Ride Faster and Longer. Cycling Nutrition 101: Part 1
Every time the topic of nutrition gets brought up on either a cycling forum, or with a bunch of fellow cyclists after a group ride, one thing simply amazes me; there is a remarkable amount of cyclists out there who bike an average of 50 miles a day, can tear down their bike and put it together in the blink of an eye, but know very little about basic nutrition. I’m not talking about what to eat or drink immediately before, during, or after a long ride. I’m talking about what you eat or drink on your off days, or the meals that come hours before or after a long ride.
If you are serious about biking, then you should be serious about what you put into your body. If you find that you’ve hit that training plateau where you just can’t seem to get any faster or ride any longer, stop looking at what you can change on your bike, and start looking at what you can change in your diet. You will be astonished at how much of impact the proper diet will have on your cycling.
Over the next couple weeks I will give you a detailed breakdown of what your body craves. This is just a primer in nutrition, but it is the backbone of what you should look for when you read those nutrition labels and plan your meals. Today I will look at the first component that should be included in your diet. Every week I will look into another part of what your body needs, and finally we will put together a quality meal plan to help improve cycling energy and endurance.
The first component of proper nutrition is fat. Your body needs fats. Thanks to the media and great marketing campaigns by giant food manufacturers, we have been brainwashed to think that fats are evil and will make us gain weight. This is almost completely wrong, while some fats are bad, many are actually healthy for you. Put it this way, you need fat to lose fat. If your body doesn’t get enough fat, it gets nervous and starts storing up fat as a kind of back-up reserve.
The fats you want to avoid are saturated fats, and even worse, trans fats. Saturated fats will raise your cholesterol, and increase your chances of heart disease. Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products, such as fatty meats and dairy products. Trans fats are formed when vegetable oils are “hydrogenated” or turned into a solid fat such as hard stick margarine, shortening, many deep fat frying oils, and most processed or convenience foods. Trans fatty acids have a double detrimental affect on the health. They raise blood cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol) and lower the protective HDL particles in the blood. Even small amounts can significantly increase the rate of heart attacks.
The fats your body needs are unsaturated fats, such as polyunsaturated fat or monounsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The best sources of unsaturated fats are those found in whole foods such as nuts, unprocessed nut butters, seeds, olives, and avocados.
In Part 2 of Cycling Nutrition 101 I will dig into another main component of your daily nutrition. Hopefully, by the end of this series of articles you won’t have any doubt about what your body needs to help you become a better road cycler.