the dairy farm families of Western Dairy Association. Chocolate milk provides what many consider the “golden ratio” of carbohydrates to protein (3 to 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein) necessary for optimal recovery.
Improve your post-exercise regimen by refueling with milk within 30 minutes after a workout. Visit www.westerndairyassociation.org to read more about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and learn how to eat for peak athletic performance.